A Pretty Good Weekend, 01/24/21

Saturday and Sunday were both gorgeous days – mostly sunny, cold, crisp, with a brisk wind out of the north. It was great to just be out and about after a week staring at my work computer. On Saturday I went up to Sullivan County to try for the Northern Shrike near Liberty NY; unfortunately I had no luck. That’s my third time trying for that bird, and I’m sort of feeling like three strikes and you’re out. The trip was still worth it though, I had a single COMMON REDPOLL and a brief look at three EVENING GROSBEAKS, my first of the winter. In the afternoon I went to the Newburgh Waterfront, where I located a first winter ICELAND GULL.

~ICELAND GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront on Saturday afternoon, 01/23/21.~
~Ring-billed Gull at Newburgh Waterfront. I wish I had this sort of photo op with the Iceland!

On Sunday morning I walked the Winding Waters trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful, freezing cold walk, and I enjoyed it immensely. The highlight was a single COMMON REDPOLL, my first in Orange County this winter. In the early afternoon, Bruce Nott reported a GLAUCOUS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront. I ran for the bird; when I arrived we actually located a second bird for two GLGUs! Huge thanks to Bruce as always. It was a good weekend, and I even got a few shots to share, which makes me happy.

~Black-capped Chickadee playing in the snow, Woodard Rd Sullivan County 01/23/21.~
~Northern Cardinal on the Winding Waters Trail, 01/24/21.~
~Cedar Waxwing in a snow squall. Clement Road in Sullivan County, 01/23/21.~
~Amrican Tree Sparrow, Winding Waters Trail 01/24/21.~
~Beautiful bird. Glaucous Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/24/21.~
~Documentary shot of Common Redpoll at Winding Waters, 01/24/21. Unfortunately this bird did not stick around for very long…~

Wow! Orange County FERRUGINOUS HAWK!

Yesterday during the waterfowl count, Linda Scrima spotted an interesting hawk. She was thinking it was a perhaps a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, took some photos to check out later and continued with the count. It ends up the bird was a FERRUGINOUS HAWK! There were many birders out trying to relocated the bird this morning, but it was of course John Haas who found the bird on Celery Avenue (click here to see John’s post with some fantastic photos). I rushed over and joined several other birders to view the bird. It was a little distant and in the trees, so scope views of this gorgeous bird were fantastic, but photos were tough. The bird eventually flew and was relocated by Bruce Nott on Lynch Avenue. The bird was in the air tangling with a couple of Red-tails, but then put down in a field. The bird moved around after that, and as of this writing had been relocated two more times, with many, many birders going for it. From what I’m told, this is a first New York State record of Ferruginous Hawk; super exciting birding! Nice job and congrats to Linda on an amazing find.

~Another tough day with photos – the bird was never really close enough. FERRUGINOUS HAWK in flight, Pierce Circle 01/17/21.~
~Ferruginous Hawk, Celery Avenue 01/17/21.~
~Ferruginous Hawk coming in for a landing at Lynch Ave, 01/17/21.~

A Full Day, 01/16/21

This morning, for the third year running, I teamed up with Linda Scrima to do Mearns Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. Our area is basically the black dirt region; we divided and conquered with Linda taking the west side along Route 12 for the most part, while I was mainly on the east side off of Pulaski Highway. It wasn’t the most exciting waterfowl count, but I do enjoy contributing towards these counts from time to time. Linda had our best birds, a couple of Snow Geese and an American Coot. Here’s our totals:

  • Canada Goose: 3,009
  • Snow Goose: 2
  • Mallard: 13
  • American Black Duck: 12
  • Mute Swan: 9
  • Common Merganser: 12
  • American Coot: 1
~Snow Goose in the Black Dirt, 01/16/21. Photo by Linda Scrima.~

In the afternoon I headed over to the Hudson River. My first stop was at the Storm King State Park parking area, where I was finally able to catch up with the wintering GOLDEN EAGLE. I’d tried for this bird several other times this month without any luck, and I was beginning to worry that maybe the bird hadn’t returned. From there I went to the Newburgh Waterfront for some gulling. There were plenty of gulls present, with more coming in as the day drew to a close. Bruce Nott joined me, and not too much later, he located an adult ICELAND GULL in flight. I was able to get on the bird and get some documentary shots of it. We believe this is likely the same bird we had last Saturday, which, upon further review was determined to be an Iceland rather than a Glaucous. It wasn’t a good day for photos, but it was a good day for birds.

~Adult Iceland Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/16/21.~
~GOLDEN EAGLE at Storm King State Park, 01/16/21.~

Sunday Shots, 01/10/21

Other than the gulls at the Hudson River, it was a relatively uneventful weekend of birding. I tooled around the black dirt region both mornings and had less than the usuals. Even large flocks of geese were hard to come by. But, as always, especially on these cold, sunny, crisp mornings, it was just good to be out. A slow day of birding beats a day at the office any day of the week, no doubt about it.

~Common Merganser on the Wallkill River off Celery Avenue, 01/09/21.~
~This morning I got my first Rough-legged Hawk of 2021.~
~Black Vulture in the black dirt, 01/10/21.~
~Black-capped Chickadee at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 01/09/21.~
~My first Great Horned Owl of the year, 01/09/21.~
~I was fighting the light and a quick little bird. Brown Creeper at Reservoir 3, 01/01/21.~

Good Gulling 01/09/21

My birding today was sort of a comedy of errors. After some unremarkable birding in the black dirt in the morning, I headed over to the Hudson River, where some excellent gulls have been reported recently: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Iceland Gull, and Glaucous Gull. I spent some time at the Newburgh Waterfront without any luck, so I headed over to Beacon. In Beacon, I again had no luck. So, I headed back to Newburgh. As I started scanning, I received a call from birding bud and fellow gull enthusiast Bruce Nott. He was just north of me, and he had located a young GLAUCOUS GULL across the river in Beacon. I located the bird easily with his directions and then jumped in the car and headed BACK to Beacon to try for a better look and some photos.

~Adult Glaucous Gull (lead bird) at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/09/21. Photo by Bruce Nott.~

Once in Beacon, I couldn’t relocated the Glaucous Gull, lol, but I did find a first winter ICELAND GULL. I called Bruce and he was still on the Glaucous – it had drifted pretty far south, so I repositioned myself and got on the bird with my scope. I tried for photos, but it was just too far. I went back to the where the Iceland was but moments after I arrived, a train spooked the gulls and the Iceland flew north until I lost sight of it.

I continued to scan from Beacon, and I located a bird on the Newburgh side of the river that looked good for a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. I called Bruce; he got on the gull and sure enough it was a LBBG! So, I jumped in the car once again, BACK to Newburgh! I joined Bruce at Newburgh Waterfront and he got me back on the bird; it was a beautiful second winter bird that looked incredible in the scope, but again just too far for photos.

Bruce and I lingered for a while, shooting the breeze and scanning for gulls. And it payed off. Bruce located an adult bird with white primaries. It was on the water, head tucked in and distant. My camera wouldn’t focus on the bird – too far again. But Bruce got some shots of the bird on the water, and then when the bird took flight, I followed it in my scope and gave Bruce direction as to the location of the bird so he could get some flight shots (see above). Bruce and I weren’t sure if the bird was an Iceland or a Glaucous; in the field the bird did not appear noticeably smaller or larger than the nearby Herring Gulls. Thankfully Bruce got the photos, which he sent around; the consensus was adult GLAUCOUS GULL, my 265th species in Orange County. What a crazy good day; huge thanks to my partner in crime Bruce.

2020 Year in Review

What can I even say about 2020? It was a year like no other, that’s for sure. The Covid-19 pandemic changed our lives in many ways, including birding. In early March I started working from home. It was the most time during daylight hours that I’d ever spent at home – my usual routine was go to work during the weekdays and go to birding locations in the evenings and on the weekends. Being home every day, I was amazed at how many good birds could be seen right in my own yard.

~Lincoln’s Sparrow in my yard, 05/03/20.~

Our yard, of course, had plenty of the usuals – chickadees, titmice, wrens etc… but we also had some more interesting birds. I was shocked to see that a pair of Wood Ducks had taken to roosting in the trees in our yard for short time at the end of April. A Wood Thrush spent the morning in our side garden on May 1st; I thought that was pretty cool but it was easily topped by my “Yard Bird of The Year”, a LINCOLN’S SPARROW in the back yard just two days later. Spending time on the back deck and looking to the sky after wrapping up work proved to be productive, with some interesting flyovers: Common Nighthawk, Great Egret, SANDHILL CRANE, and many Bald Eagles. The vultures continued to roost in the evergreens in the backyard. We had success with a hummingbird feeder for the first time. We watched Blue Jays successfully fledge their young in the backyard, while sadly all the eggs were taken one night from the American Robin’s nest in the front yard. In the fall, we had Red-breasted Nuthatches hanging around. It was a silver lining of the pandemic to be able to get a better picture of just what goes on around here when I’m gone.

~Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Hudson River in Newburgh, 05/23/20.~

YEAR OF THE GULL IN ORANGE COUNTY

I had an amazing year with gulls in Orange County, having observed eight different species in 2020. Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed are expected and were seen many times throughout the year. Bonaparte’s are reliable most every year and I had a couple of sitings in April. I had only one Iceland for the year, in January. At the end of March, Bruce Nott located a beautiful young LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. I was able to track that bird down on three occasions. On July 10th, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Fay, I went to Kowawese Unique Area and scanned for gulls in the rain. I was rewarded with a fly-by FRANKLIN’S GULL. It was not only a county bird for me, but a lifer as well (my only life bird of 2020!). Then, on August 4th, in the evening, at the tail end of Tropical Storm Isaias, I had my eighth and final gull species in the county for the year: a hatch year LAUGHING GULL.

~Franklin’s Gull at Kowawese Unique Area on the Hudson River, 07/10/20.~
~Laughing Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 08/04/20.~
~What a joy to have a GOLDEN EAGLE hanging around the black dirt. February 2020.~

There were, of course, many other highlights for me through the year. In January there was a Greater White-fronted Goose at Skinner Lane. In February, there was a gorgeous young GOLDEN EAGLE hanging around the black dirt terrorizing Snow Geese. I couldn’t believe that bird was around and I couldn’t get enough of it. In March I ran for a Eurasian Wigeon at the Bashakill; it wasn’t the greatest look but that’s always an excellent bird to see. In April I had a FORSTER’S TERN as well as a Caspian Tern in Newburgh, as well as a pair of Surf Scoters at Wickham Lake.

On May 18th, Bruce Nott found another great bird, a BLACK TERN in breeding plumage at the Liberty Loop. In early June Rob Stone found a Wilson’s Phalarope at the Camel Farm. I ran for that bird at lunchtime; it was my 260th life bird in Orange County. In late July, when the pandemic was seemingly starting to get under control, we took our only trip of the year and spent just over a week on the Maine coast. We enjoyed taking the Puffin Watch Cruise out to Eastern Egg Rock Island, where I got my best looks and photos of puffins yet.

~The infamous Carson C. Waxwing, August 15, 2020.~

August, which is typically associated with the doldrums of birding, brought one of my favorite stories of the year. While birding at Beaver Pond on August 15th, a fledging Cedar Waxwing (later to be named Carson C. Waxwing) flew down and landed on my scope and then hopped onto my hand. I eventually rescued Carson and delivered him to The Avian Wildlife Center for rehabilitation. If you missed this story the first time around, you can catch up here, here, and here. I think it’s worth a read. I spoke with Giselle at the center today, and the latest update is that Carson is still at the center, where it has molted and now will over-winter before being released in the spring. So, it’s still looking good for a successful recovery… touch wood, fingers crossed, etc…

~Always a favorite – Buff-breasted Sandpiper at Skinner’s Lane 09/13/20.~

In early September I enjoyed a couple of BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS out at Skinner’s Lane, always a favorite. Later in the month I spent a weekend in the Adirondacks, where I did really well getting many of my target species: Black-backed Woodpecker, Boreal Chickadee, Canada Jay, and my first ever decent look at a Ruffed Grouse. In October I counted the only GOLDEN EAGLE of the season at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on the 17th. At the end of the month I got a fantastic look at a LAPLAND LONGSPUR at Skinner’s. November was pretty exciting with my first ever BARNACLE GOOSE and RED CROSSBILLS in Orange County. I have been waiting for ages to get a Barnacle in the county! December has been a good month too, with another Lapland Longspur (this one at Turtle Bay), and a worthwhile trip to Rye, NY where I saw my first ever Glaucous Gull in NYS.

~Very cool bird. LAPLAND LONGSPUR at Skinner’s Lane, 10/31/20.~

TOP TEN PHOTOS

This is my favorite part. I really enjoy looking back and picking out the photographs which speak to me and seem to have held up; I hope you enjoy my choices.

~Pic of the year for me. Great Blue Heron in the Adirondacks, 09/19/20.~
~Atlantic Puffin in flight, Eastern Egg Rock Island 07/20/20.~
~A yard bird made the list! Baltimore Oriole in my backyard, 07/04/20.~
~Red-winged Blackbird at Knapp’s View on 06/25/20.~
~American Golden-Plover at Morningside Park, 08/30/20.~
~Canada Jay in the Adirondacks, 09/20/20.~
~Field Sparrow with a bill-full. Hamptonburgh Preserve, 06/07/20.~
~Bay-breasted Warbler at Laurel Grove Cemetery, 05/16/20.~
~Prairie Warbler at Goosepond Mountain, 05/25/20.~
~Common Loon at Follensby Clear Pond, 09/19/20.~

So, I guess that’s a wrap on 2020. As always, I’d like to thank everyone who reads the blog . I’d also like to thank all my birding friends out there for yet another excellent year of birding, you know who you are. Happy New Year to everyone out there, here’s hoping that 2021 will be a better, birdier year.

Good Winter Birding, 12/20/20

Since I can only get out on the weekends at this time of the year, it’s extra sweet when I can get some good birds. On Saturday morning Tricia and I stopped at the Grasslands on our way to pick up pottery supplies in New Paltz. It was a gorgeous morning; super cold and frosty, but also sunny and bright. We were just going to stop briefly, but shortly after we arrived, two Short-eared Owls were up and flying. It was a pleasant surprise; we watched from the viewing platform as the owls seemed to be actively hunting and were tangling with Northern Harriers from time to time. We also got the opportunity to catch up with Ralph Tabor, which was really great, it had been too long. Side note: the refuge has put new restrictions in place to mitigate owl disturbance by closing a large percentage of the trails on the weekends. I personally think this is a great idea and long overdue.

~A distant Short-eared Owl cruises the Grasslands, 12/19/20.~

This morning I tooled around the black dirt. On Celery Avenue, there was a large flock of geese present. I sorted through them and watched as group after group flew in to join the flock. It was an enjoyable (if cold) way to sort through geese, but unfortunately I didn’t come up with anything other than Canada Geese. I did have a pair of adult Bald Eagles perched in a tree, side by side, as well as a nice close Gray Ghost fly-by.

~Gray Ghost on a gray day. Male Northern Harrier in the black dirt, 12/20/20.

I found more geese at Turtle Bay Road, this time there were nearly sixty Snow Geese among approximately 400 Canada Geese. There was also a modest flock of Horned Larks foraging on the side of the road. I felt super lucky when a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR put down not far from my car. Heat shimmer from the car prevented a better pic, but as always, it was great to see a LALO.

~Roadside Lapland Longspur on Turtle Bay Road, 12/20/20.~

Other highlights from the morning included many more raptors; who-knows-how-many Red-tailed Hawks, a Rough-legged Hawk, a Cooper’s Hawk, and an American Kestrel. The last good bird of the day was a bird that I typically don’t have much luck with: I found a FOX SPARROW in with a mixed flock of sparrows on Round Hill Road.

~Cooper’s Hawk at the Camel Farm, 12/20/20.~
~Fox Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow on Round Hill Road, 12/20/20.~
~It was a gorgeous morning at the Grasslands NWR, 12/19/20. Photos don’t do it justice.~
~Common Mergansers in flight, Celery Avenue 12/2o/20.~
~A pair of Bald Eagles at Celery Avenue was a nice way to start my Sunday morning birding.~

Sunday Shots, 12/13/20

Well, it’s been a stressful week regarding the blog, but the site now seems to be working more efficiently. I was having a lingering issue regarding email subscriptions, but I believe I have that figured out; this post will tell the tale.

Anyways, I wasn’t on the computer all the time, and I was out an about this weekend and last weekend as well. But, I’ve hit a little bit of a dry spell – I tried for winter finches in Port Jervis both weekends, but came up empty. Same goes for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs, as well as Cackling Goose (probably the species I am mostly likely to add to my Orange County year list). Still, as always it’s just good to be out, with enough of the “usuals” around to keep me entertained, especially on a gorgeous day like today.

~It’s that time of year. Northern Harrier in the black dirt, 12/13/20.~
~Cooper’s Hawk in Pine Island, 12/06/20.~
~Carolina Wren at Moonbeams Sancutary, 12/05/20. This was my first visit to Moonbeams, and while it wasn’t super birdy on this day, I think it has some potential.~
~Northern Cardinal in the black dirt, 12/05/20.~
~I thought this was interesting – these birds were part of a large mixed flock of American and House Finches. They were actively feeding on hemp plants which were never harvested. It’s the first time I’ve seen birds feeding on hemp to any extent. Black dirt 12/05/20.~
~This is a gorgeous bird. Rough-legged Hawk in the black dirt, 12/13/20.~

Orange County BARNACLE GOOSE!

It’s amazing how sometimes things just work out. Today Bruce Nott located a BARNACLE GOOSE at the Camel Farm. He reported it in the early afternoon – right at my lunch time. I raced over and joined Bruce and Linda Scrima, who informed me that the bird had just taken a short flight and was out of view. John Haas arrived, and moments later the bird took flight again. I was able to get distant flight shots as it flew across the Camel Farm and put down again.

~Yes!!! BARNACLE GOOSE at the Camel Farm, 11/24/20.~

As we were observing the bird, it became clear that it was moving about with 4 other interesting looking geese. It was speculated that these were likely the same birds which have been reported around the northeast in recent years: One Barnacle Goose with 4 Barnacle x Cackling Goose hybrids.

I have to say that I was freaking out. I have waited SO long to get a Barnacle Goose in the county, it was just a fabulous looking bird, and it did not disappoint. It’s been absolutely ages since I was this excited to see a bird. The Barnacle Goose was my 264th Orange County life bird, and my 222nd bird in the county for 2020. I can’t thank Bruce enough!

~One Barnacle Goose in the lead, followed by 4 likely Barnacle x Cackling Goose hybrids. Camel Farm 11/24/20.~
~Like a sore thumb. BARG at the Camel Farm, 11/24/20.~

A Good Weekend, 11/22/20

I enjoyed a good couple of days birding this weekend. The highlight came first thing Saturday morning, when I had a group of six RED CROSSBILLS flyover at Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis. This is the first time I’ve had them in Orange County, making it my 263rd life bird in the county, and also my 221st bird of the year in OC. I was especially pleased because I managed to get some photos as they flew over; terrible photos, but good enough to document the species in Orange County.

~Always a favorite, American Pipit in the black dirt, 11/22/20.~

Early Saturday afternoon I ran up to Kingston following up on a report of a Mew Gull. The bird was still present, but unfortunately it was ultimately determined to be a diminutive 1st cycle Ring-billed Gull. It was an interesting looking bird, I learned a little bit, and I got to see some birding buds. So, while disappointing, it wasn’t all bad.

~I’ll ask it again: How come every time I look for Northern Shrike I find Northern Mockingbirds? NOMO at Wisner Road, 11/22/20.~

On Sunday, my best bird came first thing again. I went to Wickham Lake, where I found a beautiful drake LONG-TAILED DUCK. This bird was just gorgeous. Unfortunately it was miles out; I’m including a documentary shot at the bottom of this post. Long-tailed Duck is probably my favorite species of duck, they definitely fit into the category of inherently cool. Leaving Wickham Lake, I went by Wisner Road on the off chance of a Northern Shrike, but of course no luck.

~American Kestrel in the Black Dirt Region, 11/22/20.~

I spent the rest of Sunday morning tooling around the black dirt. It was birdy in general, and I sifted through several flocks of Canada Geese, but didn’t turn up anything interesting. Likewise, I looked through a flock of American Pipits without finding any longspurs or buntings. Still, always nice to see some pipits, especially when they are close enough for photos. The only real excitement I had in the black dirt was witnessing a very distant Great-horned Owl being mobbed by American Crows.

~This photo doesn’t come close to doing this bird justice, it was quite a good looking bird. Long-tailed Duck at Wickham Lake, 11/22/20.~
~Terrible pic, but I’m glad to have it. RED CROSSBILLS in flight at Reservoir 3, 22/21/20.~