A Full Day of Birding, 10/13/18

~Cape May Warbler at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 10/13/18.~ 

This morning’s rain delayed the start of hawkwatch, so I spent the morning in the black dirt looking for shorebirds. Although it was not raining all that hard, the weather was tough on my gear today. The humidity must have been through the roof, because frustratingly, every time I lifted my binoculars to my eyes they seemed to fog over. I had two sets out and I was alternating just to be able to see with any consistency. Even my scope developed some moisture between the filter and the lens, leaving a perfect circle of condensation which lasted for most of the day. Regardless, I ran around for shorebirds and here’s what I had:

Skinner Lane: 4 American Golden-Plovers

Missionland: 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, 18 Killdeer

Turtle Bay: 1 Least Sandpiper, 15 Killdeer

Camel Farm: 20+ Wilson’s Snipe, 4 Killdeer, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 12 Lesser Yellowlegs

Pine Island Turf Nursery: 18 Killdeer

~Lesser Yellowlegs at Missionland. This shot was from Friday evening, 10/12/18.~ 

The rain let up and I was up at Mount Peter for Hawkwatch at 11:45. It was a really good day to be on the mountain, with cool temperatures and a steady northwest wind. Birds were flying and I had a decent number of birds (total of 83 migrants), with very good variety (11 species). Linda Scrima, Rob Stone, and Bob Klenk all visited and helped me out. Sharp-shinned Hawks were the number one migrant, and highlights for me included a couple of Merlins, a Peregrine Falcon, and a couple of Northern Harriers ( a bird we see frequently in our area, but to me it’s awesome to see them flying high over the hawkwatch in migration). Non-raptors had some good highlights too, with a couple of CAPE MAY WARBLERS, and two skeins of BRANT flying over. See my full report at the bottom of this post.

~BRANT! I was super pumped to have a couple skeins fly over the watch today, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 10/13/18.~ 

After hawkwatch, I stopped at Glenmere Lake, where the Mearns Bird Club was holding a big sit. They spent the whole day, sunrise to sunset, at the lake counting birds. I joined Kathy Ashman and Karen Miller, who had a long but good day of birding along with 12 other members of the club. They finished the day with 47 species, which I thought was pretty good.

I headed home, tired but happy with a full day of birding behind me.

~Ahhhh… the obligatory Turkey Vulture photo returns. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 10/13/18.~ 
~One more Cape May Warbler shot, Mt Pete, 10/13/18.~

Excellent Day of Birding in OC, 10/06/18

~Cape May Warbler at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 

Saturday was a busy day for me, so I’m finally getting around to writing this post early Sunday morning. First, the bad news: hawkwatch at Mt. Peter was a total bust as the mountain was completely fogged in all day. The good news, was that I did some more traditional birding and it was very productive.

~Just look at the markings on this beautiful bird. I especially lover the white around the eye. Swamp Sparrow at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 

My first stop was Skinner Lane. It was supposed to just be a pit stop, but since the fog was showing no sign of lifting and the birding was good, I stayed for a good while (actually, I ran up to Mt. Pete at 10:30 thinking it might be clear; it wasn’t so I headed back to Skinner). When I first arrived, I was impressed by the number of Tree Swallows present. I was pleasantly surprised to find a pretty good sized flock of Horned Larks had moved in, among them several AMERICAN PIPITS. The big surprise came when I was scanning the larks and came across a LAPLAND LONGSPUR! This is a bird that is certainly one of my favorite, has a certain inherent coolness to it, and I just seem to have a knack for tracking them down. I was pumped, and although the bird was not really close, I was able to get some documentary photos; I’ve posted one at the bottom of this post.  Kyle Dudgeon joined me shortly after I’d located the LALO, but unfortunately we were unable to relocate it.

~Very exciting – AMERICAN PIPIT  at Skinner Lane, 10/06/18. I was happy to have this bird close enough for some photos. 

Shorebirds were, of course,  my initial target for my stop at Skinner. I’d had 6 American Golden-Plovers earlier, and Kyle relocated them as soon as he arrived. Then, we had a single shorebird flying and calling. We tracked the bird in our binoculars, waiting for it to put down. But, it never found a spot that it liked and it rose up and flew out of range. We thought that was the last we would see of the bird, but minutes later it returned and did the same routine but this time it put down in the distance. We relocated to try to get a better vantage point, but alas we were unable to relocate the bird. Based on the overall coloring, size, and its call, we believe that it was a SANDERLING. Karen Miller had arrived, and she was able to get the American Pipits and the American Golden-Plovers, but we were unable to relocate the Lapland Longspur nor the Sanderling.

~Palm Warbler at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~

Kyle and I had an unproductive stop at the Pine Island Turf Nursery, a single Solitary Sandpiper and several American Kestrels were our best birds. Kyle had to head home, but I continued, heading over to Liberty Lane; Rob Stone had let me know it was pretty active earlier in the morning. It was still hopping when I was there. I had a nice walk with loads of birds with almost every step. Swamp Sparrows and Song Sparrows dominated, but there were also some highlights: 4 White-crowned Sparrows, a Palm Warbler, a Blackpoll Warbler, and a CAPE MAY WARBLER. The Cape May Warbler was super accommodating and I was able to take many photos of it. On my way out I had a single Lesser Yellowlegs flying and calling overhead, which was a nice way to end a good day of birding.

~This bird stumped me. Chipping Sparrow (first winter) at Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~I alway love these dudes. Horned Lark, looking spiffy. Skinner Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~Solitary Sandpiper strutting its stuff. PI Turf Nursery, 10/06/18.~ 
~Blackpoll Warbler in tough photo conditions. I had the bird in better light, but blew it. Liberty Lane, 10/06/18.~ 
~One more shot of the Cape May Warbler, Liberty Lane 10/06/18.~ 
~Documentary shot of the LAPLAND LONGSPUR,  Skinner Lane 10/06/18. 

Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 09/29/18

~Before heading up to Mt Peter, I made a quick stop at Skinner Lane. I was hoping to get a better look at the dozen Pectoral Sandpipers I’d seen on Friday evening. Unfortunately, the black dirt region was nearly completely fogged in. I did have 2 Lesser Yellowlegs fly over, and I also saw a good number of Savannah Sparrows. Skinner Lane, 09/29/18.~ 

I’m four for four this season at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Today was yet another good day up on the mountain, with a good flight that consisted mostly of Sharp-shinned Hawks and Broad-winged Hawks, but also had a good variety of migrating raptors, including:  3 Osprey, 4 Bald Eagles, a couple Red-shouldered Hawks, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 6 Cooper’s Hawks, 6 American Kestrels, and my first Northern Harrier of the season. For me, the best part of the day was when I located 2 distant Bald Eagles in my scope over the valley. The birds worked their way closer to the platform and were eventually joined by 3 more adult Bald Eagles! We were all pretty excited, thinking all or some of them would head south and be counted as a migrant, but alas, they all eventually headed north. An immature Bald Eagle saved the day, just as the last adult headed north, it streamed through and migrated south.

~A couple of local Red-tailed Hawks tangling in front of the viewing platform, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/29/18.~ 

Once again, the day was all about teamwork; I had several visitors that helped  locate and identify many of the migrating raptors. Thanks so much to Marty Hayes, Jeanne Cimonelli, Judy Cinquina, Karen Miller, Jeff Zahn, Fred Schneider, and Bob Klink. I’ve included my Hawkcount.org report at the bottom of this post.

~Broad-winged Hawk directly overhead, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/29/18.~
~I ran into these two again earlier in the week – Sandhill Cranes in flight in the Black Dirt Region, 09/26/18.~ 

1300+ Birds at Mt. Peter, 09/22/18

~A Broad-winged Hawk migrates through over Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 09/22/18. This is one of the 1,257 Broad-winged Hawks counted today.~ 

It was an excellent flight at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today. With the help of several visitors and fellow counters Tom Millard, Ken Witkowski, and Rick Hansen, we were able to tally 1,307 migrating raptors for the day. I thought I might have a decent day, maybe even a good day, but this number surpassed my expectations for sure. Highlights included 1,257 Broad-winged Hawks, which flew over mostly in smaller kettles and were not too high up, so we got some decent looks and finding/counting them was not as difficult as it can be. Seven Osprey passed through, and we also a decent Sharp-shinned Hawk flight, with 32 birds. Non-raptor highlights included an impressive Blue Jay flight, that I estimate totaled 600+ birds easily. It may have been closer to 1,000. If we hadn’t been so busy with the raptors, it would have been nice to get an accurate count. Also, probably my favorite bird of the day, Rob Stone and I had COMMON LOON in flight, heading WNW, I’m not sure where that bird was going to or coming from. As usual, I’ve included my Hawkcount.org report at the bottom of this post.

~A kettle of Broad-winged Hawks over Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/22/18. Can you find and identify the two odd-ball birds? 

Sunday Shots, 09/16/18

                  ~Osprey on a nice perch at Wallkill River NWR’s Winding Waters Trail, 09/09/18.~

QUICK POST: Busy day here, so just putting together some recent photos, most from this weekend, all from within the last week. I just realized as I was writing this that all were taken at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, either at the Liberty Loop or at Winding Waters Trail.

~Common Gallinules at the south end of the Liberty Loop, 09/16/18.~ 
~Ruby-throated Hummingbird at Winding Waters Trail, 09/16/18.~
~Northern Parula at the Liberty Loop. Actually this bird was on the trail leading to Owens Station, 09/09/18~ 
~Eastern Phoebe at Winding Waters Trail, 09/09/18.~
~This Greater Yellowlegs was not very far from the Lesser Yellowlegs below. I tried but failed to get a good shot of the two together for comparison’s sake. Liberty Loop, 09/16/18.~ 
~Lesser Yellowlegs, Liberty Loop 09/16/18.~ 

A Good Day at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/15/18

~It’s always exciting for me to see a RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH. Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 09/15/18.~ 

On a day like today, when I had plenty of help up at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, I wonder how many birds I would have missed if I was on my own. Tom Millard, Denise Farrel, Rick Hansen, Linda Scrima, and Ken Witkowski all put in some serious time at the hawkwatch today and helped me tally 331 migrating raptors. But, on this day, I got some help from another source on the ground. Just before 3 o’clock I received a text from Rob Stone saying he had a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks over the prison in Warwick. At that point, it was just Denise and I at the watch – we scanned like mad to try and find Rob’s hawks and for what seemed like ages, we had no luck. But then I thought I had a distant bird in my binoculars, but it was so distant that it just disappeared. I got on the same area with my scope, and voila! Rob’s kettle of Broad-winged Hawks (104 birds!). Teamwork can go a long way on a hawkwatch, but I’ve never experienced it to this extent!

~Oh snap! A Black Vulture has stolen the obligatory vulture photo this week! Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 09/15/18.~

So, with 331 migrating raptors, suffice to say it was a good day with some excellent highlights. For migrants, we had 6 Bald Eagles, 9 Osprey, 5 American Kestrels, 297 Broad-winged Hawks (oh so close to 300!), and our first Merlin of the season. As for passerines, at least 2 RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES were around for most of the day, and the best bird of the day was a YELLOW-BELLIED FLYCATCHER found by Rick Hansen. Unfortunately the bird was not entirely cooperative, giving us only fleeting looks and no photo ops. Later in the day, Denise and I didn’t see the bird again, but heard it calling not too far away, just behind the platform. I was excited as it was an Orange County life bird for me and also my 210th bird in OC for 2018.

Broad-winged Hawks should be coming through in large numbers this week, so if you get a chance it’s a great time to visit Mount Peter. We have counters there every day starting at 9:00 am and going until the birds stop flying. And we always appreciate the extra eyes.

~Broad-winged Hawk over Mount Peter, 09/15/18.~ 

 

Rain Shortened Hawkwatch and More Good Shorebirding

~BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER in the Black Dirt Region, 09/08/18.~

I had a pretty good hawkwatch today while it lasted, a nice combination of migrating songbirds and raptors. Fellow counter Denise Farrel joined me up at Mount Peter; I had my first 4 migrating Osprey of the year, as well as a couple of Broad-winged Hawks and a single Cooper’s Hawk. As for passerines, a couple of mixed flocks moved through quickly –  I was able to pick up several American Redstarts, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, a Prairie Warbler, a Red-eyed Vireo, two Palm Warblers, a likely Yellow-rumped Warbler, and a Northern Parula (you can see my complete list of birds in my hawkwatch report below). The rain began during the third hour of the watch and was light at first, but then it started fall a little more steadily, so at 2 o’clock I packed it in.

~Ahhhh… the obligatory Turkey Vulture shot. These guys got up early today; I had them in the air right after my arrival, at 9:10 am.~

I took the opportunity and spent the rest of the rainy afternoon looking for shorebirds. My first stop was at the Liberty Loop’s southernmost pool, where a few good birds were seen yesterday (Wilson’s Phalarope, Baird’s Sandpiper, and Little Blue Heron). I whiffed on all three of those birds, but I was lucky enough to locate a STILT SANDPIPER, the first one I’ve seen in quite a while. This is a bird I’ve been talking about wanting to see lately, so it was nice for it to happen.

~Nice bird. STILT SANDPIPER (with Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs in the background) at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop, 09/08/18.~

Afterwards, I headed to Skinner Lane where I had a trio of good birds: BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER (5), BAIRD’S SANDPIPER, and AMERICAN GOLDEN PLOVER. The big difference today is that, finally, the birds were not absolutely miles out. So, I was able to get some really good looks (especially in the scope), as well as some decent shots. All in all it was quite a good day of birding – a little bit of everything.

~It was nice to finally get a good look at these birds, and some photos too. Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Skinner Lane, 09/08/18.~
~One lonely American Golden Plover in the black dirt, 09/08/18.~
~One more Buff-breasted Sandpiper shot, 09/08/18.~
~I think this is a Palm Warbler, but I would not be surprised if I didn’t have it correct. Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 09/08/18.~

Beautiful Baird’s Sandpiper, 09/05/18

~Beautiful bird – BAIRD’S SANDPIPER at Apollo Plaza, 09/05/18.~ 

When I saw John Haas’ report this morning that he had a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER at Apollo Plaza, I knew there was a good chance I’d be heading to Sullivan County after work. While it’s been an excellent year for me with shorebirds in Orange County, photo ops have been very few. So, with that in mind, I raced towards Apollo Plaza after work and luckily the bird was still present. At first I didn’t think I would get any photos because the BASA was staying mostly hidden in the grasses, but eventually the bird worked its way out and into the open. What a difference from see them a couple hundred yards out like we have been in the black dirt! What a beautiful bird; huge thanks to John for posting and to Patrick Dechon, who originally located the bird on Monday.

Sandhill Crane Shenanigans

 

~SANDHILL CRANES interacting in the black dirt.~

Over the weekend, I was lucky enough to catch up with the two SANDHILL CRANES  that have been spending some time in our area. Not only that, I watched from my car as the two birds interacted for approximately 5 minutes. They were very vocal while this was going on; you can see in nearly every photo, one or both of their bills are open. I did some research on the internet and found out that SACRs mate for life, choosing their partners based on dancing displays. But, the timing doesn’t seem right for this, so I kept looking and found a passage on the National Geographic website that indicated that they “also dance, run, leap high in the air and otherwise cavort around—not only during mating but all year long”.  It was awesome to see it; here are a number of photos from that five minutes.

Hawkwatch Begins, 09/01/18

~This is one of two Broad-winged Hawks that passed over the platform relatively low. One of the birds was calling the entire time as they passed over – and then as they headed towards the valley, the two birds tangled briefly. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/01/18.~ 

I can hardly believe that it is time for hawkwatch already – this summer just flew by. Today was the first day of my 7th season counting at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, and I believe this is the first time I’ve counted on opening day – September 01. My expectations were low, mostly because it’s so early in the season, and also because the winds were not entirely favorable – I had an East and East Southeast wind throughout the day. After no raptor movement at all for the first two and and a half hours, I was pleasantly surprised to have a good couple of hours with a total of 15 migrating hawks (13 Broad-winged Hawks and 2 Sharp-shinned Hawks).  Other highlights included a pair of RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES that were hanging around for most of the day and a brief appearance of a CAPE MAY WARBLER.  I thought it was a pretty darn good start to the season, and I’m totally looking forward to an autumn full of Saturdays up on Mount Pete. You can see my complete report at the bottom of this post.

~Always a great bird to see – RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/01/18.~