QUICK POST: I had a birdy visit this morning to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop Trail. The cool weather made for a pleasant walk and the clear skies helped with some nice light for photos. Birds are certainly on the move and I did pretty well with warblers (for me!) on the west side of the loop. Shorebird numbers seemed up to me, with a good number found on the west side of the loop (in addition to the back pond). My best shorebird was a single juvenile Semipalmated Plover located in the back pond. All in all, a good morning of birding with over 50 species seen or heard. I’ve included my species list at the bottom of this post.
Great Blue Heron
Sora Semipalmated Plover Killdeer Greater Yellowlegs Lesser Yellowlegs Solitary Sandpiper Spotted Sandpiper Semipalmated Sand. Least Sandpiper
Eastern Wood Pewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Cedar Waxwing Nashville Warbler Northern Parula Yellow Warbler Chestnut-sided Warbler Black-throated Green W. American Redstart Common Yellowthroat Magnolia Warbler
I spent a good part of the day on Saturday checking many of the usual spots for shorebirds, but the only spot that had any noticeable developments was the Citgo Trail at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, where the highlight was 4 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS (Thanks John Haas for the heads up on the PESAs):
Sunday morning I woke up not entirely sure of where I wanted to go birding, so I ended up doing the usual and walking the Liberty Loop at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. It has been the hottest spot recently and the large variety of birds that are possible is always appealing. When I first arrived, I spent some time at the viewing platform with Kevin Kreischer where we photographed the usual cast of characters that have been found there lately: Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, a Green Heron, and single Black-crowned Night Heron that did a perfect flyby for photos, but sadly, Kevin and I were both caught off guard and missed it. A little later the Green heron did the same, a little further out and I did a little better with that:
As I walked the loop with hopes of some shorebird magic in the back pond, it was quite birdy with a good showing of passerines that are on the move: I had a good number of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (8), Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (12), and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers (7). The back pond was disappointing: only Lesser Yellowlegs (5), Killdeer (7), and Least Sandpipers (9) were present as far as shorebirds go.
As I was leaving the back pond, I was pleasantly surprised to find a Green Heron perched in the tree on the right side of the trail. I was already pretty close to the bird by the time I saw it; I wasn’t sure why it hadn’t flushed yet. Then I noticed that it was watching something overhead; the following shots show the bird’s reaction to a Turkey Vulture that was circling not too high overhead:
My best bird of the day was actually a pair of birds:YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS. They were located on the west side of the loop, just south of “Mosquito Alley”. Cuckoos are truly one of my favorite birds and it has been a frustrating year where I have heard many, many cuckoos but not gotten a really good look at one. It was a really enjoyable morning of birding with several good photo ops and a good number of birds, with total of 46 species on my list.
I went looking for shorebirds at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary in the evening. I walked out to the pond at the Citgo Trail and found only a handful of shorebirds there. Then I walked the Heritage Trail, and all the shorebirds were on that side of the sanctuary. It was tough to get a handle on the number of birds out there, the birds were distant and moving around a lot, plus it’s tough to get clear looks from the trail these days because it’s so overgrown. I guesstimate 40+ Least Sandpipers, 15+ Killdeer, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, and 4 Lesser Yellowlegs.
I drove through a heavy fog this morning, heading out to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge – Liberty Loop, so I was pleasantly surprised that there was very little fog present when I pulled into the parking area. I was even more pleased to see the above Green Heron striking a pose on the measuring stick just to the left of the viewing platform.
I started to think that it might be a good morning when I got over to the platform and saw a Black-crowned Night-Heron hunting just across the water. I had taken some initial photos of the bird and gotten great looks in my binoculars, when Bruce Nott arrived. Shortly after his arrival, Bruce was scanning the marsh when he picked up a Peregrine Falcon in flight. Bruce alerted me and I was able to pick up the bird as it passed right in front of the platform:
Before heading out to walk the loop, we enjoyed seeing the large group of Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons that have been regulars lately out in front of the platform, especially first thing in the morning. We also had a second Green Heron, several Least Sandpipers, and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs.
We walked the loop and it was quite birdy with many active birds. In the back pond, the shorebird count was a little bit disappointing with only Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs being seen. The west side of the loop was a highlight of the loop, with many active passerines being seen or heard. Highlights for me included super looks at: Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Red-eyed Vireos, Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (several of each!). It was a super morning of birding, and although we didn’t exactly beat the heat (we were out there until 11:00 am), it was totally worth the sweat. By my count we had a total of 46 species for the morning.
UPDATE 8/7/15: Since I posted, I have received feedback from several better birders than myself, agreeing with AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER for the above bird. Then this afternoon I saw that my report to eBird had been confirmed by the reviewer. American Golden-Plover it is!
QUICK POST: Karen Miller and I walked the Liberty Loop this evening and had a good showing of shorebirds. The west leg of the loop had the first decent collection of shorebirds that I’ve seen there this season: 1 Killdeer, 6 Solitary Sandpipers, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 4 Least Sandpipers, and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs. For those who care, all these birds were in Sussex County (they’re edging towards Orange!). Most of the shorebird action, however, was still in the back pond. The highlight was a distant look at a plover that I am thinking was an American Golden-Plover (rather than Black-bellied). Black wing pits in flight are diagnostic for BBPL; I saw this bird take two short flights and did not notice black wing pits. The bird was quite distant and the flights brief, so I am not 100% about this (I wish I was!). One of the reasons I think I am doubting this ID is that the bird appeared to be on the large side for an AMGP My impression of the bill size in the field is that it was small enough for AMGP, but that’s a tough call for me to make, especially at the distance we were viewing the bird. Please comment if you have any thoughts about this bird or if anyone gets out to see it, I would be curious as to what they think.
Here’s a list of all the shorebirds we had for the day:
Well okay, maybe it wasn’t THAT big, but I did do pretty well photographing passerines today. I walked the Liberty Loop at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge early this morning, and the birds just seemed to make themselves a little more available than they have lately, particularly two birds that I never seem to get a good shot of: Yellow-throated Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Additionally, the early morning light was nice for photos and I seemed to catch most birds in full or nearly full light on a nice dark background, which is a look I personally like. It was a nice walk with over 50 species seen or heard; I will include a species list at the bottom of this post. As usual, I was curious to see if any new shorebirds had moved in – I was happy to see at least one of the Semipalmated Plovers that Kyle Dudgeon had let me know about earlier this week was still around – that was my first of the season. Other than that, no new shorebirds to report, in fact numbers and variety of shorebirds both seemed to down; I did not located any Greater Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpipers, nor Pectoral Sandpipers. Most the shorebirds were located in the back pond of the loop and in the WAY back of that pond, to boot. I did have one Lesser Yellowlegs just to the left of the viewing platform, where water levels have dropped a bit, so that was nice.
Here’s my list for the morning:
Great Blue Heron
Eastern Wood Peewee
Great Crested Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
I got out both Saturday and Sunday mornings, mostly looking for shorebirds. First thing Saturday, thanks to Bruce Nott, I went to a new spot for me – it’s a small pond near Stewart Airport that is now a mud flat. Shorebirds present included Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs. There were many Great Blue Herons and a couple of Green Herons also present. It looks like a spot with some good potential, so I will keep checking back. Next I went to Lake Washington where I struck out with shorebirds – a quick stop yielded only a Great Blue Heron and a Green Heron. Bruce saw a Great Egret and a Black-crowned Night-Heron out there earlier in the week. My final stop was a total bust – I wanted to check the mud flats on the Hudson River just north of Cornwall-On-Hudson. The problem is that there is no real good spot to view that area, and there are “No Parking” signs everywhere. I eventually got frustrated with the situation and bailed on it.
Sunday morning I went back to the usual – I walked the Liberty Loop. It was a birdy morning where I had over 40 species. Shorebirds in the back pond remained basically the same as my last shorebird report, with the addition of a second Pectoral Sandpiper, and my first 2 SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS of the season. Waders were numerous, particularly Great Egrets (8), and Great Blue Herons (12). I also saw several Green Herons and managed a distant photo of one.
Since my last post on Monday, I’ve made it back out to the Liberty Loop at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge three times, including a brief visit today. The biggest development was when Linda Scrima contacted me on Wednesday to let me know she had a GLOSSY IBIS in the back pond at the loop. I did not get out there to see the ibis on Wednesday because I was playing in my golf league, but I did get out there to see it on Thursday, when I was accompanied by Kyle Dudgeon who got his lifer Glossy Ibis. The bird was still present this morning when I stopped by; both times I’ve seen the bird it has been in the very back of the back pond. The bird can be seen well with a scope (or even binoculars), but photos were pretty much out of the question. On Wednesday, when Linda first saw the bird, it was closer to the trail and she has provided great shot of the bird for this post – thanks Linda!
The back pond continues to be the best spot in the area (that I know of) for shorebirds. This is what I had there this morning:
The remainder of the loop also continues to be birdy with the expected species, with a family of Great-crested Flycatchers on the eastern side of the loop being a nice highlight and providing plenty of photo ops. Really, I should have gotten better photos, but sometimes that’s just the way it goes.
NOTE: I’ve checked the Camel Farm a couple of times for shorebirds (I had several Killdeer and 2 Least Sandpipers today finally), and I checked the Citgo Trail at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary today (4 killdeer and 2 Least Sandpipers). Also, please note that the Citgo Trail is VERY overgrown and ticks are a problem. I do not recommend going there.
QUICK POST: It’s getting late, so I will have to make this a quick post. I met Kyle Dudgeon out at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop Trail, and the good birding on that trail continues. Most of the action seems to be happening in what I call the back pond – the southernmost pool on the trail. On our way back there, at least 2 Sora could be heard calling in the marsh; they sounded like they were pretty deep into the marsh, much farther out than they were on Saturday. As we approached the back pond, we inadvertently flushed a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON that was in the ditch to the right of the trail. The bird did not fly far and we got some photos. This is my first BCNH sighting at the loop this year.
In the back pool we saw my first 2 GREAT EGRETS of the year out in the distance, in the company of nearly 10 Great Blue Herons and one Green Heron. Green Herons flew overhead several times while we were there. Most excitedly, shorebird numbers and variety both increased:
I woke up with no real plans for birding, so I decided to head out to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I wanted to check on the Blue Grosbeak that has been out on Liberty Lane and I was hoping for some southbound migrating shorebirds. I walked out Liberty Lane (which was loaded with Orchard Orioles, Song Sparrows, and Indigo Buntings) to try for the Blue Grosbeak. I heard the bird, but off in the distance and I was not able to locate it.
I made my way back to the parking lot where I met up with Linda Scrima and we walked the Liberty Loop Trail. We walked the west side of the loop first; we were nearly at the southwest corner of the loop when we heard a SORA calling! As we got closer to where the bird was calling from, the bird went quiet. We scanned for a while but then decided to move on – there are a lot of hiding places in that marsh. We continued down the trail and when we got maybe 100 paces away, the bird started calling again. We decided to try one more time and I’m glad we did. We moved very slowly back towards where the bird was calling from, this time it continued to call and it sounded relatively close. Finally, we saw some movement and across the open water, perhaps 150 yards into the marsh we saw both an adult and a single young SORA tucked away in the vegetation! It was very exciting to seem them, but photos were tough because of the distance, the grasses, and the birds were backlit. Here are a few, for documentary purposes:
When we reached the pool at the southern end of the loop, we were pleasantly surprised to find 5 LESSER YELLOWLEGS, and 4 LEAST SANDPIPERS – my first southbound migrating shorebirds of the season. And, after just talking about the dearth of Green Herons this year, we saw two of them there as well.
We finished the loop, with more of the usual suspects being seen, then went out to try for the Blue Grosbeak once again, but this time we didn’t even hear the bird. It was a good day with over 40 species seen or heard, and the first shorebird migrants that I’ve seen this summer.
Note: I was at the refuge on Thursday the 9th as well – two of the photos in this post are from that day.