Hawk Watching


An immature Bald Eagle flies right over the Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10-14-12
Osprey at Mt. Peter 9-23-12

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/.

A busy day out at Mt. Peter Hawk Watch 9-23-12
One of the local Red-tail Hawks at Mt. Peter 9-23-12

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.

Me at Hawk Mountain. Photo by Tricia.
An Osprey flies on the West side of the North Lookout at Hawk Mountain.
At Hawk Mountain, many of the looks are from above. I have this as a Cooper’s Hawk 10-6-12.
One more Osprey. They counted 55 Osprey migrating over Hawk Mountain on 10-6-12

Wallkill River NWR – Looking For Black-crowned Night-Herons

Black-crowned Night-Heron at Walllkill River WR

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:

  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Blue Herons(many!)
  • Great Egret
  • Green Heron
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron
  • Bald Eagle
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Pectoral Sandpiper
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Bobolink

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!

I cropped this pretty heavily because I am amazed at the color of this bird’s eyes.
This is the best shot I could manage of this young Black-crowned Night-Heron. I love the markings on this bird!
I thought this was a beautiful Red-winged Blackbird.
I am pretty sure this is a female Bobolink, though when I took the photo I thought it was a Red-winged Blackbird in the yellow early morning sun.
This Double-crested Cormorant landed in the water in front of the viewing platform for just long enough to get a couple photos before he was on his way…
I thought the light was really nice on this Canada Goose in flight.
Karen Miller found this little critter when we were out on Saturday morning. We found out later that it is an Ermine. In the winter it will have a white coat with a black nose! (Thanks for the info Gail).
A Green Heron on a wire. A first for me, though I saw it two times this week.
One more of the adult Black-crowned Night-Heron.

Green Herons in Goshen – Shapeshifters?

Monday afternoon I sat hidden in the bushes by the pond near my house in Goshen, NY for over two hours. I know, strange behavior. Well actually, I was watching and photographing two Green Herons that were spending their afternoon there. The herons spent their time grooming, hunting, and just sitting. It was fascinating to see how these  birds can take on a variety of shapes and sizes depending on their behavior.

*Click on photos to enlarge*


Mississippi Kites In Orange County!

I made it out to Sterling Forest State Park in Tuxedo New York this evening to try to see the Mississippi Kites that had been seen there over the last several days. I would like to thank all the folks from the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club who posted about the kites. I was not disappointed in the least! I was there for an hour and a half and both birds where present almost the entire time. I watched as they ate dragonflies and also got to see them mate on two separate occasions! What a great day of birding! Here’s some photos:

Male Missippi Kite at Sterling Forest State Park
Female Missippi Kite at Sterling Forest.
Sharing a dragonfly.

May 29, 2012 – Here’s a few more:

Sharing a dragonfly.
This is the best shot I got of them mating.
Dragonfly snack.

Memorial Day Weekend 2012 – Photos


There were 49 (!!!) Mute Swans at Hyper Humus Marshes.
Female Eastern Bluebird at Hyper Humus Marshes.
Great Egret in a tree. Hyper Humus Marshes.
Eastern Kingbird at Hyper Humus Marshes.
It was hard to keep track of the number of Great Blue Herons out at Hyper Humus Marshes because they were so active. I would say there was at least 8.
GBH in flight at Hyper Humus Marshes.
American Goldfinches were numerous out at Wallkill River NWR.
Cedar Waxwing at Wallkill River NWR.
Indigo Bunting at Wallkill Wildlife Refuge.
Northern Flicker...
...Sterling Forest State Park









Just another boring Sunday evening in Goshen…

An adult Bald Eagle flies over 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary

Yesterday evening I took a walk on the Heritage Trail which is just a block or so from my house. The trail runs along side 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary which, according to the Orange County Tourism web site (see links), is a “62 acre wetland bird sanctuary owned and maintained by the Orange County Audubon Society”. It is a great spot for birding and just happens to be a short walk from my house.

I headed out without high expectations. I have been struggling with the camera lately, not getting good exposures, so I just wanted to go out and experiment and try to work on a few things. For some reason I did not think there would be many birds. Boy, was I wrong! I had a slow start with a lot of the usual suspects – American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Gray Catbirds, and a couple different kinds of warblers. Then things started to get good. A Green Heron flew across the water giving me a great look and then landed in a tree on the far side of the sanctuary. Not long after that I spotted a beautiful bright orange male Baltimore Oriole. As I was checking out the oriole, I heard some crows making a racket and I looked up to see two crows mobbing an adult Bald Eagle right above me. The eagle flew over several times giving me a really good look and a chance to get some photos. Moments after that I saw my best bird of the night – a COMMON LOON. I stayed for a while getting photos of the loon and got to hear it make its call.  What a great evening! I ended up with  twenty-four species in all, here are some additional highlights and some photos:

  • (2) Wood Duck
  • (6) Green-winged Teal
  • (4) Spotted Sandpiper
  • (6) Least Sandpiper
  • (1) Alder Flycatcher
  • (1) Yellow Warbler
  • (8) Canada Goose – two pairs with goslings
You can see the Bald Eagle has been banded.
I love the markings on this bird's underside - they look like hearts.
This was a tough ID for me. I have it as an Alder Flycatcher based on its size and overall shape. Anyone who would like to help with this ID please leave a comment - thanks.
I just love this bird, it is so cool looking.
One more of the loon.

GREEN HERON! First of the season.

Green Heron in a tree.

I went to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/northeast/wallkillriver/index.htm) today after work and found a Green Heron in a tree. I walked the Liberty Loop trail which is about 2 miles long. I was almost back to my car when I saw the heron fly in and land in a tree nearby. I was able to get the above photo, which I don’t love but it was the best I could do. It was a really nice walk with many birds – I was able to identify 24 species. Highlights for me:

  • (1) Green Heron
  • (3) Double Crested Cormorant
  • (1) Osprey – Hovering and fishing
  • (4) Lesser Yellowlegs
  • (2) Common Yellowthroat
  • (6) Yellow Warblers – Flying very close to me as if I was not there

Here’s a couple more photos from the day:

Common Yellowthroat
Lesser Yellowlegs