I was up early both morning this weekend, focused on catching up on some of the songbirds that have moved into our area. I didn’t find nearly as many warblers as I’d hoped, but with some decent yard birding, I added a total of 15 species to my Orange County 2023 list this week. On Saturday morning I birded Cedar Hill Cemetery (just north of Newburgh), and then went to Kendridge Farm. On Sunday I went to Port Jervis and birded Laurel Grove Cemetery and Elks Brox Memorial park.
Here’s a list of the birds I added to my OC list this week:
Baltimore Oriole, 05/08/23, my yard
Great Crested Flycatcher, 05/09/23, my yard
Ruby-throated Hummingbird, 05/12/23, my yard
Red-eyed Vireo, 05/13/23, Cedar Hill Cemetery
Eastern Wood-Pewee, 05/13/23, Cedar Hill Cemetery
Magnolia Warbler, 05/13/23, Kendridge Farm
Blue-winged Warbler, 05/13/23, Kendridge Farm
Green Heron, 05/13/23, Kendridge Farm
Common Nighthawk, 05/13/23, my yard
Pine Warbler, 05/14/23, Laurel Grove Cemetery
Scarlett Tanager, 05/14/23, Elks Brox Park
Prairie Warbler, 05/14/23, Elks Brox Park
Blackpoll Warbler, 05/14/23, Elks Brox Park
Northern Parula, 05/14/23, Elks Brox Park
Common Gallinule, 05/14/23, Liberty Loop
Tricia and I are heading to Ireland for vacation at the end of this coming week, so unless something really interesting happens this week, this will be my last post for a couple of weeks. I look forward to sharing my experiences in Ireland when I get back; this time I am planning to get back to the Cliffs of Moher, so that will be exciting.
It’s the time of year when A LOT is happening. Birds are on the move and seemingly everywhere. While I think most birders were out looking for wood warblers, I kind of did my own thing since warblers are not high priority for me. That said, I added 27 species to my Orange County year list in the past couple of days. I added over half of those birds on a 7.5 mile hike at Black Rock Forest on Saturday morning. It was a birdy hike with 44 species observed.
Saturday afternoon I went over to Walkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Winding Waters Trail. Birding bud Kyle Knapp let me know that he’d had shorebirds there in the flooded fields. I was able to relocate the Dunlin that he’d had there earlier, as well as: Killdeer (2), Least Sandpipers (9), Greater Yellowlegs (many), Lesser Yellowlegs (even more), and Solitary Sandpipers (15+). The birds were distant, and the heat shimmer was terrible, which made for poor viewing.
I went back to Winding Waters this morning to follow up on the Black-bellied Plover that Jeanne Cimorelli located after I’d left on Saturday. As luck would have it, I was joined by fellow hawk watcher and all around good guy, Tom Millard. We scanned the shorebirds from many locations on the trail and totaled 9 species of shorebirds (we added Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover and Spotted Sandpiper to the birds listed above). The number of shorebirds at that location right now is really something – it’s hard to put a number on it, but I’m guesstimating over 200 shorebirds present.
I spent yesterday on Long Island visiting with my family; it had been a while, so it was really great to make up for lost time. But, that meant no birding. So, I woke up early this morning, hoping that the weather would bring in some good birds. I was at the Newburgh Waterfront just after sunrise, but unfortunately there was nothing going on. It was hight tide, as I knew it would be, so that may have had something to do with it.
I also checked a couple of lakes in the Newburgh area and came up empty. Then John Haas put out an alert that he had several CASPIAN TERNS at the Bashakill. It took me what seemed like ages to get there, but the birds stuck around. There ended up being a total of (7) Caspian Terns in all, and they did offer a few decent photos ops as they flew back and forth over Haven Road. It was very enjoyable birding, and CATE was my 207th species in Sullivan County, so that is exciting.
After leaving the Bash, I just cruised around southern Orange County to see what I could find. The birding was just the usuals (American Pipits in the black dirt was the highlight), but by a stroke of luck I found a litter of Red Fox kits. They were just awesome – inquisitive to a certain extent, but mostly just very cautious and of course, cute as can be. As much as I enjoyed the terns, these little beasts made my day.
Good birds in the county continued today to a lesser degree. I was able to locate three female Red-breasted Mergansers at Greenwood Lake early in the morning, and remarkably they were close enough for photos. A little later I joined Rob Stone at the Newburgh Waterfront, where he had located six Bonaparte’s Gulls. We were hoping the 6 were just the beginning, but after scanning for a good while, no additional gulls would join them.
I played golf first thing this morning. While I was playing, my phone was blowing up with some good birds being reported. Bruce Nott had one heck of a morning and located the following birds: A White-winged Scoter at Orange Lake, A Red-necked Grebe at Washington Lake, and a Black-crowned Night-Heron at Masterson Park. I tried for the birds after golf, and it was a little bit comical to me because for all three, I parked my car, got out my gear, and immediately got on the bird. Excellent birds for the county, but unfortunately they were all just a bit too far for decent photos.
I went to the Hudson River afterwards, and had a little bit of luck there as well. At Donahue Memorial Park, I first located a very distant Common Loon; I mean it was miles out there. As I continued scanning, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the loon calling! I was downwind, so I guess that helped the sound travel so well! It was really cool.
I scanned some more and eventually found a pair of distant White-winged Scoters sitting on the river. They eventually picked up and headed north up the river towards Newburgh.
I focused my birding time mostly on waterfowl again this weekend. For the most part it was the same birds we’ve been seeing, but I was able to add (3) new species to my Orange County year list. On Saturday birding bud Bruce Nott let me know he had a Common Loon on Orange Lake (I would find another one at Glenmere Lake on Sunday). Then, I had my first Blue-winged Teal of the year this morning at Beaver Pond in Florida, NY. And finally, I ran to the mouth of the Quassaick Creek where it meets the Hudson River, to catch up with a GREAT CORMORANT located by Bruce earlier in the morning. This was definitely the bird of the weekend (even if my photos weren’t very good). It’s been a number of years since I’ve had that bird in Orange County.
I spent most of my birding time this weekend trying for waterfowl around the county. In two mornings, I had a total of 20 species of waterfowl:
Canada Goose (many locations)
Mute Swan (several locations)
Wood Duck (Wickham Lake and Glenmere Lake)
Northern Shoveler (Wickham and 6 1/2 Station Rd.)
American Wigeon (6 1/2 Station Rd.))
Mallard (many locations)
American Black Duck (6 1/2 Station Rd.)
Northern Pintail (6 1/2 Station Rd.)
Green-winged Teal (Wickham and 6 1/2 Station Rd.)
Lesser Scaup (Wickam)
Ring-necked Duck (many locations)
Bufflehead (several locations)
Hooded Merganser (Round Lake)
Common Merganser (several locations)
RED-BREASTED MERGANSER (Greenwood Lake)
Ruddy Duck (several locations)
Pied-billed Grebe (Wickham Lake)
Horned Grebe (Wickham Lake)
American Coot (Wickham and 6 1/2)
Double Crested Cormorant (Wickham Lake)
My highlight of the weekend was locating (8) female RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS at Greenwood Lake. They were a bit distant, but it was really cool to see these birds – I had pretty good scope views until a boat came through and flushed the birds even further out and eventually out of view.
It was 25 degrees out when I woke up this morning. When I ventured out, I found it was accompanied by a wicked, cold, strong, wind. It’s past mid-March, and winter is still hanging in there, that much is clear. Likewise, most of my birding this weekend focused on winter birds. On Wednesday evening I got nice scope views of a gorgeous Lapland Longspur; its breeding plumage was coming in nicely. I tried to relocate that bird (or any Lapland Longspurs) both days this weekend with no luck. I was, however, able to get some nice photos of a sharp looking, cooperative Horned Lark.
In my travels through the black dirt, I came across loads of raptors this week. I got my first decent looks at Rough-legged Hawks of the year (better late than never). I had a light and a dark morph on Wednesday evening, and another dark morph today. Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks were numerous; American Kestrels were also, but to a lesser extent. Other raptors included Sharp-shinned Hawk, both vulture species, and Bald Eagle.
I also tried for gulls on both Saturday and Sunday. Saturday was a heartbreaker, Bruce Nott had located an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull, I ran for it but missed the bird by 10 minutes or so. Gulls were plentiful on both days, but for me, I had only the 3 expected species. On Sunday I was pleasantly surprised to have a Common Goldeneye fly in. I have to say, even when it’s not necessarily productive, I love birding the Hudson River – sorting through gulls and having that hope that something awesome might just show up.
I was lucky enough to have a fantastic close encounter with a red fox today. The fresh snowfall was the icing on the cake. I watched as the fox successfully dug up several items from the snow and munched on them happily. It’s unclear to me what it was digging up, but it definitely looked like some sort of vegetation; maybe someone who knows more about foxes can enlighten us. All photos were taken today, 03/14/23, in Orange County.
Quick update on this post: I did a brief Google search and I think this fox was maybe digging for some sort of tuber. We all know the internet never lies:
And regarding the fox being pregnant, if you look at the second image from the top, you can see that her teats appear quite full and pronounced.
My best birding today was first thing at Wickham Lake. It was a little bit cold, but the wind was down, making it relatively comfortable. I joined Kyle Knapp, who was there when I arrived. Of course I got zero photos, as the birds were distant, but we tallied an enjoyable 15 species of waterfowl:
American Wood Duck
Afterwards, I checked on various other lakes in the region. The single CANVASBACK continues at Greenwood Lake; I thought its days were numbered as an adult Bald Eagle tried to take it – the Canvasback went under just before the eagle hit the water. At Round Lake I found both Lesser and Greater Scaup. I also had two exciting water mammals in my travels – a river otter (no pics) and a mink, see above.
I also briefly cruised the black dirt region; it was mostly the usuals. I was happy to see some of the Snow Geese are still hanging in there. The ones in this photo were hanging out with a large flock of Canada Geese that I sifted through but didn’t find any rarities.