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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.