When I first started birding, I remember looking in my bird guide book at Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings in breeding plumage. I didn’t realize at the time that it’s extremely unlikely to see either of those birds in breeding plumage unless you travel to their breeding grounds. But then, a few years back, Rob Stone put it in my head that it was possible to get Lapland Longspurs in the early spring in beautiful plumage. I can remember this beautiful bird that I found in early April of 2018 – it was nearly there. But it wasn’t until today that I was finally able to see and capture a LALO in breeding plumage. I was so excited!
I hit the black dirt this morning, hoping mostly for shorebirds, but also hoping for American Pipits, since I’d seen that they were reported on Saturday. Shorebirds were a bust for me, but I did find a flock of approximately 30 pipits; I enjoyed watching and photographing them in the morning rain. Then I located a decent sized flock of Horned Larks in flight. I tracked them with my bins and saw where they put down; I got my scope on them and one of the first birds I saw was a beautiful LALO in breeding plumage. The birds were distant, and I was unable to get photos. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I waited them out and finally got my opportunity. There were at least (3) longspurs in the flock; I have photos of 3 distinct plumages.
On Saturday I took a 6 mile hike at Black Rock Forest. I was just in the mood to take a hike and get my legs moving, but it ended up being surprisingly birdy. I added 10 birds to my OC year list; highlights included Brown Creeper and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Afterwards, I ran for the WILSON’S PHALAROPE that Jeanne Cimorelli reported at the Camel Farm on Friday evening. That’s a really great find and an excellent bird for the county, however I didn’t get too excited about it because between the great distance and the heat shimmer, my looks were pretty terrible.
I focused my birding time mostly on waterfowl again this weekend. For the most part it was the same birds we’ve been seeing, but I was able to add (3) new species to my Orange County year list. On Saturday birding bud Bruce Nott let me know he had a Common Loon on Orange Lake (I would find another one at Glenmere Lake on Sunday). Then, I had my first Blue-winged Teal of the year this morning at Beaver Pond in Florida, NY. And finally, I ran to the mouth of the Quassaick Creek where it meets the Hudson River, to catch up with a GREAT CORMORANT located by Bruce earlier in the morning. This was definitely the bird of the weekend (even if my photos weren’t very good). It’s been a number of years since I’ve had that bird in Orange County.
This weekend was a complete bust for me. I’m actually surprised that this doesn’t happen more often. I checked some of the lakes in southern Orange County on Saturday and didn’t get anything to speak of. I was feeling wiped out from the work week, so I called it quits early.
Then, on Sunday Linda Scrima, Maria Loukeris, and I headed up to Williamstown Massachusetts, where we joined Rob Stone to try for the Bohemian Waxwings that have been reported there recently. Suffice to say we didn’t even see a single Cedar Waxwing. It was a pretty grim morning of birding, and after a delicious lunch (which took the edge off a little bit), we headed back to OC.
With all the time spent in the car, we of course got to telling stories and reliving some of the glory days in the past decade or so that we’ve spent birding in the area. I figured since I came up empty this weekend, I would take the opportunity to look back at some old posts and relive some of the good old days – this edition will focus on raptors:
Honest to goodness, the years go by faster and faster as I get older. Today puts yet another year of birding in the books, and as always, I like to take the opportunity to look back on my year here at Orangebirding.com. I had an enjoyable year where I once again focused on the birds and the types of birding that brought me the most joy. That said, I end the year with a respectable 209 birds in Orange County. And, I put some effort towards getting my Sullivan County life list over 200 birds; I added 12 species, putting my total life birds for the county at 206.
For this year’s wrap up post, I thought I would look back month by month at the year’s highlights here on the blog.
JANUARY: The year got off to a sad start when I located a sick Iceland Gull at the Beacon waterfront. I brought it to a veterinary hospital, but ultimately the bird was too far gone and passed away there. Things could only go up from there for the month, and I was able to get some really good birds for the area, including the MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD in Ulster County, CANVASBACKS close to home at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, a LARK SPARROW in Campbell Hall, and the continuing FRANKLINS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront.
FEBRUARY: Always a favorite, I was able to catch up with the NORTHERN SHRIKE at Wickham Woodlands Park several times. I also was able to get on my first CACKLING GOOSE in a good while. At the end of the month I went to Long Island to visit my dad, and was able to do some good gulling, with Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the north shore.
MARCH: I continued to enjoy wintery birding in OC, particularly in the black dirt and at the Newburgh Waterfront. My best birds of the month included a large flock of Snow Geese in the black dirt, RED CROSSBILLS at Black Rock Forest, and one of my few good finds this year – four TUNDRA SWANS in muddy field on Celery Avenue.
APRIL: After work on the 19th, I enjoyed the excellent waterfowl fallout at Wickham Lake. Birds included a remarkable 13 White-winged Scoters, a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, and 21 Horned Grebes. Other highlights from the month include a single CASPIAN TERN and 19 BONAPARTE’S GULLS, both at Plum Point.
MAY: There were two very exciting birding events in May. On the 13th there was the unprecedented number of ARCTIC TERNS found inland – I followed up on Karen Miller’s report and had 7 at Glenmere Lake. Then, towards the end of the month, a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT was found by Bruce Nott and Ken McDermott. I also went on my first 24 hour pelagic, where I picked up 3 life birds (Sooty Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-petrel, and Leach’s Storm-petrel). Tricia and I spent some time in Cape Cod, and the blog celebrated its 10 year anniversary.
JUNE: Birding started to take on a summery doldrums feel. Exciting birds included a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and a DICKCISSEL in the black dirt. I also saw my first black bear in quite a while, while hiking at Sterling Forest.
JULY: Summer birding kicked in for sure. I did a good amount of hiking. A photo I took of a beaver at Black Rock Forest made it into their 2023 calendar. Birding highlights included excellent looks at an AMERICAN BITTERN at the Liberty Loop and a very accommodating LITTLE BLUE HERON at Algonquin Park.
AUGUST: August was an excellent month for shorebirds for me. Local exciting birds included: UPLAND SANDPIPER, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS), MARBLED GODWIT, and RUDDY TURNSTONE.
SEPTEMBER: Hawkwatch began. I enjoyed seeing BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS in the black dirt and there was a GLOSSY IBIS at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. At the end of the month, Tricia and I went on vacation in Maine, which included several days on Monhegan Island.
OCTOBER: I was still seeing some good shorebirds in the black dirt, including more BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS, as well as WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS. Hawkwatch continued but was mostly uneventful. On the 28th I enjoyed 13 species of waterfowl at Wickham Lake, including a SURF SCOTER.
NOVEMBER: Hawkwatch wrapped up – it was the first season in a while that I did not record a migrating Golden Eagle. But, there were plenty of good birds during the month, including my lifer YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, a nice look at a RED-THROATED LOON at Piermont Pier, a BRANT at the waterfront, and 7 BLACK SCOTERS on Wickham Lake.
DECEMBER: December brought even more good birds. I enjoyed close looks of the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on State School Road, got lucky with the Ulster County ROSS’S GOOSE and LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE on the same day, saw the SURF SCOTER with 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Rondout Reservoir, and I got my county lifer ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER at the Newburgh Waterfront.
MY TOP TEN PHOTOS OF 2022
Here’s my personal top 10 photos that I took in the past 12 months. I start with my favorite shot of the year – the Red-necked Phalarope at Morningside Park, and then I continue from there. I noticed this year how much the species seemed to weigh in on my decisions – many of my favorites are featured.
As always, I’d like to thank all my birding friends that have helped to make another great year of birding (you know who you are). I’d also like to thank everyone for reading the blog, especially those of you who subscribe and if you are a commenter please keep it up -I live for the comments! Happy New Year to everyone, here’s to another great year of birding in 2022
I chased some local rarities today. I headed out before sunrise, and headed up to Ulster County. My first stop was at Stone Ridge Pond in Stone Ridge, NY, to try for the ROSS’S GOOSE which has been seen there. This was a very easy get; the bird was present and sticking out like a sore thumb among a medium sized flock of Canada Geese. The bird was a little distant, but the light was decent and I kind of like these moody pics of this bird.
My second stop was at Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge to try for the LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE which was photographed and reported in early December and reported again just the night before by Karen Maloy Brady. My timing was good for this bird – not long after I arrived Karen once again located and reported the bird. I got excellent looks at the bird in my scope and some documentary shots before the bird made itself scarce and I moved on. The bird was a NYS bird as well as an Ulster County bird for me.
My final destination of the day didn’t work out quite as well. I headed to the Bashakill to try and catch up with the HAMMOND’S FLYCATCHER that John Haas found and reported the day before (read about it HERE). The bird was being seen in the morning, but unfortunately I was unable to connect with it. I stayed for a couple of hours, left, and the bird was seen again. Sheesh. I headed back to the Bash to give it one more go, but after another 45 minutes I called it. Tomorrow is another day.
My first goal of the day was to try and track down the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE originally located by Ronnie DiLorenzo on Monday of this week. I went to Wickham Lake first thing; unfortunately all of the geese were already picking up and heading out. My consolation prize was seeing my first American Tree Sparrows of the season. I left the lake and headed to State School Road, where I found a small group of Canada Geese, but no GWFG.
I checked some of the local lakes for any good birds, but did not find anything out of the ordinary. I went back to State School Road, and sure enough the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE was present, up front of the flock and looking beautiful. I put the word out and then snapped a bunch of photos. GWFG is always a favorite of mine, and on top of that it was an Orange County year bird.
In the afternoon, I headed over to the Newburgh Waterfront. I had a couple of goals: one to follow up on Bruce Nott’s report of an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER from yesterday, and two, to try for some interesting gulls. I succeeded with the OCWA, finding a relatively cooperative bird on the trail near the large sign that faces towards the river. I was pretty excited because it was an Orange County life bird for me, as well as, of course, a year bird.
Gulling was less exciting, as I only found the three expected species for our area (Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed). My day was capped off as I drove home on Route 84 through the Stewart Forest area. I was driving into the sunset and the skies were filled with absolutely massive flocks of mixed blackbirds. It was quite a sight, too bad I was driving on the highway and couldn’t document it.
First thing this morning I went to the Courtyard Marriott Middletown/Goshen to follow up on a confirmed eBird report of a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. After just over an hour with no sign of the bird, I departed to go try my luck in the black dirt. Just after 9:00 am, Jeanne Cimorrelli reported the bird was present on the Mearns Bird Club App. I ran for it, but the bird had moved on before I arrived.
I joined a good number of birders, and we waited for the bird to return. Which it did, about an hour after it was last seen. It flitted around the ‘Courtyard’ sign on the side of the hotel for only about a minute before it flew off. As far as I know, the bird has not been seen since. I was pretty happy to have gotten lucky enough to see the bird, it was a life bird, and of course a county and state bird for me. It was also good to see some of the birders I haven’t seen in a while.
Afterwards, I spend some more time in the black dirt. Highlights included many Horned Larks with a handful of Snow Buntings, a flyover of (5) Sandhill Cranes (a first for me to see that many in OC), and I enjoyed sifting through a large flock of mixed blackbirds. I was hoping to maybe find a Yellow-headed Blackbird, but of course, no such luck.
QUICK POST: This morning Bradley White located a MARBLED GODWIT on the west side of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Birding bud Maria Loukeris notified me, and Linda Scrima followed up by reporting the bird on the Mearns Bird Club app in the afternoon. I headed to the loop right after work. I hustled to the west side, but when I arrived there was no sign of the bird. Fortunately I ran into Ronnie DiLorenzo, who let me know the bird had relocated to the southernmost pond in the loop. I once again hustled to the back pond and this time I got lucky and the bird was not only present, but not too far out. This is the second straight Monday where I got an absolutely fabulous shorebird – it’s definitely a good cure for a bad case of the Mondays!
Today while I was working I received an alert on the Mearns Bird Club app; John Haas had a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at Morningside Park. I immediately knew I would run for the bird after work if it stuck around. John reported the bird again in the mid afternoon, so things were looking good.
I tried to not speed too much on my way to Morningside Park, I’d already been delayed because I had to put air in one of my tires. I arrived, put my kayak in the water and headed out. I made the rounds of all the mud/stump islands in the lake, but didn’t have any luck. There was a good number of shorebirds present, I had: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, and (6) SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Normally this would be a banner day, but I was itchy about the phalarope and beginning to think it had moved on.
On my second go-round, I was happy to see the Red-necked Phalarope come in and land at the island where I was looking. I “parked” my kayak in the muddy shore and watched, photographed, and just enjoyed this incredible little bird. The bird was beautiful and extremely confiding, making its way closer and closer to me and never flushing. It was a very special birding experience, one that I won’t forget any time soon. What a bird.
John called as I was making my way back to shore. I told him how it went – he stopped me in my tracks when I mentioned the dowitchers. They hadn’t been there earlier, so John jumped in his car and joined me at the park to get them just before darkness fell. Huge thanks and congrats to John for finding and reporting a great bird. Check out his shore birding accounts from the day here.
Tonight after work I headed out to the black dirt again, and I finally caught up with my target bird for this week: UPLAND SANDPIPER! I was having a pleasant evening – it was birdy enough to keep me interested, it was Friday night, life was good. Then, life became excellent when I spotted an Upland Sandpiper hanging out with a couple of Killdeer. Unfortunately the bird flew not long after I found it. Linda Scrima joined me in the search, and she was able to relocate the bird, but only briefly before it flew again. Try as we might, we were unable to relocate the bird again before it got too dark.