A couple weeks ago, I incorrectly reported a couple of Red-headed Woodpeckers in an eBird checklist for Glenmere Lake. It was a data entry error on my part – I had intended on reporting the 2 Red-BELLIED Woodpeckers I’d seen there that day, but clicked on the wrong box. My error was pointed out to me by birding buds Rob Stone and Linda Scrima; they had seen the report online and followed up with me about it.
As coincidence would have it, this afternoon I was at Glenmere Lake and I was pleasantly surprised to see a young RED-HEADED WOODPECKER as I was getting back to my car. The bird was very accomadating and I was fortunate enough to get some decent photos. This is my third straight year seeing this bird in Orange County; in 2015 there was a pair at Elks Brox Park in Port Jervis, last year there were a couple birds at Fancher Davidge Park in Middletown, and earlier this year I had two young birds at Hamptonburgh Preserve just north of Goshen.
I headed back to the Newburgh Waterfront this morning – I was mostly hoping for a Great Cormorant to add to my OC year list, but really I was just hoping for some good birds. The waterfront was a little more productive than last weekend. I never had any luck with cormorants, but from the Newburgh-Beacon Ferry parking lot, I had my first RED-BREASTED MERGANSER of the season, a male that was with a raft of 40 or so Common Mergansers. Then, from the Blu Pointe Restaurant parking lot, I located two very beautiful ICELAND GULLS. It was raining pretty good all morning, so I wasn’t carrying my camera. I ran back to my car for it, and the birds had stayed pretty close to the shore, allowing for some decent shots in spite of the lack of light. I was thrilled, the birds were just awesome to see and I enjoyed a prolonged look at them.
I have to say that not birding during the week is making me feel like I don’t have a really good handle on the birding in Orange County right now. I’m missing getting out just about every day and getting a real feel for what’s going on. Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and Rob Stone have been updating me on a regular basis, and John Haas has spent a good amount of time recently in OC, so I’ve been checking in on his blog frequently. On Friday he reported some Snow Goose movement into the area, and he also had 5 TUNDRA SWANS. On Saturday morning I made the rounds in the black dirt, I was hoping to relocated the swans in my travels, but unfortunately that wasn’t to be. Highlights of the morning included several large flocks of Horned Larks, one which had many Snow Buntings (75+) and a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR. I also had a single CACKLING GOOSE and around 30 Snow Geese among a large group of Canada Geese on the river in Pine Island. At the end of the day I checked Glenmere Lake, which was vacated with the exception of 4 Ring-billed Gulls and a Merlin, and also Wickham Lake, which despite having some open water, had almost no waterfowl present (only 5 Mute Swans and a single Green-winged Teal). I wonder if the two Bald Eagles patrolling the lake had anything to do with that…
On Sunday I decided to switch it up a bit and I went to the Newburgh Waterfront. My best stop by far was Plum Point (Kowawese Unique Area). I had a decent assortment of songbirds, with the highlight being a Golden-crowned Kinglet that was cooperative for photos, in spite of the horrible lighting.
I scanned the river for waterfowl and had some distant Common Mergansers and my best bird at the waterfront, a LONG-TAILED DUCK. I took a few photos and I was going to put the word out, but was distracted by a bird calling in the woods. I went to check it out (it was a Northern Mockingbird), and when I got back the LTDU was nowhere to be seen! I tried like heck to relocate it, but never did. A dog walker had a arrived with a barking dog, I can only guess that the bird took flight.
I also spent some time at Cornwall Landing, where I tried like heck to turn a couple of Double-crested Cormorants into Greats, and then I went to the Newburgh Water front where there were many gulls being fed bread; I had approximately 75 Ring-billed Gulls and 6 Herring Gulls. I was surprised to not find any Great Black-backed Gulls and I was also suprised that I did not see any Bald Eagles at the waterfront. Counting the vultures I had as I left Newburgh, I had a total of 25 species for the morning at the waterfront.
On my way back home, I received an alert that John had a NORTHERN GOSHAWK in the black dirt. I raced to join him; Maria was already there when I arrived. Apparently the bird perched briefly and then dove for prey in a distant ditch. And was never relocated. Anyone who knows me knows how desperate I am for a Gos, especially in Orange County, so this was a tough one. I lingered in the area for quite a while, but unfortunately it was to no avail. Who knows, with any luck maybe that bird will stick around… fingers crossed. John got a photo of the bird, which I’m sure he’ll be posting to his blog sometime this evening.
After yesterday’s snow, I knew I wanted to check out the black dirt today. One of my main goals was to try for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs among the large flocks of Horned Larks. I was hoping the snow cover would push the birds closer to the roadsides, this only happened to a small extent, but I was able to get a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR out at Skinner’s Lane. The bird was only about 40 yards off the road, but I was a little slow on the draw and missed getting a shot. I did a little bit better shooting raptors; I got my first decent shot of a Norther Harrier for the season. I also watched a Merlin enjoy a snack on a telephone pole, and miraculously, when it had finished, it took off in my direction, allowing for a decent shot.
After the black dirt, I checked out Wickham Lake, where I happy to find 12 species of waterfowl! They were pretty much the usuals, but it was excellent birding. The following species were present: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Am. Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Pied-billed Grebe, and Am. Coot.
From there I went to Glenmere Lake and found the birds of the day: a single BLACK SCOTER and 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS. I haven’t had any sea ducks this fall, so I was pretty happy to see these birds. All in all, it made for a really great day of birding, one that I needed. It’s rare that I post twice in a single day – click here or on the link below to see my post from this morning with the Mount Peter 2017 end of season report by Judy Cinquina.
Sadly, another season of hawk watching has come and gone. Judy Cinquina, leader of Mount Peter Hawkwatch, was kind enough to let me share the season ending report here on the blog. Judy does a really great job and it’s an interesting read for sure, with some numbers that will certainly concern many birders. Huge thanks to Judy for sharing.
Mount Peter 2017 – By Judy Cinquina
2017 was the 60th anniversary of the Mount Peter Hawk Watch. Since 1958, every fall season has added more data to our knowledge of raptor numbers, migration and behavior. Leaders celebrated by breaking Red-shouldered Hawk and Peregrine Falcon daily records and toppling the old 1990 Peregrine fall count. The euphoria didn’t last long, even with four Golden Eagles and a Goshawk spicing up the final score of 8,996. Our 74-day count, from September 1 through November 15, failed to show any improvement in Harrier or Kestrel numbers, and the Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks seemed happy to either delay or reject migration altogether.
A slightly below average 6,874 Broad-winged Hawks were counted this season, most moving south between September 10 and 22. Leaders Rick Hansen and Ajit Antony garnered the only 1,000+ days. Rick recorded 1,140 on light SW winds, September 17, in spite of fog socking in the lookout for most of that morning. Ajit’s 1,764 Broad-wings on the 21st kettled up in light, northwest winds, but their migration stopped when clouds moved in for a couple of hours in the afternoon. Both leaders wondered if Broad-wings migrated unseen in the fog or clouds on their respective days. Usually a late October migrant, the majority of Red-shoulders turned up instead between November 4 and 11, producing our second best tally of 122: 69 adult, 11 immature, and 42 unknown. Matt Zeitler grabbed the best day, November 4, counting a record 27 on light north winds and destroying Ken Witkowski’s old record of 24 from October 27, 2013. Hopefully it’s a good sign that most of our three-digit counts of this species have occurred in the last six years. Once again Red-tails failed to move in large numbers before our watch ended on November 15. The 232 recorded was 93% below our 10-year average. Rough-legged Hawks were a no-show for the seventh consecutive fall.
Since 1978 when the watch was extended daily through October and into November, we were rewarded with four-digit tallies of Sharp-shinned Hawks, but not this fall. The 841 counted was 48% below our 10-year average. Our biggest day was 69 on October 20. Compare that to back to back records of 317 and 337 made in late September 1986. Meanwhile, numbers for their larger cousin, the Cooper’s Hawk, have been on the rise since 1990. They reached an above average 121, this fall. After a two-year absence, one Goshawk finally turned up, October 18. Ajit wrote that this large-headed accipiter sailed due south, never beating its wings.
The American Kestrel had a mini-rebound from last year’s abysmal 52, with 83 counted: 11 male, 23 female, 49 unknown. However, their numbers have been woefully low this entire decade. The 18 Merlin was rather average, but the larger Peregrine Falcon brightened our 60th with two records. On October 11, Ajit recorded 6, nudging out John Tramontano’s daily record of 5, counted October 17, 1992. Although we don’t get their falcon numbers, we mirrored Montclair’s and Hook Mountain’s record Peregrine numbers this season, counting 26 and surpassed the 21 counted in 1990.That is excellent news since DDT almost eliminated this species from our landscape by the 1960’s.
Osprey numbers bounced back a bit but still came in 38% below their 10-year average at 111. In the 2016 edition of the Northeast Hawk Watch Report, Drew Panko points out that while Osprey breeding has increased, “numbers counted in migration has been decreasing for the last 30 years…” The cause remains a mystery. Why the N. Harrier numbers are reaching rock bottom is not so mysterious, with their habitat of wetlands and fields disappearing at an alarming rate. The 26 logged this fall is pathetic and well below the record 101 logged in 1980. Bald Eagles are on an amazing rebound, especially in the last 10 years. The 85 noted this season (44 adults, 38 immature, and 3 unknown) was above average. Always uncommon in the northeast, the Golden Eagle came in at an average 4: 3 adult, 1 immature.
We did not begin counting Turkey Vultures until the 1980’s, and differentiating locals from migrants has always been a challenge. The 320 counted this fall was above average, and so were the 96 Black Vultures. 1985 produced the first Black Vulture ever seen over our lookout, and now they’re quite common. Local C. Ravens were with us almost daily with up to 5 counted. 681 Monarch Butterflies surpassed last year’s 131, the majority moving between October 3 and 11.Ruby-throated Hummingbirds barely made an appearance with a mere 15 recorded. Denise Farrell noted 3,515 Canada Geese, September 28, as part of our final 10,365 counted between September 28 and November 11. The high Brant count was 95 on November 4, with 146 tallied by season’s end, and only 10 Snow Geese showed up, with a single Snow hanging on to the end of a skein of Canadas, November 7. Between October 31 and November 10, 19 C. Loons were observed heading east towards Greenwood Lake. Other birds of interest included:
1 Pine Warbler
2 1st C. Nighthawk (5 more, 9/3 – 9/13), 1st Black-throated Green & Red-eyed Vireo
6 1st Prairie (another 3 on 9/10) & Magnolia Warblers, 1st Scarlet Tanager
7 Cape May Warbler
11 Tennessee Warbler & 2 Am. Redstarts
12 1st DC Cormorant (1 on 9/21 & 14 on 9/28)
18 1st C. Loon
22 59 DC Cormorants (235 on 11/4)
23 1st Yellow-bellied Sapsucker seen through 11/14 (male & immature 11/14)
24 Brown Creeper
27 E. Towhee (another 9/21)
39 Blackpoll, E. Phoebe
2 25 E. Bluebirds
4 3 White-crowned Sparrows
5 Red-headed Woodpecker
15 Great Horned Owl heard
What better way to celebrate our 60th consecutive watch then with an official hat, designed and donated by Denise Farrell. Our hats on to Denise! A big thank you to all our friends and visitors who helped with the count, especially Bill Connolly, Rob Stone and Carol Linguanti. Sadly, Carol passed away at the end of October. Carol was the creator of our Facebook page and a dedicated leader. Her enthusiasm and spirit will be missed. A big thank you to our clean-up crew: Denise, Rick Hansen, Rochana Muenthongchin, Beverly Robertson, Gene Tappan, Will Test, and especially Tom Millard who installed our box on the platform. Our deep appreciation to Evan Masten and George Profus, NYDEC Region 3 Foresters who cut some of the larger trees blocking our views before the watch began, and to Mike Limatola and Kurt Muenz and the Fyke Nature Association for providing the insurance required for our Clean-Up day. We are also indebted to Fyke for their continued support, especially for sponsoring our Mount Peter site on Hawkcount.org. We continue as the oldest, continually run, all-volunteer fall watch in the country.
When it comes to photographing birds, one of the least desirable perches to me is on a wire. It’s always disappointing to find a good, confiding bird that happens to be perched on a wire – I would, of course prefer a more natural setting. But sometimes that’s just what you get, and looking back over recent years I’ve had number of pretty decent shots in spite of the wire perch; here are some of my favorites.
I decided to forego my Christmas shopping on Black Friday, and headed to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge instead (that was a joke, by the way, I know, keep my day job). Birding the refuge can be a little bit overwhelming during duck migration. Black Lake, the first large body of water on the left on Wildlife Drive, was absolutely loaded with waterfowl! There had to be thousands of birds present. Some birds are close enough for good binocular looks and even some photos, but most of the birds are pretty far out – it’s a distant sea of waterfowl. For the day, I had a total of 15 species of swimming waterbirds at the refuge: Canada Goose, Tundra Swan, Northern Shoveler, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Mallard, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Hooded Merganser, Ruddy Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, and American Coot. I also did alright with raptors, with: Red-tailed Hawk (3), Bald Eagle (4), Northern Harrier (3), American Kestrel (1), and ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK (1).
One of the more exciting moments was seeing an incredible 87 (!) SANDHILL CRANES. I viewed them from East Road – the birds were relatively obscured by vegetation which made getting a good count difficult. At first I counted approximately 60 birds, but then I discovered there was a second group, just 100 yards away. My best count was 87, but I’m sure there were some birds that were hidden and not counted.
I wanted to drive through Wildlife Drive one more time. I stopped by the visitor’s center and another birder told me that he had seen a SNOWY OWL nearby to the refuge just a little bit earlier. I ran for the owl, but alas, it must have moved and I was unable to relocate it. I did get lucky with the CATTLE EGRET that has been recently reported; a bird that I would normally be pretty excited about but I was bummed to have missed a Snowy by such a small margin. From there, I decided to leave the refuge and bird Cayuga Lake…
…I drove the west side of the lake and ended up at Cayuga Lake State Park, which had a nice dock for viewing the lake. I added 4 species of waterfowl (American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, and Horned Grebe), bringing my total for the day to 19. I was most excited, however, with the gulls present: Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, and BONAPARTE’S.
On Saturday morning I tried again for the Snowy Owl, but was unsuccessful. I also wanted to try Cayuga Lake again, this time I went down the east side of the lake. I was hoping to do better with Bonaparte’s for photos – I got much better looks, but the photos were terrible. I did add Common Loon, Double-crested Cormorant, and Common Goldeneye to my waterfowl list, giving me a total of 22 species in two days – not too bad. Good birding in Seneca County!
The good thing about not being able to bird all week is that I am really appreciating my birding time when I get it, down to the littlest things, such as that beautiful feeling of putting my binoculars up to my eyes and focusing in on a bird; it’s a joy. The bad thing (or at least one bad thing among the many), is that I feel out of practice. This is my second week of no weekday birding and I’ve had the same feeling both weekends, where I was just a little bit out of sorts and not really quick to ID birds.
Additionally, you would think that, since I didn’t have the opportunity to bird all week, that I might come up with a plan for my Saturday morning when I finally can get out. But I didn’t. So I just headed out and cruised the black dirt; my main goal was to try and find some Canada Geese to sort through. The morning was mostly a dud; my highlight was watching in my scope, as an absolutely gorgeous Coyote made its way across a field in the distance. That was awesome. I also bumped into John Haas, who I hadn’t seen in a while, so that was nice. We sorted through the largest group of Canada Geese that I had all morning (maybe 600 birds?). Unfortunately, we came up empty and I was running late to meet up with Linda Lou at the Bashakill to do water testing, so I had to run. While I was doing the water testing, John put out an alert that he had a CACKLING GOOSE on route 416 by Hillcrest Farms. After water testing and little lunch, I headed out into the rain and ran for John’s Cackler. It took me ages to find the bird, but eventually I did. It was a really good stop and I got really great looks in my scope and the usual goose documentary photographs. Huge thanks to John for finding and posting.
After, I thought it might be a good idea to try for more waterfowl. I headed to Tomahawk Lake, since it wasn’t far away. I had: Common Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, and a single Ring-necked Duck there. Then, I headed to Round Lake. I went there because there is a covered spot for viewing the lake, since the rain had picked up pretty good at that point. At Round Lake I had 4 species of waterfowl: Mallards, a single Ruddy Duck, two Pied-billed Grebes, and three Greater Scaup that were close enough to shore for some decent photos (rain and horrible lighting aside). By the time I left Round Lake, it was late and dark already. I was going to head to Glenmere Lake, but that will have to wait until tomorrow…
I tried to get up early on Saturday morning to do some birding before heading up to the mountain. It took ages to get out of the house for some reason, so my time ended up being pretty limited, but I had enough time to take a quick cruise through the black dirt. And, I got really lucky, finding a relatively large flock of Horned Larks (about 200 birds) right away. In the flock I could see several Snow Buntings while they were in flight. I had a single American Pipit on the road when several birds landed in front of my car. And, most excitingly, I had a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR that I located as I scanned through the flock with my scope.
So, my last day counting up at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch was a pretty good one. And, to my mind, it was exactly how hawkwatch in early November should be: Very cold, crisp, and sunny with a steady northwest wind blowing and a good flight of Red-tailed Hawks (20) and Red-shouldered Hawks (15). The only missing ingredients were the Golden Eagle or Northern Goshawk that I was hoping very much for, but unfortunately both species were a no-show. I had a lot of good help and company while I was there: fellow Mt. Pete counters Tom Millard and Denise Ferrel spent several hours each helping, and Bruce Christensen, Jose Garcia, Rob Stone, Karen Heifetz, Nancy Sierra and Joe Baldacci all visited and provided plenty of help and good company too. I totaled 49 migrating raptors, which is enough to stay busy for most of the day. Unfortunately, nearly every bird was super high so photo ops were very few; I actually never even got my weekly Turkey Vulture shot. My final bird of the season, which passed over right at the end of the day, was a sky-high Great Blue Heron that was so high that I needed the scope to get a good ID on the bird. I thought that was a pretty cool way to end the season.
QUICK POST: I took a cruise around the black dirt this morning. I was hoping for Horned Larks/Lapland Longspurs/American Pipits and also to sift through some geese looking for rarities. I did well with American Pipits, seeing them in several locations and finally getting some photographs, but struck out with larks and longspurs. I had a hard time finding any collections of geese; eventually I did find a couple of larger groups, but other than Canada Geese, the only other goose I found was a single Snow Goose. I had a pleasant surprise when I located two late moving American Golden Plovers. They were late enough that when I went to do my eBird report they were flagged as a rare bird. Not an amazing morning, but any time I get a shorebird in OC, I’m a happy birder.