I woke up this morning on a mission: To relocate the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE that Bruce Nott had found the day before. I met Linda Scrima out at the Camel Farm just after sunrise, and we were joined shortly afterwards by Walter Eberz. It was very cold and windy, but the three of us sorted through approximately 1200 Canada Geese without any luck. We decided to divide and conquer and I headed over to Turtle Bay, where I found a group of approximately 800 Canada Geese out in a field. I quickly found a Cackling Goose, and then not long after that I got on a bird that looked good… Yes, it was the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE! I put the word out and both Linda and Walter joined me and we enjoyed the bird for nearly an hour before all the birds picked up, circled overhead, and then headed north. What a bird, not only is the PFGO a genuine rarity, it is also just a beautiful goose – wonderfully proportioned and I just love the wrinkles in the bird’s neck. The bird was a lifer for Walter and it was my 214th bird in Orange County this year. Also of note, we located at least 2 Cackling Geese and a single Snow Goose. Super exciting birding!
QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Bruce Nott, who contacted me earlier today to let me know he had a RED-THROATED LOON at Orange Lake. Not only that, he came back out in the evening and was present with his scope on the bird when I arrived! You can’t ask for any more than that! It was a beautiful bird, we had distant (of course), but good looks in our scopes. I tried for photos but they came out terribly; the bird was just too darn far. I was pretty excited as it was my 213th bird in Orange County this year and also a county life bird (#236). Excellent birding!
I was pretty sure that hawkwatch would be a dud this past Saturday. Southwest winds were in the forecast and the previous day’s count was on the low side (with a northwest wind!). Early on, it seemed like I was right; the watch got off to a very slow start, and I have to say, I was super cranky about it. I did not have a raptor of any sort for the first two hours and fifteen minutes, when I finally had a local Red-tailed Hawk hunting over the valley. Migrating birds started to trickle through shortly after that, but really, it was a slow day.
Things started looking up when I got a visit from Gerhard and Tracy Patsch. We had some interesting conversations, and they seemed to have brought one of the local Red-tails along with them. It was the first time that I’ve had a local “tail” perch and hunt in the viewing platform area. And then bird put on a final show for us, hanging in the air directly above the platform and not very high up. The three of us really enjoyed great looks and I took many photos.
The highlight of the day came at 3:45 pm, when I counted just my 20th migrating raptor of the day, which was the GOLDEN EAGLE. I picked it up due north of the platform; it was distant but I knew immediately that it was an eagle and very shortly after that, that it was a Golden. As luck would have it, the bird flew slowly closer and passed at a nice easy pace right over the platform, circling several times before continuing due south. What a thrill it was, I am still freaking out about it a day later. The Golden Eagle is the 209th bird that I’ve had in Orange County this year. Here’s my report for the day:
Official Counter: Matt Zeitler
Visitors: Gerhard and Tracy Patsch, Tricia Zeitler, Carrie and Cruz Craigmyle, Bill, Carolyn, Cameron, and Mackenzie Martocci.
Weather: Partly cloudy with a southwest wind. Temperatures ranged from 4 to 18 degrees Celsius.
Raptor Observations: It was a slow start; the first raptor observed was a local Red-tailed Hawk over 2 hours and 15 minutes into the watch. One female Northern Harrier and at 3:45 one immature Golden Eagle passed through, circling right over the view platform, giving amazing views.
Non Raptor Species: American Crow (28), Blue Jay (24), White-breasted Nuthatch (2), Black-capped Chickadee (9), American Robin (32), Common Raven (2), Cedar Waxwing (25), Tufted Titmouse (1), Downy Woodpecker (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Ring-billed Gull (1), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), Eastern Bluebird (5), Canada Goose (6), European Starling (20).
SUPER QUICK POST: We have family visiting for the weekend, so no time for a real post, but I had an immature GOLDEN EAGLE at Mount Peter Hawkwatch this afternoon! The bird made a relatively low pass over the viewing platform, allowing for incredible views and and decent photos. Full hawkwatch report to follow tomorrow!
QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Kathy Ashman, who texted while I was at work to let me know she had located a SANDHILL CRANE at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I ran for the bird after getting out of work this afternoon; Maria Loukeris met me at the sanctuary and got me on the bird very quickly (thanks!). Which was a good thing, because shortly after my arrival, the bird picked up and relocated deep into the reeds and out of sight. The bird was distant, but I was still super excited to see this excellent bird and get some documentary photos. And, of course, it was great to get it in Orange County and add it to my year list (#208).
After work I went to Wickham Lake to see if any good waterfowl had moved in. I’d read a report from Scotty Baldinger that he and John Haas had 8 Black Scoters and one White-winged Scoter at Neversink Reservoir earlier in the day, so I was hoping for scoters as well. I located two scoters, very distant out on the lake. I did not have a guide book with me because I’d used Tricia’s car for birding over the weekend and forgotten it there. I did a quick google search and thought I came up with a good match with White-winged. I did my best to take some usable photos and I put the word out. Rob Stone went for the birds later in the evening and he was thinking the birds were more likely SURF SCOTERS. I checked my guides, and I sent my pics to Rob and John who both agreed that the birds were SUSCs. Here are some of the indicators – first, no white was seen on the wings (this is not conclusive because depending on how the bird is sitting in the water, a WWSC might not show any white on the wings). But, more importantly, the pattern of white on the face of the bird runs up and down; this is indicative of the straight edge of the bill of a Surf Scoter (for WWSC it projects forward due to the shape of its bill). And, also, the head has a dark capped look and has a more blocky appearance than WWSC. This is my 235th life bird in Orange County and number 206 on my OC year list. Thanks to Rob and John for helping out on this one!
Update: I forgot to include this last night when I posted – I wanted to mention quickly that this post is a bit of a milestone here at Orange Birding; it’s the 500th post! Here’s to 500 more!
QUICK POST: This afternoon, Linda Scrima, Kyle Dudgeon, and I ran to Wickham Lake for a BLACK SCOTER that was located earlier in the day by Rob Stone. When we arrived, the bird was very distant, but identifiable with scope views. Kyle had to run, but Linda and I walked the trail on the east side of the lake to get a better look and some photos. The bird was closer from that side of the lake, but spent most of its time tucked in. It finally untucked a couple of times and I was able to get some documentary shots of the bird. I was particularly excited because it was the 205th species I’ve had in Orange County this year. Thanks once again to Rob Stone, who just keeps finding great birds.
Another highlight was seeing a pair of Bald Eagles sharing a branch as a perch. It was a little bit distant, but I’ve included a photo of the cute couple.
I met Linda Scrima out at Winding Waters Trail early this morning; I was hoping to get my first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year, and we thought maybe we would get lucky with the Connecticut Warbler for Linda. Just a short way down the trail, Linda got me on a Lincoln’s Sparrow in very nice light. As we worked our way toward the area where the Connecticut Warbler has been seen, a group of birders caught up with us. It was Scott Baldinger, Karen Miller, Bruce Nott, Jody Brodski and Diane Bliss (who actually caught up with all of us further down the trail). I was thinking that I did not like our odds of relocating the CONW with such a large group, but we would try our best. It was a very birdy morning on the trail and having all the extra eyes helped locate many birds. We did particularly well with warblers; Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Black-throated Green Warbler were all seen well (it was my lifer Tennessee Warbler – woohoo!). The one warbler that was not cooperating was the Connecticut, at least not for a good while. Then, a bird popped up just to the left of me and Jody. We both got on the bird quickly and knew it was the CONNECTICUT WARBLER! It perched briefly and then moved further up and into another tree. We were trying frantically to get everyone on the bird, which then crossed the path and perched in some ivy high up on a tree trunk. It eventually showed itself very well on an open branch in good light and I was lucky enough to get a photo. AND, everyone in the group was able to get on the bird! I was really shocked that it worked out, and everyone was pretty giddy about it. The bird was a life bird for everyone in the group outside of myself and Scotty. Pretty exciting birding!
As a side note, Jody had a flyover of a Sandhill Crane in the Black Dirt Region on her way to Winding Waters. I ran around a little bit afterwards, as did Bruce and Jody, but as of this writing no-one had any luck relocating that bird.
I went out to the Winding Waters Trail at Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge two times today, hoping to relocate one of the two Connecticut Warblers that Rob Stone had there this week. I was there in the morning, but unfortunately there was no sign of the bird(s).
I ended up going back in the evening, as I was walking the trail a bird popped up out of the underbrush and perched about 4 feet up. I looked in my binoculars and saw the prominent eye ring and began taking photos. It was a CONNECTICUT WARBLER! The bird quickly returned to the underbrush and I never saw or heard it again. This is a life bird for me (#370), and also, more excitingly, my 200th bird in Orange County this year! I, of course, wish I’d gotten better photos, but really, I’m happy to have gotten any shots at all. Huge thanks once again to Rob Stone, what an excellent bird!
I went out and walked the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop trail to follow up on an eBird report of a Short-billed Dowitcher in the Sussex County portion of the trail. I relocated the SBDO, but I also was fortunate enough to find a STILT SANDPIPER. The bird was feeding most of the time I saw it, head going up and down like a sewing machine. I was feeling lazy and walked the trail without hauling my scope with me, and I really regretted it as the birds were far enough out to make IDing them with binoculars tough. The pond was loaded with shorebirds, in addition to the STSA and the SBDO I also had Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpipers, and Pectoral Sandpipers. Other highlights included a quick look at a young Black-crowned Night-Heron and a beautiful male Northern Harrier hunting over the marsh.