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.
This morning I participated in the yearly Mearn’s Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. I joined Linda Scrima and we covered the black dirt region as we have for the past several years. I’ll post the results once I get them. While we were doing the count, we had many Snow Geese flying overhead. It was exciting to get them for the count, but it was even more exciting when I joined Kyle Knapp later in the day in the black dirt to enjoy approximately 5,000+ Snow Geese do their thing. It’s a spectacle which I always enjoy, and I love taking photos of Snow Geese. The large flocks are captivating and the photos often look like art; as individuals the birds seem to have so much character – constantly making a racket and feasting on corn stubble. All photos taken in the black dirt today, 01/14/23.
I had a great start to the new year, joining birding bud Maria Loukeris on a day trip to Manasquan Inlet on the Jersey Shore. It was super birdy, as the shore always seems to be. Our best bird was RAZORBILL, of which we had several, both flying and on the water. Unfortunately they were too far out for photos. Our best fail was missing a Dovekie that flew through – it was called out, but somehow neither one of us was able to get on the bird; that was frustrating. The bird of the day for me, however, was BONAPARTE’S GULL. There was a good number of them around and the light lent itself to some decent photos. It was good to get out of the area, excellent to spend the day birding with Maria, and an all around great start to the birding year.
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Honest to goodness, the years go by faster and faster as I get older. Today puts yet another year of birding in the books, and as always, I like to take the opportunity to look back on my year here at Orangebirding.com. I had an enjoyable year where I once again focused on the birds and the types of birding that brought me the most joy. That said, I end the year with a respectable 209 birds in Orange County. And, I put some effort towards getting my Sullivan County life list over 200 birds; I added 12 species, putting my total life birds for the county at 206.
For this year’s wrap up post, I thought I would look back month by month at the year’s highlights here on the blog.
JANUARY: The year got off to a sad start when I located a sick Iceland Gull at the Beacon waterfront. I brought it to a veterinary hospital, but ultimately the bird was too far gone and passed away there. Things could only go up from there for the month, and I was able to get some really good birds for the area, including the MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD in Ulster County, CANVASBACKS close to home at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, a LARK SPARROW in Campbell Hall, and the continuing FRANKLINS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront.
FEBRUARY: Always a favorite, I was able to catch up with the NORTHERN SHRIKE at Wickham Woodlands Park several times. I also was able to get on my first CACKLING GOOSE in a good while. At the end of the month I went to Long Island to visit my dad, and was able to do some good gulling, with Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the north shore.
MARCH: I continued to enjoy wintery birding in OC, particularly in the black dirt and at the Newburgh Waterfront. My best birds of the month included a large flock of Snow Geese in the black dirt, RED CROSSBILLS at Black Rock Forest, and one of my few good finds this year – four TUNDRA SWANS in muddy field on Celery Avenue.
APRIL: After work on the 19th, I enjoyed the excellent waterfowl fallout at Wickham Lake. Birds included a remarkable 13 White-winged Scoters, a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, and 21 Horned Grebes. Other highlights from the month include a single CASPIAN TERN and 19 BONAPARTE’S GULLS, both at Plum Point.
MAY: There were two very exciting birding events in May. On the 13th there was the unprecedented number of ARCTIC TERNS found inland – I followed up on Karen Miller’s report and had 7 at Glenmere Lake. Then, towards the end of the month, a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT was found by Bruce Nott and Ken McDermott. I also went on my first 24 hour pelagic, where I picked up 3 life birds (Sooty Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-petrel, and Leach’s Storm-petrel). Tricia and I spent some time in Cape Cod, and the blog celebrated its 10 year anniversary.
JUNE: Birding started to take on a summery doldrums feel. Exciting birds included a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and a DICKCISSEL in the black dirt. I also saw my first black bear in quite a while, while hiking at Sterling Forest.
JULY: Summer birding kicked in for sure. I did a good amount of hiking. A photo I took of a beaver at Black Rock Forest made it into their 2023 calendar. Birding highlights included excellent looks at an AMERICAN BITTERN at the Liberty Loop and a very accommodating LITTLE BLUE HERON at Algonquin Park.
AUGUST: August was an excellent month for shorebirds for me. Local exciting birds included: UPLAND SANDPIPER, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS), MARBLED GODWIT, and RUDDY TURNSTONE.
SEPTEMBER: Hawkwatch began. I enjoyed seeing BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS in the black dirt and there was a GLOSSY IBIS at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. At the end of the month, Tricia and I went on vacation in Maine, which included several days on Monhegan Island.
OCTOBER: I was still seeing some good shorebirds in the black dirt, including more BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS, as well as WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS. Hawkwatch continued but was mostly uneventful. On the 28th I enjoyed 13 species of waterfowl at Wickham Lake, including a SURF SCOTER.
NOVEMBER: Hawkwatch wrapped up – it was the first season in a while that I did not record a migrating Golden Eagle. But, there were plenty of good birds during the month, including my lifer YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, a nice look at a RED-THROATED LOON at Piermont Pier, a BRANT at the waterfront, and 7 BLACK SCOTERS on Wickham Lake.
DECEMBER: December brought even more good birds. I enjoyed close looks of the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on State School Road, got lucky with the Ulster County ROSS’S GOOSE and LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE on the same day, saw the SURF SCOTER with 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Rondout Reservoir, and I got my county lifer ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER at the Newburgh Waterfront.
MY TOP TEN PHOTOS OF 2022
Here’s my personal top 10 photos that I took in the past 12 months. I start with my favorite shot of the year – the Red-necked Phalarope at Morningside Park, and then I continue from there. I noticed this year how much the species seemed to weigh in on my decisions – many of my favorites are featured.
As always, I’d like to thank all my birding friends that have helped to make another great year of birding (you know who you are). I’d also like to thank everyone for reading the blog, especially those of you who subscribe and if you are a commenter please keep it up -I live for the comments! Happy New Year to everyone, here’s to another great year of birding in 2022
My original plan this morning was foiled. I was going to hike at Black Rock Forest with winter finches on my mind, but when I arrived, the forest was closed due to hunting season. It’s closed until 12/11/22, so maybe I’ll try again in a couple of weeks.
I eventually decided to head up to Sullivan County. I wanted to add Snow Goose to my Sullivan County list; one had been reported at Phillipsport Marsh. Unfortunately, the bird was not present when I arrived. So I continued to Rondout Reservoir to try for the sea ducks John Haas wrote about on his blog yesterday.
When I arrived, it was unclear to me where these birds might be – Rondout Reservoir is huge! I went to the Sullivan County portion of the reservoir (at the northernmost area). As I walked up, it was a Bald Eagle bonanza. There were two adults sitting on the shore with a fish between them, as well as two young birds flying in the vicinity. It made for some good photo ops – I haven’t had a good opportunity with any eagles in a while, so I enjoyed it as well as the results.
Just as the eagles settled down, Renee Davis pulled up and gave me the lowdown on the sea ducks. Not only that, she drove back to the spot and got me on the birds immediately: (1) SURF SCOTER and (2) LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Huge thanks to Renee for all the help. The birds were distant, but the light was perfect so I had excellent looks in my scope. Photos were a different story, as you can see below. The Surf Scoter was my 206th bird in Sullivan County. Hopefully the Snow Goose will stick around and I’ll get another shot at it.
I got off the beaten path a little bit today, spending time in Rockland County, Westchester County, and of course, Orange County. The highlight of the day was finding a RED-THROATED LOON at Piermont Pier. It was funny because I ran into Jody Brodsky while I was out there. We were commenting on how quiet it was, and Jody mentioned that she was hoping that there might be a Red-throated Loon… Well, we parted ways, and on my way off of the pier, sure enough, I saw a RTLO. I got word to Jody, and she came and enjoyed the bird as well. I thought that maybe the loon was a new county bird for me, but looking back at my records, I had one in Stony Point back in 2018.
To be honest, this week was a little bit of a dud for me as far as birding goes. There was one clear highlight – after seeing reports from elsewhere in the region, on Wednesday evening I went to Wickham Lake hoping for and finding BLACK SCOTERS. Seven to be exact. It was remarkable to me how quickly it was getting dark, so I was happy to quickly document them before photos wouldn’t be an option.
On Saturday I was the counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. It was a terrible week for the watch – I think with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, raptors are just not moving. It was no different for me on Saturday – I woke up to temperatures in the low 60’s (in early November!), and it only got warmer. I recorded only 3 species of migrants for the day – (4) adult Bald Eagles and a handful each of Turkey and Black Vultures. As usual, my report is at the bottom of this post.
Later in the day on Saturday, and on Sunday, I tried for more waterfowl. Wickham Lake has been a good spot, as has been Liberty Marsh. Most waterfowl has been the usual suspects, but I was happy to add American Coot to my Orange County 2022 list. And today at Wickham I had 4 scaup, way out there. I suspect Lesser Scaup, but they were too far to be sure.
The highlight of my week was going to Wickham Lake on Thursday evening, where I had a total of 13 species of waterfowl, including one exciting bird, a SURF SCOTER. On Friday I joined Karen Miller at the lake again, where there were still loads of waterfowl. I increased my total waterfowl species for the two days to 15:
Am. Black Duck
Kyle Knapp joined me on Thursday to get the Surf Scoter, a lifter for him (congrats!). We also saw (4) adult Bald Eagles across the lake, just after sunset. One was perched, but the other three were tangling in the skies just above the tree line.
On Saturday I was the official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. I feel a little bit snake bit this season as I had another day of negligible winds and a cloudless blue sky of death. I counted a total of 29 migrating raptors in 6 1/2 hours; my Hawkcount report is at the bottom of this post. Afterwards, I went to the black dirt hoping for some new birds, maybe a Lapland Longspur or some Snow Buntings. No luck with either of those species, but Horned Lark numbers were up, if only slightly. American Pipits were still present in large numbers too.
Yesterday was much more productive, but I did get out this morning as well. I didn’t have much of a plan, so I pretty much just wandered the black dirt in hopes of shorebirds or large collections of geese. I pretty much got neither, lol. The only shorebirds of the day were a half dozen Pectoral Sandpipers and 2 Killdeer at the Camel Farm. And, in spite of seeing flock after flock fly over, I never tracked down any large groups of geese. I always like to check in on Sundays regardless, so here’s a few shots from the past couple of days. I hope you are not sick of pipits yet – they are all over the black dirt and I can’t seem to resist photographing them.