I went out to the black dirt first thing this morning with American Pipits on my mind. I wasn’t disappointed; I saw many (hundreds) and I was able to get some decent photos in the early morning light. Sparrows were also abundant with Savannah and Song Sparrows being most abundant. I did see a couple of White-crowned Sparrow and caught a brief glimpse of a Vesper as well. In the afternoon I went back to Mt. Peter Hawkwatch and counted with official counter Will Test. It was pretty good flight while I was there with a decent flow of birds and good variety (Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, and Osprey). Interestingly, Turkey Vultures continued to move through; we counted 120+ while I was there.
Earlier in the week I spent some time in my yard – it’s been pretty birdy recently. I added Blue-headed Vireo to my 2021 yard list and the vultures are roosting in large numbers, probably 50-60 birds, mostly Turkey but with a handful of Black Vultures too.
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.
This morning I met up with birding bud Bruce Nott and we once again hit the black dirt looking for shorebirds. Early on it was not looking good; we were not finding the multitudes of shorebirds we were hoping for, and the puddling was greatly reduced. We did have a single Baird’s Sandpiper at Skinners Lane, so that was nice. Our fortunes changed at Pine Island Turf Nursery. First off, the office was closed for the holiday, but luckily we ran into some of the folks from the nursery in the parking lot as they were leaving, and they gave us permission to go in and look for birds.
There was a good number of shorebirds present and we had a pretty darn good list with a cool dozen species when it was all said and done:
I toyed with the idea of heading back north to try for the Wood Stork again, but ultimately I decided to stay local. The bird was reported at the German Church Road location again yesterday evening, but I haven’t heard anything today.
My first stop was the Camel Farm for shorebirds; I found nearly a dozen Least Sandpipers and a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers. Moving on, I went to the Liberty Loop. Again my main goal was shorebirds, but I also was hoping for the SNOWY EGRET and LITTLE BLUE HERON, both of which were present. I had a decent list of shorebirds: Semipalmated Plover (2), Killdeer (25+), Least Sandpiper (1), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), Solitary Sandpiper (2), Greater Yellowlegs (1), and Lesser Yellowlegs (2). It’s great to be seeing shorebirds again.
~Little Blue Heron at Wallkill River Nation Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh, 08/08/21.~
I made a couple more stops after that – I checked Beaver Pond but found poor conditions and no shorebirds. I also went to Skinners Lane, where I had a good number of Killdeer, as well as 3 mystery shorebirds which were rude enough to just do a flyover and not stop. Another exciting thing for me was a decent number of Horned Larks (20 or so), with many young birds in the mix.
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.