Today was my final day of counting at Mount Peter Hawkwatch for the year. Tomorrow is the last day of the season; it always seems to go by so quickly. The season ended with a dud for me, as I had (8) countable birds in six hours. Of note, I had a Common Loon fly nearly directly over the viewing platform and my penultimate bird of the season was a young Bald Eagle with tail plumage that made my heart race for a split second. It was a good season for me; I enjoyed it much more than last season and it’s got me excited to do it all over next year. I’ve included today’s report summary at the bottom of this post; I will also do a future post which will include Judy Cinquina’s end of season report.
What a morning! My first stop was Wickham Lake, which I thought was going to be a total bust because the lake was completely obscured by fog. But, I located a Greater Yellowlegs feeding in the puddles along the shore. The light was beautiful and the bird was very accommodating. I also had a Great Blue Heron in some interesting light, so I got some photos of that bird as well. From there, I was heading up to Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, where I was to be the official counter for the day. On my way there, I had a lovely, close encounter with a beautiful coyote. This was the first coyote I’ve ever seen that showed some curiosity towards me as I pulled my car to the side of the road. It’s been a good while since I’ve seen a coyote, and to get one this confiding was a thrill.
Once I was at Mt. Pete, I was getting the feeling it might be a slow day. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and although the wind was from the northwest, it was just the slightest breeze. I had no raptors at all for nearly 2 hours. Then, I picked up a bird to the northeast of the platform – I immediately recognized it as a young GOLDEN EAGLE! I was so happy, the bird circled up and eventually migrated directly over the platform.
After the excitement of the Golden, my prediction came true and it was an incredibly slow flight. I had a total of only (8) migrating raptors in 6.75 hours of counting. I did have one other highlight though, I found a Purple Finch, which was a new 2021 county bird for me, bringing my total to 203 species this year in Orange County.
This afternoon I joined official counter Jeanne Cimorelli and Tom Millard at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Early on, it was mostly uneventful, with a smattering of the usuals – Sharp-shinned Hawks, Coopers Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, and a Northern Harrier. But, just before 3:00, Jeanne located a number of distant birds… and they seemed to be kettling up. They were quite distant, just specs in the bins, but Jeanne got on the kettle with her scope and they were Turkey Vultures! Over the next 45 minutes, we watched as over 850 Turkey Vultures passed through, forming multiple massive kettles as they did so. It was pretty incredible! We surpassed last year’s total count for Turkey vultures in a mere 45 minutes. I believe the previous daily record for migrating TUVUs was around 200 birds; that record was shattered today. Photos don’t do it justice, but here’s several that I took as it was happening.
I was the official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today. It was a relatively slow day, with a total of only 19 migrating raptors. But, it was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside and there was just enough raptor activity and non-raptor activity to keep me entertained nearly the entire time. Jeanne Cimorelli joined me for a couple of hours and helped assure we didn’t miss any birds shooting through the “gap” between the trees on the east side of the lookout. There was a pretty good southeast wind blowing, and I think that kept the birds down, giving us some pretty good views of the few birds that passed through. My Hawkcount.org report is included below.
On Saturday morning, my phone let me know that it was eBird’s October Big Day. I certainly wasn’t doing a bid day, but it did make me curious to know how many birds I would get on a normal day out in early October. So, I eBirded more locations than I normally would, and I kept track of the birds that I saw en route to get a total for the day. I spent the early morning in the black dirt, where my highlight was a sizable flock of American Pipits, always a favorite of mine. From there I went to Wallkill River National Wildlife refuge. I walked Winding Waters Trail for about a mile or so, and then I spent some time at the viewing platform at the Liberty Loop. I didn’t have any exciting birds, but it was busy enough to add a good number of birds to my tally.
My next stop was Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, where I joined Tom Millard and Judy Cinquina for about an hour and a half. The flight was slow but steady, and with a good variety of migrants. My raptor highlight was a Peregrine Falcon which flew, very high, directly over the platform. For non-raptors, we had a migrating Common Loon fly close enough for a photo, a first for me at Mt. Pete. My final stop was Wickham Lake, where my best bird was a Greater Scaup. I finished the day with 57 species; I’ve included a complete list at the bottom of this post.
On Sunday I was the official counter at Mount Peter. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, with a combination of clouds, fog, and light rain making the flight practically non-existent. I had a total of 4 migrating raptors, 2 Cooper’s Hawks and 2 Northern Harriers, before I called it at 1:30 when the fog had really rolled in and the rain was starting up again.
- Canada Goose (Wallkill River NWR, Mount Peter, Black Dirt, Wickham Lake)
- Mute Swan (Glenmere Lake, Wickham Lake)
- American Wigeon (WR NWR)
- American Black Duck (WR NWR)
- Mallard (WR NWR)
- Greater Scaup (Wickham Lake)
- Common Loon (Mt. Peter)
- Double-crested Cormorant (Wickham Lake)
- Ring-necked Pheasant (Black Dirt)
- Great Blue Heron (WR NWR)
- Great Egret (WR NWR)
- Black Vulture (Mt. Peter)
- Turkey Vulture (Mt. Peter, WR NWR)
- Bald Eagle (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Sharp-shinned Hawk (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
- Northern Harrier (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
- Cooper’s Hawk (Mt. Peter)
- Red-shouldered Hawk (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
- Red-tailed Hawk (Black Dirt, Mt. Peter)
- American Kestrel (Black Dirt, Mt. Peter)
- Peregrine Falcon (Black Dirt)
- Common Gallinule (WR NWR)
- Killdeer (CVS Goshen)
- Ring-billed Gull (Wickham Lake)
- Rock Pigeon (Wickham Lake)
- Chimney Swift (Mt. Peter)
- Belted Kingfisher (Beaver Pond)
- Red-bellied Woodpecker (WR NWR)
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Wickham Lake)
- Downy Woodpecker (Wickham Lake)
- Northern Flicker (WR NWR)
- Eastern Phoebe (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Blue Jay (Mt Peter, WR NWR, Black Dirt, Wickham Lake)
- American Crow (WR NWR)
- Common Raven (Mt. Peter)
- Black-capped Chickadee (WR NWR)
- Tufted Titmouse (WR NWR)
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Mt. Peter)
- Northern Mockingbird (Mt. Peter)
- White-breasted Nuthatch (WR NWR)
- Eastern Bluebird (Wickham Lake)
- American Robin (WR NWR, Wickham Lake)
- European Starling (Wickham Lake, Black Dirt)
- American Pipit (Black Dirt)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler (Mt. Peter)
- Black-throated Green Warbler (Mt. Peter)
- Blackpoll Warbler (WR NWR)
- Common Yellowthroat (WR NWR)
- Field Sparrow (WR NWR)
- Savannah Sparrow (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Song Sparrow (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Swamp Sparrow (WR NWR)
- White-throated Sparrow (WR NWR)
- Red-winged Blackbird (WR NWR)
- House Finch (WR NWR)
- American Goldfinch (WR NWR)
- House Sparrow (Wickham Lake)
I went out to the black dirt first thing Saturday morning. I was counting at Mount Peter in the afternoon, so I wanted to get an early start. As always, I was looking for shorebirds – any new species or some better looks and photos of some of the birds we’ve been seeing. Well, I didn’t see any new species, and the best I could do for photos was a decent shot of a Greater Yellowlegs. But it was still a decent morning with 6 species of shorebirds: Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Greater Yellowlegs.
MOUNT PETER HAWKWATCH
In the afternoon I was the official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, taking over for BA McGrath who, unfortunately had a terribly slow morning. The afternoon, in general, wasn’t much busier but ultimately, I counted a total of 67 migrating raptors. A surprise kettle of 39 Broad-winged Hawks accounted for most of that number. I had (3) migrating Bald Eagles, and there were several Common Ravens putting on a show on the cell tower and in the air over the platform. You can see my report for HMANA at the bottom of this post.
This morning I decided it was finally time to give the shorebirds a break. So I headed to Port Jervis and I birded Reservoir #3. It was just what the doctor ordered, birdy, peaceful, perfect weather, and some good photo ops. I tallied 30 species for the morning, with highlights of Brown Creeper (Res 3 is money for that bird!), several Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a pair of Blue-headed Vireos. Actually the real highlight for me came afterwards – after shooting distant shorebirds and raptors, it felt good to look at some decent photos of songbirds.
I enjoyed some pretty good birding this week and into the weekend. As regular readers of this blog know, I’m obsessed with shorebirds and that’s how I spent most of my birding time. I did not add any new species to my year list, but I just enjoyed the variety we’ve been having and trying for photos. The highlight was seeing the largest flock of American Golden-Plovers I’ve ever seen in the black dirt, a remarkable 76 birds. Two Buff-breasted Sandpipers continued up until Thursday evening, but I haven’t seen or heard any reports since then.
On the weekend, I also went up to Mount Peter to see how the hawkwatch was going. Right now should be primetime for Broad-winged Hawk migration and I was hoping to see a kettle or two. I went Saturday for a about an hour or so, and unfortunately it was a bust. Sunday was another story and I enjoyed my most successful flight of Broad-winged Hawks ever. When I left in the early afternoon, over 2,500 BWHAs had been counted. We had over 1,500 in a single hour! I also saw the largest kettle I’ve ever seen, consisting of approximately 700 birds. It was remarkable. Will Test was the official counter, and nearly every other counter from Mt. Pete was there as well, giving him a hand and enjoying one of the best days of the season.
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.~