Weekend Wrap Up, 10/2/16

~A beautiful American Golden-Plover in the Black Dirt today, 10/2/16.~

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.


~American Golden-Plovers in flight with one Killdeer. Black Dirt Region, 10/2/16.~
~Yes! AMERICAN PIPIT in the Black Dirt, 10/2/16.~
~A Killdeer takes a bath in a puddle in the road. Black Dirt, 10/2/16.~

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.

~One of 4 Pectoral Sandpipers at Citgo Pond on Saturday 10/1/16.~
~Swamp Sparrow on the Citgo Pond Trail, 10/1/16.~

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.

~Yellow-rumped Warbler on the Citgo Pond Trail, 10/1/16.~
~Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Highland Lakes State Park, 10/2/16.~
~Not a great photo, but I wanted to show the black wing-pits of one of the Black-bellied Plovers in the Black Dirt Region, 10/2/16. Also notice that the bird is slightly larger than the neighboring AMGPs.~

Orange County Black-bellied Plovers, 9/29/16

~A distant look at one of four Black-bellied Plovers, along with two Killdeer. Black Dirt Region, 9/29/16.~ 

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!

Adirondack Vacation 2016

~I absolutely love, love, love these birds. They have a great personality and they are incredible flyers. I really enjoyed watching them navigate through the woods. GRAY JAY at Bloomingdale Bog, North End, 9/18/16.~

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.

~ A foggy morning Ring-billed Gull on a rock in Osgood Pond, where our camp was located. White Pines Camp, Adirondacks 9/17/16.~
~This is another bird that I was sort of surprised to see up there. Belted Kingfisher on the shore of the Osgood River, 9/19/16.~
~Yellow-bellied Flycatcher at Bigelow Road, 9/18/16.~
~I saw plenty of these guys at Bloomingdale Bog’s South End. Golden-crowned Kinglet, 9/21/16.~
~Blue-headed Vireo at Bloomingdale Bog South End, 9/21/16.~


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:




OC Connecticut Warbler Continues, 9/25/16

~What?!? An unobscured photo of a Connecticut Warbler? Winding Waters Trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 9/25/16.~

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.

~A sweet looking Lincoln’s Sparrow at Winding Waters Trail, 9/25/16.~
~Tennessee Warbler at Winding Waters Trail, 9/25/16.~
~Not as good a photo, but I wanted to include this TEWA with prey,. Winding Waters Trail 9/25/16.~

OC Connecticut Warbler = #200!

~ WOW!  CONNECTICUT WARBLER at Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~

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!

~ I’m including several poor photos of the bird; Connecticut Warbler at Wallkill River’s Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~
~CONW at Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~
~One more angle; Connecticut Warbler at Winding Waters Trail, 9/23/16.~

Mt. Peter is Heating Up

~Eight Broad-winged Hawks at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. They  were part of a 38 bird kettle late this afternoon, 9/15/16.~ 

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.

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch Begins!

~This was very exciting to me – Red-breasted Nuthatch at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/3/16. This is my 197th bird in Orange County for the year.~

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.

~Time to start with the obligatory Turkey Vulture shot from the mountain. I plan on doing better than this one. TUVU at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 9/2/16.

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:

Screen Shot 2016-09-03 at 6.26.37 PMOfficial 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.

Raptor Observations:
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.

Non-raptor Observations:
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).

~Pretty shot of a Yellow-rumped Warbler Cape May Warbler at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/2/16. UPDATE: thanks to Marianne O. who emailed me to point out that I had misidentified this bird. This an exciting mistake for me as CMWA is #198 on my OC year list!~
~I did not have many photo ops for migrating raptors, so I’ve included this distant shot of an Osprey that passed right over the viewing platform. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 9/3/16.~

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.

~These little dudes are the cutest! Semipalmated Plover at the Citgo Pond, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/2/16.~
~I was getting a kick out of watching this Greater Yellowlegs feeding frantically. Nice, muddy bird. Citgo Pond, 9/3/16.~

Great Birding in the Black Dirt, 8/29/16






~I used my car as a blind (hiding behind it rather than being in it, in this case), and this Northern Harrier made a close pass. Black dirt, 8/29/16.~

QUICK POST: It’s late so I have to make this quick. I had some great birds and some darn good photo ops while birding the black dirt this evening. Highlights included: 2 BUFF BREASTED SANDPIPERS, 9 American Golden-Plovers, a Northern Harrier close encounter, and a late evening Common Nighthawk flyover. Here’s some of my shots from the day.

~A plane doing stunts overhead actually flushed several American Golden-Plovers closer to me! Black Dirt, 8/29/16.~
~And this blew my mind. Two Buff-breasted Sandpipers flew all the way across a field to land approximately 30 yards in front of me. I was freaking out and trying to take photos without moving a muscle! Black dirt, 8/29/16.~
~BBSA in the Black Dirt, 8/29/16.~
~American Golden-Plover in golden light. Black Dirt 8/29/16.~
~I was not really happy about the lack of sharpness in my BBSA shots; I think the camera has a hard time picking up the bird versus the similar background. Black Dirt, 8/29/16.~
~One more Buffie. I love this bird. Black Dirt 8/29/16.~

Poor Man’s Pelagic, 8/21/16

~I got my lifer Cory’s Shearwater today on the Viking Fleet’s Whale Watching Excursion, 8/21/16.~

I joined John Haas, Karen Miller, and Lance Verderame on what has been called ‘the poor man’s pelagic’. We took a whale watching trip through Viking Fleet in Montauk, New York. It was a long day; we left Goshen at 5 a.m. and I didn’t get home until after 9 p.m., but it was worth it. We had basically 4 pelagic birds for the day:

Cory’s Shearwater (3)
Great Shearwater (1)
Cory’s/Great Shearwater (3)
Wilson’s Storm-petrel (46)
Red-necked Phalarope (12)

For John and Lance, they each added 4 birds to their New York State year lists. For Karen, all 4 were life birds. And for me, I also added three birds to my NYS life list (I’d had RNPH in NY before) and, most excitingly, I got my lifer Cory’s Shearwater.

I need to keep this short, but I have to mention that the water was a little bit rougher than they predicted, and many folks got seasick. And not everyone made over the side of the boat either. The real kicker, for most people on the boat, was that we never did get to see any whales! Which didn’t matter much to us – it was a great day with some excellent birds, but I’m exhausted, I’m still rocking to the ocean waves, and it’s past my bedtime.

~Five of the 12 Red-necked Phalaropes we had off the coast of Long Island, 8/21/16.~
~Photos were taugh today, so this is a crop of the above shot, RNPH off shore from Montauk, NY 8/21/16.~
~Wilson’s Storm-petrel over the water. These birds are TOUGH to photograph! Especially today, because most birds were not very close to the boat. Viking Fleet Whale Watch, off the shore of Montauk, 8/21/16.~
~A look at the backside of a WISP – note the legs and feet extend past the tail. Off the shore of Montauk, NY 8/21/16.~
~This was the 2nd COSH of the day. Note the pale upper parts. Offshore from Montauk, NY 8/21/16/~
~We saw plenty of Double-crested Cormorants and we left and returned to the dock in Montauk. 8/21/16.~

Hidden Heron, 8/14/16

Just a week and a day after getting decent photos of an adult Black-crowned Night-Heron at DeKorte Park, I was pleasantly surprised by this juvenile that I saw this morning at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I inadvertently flushed the bird when I paused on the trail to watch an American Kestrel hunting. I watched as the heron briefly flew, then landed and stashed itself in the heavy vegetation. The bird does not look very hidden in this photo, but I can tell you that it took me a long while searching with my binoculars to relocate the bird, and that was after having seen where it had flown in. BCNHs are one of my favorites and it’s always a thrill to see one, especially in Orange County.

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