Sunday Shots, 03/19/23

It was 25 degrees out when I woke up this morning. When I ventured out, I found it was accompanied by a wicked, cold, strong, wind. It’s past mid-March, and winter is still hanging in there, that much is clear. Likewise, most of my birding this weekend focused on winter birds. On Wednesday evening I got nice scope views of a gorgeous Lapland Longspur; its breeding plumage was coming in nicely. I tried to relocate that bird (or any Lapland Longspurs) both days this weekend with no luck. I was, however, able to get some nice photos of a sharp looking, cooperative Horned Lark.

~A sharp looking Horned Lark shows off its namesake. Black Dirt Region, 03/19/23.~
~American Kestrel in the black dirt, 03/19/23.~

In my travels through the black dirt, I came across loads of raptors this week. I got my first decent looks at Rough-legged Hawks of the year (better late than never). I had a light and a dark morph on Wednesday evening, and another dark morph today. Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks were numerous; American Kestrels were also, but to a lesser extent. Other raptors included Sharp-shinned Hawk, both vulture species, and Bald Eagle.

~Light morph Rough-legged Hawk flying over the black dirt, 03/15/23.~
~Terrible pic, but this was a handsome bird. Dark morph Rough-legged Hawk in the black dirt, 03/19/23.~

I also tried for gulls on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a heartbreaker, Bruce Nott had located an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, I ran for it but missed the bird by 10 minutes or so. Gulls were plentiful on both days, but for me, I had only the 3 expected species. On Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to have a Common Goldeneye fly in. I have to say, even when it’s not necessarily productive, I love birding the Hudson River – sorting through gulls and having that hope that something awesome might just show up.

~Herring Gull taking a dive. Newburgh Waterfront, 03/19/23.~
~I had a good number of Killdeer in the black dirt this weekend. This one was at the Hudson River, at the Newburgh Waterfront, 03/19/23.~
~Common Goldeneye at the Newburgh Waterfront, 03/19/23.~

Red Fox, 03/14/23

I was lucky enough to have a fantastic close encounter with a red fox today. The fresh snowfall was the icing on the cake. I watched as the fox successfully dug up several items from the snow and munched on them happily. It’s unclear to me what it was digging up, but it definitely looked like some sort of vegetation; maybe someone who knows more about foxes can enlighten us. All photos were taken today, 03/14/23, in Orange County.

Quick update on this post: I did a brief Google search and I think this fox was maybe digging for some sort of tuber. We all know the internet never lies:

And regarding the fox being pregnant, if you look at the second image from the top, you can see that her teats appear quite full and pronounced.

Sunday Shots, 03/12/23

After photographing Northern Harriers at the grasslands on Saturday morning, the rest of the weekend was pretty much the usuals. I did see my first Tree Swallows of the year – at two locations – Wisner Avenue on Sunday and the grasslands on Saturday. There are plenty of ducks around, but I didn’t find anything new for the year. I visited the Hudson River and several lakes over the 2 days: Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, Round, Orange, and Brown’s Pond. I also spent time on both Saturday and Sunday looking through flocks of Horned Larks hoping for Lapland Longspurs. I feel like I’m normally pretty lucky when it comes to finding LALOs, but this weekend it was not in the cards. It’s too bad too, because it’s nearly mid March, and I imagine they might be in some impressive plumage.

~For a bird that we see and hear so often, I don’t often get good opportunities to photograph Northern Cardinals. This one was near the feeder station at the Grasslands, 03/11/23.~
~Always a good subject in my opinion, Northern Mockingbird at Brown’s Pond 03/11/23.~
~Eastern Bluebird at Wickham Lake this morning, 03/12/23.~
~Common Merganser at Wickham Lake, 03/12/23.~
~One more Northern Harrier shot from yesterday morning at the grasslands, 03/11/23.~

NOHAs in the Snow, 03/11/23

I took the opportunity of a snowy morning to head out to the Shawngunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. I did one of my favorite things; which I haven’t done in ages – I spent several hours in one of the refuge’s photo blinds. On a good day (like I had today), it’s hard to beat being in a blind. The birds have absolutely no idea you are there, so with just a little luck, close up flight photos are likely. I had an excellent morning; Northern Harriers were numerous and relatively cooperative.

Sunday Shots 03/05/23: Looking Back at Some Glory Days

This weekend was a complete bust for me. I’m actually surprised that this doesn’t happen more often. I checked some of the lakes in southern Orange County on Saturday and didn’t get anything to speak of. I was feeling wiped out from the work week, so I called it quits early.

Then, on Sunday Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and I headed up to Williamstown Massachusetts, where we joined Rob Stone to try for the Bohemian Waxwings that have been reported there recently. Suffice to say we didn’t even see a single Cedar Waxwing. It was a pretty grim morning of birding, and after a delicious lunch (which took the edge off a little bit), we headed back to OC.

With all the time spent in the car, we of course got to telling stories and reliving some of the glory days in the past decade or so that we’ve spent birding in the area. I figured since I came up empty this weekend, I would take the opportunity to look back at some old posts and relive some of the good old days – this edition will focus on raptors:

~Valentine’s Day, 2014. I got super lucky with excellent views and some decent photos of a rare (for our area) BARN OWL. This shot is a little bit soft – my settings were not correct at all, and I feel lucky that it came out this good. This bird was absolutely incredible to see in person; it still blows my mind to think about it.~
~On February 7th, 2015, I was able to relocate this gorgeous GYRFALCON in Ulster County, not too far from the Grasslands. The bird was originally located the day before by Karen Maloy Brady; birders combed the area on 02/07/15 in the morning, but the bird was unable to be rolocated. I tried for the bird in the afternoon and got super lucky, finding it perched on an evergreen and then watched as it ate a duck. This photo is three days later on 02/10/15.~
~In early April of 2015, Curt McDermott found a CRESTED CARACARA in Ulster County. I was able to catch up with bird a few times afterwards; on April 12th I spent an excellent evening photographing the bird as it dined on an opossum at a small golf course.~
~Back in 2012, there was a pair of MISSISSIPPI KITES at Sterling Forest. I don’t who originally located them, but I was lucky enough to spend a day watching and photographing these incredible raptors. MIKI at Sterling Forest SP on 05/29/12.~

Sunday Shots, 02/26/23

My best birding today was first thing at Wickham Lake. It was a little bit cold, but the wind was down, making it relatively comfortable. I joined Kyle Knapp, who was there when I arrived. Of course I got zero photos, as the birds were distant, but we tallied an enjoyable 15 species of waterfowl:

  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Wood Duck
  • Northern Shoveler
  • American Wigeon
  • Mallard
  • American Wood Duck
  • Northern Pintail
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Wood Duck
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Common Merganser
  • American Coot
~Orange County Mink, 02/26/23.~

Afterwards, I checked on various other lakes in the region. The single CANVASBACK continues at Greenwood Lake; I thought its days were numbered as an adult Bald Eagle tried to take it – the Canvasback went under just before the eagle hit the water. At Round Lake I found both Lesser and Greater Scaup. I also had two exciting water mammals in my travels – a river otter (no pics) and a mink, see above.

~Blue morph Snow Goose in the black dirt, 02/26/23.~

I also briefly cruised the black dirt region; it was mostly the usuals. I was happy to see some of the Snow Geese are still hanging in there. The ones in this photo were hanging out with a large flock of Canada Geese that I sifted through but didn’t find any rarities.

~Snow Goose in the black dirt, 02/26/23.~
~It was pretty cool to see these birds so relaxed, even though they were within photo range. SNGOs in the BD, 02/26/23.~

Snow Day, 02/25/23

I headed to Sullivan County this snowy morning. I covered a decent amount of ground in the Parksville area, hoping for Evening Grosbeaks or maybe get lucky with Ruffed Grouse. Neither came to fruition, so I headed to the Neversink Reservoir, where I had a little more luck. I found 5 very confiding Snow Buntings feeding on the roadside. I enjoyed watching and photographing the birds; cursing the poor light as I did so.

~Snow Bunting at Neversink Reservoir, 02/25/23.~
~SNBU at Neversink Reservoir, 02/25/23.~

I wanted to check Rondout Reservoir next, but the snow was falling at a decent clip and the road I wanted to take hadn’t been treated at all, so I bailed. I headed to the Bashakill instead. Haven Road was productive, with 8 species of waterfowl, 3 Bald Eagles, and a handful of Rusty Blackbirds. I was thwarted by the snow again, when I went to the Main Boat Launch to try for the multitude of waterfowl that has been reported there. No cars had entered the parking area and the snow looked just a little too substantial to risk it.

~A young Bald Eagle at the Bashakill today, 02/25/23.~
~Back in Orange County in the early afternoon, a Barred Owl on a snowy day, 02/25/23.~
~Sullivan County Snow Buntings on a snowy morning, 02/25/23.~
~SNBU 02/25/23.~
~SNBU at Neversink Reservoir, 02/25/23.~
~Snow Bunting at Neversink Res. 02/25/23.~

Sunday Shots, 02/19/23

My best birding of the weekend came on Saturday afternoon. I finally went to the Newburgh Waterfront at the most productive time of the day, only to find it completely dead. I looked across the river to Beacon and saw that there were many gulls present there. I headed over, figuring the birds would cross the river to Newburgh while I was driving. Fortunately, they didn’t; as a matter of fact the birds stayed at the Beacon Waterfront until when I left just before sunset. I had a total of (5) gull species for the afternoon; in addition to the expected three species (Ring-billed, Herring, & Great Black-backed), I was able to locate a young Iceland Gull and a young Lesser Black-backed Gull. The LBBG was particularly satisfying for a couple of reasons: 1. It’s a bird I somehow missed in 2022, and 2. the LBBG is not the easiest bird to pick out of the crowd.

~A single Iceland Gull among a bunch of Herring Gulls. It’s the well illuminated all-white gull about 6 or 7 gulls from the right. Beacon Waterfront, 02/18/23.~
~Lesser Black-backed Gull, Beacon NY 02/18/23. It’s the bird on the far left, notice the dark mantle and its size: it is slightly smaller than the Herring Gulls.~

Other good birds on Saturday included a pair of Snow Buntings in the black dirt and my first Common Goldeneye (Wickham Lake) and Merlin (BDR) in Orange County 2023.

Sunday was mostly uneventful. First thing, I birded 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary for the first time in ages. It was quite birdy and I was pleased with 27 species in just under an hour of birding. Afterwards, I cruised the black dirt and it was pretty quiet. I found several larger flocks of Canada Geese; I enjoyed sorting through them, but didn’t find any additional species.

~I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a Horned Lark perch off the ground. This individual perched on this old corn stalk long enough to grab a shote. Black Dirt Region 02/18/23.~
~One of two Snow Buntings I had in the black dirt on Saturday, 0218/23.~
~House Finch in the black dirt, 02/18/23.~
~White-throated Sparrow at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 02/19/23.~

Sunday Shots: Feathered Frenzy & More, 02/12/23

When Karen Miller invited me to be on her team for this year’s Sullivan County Feathered Frenzy, I jumped at the opportunity to break out of the winter birding routine. The Feathered Frenzy is a friendly contest where teams try to locate as many species as they can in a single day in Sullivan County. Karen and I had a really great time; it was great to catch up, do some good birding, and enjoy the sunny beautiful day (in spite of the cold temperatures and a wickedly cold wind). Scotty Baldinger emailed an excellent write-up on the event, and was kind enough to allow me to use it for this post:

~One of many Red-tailed Hawks we had on the Feathered Frenzy 02/11/23. This bird was flying over Neversink Reservoir.~

Sullivan County Feathered Frenzy, by Scotty Baldinger

Five teams competed in this year’s Feathered Frenzy racing around the county to find as many birds as possible in one day for Sullivan County.  Weather conditions were pretty decent for February.  Mostly sunny with temps starting out in the upper 20s ranging into mid to upper 30s during the day. It was very windy especially during the morning portion of today’s event with some gusts as high as 25 miles an hour.  With open water on the Bashakill and the Rondout Reservoir, we had an excellent mix of waterfowl.

It was a fun filled and exciting day with a total of 63 species found in Sullivan County!  Congrats to the team of John Haas, Bruce Nott, and Scott Graber on their outstanding total of 53 species for the day.  They found the only American Kestrel, Pine Siskin, Brown Creepers, Belted Kingfisher, and Cooper’s Hawk in the county.  The team of Scott Baldinger, Steve Altman with an assist from Paula Baldinger in the early morning logged 48 species for the day. They found the only Great-horned Owl, Green-winged Teals, and Turkey Vulture in the county.  The team of Karen Miller and Matt Zeitler rolled in with 40 species, finding the only Northern Harrier, Merlin, and Northern Flicker in the county.  The team of Renee Davis and Marge Gorton also rolled in with 40 species, finding the only Golden Eagle and Brown-headed Cowbird in the county.  The team of Patrick and Riley Dechon came in with 30 species on the day, finding the only Black Vultures in the county.  Congratulations to all who participated in this great event. See full species list at the bottom of this post.

~Redheads at Greenwood Lake, 02/12/23.

On Sunday morning I finally was able to run for the good waterfowl that Kyle Knapp had located at Greenwood Lake earlier in the week. Noteworthy birds included: 9 Redheads, 1 American Coot, 2 Greater Scaup, and a single Canvasback. I also went to the Greenwood Lake Fire Department – where Kyle found 5 Lesser Scaup earlier in the morning. Then, at Round Lake, I found another 2 Greater Scaup. That’s some pretty good birds for Orange County in February!

~Canvasback at Greenwood Lake, 02/12/23.~
~Greater Scaup coming in hot. Greenwood Lake, 02/12/23.~
~I thought this photo was pretty cool. Canvasback in front of a Redhead; Greenwood Lake 02/12/23.~
~Redheads at Greenwood Lake, 02/12/23.~

Feathered Frenzy species list:

Canada Goose

Mute Swan

Wood Duck

American Wigeon

American Black Duck


Northern Pintail

Green-winged Teal

Ring-necked Duck

Greater Scaup


Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Black Vulture

Turkey Vulture

Bald Eagle

Northern Harrier

Cooper’s Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Golden Eagle

American Kestrel


Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove

Great-horned Owl

Belted Kingfisher

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker

Pileated Woodpecker

Blue Jay

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

Red-breasted Nuthatch

White-breasted Nuthatch

Brown Creeper

Carolina Wren

Winter Wren

Eastern Bluebird

American Robin

Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing

American Tree Sparrow

Song Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco

Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle

Brown-headed Cowbird

House Finch

Pine Siskin

American Goldfinch

Evening Grosbeak

House Sparrow

Team Davis:          8.5 hours Total 162 miles

Team Miller:          9.75 hours Total 95 miles

Team Dechon:      6 hours Total 108 miles

Team Haas:          10.5 hours Total 142 miles   

Team Baldinger:  10.25 hours Total 173 miles

Again, thanks to all who participated in this year’s Feathered Frenzy!

Sunday Shots, 02/05/23

Early this morning, I birded Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge with Linda Scrima. Raptors were well represented; we had 5 species: Red-tailed Hawk (5), Rough-legged Hawk (1), Red-shouldered Hawk (1), Northern Harrier (5), and one small falcon which I believe was a Merlin. Snow Geese could be seen in the distance, to the north of the refuge, and there was a steady stream of Canada Geese flying over, heading north.

~A cold looking Great Blue Heron in the black dirt, 02/04/23.~

Afterwards, I headed to the Hudson River, where I had one exciting species. I was looking through a raft of Common Mergansers in the middle of the river, when two CANVASBACKS flew through my scope view. I was pretty excited because Canvasback is a pretty darn good bird for Orange County, I think I’ve had them in the county 2 or 3 times before. Bruce Nott and Ronnie DiLorenzo joined me and got the birds; while they were there I also located a single male Red-breasted Merganser. Gulls were a bust yet again for me, with only the three expected species seen. Later in the day is better for gulls at the Newburgh Waterfront, so I think I need to make an effort to be there a little later in the afternoons.

~Canvasbacks in flight at the Newburgh Waterfront, 02/05/23.~
~There were some ice floes on the river; these Ring-billed Gulls were clinging onto what little ice they could find. Newburgh Waterfront, 02/05/23.~
~You’ll have to trust me on this one – the bird on the right is a Red-breasted Merganser. Newburgh Waterfront 02/05/23.~
~Mallard close up at the boat launch in Newburgh, 02/05/23.~