I can’t imagine many other birders feel this way, but warblers stress me out. Every spring I worry that I’m not going to be at the right place, on the right day, at the right time, and poof all the migrating warblers will be gone. It’s never happened, I always get my share, but this is what I do. Fortunately, today I was in the right place at the right time. After a relatively uneventful visit to Pochuck Mountain early this morning, I headed to Laurel Grove Cemetery, where I met up with Linda Scrima.
In spite of our late(ish) arrival, the place was hopping. And the birds lingered into the late morning, an unusual occurence at this location. We had a total of 13 species of warbler, highlighted by several Cape May Warblers, at least six Bay-breasted Warblers, a couple of Blackburnian Warblers, at least a couple of Magnolia Warblers, and a single Canada Warbler. Other good birds included Blue-headed Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatchers (2), and I got my first Eastern Kingbird of the year. We had a total of 42 species for the morning, and some decent photos to boot.
After a pretty disappointing day of birding on Saturday, I was happy to have a pleasant and birdy walk at Pochuck Mountain State Park this morning. It was a sunny and cool morning, and had the place almost completely to myself; when I arrived there were no turkey hunter’s vehicles in the lot at all, my only contact with anyone was a single mountain biker on the trail briefly. I had a total of 31 species, which is just slightly above average for me at this location in early May. Highlights included 8 species of warbler (Ovenbird, Worm-eating, Nashville, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided, Black-throated Blue, and Black-throated Green), Yellow-throated Vireo, my first Baltimore Orioles of the year, and probably my best photo op of a Pileated Woodpecker to date.
This evening, Tricia and I were sitting on the back deck having a cocktail. Tricia stepped inside for something and I took the opportunity to check out a wren that was making a racket on the far side of one of the evergreens. I made my way around, but I couldn’t locate the bird until it flushed into the neighbor’s yard. Meanwhile, the wren was replaced with another bird – I got my bins on it and was very surprised to see it was a LINCOLN’S SPARROW!
I didn’t have my camera with me, so, barely moving a muscle I reached into my pocket and quietly called Tricia. Thankfully she answered immediately; I asked her to bring me my camera. I kept my eye on the bird while Tricia smoothly walked the camera out to me; the bird hadn’t moved an inch! I clicked away like mad, I was shaking from the excitement, so I knew there would be a lot of throwaways. The bird changed its perch one time before disappearing behind the evergreen and we never saw it again. Lincoln’s Sparrow in my back yard! I’m still floored by this!
In spite of a late start, I had an excellent morning of birding at Goosepond Mountain State Park. I walked for over 3 1/2 hours and it was quite productive. I had a total of 41 species, 12 of which were year birds for me. Highlights included: BLUE-HEADED VIREO, BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, BLACK-AND-WHITE WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, and BLACK-THROATED BLUE WARBLER. I also had a pair of Broad-winged Hawks, deep in the woods. On my way out, I had one with a fresh kill (chipmunk). On my way back I watched as the two birds copulated high in the trees. It was pretty cool.
I also had a couple of interesting yard birds this week. Who knew what I’ve been missing by going in to work every day? Working from home certainly has its advantages.
I got a little bit of a late start this morning, but looking at the tide table, I would be arriving in Newburgh right at low tide. Plum Point was my first stop, mostly to check for gulls in Cornwall Bay. I only had a handful of Ring-billed Gulls, but I eventually located a RED-THROATED LOON. The bird appeared to be much closer to Donahue Memorial Park on the other side of the bay, so I headed over for a better look. Of course, when I arrived it took me ages to relocate the bird and it was way out from there as well. I’ve fallen for that trick way too many times.
Birding bud Bruce Nott had arrived at Plum Plum point shortly after I left. We communicated and after some searching he got on the loon. Afterwards, I met up with Bruce and I followed him to Quassaick Creek, where he had seen several Black-crowned Night-herons in recent days. When we arrive, there were 2 present and I was able to get a decent (if partially obstructed) shot of one of the birds.
From there, we headed to the Newburgh Waterfront. There was a decent number of gulls present; the most interesting being two young Great Black-backed Gulls. We lingered, hoping something good would fly in, and we weren’t disappointed. I spotted a tern flying north over the river and got Bruce on it right away. We tracked the bird in our scopes as it crossed the river to the Beacon area, where it seemed like it might want to stay for a bit, but then it started to circle up, higher and higher until I was looking through my scope almost directly above us and I lost the bird. Our impression is that the bird was a FORSTER’S TERN; it was a lighter bird with no darkness at the upper wingtips. Photos seem to support this, but I’m just not comfortable enough with tern identification to be sure. Still, it was the most exciting ten minutes of the day!
After the tern excitement, Bruce located a BONAPARTE’S GULL in beautiful plumage. Viewing this bird was also short-lived as an adult Bald Eagle flew in low and all the gulls scattered. I headed home after that; I checked on my Common Raven’s nest on the way home and they appear to have two young birds in the nest. It was a pleasant morning and early afternoon of birding, in spite of the cold temperatures and the intermittent rain.
What a difference a day makes. On Saturday morning, I photographed the Red-tailed Hawk below in less than ideal conditions; it was dark, rainy, and snowy. In order to get anything useful from it, I had to bump the ISO to 2000 and overexpose by 1 1/3 stops (actually, I should have overexposed more, as I still had to increase the exposure significantly in post processing). In spite of it being grainy and little too dark in places, I sort of like the results. I’m wondering if it may just be because it’s a little bit different and kind of cool; the bird is clearly wet from the rain and is grasping a squirrel in its left talon.
By contrast, this morning I was lucky enough to find a Bald Eagle perched on the roadside in the beautiful light not long after sunrise. I shot this bird at ISO 800, but really I should have dropped it to 400 for better results. This shot doesn’t capture my imagination quite as much as the Red-tail. It’s a beautiful bird with nice light (at least on the head and chest), but other than it being a Bald Eagle, it’s not all that exciting to me, and it’s also messy with all the branches in the foreground and background. Tricia prefers it, so different strokes for different folks, I suppose.
After work I went to the Newburgh Waterfront to chase the Iceland Gull that Bruce Nott reported earlier in the day. I had no luck with the ICGU, but as luck would have it, I found a CASPIAN TERN! I was super excited to see this bird and I put the word out immediately. Bruce Nott arrived just before all the gulls, and the tern picked up and flew. I tracked the tern as it headed south along the river and eventually out of view.
John Haas arrived shortly after the bird flew. The three of us tried to relocate the bird, searching areas to the south, but we weren’t having any luck. We reconvened at the waterfront, where the Lesser Black-backed Gull made another appearance. I decided to call it a night; I was just about to pull out when my phone rang – it was John – the Caspian Tern had returned! I was happy all three of us were able to get the bird.
The timing of the weather was pretty good today. Just as I was finishing up work, the rain was stopping and the sun was coming out. I knew with the storm coming through and the timing, that it might be a good evening for sea ducks. I went to Glenmere Lake first; as I was setting up my scope Rob Stone called to let me know he had two BLACK SCOTERS at Wickham Lake. Figuring that I would come up empty, I told him I would quickly scan Glenmere and then head over.
~Icing on the cake: a trio of Rusty Blackbirds at Wickham Lake just before sunset, 03/13/20.~
Well, I figured wrong. First, I located a Common Loon in non-breeding plumage. Then, I found a pair of SURF SCOTERS! I was pretty excited to see these birds. Scope views were fabulous, photos were strictly documentary. Before I left, I found a second Common Loon, this one in breeding plumage.
I headed over to Wickham to try for the Black Scoters – I passed Rob on my way (he was going for the Surf Scoters!). The BLSCs were still present, keeping company with a trio of Ruddy Ducks. Linda Scrima eventually arrived and we enjoyed decent scope views of these birds. Unfortunately they were just a bit too far out for any worthwhile photos. Before I left, I located 3 Rusty Blackbirds in a tree and was able to get some shots of one of them. Not bad for a Monday evening!
*I have no idea how many people may or may not get the reference in this post title. Happy Mondays was a band that I listened to back in the 80’s and early 90’s. I Googled them, and although they have been through several incarnations, they are still making music and playing concerts.
To those of you celebrating, I wish you a Happy Easter. I got out in the morning and as luck would have it, I was able to take what I feel are some very appropriate photos. It was another pretty morning, cool and sunny just how I like it. I stayed local for the most part, and I spent some time in my NY Breeding Bird Atlas priority block; I watched a pair of Eastern Phoebe at Goosepond Mountain visiting a probable nest, so that was promising. I hope everyone is healthy and celebrating this strange version of the holiday in some fashion.
It was a beautiful morning to get out birding: cool, crisp, and sunny. I had an enjoyable and productive morning. I started out at Wickham Lake, where the light was nice and I enjoyed photographing the many Tree Swallows present, as well as a pair of Downy Woodpeckers. The lake was quiet with hardly any waterfowl present; my best bird was a single Ruddy Duck.
I also took a 4 mile hike, doing the entire loop at Doris Duke Trail. It was my first time there, it was a nice hike and pretty darn birdy. I added 4 year birds: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Palm Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Hermit Thrush. I made some stops at some of the southern Orange County lakes on my way home, but I guess it just wasn’t a good day for waterfowl, as I had nothing noteworthy. I have to say, this morning was some enjoyable birding, the best outing I’ve had in some time.