BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO!

A very exciting find for me - Black-billed Cuckoo out at Wallkill River NWR 7/31/13.
A very exciting find for me – Black-billed Cuckoo out at Wallkill River NWR 7/31/13.

Seeing and photographing an adult BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO was definitely the highlight of my visit to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge after work today. It was a fabulous night for birding; the weather was perfect, there were minimal bothersome bugs, and there were plenty of birds to be seen.

I walked the Liberty Loop in the counter clockwise direction and not far up the trail I found a pair of Great Egrets (of a total of four for the day).

I am pretty sure it is invasive, but I love the purple Loosestrife in this photo. I also like the water drops falling from the tips of the egret's toes.
I know it is an invasive plant, but I love the purple Loosestrife in this photo. I also like the water drops falling from the tips of the egret’s toes.

Walking up the west side of the loop, I heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This was exciting to me; if you read my posts this past spring, you know how much I like this bird. I heard it call one time but I was not able to locate the bird. My disappointment was short lived, less than twenty minutes later I saw a large bird fly from the woods and land in a tree in the marsh. I figured it was a Brown Thrasher, but I was pleasantly surprised to find my best bird of the night, the Black-billed Cuckoo. This is a bird I have only heard before, so it was awesome to get really good looks and some relatively distant but decent photos too. Here’s one more shot of the bird:

Black-billed Cuckoo at Walkill River NWR, 7/31/13.
Black-billed Cuckoo at Walkill River NWR, 7/31/13.

My main reason for going to the refuge was to see if any shorebirds had moved in. There was not much in the way of shorebirds, a pair of Semipalmated Sandpipers, 3 Killdeer, and 9 Least Sandpipers were all that I found. All were seen on the southernmost part of the loop.

Two of the nine Least Sandpipers that I saw out at the Wallkill River NWR, 7/31/13.
Two of the nine Least Sandpipers that I saw out at the Wallkill River NWR, 7/31/13.

I totalled 39 species for the day, a couple of which are birds that I don’t often get a chance to photograph.

This looks like a young Northern Mockingbird to me. It was with two other mockingbirds that appeared to be adults. Wallkill River NWR 7/31/13.
This looks like a young Northern Mockingbird to me. It was with two other mockingbirds that appeared to be adults. Wallkill River NWR 7/31/13.

 

I love this little bird but don't really see them very often. Again, I think this is a young House Wren, one of two perched in the same tree.
I love this little bird but don’t really see them very often. House Wren, one of two perched in the same tree at Wallkill River NWR 7/31/13.

 

Finally, here is my list for the evening:

Canada Goose  20
Wood Duck  1
Mallard  10
Great Blue Heron  12
Great Egret  4
Turkey Vulture  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  3
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Semipalmated Sandpiper  2
Least Sandpiper  9
Mourning Dove  2
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Black-billed Cuckoo  1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Willow Flycatcher  1
Eastern Phoebe  4
Eastern Kingbird  6
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  2
Tree Swallow  11
Barn Swallow  4
House Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  1
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  4
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  1
Common Yellowthroat  2
Song Sparrow  12
Indigo Bunting  8
Bobolink  3
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  10
Orchard Oriole  8
American Goldfinch  15

 

 

Wallkill River NWR – A Week of Photos

I made it out to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge a couple of times this week and took many photos. A good collection of shorebirds continue at the refuge, as do a group of six Great Egrets (down from 10 last weekend). Herons are numerous, with Green Herons, Great Blue Herons, and Black-crowned Night Herons all being seen and heard. All the birds photographed were seen while walking the Liberty Loop Trail or on Liberty Lane. Here are some of the shots I got this week:

Click on photos to enlarge.

One of four Greater Yellowlegs at the refuge on 7/24/13.
One of four Greater Yellowlegs at the refuge on 7/24/13.
I got to see this Lesser Yellowlegs near a Greater Yellowlegs and a Solitary Sandpiper. It was really interesting to note the differences between the three. Wallkill River NWR 7/25/13.
I got to see this Lesser Yellowlegs near a Greater Yellowlegs and a Solitary Sandpiper. It was really interesting to note the differences between the three. Wallkill River NWR 7/24/13.

 

A Solitary Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs at the refuge on Wednesday 7/24/13. I don't love this photo but I like seeing the two birds together.
A Solitary Sandpiper and a Lesser Yellowlegs at the refuge on Wednesday 7/24/13. I don’t love this photo but I like seeing the two birds together.

 

The morning light was really appealing, and I am really happy with the colors in this photo. Great Egrets at Wallkill River NWR 7/27/13.
The morning light was really appealing, and I am really happy with the colors in this photo. Great Egrets at Wallkill River NWR 7/27/13.
Great Egret at the refuge this morning, 7/27/13.
Great Egret at the refuge this morning, 7/27/13.
Who's gonna mess with this crew? Not me. Five of six Great Egrets at Wallkill River NWR 7/27/13.
Who’s gonna mess with this crew? Not me. Five of six Great Egrets at Wallkill River NWR 7/27/13.
I've been seeing a hearing plenty of Green Herons at the refuge, but not getting close enough for any good photos. Wallkill River NWR 7/27/13.
I’ve been seeing a hearing plenty of Green Herons at the refuge, but not getting close enough for any good photos. Wallkill River NWR 7/27/13.
Great Blue Herons are numerous out at Wallkill River NWR. This one flew right in front of me. This Shot is SOOC, taken 7/25/13.
Great Blue Herons are numerous out at Wallkill River NWR. This one flew right in front of me. This Shot is SOOC, taken 7/25/13.
Birds flying away usually don't make for great photos, but I sort of like this one. GBHE out at Wallkill River NWR 7/25/13.
Birds flying away usually don’t make for great photos, but I sort of like this one. GBHE out at Wallkill River NWR 7/25/13.
I was with Karen Miller and Sharon when we found this bird. We were all stumped, and after getting home and looking briefly in some books I'm guessing a young Brown-headed Cowbird, but I'm still not really sure. Please comment if you can I.D. this bird! Thanks.
I was with Karen Miller and Sharon Dewey Scavotto when we found this bird. We were all stumped, and after getting home and looking briefly in some books I’m guessing a young Brown-headed Cowbird, but I’m still not really sure. Please comment if you can I.D. this bird! Thanks.

Black-crowned Night Herons

Adult and juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons out at Wallkill River NWR, 7/20/13.
An adult just happened to fly behind this juvenile Black-crowned Night Herons out at Wallkill River NWR, 7/20/13.

I went out on a mission this evening to photograph the Black-crowned Night Herons out at Wallkill River NWR. I walked the Liberty Loop and tried to time it so that I was on the east side of the loop (where the BCNHs roost) right before sunset. I walked in a counter-clockwise direction so that the fading sun would be at my back as I approached the trees where the birds roost. I was not disappointed – I saw four BCNHs, three adults and one juvenile. These photos have an interesting dreamy quality to me and I’m not entirely sure why. I think there are two factors, the first being that nearly all the photos where shot through the trees which create a blurry foreground (background?). Also, the light was very interesting and hard for me to get a handle on. My settings for all these photos where not at all what I would typically encounter in low light situations; I had to under-expose all of these photos!?! Fortunately these birds were not really aware of my presence so I had plenty of time to make adjustments. Here’s some more shots:

Although they are not a beautiful bird, I find the young BCNHs fascinating to look at.
Although they are not a beautiful bird, I find the young BCNHs fascinating to look at.
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Adult Black-crowned Night Heron at Wallkill River NWR 7/20/13.
I see so many photos of BCNHs showing the white head plume - this is the first time I've gotten any showing it.
I see so many photos of BCNHs showing the white head plume – this is the first time I’ve gotten any showing it.
I don't love this photo, but I though it was cool to catch 3 BCNHs in one shot.
I don’t love this photo, but I though it was cool to catch 3 BCNHs in one shot.

Beyond the Black-crowned Night Herons, the birding was pretty good. Highlights included ten (!) Great Egrets, my first Great Egrets at Wallkill River NWR this year.

One of ten Great Egrets out at Wallkill River NWR, 7/20/13.
One of ten Great Egrets out at Wallkill River NWR, 7/20/13.

Shorebirds made another good showing, I heard first and then saw three Greater Yellowlegs. Also present were Killdeer, Spotted Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and this Solitary Sandpiper.

I have this as a Solitary Sandpiper, Wallkill River NWR 7/20/13.
I have this as a Solitary Sandpiper, Wallkill River NWR 7/20/13.

Here’s my list for the day:

A pair of Red-tail Hawks perched on the north side of Oil City Road, 7/20/13.
A pair of Red-tail Hawks perched on the north side of Oil City Road, 7/20/13.

Canada Goose  25
Wood Duck  6
Mallard  4
Great Blue Heron  12
Great Egret  10
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron  4
Cooper’s Hawk  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Killdeer  6
Spotted Sandpiper  4
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  3
Least Sandpiper  2
Mourning Dove  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Eastern Kingbird  4
Tree Swallow  6
Barn Swallow  2
Wood Thrush  2
American Robin  15
Gray Catbird  8
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  4
Swamp Sparrow  2
Indigo Bunting  5
Bobolink  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  X
Orchard Oriole  1
American Goldfinch  3

Wallkill River NWR 7/14/13

Red-tailed Hawk hunting from a hay bale on Pulaski Highway on my way out to Wallkill River NWR, 7/14/13.
Red-tailed Hawk hunting from a hay bale on Pulaski Highway on my way out to Wallkill River NWR, 7/14/13.

This morning I met Karen Miller out at Wallkill River NWR, where we walked the Liberty Loop. It was a relatively birdy morning and we had many species that I had not expected to see, including my personal highlight of the outing, a pair of adult Black-crowned Night Herons seen from the viewing platform:

One of two Black-crowned Night Herons at Wallkill River NWR, 7/14/13. This one was in a small pool just to the left of the viewing platform.
One of two Black-crowned Night Herons at Wallkill River NWR, 7/14/13. This one was in a small pool just to the left of the viewing platform.
This BCNH flew in just as Karen Miller arrived. These birds were FOS for me.
This BCNH flew in just as Karen Miller arrived. These birds were FOS for me.

Another highlight was a nice collection of shorebirds located at the south end of the Liberty Loop. I’ll add my usual disclaimer that I am STILL struggling with shorebird identification, but I feel fairly confident that we had Spotted Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a Solitary Sandpiper.

A Killdeer along with a Spotted Sandpiper out at Wallkill River NWR 7/14/13.
A Killdeer along with a Spotted Sandpiper out at Wallkill River NWR 7/14/13.

 

I have this as a Pectoral Sandpiper. Please leave a comment if you know otherwise! Thanks.
I have this as a Pectoral Sandpiper. Please leave a comment if you know otherwise! Thanks.

 

There were plenty of Great Blue Herons about, we even had 5 fly over at once. GBHE at Wallkill River NWR 7/14/13.
There were plenty of Great Blue Herons about, we even had 5 fly over at once. GBHE at Wallkill River NWR 7/14/13.

It was a really nice morning of birding (if you ignore the mosquitos that plagued the west side of the loop!), where we had over 40 species of bird:

This might be the same bird as seen on the hay bale at the top of this post. I took this shot on my way home and it was just across the road from where I took the hay bale shot.
This might be the same bird as seen on the hay bale at the top of this post. I took this shot on my way home and it was just across the road from where I took the hay bale shot.

Canada Goose  55
Mallard  10
Great Blue Heron  15
Green Heron  1
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture  3
Northern Harrier  1
Killdeer  6
Spotted Sandpiper  4
Solitary Sandpiper  1
Least Sandpiper  4
Pectoral Sandpiper  7
Mourning Dove  1
American Kestrel  2
Willow Flycatcher  3
Eastern Phoebe  4
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  2
Warbling Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  3
Barn Swallow  1
Tufted Titmouse  1
House Wren  1
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  2
Northern Mockingbird  1
European Starling  3
Cedar Waxwing  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
Yellow Warbler  1
Song Sparrow  5
Swamp Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  1
Indigo Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird  65
Common Grackle  10
Brown-headed Cowbird  1
Baltimore Oriole  2
American Goldfinch  1
House Sparrow  1

Late edit: I forgot to include Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 to our species list.

 

Saturday 6/15/13

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Right before the rain on Friday evening, a Cedar Waxwing posed nicely. Appalachian Trail near Route 94, Vernon NJ. 

After a long week of rainy weather and being sick, I woke up early this morning raring to go. My main objective was to get a good photo of a Grasshopper Sparrow.I did not achieve this objective because I never saw any! I went back to the Appalachian Trail near Route 94 in Vernon, NJ where we had a least four last weekend, but I had no luck. I heard one Grasshopper Sparrow, but I never did locate it.  I had also tried yesterday evening – I heard and saw at least two Grasshopper Sparrows but the light was not very good with the rain coming in. This morning, the light was much better for photos, so I went to work on my second objective which was to bring home some decent photos. I feel like I haven’t done well lately with the camera, so I wanted to work on it. While I was at it, I ended up with 22 species of bird:

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A singing Field Sparrow out at the AT,  6/15/13.

 

 

Mallard  2
Great Blue Heron  2
Mourning Dove  6
Northern Flicker  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Yellow-throated Vireo  1
American Crow  4
Common Raven  2
Barn Swallow  6
American Robin  1
Northern Mockingbird  2
European Starling  10
Cedar Waxwing  5
Yellow Warbler  1
Field Sparrow  4
Grasshopper Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Indigo Bunting  2
Red-winged Blackbird  8
Common Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  1

 

 

A Great Crested Flycatcher as I was leaving the Appalachian Trail near Route 94, 6/15/13.
A Great Crested Flycatcher as I was leaving the Appalachian Trail near Route 94, 6/15/13.

After about an hour, I headed over to Wallkill River NWR to walk the Liberty Loop. It was quite birdy as I walked the loop and I ended up with 36 species and I took a LOT of photos. The results were mixed, but here is my species list as well as some of my better shots.

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Red-winged Blackbird at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.

Canada Goose  15
Mallard  14
Great Blue Heron  8
Turkey Vulture  4
Rock Pigeon  1
Chimney Swift  1
Willow Flycatcher  3
Great Crested Flycatcher  2
Eastern Kingbird  4
Yellow-throated Vireo  1
Warbling Vireo  1
American Crow  4
Tree Swallow  2
Barn Swallow  1
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Eastern Bluebird  3
Wood Thrush  2
American Robin  12
Gray Catbird  6
Brown Thrasher  3
Cedar Waxwing  6
Common Yellowthroat  2
Yellow Warbler  6
Song Sparrow  16
Swamp Sparrow  10
Northern Cardinal  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Indigo Bunting  2
Bobolink  3
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  8
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Orchard Oriole  1
Baltimore Oriole  2
American Goldfinch  3

 

Easily the highlight of my morning, one of three Brown Thrashers out at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
Easily the highlight of my morning, one of three Brown Thrashers out at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
My favorite photo of the day - Willow Flycatcher at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
My favorite photo of the day – Willow Flycatcher at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was really enjoying some mulberries. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
This Rose-breasted Grosbeak was really enjoying some mulberries. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
Indigo Bunting at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
Indigo Bunting at Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
I was at first glance confused by this young Eastern Bluebird. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.
I was at first glance confused by this young Eastern Bluebird. Wallkill River NWR 6/15/13.

Tomorrow morning I will head out to the Shawangunk Grasslands. I am following a hot tip from Scotty Baldinger who reported to the Mearns Bird Club that he had FIVE Grasshopper Sparrows out there this morning…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Early Saturday Morning Birding

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House Wren out at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.

I got up early to try to beat the heat this morning and headed out to Denning’s Point State Park. I had not been out there since last year, so I was hoping to have some luck with Green Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons. As it turned out, the park was not extremely birdy on this day and I did not see any herons at all.  All told I had 22 species, many of which were only heard. On my way back to the car I enjoyed the highlight  of the visit, an amazing Red-tail Hawk with beautiful markings.

I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the
I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the very dark area at the base of the bill – I’m not sure if that would be considered the Mustachial stripe or the Malar (or both?). Red-tailed Hawk on a light post at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk...
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk…
...eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.
…eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.

I left Denning’s Point and then headed to Kenridge Farm. I walked the extensive trails there for close to two hours and although I did not see or hear anything our of the ordinary, I did pretty well, identifying 28 species of birds. My “best birds” where: Brown Thrasher, four Killdeer (two of which I believe were immatures), a female Mallard with ducklings, and a pair of Green Herons.

I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.

The heat was getting pretty unbearable and the harsh sun was making for difficult photography when I wrapped it up at 11:30 am. It was a morning of enjoyable, but not amazing, birding.

 

Shorebirds at Wallkill River NWR – 5/22/13

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Stilt Sandpiper (left) and a Dunlin (right) at Wallkill River NWR 5/22/13.

Thanks to John Haas informing me earlier this week and also an alert from Rob Stone today, I was able to see a really nice collection of shorebirds at Wallkill River NWR after work this evening. I particularly wanted to see the Stilt Sandpiper, a bird that I have seen before but it has been a couple of years and I feel like I saw the bird today with different eyes. I also want to thank Tom Burke (I hope I spelled that correctly) who I met for the first time today. He gave me a crash course in shorebird identification and help me compile a really nice list today:

Semipalmated Plover 
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Dunlin
Stilt Sandpiper 

Karen Miller met me out there a little later and we walked the Liberty Loop on our way to seeing 41 species. The highlight for me was my first of season Indigo Buntings. Here’s a Downy we had on the east side of the loop:

Downy Woodpecker at Wallkill River NWR 5/22/13.
Downy Woodpecker at Wallkill River NWR 5/22/13.

Bobolink

I went to Wallkill River NWR and walked the Liberty Loop this morning. I went out primarily looking for warblers, but I only managed to find several Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. I was pleasantly surprised to find my first Bobolinks of the season, and to make it even better they were within decent photo distance. These photos are a bit noisy; I had the ISO very high because the morning was very gray.

One of two Bobolinks seen at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
One of two Bobolinks seen at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
Two of two. Bobolink at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
Here’s another shot of the same bird with a closer crop.
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Two of two. Bobolink out at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
An extremely buttery Goldfinch at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
An extremely buttery Goldfinch at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
It has been fun and challenging getting back to shooting song birds. Song Sparrow at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
It has been fun and challenging getting back to shooting song birds. Song Sparrow at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.

 

Green Heron – First of Season

On my way to the bank this afternoon I spotted my first Green Heron of the season at the small pond right around the corner from our house. I know I say this about a lot of birds,  but Green Herons really are one of my favorite birds; I look forward to a summer of having them at that pond.

First Green Heron of the season for me, Goshen NY 4/27/13.
First Green Heron of the season for me, Goshen NY 4/27/13.

Sandhill Crane At Wallkill River NWR

On Monday evening, Herb Stein posted that he had seen two Sandhill Cranes and a Glossy Ibis out at Wallkill River NWR. I always enjoy walking the Liberty Loop, so today I went to see what I could find. It was a nice warm evening, a little bit windy, but very pleasant. It made for a nice afternoon of birding. I had 23 species during my walk, with two highlights. The best bird of the night was definitely a single SANDHILL CRANE. What a fabulous bird, I feel so lucky to have seen this bird and to have managed a couple of distant photos, which I have cropped:

Sandhill Crane at Wallkill River NWR 4-24-13.
Sandhill Crane at Wallkill River NWR 4-24-13.
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What a beautiful bird!

The second highlight for me was a DUNLIN in adult breeding plumage. This bird confounded me until I got home and looked it up. This bird was pretty far out, so here again is a distant photo that has been cropped:

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A Dunlin alongside a Greater Yellowlegs out at Wallkill River NWR 4-24-13.

What a great night of birding! Many thanks to Herb Stein for posting. Here’s my list for the evening:

Canada Goose  X
Mute Swan  4
Wood Duck  1
Mallard  X
Northern Shoveler  1
Green-winged Teal  8
Great Blue Heron  5
Turkey Vulture  1
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Sandhill Crane  1     First reported by H Stein
Killdeer  8
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Dunlin  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  X
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  X
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X