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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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.
I woke up early this morning and birded the black dirt before heading to Mt. Peter, where I was scheduled to be the official counter. It was a gorgeous morning, and I was happy just to be out and about and not working. I didn’t have high expectations, so I was especially happy to find another nice collection of shorebirds. In one field I had loads of Killdeer, a Wilson’s Snipe, a Pectoral Sandpiper, and a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER. The birds were close, the light was nice; it was a lovely start to my Saturday.
Afterwards, I headed up to Mt. Peter to spend the day counting hawks on the mountain. It was an interesting flight today; I don’t know if it was due to the a substantial south wind we had today, but nearly all the migrating raptors I counted today were low birds, just above the treetops. I had a modest 30 migrants today, 20 of which where Sharp-shinned Hawks. As usual, I’ve included my Hawkcount report below.
The first week back at work after vacation is always a doozy, but this one has been especially rough. This seemed to make it that much sweeter when I finally got out to do some birding tonight and found a nice collection of shorebirds in the black dirt. The highlight was (6) WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS, which are always a favorite. Also in the same field was over 100 Killdeer, (3) Least Sandpipers, and a single Pectoral Sandpiper. It was a nice break from the grind.
My first bird of the weekend was a new yard bird for me – Common Raven. It was just after sunrise on Saturday morning and the bird landed on one of the evergreens in the backyard and was calling repeatedly. I grabbed my camera and the sun was just barely over the trees and casting the bird in warm light as I snapped some shots. The bird was species number 55 in my yard for 2022; I thought that was a nice way to start the weekend’s birding.
I was the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday. I got out early and birded the black dirt for a little while before heading up to the mountain. I was rewarded with a couple of BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. There were also hundreds (thousands?) of Tree Swallows around. When I saw them, in a few separate fields, they were on the ground and periodically picking up and taking flight. It was the most Tree Swallows I’ve ever seen.
Tree Swallows would prove to be the theme of the day; when I got to Mount Peter there were just loads of them migrating through. Again, I witness hundreds and hundreds of Tree Swallows as I searched the skies for migrating raptors.
The raptor flight was weak, and I only had 14 migrating birds for the day. I did count another Osprey (always cool to see in migration), and I counted my first migrating Bald Eagle of the year. For more details, see my report for the day at the bottom of this post.
This morning I birded the Black Dirt Region again – I was able to locate three Buff-breasted Sandpipers, but no other shorebirds (other than the expected loads of Killdeer). I’m coming across loads of American Kestrels in the black dirt recently; I saw ten just this morning.
This morning I headed to Sullivan County to follow up on some of the shorebird action John Haas and others have had there recently. I was hoping for some good photo ops, or that maybe I might see something special. I also thought that I still needed Greater Yellowlegs for the county, but I checked eBird when I got home and I’d had one in Hurleyville back in May; it was not a memorable siting as you can tell.
My first stop was Morningside Park, where I didn’t have a large variety of shorebirds (Killdeer and Least, Semipalmated, & Spotted Sandpipers), but as always the photo ops were incredible, in spite of the overcast, low light conditions. I enjoyed spending time up-close with the Leasts and the Semisandpipers; while the Spotteds kept their distance and the Killdeer were flyovers.
While I was at Morningside, I spoke with John and he suggested my next stops should be Swan Lake and Lake Jefferson. Swan Lake didn’t have all that many birds present, but there was some decent variety: Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper. Lake Jefferson proved to be my most productive stop; I had (7) species of shorebirds there (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs).
Back in Orange County, I stopped at Bullville Pond to check out conditions there. The pond is mostly dried up, but there was a good number of shorebirds still present (KILL, LESA, SPSA, SOSA, LEYE). Also of note, on Friday evening I found (4) American Golden-Plovers in the black dirt. They were a little distant for good photos, but it was nice to see them and to document.
As I was winding down at work today, Bruce Nott contacted me to let me know he had a RUDDY TURNSTONE at the Moodna Creek sandbar in Newburgh Bay on the Hudson River. I have long wanted to kayak this area, and tonight I took the opportunity to do so. The turnstone hung in there for me, and the lighting was nice, so it made for yet another fabulous shore birding experience this season. The RUTU was my 270th species in Orange County. As a bonus (as if I needed one), there were (7) Caspian Terns also present on the sandbar, making a racket and being generally beautiful and entertaining. Huge thanks to Bruce for a great evening!
QUICK POST: This morning Bradley White located a MARBLED GODWIT on the west side of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Birding bud Maria Loukeris notified me, and Linda Scrima followed up by reporting the bird on the Mearns Bird Club app in the afternoon. I headed to the loop right after work. I hustled to the west side, but when I arrived there was no sign of the bird. Fortunately I ran into Ronnie DiLorenzo, who let me know the bird had relocated to the southernmost pond in the loop. I once again hustled to the back pond and this time I got lucky and the bird was not only present, but not too far out. This is the second straight Monday where I got an absolutely fabulous shorebird – it’s definitely a good cure for a bad case of the Mondays!
My focus this week has, unsurprisingly, been on shorebirds. The rest of the week paled in comparison to my amazing experience with the Red-necked Phalarope on Monday evening, but there are some decent shorebirds around and it’s been good to get out.
6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary has been decent for shorebirds. I birded from the Heritage trail twice this week and the place is loaded with Least Sandpipers and Killdeer. I also had a single Pectoral Sandpiper each visit. On Saturday afternoon I ventured out to Citgo Pond; a spot I haven’t been to in absolutely ages. The trail is totally overgrown, and getting to the pond was a bear. Once there, sweaty and bloody, I had a Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a single Semipalmated Plover.
I was leaving the Heritage Trail one evening this week and I drove past the Goshen Park and Ride. I noticed that the water level was low, so I stopped and was happy to find good conditions and a decent number of shorebirds. I’ve stopped there several times this week and had the following birds: Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, and Killdeer. This place could get a good bird this fall, and parking is super easy and the viewing is not too bad either.
I also ventured back to Sullivan County to Morningside Park for a second time this week on Saturday morning. Unfortunately a Merlin seems to have taken over the place, and the only shorebirds I found were a Killdeer and a single Solitary Sandpiper. There was also a couple of Bald Eagles present, including one young bird which was crying the entire time I was there. Otherwise, it was pleasant to be out on the calm beautiful water just after sunrise, and I also had a nice experience with a Pied-billed Grebe which didn’t seem to mind my presence very much.
Today while I was working I received an alert on the Mearns Bird Club app; John Haas had a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at Morningside Park. I immediately knew I would run for the bird after work if it stuck around. John reported the bird again in the mid afternoon, so things were looking good.
I tried to not speed too much on my way to Morningside Park, I’d already been delayed because I had to put air in one of my tires. I arrived, put my kayak in the water and headed out. I made the rounds of all the mud/stump islands in the lake, but didn’t have any luck. There was a good number of shorebirds present, I had: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, and (6) SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Normally this would be a banner day, but I was itchy about the phalarope and beginning to think it had moved on.
On my second go-round, I was happy to see the Red-necked Phalarope come in and land at the island where I was looking. I “parked” my kayak in the muddy shore and watched, photographed, and just enjoyed this incredible little bird. The bird was beautiful and extremely confiding, making its way closer and closer to me and never flushing. It was a very special birding experience, one that I won’t forget any time soon. What a bird.
John called as I was making my way back to shore. I told him how it went – he stopped me in my tracks when I mentioned the dowitchers. They hadn’t been there earlier, so John jumped in his car and joined me at the park to get them just before darkness fell. Huge thanks and congrats to John for finding and reporting a great bird. Check out his shore birding accounts from the day here.