Put the summer doldrums on hold for a minute! With last night’s rainfall, I was optimistic that we might get a good bird today. Kyle Dudgeon and I were only half-joking about the outside possibility of a Roseate Spoonbill, since they’ve had one in New Jersey recently. Then I received a text from Linda Scrima – with an attached eBird report for a SNOWY EGRET at Citgo Pond, reported by a Kevin McGann at 8:23 this morning! I met Linda there after work to check it out; we were doubtful that the report would be accurate, not knowing Kevin McGann and having been burned on several inaccurate SNEG reports in recent years. We walked out to the pond, and sure enough there was a SNOWY EGRET! We put out the word and several birders were able to come join us in viewing the bird. Other highlights included hearing a Cooper’s Hawk calling from the trees (only my second time hearing the “kac, kac, kac” call), my first Lesser Yellowlegs in a couple of weeks, 10 (!) Green Herons, and a Red Fox on the far side of the shore, located by Kathy Ashman and Karen Miller.
QUICK POST: Well, Rob Stone strikes again. This evening he somehow managed to relocate the five immature WHITE IBIS that had been reported in Orange County earlier this week, but had not been seen for several days (I thought those birds were long gone!). I, of course, ran for the birds and when I arrived, Rob got me on them immediately. They appeared to be getting ready to roost in the treetops on the shore of Wickham Lake. I have to say that seeing WHIB, in Orange County, in the treetops, just blew me away. It was so awesome! Linda Scrima showed up shortly after I did, and then Curt McDermott and Karen Miller not long after her. Curt had been Kayaking at Glenmere Lake, so he had his kayak. I was really excited when he pretty much insisted that I get the first run in the kayak to get some photographs while the light was still good. I paddled out and got great looks at the two birds at the very top of the trees and, of course, clicked away. Huge thanks to Rob for relocating the birds and to Curt for the kayak. What a night!
Wow, what a night at the Camel Farm! I went out to check for shorebirds after work; I was not feeling optimistic but wanted to just check just to see if anything was going on. Surprisingly, there was a good number of shorebirds present. Shortly after I began scanning the big pond, I located a single RED-NECKED PHALAROPE, followed shortly after by a second one! I was completely freaking out and I put the word out. Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, Karen Miller, John Haas, and Scotty Baldinger all joined me and we had what we considered quite a good list of shorebirds…
RED-NECK PHALAROPE (2)
Least Sandpiper (3)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (2)
WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER (6!)
Spotted Sandpiper (1)
Lesser Yellowlegs (1)
…until Rob Stone called me later this evening, just before it started getting dark, and amazingly added a WILSON’S PHALAROPE, a Dunlin, and three Short-billed Dowitchers! What an incredible night for OC shorebirds! I’m floored by it, and I’m trying to figure out a way to get out and check on the these birds first thing in the morning, especially the WIPH, I’d love to get a look at that bird!
After work today, I was finally going to make it out to Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge after work today to go for the DICKCISSEL that has been seen there in recent days. Little did I know that today would be an extra lucky day for me.
As I headed out towards the south blind, where the Dickcissel has been seen, I looked out that way and there was a relatively large crowd of birders there. This surprised me because I thought most had come for the Dickcissel already, but I continued to make my way out towards the crowd. About halfway out, I got a text message from Karen Miller – they were on a HENSLOW’S SPARROW! That explained the big crowd! I picked up my pace and joined the group, many of which I ended up knowing. Shortly after my arrival, the sparrow started calling and then jumped up and perched nicely. It was so exciting! Meanwhile, I was still concerned about whether or not the Dickcissel was still around and I was assured that it was. It wasn’t more than five minutes later that the Dickcissel made an appearance, perching nicely in the distance on a thistle. That made for 2 life birds in a matter of minutes! I certainly wouldn’t have predicted that this morning! As John Haas told me once – you never know when the next big thing will hit! Super exciting birding!
After participating in the Break 100 on Friday and Saturday, I had no plans to bird on Sunday. That all changed when I received a text message from Linda Scrima, containing the call of a YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT! I dropped everything and headed out to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Winding Waters Trail. When I arrived, Linda was on not one, but two chats! At first the birds did not call, but then they started to. One bird popped up and and perched in perfect light. I’m not sure what happened (lack of sleep? brain cramp? who knows?), but my settings were all off and my pics were pretty bad. But, I got great looks at the bird before it dropped down into the brush. Shortly after, the second bird perched high in a tree – providing great looks in my binoculars, but the bird was totally backlit so photos were not much of an option. I was super excited to see this bird; I have been hoping to get one in Orange County for ages, having gotten them in both counties north and south of OC (Sussex, NJ and Ulster). Many other birders arrived and got the birds as well – there was genuine joy on folk’s faces when they saw and heard the birds. Huge thanks to Linda for relocating the bird, which was originally located yesterday during the Break 100 by the team of Alan and Della Wells and Dave and Sharon Baker.
The past couple of days I participated in the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club’sBREAK 100 – a 24 hour challenge to find one hundred species of bird in Orange County. The “Break” starts on Friday at 4:00 pm and ends on Saturday at the same time. This was my second break, and we had a great team: Jeff Goulding, Karen Miller, John Haas, Lisa O’Gorman, and myself. We all wanted to do as well as possible, while having a lot of laughs along the way (usually at another team member’s expense – it’s easy when you spend nearly every minute together for a full 24 hours). Lisa ultimately ended up not being able to participate, but we kept her updated all the while with texts.
This year was a little different from last year. Birds seemed to be more difficult to come by, particularly migrating warblers, most of which had apparently moved out of the area on Thursday’s south winds. We ended up with only 2 migrant species in our count – a pair of BAY-BREASTED WARBLERS, found at Pochuck Mountain and Blackpoll Warblers at several locations. I thought things might be a little easier when we went to the Camel Farm for shorebirds. I’ve been cleaning up there lately, getting loads of birds. But today was a different story – we left having only added 2 species of shorebird to our list. AND, we finished with a meager 5 species of shorebirds (Least Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer, and American Woodcock).
I was actually starting to wonder if we would make it to 100. We kept at it, made a lot of good decisions on the fly, and crept closer and closer to 100 species. We had a productive stop at Sterling Forest State Park, where we added 5 species, including one of the best birds of the day, a KENTUCKY WARBLER. The bird was calling, calling, calling, from the side of the road, but never revealed itself. This is a bird that I’ve never had any experience with; on any other day I would have liked to stick around and try to get a look and, of course, some photos.
I think it was just before 2:30 when we arrived in Newburgh with 98 species (only an hour and a half left!). We were pleasantly surprised break 100 and to jump to 101 birds by scoring 3 species of gull, including the undisputed bird of the day, an adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL! We had located a bunch of gulls on the docks and John immediately identified the LBBG. We were flipping out – what a great bird for the county and to get it in late May was just incredible. John considered it the best bird he’s ever gotten during an Orange County Break 100.
Hamptonburgh Preserve was our final stop. This is a new location for me, and we ended the break on a really high note, adding two really good final birds to our list: RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH and a WHITE-EYED VIREO. This pushed our number to106 species, exactly matching our total from last year. Huge thanks to my teammates, who worked hard but mostly just made me laugh a lot; what a fun, full, day of birding.
You can check out John’s take on the break, which I’m sure will be interesting, on his blog, BASHAKILL BIRDER.
Wow! SUMMER TANGER in the OC! How exciting is that? I ran for the bird this evening after work, but I came up empty. Here’s Linda Scrima’s account of seeing the first Summer Tanager in Orange County since May of 1980:
I went to Laurel Grove this morning, hoping to view some of the warblers during this spring migration. I was searching the tree tops, hoping to see the warblers that move around in the tree canopy. I heard a call from a bird perched at the top of an evergreen and looked up and saw this tanager. It was not the call of a Scarlet Tanager, but yet, this tanager was calling. My cell phone battery was dead, so I was not able to try to get a audio/video of the tanager calling. The tanager’s head formed a peaked crest, which was different than that of a Scarlet Tanager’s head (and the bill looking slightly different, too). The tanager was facing me in a a resting position, so I was not able to see the wings, but I was able to see enough of the front appearance to notice the lack the prominent dark black wings of the Scarlet Tanager. I noticed the overall red color, and hoped that I had some photos of a side profile view, showing the lack of the darker black wings. The tanager moved in the tree and my view was obscured by the evergreen branches. I waited a few minutes,and decided, to move on in search for more spring migrants. I then wanted additional views of the tanager. I circled back to the evergreens and then saw the tanager fly in and perch on top of another evergreen, near the original evergreen. Although I did see a few warblers while at this location, my thoughts were that I wanted to make sure that this was actually a Summer Tanager. My mind was screaming silently that it was a Summer Tanager, but I had to caution myself because I had never seen a Summer Tanager, and this location is in *Orange County*. When I got home, I plugged in my cell phone and took a few cell snapshotsof the tanager photos from camera viewfinder. I was glad to see that I did get the side profile views, showing the overall red color (noticeable, the lack of the prominent black wings).
I texted the photos to Matt Zeitler, Rob Stone, and Ken McDermott, all who have much more birding experience than I do, and especially in *Orange County*. All came back with SUMMER TANAGER! Ken McDermott stated that it is a second recorded sighting here in Orange County. Ken McDermott saw the first recorded sighting almost thirty seven years ago! It is an exciting find. Thanks to Matt, Rob and Ken for confirming the sighting. Another good bird sighting in Orange County!
No, thank you Linda! Nice job with the photos and the write up too, it’s certainly appreciated. And congrats on another great find! – Matt
QUICK POST: Yesterday John Haas texted me that there was a Tundra Swan at the Main Boat Launch at the Bashakill. I was going to run for it after work, but instead I went to the Celery Farm in Bergen County to try for the Yellow-throated Warbler that has been seen there (the YTWA would have been a lifer, but I dipped on it in a frustrating afternoon). Meanwhile, yesterday evening they got better looks at the swan; Linda Scrima and Bruce Nott both got photos that seemed to indicate TRUMPETER instead. The bird cooperated this morning and John Haas and Karen Miller got good looks and good photos and it ends up the bird is a Trumpeter – the first ever record in Sullivan County! I ran for the bird this afternoon and I joined John at the boat launch; the bird was a little distant but we still got really good scope looks of the bird. The large straight bill, the heavy connection of the bill to the eye, and the forehead that closely matches the slope of the bill were all very evident. It was harder to see that where the bill meets the head it is pointed (as opposed to rounded in Tundra), but I could see hints of it in John’s photos. Back in 2012 I did a post comparing the two swans – check it out here.
For the complete story on this bird, check out John’s blog.
QUICK POST: I stopped by Wickham Lake after work this evening to try for the Red-throated Loon that Rob Stone had located earlier in the day. I was on my way to a doctor’s appointment and only had a few minutes, plus the rain was coming down pretty hard. I got to the lake, set up my scope, looked in and had not one, but two (!) RED-THROATED LOONS. As I was enjoying seeing the birds, it started to thunder and lightning. I high-tailed it to my car and went to my appointment soaking wet. Afterwards, I went back to the lake. The rain had stopped and the sun even came out briefly. I enjoyed much better looks of the RTLOs as well as a pair of Common Loons and a single Long-tailed Duck. Excellent birds!
I was not planning doing any birding this morning. But, when I woke up, there was already a text from Curt McDermott – he had four SANDHILL CRANES in the town of Shawangunk. I quickly made some coffee and ran for the birds, which ended up sticking around and being very cooperative. When I arrived, Bruce Nott, John Haas, and Bill Fiero were on the birds already; they had all been there for a bit and headed out shortly after I arrived. Karen Miller joined me and we enjoyed super looks at the birds along with Scotty Baldinger. The birds flew at one point and relocated in an area where they could still be view well. Several Ulster County birders arrived for the birds and when I left they were still enjoying excellent scope views of the birds. What a great way to start the day! Huge thanks to Curt for the heads up on these great birds.