Today was my final day of counting at Mount Peter Hawkwatch for the year. Tomorrow is the last day of the season; it always seems to go by so quickly. The season ended with a dud for me, as I had (8) countable birds in six hours. Of note, I had a Common Loon fly nearly directly over the viewing platform and my penultimate bird of the season was a young Bald Eagle with tail plumage that made my heart race for a split second. It was a good season for me; I enjoyed it much more than last season and it’s got me excited to do it all over next year. I’ve included today’s report summary at the bottom of this post; I will also do a future post which will include Judy Cinquina’s end of season report.
On Saturday morning, my phone let me know that it was eBird’s October Big Day. I certainly wasn’t doing a bid day, but it did make me curious to know how many birds I would get on a normal day out in early October. So, I eBirded more locations than I normally would, and I kept track of the birds that I saw en route to get a total for the day. I spent the early morning in the black dirt, where my highlight was a sizable flock of American Pipits, always a favorite of mine. From there I went to Wallkill River National Wildlife refuge. I walked Winding Waters Trail for about a mile or so, and then I spent some time at the viewing platform at the Liberty Loop. I didn’t have any exciting birds, but it was busy enough to add a good number of birds to my tally.
My next stop was Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, where I joined Tom Millard and Judy Cinquina for about an hour and a half. The flight was slow but steady, and with a good variety of migrants. My raptor highlight was a Peregrine Falcon which flew, very high, directly over the platform. For non-raptors, we had a migrating Common Loon fly close enough for a photo, a first for me at Mt. Pete. My final stop was Wickham Lake, where my best bird was a Greater Scaup. I finished the day with 57 species; I’ve included a complete list at the bottom of this post.
On Sunday I was the official counter at Mount Peter. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, with a combination of clouds, fog, and light rain making the flight practically non-existent. I had a total of 4 migrating raptors, 2 Cooper’s Hawks and 2 Northern Harriers, before I called it at 1:30 when the fog had really rolled in and the rain was starting up again.
- Canada Goose (Wallkill River NWR, Mount Peter, Black Dirt, Wickham Lake)
- Mute Swan (Glenmere Lake, Wickham Lake)
- American Wigeon (WR NWR)
- American Black Duck (WR NWR)
- Mallard (WR NWR)
- Greater Scaup (Wickham Lake)
- Common Loon (Mt. Peter)
- Double-crested Cormorant (Wickham Lake)
- Ring-necked Pheasant (Black Dirt)
- Great Blue Heron (WR NWR)
- Great Egret (WR NWR)
- Black Vulture (Mt. Peter)
- Turkey Vulture (Mt. Peter, WR NWR)
- Bald Eagle (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Sharp-shinned Hawk (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
- Northern Harrier (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
- Cooper’s Hawk (Mt. Peter)
- Red-shouldered Hawk (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
- Red-tailed Hawk (Black Dirt, Mt. Peter)
- American Kestrel (Black Dirt, Mt. Peter)
- Peregrine Falcon (Black Dirt)
- Common Gallinule (WR NWR)
- Killdeer (CVS Goshen)
- Ring-billed Gull (Wickham Lake)
- Rock Pigeon (Wickham Lake)
- Chimney Swift (Mt. Peter)
- Belted Kingfisher (Beaver Pond)
- Red-bellied Woodpecker (WR NWR)
- Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Wickham Lake)
- Downy Woodpecker (Wickham Lake)
- Northern Flicker (WR NWR)
- Eastern Phoebe (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Blue Jay (Mt Peter, WR NWR, Black Dirt, Wickham Lake)
- American Crow (WR NWR)
- Common Raven (Mt. Peter)
- Black-capped Chickadee (WR NWR)
- Tufted Titmouse (WR NWR)
- Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Mt. Peter)
- Northern Mockingbird (Mt. Peter)
- White-breasted Nuthatch (WR NWR)
- Eastern Bluebird (Wickham Lake)
- American Robin (WR NWR, Wickham Lake)
- European Starling (Wickham Lake, Black Dirt)
- American Pipit (Black Dirt)
- Yellow-rumped Warbler (Mt. Peter)
- Black-throated Green Warbler (Mt. Peter)
- Blackpoll Warbler (WR NWR)
- Common Yellowthroat (WR NWR)
- Field Sparrow (WR NWR)
- Savannah Sparrow (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Song Sparrow (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
- Swamp Sparrow (WR NWR)
- White-throated Sparrow (WR NWR)
- Red-winged Blackbird (WR NWR)
- House Finch (WR NWR)
- American Goldfinch (WR NWR)
- House Sparrow (Wickham Lake)
I went out to the black dirt first thing Saturday morning. I was counting at Mount Peter in the afternoon, so I wanted to get an early start. As always, I was looking for shorebirds – any new species or some better looks and photos of some of the birds we’ve been seeing. Well, I didn’t see any new species, and the best I could do for photos was a decent shot of a Greater Yellowlegs. But it was still a decent morning with 6 species of shorebirds: Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Greater Yellowlegs.
MOUNT PETER HAWKWATCH
In the afternoon I was the official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, taking over for BA McGrath who, unfortunately had a terribly slow morning. The afternoon, in general, wasn’t much busier but ultimately, I counted a total of 67 migrating raptors. A surprise kettle of 39 Broad-winged Hawks accounted for most of that number. I had (3) migrating Bald Eagles, and there were several Common Ravens putting on a show on the cell tower and in the air over the platform. You can see my report for HMANA at the bottom of this post.
This morning I decided it was finally time to give the shorebirds a break. So I headed to Port Jervis and I birded Reservoir #3. It was just what the doctor ordered, birdy, peaceful, perfect weather, and some good photo ops. I tallied 30 species for the morning, with highlights of Brown Creeper (Res 3 is money for that bird!), several Red-breasted Nuthatches, and a pair of Blue-headed Vireos. Actually the real highlight for me came afterwards – after shooting distant shorebirds and raptors, it felt good to look at some decent photos of songbirds.
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.
It’s the time of year when birds are heard more often than seen. It’s also the time of year, especially now that things are opening up on the tail end of the pandemic, when there are things going on that are not birding. I know, it’s true sometimes I do things other than work and bird, lol. Anyways, last weekend was a bust in spite of a full morning of birding the Port Jervis area on Saturday, hence no post. This weekend was only slightly better in terms of photos. I spent Saturday morning birding my NYSBBS priority block Warwick CE; I was able to confirm Cedar Waxwing and Common Grackle. The block now has 29 confirmed species; I have to thank Jarvis Shirky who has been birding the block often and has confirmed 10 species. Photo ops were few, thank goodness for the Bobolinks at Knapp’s View, otherwise this weekend would have been another photo bust.
This weekend had a very different feel compared to last weekend. Last weekend it was cool and birds seemed to be everywhere, including many migrants. This weekend the heat moved in, that jump that we seem to have in our area from spring to summer at a moment’s notice. The trees were that much more leafed out, and while it was birdy, I found fewer migrants and the birding experience had the beginnings of a summery feel to me.
I had an interesting experience on Friday evening. I went to the Beaver Pond near Glenmere Lake to try for shorebirds (I found Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer). While I was there, a man and his daughter pulled over and the man got out of his car and was listening to the pond with his hands cupped over his ears. We eventually started chatting, his name was Jay, and he was listening for Northern Cricket Frogs. I’d heard them the night before and thought they must be insects (hence the name!). He explained to me that these little frogs are endangered in New York State, and the “Glenmere Lake” population and another small population at Little Dam Lake are among the few that can be found in the state. Check out the DEC write up on Northern Cricket Frogs here.
I had another interesting experience on Saturday evening. After birding Kendridge Farm in the morning, where it was birdy but nothing noteworthy, I went home during the heat of the day and then headed back out in the evening. My goal was to try for Eastern Whip-poor-wills at Sterling Forest, so I knew I would be out past sunset. I birded Ironwood Road and eventually ended up at the power cut at the end of the road, where I birded and waited for Whip-poor-wills.
While I was waiting, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a small flock of birds flying across the power cut, and then something dropping like a stone to the ground. It was a flock of Cedar Waxwings, I found 5 of them perched in the trees. I went to check out where I’d seen something fall – I couldn’t find anything so I was baffled. Then, deep in the vegetation, I found a single Cedar Waxwing. I’m guessing that the bird hit one of the wires and stunned itself. I let the bird be and gave it plenty of distance; checking on it from time to time. It took a good while, but eventually the bird picked up and off it flew! I was relieved, I didn’t necessarily want to rescue another Cedar Waxwing.
A little after sunset, the Eastern Whip-poor-wills started calling; I counted three and headed home. On Ironwood Drive, on my way out, I was driving very slowly and I saw one single glowing eye, glowing super bright. I stopped and tried to figure out what it was in my bins; just as I lifted them up it flew and landed in a nearby tree and started calling – it was another Whip-poor-will!
Sunday morning was mostly uneventful – I walked Goosepond Mountain and had the usuals plus one good bird – Canada Warbler! That’s not a bird that I do well with, so I was pretty happy about that. Then, Linda Scrima called me. She had 2 Short-billed Dowitchers at the Camel Farm. I ran for the birds, and had some decent scope views. It’s super hard, especially at that distance, to tell Short from Long-billed Dowitchers, but they looked good to me. I checked eBird bar graphs when I got home and there are no reports of LBDO in the spring in Orange County, so I’m pretty happy with SBDO. I’ve included a distant shot at the bottom of this post. Thanks to Linda for heads up.
I’m going to keep it short this evening. I’m absolutely exhausted after a seriously hectic work week and a busy but excellent weekend. I stayed local all weekend, birding primarily in south/southwest Orange County with a couple trips to the Sussex County side of the Liberty Loop for shorebirds. Birds were certainly plentiful, it’s that time of year, and I added 15 species to my OC year list. It was a weekend of near misses for me – I seemed to be slightly off my game and missed some really nice opportunities for photos. Fortunately the birds were abundant and so were the photo ops. Enjoy the pics.
I woke up early this morning and headed to Port Jervis. I stopped at the Camel Farm on my way, to check for shorebirds. I got lucky and along with several Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, and a Killdeer, I found a single DUNLIN. Definitely worth the stop.
In Port Jervis, my first and most productive stop was at Laurel Grove Cemetery. I enjoyed 9 species of warbler, several of which, including a single Cape May, were accommodating for photos. The cemetery was birdy, and I had 38 types of birds, mostly expected species.
From there I headed over to Elks Brox Memorial Park, which was less birdy, but I did get some fantastic looks at one of my favorite warblers – BLACKBURNIAN. The bird actually seemed very aware of my presence, and never really allowed for any close photos. I also watched a Black-capped Chickadee with presumed nesting material (see below), and a Pine Warbler with nesting material, so that was helpful for the NYS Breeding Bird Atlas.
I enjoyed a cool, rainy morning and early afternoon of birding today. Ironwood Drive at Sterling Forest State Park was far and away my most productive stop. I tallied 15 species of warbler there, and I added 13 birds to my Orange County year list. Best birds for me included Cerulean Warbler (great looks but lousy pics), Hooded Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, and my first Scarlet Tanager of the year.
I headed north to the Newburgh Waterfront to try for waterfowl, gulls, and terns. I’d already checked Glenmere Lake and Greenwood Lake without much success (other than the continuing Greater Scaup – see photo below). There wasn’t much happening at the river, so I headed to Orange Lake to try for the White-winged Scoter that Bruce Nott reported earlier. Unfortunately the scoter had moved on, but remarkably, it had been replaced by 11(!) Common Loons. A quick stop at Washington Lake added Bank Swallow to my year list, but nothing else.
My final stop of the day was at the Orange County Airport, hoping for Upland Sandpipers. No luck with the Uppies, but I did find some recently fledged Killdeer chicks, which were super cute. I also found a pair of Northern Harrier, a female and a young male; they appeared to be performing courtship behavior. It would be awesome if they bred out there. It’s a good time of year with loads of new birds every day; I’m looking forward to tomorrow morning already.
I’ve been wanting to see a Porcupine for ages, but for some reason or other, I never crossed paths with one since I’ve been in the area (11+ years now!). Well, this weekend I saw three, lol. The first one was on a seasonably cold and windy hike at High Point State Park with my brother-in-law Bill on Saturday morning. We hiked for just over 9 miles; the views from High Point were impressive, the number of birds, not so much with just 18 species tallied. The Porcupine was far and away the highlight.
On Sunday morning I headed out to the Bashakill to try my luck there. It’s been ages since I’d been there and it did not disappoint. I immediately ran into John Haas and Scotty Baldinger with a couple other birders when I parked at the front of the Stop Sign Trail. I figured the smart money was on sticking with them – they attract warblers and birds in general like nobody’s business. I wasn’t wrong, the place was hopping with birds, but the first thing that got my attention was not one, but two Porcupines sleeping up in trees! What a weird coincidence! As for the birds, I covered some good territory and counted just under 60 species for the morning, eleven of which were warblers. There were also many birders out and about – too many to mention by name. It was good to catch up with some folks I haven’t seen in a while. Birding highlights for me included excellent looks at Blue-winged and Black-throated Blue Warblers at the Stop Sign Trail, decent looks at a high, singing Cerulean Warbler and a Yellow-throated Vireo at the Horseshoe Trail, and a calling Virginia Rail at the Deli Fields.