Early Saturday Morning Birding

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House Wren out at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.

I got up early to try to beat the heat this morning and headed out to Denning’s Point State Park. I had not been out there since last year, so I was hoping to have some luck with Green Herons and Black-crowned Night Herons. As it turned out, the park was not extremely birdy on this day and I did not see any herons at all.  All told I had 22 species, many of which were only heard. On my way back to the car I enjoyed the highlight  of the visit, an amazing Red-tail Hawk with beautiful markings.

I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the
I love the markings on this bird, particularly the very light head and the very dark area at the base of the bill – I’m not sure if that would be considered the Mustachial stripe or the Malar (or both?). Red-tailed Hawk on a light post at Denning’s Point State Park, 6/1/13.
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk...
I sat on a rock and watched this bird for a good while. Periodically a Red-winged Blackbird would dive-bomb the hawk…
...eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.
…eventually the hawk had had enough and took off, giving me a great look at its gorgeous red tail.

I left Denning’s Point and then headed to Kenridge Farm. I walked the extensive trails there for close to two hours and although I did not see or hear anything our of the ordinary, I did pretty well, identifying 28 species of birds. My “best birds” where: Brown Thrasher, four Killdeer (two of which I believe were immatures), a female Mallard with ducklings, and a pair of Green Herons.

I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
I finally got a good enough look at a Green Heron for a photo. Kenridge Farm 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.
Three of four Killdeer out at Kenridge Farm, 6/1/13.

The heat was getting pretty unbearable and the harsh sun was making for difficult photography when I wrapped it up at 11:30 am. It was a morning of enjoyable, but not amazing, birding.

 

Basha Kill WMA 5/26/13

This is the bird I wanted to see more than any on this day - Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the Nature Trail, Basha Kill WMA 5/26/13.
This is the bird I wanted to see more than any on this day – Yellow-billed Cuckoo at the Nature Trail, Basha Kill WMA 5/26/13.

Karen Miller and I went out to the Basha Kill WMA  this morning and spent five and a half  hours enjoying some fabulous birding. We started at Haven Road where we heard but did not see the American Bittern. We could hear a lot of bird activity at the Stop Sign Trail, so we headed there next. Right off the bat we got a good look at a Great Crested Flycatcher, which we had been hearing from the bridge on Haven Road. After that we got a good look at a Yellow-throated Vireo, a bird that I hear all the time but almost never get a look at. Moments later we had a Chestnut-sided Warbler, a beautiful little bird and a life bird for Karen. We walked all the way out to Moosehead Cove where we saw an Osprey cruising for prey. We heard and saw many birds along the way, with the highlight being this cooperative Veery:

Veery at the Stop Sign Trail, Basha Kill WMA 5/26/13..
Veery at the Stop Sign Trail, Basha Kill WMA 5/26/13. Conditions were really low light for this photo, so it is a bit noisy and soft but I still felt it was worth posting.  

Our next stop was the Main Boat Launch to see how the Nature Watch folks were doing. It was really windy there, but we enjoyed some good conversation with Maura and Bob Muller who were volunteering for the morning shift and saw one adult Bald Eagle and we watched the young Bald Eagles on the nest jumping and flapping their wings like mad, getting in as much practice as possible for that first flight that should happen in about a month or so.

Our final destination of the day was the Nature Trail, where we saw plenty of Warbling Vireos, Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, American Redstarts, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Baltimore Orioles.

 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the Nature Trail, 5/27/13.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the Nature Trail, 5/27/13.

We also got very good looks at a Cerulean Warbler and  a mediocre photo too:

A singing Cerulean Warbler at the Nature Trail, 5/26/13.
A singing Cerulean Warbler at the Nature Trail, 5/26/13.

The highlight of the day for me, though, was certainly the Yellow-billed Cuckoo. This was the bird I went out looking for today, and to actually see it AND  be able to get a photo was amazing.

At the end of the day we had identified 40 species. What an awesome day of birding, honestly, it brings me great joy!

 

Shorebirds at Wallkill River NWR – 5/22/13

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Stilt Sandpiper (left) and a Dunlin (right) at Wallkill River NWR 5/22/13.

Thanks to John Haas informing me earlier this week and also an alert from Rob Stone today, I was able to see a really nice collection of shorebirds at Wallkill River NWR after work this evening. I particularly wanted to see the Stilt Sandpiper, a bird that I have seen before but it has been a couple of years and I feel like I saw the bird today with different eyes. I also want to thank Tom Burke (I hope I spelled that correctly) who I met for the first time today. He gave me a crash course in shorebird identification and help me compile a really nice list today:

Semipalmated Plover 
Killdeer
Spotted Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Dunlin
Stilt Sandpiper 

Karen Miller met me out there a little later and we walked the Liberty Loop on our way to seeing 41 species. The highlight for me was my first of season Indigo Buntings. Here’s a Downy we had on the east side of the loop:

Downy Woodpecker at Wallkill River NWR 5/22/13.
Downy Woodpecker at Wallkill River NWR 5/22/13.

Basha Kill 5/18/13

Chestnut-sided Warbler at the Stop Sign Trail at the Basha Kill, 5/17/13.
Chestnut-sided Warbler at the Stop Sign Trail at the Basha Kill, 5/18/13.

In a brave move, I went out to the Basha Kill solo this morning. As you probably know, I do plenty of birding alone, but in this case I say it is brave because it is warbler season, and this being only my second year of looking for warblers, it still does not come very easily to me. I find both aspects of looking for warblers a challenge: 1. birding by ear, and 2. finding these littlest of birds in the vastness of the rapidly growing foliage. I felt pretty good about it when I was out, I was really enjoying myself. But by the end of the morning, I had only totaled 6 species of warblers, which is not exactly spectacular. Even though I did not get many warblers, I was seeing, hearing and identifying many birds. I ended the morning with 41 species, which a very nice total for me. Here’s my list for the day:

This was one of the highlights of the morning for me, one of two White-crowned Sparrows at the Deli Fields, 5/17/13.
This was one of the highlights of the morning for me, one of two White-crowned Sparrows at the Deli Fields, 5/18/13.

Canada Goose  X
Wood Duck  4
Mallard  5
American Bittern  1
Great Blue Heron  10
Green Heron  1
Osprey  1
Bald Eagle  2
Rock Pigeon  10
Mourning Dove  7
Black-billed Cuckoo  1
Chimney Swift  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  2
Eastern Phoebe  3
Eastern Kingbird  4
Yellow-throated Vireo  2
Warbling Vireo  X
Blue Jay  3

American Crow  1

These little Yellow Warblers are everywhere right now, and I think they take nice photos. This one was at the Nature Trail, 5/17/13.
These little Yellow Warblers are everywhere right now, and I think they take nice photos. This one was at the Nature Trail, 5/18/13.

Barn Swallow  8
Veery  1
Wood Thrush  4
American Robin  X
Gray Catbird  X
Brown Thrasher  1
Black-and-white Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  X
American Redstart  6
Magnolia Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  X
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Field Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  X
Swamp Sparrow  2
White-crowned Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X
Common Grackle  X
Baltimore Oriole  X
American Goldfinch  6

This was my first opportunity to photograph a Wood Thrush. This is a bit noisy and also a little soft because of the low light. Nature Trail, Basha Kill 5/17/13.
This was my first opportunity to photograph a Wood Thrush. This is a bit noisy and also a little soft because of the low light. Nature Trail, Basha Kill 5/18/13.
I had my first of season AMERICAN BITTERN shortly after arriving at Haven Road this morning.
I had my first of season AMERICAN BITTERN shortly after arriving at Haven Road this morning. For a change, the bird was pretty easy to pick out in the sea of green.
Always photogenic, Eastern Phoebe at Haven Road, 5/17/13.
Always photogenic, Eastern Phoebe at Haven Road, 5/18/13.

 

Colorado Trip Part II

Here are ten more photos from our Colorado trip. Some are life birds, some birds we see at home all the time, all are photos that felt were worth sharing.

1.

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American Kestrels are numerous in the Fort Collins area. Posing on a cattail at Cathie Fromme Prairie, 5/2/13.

2.

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Western Kingbird in the snow at Cathie Fromme Prairie, 5/2/13. 

3.

American Kestrel by Horsetooth Reservoir, Larimer County CO. 5/6/13. Photo by Tricia.
American Kestrel by Horsetooth Reservoir, Larimer County CO. 5/6/13. We pulled up alongside this bird and he never flew, I handed the camera to Tricia and she got a great shot. I love the detail in this photo.

4.

Horned Lark at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/3/13. This is the best look I've ever gotten of the "horns" of the Horned Lark.
Horned Lark at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/3/13. This is the best look I’ve ever gotten of the “horns” of the Horned Lark.

5.

Yellow-headed Blackbird at Cattail Pond in Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.
Yellow-headed Blackbird at Cattail Pond in Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.

6.

This Black-billed Magpie was so close I had trouble keeping the bird in frame. Rocky Mountain NP 5/5/13.
This Black-billed Magpie was so close I had trouble keeping the bird in frame. Rocky Mountain NP 5/5/13.

7.

This image is a little soft but I like the bird - Western Bluebird at
This image is a little soft but I like the bird – Western Bluebird at Chautauqua Park in Boulder Colorado, 5/4/13.

8.

Male Mountain Bluebird at Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.
Male Mountain Bluebird at Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.

9.

I would have liked to get a better shot of the red-shafted  Northern Flicker. We saw many of them but this was my best shot. Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.
I would have liked to get a better shot of the red-shafted Northern Flicker. We saw many of them but this was my best shot. Cathie Fromme Prairie 5/2/13.

10.

This is my first photo of a Broad-winged Hawk that was not a speck in the sky. Bobcat Ridge in Fort Collins CO, 5/6/13.
This is my first photo of a Broad-winged Hawk that was not a speck in the sky. Bobcat Ridge in Fort Collins CO, 5/6/13.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bobolink

I went to Wallkill River NWR and walked the Liberty Loop this morning. I went out primarily looking for warblers, but I only managed to find several Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats. I was pleasantly surprised to find my first Bobolinks of the season, and to make it even better they were within decent photo distance. These photos are a bit noisy; I had the ISO very high because the morning was very gray.

One of two Bobolinks seen at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
One of two Bobolinks seen at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
Two of two. Bobolink at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
Here’s another shot of the same bird with a closer crop.
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Two of two. Bobolink out at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
An extremely buttery Goldfinch at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
An extremely buttery Goldfinch at Wallkill River NWR 5/11/13.
It has been fun and challenging getting back to shooting song birds. Song Sparrow at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.
It has been fun and challenging getting back to shooting song birds. Song Sparrow at Wallkill River NWR, 5/11/13.

 

Colorado Top Ten

Tricia and I spent a week on vacation visiting her brother Kevin in Fort Collins Colorado. Although we did a good amount of birding on the trip, the highlight for me was not bird related because Tricia and I got engaged while we were there. We took a hike on Lumpy Ridge Trail at Rocky Mountain National Park, where I proposed and Tricia accepted! It was an incredibly joyful day for me. Huge thanks to Kevin (and friends), I couldn’t have pulled it off without their help.

As I said, we did do a good deal of birding on our trip. Below are the top ten photos of birds that where life birds for me on this trip. My criteria for the list combined two major aspects, number one: how exciting it was to see the bird for the first time and number two: the quality of the photograph.

TOP TEN LIFE BIRD PHOTOS – COLORADO TRIP 2013

1.

We got an amazing look at this White-faced Ibis near Cattail Pond in Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.
We got an amazing look at this White-faced Ibis near Cattail Pond in Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.

2.

Western Grebe at North Shields Ponds in Fort Collins CO, 5/6/13.
Western Grebe at North Shields Ponds in Fort Collins CO, 5/6/13.

3.

We found this beautiful Swainson's Hawk on the side of the road in Loveland CO, 5/2/13.
We found this beautiful Swainson’s Hawk on the side of the road in Loveland CO, 5/2/13.

4.

Female Mountain Bluebird on a snowy day at Cathie Fromme Prairie in Fort Collins CO, 5/2/13.
Female Mountain Bluebird on a snowy day at Cathie Fromme Prairie in Fort Collins CO, 5/2/13.

5.

The Loggerhead Shrike was  probably my favorite bird of the trip. We saw several while we were there, this one (with a meal) was found at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/3/13.
The Loggerhead Shrike was probably my favorite bird of the trip. We saw several while we were there, this one (with a meal) was found at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/3/13.

6.

This was an exciting bird for me - Rock Wren at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/2/13.
This was an exciting bird for me – Rock Wren at Pawnee Grasslands, 5/2/13.

7.

I was waiting to see a Mountain Chickadee, I was not disappointed at Rocky Mountain National Park - Lumpy Ridge Trail, 5/5/13.
I was waiting to see a Mountain Chickadee, I was not disappointed at Rocky Mountain National Park – Lumpy Ridge Trail, 5/5/13.

8.

We saw MANY Western Meadowlarks while we were there. Here's one in the snow at Cathie Fromme Prairie in Fort Collins CO, 5/2/13.
We saw MANY Western Meadowlarks while we were there. Here’s one in the snow at Cathie Fromme Prairie in Fort Collins CO, 5/2/13.

9.

Steller's Jay at Rocky Mountain NP, 5/5/13.
Steller’s Jay at Rocky Mountain NP, 5/5/13.

10.

I don't love this photo, but I didn't think a top ten from our week in Colorado would be complete without an American White Pelican. Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.
I don’t love this photo, but I didn’t think a top ten from our week in Colorado would be complete without an American White Pelican. Loveland Colorado, 5/2/13.

Stay tuned, I will be doing a post of “honorable mentions” shortly. It will include more photos of life birds for me as well as some of my better shots of some more familiar birds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMITH’S LONGSPUR at Shawangunk Grasslands NWR!!!

Smith's Longspur at Shawangunk Grasslands, 4/30/13.
Smith’s Longspur at Shawangunk Grasslands, 4/30/13.

What a spectacular little bird! Huge thanks to everyone (there were many!) involved in locating and re-locating this beautiful rarity, especially Rob Stone, Curt McDermott, John Haas and Ken McDermott. What a great day to be a birder!

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Green Heron – First of Season

On my way to the bank this afternoon I spotted my first Green Heron of the season at the small pond right around the corner from our house. I know I say this about a lot of birds,  but Green Herons really are one of my favorite birds; I look forward to a summer of having them at that pond.

First Green Heron of the season for me, Goshen NY 4/27/13.
First Green Heron of the season for me, Goshen NY 4/27/13.

Sandhill Crane At Wallkill River NWR

On Monday evening, Herb Stein posted that he had seen two Sandhill Cranes and a Glossy Ibis out at Wallkill River NWR. I always enjoy walking the Liberty Loop, so today I went to see what I could find. It was a nice warm evening, a little bit windy, but very pleasant. It made for a nice afternoon of birding. I had 23 species during my walk, with two highlights. The best bird of the night was definitely a single SANDHILL CRANE. What a fabulous bird, I feel so lucky to have seen this bird and to have managed a couple of distant photos, which I have cropped:

Sandhill Crane at Wallkill River NWR 4-24-13.
Sandhill Crane at Wallkill River NWR 4-24-13.
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What a beautiful bird!

The second highlight for me was a DUNLIN in adult breeding plumage. This bird confounded me until I got home and looked it up. This bird was pretty far out, so here again is a distant photo that has been cropped:

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A Dunlin alongside a Greater Yellowlegs out at Wallkill River NWR 4-24-13.

What a great night of birding! Many thanks to Herb Stein for posting. Here’s my list for the evening:

Canada Goose  X
Mute Swan  4
Wood Duck  1
Mallard  X
Northern Shoveler  1
Green-winged Teal  8
Great Blue Heron  5
Turkey Vulture  1
Northern Harrier  1
Bald Eagle  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Sandhill Crane  1     First reported by H Stein
Killdeer  8
Spotted Sandpiper  1
Greater Yellowlegs  5
Dunlin  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  X
Eastern Bluebird  1
American Robin  X
Song Sparrow  1
Red-winged Blackbird  X