Saturday, 04/06/19

Today was an interesting day for me. I had plans to play my first round of golf of the year at 10 am, so I got up early and made stops at both Glenmere Lake and Wickham Lake. Glenmere had a good number of waterfowl present – mostly Buffleheads and Ring-necked Ducks. My best bird there was a Red-necked Grebe, I’m not sure if this is the same bird that’s been there for a while or if it’s a new bird. At Wickham the birds were a little more sparse, but I did have an up close Horned Grebe as well as 2 distant birds that I believe were Red-necked Grebes. The distance, backlighting, and fog prevented a definitive ID; I wanted to get back this evening, but I never made it (see below).

~So far Horned Grebe is the only waterfowl I’ve gotten any decent shots of this spring migration. This dude was at Wickham Lake, 04/06/19.~

After golf, I stopped by the Newburgh on my way home. I birded Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point, and I made several stops along the Newburgh Waterfront. Unfortunately, I found way more people than birds, so I scrammed. I made a quick stop at Lake Washington, where I found a dozen scaup way out in the lake. They were all tucked in, but from what I could tell, they looked like Lesser Scaup. From there I headed to Brown’s Pond. I was going to just make a quick stop, but the birding was good enough that I stayed for a good while (preventing me from getting back to Wickham Lake). There was a beautiful Horned Grebe in breeding plumage – distant but I enjoyed some incredible scope views of that bird. I had 9 species of waterfowl, but it was the Bald Eagles that stole the show. There was a trio of young Bald Eagles flying around the lake; I saw one fishing, but mostly they seemed to be enjoying terrorizing the ducks and tangling with one anther. I sat on a bank and enjoyed the show; taking pictures whenever they came close enough.

~Bald Eagle at Brown’s Pond, 04/06/19.~
~Sibling rivalry? Two young Bald Eagles mixing it up at Brown’s Pond, 04/06/19.~
~A young Bald Eagle fishing at Brown’s Pond, 04/06/19.~
~Tree Swallow at Wickham Lake early this morning, 04/06/19.~
~This one is from Tuesday after work – Common Goldeneye with 2 Buffleheads at the small pond near Glenmere Lake, 04/02/19.~
~Also from earlier this week, a Double-crested Cormorant in flight at Wickham Lake, 04/02/19.~

Sunday Shots, 03/24/19

~I got my first OC Tree Swallows of the year at Laurel Grove Cemetery on Saturday, 03/23/19.~

The highlight of the weekend was, of course, the Yellow-headed Blackbird on Saturday in the black dirt. But, I did a bunch of running around all weekend and had some pretty good birds. Here’s some highlights by day:

Saturday: I had both a Red-necked Grebe and a Horned Grebe at Glenmere Lake. At Laurel Grove Cemetery, I had my first Orange County Tree Swallows of year; I watched a group of approximately 20 feeding on the river. The best stop of the day, however, was at the Westtown Pond on Route 284, where I had 8 species of waterfowl (including a Common Goldeneye) and in the field across the street – 25+ Killdeer and my FOY Wilson’s Snipe.

~This bird was close to the shore, but I struggled to get a shot because it was blocked by vegetation. Horned Grebe at Glenmere Lake, 03/24/19.~

Sunday: I made a tour of many of the lakes in southern Orange County (Glenmere, Wickham, Greenwood, Sterling, Blue, Walton, and Tomahawk) as well as whatever small ponds I saw along the way. I had a total of 16 species of waterfowl:

  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Wood Duck
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Greater Scaup (Round Lake)
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Common Goldeneye (Glenmere Lake & Round Lake)
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Horned Grebe (Glenmere and Greenwood Lake)
  • Red-necked Grebe (Glenmere)
  • Double-crested Cormorant
~It won’t be long before these guys are on the sparse side. Dark-eyed Junco at Reservoir 1 in Port Jervis, 03/23/19.~
~Perched Peregrine Falcon, Orange County NY 03/23/19.~
~Before a couple of weeks ago, I’d somehow never seen a grebe in flight. These guys were the 3rd time in that time span – Horned Grebes being flushed by a boat at Greenwood Lake, 03/24/19.~
~This cat nearly gave me a heart attack. I was convinced, I mean totally convinced, when I saw it naked eye that it was a bobcat! It was a really large cat and it wandered out of the woods…wishful thinking I guess. House cat in the black dirt, 03/23/19.~

Orange County YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD, 03/23/19

I don’t know if I have premonitions or if I just think this way all the time and when it happens it becomes a premonition in my mind, but I was sorting through a flock of mixed blackbirds on Lynch Avenue in the black dirt this afternoon and I suddenly thought that I was going to see a YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD. As immediately as I had the thought, bam! there was a Yellow-headed Blackbird in my binoculars! I couldn’t believe my eyes!

~Wow! YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD in the Black Dirt, 03/23/19.~

After initially freaking out, I quickly grabbed my camera and took some quick shots through my passenger side window. I put the word out, and of course as soon as I did that, the flock picked up and relocated across the street in a small patch of woods. I relocated the bird three times as the flock shifted and moved through the woods, but by the time anyone showed up I’d lost track of the bird. Maria Loukeris, Karen Miller, and John Haas were the first birders to arrive. We staked out the area initially, but then a large number of the birds took off and headed south and WAY out into the fields. By the time Bruce Nott and Rick Hansen showed up, we were dividing up and driving around looking. Bruce located a large flock, very distant, at the south end of Lynch and everyone eventually joined him, as did Gail Benson and Tom Burke. And it was Bruce who finally relocated the bird (way to go Bruce!) – in the center of a tree way across the field. Everyone present got on the bird and everyone was really excited about this bird! John was thrilled because YHBL has been an OC nemesis bird for him for quite some time. Rick told me it was a lifer for him. I’m sure for others it was either a county bird or a state bird; for me it was both (I’d gotten my lifer in Colorado a few years back). What a great birding experience, I was so happy that Bruce relocated it and that other birders also got to enjoy the bird.

~One more shot of the YHBL on Lynch Avenue in the Black Dirt, 03/23/19.~

A Good, Long Day, 03/16/19

This morning Maria Loukeris and I headed to the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in Morris County, NJ. Maria had some business to attend to in the area and we birded the refuge beforehand. We mostly drove around from spot to spot, but we did walk the trails briefly as well. We had a total of 25 species during our visit; four were first of year (FOY) birds for me: Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Towhee, Tree Swallow, and my favorite bird of the morning, RUSTY BLACKBIRD.

~I got lucky with this bird – HORNED GREBE close to the shore at Wickham Lake, 03/16/19.~

In the afternoon I birded three local lakes: Greenwood Lake, Wickham Lake, and Glenmere Lake. Wickham was far and away the best stop; I had 8 species of waterfowl, including over 200 Common Mergansers, a single Red-breasted Merganser drake, and an up close look at a beautiful little HORNED GREBE. At Glenmere, the RED-NECKED GREBE continues but was so far out I didn’t even take documentary photos. For the day I had a total of 37 species. I’ve included a list of all the birds with locations at the bottom of this post.

~I had my FOY Eastern Phoebe at Great Swamp NWR, 03/16/19.~
~Roadside Red-tailed Hawk in Sussex County, NY 03/16/19.~

Here’s my list of species for the day, with locations (Great Swamp = GS. Wickham Lake = WL, Greenwood Lake = GRL, and Glenmere Lake = GLL).

  • Canada Goose (all locations)
  • Mute Swan (WL, GRL, GLL)
  • Wood Duck (GS, WL)
  • Mallard (GS, GLL)
  • Gadwall (GLL – small pond up the road)
  • American Black Duck (GS, GLL)
  • Bufflehead (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • Ring-necked Duck (WL, GLL)
  • Hooded Merganser (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • Common Merganser (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (WL)
  • HORNED GREBE (WL)
  • RED-NECKED GREBE (GLL)
  • Ring-billed Gull (GRL, WL, GLL)
  • Herring Gull (WL)
  • Turkey Vulture (GS, WL)
  • Bald Eagle (GS, WL)
  • Red-tailed Hawk (GS, WL)
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk (on the road, Sussex Co.)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (GS)
  • Blue Jay (GS, GLL)
  • American Crow (GS, WL)
  • Fish Crow (GRL)
  • Common Raven (WL)
  • Tree Swallow (GS)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (GS)
  • Tufted Titmouse (GS)
  • Eastern Bluebird (GS)
  • American Robin (GS, WL)
  • European Starling (GS)
  • Dark-eyed Junco (GS)
  • Song Sparrow (GS)
  • Eastern Towhee (GS)
  • American Tree Sparrow (WL)
  • Red-winged Blackbird (GS, WL, GLL)
  • RUSTY BLACKBIRD (GS)
  • Common Grackle (GS, WL)
~Bald Eagle fishing at Great Swamp NWR, 03/16/19.~

The Return of Weekday Birding, 03/13/19

~Lesser Scaup at Greenwood Lake, 01/13/19.~

With the beginning of Daylight Savings Time over the weekend, I’ve finally been able to get some after work evening birding in this week. Tonight I stopped at Greenwood Lake and had a really great night of birding. I did really well with waterfowl, with 9 species:

  • Mallard
  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Greater Scaup
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • Common Goldeneye
~Lesser Black-backed Gull at Greenwood Lake, 03/13/19.~

The real highlight came when I located a gull with darker gray coloring. The bird was out on the ice and quite distant, but I was thinking it looked good for a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. At the distance and the low light (it was getting late), I could not pick up the coloring on the legs. But, the size looked good to me and the head was smudgy. Rob Stone ran to join me, but as fate would have it, the bird flew literally just as he put his eye to my spotting scope. When I got home, I reviewed my pics and became more convinced that is was a Lesser Black-backed Gull; it looked to me like it might be a 2nd year with a dark bill tip as seen in The Crossley Guide. I emailed the photos to John Haas, he reviewed them and agreed with my ID! That’s a good bird for the county! And it’s great to be out during the week again!

~Lesser Black-backed Gull with its back to me. Picture included to give a sense of the size of the bird. Greenwood Lake, 03/13/19.~
~Another good bird for OC – Common Goldeneye at Greenwood Lake, 03/13/19.~

A Good Day, 03/09/19

~Rough-legged Hawk in the black dirt, 03/09/19.~

There were some good birds reported locally this week, so that gave me some targets for today. At first light I headed over to Glenmere Lake to try for the Red-necked Grebe that Kathy Ashman located yesterday, and fortunately bird was still present. Kathy also showed up, and the bird put on a pretty good show as it tried to swallow a fish that was just way too large. Eventually a Ring-billed Gull swooped in and stole the fish, putting a halt to the grebes attempts. Glenmere is one of the few lakes with open water in the county, and including the grebe, I had 10 species of waterfowl: Wood Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Buffleheads, Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, American Wigeons, Ring-necked Ducks, and 2 COMMON GOLDENEYES.

-A distant shot of the Red-necked Grebe with two Canada Geese at Glenmere Lake, 03/09/19. I sort of like this shot because to me it shows the profile of the RNGR well.~

I then cruised the black dirt for a while – I had several large groups of Canada Geese, maybe around 5,000 total, I sifted through them all and unfortunately did not located any other species. I did alright for raptors; I had my first Sharp-shinned Hawk in the count for the year, several Red-tailed Hawks, Turkey Vultures, an American Kestrel on a wire, and I got some decent shots of a Rough-legged Hawk.

~Perched Rough-legged Hawk in the black dirt this morning, 03/09/19.~
~Common Merganser on the Wallkill River in the black dirt, 03/09/19. These birds have such varying looks depending on the light.~

My next move was to head north to Ulster County to try for the Ross’s Goose that had been reported all week. I tried Bates Lane at Blue Chip Farms first, and I got lucky as another birder, Neil from the Schenectady was already on the bird when I arrived. He gave me a look in his scope, as the bird was at quite a distance, and I tried to get some documentary shots of the bird. It’s always good to see a Ross’s, and this bird is just the perfect beautiful example of the species. I made a quick stop at the Shawangunk Grasslands NWR, since I was so close, in spite of the parking lot being full of cars (at just after noon!) there were not many birds flying and I had only a single Turkey Vulture in the distance.

I had planned to head over to Cornwall to try for the Lesser Black-backed Gull that Bruce Nott found yesterday, but I ran out of time. I may try for that bird tomorrow. What a satisfying day of birding, I feel like we are on the verge of some really good birding in our area.

~I love this little bird. Ross’s Goose at Bates Lane in Ulster County, NY 03/09/19. I’d have loved to get a better look at this bird, but unfortunately it was miles out.~
~Red-necked Grebe trying to choke down a massive fish at Glenmere Lake, 03/09/19~
~Canada Geese in flight at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 03/09/19~


Here Comes Trouble…

I got a good look at several Ring-necked Ducks at Glenmere Lake just after sunrise this morning. Glenmere is not typically a good place for photographing waterfowl from the shore, especially first thing in the morning as the view generally looks southeast, creating a severely backlit situation if there is a clear sunrise. This morning, however, these Ring-necked Ducks were located in a little cove of sorts along the shore. I positioned myself behind a tree and shot them with the sun just off my left shoulder; it was nice surprise to get some decent shots with nice light.

A Good, Long Day, 02/16/19

~CACKLING GOOSE at Lockenhurst Pond in Westtown, NY 02/16/19.~

Regular readers of this blog may remember that it took me 51 weeks in 2018 to get a CACKLING GOOSE in Orange County. Well, today I potentially had three. Which just shows you how crazy birding can be. First thing this morning I headed to Glenmere Lake, hoping for the ROSS’S GOOSE that Kathy Ashman had seen there earlier in the week. The Ross’s wasn’t present, but I did run into Kathy and we had some good birds, including one bird that looked to us like a sure Cackler and a second bird that looked pretty good, but was slightly larger with a slightly longer bill. See photo below, I’d love to hear any opinions on these birds. The birds stuck together the entire time we were there, a cute tiny couple. Other waterfowl present: Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Canada Geese, Mute Swans, American Black Ducks, Mallards, Gadwalls, and a single LESSER SCAUP.

~I’ll be interested to hear opinions on the bigger of these 2 birds – both birds were significantly smaller than the surrounding Canadas, and although the photo doesn’t show it that well, both had a lighter, frosty look to them. CACKLING GEESE (GOOSE?) at Glenmere Lake, 02/16/19.~

I tooled around the black dirt and then took a walk at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh; it was actually pretty quiet and I had mostly the usuals including White-crowned Sparrows at two locations. On Onion Avenue there was a large flock of mixed blackbirds – perhaps 1,000 birds or so, nearly all Red-winged Blackbirds with a sprinkling of Brown-headed Cowbirds, Common Grackles, and European Starlings thrown in.

~Mixed blackbird flock – mostly Red-winged Blackbirds, but I also see Brown-headed Cowbirds, E. Starlings, and a single Common Grackle.~

My final stop in southern OC was at Lockenhurst Pond. This is the small pond on Route 284 in Westtown, NY; I just looked it up to see what it was actually called. While I was there I sifted through the flock of approximately 400 Canada Geese and eventually located another CACKLING GOOSE. This bird looks good to me, see top photo as well as below.

~CACKLING GOOSE at Lockenhurst Pond in Westtown NY, 02/16/19.~

After a late lunch, I headed up to the Newburgh Waterfront to try for more waterfowl and gulls. I had only the 3 expected species of gull, and for waterfowl the only noteworthy species was 9 Northern Pintails. I can only remember one other time having NOPIs on the Hudson River. Just as it was starting to get dark and I was thinking about heading home, I saw something I’ve not seen before. A group nearly 60 Canada Geese flew in and landed on the river. I don’t know if they were out in the fields all day, or if they just finished a long flight, but as soon at they landed all the birds were drinking from the river. I found it sweet to see 60 Canadas sipping away as the sun set.

~Ring-billed Gull in flight over the Hudson River, Newburgh Waterfront 02/16/19.~

Staying Local, 02/09/19

~Eastern Bluebird on a man made perch, Turtle Bay Road 02/09/19.~

I decided to stay local this morning. I cruised the black dirt, made a quick stop at Glenmere Lake, and took a walk at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Marsh. It was actually a pretty quiet morning bird-wise, but after a hectic work week it was just nice to be out and looking at whatever birds I could track down. It was on the cold side (19 degrees F when I headed out), with a whipping wind that made it very difficult to be outside for any extended period of time. I had a total of 27 species for the day and nearly all were the usuals. Noteworthy birds included 5 Ring-necked Ducks and a single Bufflehead at Glenmere Lake, as well as a pair of Common Mergansers at Skinner Lane. My best birds were found in the black dirt: 2 Rough-legged Hawks and 2 LAPLAND LONGSPURS. I initially had the longspurs at a distance in my spotting scope. I tried to digiscope them to document, but between the cold and the wind I didn’t have any success. Just as I was driving off, I heard LALO call to the left of my car and not too far out. I got on it and was able to get a shot of the bird, which made me happy.

~One of two LAPLAND LONGSPURS in the black dirt this morning, 02/09/19. The bird of the day for me.~
~It’s not very often I get a decent shot of this bird – Common Merganser in the Wallkill River in the black dirt, 02/09/19.~
~There’s a little heat shimmer from my car going on in this pic, but I like the way the bird is in the crosshairs of nearly every branch. White-throated Sparrow in the black dirt, 02/09/19.~
~Great Blue Heron flyover at Wallkill River NWR, 02/09/19.~

Rough-legged Beauty

~Rough-legged Hawk in flight, Black Dirt Region 01/27/19. One of my goals for 2019 is to look more closely at birds’ plumages. This bird looks to me like it might be an adult female, based on the dark trailing edge on the wings (adult), and the buffy underwing coverts with brown mottling (female).~

You know how certain birds just do it for you? That’s how it was today with this Rough-legged Hawk; it is the best looking bird I’ve seen in a long while. What I wouldn’t have done for a decent photograph of this bird. I had several fantastic scope views of this bird perched, and it just blew me a way; there’s just something about the bird’s pale, vanilla colored head that is just gorgeous to me. Who knows, maybe our paths will cross again and things will work out differently…