Ulster County Red Crossbills, 03/14/21

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 happy these birds stuck around for me. Red Crossbill at Ashokan Reservoir this morning, 03/14/21.~
~Lonely Red Crossbill on a branch, Ashokan Reservoir 03/14/21.~
~Red Crossbill at Ashokan Reservoir, 03/14/21.~

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.

~Red-tailed Hawk just before sunset, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary 03/13/21.~
~You know it’s a slow afternoon at the Newburgh Waterfront when I’m photographing Canada Geese landings. I enjoyed it. 03/13/21.~
~Ring-billed Gull in nice conditions, Newburgh Waterfront 02/13/21.~
~Turkey Vulture at the Camel Farm, 03/13/21.~

Beechwoods Area, 01/02/21

I headed back up to Sullivan County this morning to try once again for the Northern Shrike that has been seen near Liberty, NY. My second target species was Common Redpoll which have also been reported recently in the same area. I spent the morning traveling the area and scanning for birds, but unfortunately came up empty on both counts. I was enjoying being in the area; it was a beautiful winter morning (sort of) and I was just happy to be out, so flipped open my copy of A Birding Guide to Sullivan County NY and followed the directions over to the Beechwoods Area, which is between Hortonville and Jeffersonville.

~Common Redpoll, Beechwoods Area 01/02/21.~

The Beechwoods Area proved to be more productive. Although most were the usuals, there were enough birds around to make it interesting. I had many Black-capped Chickadees, they were definitely the bird of the day. I also had six Bald Eagle sitings – I’m not sure how many individual birds but there were at least two that I saw at the same time. The bird of the day, however, was a single COMMON REDPOLL on Buddenhagen Road. I spent loads of time with the bird as it was very accommodating, but the light wasn’t in my favor so I was working for photos. Some days you just pick the right thing to do – by that I mean it’s really what you’re in the mood for. Today was one of those days for me.

~CORE at the Beechwoods Area, 01/02/21.~
~Bald Eagle, Beechwoods Area 01/02/21.~

A Good Morning, 10/31/20

Sometimes, at the end of a rough week of work, I just desperately need a good birding experience. That was the case this week, and and this morning Skinner’s Lane delivered. I went primarily for shorebirds, and it was good with five species present throughout the morning: Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-Plover, Pectoral Sandpiper, Dunlin, and likely White-rumped Sandpiper.

~Yes!!! One of the coolest birds in North America – LAPLAND LONGSPUR at Skinner’s Lane, 10/31/20.~

But, it was the mixed flocks of American Pipits, Horned Larks, SNOW BUNTINGS, and LAPLAND LONGSPURS that really made my day. Among a large number of American Pipits and couple dozen Horned Larks, I found three Snow Buntings, and 3 Lapland Longspurs. The Longspurs, of course made my day, especially when one came and landed on the road not too far from me. I put the word out and Rob Stone, Linda Scrima, and Bruce Nott eventually joined me and we enjoyed a really a good morning, which was just what I needed.

~Two of the three Snow Buntings we had today at Skinner. 10/31/20.
~Great Blue in the Black Dirt…~

Looking Back at the Weekend

I did something this weekend that I’ve never done before. I kayaked at Wickham Lake. I’m not sure what took me so long. They have a really excellent put-in, specially made for kayaks which allows you to lock in your paddle to pull yourself into and out of the water. Anyways, I wanted to photograph the Ruddy Ducks that have been at the lake for several days now. Fortunately they were still present, but I soon learned that they are not a very confiding species.

~Double-crested Cormorant showing some personality at Wickham Lake on Saturday morning, 10/10/20.~

I was hoping that being in the kayak would allow me to get a little closer to the Ruddy Ducks, but that proved not to be the case. The group of approximately two dozen birds very calmly kept their distance from me, regardless of my approach (I mostly just let the water drift me towards them). So, I left the Ruddies in peace, and explored the lake like I never have been able to before. I came across a nice mixed flock on the northwest shore; I enjoyed close up views of many Yellow-rumped Warblers, as well as several Black-capped Chickadees, a Blue-headed Vireo, and a Black-throated Green Warbler. An Osprey was intermittently hunting and relaxing in a tree along the shore. But, it was a Double-crested Cormorant, perched high in a tree, that stole the show for me (at least for photos), as it posed in some nice light and didn’t mind at all as I floated by.

~It was really great to see these birds down at their level from the kayak. Ruddy Duck at Wickham Lake, 10/10/20.~

After kayaking Wickham Lake, I headed over to Skinner’s Lane. I was happy to find a relatively large flock (200+ birds) of American Pipits present. They were my first of the year, and they’ve always been a favorite of mine.

I finished the day of birding at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, where I joined counter Bev Robertson and observers Judy Cinquina and Will Test. It was a productive day at the mountain with great variety. I think they totaled just over 100 migrating raptors for the day.

~Yellow-rumped Warbler at Wickham Lake, 10/10/20.~
~Yes! American Pipit at Skinner’s Lane, 10/10/20.~
~I love a migrating Osprey. Mt. Pete, 10/10/20.~
~A little bit of a different look at a Palm Warbler. Kendridge Farm, 10/04/20.~
~I don’t think I’ve posted a single photo of a Red-eyed Vireo this year. Wallkill River NWR, Winding Waters trail, 10/09/20.~

Highland Lakes State Park, 10/03/20

This morning I birded Highland Lakes State Park for the first time in a long time. I was a cool and sunny morning, the kind of morning where it’s just refreshing to be out. I parked where I have in the past, at the entrance on Tamms Road. I don’t actually know the park very well, so I just wandered around the network of trails, trying to keep the sun at my back as much as possible.

~Pretty pic of a Lincoln’s Sparrow at Highland Lakes SP, 10/03/20.~

It was a pleasant morning, and the park was relatively birdy. It was mostly the usuals, but I did have some noteworthy birds. I had a couple of Lincoln’s Sparrows not too far from the parking lot. I also had a half a dozen Purple Finches in the same exact tree I had them in back in the fall of 2016, which I thought was really something. I found some trails I hadn’t hiked on before, one went right along Tamms Pond, and that’s where I found one of my nemesis birds: WINTER WREN! I was extremely excited; the bird was somewhat cooperative and I was able to follow it as it worked along the shore of the pond. Unfortunately it never really got out into the open, so I was happy to get a halfway decent shot of this bird that has been so elusive to me:

~Ah ha! WINTER WREN at Highland Lakes State Park, 10/03/20.~

By the time I’d gotten back to my car, I had a total of 36 species on my list. Remarkably, three of them were Orange County year birds for me: WINTER WREN, Purple Finch, and I was surprised to see that I’d gotten my firs Golden-crowned Kinglet of the year. These birds put my OC year list up to 209, which lower than I have been at this time in the past 4 years, but still not too bad.

~Common Yellowthroat striking a pose. Highland Lakes SP, 10/03/20.~
~One of six Purple Finches at Highland Lakes SP, 10/03/20.~
~This shot is from Friday night; Red-tailed Hawk at Winding Waters Trail (Wallkill River NWR), 10/02/20.~

Carson C. Waxwing Update, 09/17/20

So, I finally connected with Giselle from the Avian Wildlife Center to get an update on Carson, the Cedar Waxwing Fledgling. If you missed this story, you can scroll back to mid August or check here, here, and here to catch up.

Carson is doing well, but has not be released back into the wild yet. When I dropped him off at the center, his feather condition was less than perfect, so they are going to wait for Carson to molt before the release him/her. Carson was also tested for fecal parasites, which came back positive, but it has been treated.

So, now it’s a waiting game, once Carson molts he/she will be released. The good news is that the center is currently housing several other Cedar Waxwings, so Carson will be in good company for the release. Stay tuned… I’ll update again when I can.

I hope Carson gets released soon – I’m running out of photos!

Cedar Waxwing Fledgling Update, 08/21/20

I called the Avian Wildlife Center this morning to get an update on the Cedar Waxwing fledgling. I spoke with Giselle and so far it’s all good news. The bird is comfortable and eating well. In fact, the bird has begun eating on it’s own out of a bowl. Next step is to introduce fruit on the vine to allow the bird to practice eating more like in the wild. The bird is still begging for food, opening wide whenever food is being given, and it won’t be until this stops that the bird will be released. Also, Giselle never releases a single Cedar Waxwing. They are a social bird and she has found that they do much better with other CEWAs. Fortunately, there is another CEWA at the center, so if all goes well they will be released together. The two birds are not together yet as “my” fledgling still needs to have a stool sample tested for parasites. So far, so good. I’ve got my fingers crossed, I’m knocking wood, etcetera…

~What a little sweetie. Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

I also wanted to apologize for my delayed response to many of the comments on the last post. The site has been updated, and as with many updates, there have been some issues. For some reason it is not notifying me via email of new comments. I’ll try to work out that bug, until then I’ll try to check for comments more diligently.

Cedar Waxwing Update & Sunday Shots, 08/16/20

I went back to Beaver Pond first thing this morning. When I arrived, there was no sign of the fledgling Cedar Waxwing. But, after about 10 minutes, I heard the bird calling. Not long after that, as I walked with my scope horizontally on my shoulder, the bird came down and landed on the legs of the scope. It didn’t stay long, the legs were wet from the rain and the bird didn’t seem to like it.

~I’ve come to love this little dude. It’s amazing how small they are when seen in the hand. Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, on its way to Avian Wildlife Center, 08/16/20.~

So, I got in touch with Giselle Smisko from the Avian Wildlife Center in Wantage NJ . I told her my story, and she believed that the bird had been cared for by someone as a nestling and was perhaps released too soon. She said that any typical fledgling would never go to a human but that nestlings will just open their mouth for anyone to receive food. We agreed that if I could capture the bird, I would bring it to her, so it would get the proper professional care it needs. *Important note: Giselle said never to feed a bird wet cat food – it’s not good for their digestive system. Dry food is okay, if moistened. High protein is best.*

~I had plenty of opportunity to photograph this bird, but really, I didn’t take advantage of it. Here’s one shot from Saturday, when I first arrived at Beaver Pond and saw the bird for the first time.~

Meanwhile, Bruce Nott and Karen Miller had arrived to search for shorebirds. The fledgling did not come to me the entire time they were there, but within 5 minutes of their departure, the bird flew down and landed on my scope. I worked it onto my fingers and was able to take it in my hand. I spoke with Giselle again to make arrangements and she said to feed it berries or grapes if I could. I went to the QuickChek once again, and bought some grapes. I broke up a couple of them into manageable sizes and fed the fledgling – it gobbled it up like it was going out of style! It was a really excellent experience. I had to kill a little time before Giselle would be able to take the bird; it was excruciating for me – I just wanted to get the birds into her hands. Eventually, I successfully dropped it off at the center. Giselle said the bird looked well and that its feathers were in good condition. I am able to call in and check on it, so I will. Fingers crossed all goes well. I also wanted to mention that Avian Wildlife Center is privately operated; it does not receive any funds from the government. Tax deductible donations are welcome; you can visit their website here.

~Great Blue Heron at Beaver Pond, 08/16/20.~
~Young Bald Eagle at Esopus Lighthouse Park in Ulster County, 08/15/20.~
~Soft photo of a Sandhill Crane flyover (fly through?) at the Liberty Loop, 0/10/20.~
~Not a great shot, but my first Great Egret of the year in Orange County, at Beaver Pond to be more precise. 08/16/20.~

Beaver Pond Craziness, 08/15/20

I certainly had an interesting afternoon and evening at Beaver Pond on Pines Hills Road in Chester. I went to try for shorebirds of course, but when I arrived there was a bird on the wires that, as I pulled up I wasn’t sure what it was. I got out of my car, and the bird flew down and landed on my car door – it was a Cedar Waxwing fledging. It only stayed for a moment and then went and perched in a small tree.

~iPhone shot of Cedar Waxwing fledgling in hand at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20. All pics in this post were taken with my iPhone.~

So, I went about my business of searching for shorebirds, and it was fairly productive with 5 species of shorebird present: Lesser Yellowlegs (4), Solitary Sandpiper (3), Least Sandpiper (2), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), and Killdeer (6). But then, the fledging Cedar Waxwing flew across the road and landed on my scope; I put my hand up and he hopped onto my hand. The bird was begging for food the entire time, mouth wide open, neck straining. I didn’t have any food, so I walked over to my car, CEWA in hand, and poured some water into my free hand. The bird drank from the water three times and then flew back to the tree across the road.

~Cedar Waxwing fledgling perched on my scope at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

The next time the bird came down, it landed directly on my arm. I worked it to my hand and again gave it water to drink from my cupped hand. It drank, but clearly the bird wanted to eat, not drink, and it flew across the street again, this time perching in a lower bush.

I continued to scan for shorebirds, but I was preoccupied by the fledging calling and calling from across the street. I looked online quickly and it looked like the general consensus was to leave fledgling birds be, that their parents were likely nearby and it amounted to kidnapping rather than saving. But, I’d been at the pond for nearly 3 hours at that point, and there was no sign of any adult birds. I didn’t want to “kidnap” the bird, so I ran to the QuickCheck and bought what I’d just read was one of the foods you can feed young birds: wet cat food. I also grabbed a coffee stirrer to feed with.

~Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

When I returned, the fledging was still in the bush, calling, calling, calling. I walked across the road to the bush and the bird came out to me mouth wide open. At first it was unsure of the cat food, but eventually it ate 3 large mouthsful and then moved up and further into the bush. It was the first time since I’d arrived that the bird wasn’t calling.

I’m going to go back and check on the bird first thing in the morning. I’m not sure exactly what my plan is; I’m going to do some additional research this evening and see what my options might be. Hopefully the adult(s) will have returned and all is well, but we shall see.

Memorial Day Weekend, 2020

The past couple of days I enjoyed getting out in the mornings; both days were birdy enough to keep it interesting. On Saturday I went to Port Jervis. Laurel Grove Cemetery was a bust, but Elks Brox had a good number of birds. It was mostly the usuals or birds I’ve already gotten this year, but I was able to pick up two new birds for the year: Swainson’s Thrush and Gray-cheeked Thrush. I’ve included shots of each below. See my Elks Brox report here.

~This made my day. Today at Goosepond Mountain, this Prairie Warbler landed right in front of me along the trail. It was overcast in the morning, which to me is the perfect light for this bird – any direct light and I just don’t like the way the yellow comes out, especially if the highlights get blown out.~

This morning I went to Goosepond Mountain in an effort to spend some time in my NYSBBA priority block. I was hoping to confirm any breeding species (I didn’t), but I particularly wanted to follow up on the Broad-winged Hawks I saw there a few weeks back (also a fail – unfortunately no sign of them). The highlight of my morning was hearing a WHITE-EYED VIREO just off the trail. The little bugger was stubborn though, and I never laid eyes on it. That’s the second WEVI I’ve heard but not seen this weekend! (The first was at Sterling Forest SP on Saturday). In spite of the above frustrations, it was actually a great walk with plenty of birds (45 species) and very few people.

~Scarlet Tanager female at Elks Brox on 05/24/20.~
~Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at Goosepond Mountain this morning, 05/25/20. This spring I have located 4 BGGN nests – it’s interesting to see how the NYS Breeding Bird Atlas has changed my focus.~
~Male Bobolink at Knapp’s View, 05/25/20.~
~Gray-cheeked Thrush at Elks Brox, 05/24/20.~
~I have this as a Swainson’s Thrush. Elks Brox in Port Jervis, 05/24/20.~