Well, it was another enjoyable weekend of winter birding. Yesterday was a home run gulling at the Hudson River, then this morning I did a quick cruise around the black dirt where I located a remarkable 8 LAPLAND LONGSPURS. I found 2 off of Route 12 in New Hampton, and an additional 6 on Ridgebury Road in Slate Hill. From there I headed over to the Bashakill to check to see if the large flock of Snow Buntings were still present. They were, and they were quite accommodating. I ran into Karen Miller while I was there and we located a distant Rough-legged Hawk, off of Haven Road; I don’t think they get them there very often. From there I called it a day a little on the early side, but it was a good morning.
I had a fabulous day of birding today. I started out nice and early. I was in a great mood because once again it was a nice, sunny, cold, and crisp morning – perfect for winter birding. I hit the black dirt first; my first highlight wasn’t a bird, but a good looking Coyote. It’s been ages since I’ve seen one, so it really got me pretty damn excited. Not long after that, I had a nice sized flock of SNOW BUNTINGS. Again, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an actual flock of SNBUs, so it was great to see 35 or so of them together.
A little later, on Skinners Lane, I had a couple of interesting sparrows flush as I was driving along. They landed back on the road ahead of me, this time I got my bins on them – it was a pair of VESPER SPARROWS! The rest of my time in the black dirt was mostly uneventful. I ran across many birders presumably looking for the Ferruginous Hawk (it was relocated today, btw), so that was my cue to head home for lunch and avoid all the nonsense. On my way home I saw a light morph Rough-legged Hawk off of Maple Avenue, and then right around the corner from my house I got a great look at a young Cooper’s Hawk stalking a neighbor’s feeder.
In the afternoon, I headed to the Hudson River and met up with birding bud Bruce Nott. We had two excellent birds, both immature – ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS. I put the word out and eventually Rick Hansen joined us and we got him on both birds. As I was leaving, more birders were arriving, and Bruce later reported to me that they located an incredible 3 Glaucous Gulls! I was sorry to have missed that, but still, what a day!
Yesterday during the waterfowl count, Linda Scrima spotted an interesting hawk. She was thinking it was a perhaps a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, took some photos to check out later and continued with the count. It ends up the bird was a FERRUGINOUS HAWK! There were many birders out trying to relocated the bird this morning, but it was of course John Haas who found the bird on Celery Avenue (click here to see John’s post with some fantastic photos). I rushed over and joined several other birders to view the bird. It was a little distant and in the trees, so scope views of this gorgeous bird were fantastic, but photos were tough. The bird eventually flew and was relocated by Bruce Nott on Lynch Avenue. The bird was in the air tangling with a couple of Red-tails, but then put down in a field. The bird moved around after that, and as of this writing had been relocated two more times, with many, many birders going for it. From what I’m told, this is a first New York State record of Ferruginous Hawk; super exciting birding! Nice job and congrats to Linda on an amazing find.
Other than the gulls at the Hudson River, it was a relatively uneventful weekend of birding. I tooled around the black dirt region both mornings and had less than the usuals. Even large flocks of geese were hard to come by. But, as always, especially on these cold, sunny, crisp mornings, it was just good to be out. A slow day of birding beats a day at the office any day of the week, no doubt about it.
Since I can only get out on the weekends at this time of the year, it’s extra sweet when I can get some good birds. On Saturday morning Tricia and I stopped at the Grasslands on our way to pick up pottery supplies in New Paltz. It was a gorgeous morning; super cold and frosty, but also sunny and bright. We were just going to stop briefly, but shortly after we arrived, two Short-eared Owls were up and flying. It was a pleasant surprise; we watched from the viewing platform as the owls seemed to be actively hunting and were tangling with Northern Harriers from time to time. We also got the opportunity to catch up with Ralph Tabor, which was really great, it had been too long. Side note: the refuge has put new restrictions in place to mitigate owl disturbance by closing a large percentage of the trails on the weekends. I personally think this is a great idea and long overdue.
This morning I tooled around the black dirt. On Celery Avenue, there was a large flock of geese present. I sorted through them and watched as group after group flew in to join the flock. It was an enjoyable (if cold) way to sort through geese, but unfortunately I didn’t come up with anything other than Canada Geese. I did have a pair of adult Bald Eagles perched in a tree, side by side, as well as a nice close Gray Ghost fly-by.
I found more geese at Turtle Bay Road, this time there were nearly sixty Snow Geese among approximately 400 Canada Geese. There was also a modest flock of Horned Larks foraging on the side of the road. I felt super lucky when a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR put down not far from my car. Heat shimmer from the car prevented a better pic, but as always, it was great to see a LALO.
Other highlights from the morning included many more raptors; who-knows-how-many Red-tailed Hawks, a Rough-legged Hawk, a Cooper’s Hawk, and an American Kestrel. The last good bird of the day was a bird that I typically don’t have much luck with: I found a FOX SPARROW in with a mixed flock of sparrows on Round Hill Road.
I enjoyed a good couple of days birding this weekend. The highlight came first thing Saturday morning, when I had a group of six RED CROSSBILLS flyover at Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis. This is the first time I’ve had them in Orange County, making it my 263rd life bird in the county, and also my 221st bird of the year in OC. I was especially pleased because I managed to get some photos as they flew over; terrible photos, but good enough to document the species in Orange County.
Early Saturday afternoon I ran up to Kingston following up on a report of a Mew Gull. The bird was still present, but unfortunately it was ultimately determined to be a diminutive 1st cycle Ring-billed Gull. It was an interesting looking bird, I learned a little bit, and I got to see some birding buds. So, while disappointing, it wasn’t all bad.
On Sunday, my best bird came first thing again. I went to Wickham Lake, where I found a beautiful drake LONG-TAILED DUCK. This bird was just gorgeous. Unfortunately it was miles out; I’m including a documentary shot at the bottom of this post. Long-tailed Duck is probably my favorite species of duck, they definitely fit into the category of inherently cool. Leaving Wickham Lake, I went by Wisner Road on the off chance of a Northern Shrike, but of course no luck.
I spent the rest of Sunday morning tooling around the black dirt. It was birdy in general, and I sifted through several flocks of Canada Geese, but didn’t turn up anything interesting. Likewise, I looked through a flock of American Pipits without finding any longspurs or buntings. Still, always nice to see some pipits, especially when they are close enough for photos. The only real excitement I had in the black dirt was witnessing a very distant Great-horned Owl being mobbed by American Crows.
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.
We’ve had some decent shorebirds in the county this week. It started with some post-tropical storm Isaiah puddling at Turtle Bay Road. Right after the storm, Linda Scrima was on the scene and located a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER as well as: 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 4 Least Sandpipers, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, a Spotted Sandpiper, and of course a bunch of Killdeer. Not a bad haul! A couple of days afterwards, I finally made it over, and fortunately the dowitcher had stuck around, as did the Semipalmated Plovers. Turtle Bay continues up to today as pretty much the only good shorebird spot that I know of in southern part of the county, and although the SB Dowitcher has moved on, I had as many as 8 Pectoral Sandpipers over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts, as the spot is getting dryer by the day. Meanwhile, Beaver Pond and the Camel Farm appear to have water levels too high for optimum conditions. I haven’t been out to Citgo Pond, but I’m assuming the same holds true there. Let’s hope they dry up enough for good conditions soon.
My plan for the morning was to get outside and take a hike without worrying too much about getting any birds. I walked the trails near Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis. It was predictably quiet, but it was a pleasant walk in the woods on a cool, partly cloudy day. It wasn’t until I was on my way back that I started to think about getting some birds. Earlier, while I was hiking, Joyce Depew reported thousands of Snow Geese in the black dirt. On my way home, Ken McDermott followed up with another report of SNGOs in the fields off Onion Avenue. I figured I would stop by and check them out, especially because it was on my way home. Then, it got interesting: Bruce Nott reported a GOLDEN EAGLE flying over the Snow Geese, heading east.
I arrived at Onion Avenue convinced that I had missed any opportunity to see the Golden Eagle. But, as I got out of the car everyone was urging me to hurry up – I jumped on Bruce’s scope and sure enough there was the Golden Eagle circling in the distance! It wasn’t great timing (see Linda’s photos in this post), but it was pretty darn good! Another minute or so, and I would have completely missed the bird. Exciting birding!
After a week of beautiful weather, I can’t lie, I was ticked off this morning with rain being in the forecast for basically the entire day. I woke up early to get out a little before the rain; Maria Loukeris and I ran to try for the Glaucous Gull that has been reported at Sussex County Municipal Utilities Authority. While we were there, it started raining. And, although I got on a larger white-winged gull in flight a couple of times, we we left without ever being able to locate the bird on the ground to confirm the ID (most gulls were landing on the other side of the hill and out of sight). Sigh.
But, it’s amazing how one single bird can save a day of birding. After dropping off Maria, I stopped by Skinners Lane and found a good sized flock of Canada Geese. I started to sort through them and quickly located a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE; likely the same bird that has been reported intermittently in the area this winter. I went through the rest of the flock, hoping for a Cackling Goose, but no luck there. I’d put the word out, and Linda Scrima and Karen Miller both ran for and got the GWFG.