SUPER QUICK POST: I had loads to do tonight to get ready for my Vermont golf trip, but made it out to the black dirt this evening because conditions seemed ripe for good shorebirds. I was happily surprised beyond what I would have hoped for. On Skinners Lane, I located a really great collection of shorebirds, all in a single field: 12 Black-bellied Plover, 43 American Golden-Plover, 10 Killdeer, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 4 Lesser Yellowlegs and definitely the best bird of the day, 5 SANDERLINGS.
09/03/17: After an early morning searching unsuccessfully for shorebirds in the Black Dirt, I came across this Broad-winged Hawk on a wire near 6 1/2 Road Sanctuary. My impression is that this was a very small hawk, in fact, likely the smallest buteo I’ve ever seen; to my eye it appeared to be just a little larger than a Merlin. I’m thinking that this is a small, young, male BWHA. I’m not a fan of wires as a perch for photos, but I do like this one just because it gives a really good look at the hawk.
Time flies. It’s hard for me to believe the summer is over and hawkwatch is upon us already. I am excited for the season; hawk watching is one of my favorite types of birding, and, with the exception of next week (9/9), I will be the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch every Saturday for the duration of season.
I got off to a decent start to the season today with 17 migrating raptors counted, which isn’t horrible for September 2nd. I had 11 Broad-winged Hawks, 5 Sharp-shinned Hawks, and a single Osprey. Five of the Broad-winged Hawks came over in a “mini-kettle” that formed to the right of the tower in front of the viewing platform. The birds climbed quite quickly and then streamed off, migrating to the southwest. I was joined by Bill Connolly and Rob Stone – not coincidentally, I had my most productive hour (8 birds) when they were both present.
It was a good day for birding up on the mountain and I had nice count of 28 species of birds (in addition to 3 species of migrating raptors): Common Raven (4), American Goldfinch (20), Blue Jay (24), White-breasted Nuthatch (2), Tufted Titmouse (4), Black-capped Chickadee (4), American Crow (4), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (1), Cedar Waxwing (30+), Chimney Swift (7), Gray Catbird (2), American Robin (3), Northern Flicker (1), European Starling (8), Northern Mockingbird (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), Northern Cardinal (2), Turkey Vulture (many), Black Vulture (many), Red-tailed Hawk (2), Mourning Dove (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Baltimore Oriole (1), Great-crested Flycatcher (1), Barn Swallow (1), COMMON NIGHTHAWK (1), Black-throated Green Warbler (1), and Red-eyed Vireo (1). The most exciting for me was the Common Nighthawk that Rob picked up just beyond the tower – it was my first time having one at Mt. Peter.
Here’s my report from the day:
QUICK POST: While at work today, Bill Fiero reported to the Mearns Bird Club App a GLOSSY IBIS at Citgo Pond. I made plans with Linda Scrima to meet there after work and go for the bird. When we first got there, it appeared that the bird had moved on, but eventually we located it on the far side of the pond hanging out with the Mallards and the Canada Geese. We were able to get some documentary photos; the lighting was terrible and the bird was pretty distant. Meanwhile, I was also scanning the shorebirds present. Numbers were up considerably, with over 20 Lesser Yellowlegs present, a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers, a handful of Least Sandpipers, a single Killdeer and the shorebird of the day… a half dozen dowitchers. I think they are likely SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. I’m sort of playing the odds here because the time is right for SBDO rather than Long-billed, but also, the birds do not appear to be overly humpbacked and their undersides do not seem to be as solidly marked as found in LBDO. Please comment if you have any thoughts on the accurate identification of these birds – thanks. What a great evening of birding, I sort of wasn’t really expecting it! Huge thanks to Bill for locating and reporting the GLIB.
Friday night’s shorebirds were definitely the highlight of this weekend’s birding, but I did get out both Saturday and Sunday mornings, trying mostly for shorebirds. I had mostly the usuals and my best birds for the weekend were 3 BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS first thing Saturday Morning in the Black Dirt. Also noteworthy was a single Pectoral Sandpiper at Citgo Pond on Sunday morning.
I feel like I have some interesting birding experiences recently. The one that stands out most for me was Saturday morning, when I found a bird at Pine Island Turf Nursery (remember – by permission only), that I was unable to identify. I am at the point with my birding that, when I’m in the black dirt, it’s unusual for me not to be able to identify a bird. Luckily, I was able to get some photos of the bird and I sent them immediately to John Haas and Rob Stone. Both came back with the same answer: a hatch year HORNED LARK. Rob added that it likely had recently fledged. When I first saw the bird, I was thinking HOLA or maybe American Pipit, but looking at it, I could not pin it down. It was really cool to see this bird and also excellent to document that HOLAs are breeding in Orange County. There was a tremendous amount of heat distortion in the air Saturday morning, and I photographed the bird from my car, so I think the heat from my car distorted the pics. What an interesting looking bird:
Also on Saturday morning: At Turtle Bay, I had a pair of young Cooper’s Hawk’s in a distant field. They were among a murder of crows, perhaps 25 or so. The crows were making a racket generally harassing the hawks, as they do. The young hawks seemed to think this was a game and repeatedly chased the crows, sometimes flying after them and other times “hopping” towards them.
All week, Bobolinks have been present in large flocks in the black dirt. They have been quite a sight and I was hoping that I would eventually get a decent photo op; I finally did on Saturday morning and I’ve include my best shot at the top of this post.
On Thursday evening I was at Citgo Pond trying for shorebirds. As I was scanning the pond, a large number of Cedar Waxwings were flying over my head, presumably hawking insects. They were very acrobatic in their flying, turning on a dime and at times bordering on hovering. I attempted to take some flight shots and it proved more difficult than I would have thought; I did manage to get a couple of interesting shots:
And, finally, on Sunday morning I went to Citgo Pond once again for shorebirds (9 Least Sandpipers, 1 Semipalmated Sandpiper, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper, 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, 4 Killdeer). On my way in, I had a pair of young wrens on the trail. I wasn’t sure if they were Marsh or House; I was sort of assuming House but looking at the photos when I got home, I’m thinking they must have been Marsh Wrens. They were along the trail and spending some time in the trees, but also some time in the marsh grasses. Please comment if you can confirm/deny this ID, thanks.
QUICK POST: Things are finally happening! It was a heck of a week in Orange County for shorebirds. On Tuesday 8/22, Linda Scrima reported a single BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER in the black dirt. I tried for that bird in the evening, but came up empty. On Thursday 8/24, Karen Miller had 12 AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVERS in the black dirt. I could not get out there, because I was at the Citgo Pond, checking on conditions, which are bordering on excellent for shorebirds. I had nearly a dozen Least Sandpipers, 5 Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, and some Killdeer.
So, today, Friday 8/25, John Haas had two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS and 4 AMGPs at Pine Island Turf Nursery (be advised that you need permission to bird at PI Turf Nursery. They are very accommodating to birders but if there is work being done access will be denied). I was headed there after work when I was contacted by Linda Scrima, who had 2 BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS at another location in the black dirt. I changed my plans, met Rob Stone, and we got Linda’s two BASAs as well as a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER. I was thrilled to finally get some good fall shorebirds, and the icing on the cake was later in the evening, just as it was getting dark, I got fabulous scope views of a pair of UPLAND SANDPIPERS! What a night! Let’s hope this is just the beginning!
I put my kayak into the water at Morningside Park just as the sun was coming up over the trees this morning. My goal was to photograph migrating shorebirds in the early morning light, but unfortunately there were not all that many present (are you sensing a theme this fall?). I had a single Spotted Sandpiper, 2 Solitary Sandpipers, and 3 Least Sandpipers, but that’s it for shorebirds. There was a MERLIN present that was tearing around and keeping the shorebirds on their toes, which was exciting but doesn’t help when your target birds are its prey. The small falcon perched for a while in a nearby tree and I was happy to get some decent photographs; it’s been a while since I’ve seen or photographed a Merlin.
Otherwise, I ran into just “the usuals”, with plenty of Green Herons and Great Blue Herons to photograph in the beautiful morning light. I spent just about 2 hours in the water and had 30 species in that time, which made for some pretty good birding.
SHOREBIRD REPORT: Well, there is actually not very much to report, but it’s not for lack of trying. I am more than ready for some shorebirds to show up in Orange County, but really, the birds have been sparse. Here’s the latest:
Friday 8/11: I had a single Greater Yellowlegs at the Camel Farm, where conditions are finally shaping up a bit for shorebirds.
Saturday 8/12: The Camel Farm was a bust, but I had a single Semipalmated Plover at one location in the Black Dirt, and I had three Lesser Yellowlegs and a single Least Sandpiper at another location in the BD (as well as hundreds of Killdeer).
Sunday 8/13: I had a single Least Sandpiper in the Black Dirt that was very accommodating for photos, the Camel Farm had no shorebirds, and Citgo Pond had 5 Least Sandpipers. All the recent rain has made conditions at Citgo less than ideal, so I was happy to have the 5 LESAs. I ran into Jeff Goulding and Bill Fiero at Citgo, and they informed me that they had several Lesser Yellowlegs at the Liberty Loop earlier in the day. They also informed me that the LITTLE BLUE HERON continues at that location. And, finally, John Haas had 20 Least Sandpipers, 2 Solitary Sandpipers, and a Semipalmated Sandpiper at Morningside Park in Sullivan County this morning. I plan on getting out to that location in the upcoming days for sure. Check out his post here.
After work today, I went out in the rain and checked the Black Dirt for shorebirds. Right where I had a single Upland Sandpiper last Wednesday, today I located a pair of them. The big difference is that this time around the birds were pretty close to the road, AND I had my camera, so I was able to get some decent shots. I put the word out and Linda Scrima was able to join me.
We photographed the birds from our cars for a while, until I saw a white bird fly across one of the fields. I jumped out of my car and snapped some shots. It was a swallow of some sort; I am guessing leucistic rather than albino since there was hints of brown on the underside of the bird. It was flying with a single Barn Swallow, so I am guessing that it might be one as well. Any thoughts on the ID of this swallow, please comment.
QUICK POST: This morning I ran to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh to see the juvenile LITTLE BLUE HERON that Linda Scrima had relocated (the bird was originally reported to eBird yesterday by Ken Witkowski). Linda had put the word out, so several other local birders also got to see the bird: Joyce DePew, Kathy Ashman, Karen Miller, John Haas, and Scotty Baldinger were all present as some point while I was there. The bird spent most of it’s time conveniently right in front of the viewing platform, out maybe 75 feet or so. It did relocate a couple of time and at one point it came back to the pool in front of the viewing platform; as it came in, it snagged a large frog mid-flight! I’ve never seen a wader do that before! Check out the bottom pic in this post to see it. Huge thanks to Linda for finding the bird and for getting the word out. More good OC birding!