Wow, what a crazy evening of birding I had tonight! I was feeling optimistic as I headed out to the Black Dirt Region after work. Severe storms had moved through the area and appeared to have dropped a lot of water; I was hoping this would make for some interesting birding. I was planning on covering a fair amount of territory, but my first stop – Skinner’s Lane – ended up being so good, I never left until it was dark. It was raining pretty hard. In fact, it rained pretty good for almost the entire evening, only letting up when I was getting ready to leave. When I arrived, there was a pretty good collection of shorebirds present: BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS (3), Semipalmated Plovers (4), Least Sandpipers (3), Killdeer (many), and one bird that I initially thought was a Semipalmated Sandpiper but for the moment I’m leaving unidentified (see below).
I was just about to leave when I noticed a group of peeps had flown in without my seeing them. It was a group of what I’m pretty sure were Semipalmated Sandpipers. Then things got crazy. A small flock of larger birds flew in – they circled the field once and then flew to the south and out of sight. By this time, all my gear was wet and really, I had now idea what the birds were because I just couldn’t get a good look. But, then they came back – I jumped into my car and grabbed my camera to get some shots. They circled the field 3 more times and then headed northeast and did not return. I must have been a little frazzled because I looked at the pics and still couldn’t ID them… I shot a quick photo to Rob Stone who identified them as BLACK TERNS! I was freaking out! I looked at my photos to get a count – I had a single shot with 7 in it!
More shorebirds arrived after the terns had departed – I added 2 Wilson’s Snipe, 7 Pectoral Sandpipers, and another group of Semipalmated Sandpipers to my list for the evening. What a great night of birding; once again, bad weather=good birds.
Last night and this morning I was having a feeling we might get a good bird in the county today. For some reason I was thinking it would happen at Turtle Bay, but instead it was at Skinner Lane, where I located a WHIMBREL in the rain around 7:30 this morning. I was super pumped; I put the word out and several birders were able to run for the bird. Rob Stone, John Haas, Karen Miller, Kathy Ashman, and Bruce Nott all saw the bird while I was still there; it was a lifer for both Kathy and Bruce. Clay Spencer reported the bird in the late morning as well. Whimbrel is a bird I have daydreamed of finding in our area for a while, and it is the 252nd bird on my Orange County life list.
I was having a conversation with Rob Stone earlier this week about Lapland Longspurs. I had commented that they had probably migrated north by now; Rob wasn’t so sure and said that he thought his latest date for LALOs was April 7th. We agreed that, if they were around, you might find one in darn nice plumage. I set out to the black dirt this morning with all this in mind. I located large, loose, flock of Horned Larks; they were extremely scattered and jumpy as can be. I eventually located a single LALO in beautiful breeding plumage. The bird was distant so I tried my best to document it by digiscoping video with my phone, but the jumpy birds, the wind, and the heat shimmer made it difficult for sure (see the result at the bottom of this post). I found several LALOs in the flock and it was cool because I could differentiate the birds by their plumage. I put in a good amount of time, and eventually it (sort of) paid off when part of the flock landed close to me and in that group was a LALO nearly in breeding plumage. It was a really exciting time, I really love Lapland Longspurs, and I never thought I’d ever see one in breeding plumage. Beautiful birds!
There was an awful lot of birding action in Orange County today. I was at work, but my phone was blowing up with reports: Kathy Ashman had 8 HORNED GREBES, a Red-breasted Merganser, and a Pine Warbler at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. Bill Fiero had a Wilson’s Snipe and 3 Eastern Phoebes at Stewart Forest, and then Kathy had 7 more Horned Grebes, 3 Greater Scaup, and an 80 Snow Geese fly-over at Glenmere Lake. Ken McDermott had Ruddy Ducks, 7 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, and 2 Horned Grebes at Orange Lake. In the black dirt, Maria Loukeris reported 4 Eastern Meadowlarks and 200+ Snow Geese. Rob Stone had 6 Long-tailed Ducks at Wickham Lake. Phew! That’s a lot of good birds!
Luckily, I got out of work a little bit early, so I was able to run for some birds. And, maybe even luckier still, ALL the birds I ran for stuck for me! I went to Wickham Lake first and got the 6 Long-tailed Ducks as well as a Red-breasted Merganser and a Ruddy Duck. At Glenmere Lake I relocated the Horned Grebes, the Greater Scaup, and also had a single Ruddy Duck there. At the pond near Glenmere, I made a quick stop and had my first Northern Shoveler of the year in Orange County. From there I went to the black dirt and did well with Snow Geese (200++) and also managed to relocate 2 of the Eastern Meadowlarks. And finally, my last stop was at 6 1/2 Station Road where the Horned Grebes were kind enough to stick around and were close enough for some documentary photos. Not a bad haul for a work day! Excellent birding, thanks so much to everyone that reported!
I got out both days this weekend, but the birding was relatively uneventful with a lot of the usuals being seen. Highlights for me included seeing a nice-sized mixed flock (maybe 200 birds) of Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and at least a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR in the black dirt. Saturday evening the nice light had me headed to the Shawangunk Grasslands; on my way there a Red-shouldered Hawk flew across the road and perched on the roadside. At the grasslands, I had a single young Bald Eagle, 7 Northern Harriers (including 4 Gray Ghosts!), and although they got up too late for photos, 5 Short-eared Owls made a nice end to the day.
Sunday morning I headed to Port Jervis and walked the trails at Reservoir #1. It was a nice, cold, walk and it was birdy, but with just the usuals. I headed to Laurel Grove Cemetery afterwards, where I had my first Hooded Mergansers of 2018 and my best bird of the day, a young COMMON GOLDENEYE. I photographed Eastern Bluebirds on the tombstones, by coincidence my second day in a row getting EABLs on tombstones (I had them at a small cemetery in Florida, NY on Saturday). It was a pretty good, if not exciting, weekend of local birding. Next weekend might be a little more exciting as I am going on a pelagic trip out of Brooklyn on Saturday; something to look forward to!
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.
QUICK POST: For the second consecutive time, on my way to participate in a DEC Raptor Survey, I had a really nice photo op. Two weeks ago I had a large group of confiding Ring-necked Ducks. Last night, it was Six Snow Buntings on the side of the road. They seemed uncooperative at first and flushed, but then came back to land very close to my car, posing nicely on the tops of the piles of plowed snow. Good birds for sure!
I’ve gotten out a good amount in the past week, but really haven’t had anything all that amazing. I’ve spent much of my birding time chasing a couple of mixed flocks of Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs hoping for photographs. A farm truck spilled some corn on the road and it was a mixed blessing. It was great because for a few days the birds were actively feeding on the the spilled corn. It was not so great because, in my opinion, the corn does not really make for good pics.
My only other noteworthy observations involved some good local waterfowl. On Wednesday evening after work, I went to the Newburgh Waterfront looking for gulls. Instead, I found Ken McDermott, who told me he had 2 Horned Grebes at Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point. I ran for the birds and relocated them, pretty far out into the Hudson River, but I had good scope views. Then, on Friday after work, I went to Wickham Lake to try for a couple of Common Goldeneyes that Rob Stone had seen there earlier in the day. The birds were still present and I was able to take some documentary photos. I also stopped by Warwick Town Hall where I had a really good mix of waterfowl: Canada Goose (2), Gadwall (18), American Wigeon (1), Mallard (25), Northern Pintail (1), Ring-necked Duck (2), and Greater Scaup (1). By the time I got there it was too dark for photographs, but good birds for sure!
Otherwise, I’ve just been doing lot of running around, seeing mostly the usuals, and taking loads of photos. Here are several I felt were worth sharing:
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!
I got out and did a fair amount of birding this weekend, especially because I didn’t count hawks at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday, due to the fog and light rain that persisted throughout the day.
BLACK DIRT REGION: I received reports from Bruce Nott and Ken and Curt McDermott on Saturday that the collection of plovers in the black dirt continued. Curt and Ken had a very nice count of 41 American Golden-Plovers and 5 Black-bellied Plovers. On Sunday, I met Linda Scrima in the late morning. The plovers were present, but distant. We lingered, and eventually they flew in closer, with a couple even landing on the road. We had a total of 34 AMGPs and 3 BBPLs. The highlight, however, was when a Killdeer flew over being chased by another smaller bird. Linda picked it up and got me on the birds. I stayed on the smaller bird and when it landed, I was thrilled to see it was an AMERICAN PIPIT! We eventually saw 3 more for a total of 4 AMPIs. The pipits were my 204th species in Orange County this year.
WICKHAM WOODLANDS TOWN PARK: I birded here on Saturday morning so I could stay close to Mt. Peter, in case the weather cleared up. The highlight for me was a trio of Ruddy Ducks. I also had a nice look at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Mockingbirds and Northern Flickers were present in numbers.
6 1/2 STATION ROAD, CITGO POND: I made three trips to the pond this weekend and finally on Sunday I had some new shorebirds:
4 Pectoral Sandpipers (one new bird)
3 Lesser Yellowlegs (one new bird)
1 Greater Yellowlegs (new bird)
11 Least Sandpiper (same number)
On Friday evening I had a Northern Harrier fly over the pond and a Sharp-shinned Hawk as well. Both kinglets were present on the trail into the pond. On Saturday I also went over to the Heritage Trail side of the sanctuary, where I had many Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers.
HIGHLAND LAKES STATE PARK: I made it out here for early Sunday morning. The place was very birdy and I had 27 species plus one unidentified flycatcher in just over an hour. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and White-throated Sparrows were all quite numerous. Again, I had a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, but besides that, not many noteworthy birds.