The highlight of my week was going to Wickham Lake on Thursday evening, where I had a total of 13 species of waterfowl, including one exciting bird, a SURF SCOTER. On Friday I joined Karen Miller at the lake again, where there were still loads of waterfowl. I increased my total waterfowl species for the two days to 15:
Am. Black Duck
Kyle Knapp joined me on Thursday to get the Surf Scoter, a lifter for him (congrats!). We also saw (4) adult Bald Eagles across the lake, just after sunset. One was perched, but the other three were tangling in the skies just above the tree line.
On Saturday I was the official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. I feel a little bit snake bit this season as I had another day of negligible winds and a cloudless blue sky of death. I counted a total of 29 migrating raptors in 6 1/2 hours; my Hawkcount report is at the bottom of this post. Afterwards, I went to the black dirt hoping for some new birds, maybe a Lapland Longspur or some Snow Buntings. No luck with either of those species, but Horned Lark numbers were up, if only slightly. American Pipits were still present in large numbers too.
Today I faced the blue sky of death for nearly 7 hours at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Fortunately there were some hawks flying early in the day; low enough to not get lost in the vast sea of blue. The afternoon was not as productive; I’ll never know if I just missed all the birds in the blue sky or if the flight slowed down. Regardless, I totaled 66 migrating raptors, just enough to keep me busy enough. Highlights included a half dozen Red-shouldered Hawks and an unexpected (to me) flight of nearly 40 Turkey Vultures. I’ve included my HawkCount report at the bottom of this post.
I woke up early this morning and birded the black dirt before heading to Mt. Peter, where I was scheduled to be the official counter. It was a gorgeous morning, and I was happy just to be out and about and not working. I didn’t have high expectations, so I was especially happy to find another nice collection of shorebirds. In one field I had loads of Killdeer, a Wilson’s Snipe, a Pectoral Sandpiper, and a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER. The birds were close, the light was nice; it was a lovely start to my Saturday.
Afterwards, I headed up to Mt. Peter to spend the day counting hawks on the mountain. It was an interesting flight today; I don’t know if it was due to the a substantial south wind we had today, but nearly all the migrating raptors I counted today were low birds, just above the treetops. I had a modest 30 migrants today, 20 of which where Sharp-shinned Hawks. As usual, I’ve included my Hawkcount report below.
Tricia and I returned on Friday night from a week’s vacation in Maine. We spent 4 days on Monhegan Island and the rest of the week in the Rockland area. Monhegan Island is a birding experience unlike any other; I look forward to getting through my nearly 1,900 photos and putting together a post. For now, here’s a photo of arguably of the most numerous songbirds I observed on the island: Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Meanwhile, I was the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today. It was raining when I headed out, and when I arrived at the mountain, it was totally fogged in. I did some local birding and enjoyed a flock of 70 or so American Pipits in the black dirt. I went back to Mt. Peter just before noon a it was still socked in. I birded Wickham Lake, and then went back to finally start the watch at 1:30.
The flight wasn’t substantial, but I was happy to get some good variety, with 8 species of migrating raptors. I’ve included my HawkCount report below.
We had a respectable flight at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, with a total of 470 migrating raptors. It’s the time of year when Broad-winged Hawks are moving in huge numbers, so while I enjoyed my biggest day of counting in years, Mt. Pete still needs a couple of big days before the Broad-winged Hawk migration is over.
I was lucky enough to have some help up on the mountian today. Fellow counter Tom Millard, Kyle Knapp, Bruce Christiansen, and Bob & Linda Pasak all spent considerable time at the watch, lending the extra eyes. Highlights included 421 Broad-winged Hawks, 7 Bald Eagles, and 3 Ospreys. We enjoyed one triple digit kettle of BWHAs, with a total of 103 birds. See my report at the bottom of this post for more details on the day.
My first bird of the weekend was a new yard bird for me – Common Raven. It was just after sunrise on Saturday morning and the bird landed on one of the evergreens in the backyard and was calling repeatedly. I grabbed my camera and the sun was just barely over the trees and casting the bird in warm light as I snapped some shots. The bird was species number 55 in my yard for 2022; I thought that was a nice way to start the weekend’s birding.
I was the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday. I got out early and birded the black dirt for a little while before heading up to the mountain. I was rewarded with a couple of BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. There were also hundreds (thousands?) of Tree Swallows around. When I saw them, in a few separate fields, they were on the ground and periodically picking up and taking flight. It was the most Tree Swallows I’ve ever seen.
Tree Swallows would prove to be the theme of the day; when I got to Mount Peter there were just loads of them migrating through. Again, I witness hundreds and hundreds of Tree Swallows as I searched the skies for migrating raptors.
The raptor flight was weak, and I only had 14 migrating birds for the day. I did count another Osprey (always cool to see in migration), and I counted my first migrating Bald Eagle of the year. For more details, see my report for the day at the bottom of this post.
This morning I birded the Black Dirt Region again – I was able to locate three Buff-breasted Sandpipers, but no other shorebirds (other than the expected loads of Killdeer). I’m coming across loads of American Kestrels in the black dirt recently; I saw ten just this morning.
It’s hard to believe it’s Labor Day already; this summer flew by for me. But, that means that Hawkwatch Season is upon us. I spent Saturday morning up at Mount Peter helping the Mt. Pete crew clean up the area. We cleaned up trash, cleared up some of the trails, and cut back any small saplings which would grow up to eventually block our view. Word has it that the DEC has finally agreed to remove some trees to help provide better viewing, but we won’t enjoy that until the 2023 season. On Sunday I was the official counter. As we should expect this early in the season, it was slow. I had a total of 14 migrating raptors, you can see my report below.
Shorebirds remain my main focus, however. Early in the week there was a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER located at Skinner’s Lane (apologies, I can’t remember the original locator). I caught up with that bird a couple of times; unfortunately it was waaaay out there and photos weren’t even an option. I also had a couple more American Golden-plover sitings in the black dirt this week. Conditions at the Goshen Park and Ride continue to be good, and there has been a small but diverse group of birds present (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, and Solitary Sandpiper). The most exciting bird this weekend was a STILT SANDPIPER found by Kyle Knapp on Sunday. I was able to catch up with that bird after hawkwatch, I had good scope views, but photos were tough.
This morning Kathy Ashman found a Glossy Ibis at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I ran for the bird; it’s always cool to see a GLIB, but I was also hoping to find some interesting shorebirds. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I was only able to locate Least Sandpipers and Killdeer.
And finally, my yard list is starting to pick up. I added three birds this week – A Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Pileated Woodpecker, and I had several Common Nighthawks flyover last Sunday evening. My yard list total is now up to 53 species.
Well I finally added a new yard bird to my 2022 list this week. Early in the week I was hearing a Broad-winged Hawk calling somewhere in the vicinity. On Friday while I was working, I heard it again and it was loud. I went out my side door and the bird was perched in the large maple tree in the corner of our yard. I clicked a few photos before the bird flew, but my settings weren’t great and my shutter speed was very slow – 1/125th of a second. I didn’t think I had a prayer of getting anything sharp, especially because I was hand-holding my super heavy 500 mm lens. Lucky for me, I managed a couple of acceptable shots.
Meanwhile, the Cooper’s Hawks which nested in my neighbor’s yard had at least three chicks successfully fledge. They have been making a racket all week, and this afternoon, after several blown opportunities, I was able to get a good shot of one of them in the same maple as the BWHA. It was funny because I was “watching the golf” (ie napping on the sofa), when Tricia woke me up to tell me the bird was in our yard.
I didn’t get out at all on Saturday, but this morning I got out for a few hours. I checked 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, following up on some shorebirds that Karen Miller told me about. Conditions are good, but the only shorebirds I was able to locate were about a dozen Killdeer and and a single Solitary Sandpiper. The sanctuary is loaded with Green Herons right now – I had at least 8 while I was there this morning. And as you would expect, there were also many Wood Ducks around; I was happy to capture this one just off the trail.
I also tried Beaver Pond for shorebirds – I found several Least Sandpipers and 10 or so Killdeer. Conditions are good – I’m prediction at least one good bird there this fall.
My last stop was the Liberty Loop. I birded from the platform and was able to locate a single, distant American Bittern. I checked the west side of the loop for shorebirds but only found a couple of Killdeer. Hopefully it’s just a matter of time before we start seeing some more good shorebirds in our area.
Yard Birds 2022: (50). I FINALLY got a new bird (the Broad-winged Hawk), my first since May 17th.
So it’s still feeling like the summer doldrums to me. That said, there was a little excitement in the local birding scene. On Wednesday, an ANHINGA was reported at Lake Tappan in Rockland County. I went for the bird after work on Thursday and was lucky enough to see it. The bird was distant and my photos were barely good enough for documentary purposes, but I enjoyed watching the bird in my scope, waiting it out until it finally left its perch and fished a little. It was excellent to see such a cool bird and to add it to my New York State list.
On Friday, Ken McDermott found a LITTLE BLUE HERON at Algonquin Park. It was reported on Saturday as well, but I tried to relocate it on Sunday and had no luck. Also, John Haas had a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront on Saturday. I tried for that bird this morning, but didn’t have any luck.
Not very shockingly, shorebirds were my main targets this week. I visited Beaver Pond near Glenmere Lake on Friday and had Least, Solitary, and Spotted Sandpipers along with a good number of Killdeer. At the south pond of the Liberty Loop on Saturday morning, I had the same list of shorebird species (although Kyle Knapp had a Pectoral Sandpiper there on Sunday morning). The Camel Farm it totally dry and I didn’t even stop by. This morning I went to Bullville Pond, where there were a couple Solitaries and a couple Spotteds. Hopefully we will begin to get some more diversity soon.
At the conclusion of each hawkwatch season, Mount Peter Hawkwatch leader Judy Cinquina writes a report summing up the year. She always does a great job with the write up, and this year is no different. As she has in the past, Judy provided her report to me so I could include it here on the blog (thanks Judy!). Enjoy the read.
Mount Peter 2021, by Judy Cinquina
Except for a curious Black Bear and an unprecedented invasion of Turkey Vultures, Mount Peter’s 64th annual fall watch provided few surprises. Eleven volunteers manned our 71-day count for 472 hours, September 1 through November 15 and produced 10,120 migrants, primarily Broad-winged Hawks, resulting in a very average 21.44 hawks per hour.
Our most abundant migrant, the Broad-winged Hawk awarded leader Will Test our only four-digit day, September 19. The 3,888 he recorded appeared in “huge” distant kettles, resembling swarms of gnats on light NNE winds. Most began moving at 10 a.m. EST and continued through the nine-hour day, peaking with 1,502 between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. The next morning, Elisabeth McGrath and Ken Witkowski mopped up leftovers, netting 991 more, and then things quieted down. Red-shouldered Hawks came in under their 10-year average at 119: 56 adult, 17 immature, 46 undetermined. Although our watch was extended into November in the ‘80’s, it wasn’t until 2012 Red-shoulders topped 100 or above at our lookout. Our all time record was set only four years ago when 213 took advantage of strong NW winds. Red-tailed Hawks failed to show up this season, coming in 14% below our 10-year average and well below our record 905 set in 2003. Our final tally of 113 was the lowest since 1980 when the count was extended into November. It is concerning, but history has taught us that this species moves on strong NW winds which 2021 failed to produce. Our two best days garnered a mere 13 apiece, November 1 and 10.
Since scoring a record 2,440 Sharp-shinned Hawks in 1986, our 10-year average for this small accipiter has dropped 34%. Only 871 showed up this season, one of seven of our counts under 1,000 since 1978 when our watch expanded into October. Our count mirrors a decline of Sharpies across the Northeast. One explanation, according to Trudy Battaly, Editor of the North East Hawk Watch Journal, may be a decline in songbirds, an important food source for Sharpies. Sharpie numbers may be going down but the larger Cooper’s Hawk numbers are up. This season’s 114 tied their current 10-year average and is a 119% increase over the 52 averaged in the 1980’s. Their larger cousin, the N. Goshawk failed to make an appearance for the third straight season.
Are American Kestrels on a new, positive trajectory? For the second consecutive fall, their numbers held above the 100 mark at 125: 14 male, 25 female, and 86 unknown. Most were too high or far out to sex. The 10-year average of this little falcon has plunged 133% since the 1970’s. Ken Witkowski scored the best day with 30 on WNW winds, September 30. To put that in perspective, our best day in our 64-year history was September 11, 1965 when 210 Kestrels moved through along with hundreds of dragonflies, a favorite food. Any migrant Merlin or Peregrine Falcon is considered a gift at our lookout. Although both produced below average counts, the 8 Merlin and 11 Peregrines were welcome treats.
The last three fall watches brought us the best Bald Eagle numbers in our 64-year watch. A good tally of 140 was noted this fall: 62 adult, 76 immature and 2 undetermined, although it doesn’t beat last year’s record 177. Will Test claimed the best day with 11 that went through with the Broad-wings, September 19. Golden Eagles showed well across the Northeast this season. Between October 19 and November 6, we recorded four Golden Eagles: 1 adult and 3 immature, all on northwest winds. Our record stands at 12 Goldens in 1994.
For the 13th consecutive season, Osprey came in below their 10-year average with 122 recorded. Beverly Robertson nailed the best day with 22, September 12, on light northwest winds.
Like the beleaguered Kestrel, the N. Harrier has declined so much from the 101 seen in 1980 that any slight improvement elicits cheers. The 46 Harriers counted this fall was above the 10-year average: 5 male, 7 female, 14 immature and 20 unknown. Two male Harriers helped draw the curtain on our 2021 watch, on November 15. Leader Bill O’Keefe spotted the two pearl-gray males flying south ahead of an approaching snow shower, as our 2021 watch drew to a close.
Vultures have always been a problem for our leaders. Both species are constantly around, perching on the microwave towers in front of us and hunting the farm fields below. Last season reinforced the fact that some of our vultures do migrate when an unbroken stream of 175 Turkey Vultures went over in one hour, October 27 and pushed our final tally to a record 850. This year the big Turkey Vulture event occurred, October 23. Just as things were getting boring, hundreds of dark specks were spotted in the distance. Leader Jeanne Cimorelli described it as “a tremendous, single-event stream of 851 Turkey Vultures beginning at 2:55 P.M. EST and lasting 45 minutes as birds streamed and kettled out over the valley west of the platform. At its peak, there were three kettles of varying sizes with streaming birds to either side and more birds coming in from the north.” The last of them shifted southeast right over the platform. “It was just beautiful to watch,” Jeanne wrote. Black Vultures came in under their 10-year average with 77. But, like all our vultures, they’re difficult to count and always hanging around.
Although local Ravens entertain us daily, Tom Millard observed two migrating south, October 7. That same day, he was alone, scanning the sky when he looked down and was startled to find a Black Bear directly below the platform. “He looked around for a minute,” Tom wrote, “and went back into the woods.” Ruby-throated Hummingbirds totaled a very average 21 in September. Our record is 45 in 2013. Monarchs migrate in almost any weather with a healthy 1,152 counted through October 27. We counted 4,075 Canada Geese with Denise Farrell toping counts with 1,061 on October 18 and 1,314 on the 27th. Rick Hansen scored 120 Brant, October 22, and Tom Millard noted the only Snow Geese with 20, November 11.
Other birds of interest included: Common Nighthawks September 12 and 14; Great Egrets on September 27 and October 23;Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from October 24 through November 6; Red-breasted Nuthatch singles from September 7 through November 7; and Purple Finch migrants daily between October 23 and November 14.
Thanks to our very dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer crew who put in 472 hours, sometimes without company, and made this report possible. We’re very grateful to Tom Millard for repairs on the platform and installing and taking down our platform box and to Bill O’Keefe for painting over the graffiti. Many visitors benefited from the informative posters created by Denise Farrell. Kudos to our clean-up crew, Denise, Tom, Bill, Rick Hansen, Tom Mitchell and Will Test who picked up trash and cut back weeds