Montezuma Delivers

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Two of Seventy (!) Sandhill Cranes fly over Montezuma NWR, Seneca Falls NY,  11/28/14.

Going to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge on Black Friday has pretty much become a holiday tradition for me. And having an amazing birding experience has grown to be expected; I haven’t had a bad day out there yet. This year had a slow start, it was very cold and windy at the main pool, which made it very difficult to see the waterfowl which were located WAY out in the distance. I made the full circuit of the spots I usually hit, and it was on the quiet side. I was beginning to think that my “slump” was continuing. On my way back to hit Wildlife Drive for a second time, I made a quick stop at Tschache Pool. I picked up 4 Common Mergansers there, but more importantly, I met another birder named Mary Beth, who was out for the day with her sister-in-law (who, though enjoying herself, was not a birder and therefore spent a good amount of time in the car keeping warm). Mary Beth mentioned that there had been Sandhill Cranes reported out on East Road. Now, I had just come from East Road, but I was certainly willing to give it another shot. I followed them over, and moments after arriving, Mary Beth pulled over pointing to the west of the road. I got out of the car and started smiling ear to ear – it was a BIG flock of cranes – I initially counted 58 birds but later got better photos where I could count all the the birds and there were actually 75 Sandhill Cranes there! I high-fived Mary Beth, who was just as excited about it as I was. I was actually a little bit embarrassed because I had missed the birds – I spent all my time looking east of the road down towards Knox Marsellus and Puddler Marsh, where I have had birds in the past.

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I was happy to get a shot with all 75 of the birds in it. Sandhill Cranes at Montezuma NWR, Seneca Falls NY, 11/28/14.

Mary Beth showed me one more spot that I had not birded in the past, I believe she called the the Potato Barn. It is basically just a vast stretch of farm land and we stopped and looked for Snowy Owls with no luck. Mary Beth mentioned that they sometimes got Short-eared Owls there; I went back just before sunset and had a single SEOW tangling with a Northern Harrier on the west side of the road.

I eventually made it back to Wildlife Drive, where the highlight was a single Snow Bunting, my first of the season. There was a photographer that was pulled over, and I could not see what she was shooting. I eventually, slowly pulled up along side her vehicle and asked her. She pointed down at the single Snow Bunting, not 20 feet from the side of the road. I took a bunch of photos, and I guess this is a good time to mention that I shot all my photos for the day on the wrong setting; a very small file size. I had changed my settings for a project at work on Wednesday and somehow I forgot to change this back. I did not realize until later in the evening when I was looking at the pics and noticed that something wasn’t quite right. I was totally deflated but, live and learn I guess. And, ultimately, I felt like although photos were not like I would want them, they were good enough for a post. It really helped that this bunting was so close.

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A single Snow Bunting forages in the snow. Montezuma NWR in Seneca Falls NY, 11/28/14.
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Snow Bunting at Montezuma NWR, 11/28/14. While this bird was accommodating, the light was unfortunately terrible.
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Snow Bunting flicking snow. Montezuma NWR, 11/28/14.

I went back for another look at the Sandhill Cranes. When I arrived at East Road, all the cranes except 7 were located to the east of the road in Knox Marsellus. Shortly after my arrival, all of the cranes flew over the road and I took a bunch of photos. It was truly very exciting to watch these beautiful birds fly over, calling as they went. What fabulous birds!

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The Sandhill Cranes flew from the east side of the road to the west in groups of varying numbers. Here eight birds are practically on top of one another as they cross the road. Montezuma NWR in Seneca Falls NY, 11/28/14. 
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This group of seven was much more orderly about it. Sandhill Cranes at Montezuma NWR, Seneca Falls NY, 11/28/14. 
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…and a group of nine come in for a landing on the west side of East Road, Montezuma NWR, Seneca Falls NY, 11/28/14. 
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Seven Sandhill Cranes in the field on the west side of East Road. Montezuma NWR, 11/28/14. 
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Coyote! This shot is from Saturday morning when I went back to Montezuma for a brief visit. Montezuma NWR 11/29/14. 

Here’s my list for the day (28 species):

Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
American Black Duck
Mallard
Ring-necked Duck
Lesser Scaup
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Pied-billed Grebe
Northern Harrier
Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Sandhill Crane
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Mourning Dove
Short-eared Owl
Blue Jay
American Crow
Horned Lark
American Robin
European Starling
Snow Bunting
American Tree Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Sparrow

Port Jervis, 11/23/14

I finally got a shot of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that was not in the shade. Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis NY, 11/23/14.
I finally got a shot of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that was not in the shade. Laurel Grove Cemetery, Port Jervis NY, 11/23/14.

I’ve been feeling like I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, so in an effort to mix it up a bit, Karen Miller and I birded Port Jervis, New York this morning. We birded three different locations: a reservoir northwest of Port Jervis, Laurel Grove Cemetery, and a small park in Port Jervis that borders the Delaware River. We identified 27 species for the morning. Before heading home, Karen wanted to show me the “Hawk’s Nest”, which is a beautiful scenic stretch of road just outside of Port Jervis. The road winds alongside the Delaware River, climbing all the time. There are areas where you can pull off and take it all in. We stopped at one of these, where we got our 28th species of the day; an adult Bald Eagle flew right over the car! I was not prepared for it, so my exposure is not great, but I did get some photos, here’s one:

An adult Bald Eagle flies over the "Hawk's Nest", Port Jervis NY, 11/23/14.
An adult Bald Eagle flies over the “Hawk’s Nest”, Port Jervis NY, 11/23/14.
Tufted Titmouse at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis, 11/23/14.
Tufted Titmouse at Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis, 11/23/14.
Far and away the most plentiful bird of the day, I sort of like this shot of an American Crow, a bird that I find difficult to photograph. Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis NY, 11/23/14.
Far and away the most plentiful bird of the day, I sort of like this shot of an American Crow, a bird that I find difficult to photograph. Laurel Grove Cemetery in Port Jervis NY, 11/23/14.

It was good to change things up and bird some new locations; thanks to Rob Stone who helped out with the spots. Here’s our list:

The "Hawk's Nest" scenic drive in Port Jervis NY.
The “Hawk’s Nest” scenic drive in Port Jervis NY.

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Mallard
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
American Coot
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Bald Eagle
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Eastern Bluebird
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch

Saturday’s Shots

I just love these Horned Larks and I I was trying to get some more interesting photos of them today. I was trying to anticipate when the birds would interact like this. Black Dirt Region, 11/22/14.
I just love these Horned Larks and I I was trying to get some more interesting photos of them today. I was trying to anticipate when the birds would interact like this. Black Dirt Region, 11/22/14.

I birded in the black dirt this morning and didn’t have any out-of-the-ordinary sightings but the light was nice and I took a lot of photos, so I’m going with basically a photo post.

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It’s the Northern Harrier time of year. I didn’t have any terrific opportunities but I did take some distant shots. Black Dirt Region, 11/22/14.
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I love the light and the shape of this bird the streetlight and a truck in the background….ugh. Northern Harrier in Pine Island, NY 11/22/14.
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I have this as a first winter White-crowned Sparrow, at Wallkill River NWR, Liberty Loop Trail, 11/22/14.
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This not a bird that I get many photos of for some reason. Northern Cardinal at Wallkill River NWR, Liberty Loop Trail, 11/22/14.

The highlight of the day was being able to spend some time with some Horned Larks in several locations in the black dirt. These two shots preceded the photo at the top of this post:

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I love the dirt flying in this photo! Horned Lark in the Black Dirt Region, 11/22/14.
I love the dirt flying in this photo! Horned Lark in the Black Dirt Region, 11/22/14.
Gorgeous individual here, in my opinion. Horned Lark in the Black Dirt, 11/22/14.
Gorgeous individual here, in my opinion. Horned Lark in the Black Dirt, 11/22/14.
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Sweetness. Horned Lark in the Black Dirt Region, 11/22/14.
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This is a more typical look; Horned Lark in the Black Dirt, 11/22/14.

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 11/18/14

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Can you locate the two blue morph Snow Geese in this photo? Black Dirt Region, Orange County NY, 11/18/14.

It’s that time of year again, when my evening birding time is severely reduced by the shortened days and Canada Geese gather in numbers in Orange County. Tonight I made it out to the Black Dirt Region and located a flock of approximately 1,700 Canada Geese with 3 blue morph Snow Geese among them. It was a distant look, but still nice to sift through the geese and find some gems. Oh, and it is also that time of year when it is COLD! Windy and low temps made for some uncomfortable birding. Here are some shots of the Canadas:

A flying, calling Canada Goose comes in for a landing. Black Dirt Region, 11/18/14.
A flying, calling Canada Goose comes in for a landing right at sunset. Black Dirt Region, 11/18/14.
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I love these guys. Canada Geese in the black dirt, 11/18/14.

Black Dirt Brant

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A single Brant, among a flock of Canada Geese, Black Dirt Region, 11/16/14.

QUICK POST:  I took a driving tour of the Black Dirt Region this morning to see what was going on. It was an uneventful morning; I had relatively few species (25 in the black dirt), and most were expected. American Pipits are still present in decent numbers, I saw several smaller flocks in various locations. I had many Horned Larks for the day, but never got any good looks at some of the larger groups to sift through them for longspurs. I did have a couple of interesting birds – there was a single Snow Goose way out in a field with about a dozen Canada Geese on Celery Avenue. The highlight of the morning for me was locating a BRANT among a group of approximately 100 Canada Geese on Missionland Road. From what I read in the Crossley Guide, this is a juvenile because of the white fringes to the coverts and the lack of a white necklace, which will grow in through the fall. The light did not lend itself to good photography, but here are some shots from the morning:

I enjoy seeing a Great Blue Heron in the black dirt. This one is peering over an embankment. Missionland Road, 11/16/14.
I enjoy seeing a Great Blue Heron in the black dirt. This one is peering over an embankment. Missionland Road, 11/16/14.
Crows were numerous and  seemed to be at every turn this morning. Black Dirt Region, 11/16/14.
Crows were numerous and seemed to be at every turn this morning. Black Dirt Region, 11/16/14.
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Here’s one more of the Brant. Missionland Road, 11/16/14.
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Downy Woodpecker on Celery Avenue, 11/16/14. 

 

Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/15/14

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One final Turkey Vulture photo, Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/15/14.

Today was my final day of the season at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, and it ended up being a really good one. It was a sunny, cool, and crisp day with very few clouds in the sky (which makes it difficult to locate birds). I had one major goal for the day: to surpass 9,000 birds for the season at the watch. We started the day needing 60 migrating raptors to reach this goal. We were successful, thanks to the help of fellow counters Ken Witkowski, Ajit Antony, Denise Ferrel, and Judy Cinquina and once again the young eyes of Kyle Dudgeon. By the end of the day, we had counted 71 birds moving through, which put our total for the season at 9,012 migrating raptors. I was, of course, also hoping for a Golden Eagle or a Northern Goshawk, but both eluded me for this season. It was a tough day for photos, but here is a distant shot of one the adult Bald Eagles that we saw today.

A distant look at an Adult Bald Eagle. This bird headed north and was not counted, Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/15/14.
A distant look at an Adult Bald Eagle in a cloudless sky. This bird headed north and was not counted, Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/15/14.

And here is my report for the day:

Mount Peter
Warwick, New York, USA

Daily Raptor Counts: Nov 15, 2014
Species                 Day’s Count  /  Month Total  /  Season Total
Black Vulture                   8                    90                 232
Turkey Vulture                15                  216                 570
Osprey                            0                      1                  111
Bald Eagle                      2                      9                    79
Northern Harrier              0                      9                    46
Sharp-shinned Hawk      1                     28                1119
Cooper’s Hawk              1                     23                  122
Northern Goshawk         0                       1                      1
Red-shouldered Hawk    0                     58                  136
Broad-winged Hawk       0                       0                5685
Red-tailed Hawk            43                   428                 658
Rough-legged Hawk       0                        0                     0
Golden Eagle                  0                        7                    10
American Kestrel            0                        4                  139
Merlin                              0                       1                    23
Peregrine Falcon             0                       1                    12

Total:                             71                   889                 9012
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Start time: 09:00:00
Observation end time: 16:00:00
Total observation time: 7 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Observers: Ajit I. Antony, Denise Farrell, Judith C. Cinquina, Ken Witkowski

Visitors:
Kyle Dudgeon, Bobby Kerr, and Liza Antony.

Weather:
Sunny and cold with very few clouds. Winds out of the NW at 10-15 km/hour. Temperatures ranged from -2 to 2 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
Two migrating Bald Eagles, one adult and one immature. An additional adult was observed heading NNE.

Non-raptor Observations:
Other Species: Common Loon (7), American Goldfinch (25), Black-capped Chickadees (4), American Robin (37), Ring-billed Gull (12), Canada Goose (22), Pine Siskin (60), American Crow (22), Eastern Bluebird (6), Common Raven (3), and Cedar Waxwing (15).

Black Dirt, 11/09/14

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Male Horned Lark in the Black Dirt Region, 11/09/14.

Quick Post: I tooled around the Black Dirt Region for a little while this morning, mostly in hopes of relocating a Lapland Longspur that had been reported from the Mearns Bird Club field trip the day before. I dipped on the longspur, but there were plenty of Horned Larks and American Pipits to sift through. The birds were in loose flocks and most were quite distant, but I did have a few closer birds which allowed for some photos. I really enjoy seeing and photographing these birds, and although it didn’t happen for me today, it’s really exciting because there is always the possibility of finding Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings among them.

An American Pipit stands at attention, Black Dirt Region, Orange County NY, 11/09/14.
An American Pipit stands at attention, Black Dirt Region, Orange County NY, 11/09/14.
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Female Horned Lark in the Black Dirt, 11/09/14. 

Mount Peter Hawk Watch – 11/08/14

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A migrating Red-tailed Hawk at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/08/14.

I had a nice day at Mt. Pete today. The weather was nice – sunny, crisp, and cool without being too cold, and I had enough birds flying to keep it interesting. Thanks to Kyle Dudgeon and Bobby Kerr (whose young eyes helped to locate many birds), and also to Rob Stone and Ajit and Liza Antony for their help. Here’s my report for the day:

Mount Peter
Warwick, New York, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Nov 08, 2014
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Species            Day’s Count  /   Month Total  /  Season Total
—————— ———– ————– ————–
Black Vulture              9                    31                 173
Turkey Vulture             7                    82                 436
Osprey                       0                      0                  110
Bald Eagle                  0                      5                   75
Northern Harrier         2                       7                   44
Sharp-shinned Hawk  3                    20                 1111
Cooper’s Hawk          1                     17                  116
Northern Goshawk     0                      0                      0
Red-shouldered Hawk 8                   49                   127
Broad-winged Hawk    0                     0                  5685
Red-tailed Hawk         25                 316                   546
Rough-legged Hawk     0                    0                        0
Golden Eagle                0                    6                        9
American Kestrel           0                    4                    139
Merlin                            0                   1                       23
Peregrine Falcon           0                   1                       12

Total:                           57                 550                  8673

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Observation start time: 09:00:00
Observation end time: 16:00:00
Total observation time: 7 hours

Official Counter: Matt Zeitler

Observers: Ajit I. Antony, Rob Stone

Visitors:
Liza Antony, Kyle Dudgeon and Bobby Kerr.
Weather:
Sunny and cool with some clouds. Temperatures ranged from 1 to 8 degrees
Celsius, with moderate winds from the southwest.

Raptor Observations:
One immature and one unknown Northern Harrier.

Three adult, two immature, and three unknown Red-shouldered Hawks.

Non-raptor Observations:
Other Species: Ring-billed Gull (15), Canada Goose (17), Dark-eyed Junco
(2), White-breasted Nuthatch (2), American Robin (22), American Goldfinch
(2), Common Raven (2), American Crow (12), Blue Jay (8), Tufted Titmouse
(4), Eastern Bluebird (1), Rock Pigeon (1).

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The always obligatory Turkey Vulture shot. Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/08/14. 
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Not the greatest shot, but a migrating Sharp-shinned Hawk passes on the west side of the viewing platform. Mt. Peter Hawk Watch, 11/08/14. 

On Friday evening I hit the Black Dirt Region and tried again with the American Pipits:

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I’m kind of liking these birds – American Pipit in the Black Dirt Region, Orange County NY, 11/0714. 

State Line Lunch

A local Peregrine cruises by, State Line Hawk Watch, 11/4/14.
A local Peregrine cruises by, State Line Hawk Watch, 11/4/14.

I was on the road for work today and I was passing near State Line Hawk Watch right around lunch, so I stopped in. The raptors were certainly flying; I was there for less than a half hour and I saw: Turkey Vulture (8), Black Vulture (2), Peregrine Falcon (2), Red-tailed Hawk (4), Sharp-shinned Hawk (2), and a single Merlin. Not too shabby for some unexpected birding!

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A Red-tailed Hawk at eye level. State Line Hawk Watch, 11/4/14.
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This is a very typical view at the watch – looking down at the birds. Peregrine Falcon at State Line Hawk Watch, 11/4/14.
I believe that this is the local female Peregrine Falcon, at the "perch". State Line Hawk Watch, 11/4/14.
I believe that this is the local female Peregrine Falcon, at the “perch”. State Line Hawk Watch, 11/4/14.

Right before sunset, I was in the Black Dirt Region and I finally got a half way decent shot of an American Pipit (which are plentiful in the area right now).

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American Pipit, Black Dirt Region 11/4/14.

Sullivan County Waterfowl, 11/02/14

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One of five cooperative Ruddy Ducks at Kiamesha Lake, 11/02/14.

Since we have not been getting many ducks in southern Orange County, Karen Miller and I decided to head up to Sullivan County and get our fix. It was a very cold and windy day, probably not the best day for going for waterfowl. We went to Swan Lake, the Neversink Reservoir, Morningside Park, and Kiamesha Lake. We did pretty well, but honestly the cold an the wind made it difficult to bird. At the Neversink Reservoir, it was so windy that we could barely see through our scopes – our eyes were constantly tearing and the scopes were shaking in the wind terribly. Bufflehead were the bird of the day with many being seen at all locations except for Morningside Park. In the end we got our fix with 10 types of swimming waterbirds seen and even had some cooperative Ruddy Ducks in sunny weather at our finals stop – Kiamesha Lake for some photo ops. Here’s my list:

Canada GooseIMG_5487 - Version 2
American Black Duck
Mallard
Bufflehead
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant

It was really great to see the Bufflehead, it had been a while! Taking off at Swan Lake, 11/02/14.
It was really great to see the Bufflehead, it had been a while! Taking off at Swan Lake, 11/02/14.
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Ruddy Duck at Kiamesha Lake, 11/02/14. I love the colors on this bird.
We had many Common Merganser for the day. These were taken at Swan Lake, 11/02/14.
We had many Common Merganser for the day. These were taken at Swan Lake, 11/02/14.
A shot of one more Ruddy Duck, Kiamesha Lake, 11/02/14.
A shot of one more Ruddy Duck, Kiamesha Lake, 11/02/14.