I met up with my brother-in-law Bill this morning and we hiked the Bearfort Ridge and Surprise Lake Loop, which is located just west of the southernmost point of Greenwood Lake. It’s an 8 mile loop, and AllTrails includes its rating as moderate. For someone in my shape, I think that means you only have a moderate cardiac event when you hike it. Actually, after the first mile, where we climbed approximately 700 feet, it wasn’t too bad. But, wow that first mile was a doozy.
The weather was perfect, mostly sunny and just cool enough. There are many good lookouts throughout the trail, and we could see New York City from several of them. As for the birds, Turkey Vulture was the bird of the day. They were often overhead and we had a pair of them perched looking over West Pond. Other raptors included at least a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks and a Red-tailed Hawk. The best bird of the day was a couple of Fox Sparrows which Bill spotted rooting around the leaf litter under some trees. A small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets were a close second place.
In the end, it took us approximately 5 hours to hike the 8 mile loop. That was with plenty of stops for rests, taking in the views, and some birding. When we got back to the cars, we dug into our lunches. Tuna on rye never tasted so good.
In spite of less than ideal conditions, I decided to head out to the Grasslands for sunrise this morning. By less than ideal conditions, I mean it was partly to mostly cloudy with a pretty strong northwest wind. Ideally I would prefer the steady morning sun and a south wind (so that the raptors hunt facing south, keeping the sun on their face and at my back). Anyways, I got there quite early and I was able to get into the only blind that’s open on the weekends (southernmost blind). While the strong winds seemed to keep the birds from flying quite as much as I would have liked, I had some decent opportunities and some nice birds. Raptors included Northern Harriers (4), Rough-legged Hawks (3), Red-tailed Hawks (3), a couple of Turkey Vultures, and a single American Kestrel. One other highlight was my first Eastern Meadowlark of the year.
I’ll tell you what, I could get used to the good birding I’ve been enjoying recently. It was another excellent weekend, filled with some super birds and some decent photo ops. I spent both mornings tooling around the black dirt; highlights included a total of 4 LAPLAND LONGSPURS between the two days, a nice sized flock of COMMON REDPOLLS, and my second (and much better) look at the FERRUGINOUS HAWK which continues in the black dirt. I spent Saturday afternoon over in Beacon with Bruce Nott and we did really well with gulls – we had a GLAUCOUS GULL, an ICELAND GULL, and a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL, all immature birds, as well as the three expected species. It was freezing cold with a strong wind on that side of the river, but worth the suffering. This is ending up being a photo heavy post, so I’ll just let the pics do the rest of the talking.
~I saw two Coyotes this weekend, both distant. This one might not have been close, but you can see it is well aware of my presence.~
Yesterday during the waterfowl count, Linda Scrima spotted an interesting hawk. She was thinking it was a perhaps a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, took some photos to check out later and continued with the count. It ends up the bird was a FERRUGINOUS HAWK! There were many birders out trying to relocated the bird this morning, but it was of course John Haas who found the bird on Celery Avenue (click here to see John’s post with some fantastic photos). I rushed over and joined several other birders to view the bird. It was a little distant and in the trees, so scope views of this gorgeous bird were fantastic, but photos were tough. The bird eventually flew and was relocated by Bruce Nott on Lynch Avenue. The bird was in the air tangling with a couple of Red-tails, but then put down in a field. The bird moved around after that, and as of this writing had been relocated two more times, with many, many birders going for it. From what I’m told, this is a first New York State record of Ferruginous Hawk; super exciting birding! Nice job and congrats to Linda on an amazing find.
Since I can only get out on the weekends at this time of the year, it’s extra sweet when I can get some good birds. On Saturday morning Tricia and I stopped at the Grasslands on our way to pick up pottery supplies in New Paltz. It was a gorgeous morning; super cold and frosty, but also sunny and bright. We were just going to stop briefly, but shortly after we arrived, two Short-eared Owls were up and flying. It was a pleasant surprise; we watched from the viewing platform as the owls seemed to be actively hunting and were tangling with Northern Harriers from time to time. We also got the opportunity to catch up with Ralph Tabor, which was really great, it had been too long. Side note: the refuge has put new restrictions in place to mitigate owl disturbance by closing a large percentage of the trails on the weekends. I personally think this is a great idea and long overdue.
This morning I tooled around the black dirt. On Celery Avenue, there was a large flock of geese present. I sorted through them and watched as group after group flew in to join the flock. It was an enjoyable (if cold) way to sort through geese, but unfortunately I didn’t come up with anything other than Canada Geese. I did have a pair of adult Bald Eagles perched in a tree, side by side, as well as a nice close Gray Ghost fly-by.
I found more geese at Turtle Bay Road, this time there were nearly sixty Snow Geese among approximately 400 Canada Geese. There was also a modest flock of Horned Larks foraging on the side of the road. I felt super lucky when a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR put down not far from my car. Heat shimmer from the car prevented a better pic, but as always, it was great to see a LALO.
Other highlights from the morning included many more raptors; who-knows-how-many Red-tailed Hawks, a Rough-legged Hawk, a Cooper’s Hawk, and an American Kestrel. The last good bird of the day was a bird that I typically don’t have much luck with: I found a FOX SPARROW in with a mixed flock of sparrows on Round Hill Road.
Well, it’s been a stressful week regarding the blog, but the site now seems to be working more efficiently. I was having a lingering issue regarding email subscriptions, but I believe I have that figured out; this post will tell the tale.
Anyways, I wasn’t on the computer all the time, and I was out an about this weekend and last weekend as well. But, I’ve hit a little bit of a dry spell – I tried for winter finches in Port Jervis both weekends, but came up empty. Same goes for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs, as well as Cackling Goose (probably the species I am mostly likely to add to my Orange County year list). Still, as always it’s just good to be out, with enough of the “usuals” around to keep me entertained, especially on a gorgeous day like today.
I’ve been experiencing some technical issues with the blog recently. It has taken some time, and I won’t bore you with the details, but I’ve made some changes and upgrades which will hopefully make it easier for me to create posts, and more importantly, make for a quicker and better experience for the readers. I imagine there will still be some bugs to work out; if you have any problems or would like to share any information with me, leave a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.
It was really, really nice to have four days off in a row. And with the pandemic still raging, we did not travel. So, that made for a good amount of birding during those four days. Noteworthy birds included more RED CROSSBILLS at Reservoir 3, the BARNACLE GOOSE continues in the area, being seen mostly at the Camel Farm, a handful of Snow Buntings at Skinners Lane, and I had my first ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK of the season. I had a good weekend with raptors, topped off by an early morning visit to the Grasslands today. It was enjoyable to be out there sitting in a blind. It sort of felt like the old days when I used to photograph many more raptors.
Yesterday was my final day of the year at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, it’s amazing how quickly the season goes by. It was a cool crisp day with a cold WNW wind. It was sunny but with enough clouds in the morning to help find birds. I finished the season on an up note, with a decent day consisting of 72 migrating raptors. Highlights included four Bald Eagles moving through; two adults and two immatures. Also noteworthy was 21 Red-tailed Hawk and seven Red-shouldered hawks; 2 adults and 5 immatures.
I was counting at Mount Peter all day Saturday; it was a slow start with drizzly and foggy weather with a southwest wind, but at around noon the fog cleared out, the winds shifted to west northwest, and the hawks started flying. It was a day with a very good variety of migrating raptors – 11 different species. I particularly enjoyed watching five Northern Harriers fly over – I know they are very common in our area in the winter, but I just love to see them when they migrate; they look like no other raptor. Another highlight was a large skein of BRANT flying over, just as the watch was coming to an end.
Sunday morning I ran around locally. Wickham Lake was my first stop, where I had 13 species of waterfowl (highlights = my first Ring-neck Ducks and Buffleheads of the season, a pair of American Wigeon, and 4 Northern Shovelers). From there I went to the Liberty Loop. I wanted to check for shorebirds at the south pond, so I headed towards Owen’s Station Road. As I turned onto the road, I saw bird on the side of the road. It was a Chukar; their range is out west, but they are sometimes released here as game birds. I’m not sure how commonly they are released locally, but I’d never seen one, so game bird or not, I was sort of excited.
I was only able to locate three species of shorebird in the south pond: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Pectoral Sandpipers. The walks in and out weren’t very birdy, so I was on my way relatively quickly. On my way out, I saw the Chukar again, this time in the grass, so I stopped and got a few more shots. I made one last stop on the way home, at Skinner’s Lane. I was able to locate, but not photograph a Vesper Sparrow, and there were also some American Pipits around.