I spent yesterday on Long Island visiting with my family; it had been a while, so it was really great to make up for lost time. But, that meant no birding. So, I woke up early this morning, hoping that the weather would bring in some good birds. I was at the Newburgh Waterfront just after sunrise, but unfortunately there was nothing going on. It was hight tide, as I knew it would be, so that may have had something to do with it.
I also checked a couple of lakes in the Newburgh area and came up empty. Then John Haas put out an alert that he had several CASPIAN TERNS at the Bashakill. It took me what seemed like ages to get there, but the birds stuck around. There ended up being a total of (7) Caspian Terns in all, and they did offer a few decent photos ops as they flew back and forth over Haven Road. It was very enjoyable birding, and CATE was my 207th species in Sullivan County, so that is exciting.
After leaving the Bash, I just cruised around southern Orange County to see what I could find. The birding was just the usuals (American Pipits in the black dirt was the highlight), but by a stroke of luck I found a litter of Red Fox kits. They were just awesome – inquisitive to a certain extent, but mostly just very cautious and of course, cute as can be. As much as I enjoyed the terns, these little beasts made my day.
When I first started birding, I remember looking in my bird guide book at Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings in breeding plumage. I didn’t realize at the time that it’s extremely unlikely to see either of those birds in breeding plumage unless you travel to their breeding grounds. But then, a few years back, Rob Stone put it in my head that it was possible to get Lapland Longspurs in the early spring in beautiful plumage. I can remember this beautiful bird that I found in early April of 2018 – it was nearly there. But it wasn’t until today that I was finally able to see and capture a LALO in breeding plumage. I was so excited!
I hit the black dirt this morning, hoping mostly for shorebirds, but also hoping for American Pipits, since I’d seen that they were reported on Saturday. Shorebirds were a bust for me, but I did find a flock of approximately 30 pipits; I enjoyed watching and photographing them in the morning rain. Then I located a decent sized flock of Horned Larks in flight. I tracked them with my bins and saw where they put down; I got my scope on them and one of the first birds I saw was a beautiful LALO in breeding plumage. The birds were distant, and I was unable to get photos. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I waited them out and finally got my opportunity. There were at least (3) longspurs in the flock; I have photos of 3 distinct plumages.
On Saturday I took a 6 mile hike at Black Rock Forest. I was just in the mood to take a hike and get my legs moving, but it ended up being surprisingly birdy. I added 10 birds to my OC year list; highlights included Brown Creeper and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Afterwards, I ran for the WILSON’S PHALAROPE that Jeanne Cimorelli reported at the Camel Farm on Friday evening. That’s a really great find and an excellent bird for the county, however I didn’t get too excited about it because between the great distance and the heat shimmer, my looks were pretty terrible.
Good birds in the county continued today to a lesser degree. I was able to locate three female Red-breasted Mergansers at Greenwood Lake early in the morning, and remarkably they were close enough for photos. A little later I joined Rob Stone at the Newburgh Waterfront, where he had located six Bonaparte’s Gulls. We were hoping the 6 were just the beginning, but after scanning for a good while, no additional gulls would join them.
Happy Easter to everyone out there who is celebrating. It was a busy week for me – work was the usual craziness, and then in the evenings Tricia and I spent our time getting prepared to have 11 guests for Easter. So, I got out less than I usually would at this time of the year. The thing about it though, when there is a lot going on in my life like this, I enjoy birding just a little bit more when I am able to get out. I walked Winding Waters Trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge early this afternoon, and boy did it feel good to be out and walking a trail on a gorgeous day like today.
Nothing says happy Easter like an angry looking Osprey. Okay, maybe I can think of a few things, lol. Anyways, it’s the time of the year when we get our first of the year for so many birds, so here’s a couple of shots of my first Osprey of the year.
It was 25 degrees out when I woke up this morning. When I ventured out, I found it was accompanied by a wicked, cold, strong, wind. It’s past mid-March, and winter is still hanging in there, that much is clear. Likewise, most of my birding this weekend focused on winter birds. On Wednesday evening I got nice scope views of a gorgeous Lapland Longspur; its breeding plumage was coming in nicely. I tried to relocate that bird (or any Lapland Longspurs) both days this weekend with no luck. I was, however, able to get some nice photos of a sharp looking, cooperative Horned Lark.
In my travels through the black dirt, I came across loads of raptors this week. I got my first decent looks at Rough-legged Hawks of the year (better late than never). I had a light and a dark morph on Wednesday evening, and another dark morph today. Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks were numerous; American Kestrels were also, but to a lesser extent. Other raptors included Sharp-shinned Hawk, both vulture species, and Bald Eagle.
I also tried for gulls on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a heartbreaker, Bruce Nott had located an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, I ran for it but missed the bird by 10 minutes or so. Gulls were plentiful on both days, but for me, I had only the 3 expected species. On Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to have a Common Goldeneye fly in. I have to say, even when it’s not necessarily productive, I love birding the Hudson River – sorting through gulls and having that hope that something awesome might just show up.
I was lucky enough to have a fantastic close encounter with a red fox today. The fresh snowfall was the icing on the cake. I watched as the fox successfully dug up several items from the snow and munched on them happily. It’s unclear to me what it was digging up, but it definitely looked like some sort of vegetation; maybe someone who knows more about foxes can enlighten us. All photos were taken today, 03/14/23, in Orange County.
Quick update on this post: I did a brief Google search and I think this fox was maybe digging for some sort of tuber. We all know the internet never lies:
And regarding the fox being pregnant, if you look at the second image from the top, you can see that her teats appear quite full and pronounced.
After photographing Northern Harriers at the grasslands on Saturday morning, the rest of the weekend was pretty much the usuals. I did see my first Tree Swallows of the year – at two locations – Wisner Avenue on Sunday and the grasslands on Saturday. There are plenty of ducks around, but I didn’t find anything new for the year. I visited the Hudson River and several lakes over the 2 days: Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, Round, Orange, and Brown’s Pond. I also spent time on both Saturday and Sunday looking through flocks of Horned Larks hoping for Lapland Longspurs. I feel like I’m normally pretty lucky when it comes to finding LALOs, but this weekend it was not in the cards. It’s too bad too, because it’s nearly mid March, and I imagine they might be in some impressive plumage.
I took the opportunity of a snowy morning to head out to the Shawngunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge. I did one of my favorite things; which I haven’t done in ages – I spent several hours in one of the refuge’s photo blinds. On a good day (like I had today), it’s hard to beat being in a blind. The birds have absolutely no idea you are there, so with just a little luck, close up flight photos are likely. I had an excellent morning; Northern Harriers were numerous and relatively cooperative.
I was feeling better by Friday afternoon, so I was really looking forward to a weekend of birding. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t all that much going on this weekend. I started at Reservoir 3 early on Saturday morning. I was hoping for crossbills (we’ve had them there in the past), but it was super quiet and I didn’t even get very many of the usuals.
Afterwards, I caught up with the large flock of Snow Geese that has been in the black dirt. The birds have been hanging out at a pond across from Orange County Distillery. It’s a busy road, and loads of non-birders were stopping in the road to take photos with their phones. I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want to add to the chaos; it’s a shame because the birds were pretty close and it was a good opportunity to go through them.
On Sunday morning I checked some local lakes, but came up empty (Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, and Round). I decided to head to the Hudson River. The only bird of note was a distant Red-Breasted Merganser, which I viewed through my scope from the pavilion at Donahue Memorial Park. From the Newburgh boat launch, I could see that there was a good collection of gulls on the Beacon side. So, I headed over there and sorted through them for a good while. Unfortunately, I only found the expected three species.
I had surgery on Wednesday to have my gallbladder removed. Fortunately the surgery went well, but my birding was limited this weekend as I’m taking some time to recover. I drove the black dirt both mornings – highlights included the continuation of thousands of Snow Geese, a decent look at a Cackling Goose on Saturday, and a couple of Lapland Longspurs (one in nice plumage, see below) on Sunday.
Saturday afternoon I joined Bruce Nott at the Newburgh Waterfront to try for gulls. I’m trying to catch up with one of the (2) Lesser Black-backed Gulls he’s been seeing there, but I’m not having any luck. We did have a couple first winter Iceland Gulls; one bright white and the other a nice coffee color. Photos are limited this week, but I still wanted to check in for the weekend.