What do a Pink-footed Goose and a Golden Eagle have in common? I saw both of them in Orange County on March 2, 2013.
Wednesday through Friday evenings after work, I tried for the Pink-footed Goose that has been seen in the black dirt region of Orange County with no luck. The bird had been relocated several times by Curt McDermott, Rob Stone, and John Haas, but each day by the time I got out of work it had moved on. On Saturday morning Tricia and I went out to try for the PFGO. We hit all of the spots where the bird had been seen in the past few days but did not locate it. We ran into John Haas on our second visit to the Camel Farm and he reassured us that the bird would be found. We moved on and while we were at the Wallkill Wildlife NWR, John called – he had relocated the bird! We rushed over to join him and let Karen Miller know so she could meet us there. We all had good looks at this beautiful bird on the ice, preening away. The photos are a bit distant, but I really like to see this bird among the Canada Geese. It’s interesting how easy it is to see how different the PFGO is from the Canadas, but how hard it is to initially pick it out from the crowd. Thank you to Rob Stone, Curt McDermott for keeping me posted of the birds whereabouts, and huge thanks to John Haas (The Bashakill Birder) for relocating the bird on this day, a life bird for both Karen and Tricia.
After the PFGO excitement, Tricia headed home and I headed out to the Basha Kill with Karen. We did well there, seeing many birds with the highlight being a pair of immature Bald Eagles flying over the kill, one of which was just a gorgeous bird.
We decided to take a drive and try for the Golden Eagle that has been seen at Storm King State Park. We were not entirely sure where the bird had been seen, so I was doing some research while Karen drove. We eventually found the correct parking area off of Route 9W and the task of finding the GOEA seemed overwhelming. We did not have much information to go by, just that a scope was necessary and that the bird had been seen in a pine tree between the parking area and the river. That is a lot of area to cover, it was really cold and windy, and it had started snowing. We were just about to give up on it when I located the bird in my scope. It was perched in a tree on the north ridge, pretty close to the river. It was a distant view, as expected, but what an incredible bird! This was my first time seeing a Golden Eagle perched and it was awesome.
I think it might be time to change my expectations of 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I’m not exactly sure why, but when I go there I am never expecting to see very many birds. Maybe it’s because it is the birding spot closest to home and I get out there pretty often. It is true that there have been many days when I have had hardly any birds, but there are also many days when there are numerous of birds to be seen, and some of them are unexpected.
I made a quick stop at the sanctuary yesterday after work. It was a gray dull day; it snowed for most of the time I was out there. It was not a very good day for photographs, none of the photos in this post are any good with maybe the exception of the Carolina Wren but I did want to document the day. Here is my species list from the forty-five minute stop:
Canada Goose 3
Hooded Merganser 2
Northern Harrier 3
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Ring-billed Gull 1
Belted Kingfisher 1
Peregrine Falcon 1
American Crow X
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Carolina Wren 1
European Starling X
Song Sparrow 3
Red-winged Blackbird 20
I really wasn’t expecting to see any ducks, but there was some open water on the sanctuary side of the Heritage Trail where I found eleven Mallards and an unexpected bonus of two male Hooded Mergansers:
I had my first of season Red-winged Blackbirds; I guess spring will being coming this year after all:
As far as raptors go, Red-tailed Hawks are nearly always present at the sanctuary, but I don’t normally see much else. On this day I had three Northern Harriers, one of which was an adult male “Gray Ghost”. Two years ago NOHA were regulars hunting at the sanctuary but I have not seen many this year. The male was flying low and hunting while the other two where soaring up high. All three eventually headed northeast of the sanctuary. Finally, on my way out I saw this Peregrine Falcon fly by with what looked like a Mourning Dove. I been visiting the sanctuary for just over two years – I checked on eBird, and this is my first record of a Peregrine Falcon at 6 1/2 Station Road.
Here is a list of some of the more memorable birds that I have seen out at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary in the past couple of years:
Greater White-fronted Geese
In 2011 I recorded observing 50 species in 25 visits to the sanctuary. In 2012 I had 87 species in 27 visits. I am curious to see how I do in 2013, I would certainly like to increase my recorded visits and, of course, my number of species.
Today was the day after Winter Storm Nemo. Approximately 14 inches of snow fell here in Goshen, so I donned my snow shoes and hit the Heritage Trail that leads to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. It was a tough walk, but very enjoyable. I did not find any out of the ordinary birds, but many of the usual suspects made a good showing.
The most interesting aspect of the day for me was noticing how the snow lit the underside of the birds as they flew over. The amount of detail I could see on this Red-tailed Hawk was fascinating to me. And as the crows flew over I was seeing colors and highlights I never really noticed before. For both of these birds, what I was seeing came through in my photos. I also had several Black Vultures that looked SO different to me, it was amazing – unfortunately it did not come through in my photos. I also had several Ring-billed Gulls fly over that were the brightest, cleanest white I’ve ever seen; none were very close so I was unable to get any photos.
I was interested in getting some photos of birds in the snow, but it never really panned out. Here are a couple decent shots from the day.
Update: I was thinking today that I have not included many species lists in my posts lately. I think it’s probably because my lists have been pretty sparse. On this day I did pretty well, totaling 15 species for the day. I also used the app Birdlog on my iPhone for the first time. It is actually pretty cool and it allows you to easily keep track the species and their numbers while in the field. I enjoyed using it on this day, but I am interested to see if I start to use it all the time. Here’s my list for the day:
Black Vulture 5
Turkey Vulture 7
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 4
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 3
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 38
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 1
European Starling 12
American Tree Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 3
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Sunday afternoon I had to resist the urge to go back to the Shawangunk Grasslands and sit in the blind. I decided instead check a few spots in Orange County and see what I could find. My first stop was in Warwick to look for a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk that my friend and fellow hawk counter Carol Linguanti had recently told me about. I was thrilled just to find the bird and see it, but what was really exciting was to be able to get some photos of this incredible bird. It was amazing to see this bird in flight; what a beauty. Huge thanks to Carol for helping me out with this one.
There was one Northern Harrier that was flying low and hunting and so many Red-tailed Hawks that this one had to find a perch on the top of a house:
My next stop was Missionland Road. I drove the length of the road and tallied 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 8 Black Vultures, many crows and one American Kestrel (which, of course, was on a wire).
For my final stop I figured I would hit my favorite – Wallkill River NWR. I had an enjoyable walk around the Liberty Loop; I did not see anything out of the ordinary but I did get a good showing of “regulars” and took the opportunity to take some photos:
I feel like it has been forever since I got out for a full day of birding with any success. Karen Miller and I met out at Wallkill River Wildlife Refuge right around sunrise this morning. It was really cold out, 25 degrees Fahrenheit with a substantial wind chill. We sat in the car for a while and then on the platform for a bit until it got too cold. There were many raptors to be seen – Red-tail Hawks, Rough-legged Hawks, a juvenile Bald Eagle, and several Northern Harriers. We decided to follow up on a post seen on the Mearns Bird Club site; we went to Greenwood Lake.
Neither one of us had ever been birding at Greenwood Lake, so it was a bit of an adventure for us as we drove around and explored the lake. We ended up having a great visit with many birds. The highlight for me was a large raft of Common Mergansers that we estimated at approximately 500 individuals:
We stumbled upon Browns Point Park, in West Milford NJ. I totally missed the sign, but Karen saw it and had me turn around. Thank goodness too, because the park provided the best look at ducks that we had all day. We got very good close looks at: Buffleheads, Ring-necked Ducks and Mallards.
After Greenwood Lake, Karen and I headed back to Wallkill River Wildlife Refuge. We decided to walk the Liberty Loop trail; it had warmed up considerably but it was still really windy. Walking through the wind and snow was tough but we were rewarded by seeing many sparrows, Northern Harriers, and a surprise showing of a Short-eared Owl at 12:45 pm. What a great day of birding! Pretty good for January nineteenth.
I have been spending much of my birding time this fall hawk watching. I volunteer at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, which is located on Kain Road in Warwick NY (just across the street from Bellvale Farms Creamery), so I have been out there on many days. I have been thinking about why I enjoy hawk watching so much and I came up with a few good reasons. It is really amazing how many birds you can see if you sit in one spot for a while. On September 20th, Mt. Peter had its highest count of the year – 1,281 migrating raptors! Over a thousand of them were Broad-winged Hawks! And this is not even considered a “big day” for Broad-winged Hawks. You don’t just see hawks either, I have seen Brant, a Great Blue Heron, Gulls, Common Ravens, Common Loons, and even Glossy Ibis fly over hawk watches! There is also plenty of time to look for songbirds when there is a lull in the hawk activity.
I also find hawk watching to be extremely challenging. It is certainly a different way of birding for me. Some days it is difficult just to to find any migrating hawks in the sky, depending on wind and weather conditions, how high the birds are flying, and what the cloud cover is like (among other things). An all blue sky is the most difficult sky to find hawks in. Sunny with some clouds seems to make the hawks most visible for me. Some days it can be tough to just locate the birds, but identifying the raptors is by far the most challenging and rewarding aspect of Hawk Watching. It is so much fun trying to figure out what species of bird you are looking at – sometimes at a great distance, often in silhouette, usually with no size comparisons to be made.
Finally, there is an aspect of hawk watching that would never have guessed would become so enjoyable to me – the camaraderie. I always enjoyed birding alone – sort of an escape, but I am finding more and more that I am enjoying birding with other people. Mt. Peter is extraordinary, the people there are amazing – so friendly, knowledgeable, generous. I highly recommend a visit.
If you are interested in seeing the data collected by the Mt. Peter volunteers, please visit: http://www.hawkcount.org/.
Tricia and I also made it out to Hawk Mountain for the first weekend of October. The highlight for me was 9 Peregrine Falcons on Saturday.
I made it out to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge before sunrise THREE times this week in hopes of finally getting some Black-crowned Night-Heron photos. I identified 37 species of birds (and one really cute mammal) in those three days. Here’s a short list of favorites:
Great Blue Herons(many!)
I finally got a pretty good look at both an adult and a juvenile Black-crowned Night-Heron this morning, and it is thanks to John – a fellow birder I met out at the refuge this morning. He told me when he first arrived that he had never had any luck finding BCNH at this site. Moments later one flew right over our heads! He later found three BCNH in a couple of trees just off of the east side of the trail and he made sure I knew exactly where to find them. Thanks John!