On Thursday evening, I met up with Rob Stone and Maria Loukeris at the Liberty Loop Trail viewing platform and we had five species of swallows feeding over the marsh: Tree, Barn, Northern Rough-winged, Bank, and Cliff. It was a learning experience for me, and I think I now have a pretty decent handle on identifying these erratic and fast flying birds. The highlight for me was getting incredible scope views of a perched Cliff Swallow, sitting among some Barn Swallows. I went back on Friday evening and tried for some flight photos. I had all the same swallows except for Cliff Swallow.
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 snapshots of 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
All birders seem to love warblers. Me? I’ve never been that big on them. And I think I’m starting to figure out why. There are a couple obvious reasons: trying to find the smallest backlit birds up in the treetops is not exactly easy. Then if you find them, you have to be able to identify them, which can also be difficult. I’m improving with both of these things, but there is third reason that I’ve just recently figured out. Warblers are all about timing. This time of the year, the morning after a southwest wind the night before, with the radar lit up, is just perfect. Unfortunately, I’m at work in the morning five days out of the week, and have to hope for good timing on the weekends. I get out in the evenings, of course, and you can do alright then, but it’s certainly not prime warbler time. And the window for warblers is not a large one. Time flies by and before you know it, it’s over. Don’t blink.
So, this weekend I sabotaged myself by making an appointment to have my car serviced first thing Saturday morning. I made it a few weeks back and I guess I just wasn’t thinking. After my appointment, I managed to get to Pochuck Mountain State Park by around 10 am. The trail was quite birdy, with more birds being heard than seen, but plenty of action. I had 30 species on my walk; a glimpse of a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER, a nice look at my first of the year Blue-headed Vireo, and several Black-throated Green Warbler being heard were all highlights. I checked the Camel Farm afterwards and had a decent showing of shorebirds: Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer. I made one final stop for the day at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, where I saw my first Northern Rough-winged Swallows of the year.
On Sunday I got out early-ish, arriving at Laurel Grove Cemetery just after 7 am. I did well for warblers here (for me). The best part was getting really good looks and a decent photo of a BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER. Catching a glimpse of one at Pochuck the day before wasn’t cutting it, so I was pretty thrilled to get such a good look at this bird. Other good birds include my FOY Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, Chestnut-sided Warbler, and Indigo Bunting. I had nearly 40 species at the cemetery with 9 species of warbler.
I stopped by the Camel Farm on my way home. I was already planning on going there, but I was pretty excited to get there because Rob Stone and Curt McDermott had let me know that they had located a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER there earlier that morning. This was undoubtedly the bird of the day for me! I relocated the bird fairly quickly and Linda Scrima joined me to get a quick look. Now this was my kind of birding! A good collection of shorebirds was present:
After work today I headed straight to Glenmere Lake to follow up on a lead from Rob Stone – he had two WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS there earlier in the day. And I just can’t get enough of sea ducks in Orange County, I find it fascinating. When I arrived, the birds were still present. I had distant but excellent looks in my scope and I managed to digiscope a few halfway decent shots with my phone. While I was there, I also had a remarkable 4 Ospreys flying over the lake and 2 Bald Eagles; one adult and one immature.
From there, I headed over to Wickham Lake, following up on another tip from Rob; he let me know about a Northern Waterthrush that was near the parking area at Wickham Woodlands Town Park. At first I was having no luck, but after a while I heard the bird. I really wanted to see the bird, so I waited a long time… and eventually I caught just the briefest look. While I was waiting, the area was birdy and I had several other warblers: Yellow Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Palm Warbler, and my first of the year American Redstart.
I finally went to the shore of the lake to scan for waterfowl. I was not optimistic, but wanted to check before heading home. I was pleasantly surprised to first hear and then see a Common Loon out in the distance. What a great sound and sight! But that was just the beginning – I continued scanning and…wait let me count them… one, two, three, four RED-NECKED GREBES! They were in the company of 4 Ruddy Ducks. Again the birds were quite distant – I took some shots with my camera and I digiscoped some as well and got enough just to document. What a super night of birding, you just never know what you’ll find when you get out there!
As we all know, it’s a great time of the year for birding. Migration is on and new birds are showing up on a regular basis. I had a relatively busy week, so I didn’t get out birding as often as I usually do, but I still had 19 new birds in Orange County. This morning I birded Pochuck Mountain State Park with Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris; it was the most productive outing of the week, with 7 FOY birds and nearly 40 total species being identified. Here’s my list of new OC birds for the past week, in chronological order and locations:
I got my absolute best look at an Orange County BONAPARTE’S GULL this evening at the Newburgh waterfront. Every BOGU I’ve ever had in Orange County prior to this one has been just miles out. This bird, on the other hand, actually flew closer to me as I started to take photographs. It was a minor birding miracle : )
(ANOTHER) QUICK POST: I had an excellent evening of birding at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I ran for four VESPER SPARROWS that Rob Stone had located earlier in the day and miraculously the birds were still present and I was able to relocate them. When I returned to the platform at Oil City Road, I met up with Karen Miller and we birded from there for a while. The next good bird to come in was a pair of LESSER YELLOWLEGS, my first of the year. They seemed to fly over the entire marsh before settling in out of sight about 100 yards in front of the platform. Then Karen Miller saw a bird emerge from the grasses in the pool right in front of the platform – it was a COMMON GALLINULE!!! I snapped a few quick photos, and I’m glad that I did, because the bird stashed itself in the grasses soon afterwards and could only be seen through the scope. What an unexpectedly excellent night of birding!
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!
There was some good birding to be had in Orange and Sullivan Counties today. I, of course, was not only working, but working late two hours away in New Milford, Connecticut. Early in the day I got a report from Linda Scrima that there was a CASPIAN TERN at the Bashakill; the bird was originally located by Scotty Baldinger. John Haas also had several other good birds in Sullivan County, including HORNED GREBE, AMERICAN PIPITS, and LONG-TAILED DUCK. Click here to see his blog post from today.
In Orange County birding news, I got word from Bruce Nott that he had a BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON at Masterson Park (next to Washington Lake). And Rob Stone reported RED-NECKED GREBE, HORNED GREBE, and LONG-TAILED DUCK at Wickham Lake. I made it back to OC in the late evening and joined Linda Scrima at Wickham and we were able to relocate all three of these birds. We had good scope looks of the HOGR, very distant but decent scope views of the RNGR, and the LTDU was right by the shore! I wanted to cry because in my haste to leave the studio for my appointment in Connecticut, I had forgotten my camera. The one time there is actually a close good duck at Wickham Lake and there I was camera-less! Thankfully, Linda got good shots of the bird and shared them with me for this post. This is an exciting time of year, things are happening!
Last night’s rain must have had some good timing – it grounded a fair amount of waterfowl in Orange County. My first indication that it was going to be a good day was when I received a text around noon from Bruce Nott. He had a RED-THROATED LOON at Orange Lake. Which was followed shortly afterwards with a text that he had 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS and a Common Loon at Washington Lake. Then, a half hour before quitting time I got word from Rob Stone that he had a slew of birds at Wickham Lake. I joined Bruce Nott, Kathy Ashman, and Linda Scrima at the lake to enjoy this waterfowl bonanza. Including the Canada Geese I had as I drove in, we had 17 (!) species of waterfowl!
Canada Goose 45
Wood Duck 1
American Wigeon 10
Northern Pintail 20
Green-winged Teal 2
Ring-necked Duck 7
GREATER SCAUP 9
LESSER SCAUP 75
Hooded Merganser 4
Common Merganser 3
Ruddy Duck 6
Pied-billed Grebe 2
HORNED GREBE 3
How’s that for a waterfowl list?!? I was particularly happy to see Redheads in Orange County for the first time ever. This is the sort of day, as a birder, that I get really jazzed about, and Bruce, Kathy, and Linda all seemed equally excited about it. Another good bird we had while were there was a single BONAPARTE’S GULL, always a favorite of mine. The only downside was that, of course, the birds were quite distant. Scope views were pretty amazing but photos were nearly impossible. Huge thanks to Rob and Bruce, great birding for sure!