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.~

Sunday Shots, 12/19/21

I enjoyed good birding on both days of the weekend, but the highlight undoubtedly came early Saturday morning when I relocated the FRANKLIN’S GULL which was reported at the Newburgh Waterfront on Thursday and Friday. I feared that with the drop in temperature and the rainy weather the bird might have moved on, but fortunately that was not the case. FRGU is a really good bird anywhere in New York State, and now I’ve seen two right here in Orange County. To say I got a better look at this bird than the one in July of 2020 would be a huge understatement. This bird was very cooperative and I enjoyed fantastic looks.

~Franklin’s Gull in flight, Newburgh Waterfront 12/18/21.~

Sunday was a different kind of day. The weather turned out to be very nice – crisp and cool with a mix of sun and clouds. I headed out to the black dirt, and early on it seemed to be quite birdy, so I decided to count my total species for the morning of birding. Which, surprisingly, is not something I do very often. I cruised the black dirt, spend a few minutes at the viewing platform at Liberty Marsh, went to Wickham Lake, and finished up at Greenwood Lake. I had a total of 43 species for the morning, which doesn’t seem too bad for this time of the year. I had a some nice surprises – a Brown Creeper at Celery Ave, (8) Northern Shovelers at Liberty Marsh, my first Merlin in ages on Onion Ave, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Wickham Lake. I’ve included my complete list below.

~Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Wickham Lake, 12/19/21~
~American Goldfinch at Celery Ave, 12/19/21.~
~Not a great shot, but it’s been too long since I’ve seen/photographed a Merlin. Onion Ave, 12/19/21.~
~Brown Creeper trying to hide from me. Celery Ave, 12/19/21.~
~One more shot of the Franklin’s Gull in Newburgh NY, 12/18/21.~
  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Northern Shoveler
  4. Gadwall
  5. American Wigeon
  6. Mallard
  7. Ring-necked Duck
  8. Greater Scaup
  9. Bufflehead
  10. Hooded Merganser
  11. Common Merganser
  12. Rock Pigeon
  13. Mourning Dove
  14. Ring-billed Gull
  15. Black Vulture
  16. Turkey Vulture
  17. Northern Harrier
  18. Cooper’s Hawk
  19. Bald Eagle
  20. Red-tailed Hawk
  21. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  22. Downy Woodpecker
  23. Northern Flicker
  24. Merlin
  25. Blue Jay
  26. American Crow
  27. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  28. White-breasted Nuthatch
  29. Brown Creeper
  30. Carolina Wren
  31. European Starling
  32. Northern Mockingbird
  33. Eastern Bluebird
  34. American Robin
  35. House Sparrow
  36. House Finch
  37. American Goldfinch
  38. American Tree Sparrow
  39. Dark-eyed Junco
  40. White-crowned Sparrow
  41. White-throated Sparrow
  42. Song Sparrow
  43. Northern Cardinal

A 6 Gull Day, 12/11/21

Although it was another slow start to the birding day, in the end it was quite successful with a nice 6 species of gull observed in Orange County. It makes me happy because at this time of the year I am only birding on the weekend, so it’s very rewarding to have a good day. This morning I had a BONAPARTE’S GULL (species #1) at Wickham Lake, and a good number of Ring-billed Gulls (species #2) in the fields nearby. In the afternoon, joined up with gulling buddy Bruce Nott at the Newburgh Waterfront. Bruce was on fire today; not long after my arrival, he spotted and got me on a distant adult ICELAND GULL (species #3). That bird eventually relocated to the roof of Gully’s, where in spite of the very low light we were able to get some shots of the bird. Bruce also located a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (species #4) in the mess of birds on Gully’s roof. Add to the mix approximately 150 Herring Gulls (species #5) and about a dozen Great Black-backed Gull (species #6), and you have a great day of gulling in the county.

~A Ring-billed Gull comes in for a landing at Bellvale Farm near Wickham Lake, 12/11/21.~
~Adult ICELAND GULL (behind Ring-billed Gull on the roof), showing off its pale primaries. This is a sharp looking bird, it’s a shame we didn’t have any better light for photos.~
~Terrible photo, but adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL on the roof of Gully’s at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/11/21.~
~One more shot of the adult ICELAND GULL on the roof of Gully’s at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/11/21.~