Orange County White-winged Scoters, 04/22/19

I love scoters. I particularly love scoters when they are found locally. But, I had mixed feelings this morning when Kathy Ashman reported 2 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS at Wickham Lake. It was early in the day when she reported them, and I was convinced they wouldn’t stick around until the evening when I got out of work. Well, fortunately I was wrong and the birds were still present when I arrived around 6 pm. They were quite distant, so I took a walk on the trail that runs along the east side of the lake to try for a better vantage point and some better photos. I didn’t get anything great, but it was a definite improvement from the tiny specks I had in the camera initially. These were the first scoters I’ve had in the county this year. Huge thanks to Kathy for finding and reporting the birds!

~ One of the 2 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS at Wickham Lake this evening, 04/22/19.~
~White-winged Scoters at Wickham Lake, 04/22/19.~

Wow, Orange County YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON!

This is a really great story. Fellow Mearns Bird Club member Joyce Depew has an eight year old grandson named Ben. And, Ben has been into birds since he was 4 years old. Well, today, while Joyce and Ben were driving on Van Burenville Road in Middletown, from the back seat Ben told Joyce that he thought he saw a Green Heron in a pond in someone’s yard. Joyce pulled over and backed up to get a look, and what did she see? A YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON! Can you imagine? According to Ken McDermott, this is only the third record of this species in Orange County, so it is quite a find! Nice job Ben and Joyce!

~Yellow-crowned Night-Heron with a fresh catch, Middletown NY 04/15/19. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

I ran for the bird after work and was happy to see that it was still present. I snapped some quick photos to document, but because it is a residential area, I didn’t want to linger too long. Linda Scrima was kind enough to provide a couple better shots from earlier in the day, where the bird is being more cooperative and not looking in the wrong direction.

~And down the hatch! YCNH in Middletown, NY 01/14/19. Photo by Linda Scrima.~
~Black-crowned Night-Heron looking the wrong way, lol. Middletown, NY 01/14/19.~

Excellent Morning, 04/14/19

Birding bud Bruce Nott invited me to join him out at Stewart State Forrest’s Route 207 Marsh this morning. We met up at the marsh just after 7:00 am and we had a great morning. My number one goal was to see some OC shorebirds, and we did pretty well with 5 species:

  • Lesser Yellowlegs (3)
  • Greater Yellowlegs (1)
  • Wilson’s Snipe (25)
  • Killdeer (6)
  • Solitary Sandpiper (4)
~Eastern Phoebe at the 207 Marsh, 04/14/19.~

Unexpectedly, at least to me, we also did pretty well with warblers, with four species.

  • Yellow-rumped Warbler (4)
  • Palm Warbler (2)
  • Pine Warbler (2)
  • Louisiana Waterthrush(1)
~A nice look at one of the 2 Palm Warblers we had today at the 207 Marsh, 04/14/19.~

It was super birding all morning; the birds were abundant and active, Bruce is just awesome to hang out with, and in the end we had a total 43 species. I added 10 Orange County year birds, which is nice too:

  1. Blue-winged Teal
  2. Barn Swallow
  3. Lesser Yellowlegs
  4. Greater Yellowlegs
  5. Solitary Sandpiper
  6. RUSTY BLACKBIRD
  7. Pine Warbler
  8. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  9. Louisiana Waterthrush
  10. Palm Warbler
~Lousy pic, but I was happy to see this Pine Warbler. Route 207 Marsh, 04/14/19.~
~Wood Duck on a nice perch at the 207 Marsh, 04/14/19.~
~Documentary shot of a distant Lesser Yellowlegs. All the shorebirds were distant, but still so good to see them. 207 Marsh, 04/14/19.~

Sunday Shots, 04/07/19

I got out this morning and hit several southern Orange County lakes – Glenmere, Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, and Round. These days I have several birds on my mind that I’m hoping for: Loons, Long-tailed Ducks, Scoters, Grebes, Caspian Tern, and Bonaparte’s Gull. I did well with Common Loons, finding them at 3 locations – Wickham, Greenwood, and Walton Lakes. Besides that, the only success I had was 2 Horned Grebes at Wickham Lake, in beautiful breeding plumage (boy do I wish those birds were closer to shore!). I also made a brief stop in the black dirt, hoping for shorebirds (I’d had 30+ Wilson’s Snipe and several Killdeer at Lynch Avenue a couple of times earlier this week – birds originally located by Bruce Nott, I believe). It was a gorgeous but relatively uneventful morning of birding; I did, however, manage to get a few shots.

~Northern Flicker at Greenwood Lake, 04/07/19.~
~It’s not very often I can get a decent Common Loon shot locally. This bird was at Walton Lake and surprisingly was spending some time right near the shore, 04/07/19.~
~Common Loon at Walton Lake, 04/07/19.~
~One final loon pic – COLO at Walton Lake, 04/07/19.~
~This cracked me up because this Fish Crow was actually all the way inside this garbage container out at Wickham Lake, 04/07/19. Anything for a quick meal, I suppose.~
~I counted 88 Ring-billed Gulls in this group in the black dirt, 04/07/19.~

Saturday, 04/06/19

Today was an interesting day for me. I had plans to play my first round of golf of the year at 10 am, so I got up early and made stops at both Glenmere Lake and Wickham Lake. Glenmere had a good number of waterfowl present – mostly Buffleheads and Ring-necked Ducks. My best bird there was a Red-necked Grebe, I’m not sure if this is the same bird that’s been there for a while or if it’s a new bird. At Wickham the birds were a little more sparse, but I did have an up close Horned Grebe as well as 2 distant birds that I believe were Red-necked Grebes. The distance, backlighting, and fog prevented a definitive ID; I wanted to get back this evening, but I never made it (see below).

~So far Horned Grebe is the only waterfowl I’ve gotten any decent shots of this spring migration. This dude was at Wickham Lake, 04/06/19.~

After golf, I stopped by the Newburgh on my way home. I birded Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point, and I made several stops along the Newburgh Waterfront. Unfortunately, I found way more people than birds, so I scrammed. I made a quick stop at Lake Washington, where I found a dozen scaup way out in the lake. They were all tucked in, but from what I could tell, they looked like Lesser Scaup. From there I headed to Brown’s Pond. I was going to just make a quick stop, but the birding was good enough that I stayed for a good while (preventing me from getting back to Wickham Lake). There was a beautiful Horned Grebe in breeding plumage – distant but I enjoyed some incredible scope views of that bird. I had 9 species of waterfowl, but it was the Bald Eagles that stole the show. There was a trio of young Bald Eagles flying around the lake; I saw one fishing, but mostly they seemed to be enjoying terrorizing the ducks and tangling with one anther. I sat on a bank and enjoyed the show; taking pictures whenever they came close enough.

~Bald Eagle at Brown’s Pond, 04/06/19.~
~Sibling rivalry? Two young Bald Eagles mixing it up at Brown’s Pond, 04/06/19.~
~A young Bald Eagle fishing at Brown’s Pond, 04/06/19.~
~Tree Swallow at Wickham Lake early this morning, 04/06/19.~
~This one is from Tuesday after work – Common Goldeneye with 2 Buffleheads at the small pond near Glenmere Lake, 04/02/19.~
~Also from earlier this week, a Double-crested Cormorant in flight at Wickham Lake, 04/02/19.~

Sunday Shots, 03/24/19

~I got my first OC Tree Swallows of the year at Laurel Grove Cemetery on Saturday, 03/23/19.~

The highlight of the weekend was, of course, the Yellow-headed Blackbird on Saturday in the black dirt. But, I did a bunch of running around all weekend and had some pretty good birds. Here’s some highlights by day:

Saturday: I had both a Red-necked Grebe and a Horned Grebe at Glenmere Lake. At Laurel Grove Cemetery, I had my first Orange County Tree Swallows of year; I watched a group of approximately 20 feeding on the river. The best stop of the day, however, was at the Westtown Pond on Route 284, where I had 8 species of waterfowl (including a Common Goldeneye) and in the field across the street – 25+ Killdeer and my FOY Wilson’s Snipe.

~This bird was close to the shore, but I struggled to get a shot because it was blocked by vegetation. Horned Grebe at Glenmere Lake, 03/24/19.~

Sunday: I made a tour of many of the lakes in southern Orange County (Glenmere, Wickham, Greenwood, Sterling, Blue, Walton, and Tomahawk) as well as whatever small ponds I saw along the way. I had a total of 16 species of waterfowl:

  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Wood Duck
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Greater Scaup (Round Lake)
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Goldeneye (Glenmere Lake & Round Lake)
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Horned Grebe (Glenmere and Greenwood Lake)
  • Red-necked Grebe (Glenmere)
  • Double-crested Cormorant
~It won’t be long before these guys are on the sparse side. Dark-eyed Junco at Reservoir 1 in Port Jervis, 03/23/19.~
~Perched Peregrine Falcon, Orange County NY 03/23/19.~
~Before a couple of weeks ago, I’d somehow never seen a grebe in flight. These guys were the 3rd time in that time span – Horned Grebes being flushed by a boat at Greenwood Lake, 03/24/19.~
~This cat nearly gave me a heart attack. I was convinced, I mean totally convinced, when I saw it naked eye that it was a bobcat! It was a really large cat and it wandered out of the woods…wishful thinking I guess. House cat in the black dirt, 03/23/19.~

Orange County YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, 03/23/19

I don’t know if I have premonitions or if I just think this way all the time and when it happens it becomes a premonition in my mind, but I was sorting through a flock of mixed blackbirds on Lynch Avenue in the black dirt this afternoon and I suddenly thought that I was going to see a YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD. As immediately as I had the thought, bam! there was a Yellow-headed Blackbird in my binoculars! I couldn’t believe my eyes!

~Wow! YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD in the Black Dirt, 03/23/19.~

After initially freaking out, I quickly grabbed my camera and took some quick shots through my passenger side window. I put the word out, and of course as soon as I did that, the flock picked up and relocated across the street in a small patch of woods. I relocated the bird three times as the flock shifted and moved through the woods, but by the time anyone showed up I’d lost track of the bird. Maria Loukeris, Karen Miller, and John Haas were the first birders to arrive. We staked out the area initially, but then a large number of the birds took off and headed south and WAY out into the fields. By the time Bruce Nott and Rick Hansen showed up, we were dividing up and driving around looking. Bruce located a large flock, very distant, at the south end of Lynch and everyone eventually joined him, as did Gail Benson and Tom Burke. And it was Bruce who finally relocated the bird (way to go Bruce!) – in the center of a tree way across the field. Everyone present got on the bird and everyone was really excited about this bird! John was thrilled because YHBL has been an OC nemesis bird for him for quite some time. Rick told me it was a lifer for him. I’m sure for others it was either a county bird or a state bird; for me it was both (I’d gotten my lifer in Colorado a few years back). What a great birding experience, I was so happy that Bruce relocated it and that other birders also got to enjoy the bird.

~One more shot of the YHBL on Lynch Avenue in the Black Dirt, 03/23/19.~

A Good, Long Day, 03/16/19

This morning Maria Loukeris and I headed to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, NJ. Maria had some business to attend to in the area and we birded the refuge beforehand. We mostly drove around from spot to spot, but we did walk the trails briefly as well. We had a total of 25 species during our visit; four were first of year (FOY) birds for me: Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Towhee, Tree Swallow, and my favorite bird of the morning, RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

~I got lucky with this bird – HORNED GREBE close to the shore at Wickham Lake, 03/16/19.~

In the afternoon I birded three local lakes: Greenwood Lake, Wickham Lake, and Glenmere Lake. Wickham was far and away the best stop; I had 8 species of waterfowl, including over 200 Common Mergansers, a single Red-breasted Merganser drake, and an up close look at a beautiful little HORNED GREBE. At Glenmere, the RED-NECKED GREBE continues but was so far out I didn’t even take documentary photos. For the day I had a total of 37 species. I’ve included a list of all the birds with locations at the bottom of this post.

~I had my FOY Eastern Phoebe at Great Swamp NWR, 03/16/19.~
~Roadside Red-tailed Hawk in Sussex County, NY 03/16/19.~

Here’s my list of species for the day, with locations (Great Swamp = GS. Wickham Lake = WL, Greenwood Lake = GRL, and Glenmere Lake = GLL).

  • Canada Goose (all locations)
  • Mute Swan (WL, GRL, GLL)
  • Wood Duck (GS, WL)
  • Mallard (GS, GLL)
  • Gadwall (GLL – small pond up the road)
  • American Black Duck (GS, GLL)
  • Bufflehead (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • Ring-necked Duck (WL, GLL)
  • Hooded Merganser (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • Common Merganser (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (WL)
  • HORNED GREBE (WL)
  • RED-NECKED GREBE (GLL)
  • Ring-billed Gull (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • Herring Gull (WL)
  • Turkey Vulture (GS, WL)
  • Bald Eagle (GS, WL)
  • Red-tailed Hawk (GS, WL)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk (on the road, Sussex Co.)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (GS)
  • Blue Jay (GS, GLL)
  • American Crow (GS, WL)
  • Fish Crow (GRL)
  • Common Raven (WL)
  • Tree Swallow (GS)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (GS)
  • Tufted Titmouse (GS)
  • Eastern Bluebird (GS)
  • American Robin (GS, WL)
  • European Starling (GS)
  • Dark-eyed Junco (GS)
  • Song Sparrow (GS)
  • Eastern Towhee (GS)
  • American Tree Sparrow (WL)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (GS, WL, GLL)
  • RUSTY BLACKBIRD (GS)
  • Common Grackle (GS, WL)
~Bald Eagle fishing at Great Swamp NWR, 03/16/19.~

The Return of Weekday Birding, 03/13/19

~Lesser Scaup at Greenwood Lake, 01/13/19.~

With the beginning of Daylight Savings Time over the weekend, I’ve finally been able to get some after work evening birding in this week. Tonight I stopped at Greenwood Lake and had a really great night of birding. I did really well with waterfowl, with 9 species:

  • Mallard
  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Greater Scaup
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Common Goldeneye
~Lesser Black-backed Gull at Greenwood Lake, 03/13/19.~

The real highlight came when I located a gull with darker gray coloring. The bird was out on the ice and quite distant, but I was thinking it looked good for a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. At the distance and the low light (it was getting late), I could not pick up the coloring on the legs. But, the size looked good to me and the head was smudgy. Rob Stone ran to join me, but as fate would have it, the bird flew literally just as he put his eye to my spotting scope. When I got home, I reviewed my pics and became more convinced that is was a Lesser Black-backed Gull; it looked to me like it might be a 2nd year with a dark bill tip as seen in The Crossley Guide. I emailed the photos to John Haas, he reviewed them and agreed with my ID! That’s a good bird for the county! And it’s great to be out during the week again!

~Lesser Black-backed Gull with its back to me. Picture included to give a sense of the size of the bird. Greenwood Lake, 03/13/19.~
~Another good bird for OC – Common Goldeneye at Greenwood Lake, 03/13/19.~

A Good Day, 03/09/19

~Rough-legged Hawk in the black dirt, 03/09/19.~

There were some good birds reported locally this week, so that gave me some targets for today. At first light I headed over to Glenmere Lake to try for the Red-necked Grebe that Kathy Ashman located yesterday, and fortunately bird was still present. Kathy also showed up, and the bird put on a pretty good show as it tried to swallow a fish that was just way too large. Eventually a Ring-billed Gull swooped in and stole the fish, putting a halt to the grebes attempts. Glenmere is one of the few lakes with open water in the county, and including the grebe, I had 10 species of waterfowl: Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, and 2 COMMON GOLDENEYES.

-A distant shot of the Red-necked Grebe with two Canada Geese at Glenmere Lake, 03/09/19. I sort of like this shot because to me it shows the profile of the RNGR well.~

I then cruised the black dirt for a while – I had several large groups of Canada Geese, maybe around 5,000 total, I sifted through them all and unfortunately did not located any other species. I did alright for raptors; I had my first Sharp-shinned Hawk in the count for the year, several Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, an American Kestrel on a wire, and I got some decent shots of a Rough-legged Hawk.

~Perched Rough-legged Hawk in the black dirt this morning, 03/09/19.~
~Common Merganser on the Wallkill River in the black dirt, 03/09/19. These birds have such varying looks depending on the light.~

My next move was to head north to Ulster County to try for the Ross’s Goose that had been reported all week. I tried Bates Lane at Blue Chip Farms first, and I got lucky as another birder, Neil from the Schenectady was already on the bird when I arrived. He gave me a look in his scope, as the bird was at quite a distance, and I tried to get some documentary shots of the bird. It’s always good to see a Ross’s, and this bird is just the perfect beautiful example of the species. I made a quick stop at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, since I was so close, in spite of the parking lot being full of cars (at just after noon!) there were not many birds flying and I had only a single Turkey Vulture in the distance.

I had planned to head over to Cornwall to try for the Lesser Black-backed Gull that Bruce Nott found yesterday, but I ran out of time. I may try for that bird tomorrow. What a satisfying day of birding, I feel like we are on the verge of some really good birding in our area.

~I love this little bird. Ross’s Goose at Bates Lane in Ulster County, NY 03/09/19. I’d have loved to get a better look at this bird, but unfortunately it was miles out.~
~Red-necked Grebe trying to choke down a massive fish at Glenmere Lake, 03/09/19~
~Canada Geese in flight at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 03/09/19~