This morning was yet another productive morning for shorebirds in Orange County. I went straight to Turtle Bay first thing; Rob Stone had located a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER there the evening before. The place was loaded with birds and I had a total of 10 species of shorebird: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, and I was able to relocate Rob’s WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER. That’s a good list of shorebirds for Orange County for sure! Maria Loukeris and Linda Scrima joined me and also got the bird; several others got the bird later in the morning.
From there, Maria, Linda, and I headed to Skinners Lane, where we ran into birding buds and fellow Mt. Peter Hawkwatchers Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, and Rick Hansen. The place was pretty dead, so they headed for Turtle Bay after hearing our report of the birds there. Linda headed home, but Maria and I lingered. I’m glad we did – while scanning I saw some movement in a field with some taller grass. It ended up being a Killdeer, but moments after getting on the Killdeer, a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER walked into my field of vision. And then a second one! A good number of folks got to see the birds: Linda, Rob, Judy, Tom, John Haas, and returning from the dead, Bruce Nott (always good to see you Bruce!), which made me happy. It was a good day of birding and for seeing some of my favorite birding buds.
QUICK POST: The crazy weather and the good shorebirding continued in Orange County this afternoon. Another substantial storm rolled through, so I ran back out to see if I could get any more good shorebirds. My first stop was Skinners Lane where I had several Lesser Yellowlegs, one Greater Yellowlegs, several Least Sandpipers, and the ever present hordes of Killdeer. I was on my way out and I checked one more area – I was thrilled to locate an UPLAND SANDPIPER, one of my favorites for sure. I put the word out, shortly afterwards a second UPPY joined the first. It didn’t stick around for long – it took flight and I didn’t follow it because I wanted to keep and eye on the bird that stayed. Linda Scrima and Rob Stone joined me and we all enjoyed nice scope views of the remaining Upland Sandpiper. Good shorebirding continues in the OC!
I made the rounds in the black dirt this morning, searching for shorebirds of course. I was once again optimistic after last night’s storms. The best spot of the day was Turtle Bay, where there were many shorebirds present. I ran into Kathy Ashman out there early and we sifted through some quite distant birds and had 5 species of shorebird: Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Killdeer. I checked back a little later and ran into John Haas, who had located an additional, excellent species: SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. The bird of the day for me, however, was a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER out at Skinner Lane. The bird was close enough for some decent photos, and at one point was kind enough to confirm its identity with a nice wing stretch, exposing clear wing-pits. Kathy Ashman and Linda Scrima both ran for the bird and enjoyed good looks at the bird as well.
QUICK POST: I have to keep this one short because it’s late and I’m exhausted. I had another good evening for shorebirds in the Black Dirt Region. My first stop was at Turtle Bay, where, among many Killdeer, I had 12 Semipalmated Plovers. I think that might be the most I’ve ever had at a location in Orange County. Then I headed to Pine Island Turf Nursery*, where I located a Dowitcher Species. I have good photos of this bird, so I know it will be identified, but I think I need to put some work in to learn how to differentiate between the Long-billed and the Short-billed. According to eBird, it is much more likely to be a Short-billed as their bar chart doesn’t have LBDOs coming through until Mid-September. But, tonight is not the night to learn this, I’m too tired and I have to get up early. I’ll leave it unidentified for the moment, if anyone has thoughts on this bird, please comment or email me. Rob Stone and Linda Scrima both ran for the bird and got it. As a bonus, we got to enjoy a double rainbow when the rain finally let up a bit.
On my way home, I stopped at Skinner Lane. It was almost to dark to see, but luckily I had a good bird right near the road – BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! I cranked up the ISO and was at least able to get some documentary shots. What a night! In case you couldn’t tell, I just LOVE shorebirds in the OC.
*Please remember that you have to get permission to bird at Pine Island Turf Nursery! Ask at the office – they are really nice people!
Wow, what a crazy evening of birding I had tonight! I was feeling optimistic as I headed out to the Black Dirt Region after work. Severe storms had moved through the area and appeared to have dropped a lot of water; I was hoping this would make for some interesting birding. I was planning on covering a fair amount of territory, but my first stop – Skinner’s Lane – ended up being so good, I never left until it was dark. It was raining pretty hard. In fact, it rained pretty good for almost the entire evening, only letting up when I was getting ready to leave. When I arrived, there was a pretty good collection of shorebirds present: BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS (3), Semipalmated Plovers (4), Least Sandpipers (3), Killdeer (many), and one bird that I initially thought was a Semipalmated Sandpiper but for the moment I’m leaving unidentified (see below).
I was just about to leave when I noticed a group of peeps had flown in without my seeing them. It was a group of what I’m pretty sure were Semipalmated Sandpipers. Then things got crazy. A small flock of larger birds flew in – they circled the field once and then flew to the south and out of sight. By this time, all my gear was wet and really, I had now idea what the birds were because I just couldn’t get a good look. But, then they came back – I jumped into my car and grabbed my camera to get some shots. They circled the field 3 more times and then headed northeast and did not return. I must have been a little frazzled because I looked at the pics and still couldn’t ID them… I shot a quick photo to Rob Stone who identified them as BLACK TERNS! I was freaking out! I looked at my photos to get a count – I had a single shot with 7 in it!
More shorebirds arrived after the terns had departed – I added 2 Wilson’s Snipe, 7 Pectoral Sandpipers, and another group of Semipalmated Sandpipers to my list for the evening. What a great night of birding; once again, bad weather=good birds.
We’re all familiar with our neighborhood wrens, House, Carolina, Winter, Marsh, and Sedge. Of the 5, Winter and Carolina Wrens are resident, while the House, Marsh, and Sedge Wrens are summer breeders in our area. There are actually 88 species of wren occurring throughout North and South America, occupying a number of habitats, and are excellent songsters more often heard than seen. There is, however, one species that occurs in the old world, the Eurasian Wren, largely resident throughout Europe and Asia. Eurasian Wrens had previously been considered the same species as our Winter Wren, but it has recently been split into 3 separate species (‘Winter Wren’ in the eastern US, ‘Pacific Wren’, in the west, and ‘Eurasian Wren’ in the old world). As classification methods improve, we can expect more changes in our understanding of the relationships between familiar birds. Perhaps an increase in ‘armchair lifers’?
I got out a little later than normal (for me on a Saturday morning). With the rainy weather, I decided to check the Black Dirt Region for shorebirds. My expectations were relatively low, so I was pleasantly surprised to locate 6 different species of shorebirds: Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plovers, and my best shorebird of the day – an early BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. My two other highlights from the day occurred at Pine Island Turf Nursery, where I had pair of SANDHILL CRANES fly over, and a distant CLIFF SWALLOW feeding on the ground in one of the fields. *Please remember that birding PI Turf Nursery is by permission only – stop at the office to ask if it’s okay.* All in all, I enjoyed an unexpectedly good day of birding.
Kyle Dudgeon and I spent some time very early this morning with the LEAST BITTERNS at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. It was great to see good numbers of LEBIs, and we got lucky with one particularly accommodating individual, which landed not very far off the path – I’ve included four photos of this bird.
In birding news, Karen Miller watched the ROSEATE SPOONBILL fly north over Oil City Road and into Orange County. Kyle and I searched for the bird down Liberty Lane, and John Haas joined us to help search the area, but unfortunately, as of this writing, the bird had not been relocated.
Last night and this morning I was having a feeling we might get a good bird in the county today. For some reason I was thinking it would happen at Turtle Bay, but instead it was at Skinner Lane, where I located a WHIMBREL in the rain around 7:30 this morning. I was super pumped; I put the word out and several birders were able to run for the bird. Rob Stone, John Haas, Karen Miller, Kathy Ashman, and Bruce Nott all saw the bird while I was still there; it was a lifer for both Kathy and Bruce. Clay Spencer reported the bird in the late morning as well. Whimbrel is a bird I have daydreamed of finding in our area for a while, and it is the 252nd bird on my Orange County life list.
I was thinking that the best chance to see the Liberty Loop’s ROSEATE SPOONBILL enter Orange County was to wait until just before night fall and hope it flew into New York on its way to roost. Rob Stone had a different idea. His idea was to get up early and watch as the birds (the ROSP and the Great Egrets) returned to the marsh after a night at of roosting. He tried it on Saturday morning, but arrived too late. We agreed to try on Sunday; Rob thought if we arrived just after 5:00 am, the timing would be good. Well, I struggled to get out of bed and ended up rolling in at 5:40 am. Rob was on the viewing platform, his bins were up and he was on something. I hustled to the platform and he got me on the spoonbill. It was heading north along the west side of the marsh. I kept thinking it would put down in New Jersey, but it held on and flew over the berm an into Orange County! We hustled down the path to try for a better look, running, jogging, and then fast walking, the whole time keeping our eyes pinned on the area where the bird went down. When we were nearly at the northwest corner, we watched as the spoonbill took flight, went back over the berm, and into Sussex County once again. I couldn’t believe it stayed in OC for such a short visit – it could only have been 4 or 5 minutes tops! Still, we were pumped to have seen it, and who knows, this could be the start of some new behavior for the bird where it starts to spend some time in OC?
Rob and I decided to continue and walk the entire Liberty Loop. We eventually relocated the Roseate Spoonbill, it was in the general vicinity of where it was first seen last week. We also had a Glossy Ibis among a large crew of Great Egrets. Green Herons are numerous at the refuge right now, and we also located two BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT HERONS perched in a tree on the west side of the loop. My best photo op occurred at the south end of the loop, where we had several LEAST BITTERNS flying around and perching out in the open. It was awesome, Rob enjoyed seeing them and I enjoyed getting more photos of one of my favorite birds.
Afterwards, I went to the black dirt to try for shorebirds. I did alright, with a Solitary Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs at the Camel Farm, as well as a Least Sandpiper and 3 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS at Turtle Bay. I was heading to Pine Island Turf Nursery when I got a notification that John Haas had relocated the ANHINGA at Morningside Park in Sullivan County. I rushed over, but unfortunately arrived after the bird had already flown. The Anhinga was first seen and considered a one-hit-wonder six days ago! Where has it been all this time? When will it show up again? I really hope I get another shot at that bird, that would be exciting. Great day of birding!