Everyone knows at this point that bad weather typically equals excellent birding. This evening after work I followed up on several reports of shorebirds in the black dirt. When I left the house, it was raining cats and dogs. But, by the time I arrived in the black dirt, it had slowed down and there were some clear skies in the distance. At first I was viewing the birds from inside my car, using my window mount for the scope. As it slowed up, Linda Scrima joined me; eventually it cleared up and we were treated to a beautiful double rainbow.
We had an excellent assortment of shorebirds: Killdeer (35), Semipalmated Plover (1), Black-bellied Plover (4), American Golden-Plover (30), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), Pectoral Sandpiper (45), and a flyover of (6) Short-billed Dowitchers. Pipits were flying over calling. All with a beautiful rainbow, allowing for some really interesting photo ops. What a night.
Hawkwatch was the main attraction for me this weekend, but I did enjoy some of my first migrating song birds of the season as well. I had a Magnolia Warble in my backyard on Thursday afternoon. I had a brief visit from a pair of Cape May Warblers at Mt. Peter yesterday. And this morning the black dirt was loaded with Savannah Sparrows. I also had short but enjoyable flurry of songbirds in the black dirt. Highlights included several Palm Warblers, a Black-throated Green Warbler, a couple of Ruby Crowned Kinglets, and a Least Flycatcher. Shorebirds were scarce, but I did locate one American Golden Plover in the corn stubble on Onion Avenue, a spot where I’ve not had many shorebirds over the years.
I thought I would hit it out of the park today: September 16. A good WNW wind. Clouds in the sky. With timing and the conditions like this, I expected a “big” day for Broad-winged Hawks. Alas, it was not to be. But, it still was a a pretty darn good day. I tallied 269 migrating raptors, 226 of which were Broad-wings. I had a lot of quality help up there today too: Linda Scrima, Tom Millard, Rick Hansen, and Ken Witkowski all put in some serious time helping me. The payoff was a good variety of migrants – we had a total of (9) different species of migrating raptors (Osprey, B. Eagle, N. Harrier, Sharp-shinned, Cooper’s, Broad-winged, Red-tailed, Am. Kestrel, & Peregrine Falcons). My favorite had to be an adult female and an immature Northern Harrier passing high over the platform together during the first hour of the watch. As always, my Hawkcount.org report is included at the bottom of this post.
I was scheduled to be the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday. Unfortunately, when I arrived in the morning, the mountain was socked in with a heavy fog. I went back at noon to find that the fog had not lifted. I ate my lunch and took a little snooze in my car, and instead of lifting, the fog was getting heavier. So, I called it a day, with the idea of visiting the watch on Sunday to get my first hawk watching of the season in. But, I was thwarted again, and after just 20 minutes of scanning the skies and catching up with official counter of the day B.A. McGrath, the skies opened up with a steady rain.
In between trips to Mt. Pete, I was, of course out birding. I spent most of my time in the black dirt looking for shorebirds; Saturday morning was quite good with nice looks at a flock of American Golden-Plovers, a pair of Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and a couple of Pectoral Sandpipers. Sunday was less productive; I saw the flock of plovers but they were very distant, and I had no other noteworthy species.
A good weekend of birding continued on Saturday night, when we had a dozen Common Nighthawks fly over the backyard while we sat on the back patio enjoying a cocktail.
Then, on Sunday morning I went back to the Liberty Loop, where, in addition to many of the same species as Friday night, I was able to catch up with the White Ibis that has been there in recent days. On my way home, I stopped by Missionland Road and found (33) American Golden-Plovers! The birds were distant at the start, but patience paid off and they eventually came close enough to get some decent shots.
Today (Labor Day), I checked the black dirt first thing – I was optimistic due to a modest rainfall earlier in the morning, but it wasn’t until I got to the Camel Farm that I had any birds of note. I was scoping the pond and looking at a Pectoral Sandpiper, when a White-rumped Sandpiper walked right through my field of view. Linda Scrima joined me and eventually we saw that there were actually (2) WRSAs present. The birds were too distant and obscured by vegetation for photos, but we enjoyed scope views and I was happy to add the species to my 2023 year list.
The hottest hotspot in the area right now is the southern leg of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop, in Sussex County NJ. I met Linda Scrima at the loop yesterday evening after work. We missed a couple of the more exciting birds (White Ibis, and Stilt Sandpiper), but it was an excellent night of birding. But we did catch up with the immature Little Blue Heron, and the number of shorebird individuals present was striking to me – very possibly the most I’ve seen in one small area in our region. We tallied (11) species of shorebirds, with the highlight being (4) White-rumped Sandpipers. The icing on the cake was finding 30+ Common Nighthawks flying over the parking area when we got back to our cars.
This morning I figured the loop would be loaded with birders and photographers, so I chose to bird the black dirt instead. It was mostly the usuals, with very few shorebirds (other than Killdeer), but I was able to find a single BAIRD’S SANDPIPER. It was kind of a crazy story because I had just met a birder named Joe. He was out for one reason – to get his lifer Baird’s Sandpiper. About 5 minutes after Joe and I parted ways, don’t you know I found a BASA. I tried to flag him down; I was waving and practically doing somersaults to try to get his attention, as I could still see his car at a distance. Unfortunately he didn’t see me, and the Baird’s flew shortly after I’d located it.
First thing this morning, I went to Bullville Pond to see if anything was going on. I had shorebirds (of course) and Little Blue Heron on my mind. Unfortunately it was a bust, so I headed back out to the black dirt, where I eventually joined up with several other birders and finally got the Baird’s Sandpiper. After missing that species last year, I wanted to see one – it had been nearly 2 years! Also present were 50+ Least Sandpipers, a Semipalmated Sandpiper, 5 Buff-breasted Sandpipers, many Killdeer, and a flyover of a Semipalmated Plover. Photos were tough today, so I’m mostly posting more photos from yesterday’s shorebirds and a couple of cowbirds from this morning.
Yesterday was quite a day in our area for shorebirds, with many excellent birds reported. In the black dirt, the best new species included Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Baird’s Sandpiper, and American Golden-Plover. In Sullivan County, John Haas had a WHIMBREL at Morningside Park – read about it here. Unfortunately, I was working most of the day, and then unable to get out after work as well.
I hit the black dirt early this morning and I was able to locate (2) Buff-breasted Sandpipers; definitely the bird of the day for me. The Baird’s Sandpiper was reported, but I was unable to catch up with it. I enjoyed a very close up encounter with a pair of Semipalmated Plovers; what a cute and excellent bird to see up close. The Camel Farm pond is overrun with vegetation, which has made birding that location even more frustrating than it usually is. Today I heard and caught glimpses of loads of Lesser Yellowlegs there; goodness knows what kind of species are hidden from view there.
It’s been the summer of the Upland Sandpiper for me. Tonight I was birding in the black dirt and an Uppy ran right across the road in front of my car! I’d inadvertently flushed the bird from the long grasses on the roadside. It flew into the field to my right and then made its way across the field and then flew to the neighboring field. I put the word out and Karen Miller and I enjoyed my best Upland Sandpiper looks of the year. The bird eventually disappeared into a tall grassy area, so we decided to move on. I got back to my car and a second Upland Sandpiper flew across the road! It was an excellent evening of birding. All photos taken in the Black Dirt Region, 08/18/23.
This evening after work, I went to the Black Dirt Region to follow up on several reports of a good variety of shorebirds. I expected today to be good (it might have been good timing for a personal day), after the storms that came through the area last night. I joined Diane Bliss and Kyle Knapp and I thoroughly enjoyed a pleasant evening with some fabulous birds: