Short-eared Owls 4-5-13

I hit the Shawangunk Grasslands Friday evening and sat in one of the blinds for a few hours. I finally got lucky with the Short-eared Owls. It is always such a rush to shoot these birds, especially when they come up right before sunset and the light is changing very quickly. I was happy to get one more chance to get some SEOW photos this year.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Shawangunk Grasslands NWR

I hope that there is still an interest in seeing the Northern Harriers out at the grasslands, because for me it is still very exciting. To be in the blind and have these amazing birds fly so close to me is a real thrill that has not worn thin for me at all. Yesterday I went out because my friend Ed sent me some fabulous Short-eared Owl photos. They were up early and he took full advantage of it. The owls got up a little early yesterday, but I had a small window to get some photos and it just didn’t work out for me. I did have some more luck with what seems to be a young male Northern Harrier:

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You can’t see it from the parking lot, but there is a fairly good-sized pond at the grasslands:

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That is where this Great Blue Heron was heading when he flew right over the photo blind. It was very strange for me to see a GBHE flying low over the grasslands!

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There were several Eastern Meadowlarks present but none got very close to me.

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Here is my best Short-eared Owl photo from the night. I was disappointed, but it was still really amazing to see the owls.

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Playing Catch Up

Derby Hill Bird Observatory 3-30-13

Tricia and I spent the holiday weekend with her family in Baldwinsville New York, which is just outside of Syracuse. Shortly after we arrived on Saturday we took a family excursion to Derby Hill Bird Observatory, which is a good hawk watch for spring raptor migration. Turkey Vultures and Red-tail Hawks were the most numerous migrants, but we saw a good variety of migrating raptors. Highlights included a young Bald Eagle that flew over soon after our arrival, and a low flying Merlin that we saw while we were exploring the shore of Lake Ontario.

An immature Bald Eagle flies over Derby Hill Hawk Watch in Mexico, NY 3-30-13.
An immature Bald Eagle flies over Derby Hill Hawk Watch in Mexico, NY 3-30-13.

Turkey Vulture – many

Bald Eagle – 1

Red-tailed Hawk – many

Red-shouldered Hawk – 1

Cooper’s Hawk – 1

Northern Harrier – 1

Merlin – 1

Canada Goose – many

Snow Goose – many

 

Later that evening we had a large skein of Canada Geese, a large skein of Snow Geese, and a smaller group of swans fly over the house at the same time. I went running for my camera and managed a shot of the swans:

Although I don't think there is any way to tell, I am thinking that these are Tundra Swans because of the number of birds. Apparently Trumpeter Swans tend to be in smaller groups.
Although I don’t think there is any way to tell, I am thinking that these are Tundra Swans because of the number of birds. Apparently Trumpeter Swans tend to be in smaller groups.

 

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary

Song Sparrows were plentiful at 6 1/2 Station Road, 4-1-13.
Song Sparrows were plentiful at 6 1/2 Station Road, 4-1-13.

On Monday after work I stopped by 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary where it was pretty dead. I did not stay long as I was under-dressed for the cold; for some reason I thought it was much warmer out. Song Sparrow numbers were up, as were Green-winged Teal  numbers, and the Ring-necked Ducks are still hanging around.

I really enjoy the Killdeer. I've been trying to get a good flight photo of one, but no luck yet. Wallkill River NWR, 4-2-13.
I really enjoy the Killdeer. I’ve been trying to get a good flight photo of one, but no luck yet. Wallkill River NWR, 4-2-13.

Wallkill River NWR

I met Karen Miller out at Wallkill River NWR after work on Tuesday. We walked the Liberty Loop, it was cold but very enjoyable. We put together a respectable species list and took a lot of photos. _MG_4915

Canada Goose  X
Mute Swan  2 (photo right)
Wood Duck  17
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  X
Blue-winged Teal  4
Northern Pintail  8
Green-winged Teal  150
Great Blue Heron  2
Black Vulture  2
Turkey Vulture  3
Northern Harrier  3
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1_MG_5029
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Killdeer  2
Mourning Dove  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Eastern Phoebe  1 (photo right)
American Crow  X
Common Raven  1
Tree Swallow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1
American Robin  6
Song Sparrow  X
Northern Cardinal  1

A couple of the many Mallards seen out at Wallkill River NWR, 4-2-13.
A couple of the many Mallards seen out at Wallkill River NWR, 4-2-13.
Green-winged Teals were easily the most numerous bird at Wallkill  River NWR 4-2-13.
Green-winged Teals were easily the most numerous bird at Wallkill River NWR 4-2-13.
A male American Kestrel shows off his "string of pearls". Wallkill River NWR 4-2-13.
A male American Kestrel shows off his “string of pearls”. Wallkill River NWR 4-2-13.
The Blue-winged Teal is a BEAUTIFUL bird. I can't wait to get a good photo...Wallkill River NWR 4-2-13.
The Blue-winged Teal is a BEAUTIFUL bird. I can’t wait to get a good photo…Wallkill River NWR 4-2-13.

 

 

 

 

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary

I stopped by my “home course” here in Goshen after work today like I often do. It was a gray cool afternoon with a moderate amount of bird activity. Turkey Vultures must be moving through pretty good right now, I’ve been seeing many on my daily commute and I had 11 at the sanctuary today. I also checked Hawkcount.org and saw that they had 555 Turkey Vultures go through the Derby Hill Hawk watch yesterday (I might make it out to Derby Hill this coming weekend, so I wanted to see what birds were passing through). Duck numbers and variety were down a little bit from last week. In all, I stopped by for just about an hour and I had 23 species:

Red-tailed Hawk at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 3-28-13.
Red-tailed Hawk at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 3-28-13.

Canada Goose  40
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  2
Mallard  2
Green-winged Teal  35
Ring-necked Duck  11
Common Merganser  10
Great Blue Heron  4
Turkey Vulture  11
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Killdeer  2
Herring Gull  5
Mourning Dove  2
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  5
American Crow  8
Black-capped Chickadee  1
Tufted Titmouse  1
Eastern Bluebird  1
Northern Mockingbird  1
Amer. Tree Sparrow  7
Song Sparrow  5
Red-winged Blackbird

Wonderful Waterfowl – A Birding Walk at the Basha Kill with John Haas

John Haas with the group at his Wonderful Waterfowl Bird Walk, Basha Kill 3/23/13.
John Haas with the group at his Wonderful Waterfowl Bird Walk, Basha Kill 3/23/13. Photo by Karen Miller.

In spite of the cold and windy weather, yesterday morning I attended John Haas’ waterfowl walk along with 18 other hardy souls. We were not disappointed, as there were many bird species present, waterfowl and otherwise. Visit John’s blog, The Basha Kill Birder to see his post which contains his account and a list of all species. Normally for me the highlight of any birding outing has to do with seeing and identifying a particular species, or maybe seeing some sort of new behavior. In this case it was being able to spend a few hours with John, who has a wealth of bird knowledge that is incredible. He is a fantastic teacher; he touched on basics for the beginners in the group, but also got more in depth for some of the more experienced birders in the group. On top of all this, John is a “bird magnet”. We were not on Haven Road for very long when he spotted an accipiter flying overhead…could it be? Yes! A NORTHERN GOSHAWK!

A NORTHER GOSHAWK flies over Haven Road at the Basha Kill, 3/23/13.
A NORTHER GOSHAWK flies over Haven Road at the Basha Kill, 3/23/13.

We got good looks at most of the waterfowl, but only because John and several other people brought scopes. Most of what we saw was quite distant, making it tough for photos. Here are a couple of Common Goldeneyes, a life bird for me on a visit to the Basha Kill earlier in the week:

The Canada Geese on the muskrat hill in the background sort of steal the show, but there are two C Goldeneyes in the foreground. Basha Kill 3/23/13.
The Canada Geese on the muskrat hill in the background sort of steal the show, but there are two Common Goldeneyes in the foreground. Basha Kill 3/23/13.

Huge thanks to John for a very enjoyable and rewarding outing, and also thanks to my birding buddy Karen Miller for the group shots. Here’s a shot of me and the rest of group:

I'm looking for a pair of Blue-winged Teals that had been reported by Scott Baldinger...I had no luck.
I’m looking for a pair of Blue-winged Teals that had been reported by Scott Baldinger…I had no luck. Photo by Karen Miller.

Later in the day I spent some time out at the Shawangunk Grasslands in the south blind. It was my first time in that blind and it paid off as I got many good looks at the “Gray Ghost”:

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Shawangunk Grasslands NWR

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I waited for a good while for this female American Kestrel to fly…
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…and finally she did. American Kestrel at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 3-21-13.

I went out to the grasslands yesterday after work in response to a post to the Mearns Bird Club by Ken McDermott. A couple of days earlier, he had eight Short-eared Owls at 3:00 in the afternoon. I was thinking that I had seen my last SEOW of the season before I read the post, though I am not sure when they actually head north. I figured I would give it a try and see if I would get lucky. I did not have any luck with the owls, but it was still a good visit with an interesting combination of what I consider winter birds and spring birds. The Common Redpolls and Horned Larks are still lingering, but I also had Red-winged Blackbirds and my first of season Eastern Meadowlark:

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Common Redpoll – Shawangunk Grasslands 3-21-13.

Turkey Vulture  4
Northern Harrier  5
Red-tailed Hawk  3
Killdeer  3
Ring-billed Gull  1
Rock Pigeon  8
American Kestrel  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  10
Horned Lark  1
Eastern Bluebird  3
Red-winged Blackbird  2
Eastern Meadowlark  1
Common Grackle  1
Common Redpoll  25

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The Common Redpolls were hanging around the parking lot for my entire visit. I was trying to get photos of them in flight (without any luck) and then they decided to line up for a photo. Common Redpolls at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 3-21-13.
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Of course the Northern Harriers were flying out at the Shawangunk Grasslands, 3-21-13.
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One more Marsh Hawk, Shawangunk Grasslands NWR 3-21-13.

Today I did my usual brief visit to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, where things were a little less birdy than my last visit, but I still had a good list:

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A beautiful Red-tailed Hawk at 6 1/2 Station Rd Sanctuary, 3-22-13.

Canada Goose  30
Mute Swan  2
American Black Duck  2
Green-winged Teal  15
Ring-necked Duck  8
Common Merganser  1
Turkey Vulture  2
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Ring-billed Gull  23
Rock Pigeon  2
American Kestrel  1
American Crow  6
Song Sparrow  3

6 1/2 Station Road

Bald Eagle at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 3-13-13.
Bald Eagle at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 3-13-13.

I haven’t been feeling well and actually went to the doctor’s today. On my way back I made a short but, oh so sweet, stop at 6 1/2 Station Road. During my brief visit, I identified 17 species in addition to the adult Bald Eagle pictured above. A nice variety of waterfowl make up exactly half of my list:

This Canada Goose had some lighter markings on its upper neck.
This Canada Goose had some lighter markings on its upper neck. One of 27 Canada Geese at 6 1/2 Station Rd, 3-13-13.

Canada Goose  27
Mute Swan  2
American Wigeon  3
American Black Duck  3
Mallard  2
Ring-necked Duck  11
Bufflehead  1
Hooded Merganser  1
Common Merganser  5
Great Blue Heron  1
Turkey Vulture  4
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  4
Ring-billed Gull  3
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  6
European Starling  8
Song Sparrow  2

Here's a long distance shot of a Bufflehead, heavily cropped. 6 1/2 Station Rd, 3-13-13.
Here’s a long distance shot of a Bufflehead, heavily cropped. 6 1/2 Station Rd, 3-13-13.
One more look at the Bald Eagle - 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 3-13-13.
One more look at the Bald Eagle – 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 3-13-13.

 

A Great Morning of Birding In Orange County

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One of the TWO Ross’s Geese that I saw out at the Camel Farm, 3-9-13.

I made my way out to the Camel Farm this morning, stopping at some of the likely places to find geese, but did not have any luck. The Camel Farm was another story, with approximately 3,000 Snow Geese and more than a few birders present. After about an hour of scanning the Snows for Ross’s Geese, a birder that I don’t believe is local and that I’ve never met, located a Ross’s Goose. We got distant but good looks at this bird that I believe is a first winter Ross’s Goose. The bird was noticeably smaller than the surrounding Snow Geese and the more round head and smaller bill were easy to see. The bird also had a gray wash at the base of the neck, which matches the first winter bird as shown on page 43 of The Crossley Guide. We lost the bird the next time the birds picked up and flew. I tried for the next half hour or so to relocate the bird without any luck.

John Haas showed up not too long after that and located the adult Ross’s Goose in the above photo. It was remarkable really, John found the bird inside of 10 minutes and the birds flew moments after he found it. Once the birds settled down again, John found the bird again, this time in probably less than 5 minutes! This time everyone present (there were many birders there) got a good look at the bird. Thanks again John!

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Snows in the air and snow on the ground. Snow Geese at the Camel Farm 3-9-13.
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I can’t get enough of these geese, they are so much fun to watch. Snow Geese at the Camel Farm 3-9-13.

The other highlight of the morning was three Tundra Swans, also at the Camel Farm:

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Only one of these three Tundra Swans would cooperate for a photo. Camel Farm, 3-9-13.

After the Camel Farm I went to my usual spot to try to get some photos, Wallkill River NWR. I walked part of the Liberty Loop and did well with seeing many ducks (two Northern Shovelers were my FOS), and I managed a couple photos of a male American Kestrel.

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A male American Kestrel in flight at Wallkill River NWR 3-9-13.
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Hovering AMKE at Wallkill River NWR 3-9-13.
I didn't post this at first because of the wire but I like the image of the bird. AMKE at Wallkill River NWR 3-9-13.
I didn’t post this at first because of the wire but I like the image of the bird. AMKE at Wallkill River NWR 3-9-13.

 

 

 

 

 

3-8-13, Looking for Geese

I went out yesterday and today looking for geese. The Ross’s Goose that Rob Stone and John Haas found yesterday was at the top of my list, but anything out of the ordinary would do. Last night there were nearly a thousand Snow Geese at the Camel Farm, but I did not locate a Ross’s among them. Tonight I had nothing but Canada Geese, but I did get this shot of a Killdeer.

One of several Killdeer I found on Pierce Circle, Orange County NY, 3-8-13.
One of several Killdeer I found on Pierce Circle, Orange County NY, 3-8-13.