After work I went to Wickham Lake to see if any good waterfowl had moved in. I’d read a report from Scotty Baldinger that he and John Haas had 8 Black Scoters and one White-winged Scoter at Neversink Reservoir earlier in the day, so I was hoping for scoters as well. I located two scoters, very distant out on the lake. I did not have a guide book with me because I’d used Tricia’s car for birding over the weekend and forgotten it there. I did a quick google search and thought I came up with a good match with White-winged. I did my best to take some usable photos and I put the word out. Rob Stone went for the birds later in the evening and he was thinking the birds were more likely SURF SCOTERS. I checked my guides, and I sent my pics to Rob and John who both agreed that the birds were SUSCs. Here are some of the indicators – first, no white was seen on the wings (this is not conclusive because depending on how the bird is sitting in the water, a WWSC might not show any white on the wings). But, more importantly, the pattern of white on the face of the bird runs up and down; this is indicative of the straight edge of the bill of a Surf Scoter (for WWSC it projects forward due to the shape of its bill). And, also, the head has a dark capped look and has a more blocky appearance than WWSC. This is my 235th life bird in Orange County and number 206 on my OC year list. Thanks to Rob and John for helping out on this one!
Update: I forgot to include this last night when I posted – I wanted to mention quickly that this post is a bit of a milestone here at Orange Birding; it’s the 500th post! Here’s to 500 more!
QUICK POST: This afternoon, Linda Scrima, Kyle Dudgeon, and I ran to Wickham Lake for a BLACK SCOTER that was located earlier in the day by Rob Stone. When we arrived, the bird was very distant, but identifiable with scope views. Kyle had to run, but Linda and I walked the trail on the east side of the lake to get a better look and some photos. The bird was closer from that side of the lake, but spent most of its time tucked in. It finally untucked a couple of times and I was able to get some documentary shots of the bird. I was particularly excited because it was the 205th species I’ve had in Orange County this year. Thanks once again to Rob Stone, who just keeps finding great birds.
Another highlight was seeing a pair of Bald Eagles sharing a branch as a perch. It was a little bit distant, but I’ve included a photo of the cute couple.
I counted at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, and it was a pretty good day. The rain held off and the heavy cloud cover kept the birds low. Actually, it was a really good morning with many birds flying very low and giving excellent looks, but then the afternoon was less productive. Kyle Dudgeon is home from college for the weekend and he spent most of the day helping me out with his young eyes. We had two Sharp-shinned Hawks take a run at the owl, one of which flew right at Kyle’s head, turning off at the very last second. In the early afternoon Maria Loukeris and Heather Thoma stopped by and brought the best songbirds of the day; we had a Blue-headed Vireo, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. To see more data on Mount Peter or any other hawkwatch, you can visit Hawkcount. Here’s my report for the day.
Observation start time: 08:00:00
Observation end time: 15:30:00
Total observation time: 7.5 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Kyle Dudgeon, Maria Loukeris, and Heather Thoma.
Very cloudy with a very slight wind from the south. Temperatures ranged from 13 to 20 degrees Celsius.
It was a fun day at the watch with most birds flying quite low. Two Sharp-shinned Hawks and one Merlin took a pass at the owl, giving really great looks. One immature Northern Harrier and one unknown American Kestrel.
Other Species: Black-capped Chickadee (4), Tufted Titmouse (3), Blue Jay (65), Red-bellied Woodpecker (1), European Starling (14), American Crow (2), Common Raven (2), Eastern Bluebird (3), Cedar Waxwing (30), Northern Flicker (2), American Robin (72), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1), Red-winged Blackbird (18), American Goldfinch (16), Mourning Dove (3), Double-crested Cormorant (3), Eastern Phoebe (1), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Eastern Towhee (1), Blue-headed Vireo (1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (1), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1), and Monarch Butterfly (2).
I got out and did a fair amount of birding this weekend, especially because I didn’t count hawks at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday, due to the fog and light rain that persisted throughout the day.
BLACK DIRT REGION: I received reports from Bruce Nott and Ken and Curt McDermott on Saturday that the collection of plovers in the black dirt continued. Curt and Ken had a very nice count of 41 American Golden-Plovers and 5 Black-bellied Plovers. On Sunday, I met Linda Scrima in the late morning. The plovers were present, but distant. We lingered, and eventually they flew in closer, with a couple even landing on the road. We had a total of 34 AMGPs and 3 BBPLs. The highlight, however, was when a Killdeer flew over being chased by another smaller bird. Linda picked it up and got me on the birds. I stayed on the smaller bird and when it landed, I was thrilled to see it was an AMERICAN PIPIT! We eventually saw 3 more for a total of 4 AMPIs. The pipits were my 204th species in Orange County this year.
WICKHAM WOODLANDS TOWN PARK: I birded here on Saturday morning so I could stay close to Mt. Peter, in case the weather cleared up. The highlight for me was a trio of Ruddy Ducks. I also had a nice look at a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Mockingbirds and Northern Flickers were present in numbers.
6 1/2 STATION ROAD, CITGO POND: I made three trips to the pond this weekend and finally on Sunday I had some new shorebirds:
4 Pectoral Sandpipers (one new bird)
3 Lesser Yellowlegs (one new bird)
1 Greater Yellowlegs (new bird)
11 Least Sandpiper (same number)
On Friday evening I had a Northern Harrier fly over the pond and a Sharp-shinned Hawk as well. Both kinglets were present on the trail into the pond. On Saturday I also went over to the Heritage Trail side of the sanctuary, where I had many Yellow-rumped Warblers and a pair of Black-throated Green Warblers.
HIGHLAND LAKES STATE PARK: I made it out here for early Sunday morning. The place was very birdy and I had 27 species plus one unidentified flycatcher in just over an hour. Yellow-rumped Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and White-throated Sparrows were all quite numerous. Again, I had a couple of Black-throated Green Warblers, but besides that, not many noteworthy birds.
QUICK POST: Every once in a while you go out looking for a specific bird and you find it. That’s what happened to me tonight when I went out to the Black Dirt hoping for Black-bellied Plovers. I had located a collection of plovers – many Killdeer and a good number of American Golden-Plovers. There were 4 plovers that were slightly larger than the AMGPs, with a noticeably more substantial bills. I was feeling pretty sure that they were BBPLs; I waited it out and eventually a couple of them took short flights, exposing the black wing pits diagnostic of BBPLs! I put out the word and Maria Loukeris and Kathy Ashman both ran for them. All three of us enjoyed good scope views of the birds, even if photos were tough. My final count was 23 American Golden-Plovers, 4 Black-bellied Plovers, and approximately 40 Killdeer. Excellent evening of birding!
When it rains it pours, here’s my fourth post in as many days. Tricia and I spent a week in the Adirondacks on a family vacation with both of her brothers, her nephew, and her cousin and his family. We stayed at a great place, White Pine Camp in Paul Smiths, New York. I would certainly recommend it to anyone planning to head up to the Adirondacks and we will surely go back.
So, while it was not a birding trip, almost all of our time was spent outdoors. We did a lot of canoeing and kayaking (we did one epic day of 9 lakes in 8 hours in a canoe). And, I did get out and do some birding on my own, checking out some of the local hotspots, including Bigelow Road and Bloomingdale Bog (both the north end and the south end). Unfortunately, it was pretty quiet on the birding front. I did manage to see Gray Jays in 2 locations, and I had a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Bigelow Road. On one paddling trip, Tricia’s brother Kevin located a young Red-bellied Woodpecker, which was a bird I wasn’t expecting to see for some reason. I came up empty in regards to Boreal Chickadees and Black-backed Woodpeckers, which was disappointing. For the week I had just over 40 species. Anyway, it was a great time and I hope you enjoy my vacation photos.
I’ve always enjoyed photographing the Common Loons up in the Adirondacks. In the past I have had some great experiences where the loons were as curious about me as I was about them. They would pop up right next to my kayak and provide for extraordinary photo ops. This time around, I found that the loons were not quite as curious. I’m pretty sure it had to do with the adults tending to and protecting their young, which were still staying very close to their parents and sometimes still being fed. That being said, the birds were still quite confiding and while I did not spend as much time shooting them as I have in the past, I was able to get some decent shots:
I met Linda Scrima out at Winding Waters Trail early this morning; I was hoping to get my first Lincoln’s Sparrow of the year, and we thought maybe we would get lucky with the Connecticut Warbler for Linda. Just a short way down the trail, Linda got me on a Lincoln’s Sparrow in very nice light. As we worked our way toward the area where the Connecticut Warbler has been seen, a group of birders caught up with us. It was Scott Baldinger, Karen Miller, Bruce Nott, Jody Brodski and Diane Bliss (who actually caught up with all of us further down the trail). I was thinking that I did not like our odds of relocating the CONW with such a large group, but we would try our best. It was a very birdy morning on the trail and having all the extra eyes helped locate many birds. We did particularly well with warblers; Northern Parula, Magnolia Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and Black-throated Green Warbler were all seen well (it was my lifer Tennessee Warbler – woohoo!). The one warbler that was not cooperating was the Connecticut, at least not for a good while. Then, a bird popped up just to the left of me and Jody. We both got on the bird quickly and knew it was the CONNECTICUT WARBLER! It perched briefly and then moved further up and into another tree. We were trying frantically to get everyone on the bird, which then crossed the path and perched in some ivy high up on a tree trunk. It eventually showed itself very well on an open branch in good light and I was lucky enough to get a photo. AND, everyone in the group was able to get on the bird! I was really shocked that it worked out, and everyone was pretty giddy about it. The bird was a life bird for everyone in the group outside of myself and Scotty. Pretty exciting birding!
As a side note, Jody had a flyover of a Sandhill Crane in the Black Dirt Region on her way to Winding Waters. I ran around a little bit afterwards, as did Bruce and Jody, but as of this writing no-one had any luck relocating that bird.
I went out to the Winding Waters Trail at Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge two times today, hoping to relocate one of the two Connecticut Warblers that Rob Stone had there this week. I was there in the morning, but unfortunately there was no sign of the bird(s).
I ended up going back in the evening, as I was walking the trail a bird popped up out of the underbrush and perched about 4 feet up. I looked in my binoculars and saw the prominent eye ring and began taking photos. It was a CONNECTICUT WARBLER! The bird quickly returned to the underbrush and I never saw or heard it again. This is a life bird for me (#370), and also, more excitingly, my 200th bird in Orange County this year! I, of course, wish I’d gotten better photos, but really, I’m happy to have gotten any shots at all. Huge thanks once again to Rob Stone, what an excellent bird!
Things are starting to heat up at Mount Peter Hawkwatch; right now is prime time for Broad-winged Hawk migration. In the past three days they have counted over 1,300 migrating BWHAs. I was up on the mountain on Tuesday and although I did get some birds, I didn’t have any kettles of Broadies. Today was a different story, I got my first taste of the Broad-winged Hawk migration, seeing two smaller kettles pass over the viewing platform, one with 38 birds and the other with 48 birds. I’m looking forward to seeing how many Broadies we will get this year!
On a side note, I was out of commission last weekend as I was away on a golf trip in Vermont. This weekend we are spending an extended weekend up in the Adirondacks. I plan on doing plenty of birding while I’m there, so I will certainly post about it next Thursday when we return.
The hawkwatch season at Mount Peter finally began this past Thursday. I made my first visit on Friday, joining the official counter for the day, Denise Farrell in the early afternoon. Raptor migration was on the slow side for most of the day, but she had been entertained by the several RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHES that were in the area. I was excited to hear about these birds because I did not have them in Orange County for the year. It took a little while, but one finally made an brief appearance, I didn’t get any photos, but still, I was happy. Meanwhile, the hawks were starting to move through. In the 2 1/2 hours I was there, we had 22 raptors migrate through, giving Denise a total of 27 for the day. The highlight for me was a ‘mini-kettle’ of five Broad-winged Hawks observed over the valley.
Today was my first day of the season as official counter. Right off the bat I knew it could be a good day when I had two very close Red-breasted Nuthatches on the trail from the parking lot to the viewing platform. And I was able to get some photos!
Being so early in the year, I figured I would not have any company. I could not have been more wrong. I had plenty of help, especially early in the day, with visits from Rob Stone, Beverly Robertson, Will Test, Diane Held, Maria Loukeris, Sharon Ayling, Tom Mitchell, and PJ Singh. It was a pretty good day especially for being so early in the season; I had a total of 31 migrating raptors in 7 hours. The highlight for me was watching a local adult Bald Eagle escort an immature migrant Bald Eagle through the area. Once the young bird had gone far enough, the adult turned back and headed north. Here is my report for the day:
Official Counter: Matt Zeitler Observers: Beverly Robertson, Rob Stone, Will Test
Sharon Ayling, Tom Mitchell, Maria Loukeris, Diane Held, and PJ Singh.
Warm, sunny with clouds. Gentle winds mostly out of the North/Northeast. Temperatures ranged from 18 to 22 degrees Celsius.
Migrating Raptors: One unknown American Kestrel migrated in the first hour. In the 6th hour an adult Bald Eagle escorted an immature Bald Eagle through the territory. The immature migrated and the adult went back north. Non-migrating Raptors: Two local Red-tailed Hawks and many local Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures.
Other bird species observed: Blue Jay (15), Red-breasted Nuthatch (3), Cedar Waxwing (24), Common Raven (1), American Robin (18), American Crow (3), American Goldfinch (15), Gray Catbird (2), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Scarlet Tanager (1), Black-capped Chickadee (4), Northern Flicker (2), Rock Pigeon (1), Ruby-throated Hummingbird (3), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Chimney Swift (3).
SHOREBIRD UPDATE: I’ve also checked 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary for new shorebirds the past couple of days. The only new birds that I have observed were a couple of SEMI-PALMATED PLOVERS. I have not been in the black dirt but have received reports that Buff-breasted Sandpipers and American Golden-Plovers are still being seen.