This morning I hiked the Sterling Ridge Trail at Sterling Forest State Park. I tallied just under 50 species of birds; all of them were expected species (the usuals). I did have a little bit of excitement, however, with two separate Black Bear sitings. One bear was up on a hillside, about 150 yards off the trail, and took absolutely no notice of me. The other was just on the other side of a small pond. That bear was definitely aware of my presence; it most likely heard the camera shutter. It had been a couple years since I’d seen a bear, so today was a treat.
From Friday evening to Saturday evening, I’m pretty sure I had my best 24 hours of warblers ever. In that span I had 19 species of warbler in three different locations: Sterling Forest State Park’s Ironwood Drive, Sterling Forest’s Old Forge Road, and Pochuck Mountain State Park.
Black-and-white Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
Ovenbird: All three locations
Nashville Warbler: Pochuck
Worm-eating Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Louisiana Waterthrush: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
Northern Waterthrush: Ironwood Drive
Black-throated Blue Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck
Blue-winged Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Common Yellowthroat: Ironwood Drive
Hooded Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Cerulean Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Northern Parula: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck
Blackburnian Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Yellow Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
American Redstart: Ironwood Drive and Old Forge Road
Black-throated Blue Warbler: Ironwood Drive and Pochuck
Black-throated Green Warbler: Pochuck
Yellow-rumped Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Prairie Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Golden-winged Warbler: Ironwood Drive
Maybe more remarkably, in that same 24 hours, I added a total of 27 new species to my Orange County year list. Highlights (outside of the warblers) include: Virginia Rail (Liberty Loop), Broad-winged Hawk (Sterling SP), Green Heron (Sterling SP), and Baltimore Oriole (Pochuck).
I woke up reasonably early and planned a fairly long hike to take at Sterling Forest State Park. I started at the trailhead for the Sterling Ridge Trail on Route 17A. The trail was birdy with many expected birds; the only ‘surprise’ came when I got to a power cut and I could first hear and then see a couple of Prairie Warblers.
After about two miles, I left the Sterling Ridge Trail (I would hook up with it again later), and I took the Bare Rock Trail for a short time before heading south on the West Valley Trail. I chose the West Valley Trail because it ran through a swampy area that runs along Jennings Creek. I was hoping this change of habitat would add some species to my list and it certainly did – I got my best bird of the day there, a calling ACADIAN FLYCATCHER just a couple hundred yards from the swamp. At the swamp I added more birds: Eastern Phoebes, Common Grackles, Tree Swallows, Red-winged Blackbirds, and a beautiful family of Wood Ducks.
Just beyond the swamp, I jumped onto the Furnace Loop, which would eventually put me back onto the Sterling Ridge Trail. On the Furnace Loop I did well, getting good looks at several Hooded Warblers and a Worm-eating Warbler. Hooded Warblers remain my current photo-nemesis bird, and the Worm-eating made such a brief appearance that I didn’t have a chance. In the same area, I did manage to get a usable photo of a Black-and-white Warbler, so that was a decent consolation.
Shortly after I joined back up with the Sterling Ridge Trail, there was a fairly steep ascent which I scrambled up. Thats when I realized that the temperatures were rising and I was running out of water. AND that I was whooped. As I walked the portion of the Sterling Ridge Trail that I hadn’t previously been on, I was still actively birding even though in the heat the birds were more quiet than they had been all morning. Once I got back to where I had left the trail several hours earlier, I was in full zombie-hiker mode; one foot in front of the other, just determined to get back to my car. I drank the last of my water when I had maybe a mile left, fortunately I had more in the car which I guzzled upon arrival.
It was nice long hike (even if I was a little under prepared – bring more water, take rests!). I estimate that I hike around 8 miles or so, and it was fairly productive as I had 38 species for the morning.
This morning I birded with Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris. We hit two spots and did pretty well with warblers at both of them:
STERLING FOREST – IRONWOOD DRIVE
POCHUCK MOUNTAIN STATE FOREST
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Other notable birds included super looks at 2 Yellow-billed Cuckoos (unfortunately, I blew the pics!), a Swainson’s Thrush, and several Scarlet Tanagers all of which were seen at Pochuck Mountain. The Golden-winged Warbler was a lifer for Linda, so congrats to her on that.
It’s really a great time of the year for birding, and I’m embracing warblers for the first time really, so it’s been very enjoyable. I’ve included photos from earlier this week, when I made visits to Sterling Forest and the Liberty Loop.
I got a fairly early start this morning; I was headed out to hike the Sterling Valley Loop Trail at Sterling Forest State Park. It was raining when I arrived, and it pretty much rained for the entire 7.7 mile hike. While it never came down very hard, it was just enough to make birding a little bit difficult. I wore good rain gear, so I stayed dry and so did my camera (by the way my gear included wearing a day glow vest since turkey hunting season started this morning). And I had a cover for the eyepiece of my binoculars, so I was doing my best to keep the rain off of the ocular lenses. But, I didn’t take into account a couple of things: First, I spent much of my birding time looking straight up into the tops of trees, so the objective lenses of my bins were getting soaked. Second, whenever I brought my binoculars to my eyes, the ocular lenses would fog over. Next time around, I will be sure to bring a soft absorbent towel for drying the objective lenses and clearing the condensation off the ocular lenses. I was also holding my bins away from my eyes so they wouldn’t fog over, at that worked to a certain extent.
As far as the birding went, the trail was only moderately birdy. I spent 5 hours hiking and had a modest (for this time of year) 39 species. I added 2 species to my Orange County year list: American Redstart (of which I had several), and Eastern Kingbird. I thought I was going to have to do a post with no photos (which I am always reluctant to do), but luckily when the rain let up a little bit, I had a decent opportunity with a Black-and-white Warbler. I also had a chance to photograph an Eastern Kingbird, but I was shooting through the brush and never got a clean focus on the bird.
When I had gotten home and stripped off all my wet gear, I received a call from Rob Stone. He was on a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER at Wickham Lake. Back on with the gear! I ran for the bird and it was still present when I arrived. I walked the trail on the southeast of the lake to get a little closer to the bird. I got better scope views from there and a post-able photo. WWSC is definitely what I consider a good bird for the county. Thanks once again to Rob, who never ceases to amaze.
And then there was this…
QUICK POST: I got an early start this morning and hiked Indian Hill Loop at Sterling Forest State Park. It was a nice hike with some scenic overlooks and it was just birdy enough to keep it interesting. I had Blue-gray Gnatcatchers throughout the walk, heard two Louisiana Waterthrushes, and I was happy to find Black-and-White Warblers at two different high points in the walk. However, the definite highlight of the day was when a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker came in and landed in a tree less than 20 feet from me. I froze as the bird went about its business; I watched as the bird carefully created a hole and then fed on the sap. The bird did this two times while I stood only yards away, and I just relaxed and enjoyed every minute of it, not knowing when I would ever get another opportunity like this.
Since I’ve been out of the loop for a little while, I figured it would be a good idea to do a post of notable Orange County sightings that I know of from the past week:
SUNDAY 4/3/16 – It was a waterfowl fallout of sorts in OC. Rob Stone reported 20+ Long-tailed Ducks at Wickham Lake, along with 1 Greater Scaup, 1 Common Loon, and 1 Horned Grebe. Meanwhile, Kathy Ashman reported to Mearns Bird Club that she had 7 Horned Grebes at Glenmere Lake, with some in breeding plumage.
MONDAY 4/4/16 – Rob Stone had a Vesper Sparrow at Lower Wisner Road.
THURSDAY 4/7/16 – I had 1 Greater Scaup, 1 Common Loon (my FOY), and 2 Horned Grebes at Greenwood Lake. Kathy Ashman reported a Green Heron at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary.
FRIDAY 4/8/16 – I had 1 Common Loon at Sterling Lake and at Greenwood Lake I had 1 Horned Grebe, 1 Red-breasted Merganser, and 2 Common Loons.
SATURDAY 4/9/16 – I had my FOY Louisiana Waterthrush and Swamp Sparrow on the Sterling Lake Loop Trail. At White Oak Swamp, I finally got my FOY Rusty Blackbird and I also had my FOY Palm Warbler.
SUNDAY 4/10/16 – Maria Loukeris had a Common Loon at Glenmere Lake. I went for the bird later in the day and 4 Greater Scaup and 1 Lesser Scaup (FOY) had moved in as well. Earlier in the day, I had my FOY Osprey at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary (but missed out on the Green Heron).
Since my return from Florida I have gotten out and done a lot of local birding whereI have seen and heard many birds, yet it has not felt overly fulfilling. I was thinking about it today and that’s when I realized that I am not well; I am suffering from a case of Post Florida Birding Syndrome. A while back, Linda Scrima warned me that this would happen. Who would have guessed that it would difficult to transition from taking super close-up photos of multiple life birds every day to trying to locate the smallest of birds among the leaves in the highest treetops?
The good news is that I think I’ve found a remedy: I’m thinking back on all the amazing first-of-the-year birds that I’ve had in the eight days since I’ve been back. The list is 50 species long just for Orange County! What better indication is there of all the great birding that is going on right now? And the Mearns Bird Club had their BREAK 100 event this weekend; every team but one had over 100 species in 24 hours! How awesome is that? Additionallhy, while they were not Florida-close, I did manage to get some decent photos during the week. It makes me think about what a great pastime birding is, how there are amazing birds at every turn and that you never know what the next big thing will be.
For those that are interested, these are the new birds added to my Orange County List in the last eight days:
This Blue-gray Gnatcatcher is hopefully the last photo I will post using my 55-250mm lens for a long time – I got my 100-400mm lens back today. I took some test shots in the Canon parking lot and the lens seems to be working well, but I will know for sure once I take a look at the shots on the computer. This gnatcatcher was shot at Sterling Forest on Monday 5/5/14 in the afternoon. It was not very birdy out there at that time, but I am pretty sure you can do well for warblers there in the early morning.
I made it out to Sterling Forest State Park in Tuxedo New York this evening to try to see the Mississippi Kites that had been seen there over the last several days. I would like to thank all the folks from the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club who posted about the kites. I was not disappointed in the least! I was there for an hour and a half and both birds where present almost the entire time. I watched as they ate dragonflies and also got to see them mate on two separate occasions! What a great day of birding! Here’s some photos: