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.
Shorebirds in the black dirt are generally quite distant; just miles out, which means photos are typically just documentary. But this week, I had some birds which, while not close enough for anything remarkable, were close enough to get some decent shots. I’ve been checking the black dirt frequently, I have the feeling we are going to get something good out there this fall. Or maybe I’m just hoping we will. Either way, it was nice to get some shorebirds which were not Killdeer, and some decent photos to boot.
One other quick note – I went out the Hudson River this afternoon, hoping the hurricane/tropical storm might bring in something interesting. I don’t think my timing was great, and there wasn’t much going on. Tomorrow might be better, but unfortunately I’ll be working.
Shorebird migration hitting its stride has really gotten my birding blood pumping. On Saturday and early Sunday morning I birded the black dirt and Liberty Marsh and had a total of 10 species of shorebirds (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Wilson’s Snipe, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, and Solitary Sandpiper). If I add my mystery shorebirds from last Sunday, which turned out to be UPLAND SANDPIPERS, that’s 11 species of shorebirds in a week.
~Caspian Tern in flight above Cornwall Bay, 08/15/21.~
But, as much as I love shorebirds, the real excitement began later in the morning when Bruce Nott notified me that he had several CASPIAN TERNS at Cornwall Bay. I headed straight over and joined Bruce. Two of the terns had departed, heading south, but that still left six Caspian Terns present. We enjoyed watching as the 3 adult birds actively fished and periodically brought back their prey to feed the waiting and calling 3 juvenile birds. We also had some shorebirds fly in and stay on the sandbar briefly – by my count there were 4 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Lesser Yellowlegs, 5 Semipalmated Sandpipers, and a single Least Sandpiper. Eventually the terns all settled in on the sand bar presumably content for the moment. We departed definitively content. Huge thanks for Bruce for the heads up and the awesome company.
~Caspian Tern at Cornwall Bay, 08/15/21.~
~Caspian Tern over the treetops, Cornwall Bay, 08/15/21.~
I felt the summer doldrums lifting a little bit this weekend, which was nice. On Saturday morning I met Rob Stone out at Wisner Road in Warwick with the goal of trying to get an accurate count of the Sedge Wrens. We spent over an hour listening and walking the road and in the end we felt that there are a minimum of 7 birds, with possibly as many as 10. Which is pretty amazing. Afterwards, I birded 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, which was birdy but with usuals and no real photo ops. In the evening I went to the Camel Farm to check for shorebirds. I was pleasantly surprised to find good shorebird conditions and approximately a dozen shorebirds (Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, and Killdeer). I’m optimistic that we’ll see some good birds out there sometime soon.
Today I checked the Camel Farm again; there seemed to be more birds and the same species with the addition of a Spotted Sandpiper. I also went out to Skinners Lane where there was a good number of swallows present (mostly Trees, with also a good number of Barns, and at least one Bank). I also got a nice scope view of a beautiful, dark Red-tailed Hawk which I believe was the subspecies Abieticola, with a dark chin with dribble marks and an extremely dark belly band. It was too distant for photos, but hopefully they will be in the cards in future visits.
I was on vacation last week; we rented a large house up in the Catskills with members of Tricia’s family. I took the opportunity to mostly relax poolside and while I didn’t actually do all that much birding, I did get out a couple of times. I’ll go through my pics and put together a post in the next day or so. Meanwhile, here are some shots of Green Heron siblings in the pond near my house from before I left. I’ve been in the area for 10 years now, and I think this is the second time that Green Herons have bred in that little pond.
It was a mostly uneventful weekend of birding for me. On Saturday I birded in my NYS Breeding Bird Atlas priority block and was able to confirm three additional species: Northern Mockingbird, Red-tailed Hawk, and House Sparrow. On Sunday I decided to change it up a little and I headed to Sullivan County, where I birded Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area. I was hoping for the outside chance at seeing/hearing Ruffed Grouse, but had to settle for seeing and hearing some species I don’t see very often in Orange County: Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush, Black-throated Blue Warble, Red-breasted Nuthatch, and Magnolia Warbler.
I birded along the railroad tracks north of Sugarloaf again this morning – it’s turning out to be a very productive spot in my NYS Breeding Bird Atlas Priority Block (Warwick_CE). I confirmed (8) species this morning, (3) of which were new confirmations: Song Sparrow, House Finch, and Downy Woodpecker. Other highlights included watching a family of Barn Swallows during feeding time, and a rather charismatic Gray Catbird. I’ve actually always thought they were quite a photogenic species, I even included a shot of one in my top ten photos of the year back in 2016.
I did most of my birding this weekend in my NYS Breeding Bird Atlas priority block, Warwick_CE. I was able to confirm several species, but unfortunately only one new species for the block: Yellow Warbler. Yesterday was pretty much a dud of a morning, but today was much better. I made a quick stop by 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary to try for the Least Bitterns which have been reported there (I still need them for OC this year). I had no luck with the bitterns, but I did find a cooperative Swamp Sparrow, which was a nice treat.
Afterwards, I birded a new spot in my priority block. I walked along the train tracks in Sugarloaf, heading north. The block continues for nearly a mile along the tracks; the birding was pretty much non-stop and I had a total of 37 species in a one mile span, which I didn’t think was too bad at all. It was at this location that I confirmed Yellow Warbler, and I feel like it will be a good spot to confirm other species in the future.
Early Saturday morning I went to Black Rock Forest and hiked up to Jupiter’s Boulder. I was trying for Ruffed Grouse, but unfortunately I had no luck. I did pick up my first Acadian Flycatchers of the year; it’s always nice to see and hear that bird. Afterwards, I went to Newburgh to follow up on an eBird report of a pair of Eurasian Collared-Doves, but again I had no luck. On my way home a played a hunch and went to the OC Airport to see if the Killdeer there had a second brood. They did, there was one young bird with two adults; the bird was so small it kept tipping over, lol.
This morning I went to the south end of the Liberty Loop. I’ve been meaning to get out there to try for Least Bitterns, so I finally did today and they did not disappoint. Once again, the southernmost compound at the loop is loaded with good birds during the summer. Least Bitterns were the big draw, but I also enjoyed seeing a young Pied-billed Grebe, many Common Gallinules, Killdeer, and loads of Wood Ducks.
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.