It’s the time of year when birds are heard more often than seen. It’s also the time of year, especially now that things are opening up on the tail end of the pandemic, when there are things going on that are not birding. I know, it’s true sometimes I do things other than work and bird, lol. Anyways, last weekend was a bust in spite of a full morning of birding the Port Jervis area on Saturday, hence no post. This weekend was only slightly better in terms of photos. I spent Saturday morning birding my NYSBBS priority block Warwick CE; I was able to confirm Cedar Waxwing and Common Grackle. The block now has 29 confirmed species; I have to thank Jarvis Shirky who has been birding the block often and has confirmed 10 species. Photo ops were few, thank goodness for the Bobolinks at Knapp’s View, otherwise this weekend would have been another photo bust.
I guess it was just a shorebird kind of weekend. This morning I went back to Skinners Lane; nearly all the shorebirds I had yesterday continued. Linda Scrima reported that the three Black-bellied Plovers, which I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post, also continued. I headed back to the west side of the Liberty Loop, convinced there had to be something good there. Maria Loukeris had the same idea and joined me out there, unfortunately we were both disappointed. But! When I got back to my car and was starting to head home, John Haas had put out a notification on the Mearn’s Bird Club app that he had a WILSON’S PHALAROPE at Morningside Park!
I hustled out to the park, and the bird hung in there. I joined John and several other birders as we enjoyed some of my best views ever of this species. What a treat it was and a great way to end a killer shorebird weekend. Huge thanks to John for locating the bird and for putting the word out. You can see his blog post about it here. If he hasn’t posted about it yet, I’m sure he will this afternoon or evening.
~One more shot of the Wilson’s Phalarope at Morningside Park, 05/31/21.~
This morning I was put off by the cold temperatures and the incessant rain, so it took me a little while to work up the gumption to go out. Once I did, it was totally worth it. I ran around southern Orange County, hoping for shorebirds. I came up with just the usuals in my first four stops, the usuals being: Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper and Spotted Sanpiper. But, when I got to Skinners Lane, that all changed and I got some really good birds:
- BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (23)
- SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER (7)
- Killdeer (4)
- DUNLIN (6)
- Least Sandpiper (2)
- Greater Yellowlegs (1)
As is usually the case, the birds were distant, so no good pics. But – shorebirds in OC! I was pretty pumped.
This morning I woke up super early and took a road trip up to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge. I was heading up in hopes of getting a shorebird fix and to meet up with my ex-wife Stephanie Bane who lives in the area and who volunteers at the refuge and birds it regularly. We had an excellent morning of birding, as you know Montezuma very rarely disappoints. Non shorebird highlights for me included the Purple Martins at the visitor’s center, a single Snow Goose on Wildlife Drive, and watching a Bald Eagle and a Northern Harrier tangle way up in the sky.
But, as hoped, it was the shorebirds that stole the show. Most of the birds were fairly distant, but we enjoyed excellent scope views of 10 species of shorebird:
- BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (25+)
- Semipalmated Plover (6)
- Killdeer (10)
- RUDDY TURNSTONE (7)
- Dunlin (35+)
- Least Sandpiper (15+)
- Semipalmataed Sandpiper (1)
- Short-billed Dowitcher (2)
- Greater Yellowlegs (2)
- Lesser Yellowlegs (3)
We were joking about how awesome it would be to see RUDDY TURNSTONES, and then moments later I was looking at 7 of them in the scope! The flock of Dunlin were beautiful to see and were putting on quite a show, making frequent flights from muddy island to muddy island. We had a handful of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS on Wildlife Drive, but also were pleasantly surprised to find another 30 or so at the Potato Fields, our last stop of the morning. It was a tough morning for photos, with very few ops, but the good company and the shorebird fix more than made up for that.
This weekend had a very different feel compared to last weekend. Last weekend it was cool and birds seemed to be everywhere, including many migrants. This weekend the heat moved in, that jump that we seem to have in our area from spring to summer at a moment’s notice. The trees were that much more leafed out, and while it was birdy, I found fewer migrants and the birding experience had the beginnings of a summery feel to me.
I had an interesting experience on Friday evening. I went to the Beaver Pond near Glenmere Lake to try for shorebirds (I found Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer). While I was there, a man and his daughter pulled over and the man got out of his car and was listening to the pond with his hands cupped over his ears. We eventually started chatting, his name was Jay, and he was listening for Northern Cricket Frogs. I’d heard them the night before and thought they must be insects (hence the name!). He explained to me that these little frogs are endangered in New York State, and the “Glenmere Lake” population and another small population at Little Dam Lake are among the few that can be found in the state. Check out the DEC write up on Northern Cricket Frogs here.
I had another interesting experience on Saturday evening. After birding Kendridge Farm in the morning, where it was birdy but nothing noteworthy, I went home during the heat of the day and then headed back out in the evening. My goal was to try for Eastern Whip-poor-wills at Sterling Forest, so I knew I would be out past sunset. I birded Ironwood Road and eventually ended up at the power cut at the end of the road, where I birded and waited for Whip-poor-wills.
While I was waiting, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a small flock of birds flying across the power cut, and then something dropping like a stone to the ground. It was a flock of Cedar Waxwings, I found 5 of them perched in the trees. I went to check out where I’d seen something fall – I couldn’t find anything so I was baffled. Then, deep in the vegetation, I found a single Cedar Waxwing. I’m guessing that the bird hit one of the wires and stunned itself. I let the bird be and gave it plenty of distance; checking on it from time to time. It took a good while, but eventually the bird picked up and off it flew! I was relieved, I didn’t necessarily want to rescue another Cedar Waxwing.
A little after sunset, the Eastern Whip-poor-wills started calling; I counted three and headed home. On Ironwood Drive, on my way out, I was driving very slowly and I saw one single glowing eye, glowing super bright. I stopped and tried to figure out what it was in my bins; just as I lifted them up it flew and landed in a nearby tree and started calling – it was another Whip-poor-will!
Sunday morning was mostly uneventful – I walked Goosepond Mountain and had the usuals plus one good bird – Canada Warbler! That’s not a bird that I do well with, so I was pretty happy about that. Then, Linda Scrima called me. She had 2 Short-billed Dowitchers at the Camel Farm. I ran for the birds, and had some decent scope views. It’s super hard, especially at that distance, to tell Short from Long-billed Dowitchers, but they looked good to me. I checked eBird bar graphs when I got home and there are no reports of LBDO in the spring in Orange County, so I’m pretty happy with SBDO. I’ve included a distant shot at the bottom of this post. Thanks to Linda for heads up.
I’m going to keep it short this evening. I’m absolutely exhausted after a seriously hectic work week and a busy but excellent weekend. I stayed local all weekend, birding primarily in south/southwest Orange County with a couple trips to the Sussex County side of the Liberty Loop for shorebirds. Birds were certainly plentiful, it’s that time of year, and I added 15 species to my OC year list. It was a weekend of near misses for me – I seemed to be slightly off my game and missed some really nice opportunities for photos. Fortunately the birds were abundant and so were the photo ops. Enjoy the pics.
I woke up early this morning and headed to Port Jervis. I stopped at the Camel Farm on my way, to check for shorebirds. I got lucky and along with several Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and a Killdeer, I found a single DUNLIN. Definitely worth the stop.
In Port Jervis, my first and most productive stop was at Laurel Grove Cemetery. I enjoyed 9 species of warbler, several of which, including a single Cape May, were accommodating for photos. The cemetery was birdy, and I had 38 types of birds, mostly expected species.
From there I headed over to Elks Brox Memorial Park, which was less birdy, but I did get some fantastic looks at one of my favorite warblers – BLACKBURNIAN. The bird actually seemed very aware of my presence, and never really allowed for any close photos. I also watched a Black-capped Chickadee with presumed nesting material (see below), and a Pine Warbler with nesting material, so that was helpful for the NYS Breeding Bird Atlas.
I enjoyed a cool, rainy morning and early afternoon of birding today. Ironwood Drive at Sterling Forest State Park was far and away my most productive stop. I tallied 15 species of warbler there, and I added 13 birds to my Orange County year list. Best birds for me included Cerulean Warbler (great looks but lousy pics), Hooded Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and my first Scarlet Tanager of the year.
I headed north to the Newburgh Waterfront to try for waterfowl, gulls, and terns. I’d already checked Glenmere Lake and Greenwood Lake without much success (other than the continuing Greater Scaup – see photo below). There wasn’t much happening at the river, so I headed to Orange Lake to try for the White-winged Scoter that Bruce Nott reported earlier. Unfortunately the scoter had moved on, but remarkably, it had been replaced by 11(!) Common Loons. A quick stop at Washington Lake added Bank Swallow to my year list, but nothing else.
My final stop of the day was at the Orange County Airport, hoping for Upland Sandpipers. No luck with the Uppies, but I did find some recently fledged Killdeer chicks, which were super cute. I also found a pair of Northern Harrier, a female and a young male; they appeared to be performing courtship behavior. It would be awesome if they bred out there. It’s a good time of year with loads of new birds every day; I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning already.
I’ve been wanting to see a Porcupine for ages, but for some reason or other, I never crossed paths with one since I’ve been in the area (11+ years now!). Well, this weekend I saw three, lol. The first one was on a seasonably cold and windy hike at High Point State Park with my brother-in-law Bill on Saturday morning. We hiked for just over 9 miles; the views from High Point were impressive, the number of birds, not so much with just 18 species tallied. The Porcupine was far and away the highlight.
On Sunday morning I headed out to the Bashakill to try my luck there. It’s been ages since I’d been there and it did not disappoint. I immediately ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger with a couple other birders when I parked at the front of the Stop Sign Trail. I figured the smart money was on sticking with them – they attract warblers and birds in general like nobody’s business. I wasn’t wrong, the place was hopping with birds, but the first thing that got my attention was not one, but two Porcupines sleeping up in trees! What a weird coincidence! As for the birds, I covered some good territory and counted just under 60 species for the morning, eleven of which were warblers. There were also many birders out and about – too many to mention by name. It was good to catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in a while. Birding highlights for me included excellent looks at Blue-winged and Black-throated Blue Warblers at the Stop Sign Trail, decent looks at a high, singing Cerulean Warbler and a Yellow-throated Vireo at the Horseshoe Trail, and a calling Virginia Rail at the Deli Fields.
As most of you probably know already, spring migration hit our area in a serious way this week, particularly on Wednesday. I was out of commission all day and evening, so unfortunately I missed out on all the fun. You can click John Hass’ post here to read how the Bashakill had 15 species of warbler that morning. Not to be completely left out, I noticed an interesting bird in the backyard while working at my desk this morning. I got my bins on it, and it was an Ovenbird! It was my first of the season as well as a new yard bird for me.