Rainy Day, 10/14/23

I’ve had rotten luck this year with hawkwatch – I got rained out again today. Between vacation and poor weather, it’s mid October and I’ve only counted at Mt. Peter Hawk for grand total of 10.5 hours. I did enjoy some good birding today in lieu counting raptors. After checking in at Mt. Pete to assure it was in fact raining up there, I went to the black dirt, where some good shorebirds continue, including (40+) Killdeer, (6) American Golden-Plover, (1) Black-bellied Plover, (1) Pectoral Sandpiper, and (1) Wilson’s Snipe. I was also pleased to find a nice sized flock of American Pipits; always a favorite of mine.

~Patience paid off this morning. The American Pipit flock was WAY out in a field, but I waited and eventually a few came closer. AMPI in the black dirt 10/14/23.~

Afterwards, I checked in with Bruce Nott, hoping that the recently reported Laughing Gull was seen at the Newburgh Waterfront today. Unfortunately it hadn’t been seen, but he let me know that there was a young Lesser Black-backed Gull present. I ran for the gull, and it did not disappoint – what a beauty! I really enjoyed seeing and photographing this sharp looking bird.

~What a bird. Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront 10/14/23.~
~Love this bird. LBBG at the Newburgh Waterfront, 10/14/23~
~Good birding in the black dirt this morning. One Black-bellied Plover, 2 American Golden-Plovers, and a couple of American Pipits.

Sunday Shots, 01/29/23

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.

~Snow Geese on Maple Ave on Saturday, 01/28/23.~

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.

~Mostly Herring Gulls, but there is one Ring-billed and one Great Black-backed as well. Can you locate them? Beacon Waterfront, 01/29/23.~
~Roadside Horned Lark in the black dirt, 01/28/23.~
~Snow Geese on a pond in the black dirt, 01/28/23.~

Manasquan Inlet, 01/01/23

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.

Note: I’m experiencing some problems with the blog receiving comments. I’m trying to figure out what the problem is… please let me know if you try and comment but can’t – any information will be helpful. Email me at mattzeit@yahoo.com, thanks.

~Bonaparte’s Gull at Manasquan Inlet, 01/01/23.~
~BOGU over the water at Manasquan Inlet, 01/01/23.~
~Sanderling getting flushed by a big wave, Manasquan Inlet 01/01/23.~
~BOGU taking off. Manasquan Inlet 01/01/23.~
~Sanderlings in the sun. Manasqan Inlet, 01/01/23.~

More OC Gulls, 12/30/22

I didn’t work today, so I spent a nice long day of birding. It was an enjoyable day in spite of not really finding anything out of the ordinary. I birded the black dirt briefly in the early morning and then headed up to the Grasslands. I met up with Jodi Brodsky to try for the Loggerhead Shrike, but unfortunately, we had no luck. It was a good morning for raptors, however. Between the black dirt and the the Grasslands, I had a total of 8 raptor species: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and American Kestrel. Somehow I still don’t have Rough-legged Hawk this season.

~Ring-billed Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/30/22.~

In the afternoon, Jodi and I joined Bruce Nott at the Newburgh Waterfront to look for gulls. We had one first winter Iceland Gull waaaay out in the river, but besides that, we just had the 3 expected species. Later in the afternoon the light got really nice, so I took a bunch of photos; I always enjoy photographing these light colored gulls in the late day sun with the dark river as a background.

~Ring-billed Gull showing off it’s “bastard wings” or alula as they are called.~
~Herring Gull zipping by the boat launch, 12/30/22.~
~Ring-billed Gull, Newburgh Waterfront 12/30/22.~
~I have this as a first winter Great Black-backed Gull. Newburgh 12/30/22.~
~One more Ring-billed Gull, Newburgh NY 12/30/22.~

Christmas Gulling

Christmas Eve morning Kyle Knapp found a single Bonaparte’s Gull on Wickham Lake. I was birding in the black dirt, so I ran over to try for the bird. The bird was still present and was obliging enough to do a relatively close fly-by. There was a good number of gulls on the lake, maybe 3 dozen or so. Nearly a dozen were Herring Gulls, which is a lot for that location. There rest were the expected Ring-billed Gulls.

~Bonaparte’s Gull at Wickham Lake, Christmas Eve 2022.~

Today I arrived back in Orange County after spending the holidays on Long Island with my family. I went to Newburgh Waterfront – it was a beautiful night with great light and it wasn’t nearly as cold as it’s been recently. It was mostly the usual 3 species (Herring, Great Black-backed, and Ring-billed), but I also located a single Young Iceland Gull; always a favorite. I enjoyed a pleasant evening of gulling and it was disappointing when the sun started setting.

~Iceland Gull in flight over the Hudson River at Newburgh Waterfront, 12/26/22. Look at that beautiful wing!~
~Herring Gull coming right at me; Newburgh Waterfront 12/26/22.~
~All for one scrap of bread! Gull melee at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/26/22.~
~Herring Gull and Canada Goose at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/26/22.~

Sunday Shots, 12/18/22

Yesterday I arrived at Black Rock Forest just after sunrise. I slogged through the snow out to Tamarack Pond, in hopes of finding Red Crossbills or any other winter finches. Unfortunately, I was not rewarded for my efforts. There were actually very few birds in the area, and no winter finches at all. It was nice to be out in the forest on such a beautiful morning, but I was really disappointed in the lack of birds.

~Iceland Gull at the Beacon Waterfront, 12/17/22.~

Afterwards, I birded the Hudson River, both from Newburgh and Beacon. In Beacon I got lucky with a first winter ICELAND GULL, always a favorite of mine. I wasn’t feeling so great, so I headed home a little early and unfortunately missed out on an adult Iceland and an adult Lesser Black-backed; both located by birding bud Bruce Nott.

~Iceland Gull with a Herring Gull at the Beacon Waterfront 12/17/22.~

I ended up fighting a bout with gallstones Saturday evening into Sunday morning. I had no idea what was going on; I had severe abdominal pain all through the nigh and I barely slept a wink. I went to Urgent Care this morning and they told me it was gallstones. Fortunately, it was not severe enough to have to have anything done at this time, but I will have to shift over to a more low fat diet moving forward. This afternoon, I was feeling well enough to cruise the black dirt, but really it was a bit half-hearted and unproductive.

Black-capped Chickadee at Black Rock Forest, 12/17/22.~
~Backyard Dark-eyed Junco from this past Friday, 12/16/22.~

Gulls at Sandy Hook, 11/25/22

I spent the morning after Thanksgiving birding at Sandy Hook. While I was a little disappointed with my waterfowl count (I only identified 9 species: Canada goose, Brant, Mallard, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Scoter, and Common Loon), I was really impressed with the number of gulls present. I’ve birded a lot of beaches (and some dumps) over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s the most gulls I’ve ever seen at a location.

~While many of the gulls were eating on the wing, this Ring-billed Gull took his prize to the shore to enjoy it. Sandy Hook Beach, New Jersey 11/25/22.~

I started out just scanning the ocean. There was a steady stream of gulls flying – I’m talking nonstop. I’m sure there were some good birds out there that I wasn’t able to identify, but I did see several Bonaparte’s Gulls (the only ones I would see all morning), and of course it was easy to pick out the Northern Gannets. I located a large group of loafing gulls further north on the beach. I relocated and was able to get good looks and go through the birds. Meanwhile, to my right, just at the shore break, there were loads of gulls feeding on small fish – there must have been absolutely loads of fish because the gulls were experiencing an excellent success rate – it was unusual to see a bird come up without prey. I spent a good amount of time going through the gulls, and I was disappointed to only find the expect species: Herring, Great Black-backed, Laughing, and Ring-billed. Add my earlier Bonaparte’s and that’s a 5 gull day. I’d be happy with that number of species in Newburgh; at Sandy Hook I was sort of hoping for more. Especially considering the number of individuals present.

~I thought that this Herring Gull was quite striking, especially lording over this gang of Laughing Gulls. Sandy Hook Beach, 11/25/22.~
~Feeding frenzy at the shore break. Three species are captured here – Ring-billed, Laughing, and Herring. Sandy Hook 11/25/22.~
~Laughing Gull eating on the wing, Sandy Hook NJ 11/25/22.~
~Herring Gull with prey, Sandy Hook 11/25/22.~
~Laughing Gulls in flight, Sandy Hook, 11/25/22.~

A Good Weekend, 11/13/22

We had some weather move in this weekend, and along with it came some good birds:

WICKHAM LAKE: First thing Saturday morning, I met up with Kyle Knapp and we had 15(!) HORNED GREBES on the lake. We had a spectacular photo op as the birds came right to us… until afterwards when I went to look at my shots and the back of my camera read “NO MEMORY CARD”. Ugh! I was initially a little sick about it, but I got over it. I went back in the evening to try for them again; no magical close up opportunity, but I did document the birds. On Sunday morning, Kyle Knapp had 22(!) Bonaparte’s Gulls over the lake. I arrived a little bit later (after spending time at the Hudson River), and one Bonaparte’s remained. As did one Horned Grebe. New birds included 5 Lesser Scaup, a pile of Buffleheads, and a single Ruddy Duck. I also tried Greenwood Lake early on Saturday morning; I had one single duck, a very accommodating Bufflehead – see pic below.

~14 of the 15 Horned Grebes at Wickham Lake on Saturday, 11/13/22.~
~Female Bufflehead at Greenwood Lake, 11/12/22.~

HUDSON RIVER: I went to the river first thing this morning. My first good find was 6 Bonaparte’s Gulls. They were distant, but nice to see. The highlight, however, was a single Brant associating with a flock of Canada Geese just south of the boat launch. It was my first Brant of the year in Orange County, and the bird was close enough to get some decent photos.

~One Brant on the Hudson River near the Newburgh boat launch, 11/13/22. I was pretty darn happy to get this bird – I’m a huge fan of Brant, and I hadn’t had them in Orange County yet this year.~

HUDSON RIVER: I went to the river first thing this morning. My first good find was 6 Bonaparte’s Gulls. They were distant, but nice to see. The highlight, however, was a single Brant associating with a flock of Canada Geese just south of the boat launch. It was my first Brant of the year in Orange County, and the bird was close enough to get some decent photos.

~2 of the 6 very distant Bonaparte’s Gulls on the Hudson River this morning, 11/13/22.~

MOUNT PETER HAWKWATCH: The season wraps up this Tuesday, so Saturday was my last day of the year counting. I thought I had a possible Golden Eagle, but upon review of the photos and help from John Haas, the bird was an immature Bald Eagle. That said, my final day was a pretty good one. Highlights included 5 migrating Bald Eagles, 18 Red-tailed Hawks, and I was joined by Hawkwatch Leader, Judy Cinquina. I didn’t get to spend much time with Judy this season, so I really enjoyed our time. As usual, you can see my report at the bottom of this post.

BLACK DIRT: I only got out to the black dirt region one time this weekend, but it was a goody! Loads of Horned Larks have moved in. A good number of American Pipits are still around. Add about a dozen SNOW BUNTINGS and a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR, and you’ve got some darn good black dirt birding.

~Turkey Vulture at Wickham Lake, 11/13/22.~
~Ring-billed Gulls on Wickham Lake, Saturday evening 11/12/22.~
~Another shot of the Brant on the Hudson River, 11/13/22.!

Cape Cod 2022

I really enjoyed my birding time in Cape Cod over the weekend. It was an extended weekend for me, as I took Thursday and Friday off work. Birding bud Rob Stone does a lot of birding on the cape, so he provided me with some good intel prior to the trip. Based on this information, the primo spot from my perspective is Race Point, so I went there first thing Friday morning and then, as fate would have it, Rob was also on the cape over the weekend, and we joined up to bird Race Point again on Saturday morning.

~Black Scoters in flight at Race Point, 05/06/22. I believe the fifth bird from the back might be a Surf Scoter with them.~

I really enjoy birding at the shore, and the highlight of the 2 days was getting eight species of gull: Herring, Ring-billed, Great Black-backed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Bonaparte’s Gull, Laughing Gull, Iceland Gull, and Glaucous Gull. The only real disappointment was not also getting Black-legged Kittiwake, which is apparently expected at this time of year at Race Point. We also had plenty of Common Terns, but were unable to locate any Roseate Terns which would also be expected.

~Two Bonaparte’s Gulls lead the larger Laughing Gull into the wind at Race Point, 05/07/22.~

I was also impressed with the high numbers of Red-breasted Mergansers – there were hundreds present on both days. Other waterfowl included large numbers of White-winged Scoters, loads of Double-crested Cormorants, plenty of Common and Red-throated Loons, some Common Eiders, and possibly one Surf Scoter.

Other than several Piping Plovers each day, shorebirds were a disappointment with only a few Willets and a single Spotted Sandpiper observed. Northern Gannets were nearly a no-show on Friday, but Saturday were plentiful.

~Two White-winged Scoters cruise by at Race Point, 05/06/22.~

The weather was another big factor. Friday was calm, with the sun trying to poke out all day; the ocean was like a lake, smooth as glass for the most part. On Saturday, the winds really picked up as the morning progressed. On our way back from the point we were walking into 25 mph winds with gusts which we estimated in the 40 mph range. The sand, which is very course, was up and flying, pelting our faces as we walked into it.

~I saw whales both days. I think this is likely a Humpback Whale, if anyone out there knows please comment. Race Point 05/06/22.~

Yard Birds 2022: (43) – I added 4 new species since last weekend: Nashville Warbler, Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, and Yellow Warbler.

~Glaucous Gull on the beach at Race Point, 05/07/22.~
~Common Eider zipping by at Race Point, 05/06/22.~
~Piping Plover at Race Point, 05/06/22.~
~Common Eider on the beach right across from where we were staying in Wellfleet, MA 05/05/22.~
~Osprey overhead in Wellfleet, MA 05/08/22.~
~Willet in Provincetown, MA 05/07/22.~
~Iceland Gull alongside a Great Black-backed Gull, Race Point 05/06/22.~

Sunday Shots, 04/24/22

It’s the time of year when most birders are getting excited about the arrival of passerines, particularly the wood warblers. I’m not there yet, and I spent the weekend trying for waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls. I didn’t connect with any new or interesting waterfowl; as for shorebirds, I had some modest success this morning with a half dozen Pectoral Sandpipers and (2) Least Sandpipers at the Camel Farm and a couple of Greater Yellowlegs at the Liberty Loop. And regarding gulls, I was pleasantly surprised to find the highlight of my weekend – 19 Bonaparte’s Gulls at Plum Point early Saturday afternoon.

~Apparently there was only room for 14 Bonies on this piece of driftwood. I was entertained by the gulls as they kept trying to muscle in for a spot on this coveted perch. Plum Point, 04/23/22.~

Other highlights for me included some very good looks at Rusty Blackbirds at Wickham Lake on Saturday morning, as well as a flock of approximately 50 American Pipits at Skinner’s Lane on Saturday morning as well. I was just settling in to watch these birds and wait for them to hopefully come closer to the road, when the entire flock picked up and flew northwest, not to return.

~Always a favorite – Rusty Blackbird on a nice perch at Wickham Lake, 04/23/22.~

Yard Birds 2022: (36) – I didn’t add any new species since my last post.

~BOGUs in flight at Plum Point, 04/23/22.~
~Rusty Blackbird at Wickham Lake, 04/23/22.~