I got out a little later than normal (for me on a Saturday morning). With the rainy weather, I decided to check the Black Dirt Region for shorebirds. My expectations were relatively low, so I was pleasantly surprised to locate 6 different species of shorebirds: Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plovers, and my best shorebird of the day – an early BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER. My two other highlights from the day occurred at Pine Island Turf Nursery, where I had pair of SANDHILL CRANES fly over, and a distant CLIFF SWALLOW feeding on the ground in one of the fields. *Please remember that birding PI Turf Nursery is by permission only – stop at the office to ask if it’s okay.* All in all, I enjoyed an unexpectedly good day of birding.
Kyle Dudgeon and I spent some time very early this morning with the LEAST BITTERNS at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. It was great to see good numbers of LEBIs, and we got lucky with one particularly accommodating individual, which landed not very far off the path – I’ve included four photos of this bird.
In birding news, Karen Miller watched the ROSEATE SPOONBILL fly north over Oil City Road and into Orange County. Kyle and I searched for the bird down Liberty Lane, and John Haas joined us to help search the area, but unfortunately, as of this writing, the bird had not been relocated.
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 wonder how many people can say they saw breeding Common Loons with a chick in the morning and a Roseate Spoonbill in the afternoon? Without taking a flight? I’m guessing not too many, if any at all, but that’s exactly what Kyle Dudgeon and I did today. Just as we were wrapping up our yearly trip to the Adirondacks after a morning of kayaking in the rain (and swimming in Kyle’s case) with Common Loons, I got a phone call from Linda Scrima. She had located a ROSEATE SPOONBILL at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Apparently a photo of a ROSP had been posted to the refuge’s Facebook page and Linda followed up on it early this morning and found the bird on the west side of the loop, just over the border into Sussex County, New Jersey. As Kyle and I got on the road, we did some quick figuring and we knew that we would certainly try for the spoonbill. Five or so hours later, we headed down the trail and joined a number of birders and photographers gathered to see the bird. It was very strange to me to see this bird up in our area, after having previously only seen them in their normal range of Florida and Texas. It was a life bird for Kyle, so that was exciting. The bird spent the duration of our time there partially hidden by vegetation, so Linda sent me one of her pics from earlier in the day to use for this post – thanks Linda!
I have a good number of Common Loon photos to get through, but I will post in the next day or so; it’s one of my favorite posts of the year, so I’m looking forward to it. Here is a teaser from earlier this morning, during a break in the rain:
From July 7th to the 14th, Tricia and I, along with seven other members of her family rented a house right on the beach in Rossadillisk, Ireland. Rossadillisk is a Townland in County Galway, Ireland. It is very small, taking up just .29 square miles of area. But, it is certainly not the smallest, as, of the approximately 4,556 townlands in County Galway, it is the 2,483rd largest. For such a small area, Rossadillisk packs a pretty mean birding punch. There is great birding along the road – with many fields and plenty of thick vegetation. And then, there is always the beach. I got into a nice routine of getting up nice and early. I would bird the beach right in front of our house and then set off to bird along the road, which is where I found most of my birds. I would finish the morning by birding what I called the “far beach”, which was much larger and more productive than the beach right in front of the house.
For the week, I tallied 46 species of birds in that .29 square miles. I mostly enjoyed the challenge of trying to find birds and identify them; in the beginning, identifying birds was not coming very easily at all. It felt a lot like starting over birding – I came to realize how much I know the birds in our area just because I’ve had plenty of experience with them before and because they are supposed to be there; they are expected. And, I also realized that I’m not actually spending all that much time truly looking at birds and recognizing and knowing their field marks. Additionally, I hadn’t done much homework before the trip, and the guides I was using* just didn’t seem to be quite as comprehensive as the ones we use for birds in the eastern United States, and finally, it was the time of year when there were many young birds around, so some of the plumages I was seeing were not in the guides. This made for some very interesting and rewarding birding, in spite of it being frustrating at times.
I hope you enjoy this little taste of Ireland’s birds – I’ve included my favorite shots from my mornings in Rossadillisk. If I’ve misidentified any birds, please let me know in the comments.
AT THE BEACH
*I used the Complete Field Guide to Ireland’s Birds by Eric Dempsey & Michael O’Clery, as well as two apps on my phone: iBird UK Pro and Birds of Britain and Ireland by Natureguides.
I have some things going on this weekend, so my birding window was a brief one early this morning. I made the best of it – I went to Laurel Grove Cemetery, which was quite birdy. Best birds were: a family of Common Mergansers (one adult female with 7 young), Blackpoll Warblers (6+, my FOY), Cape Warbler (1), American Redstart (1), Chestnut-sided Warbler (1), Pine Warbler (2), Yellow-rumped Warblers (4), and most exciting – Bay-breasted Warblers (2, my FOY).
On my way out, I was contacted by Rob Stone; he had 10 SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS and 3 WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS at the Camel Farm. I ran for the birds on my way home, meeting up with Linda Scrima. Unfortunately I was pressed for time, so I was only able to take a quick look at the birds before I had to run, but still it was great to see them and add them to my 2018 Orange County list. I also saw my FOY Bobolink as I was leaving the Camel Farm. Not bad for a quick morning in the field!
Picture this. You spent the day working hard and you are exhausted. But now you are standing on the shore of Wickham Lake in a light rain, listening to a Common Loon perform its eerie call. Swallows buzz over the surface of the lake; you scan persistently and eventually identify 4 of the 5 expected species of swallow: Barn, Tree, Northern Rough-winged, and a beautiful single CLIFF SWALLOW. Your first Solitary Sandpiper of the year works the shore just to your left; a Yellow Warbler and an American Redstart (another FOY) call from the patch of woods near the parking area. And, just like that, your Monday evening has clearly surpassed expectations.
What started out as an uneventful evening ended up being an incredible birding experience. I met Maria Loukeris out at the Liberty Loop; we walked out Liberty Lane – highlights included some distant unidentified shorebirds, several White-crowned Sparrows and my FOY Swamp Sparrows. As we were walking back to the cars, I turned to Maria and said “Let’s go look for some American Bitterns”. I was only half joking, and I had no idea what was in store for us. As we reached the parking area, Maria picked up two birds flying across the marsh and exclaimed “bittern!”. I got on them immediately and was thrilled to see two AMERICAN BITTERNS fly from the front pond and head southwest towards the back of the marsh. We went to the viewing platform; we were pretty sure that we wouldn’t see them again, but had to try. But, then we heard another AMBI calling from just to our left. We scanned and remarkably, Maria located the bird right away. As I ran to get my scope from the car, a different AMBI took flight and flew north over Oil City Road. Shortly after that, yet another bittern joined the one that was calling – that gave us a total of five American Bitterns! I put the word out, and Linda Scrima made record time to arrive to see a pair of them in the scope before we lost the light. What a night! I’m still freaking out!
My weekend of birding started early on Saturday morning. Following up on a tip from Rob Stone, I headed out to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh. When I arrived, birding bud Linda Scrima was already there, viewing the main part of the marsh from the viewing platform. We walked out to view the pond north of Oil City Road, where a beautiful sight awaited us – 36 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS were huddled together in beautiful morning light. We took photos and scanned for more shorebirds. A single bird flew in and joined the Pecs – it was a WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPER! Further scanning revealed two distant Wilson’s Snipe and another distant bird that I identified in the field as a Semipalmated Sandpiper, but in retrospect, with the bird being so far out, it is maybe best left unidentified. I had to get up to Mount Peter for hawkwatch, so we headed back to the parking lot. We took one last look at the pond in front of the platform and found yet more shorebirds – 7 Greater Yellowlegs and nearly a dozen Lesser Yellowlegs! What a great morning for shorebirds in OC!
Hawkwatch was once again a bust for me – so far, I am snake bitten this season for sure. I even had the big guns up to help me (Judy Cinquina and Denis Ferrell, fellow Mt. Pete counters), but it didn’t matter, the birds were not flying on this day. Jeff and Elizabeth Zahn visited and turned their (and mine) hawkwatch luck around. We had 12 of my 19 birds in the hour or so while they were there, including a pair of beautiful adult Red-shouldered Hawks that flew directly over the platform. The biggest news during hawkwatch had nothing to do with hawks at all – Maria Loukeris had located and photographed a SAY’S PHOEBE out at Liberty Marsh! She could barely believe it and she sent out photos to confirm the ID. Once confirmed, several folks went out for the bird but it was not relocated. I had plans directly after hawkwatch, so my search for the Says would have to wait until Sunday morning…
So, Sunday morning I went to Liberty Marsh to try for the the Say’s Phoebe. This time when I arrived, Scotty Baldinger was at the viewing platform. It was great to see Scotty (it always is!) and, in spite of not relocating the SAPH, we had a fabulous morning of birding. Sparrows were abundant and we had 5 species: Savannah, Song, White-throated, Swamp, and my FOS WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS. Other highlights included a flock of over 40 American Pipits flying over our heads and landing in a field. Initially it did not look like we would do any good for shorebirds, but on our way back I spotted a flock in flight. There was an adult Peregrine Falcon in the area, we had just seen it earlier, and I’m guessing it was keeping them on their toes. The birds eventually put down in the pond north of Oil City Road – it was the same flock of Pectoral Sandpipers with the White-rumped Sandpiper. The flock was jumpy and took laps around the pond, allowing for some decent photo ops. They eventually left that pond and put down in the marsh south of Oil City Road; we were unable to relocate them. One last look from the viewing platform got us one Greater Yellowlegs and 3 Lessers. Scotty and I parted ways; I hit a couple other spots before heading home, but they were not as productive. What an excellent weekend of birding! I feel like I need it.
I can’t sugarcoat this one. It was a tough day at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Seven hours of scouring the bluest, haziest, cloudless sky you can imagine. Under a blazing sun. If the birds were up there, I didn’t find very many of them. I had some good help (and good company) too, but at the end of the day, we scraped and clawed for 54 migrating raptors. Rick Hansen, Kyle Dudgeon, and Rob Stone all visited for periods of time, and who knows how few birds I would have had if they hadn’t come up. They can’t all be winners, and today was not my most fun day on the mountain.
I did end the day on a very positive note. A couple, Henry and Lynne Launig came up to the watch. I immediately got a positive vibe from them. We had some nice conversation and we enjoyed seeing a relatively close young Bald Eagle that flew to the west of the platform (but didn’t migrate). Lynne brought up some feathers from her car that we tried to ID (Red-tailed Hawk?). It ends up that it was their 50th Wedding Anniversary. And they came to Mt. Peter to celebrate. I thought that was pretty cool. Their next stop was going to be the Bashakill; I hope they had a wonderful evening over there.
I stopped by Citgo Pond on my way home. I was pleasantly surprised to see that some new birds had moved in: 4 SEMIPALMATED PLOVERS and 5 Semipalmated Sandpipers joined the shorebirds that have been present for about a week or so. Also, the Wilson’s Snipe was nowhere to be seen.