Today was the best day of birding I’ve had in a while. We all know that BAD WEATHER = GOOD BIRDS, so with that in mind I headed out into the rain today. My first stop was at Glenmere Lake, and thankfully it was not an indication of how the day would turn out as it was quiet on the lake. My second stop was at Wickham Lake – from the parking area I immediately saw a Common Loon on the lake. I went to the shore to scan for more waterfowl and I was pleasantly surprised to find 2 Bonaparte’s Gulls perched on the boat dock. I took some photos and moved on to my next stop – Greenwood Lake, where I had 6 very distant Common Loons.
I wasn’t sure what my next move would be, part of me wanted to look for more songbirds at Sterling Forest SP, but a bigger part of me said to check the Hudson River. I, of course, decided to head to the river. My route took me past a couple more lakes – I came up empty at Round Lake, but got lucky at Walton Lake with a raft of 11 LONG-TAILED DUCKS! It was hard to pull myself away because those ducks are so cute and watching them in the scope was super entertaining. As I continued towards the Newburgh area, I spoke with birding bud Bruce Nott on the phone – he’d had 33 Bonaparte’s at Cornwall Bay and I wanted to find out where he was viewing them from – it was Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point.
When I arrived at Kowawese, I could only locate 7 Bonaparte’s Gulls. They were heading north towards the Newburgh Waterfront, so I relocated and was eventually able to find all 33 of his gulls! They were on the water, just drifting northward until they started picking up and headed south back towards Kowawese. THEN, just when I was making one last pass with my scope, I saw a tern flying and actively fishing on the far side of the river! I was trying to ID the bird, but between the rain and the distance, it was just too far. My best guess was either Common or Forster’s Tern. Then I saw a second and a third bird. Bruce joined me and after viewing for a little while, we decided to take the drive over to Beacon’s Long Dock Park to try and identify the birds. I figured they would be long gone by the time we arrived, but Bruce was way more optimistic. And, sure enough, he was right and the birds stuck around for us – including Carena Pooth who had met us over there. Between the three of us and sending pics to Rob Stone and Linda Scrima, we determined that the birds were COMMON TERNS (it’s tough – we don’t get enough practice identifying terns in our area!). Not only that, we also found a fourth bird while we were there as well. This is my favorite kind of birding – it was so exciting and the terns was just beautiful to watch as they fished. The icing on the cake came when we were just about ready to leave – the terns crossed over the river and into the Orange County side! They headed south along the west bank; I was thinking they may end up at Kowawese/Cornwall Bay.*Bruce followed up on this but did not find the terns. BUT, he did find 7 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS. What a day!
The last couple of days were very busy birding-wise, with many birds moving into and through our area. On Friday after work I went to Sterling Forest State Park. I birded the Ironwood Drive area and I did pretty well, getting 15 new county birds for the year:
Black-throated Blue Warbler
This morning I met up with Linda Scrima and we birded Pochuck Mountain State Forest. It was a slow start, but then it got pretty busy; at times it was hard to know which bird to look at there were so many. We had a total of 37 species; highlights included my FOY Great-crested Flycatchers and Veery, Scarlet Tanagers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and 10 Species of Warbler:
Worm-eating Warbler (FOY)
Northern Parula (FOY)
Magnolia Warbler (FOY)
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Afterwards, we went over to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Highlights included my first Orange County Eastern Kingbirds of the year, a flyover of 2 SANDHILL CRANES, hearing a couple of SORA calling, and a handful of shorebirds (Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, and Killdeer).
I spent the afternoon trying to find more shorebirds. At the Camel Farm I had more yellowlegs and although they were distant, I believe I had 3 Pectoral Sandpipers. On Lynch Avenue in the black dirt I had the same shorebirds that we had at Wallkill River NWR, plus I added my FOY Spotted Sandpiper. My final stop was at Stewart Forest; I stopped quickly at Ridge Road (one Solitary and one Spotted), and then spent some time at the 207 Marsh, where there were many shorebirds present, but I did not add any new species.
For the day today, I added 9 more county year birds – that’s a total of 24 new birds in 2 days, which sure makes for some fun birding.
I was scheduled to volunteer for the Bashakill Area Association’s Nature Watch program, which I’ve participated in for several years on and off and written about here on the blog a couple of times; click here and here to find out more. I got up early to do hit some local spots before heading to the Bashakill; on my way to Glenmere Lake I spotted a Coyote in a field so I pulled over and was lucky enough to get some decent (if noisy) shots. Glenmere was mostly uneventful, although I did have my first Black-throated Green warblers of the season. I also stopped at Wickham Lake, just to check the water quickly and found 6 distantRuddy Ducks all tucked in on the rainy lake.
I met up with Karen Miller at Haven Road at the Bashakill. We found out shortly after our arrival that the watch was to be cancelled due to the rain. So, we decided to bird the Bash. We hit four locations and we did pretty well. Highlights included several First of Season birds for me: Common Gallinule, Broad-winged Hawk, Eastern Kingbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Bank Swallow, Gray Catbird, and Black-throated Blue Warbler. Other good birds included Black-and-white Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Field Sparrow, and of course, several Bald Eagles. It was a good and productive morning and my list totaled 38 species.
Earlier this week I took an opportunity to try for better shots of the Middletown YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS; I got lucky and both birds were present and active.
I headed back to Stewart State Forrest’s Route 207 Marsh as my first stop this morning. I was hoping for some interesting shorebirds, but unfortunately I only found Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Solitary Sandpipers. It was a cold morning at the marsh, and the wind gusts were making viewing through my scope less than ideal. It also seemed quieter than it was a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t there as long, and I didn’t have birding bud Bruce Nott’s eagle eyes, but I ended up with only about half the number of species.
My next stop was more productive and downright exciting. I headed over to the Hudson River, hoping for shorebirds, terns, or gulls. I first checked Shore Road in Cornwall on Hudson. From there, looking north, I saw a collection of birds on a small sandbar. They were quite distant, but I was pretty sure one of the birds was a CASPIAN TERN. I jumped back into my car and drove over to Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point to try and get a better look. I walked along the river heading north for a good ways to try and get closer to the birds. When I finally stopped and set up my scope, I was happy to see that I was correct about the tern, but in addition there was a good number of BONAPARTE’S GULLS present. My best count while I was there was 22 individuals, but when I got home I counted in my pics and I had a remarkable 32 BOGUs in a single shot! I watched the birds for a good while just to make sure I wasn’t missing a Little Gull (now that would have been something!). Still, I was pretty excited to get these birds – it was just the sort of birding I was hoping for today.
I love scoters. I particularly love scoters when they are found locally. But, I had mixed feelings this morning when Kathy Ashman reported 2 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS at Wickham Lake. It was early in the day when she reported them, and I was convinced they wouldn’t stick around until the evening when I got out of work. Well, fortunately I was wrong and the birds were still present when I arrived around 6 pm. They were quite distant, so I took a walk on the trail that runs along the east side of the lake to try for a better vantage point and some better photos. I didn’t get anything great, but it was a definite improvement from the tiny specks I had in the camera initially. These were the first scoters I’ve had in the county this year. Huge thanks to Kathy for finding and reporting the birds!
This is a really great story. Fellow Mearns Bird Club member Joyce Depew has an eight year old grandson named Ben. And, Ben has been into birds since he was 4 years old. Well, today, while Joyce and Ben were driving on Van Burenville Road in Middletown, from the back seat Ben told Joyce that he thought he saw a Green Heron in a pond in someone’s yard. Joyce pulled over and backed up to get a look, and what did she see? A YELLOW-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON! Can you imagine? According to Ken McDermott, this is only the third record of this species in Orange County, so it is quite a find! Nice job Ben and Joyce!
I ran for the bird after work and was happy to see that it was still present. I snapped some quick photos to document, but because it is a residential area, I didn’t want to linger too long. Linda Scrima was kind enough to provide a couple better shots from earlier in the day, where the bird is being more cooperative and not looking in the wrong direction.
Birding bud Bruce Nott invited me to join him out at Stewart State Forrest’s Route 207 Marsh this morning. We met up at the marsh just after 7:00 am and we had a great morning. My number one goal was to see some OC shorebirds, and we did pretty well with 5 species:
Lesser Yellowlegs (3)
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Wilson’s Snipe (25)
Solitary Sandpiper (4)
Unexpectedly, at least to me, we also did pretty well with warblers, with four species.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (4)
Palm Warbler (2)
Pine Warbler (2)
It was super birding all morning; the birds were abundant and active, Bruce is just awesome to hang out with, and in the end we had a total 43 species. I added 10 Orange County year birds, which is nice too:
I got out this morning and hit several southern Orange County lakes – Glenmere, Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, and Round. These days I have several birds on my mind that I’m hoping for: Loons, Long-tailed Ducks, Scoters, Grebes, Caspian Tern, and Bonaparte’s Gull. I did well with Common Loons, finding them at 3 locations – Wickham, Greenwood, and Walton Lakes. Besides that, the only success I had was 2 Horned Grebes at Wickham Lake, in beautiful breeding plumage (boy do I wish those birds were closer to shore!). I also made a brief stop in the black dirt, hoping for shorebirds (I’d had 30+ Wilson’s Snipe and several Killdeer at Lynch Avenue a couple of times earlier this week – birds originally located by Bruce Nott, I believe). It was a gorgeous but relatively uneventful morning of birding; I did, however, manage to get a few shots.
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).
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.
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.
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: