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.~

Sunday Shots, 04/10/22

I covered a lot of ground in Orange County this weekend; I went to the Newburgh Waterfront three times, I birded the Hudson River south of Newburgh, drove through Harriman State Park checking the lakes for waterfowl, and did the same at Sterling Forest SP. I hit my “local” lakes both days (Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, and Round). And first thing this morning I spent some time in the black dirt, wishing the heavy puddling would lead me to an interesting bird; it did not.

~Male Hooded Merganser at Silver Mine Lake, 04/09/22.~

The results were mixed. I had a lot of strike outs, but also some decent birds. I’ve decided to rank my top birds of the weekend:

  1. Iceland Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 04/10/22. I guess I never get tired of this bird; it was a pleasant surprise to find one loafing on the floating docks this morning.
  2. Bonaparte’s Gull at Round Lake, 04/09/22. I watched this bird as it intermittently floated and fed in a steady rain on Saturday afternoon.
  3. Long-tailed Ducks, Plum Point 04/09/22. I was happy to see these two birds; unfortunately they were quite distant, so the looks weren’t great, and no pics.
  4. Common Loons, 2 at Greenwood Lake and 3 at Round Lake on Saturday, and 1 at Wickham and Round Lakes on Sunday.
  5. Scaup, Lesser and Greater. I had the Lessers at Plum point on 04/09/22 and the Greaters at Round Lake on 4/10/22,
  6. Notable Mention: A female Red-breasted Merganser at Greenwood Lake, 04/10/22.
~Iceland Gull loafing on the floating docks at the Newburgh Waterfront, 04/10/22.~

Yard Birds 2022: (34) – On Friday evening I added 2 birds flying over, American Kestrel and Tree Swallow. The kestrel was the first falcon I can remember seeing from my yard.

~Eastern Meadowlark giving me the usual distant look in the black dirt, 04/10/22.~
~Female Hooded Merganser at Silver Mine Lake, 04/09/22.~
~Fish Crow at the Newburgh Waterfront, 04/10/22.~

Snowy Saturday Morning, 03/12/22

I got out really early this morning in an effort to get as much birding in before the snow got too bad. I played a hunch and arrived at the Beacon Waterfront not too long after sunrise. I was rewarded with a beautiful first winter Iceland Gull perched on a tent on one of the docks. Not the prettiest perch, but I was still thrilled. I photographed the bird and hoped it would change perches, but alas it eventually took off and flew northeast without even a look back.

~Iceland Gull at the Beacon Waterfront, 03/12/22.~

I checked the Newburgh Waterfront afterwards; there wasn’t much going on, so I headed out to the black dirt just as it started snowing. Once in the black dirt, one of my first birds was a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk. It was snowing quite a bit, but the birds were active. I found many Horned Larks and spent most of the morning looking through them, searching for my main target of the morning: Lapland Longspur. I eventually did locate one; its plumage was pretty nice, but this far into March I was hoping for better. A small flock of Snow Geese flew overhead, and I was eventually able to relocate them. They blended in very well in a distant snowy field.

~Lapland Longspur taking off in the black dirt, 03/12/22.~
~Camouflaged Snow Geese in the black dirt, 03/12/22.~

The snow was starting to accumulate pretty good, so I headed home. I passed through Lynch Avenue, where in a flooded field I had 4 Northern Pintails with a group of Mallards and Canada Geese. I missed the Wilson’s Snipe which had been reported there, mostly because a large plow was coming through and I needed to get out of the way and get my butt safely home.

Yard Birds 2022: (30) – I added Red-shouldered Hawk and Ring-billed Gull since my last post. I will also mention that yesterday evening I had a white-winged gull fly over the house. It happened too quickly to get a photo; my impression was that the bird was likely an Iceland Gull, but I can’t be sure.

~LALO in the black dirt, 03/12/22.~
~One of many Horned Larks in the black dirt this morning, 03/12/22.~

Excellent Gulling in Suffolk County, 02/26/22

I went to Long Island today to visit my dad. Since he is not an early riser, I took the morning to try for some good gulls that have been reported recently at Old Field Point and Lighthouse in Suffolk County. It was a cold but very successful morning; I was able to locate 3 of my 4 target birds: ICELAND GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, and LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (I missed on the Black-headed Gull). Additionally, I met a birder there named Jay Rand; he got me on an interesting gull that has been reported as well, but as of yet is unidentified.

~Lesser Black-backed Gull at Old Field Point and Lighthouse, 02/26/22.~

The Glaucous Gull was the whitest gull I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if this is just a light individual, or if there some possible sun bleaching going on, but the bird has been confirmed on eBird.

~A very pale Glaucous Gull at Old Field Point and Lighthouse, 02/26/22.~

As for the Gull species, it looked like a Herring Gull, but with a slightly darker mantle and yellowish legs/feet. When I got home I checked my emails and found some reports and a write-up by Shaibal Mitra on the NYSBIRDS list serve. He describes the bird broadly as a Herring Gull type, and offers 3 typical possibilities for this bird:

  1. Smithsonianus Herring Gull, which apparently show some degree of yellow in the legs/feet in the late winter and early spring.
  2. Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid.
  3. Yellow-legged Gull

After viewing the bird, however, he has reservations about these three options and offers a fourth possibility: Northern European L. a. argentatus, to which he found similarities in the mantle color and wingtip pattern. Apparently we will find out what the experts identify it as in the coming days. I will keep you posted. And regardless, it was a really cool bird to see and added some excitement to my morning.

~Gull Sp. at Old Field Point and Lighthouse, 02/26/22. If you look closely you can see the yellowish legs/feet. When viewed next to Herring Gulls, the mantle was clearly darker (sorry no comparison shots).~
~Always a favorite, a beautiful Iceland Gull on the Long Island Sound at Old Field Point and Lighthouse, 02/26/22.~
~There are four species of gull in this photo: (2) Herring Gulls up front, a Lesser Black-backed Gull to the right, the Glaucous Gull, and a Great Black-backed Gull behind the Glaucous. Old Field Point and Lighthouse, 02/26/22.~
~I tried to get a better comparison shot, but this is the best I managed to get. Glaucous and Iceland Gulls within inched of each other. Old Field Point and Lighthouse, 02/26/22.~

Sunday Shots, 01/30/22

The weekend got off to a slow start since we were snowed in most of Saturday. In the afternoon I finally got out and headed to the Hudson River, where I enjoyed my evening of birding, in spite of the bitter cold, gray, snowy conditions(it was still snowing in Newburgh!). In addition to the three expected gull species, I had one distant Iceland Gull, and then one that put down in front of the boat launch as it was getting later. Same bird? Hard to say; Bruce Nott had (6) ICGUs one night this week, so likely two birds.

~A nice look at a Fox Sparrow in the black dirt on Sunday morning 01/30/22.~

Saturday was a gorgeous sunny, cold day. Like really cold. I decided to primarily car-bird, so I cruised the black dirt. It was mostly uneventful, but I did run into Linda Scrima, and while we were talking, my best bird of the weekend landed right in front of her car – a fabulous Fox Sparrow. I made it back to the river in the afternoon, but that too proved to be mostly uneventful, with just one gull of note, a very distant first winter Iceland Gull. Bald Eagles were numerous and kept the gulls on their toes.

Yard Birds 2022: (22) Species

~Iceland Gull all tucked in. Newburgh Waterfront, 01/29/22.~
~I finally located a large flock of Horned Larks on Missionland Road, 01/30/22.~
~One more of the very accommodating Fox Sparrow, black dirt, 01/30/22.~
~Horned Lark on the fresh snow. Missionland Road, 01/30/22.~
~Ring-billed Gull in flight through a landscape of gray and white at the Newburgh Waterfront on Saturday afternoon, 01/29/22.~
~Herring Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/29/22.~

OC Iceland Gull, 01/27/22

This past Thursday was an absolutely gorgeous day here in Orange County. It was my favorite kind of winter weather, cold, crisp, and sunny. I was, of course, working. But the weather was eating at me, plus I was having a hunch that the Newburgh Waterfront might be good. So, I got the okay from my boss, and I left work a little early and headed to the river, where I immediately hooked up with birding bud Bruce Nott. We were barely getting through our salutations when I located a first winter ICELAND GULL on an ice floe directly in front of the boat launch.

~ICELAND GULL in flight at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/27/22.~

Shortly after locating the bird, all the gulls on the floe took flight. And, for the first time this season, they actually flew closer to us, putting down not too far out after making a couple circles. I was pretty excited because I’d been able to stay with the bird in flight and just because it was such a good look when the bird put down in the river. It was a beautiful, if slightly disheveled bird, and Bruce and I thoroughly enjoyed its presence as we spent a fabulous evening scanning the river for gulls.

~And on the water. ICGU at the Newburgh Waterfront 01/27/22.~
~ICELAND GULL, Newburgh 01/27/22.~
~ICELAND GULL, Newburgh 01/27/22.~

Yard Bird Total as of 01/29/22: (22) – I added a Red-tailed hawk this week, which was exciting because it’s a species that I missed last year.

Excellent Day in OC

I went to the black dirt this morning and was able to catch up with 3 of my 4 target birds. Early on I got a distant look at my first Rough-legged Hawk of the season, a beautiful light morph bird. A little later I caught up with a flock of Horned Larks; I looked through them and found a single Snow Bunting and a single Lapland Longspur. I tried for the Greater White-fronted Goose which has been reported at the Route 1 pond, but no luck there.

~Always a favorite, Lapland Longspur in the black dirt, 01/08/22~

In the afternoon I headed to Newburgh. I dipped on the Golden Eagle at Storm King State Park, but I cleaned up with gulls, tallying 6 species: Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, FRANKLIN’S, Iceland, and Glaucous. What a refreshing, cold, beautiful day of birding. Beats sitting at the desk like I did all week, that’s for sure.

~Horned Lark in the black dirt, 01/08/22.~
~I was happy to get the Franklin’s Gull for my 2022 list. Newburgh Waterfront, 01/08/22.~
~Common Ravens on a deer carcass in the black dirt, 01/08/22.~
~I wanted to include this photo as well because it’s really cool to see the Common Ravens alongside the American Crows. Black dirt, 01/08/22.~

A Sad Start to the Year

Generally speaking, this is a feel-good blog. I’m typically posting when something interesting, exciting, or just fun is happening. Today, unfortunately, is the exception. This morning Tricia and I headed over to the Beacon waterfront; I was hoping for gulls even though I know that early in the day is typically a bust for gulls on the river. As expected, it was very quiet at Long Dock Park when we arrived. Just a handful of Ring-billed Gulls around, and some Common Mergansers and a Great Black-backed Gull way out on the river.

~iPhone shot of the Iceland Gull in Beacon NY, 01/02/22.~

We walked out by the kayak launch, and at the end of the dock there was a single gull. It was a first winter ICELAND GULL, but, it was in some sort of distress. It was very messy looking and kept either trying to call or regurgitate something but was not having any luck. As I watched, a young child ran near the bird and it did not fly, it just slowly walked away.

~Debbie van Zyl brings the carrier to me. Long Dock Park, Beacon NY 01/02/22. Photo by Tricia Zeitler.~

I went to my car to get my carrier (it’s for my gear, but also perfect for bird rescue). When I returned, Debbie van Zyl was with the bird and she helped me capture the bird, which actually proved to be quite easy, an indication of the condition of the bird. Tricia and I drove the bird to the veterinary hospital, where it was going to be picked up by the rehabber. We headed home, hoping for the best. Unfortunately, not too long after arriving home, I received word that the bird did not make it. We know that a high percentage of gulls don’t make it through their first year, that’s just natural, but it’s heartbreaking to be invested and to witness it up close and personal like that. May that bird rest in peace.

~Poor dude. Rest in peace, Iceland Gull.~

Good Birding Back in Orange County

I spent the last two days birding locally and was lucky enough to get some good birds. Yesterday morning I birded the black dirt; early on I found a handful of American Pipits feeding on some piles of discarded onions, but the real highlight came a little later on Turtle Bay Road, where I located a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE among a flock of approximately 1,000 Canada Geese. In the evening I went gulling at the Newburgh Waterfront with Bruce Nott. While we were together, we had (5) species of gull (Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, LESSER BLACK-BACKED, and ICELAND GULL), but Bruce was finishing up a remarkable (7) gull day (same as above plus: FRANKLIN’S, and GLAUCOUS).

~Always a favorite of mine – Common Loon at Greenwood Lake, 12/30/21.~

This morning I was sort of taking it easy and I just visited some nearby lakes: Wickham, Greenwood, Round, and Walton. I had a total of (9) species of waterfowl: Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, A. Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and the highlight of the morning, a relatively cooperative COMMON LOON. The loon was at Greenwood Lake; the bird was not too far out and I stood on the shore patiently until the bird came close enough for some decent shots.

~COLO at Greenwood Lake, 12/30/21.~
~Regular readers of this blog know how much I like pipits – American Pipit on a pile of onions in the black dirt, 12/29/21.~
~Can you pick out the ICELAND GULL? Hint: it’s the one with the very pale primaries. Newburgh Waterfront, 12/29/21.~
~Lesser Black-backed Gull at Newburgh Waterfront, 12/29/21.~
~Greater White-fronted Goose at Turtle Bay Road, 12/29/21.~
~One more shot of the COLO at Greenwood Lake, 12/30/21.~