This morning I headed north to try for the WOOD STORK that has been seen in Columbia County. I’ll start off by saying I did not get out as early as I would have liked, and then, just as I was getting the drive started I missed my exit. I compounded my error by following the GPS as it re-routed me, instead of just getting off the next exit and turning around. Ultimately, missing that exit cost me about 10 minutes and a life bird.
On my way up, Scotty Baldinger was kind enough to report on the Mearns App that the Wood Stork was present. This got me anxious to get up there, but the trip is just over an hour and a half, so I had to just be patient. When I arrived on German Church Road in Ghent NY, about a quarter mile in I saw two birders on the side of the road. The Wood Stork is there! they reported and I continued just over a half mile to the location. Only the bird wasn’t there. The birders present let me know that it had flown across the road and back along the way I’d just come. We walked along the road looking through the trees to see if the bird had put down. Then, one of the two birders I’d seen earlier came and reported that they’d seen the bird; it flew over their location and over the main road (Union Turnpike). That means, in the two minute drive from where I’d seen them to the location, the bird flew over me and past me and I never saw it! Ugh!
I spent a couple of hours searching the area, checking back at the original location often, but I had no luck. So, I decided to head back to Orange County. I got about 25 minutes away, when I got a report that the Wood Stork was currently being seen again at German Church Road. I turned around, drove back the 25 minutes to find that once again the bird was not there! What?!? I checked my phone and there was a follow up to the report saying that it was a mistake, and the bird actually wasn’t there. Gah! What a morning! At that point, I packed it in and finally headed back to OC, this time all the way home.
It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a life bird (over a year), but that’s what happened today. It was a bonus that the location was in Orange County and less than a 1/2 hour away. So, after work tonight I headed over to Lower Wisner Road, where up to 4 SEDGE WRENS have been reported in the last couple of days. As soon as I got out of the car, I could hear a SEWR calling from the north side of the road. As I got closer, I could hear a second bird, closer, calling from the south side of the road. I stayed still, listened and scanned, and eventually I located the bird, just about 30 yards out. I was pretty excited, it’s not every Tuesday evening you can get a lifer that easily; it was my 424th life bird.
IMPORTANT: *Please do not use tapes to try and get these birds closer for views or photos. They are pretty cooperative and patience will pay off. Use of tapes will likely disturb their attempts at breeding and ruin this great situation.* Thanks to John Haas for the above advice put forth on his blog Bashakill Birder.
This evening I went to Newburgh to try again for the Eurasian Collared-Dove that has been reported there (I tried last Saturday with no luck). The bird has been reported at the tennis courts on Lilly Street, and when I arrived there was another birder there – I’m drawing a blank, but I believe his name was Paul. He had seen the bird already, but was lingering for another look at it. And I’m glad he did because he was able to relocate the bird about a block away. He actually came and got me on it – huge thanks. It’s a beautiful bird and a New York State bird for me; I’m glad I was able to catch up with it this time.
I have to thank larophile Bruce Nott once again. This morning I chased a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL which he reported at the Newburgh Waterfront. Soon after my arrival, I located a distant black-backed gull. There haven’t been many (any?) black-backed gulls around recently, so I was feeling confident that this was the bird. My problem was that the bird was on the water (hiding leg color) and all alone (eliminating being able to judge by size). I needed to confirm that the bird was not the much more likely Great Black-backed Gull, so I waited it out. The bird slowly drifted north, nearly to the bridge. Then it flew south and put down again, south of the waterfront. Again I watched as it drifted north. It took a short flight at one point, and I was pretty sure, but not positive that I saw yellow legs. I watched as it drifted all the way north once again. I saw it next to a Ring-billed Gull, and the size looked good (larger, but not overwhelmingly so). The bird flew south once again and put down on the docks. Unfortunately, by the time I got to the docks, the bird had flown again. Luckily, this time it put down with a pair of Herring Gulls, and now the size looked perfect. I looked at my flight shots, and sure enough, yellow legs! That’s a good bird for the county, and it was really cool to see it in adult breeding plumage – we don’t usually see that in Orange County.
I headed up north to Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County this morning to try and catch up with the RED CROSSBILLS which have been reported there in recent days. On my way up I became convinced that I’d waited one day too many, but fortunately I was wrong and the birds continued. I got nice looks and just so-so photo ops of these fantastic birds. I also ran into Rick Hansen and PJ Singh; it was really good to see the two of them and enjoy the birds with them.
I was out and about on Saturday too; it was mostly unremarkable birding but very pleasant to be out of the house and birding. Here’s a few shots from the day.
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 looked at this morning’s forecast last night and it made me cranky. I’m sitting at my desk working all week with beautiful sunshine out the window, then on the weekend it’s snow, rain, and clouds. But then I took a different perspective on it. The rain would keep most folks home… so with that in mind I went to Piermont Pier, a location I’ve been avoiding because I figure especially during the pandemic, it’s likely to be loaded with people. I mostly had the place to myself, and while the rain made birding a little bit difficult, it was a good morning.
The highlight of the morning was relocating the pair of PURPLE SANDPIPERS which have been reported this winter. I was surprised to find them, because I looked on eBird last night and they hadn’t been reported in a couple of weeks. My main goal for the morning was to see what waterfowl were present; I was disappointed by the number of species (only 8), but I counted an impressive 288 Ruddy Ducks present. That’s by far the most Ruddies I’ve ever seen in one place.
Afterwards, I birded the Hudson River, making my way all the way up to Newburgh. It wasn’t exciting, but it was enjoyable. My best bird was a Lesser Scaup at Plum Point, my first LESC in Orange County for the year.
I feel like I’ve been on a pretty good roll lately. Last night Bruce Nott, birding bud and fellow Larophile, emailed me some fabulous photos he took of an adult Iceland Gull. I was already planning to head to the river the next day, but this gorgeous bird got me really excited to head over – I’ve been saying for years that I’d love to get a look at an adult ICGU. So, I joined Bruce and Joe Chernek at the Newburgh Waterfront early this afternoon; Bruce had already relocated the bird and it wasn’t very far out. We enjoyed tremendous looks at this beautiful bird and, of course, took loads of photos. Karen Miller joined us and she got the bird as well.
Joe and Karen left, but Bruce and lingered. More gulls were moving in, and we were hoping to see the immature Glaucous Gull. I located an interesting bird that was a little bit distant. It was definitely a white-winged gull that was showing some gray on its upper back and wings. Eventually the bird relocated and we got some better looks – it was a subadult Iceland Gull! We were both pretty jazzed about that bird, but also greedy… and it paid off as Bruce was able to locate the immature Glaucous Gull before we got too cold and wrapped things up. It was another great day of gulling; I can’t thank Bruce enough for all the work he’s been doing and for keeping everyone informed.
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.~
Saturday and Sunday were both gorgeous days – mostly sunny, cold, crisp, with a brisk wind out of the north. It was great to just be out and about after a week staring at my work computer. On Saturday I went up to Sullivan County to try for the Northern Shrike near Liberty NY; unfortunately I had no luck. That’s my third time trying for that bird, and I’m sort of feeling like three strikes and you’re out. The trip was still worth it though, I had a single COMMON REDPOLL and a brief look at three EVENING GROSBEAKS, my first of the winter. In the afternoon I went to the Newburgh Waterfront, where I located a first winter ICELAND GULL.
On Sunday morning I walked the Winding Waters trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful, freezing cold walk, and I enjoyed it immensely. The highlight was a single COMMON REDPOLL, my first in Orange County this winter. In the early afternoon, Bruce Nott reported a GLAUCOUS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront. I ran for the bird; when I arrived we actually located a second bird for two GLGUs! Huge thanks to Bruce as always. It was a good weekend, and I even got a few shots to share, which makes me happy.