I made the rounds in the black dirt this morning, searching for shorebirds of course. I was once again optimistic after last night’s storms. The best spot of the day was Turtle Bay, where there were many shorebirds present. I ran into Kathy Ashman out there early and we sifted through some quite distant birds and had 5 species of shorebird: Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Killdeer. I checked back a little later and ran into John Haas, who had located an additional, excellent species: SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. The bird of the day for me, however, was a single AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER out at Skinner Lane. The bird was close enough for some decent photos, and at one point was kind enough to confirm its identity with a nice wing stretch, exposing clear wing-pits. Kathy Ashman and Linda Scrima both ran for the bird and enjoyed good looks at the bird as well.
QUICK POST: I have to keep this one short because it’s late and I’m exhausted. I had another good evening for shorebirds in the Black Dirt Region. My first stop was at Turtle Bay, where, among many Killdeer, I had 12 Semipalmated Plovers. I think that might be the most I’ve ever had at a location in Orange County. Then I headed to Pine Island Turf Nursery*, where I located a Dowitcher Species. I have good photos of this bird, so I know it will be identified, but I think I need to put some work in to learn how to differentiate between the Long-billed and the Short-billed. According to eBird, it is much more likely to be a Short-billed as their bar chart doesn’t have LBDOs coming through until Mid-September. But, tonight is not the night to learn this, I’m too tired and I have to get up early. I’ll leave it unidentified for the moment, if anyone has thoughts on this bird, please comment or email me. Rob Stone and Linda Scrima both ran for the bird and got it. As a bonus, we got to enjoy a double rainbow when the rain finally let up a bit.
On my way home, I stopped at Skinner Lane. It was almost to dark to see, but luckily I had a good bird right near the road – BAIRD’S SANDPIPER! I cranked up the ISO and was at least able to get some documentary shots. What a night! In case you couldn’t tell, I just LOVE shorebirds in the OC.
*Please remember that you have to get permission to bird at Pine Island Turf Nursery! Ask at the office – they are really nice people!
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.
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.