A good weekend of birding continued on Saturday night, when we had a dozen Common Nighthawks fly over the backyard while we sat on the back patio enjoying a cocktail.
Then, on Sunday morning I went back to the Liberty Loop, where, in addition to many of the same species as Friday night, I was able to catch up with the White Ibis that has been there in recent days. On my way home, I stopped by Missionland Road and found (33) American Golden-Plovers! The birds were distant at the start, but patience paid off and they eventually came close enough to get some decent shots.
Today (Labor Day), I checked the black dirt first thing – I was optimistic due to a modest rainfall earlier in the morning, but it wasn’t until I got to the Camel Farm that I had any birds of note. I was scoping the pond and looking at a Pectoral Sandpiper, when a White-rumped Sandpiper walked right through my field of view. Linda Scrima joined me and eventually we saw that there were actually (2) WRSAs present. The birds were too distant and obscured by vegetation for photos, but we enjoyed scope views and I was happy to add the species to my 2023 year list.
The hottest hotspot in the area right now is the southern leg of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop, in Sussex County NJ. I met Linda Scrima at the loop yesterday evening after work. We missed a couple of the more exciting birds (White Ibis, and Stilt Sandpiper), but it was an excellent night of birding. But we did catch up with the immature Little Blue Heron, and the number of shorebird individuals present was striking to me – very possibly the most I’ve seen in one small area in our region. We tallied (11) species of shorebirds, with the highlight being (4) White-rumped Sandpipers. The icing on the cake was finding 30+ Common Nighthawks flying over the parking area when we got back to our cars.
This morning I figured the loop would be loaded with birders and photographers, so I chose to bird the black dirt instead. It was mostly the usuals, with very few shorebirds (other than Killdeer), but I was able to find a single BAIRD’S SANDPIPER. It was kind of a crazy story because I had just met a birder named Joe. He was out for one reason – to get his lifer Baird’s Sandpiper. About 5 minutes after Joe and I parted ways, don’t you know I found a BASA. I tried to flag him down; I was waving and practically doing somersaults to try to get his attention, as I could still see his car at a distance. Unfortunately he didn’t see me, and the Baird’s flew shortly after I’d located it.
It’s hard to believe it’s Labor Day already; this summer flew by for me. But, that means that Hawkwatch Season is upon us. I spent Saturday morning up at Mount Peter helping the Mt. Pete crew clean up the area. We cleaned up trash, cleared up some of the trails, and cut back any small saplings which would grow up to eventually block our view. Word has it that the DEC has finally agreed to remove some trees to help provide better viewing, but we won’t enjoy that until the 2023 season. On Sunday I was the official counter. As we should expect this early in the season, it was slow. I had a total of 14 migrating raptors, you can see my report below.
Shorebirds remain my main focus, however. Early in the week there was a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER located at Skinner’s Lane (apologies, I can’t remember the original locator). I caught up with that bird a couple of times; unfortunately it was waaaay out there and photos weren’t even an option. I also had a couple more American Golden-plover sitings in the black dirt this week. Conditions at the Goshen Park and Ride continue to be good, and there has been a small but diverse group of birds present (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, and Solitary Sandpiper). The most exciting bird this weekend was a STILT SANDPIPER found by Kyle Knapp on Sunday. I was able to catch up with that bird after hawkwatch, I had good scope views, but photos were tough.
This morning Kathy Ashman found a Glossy Ibis at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I ran for the bird; it’s always cool to see a GLIB, but I was also hoping to find some interesting shorebirds. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I was only able to locate Least Sandpipers and Killdeer.
And finally, my yard list is starting to pick up. I added three birds this week – A Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Pileated Woodpecker, and I had several Common Nighthawks flyover last Sunday evening. My yard list total is now up to 53 species.
Last weekend was a total bust for me. We had a sick cat which took up all my time (and money!) on Saturday, as I took my sick little girl to two different veterinarians. I spent Sunday staring at the cat, trying to will her back to health. A week later, the cat is doing better and my mind is no longer all consumed by the state of her health.
Meanwhile, this week the tail end of Hurricane Ida came through our area, leaving the black dirt flooded in many areas, creating great conditions for shorebirds. While storm did not bring in as many birds as I might have thought, afterwards and through the week and into the weekend, we accumulated quite a nice shorebird list in the black dirt:
I also made a relatively quick but very productive stop at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday afternoon (yes, hawkwatch is starting already!). I joined official counter Ken Witkowski for just about an hour, and we were lucky enough to have nearly 50 migrating raptors – forty something Broadwinged Hawks, 2 Bald Eagles, and an Osprey.
Shorebirds in the black dirt are generally quite distant; just miles out, which means photos are typically just documentary. But this week, I had some birds which, while not close enough for anything remarkable, were close enough to get some decent shots. I’ve been checking the black dirt frequently, I have the feeling we are going to get something good out there this fall. Or maybe I’m just hoping we will. Either way, it was nice to get some shorebirds which were not Killdeer, and some decent photos to boot.
One other quick note – I went out the Hudson River this afternoon, hoping the hurricane/tropical storm might bring in something interesting. I don’t think my timing was great, and there wasn’t much going on. Tomorrow might be better, but unfortunately I’ll be working.
I toyed with the idea of heading back north to try for the Wood Stork again, but ultimately I decided to stay local. The bird was reported at the German Church Road location again yesterday evening, but I haven’t heard anything today.
My first stop was the Camel Farm for shorebirds; I found nearly a dozen Least Sandpipers and a couple of Semipalmated Sandpipers. Moving on, I went to the Liberty Loop. Again my main goal was shorebirds, but I also was hoping for the SNOWY EGRET and LITTLE BLUE HERON, both of which were present. I had a decent list of shorebirds: Semipalmated Plover (2), Killdeer (25+), Least Sandpiper (1), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), Solitary Sandpiper (2), Greater Yellowlegs (1), and Lesser Yellowlegs (2). It’s great to be seeing shorebirds again.
~Little Blue Heron at Wallkill River Nation Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh, 08/08/21.~
I made a couple more stops after that – I checked Beaver Pond but found poor conditions and no shorebirds. I also went to Skinners Lane, where I had a good number of Killdeer, as well as 3 mystery shorebirds which were rude enough to just do a flyover and not stop. Another exciting thing for me was a decent number of Horned Larks (20 or so), with many young birds in the mix.
I guess it was just a shorebird kind of weekend. This morning I went back to Skinners Lane; nearly all the shorebirds I had yesterday continued. Linda Scrima reported that the three Black-bellied Plovers, which I forgot to mention in yesterday’s post, also continued. I headed back to the west side of the Liberty Loop, convinced there had to be something good there. Maria Loukeris had the same idea and joined me out there, unfortunately we were both disappointed. But! When I got back to my car and was starting to head home, John Haas had put out a notification on the Mearn’s Bird Club app that he had a WILSON’S PHALAROPE at Morningside Park!
I hustled out to the park, and the bird hung in there. I joined John and several other birders as we enjoyed some of my best views ever of this species. What a treat it was and a great way to end a killer shorebird weekend. Huge thanks to John for locating the bird and for putting the word out. You can see his blog post about it here. If he hasn’t posted about it yet, I’m sure he will this afternoon or evening.
~One more shot of the Wilson’s Phalarope at Morningside Park, 05/31/21.~
This morning I was put off by the cold temperatures and the incessant rain, so it took me a little while to work up the gumption to go out. Once I did, it was totally worth it. I ran around southern Orange County, hoping for shorebirds. I came up with just the usuals in my first four stops, the usuals being: Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper and Spotted Sanpiper. But, when I got to Skinners Lane, that all changed and I got some really good birds:
BLACK-BELLIED PLOVER (23)
SEMI-PALMATED PLOVER (7)
Least Sandpiper (2)
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
As is usually the case, the birds were distant, so no good pics. But – shorebirds in OC! I was pretty pumped.
This morning started out well, I was able to add two new Orange County year birds at my second stop – Solitary Sandpiper and Blue-winged Teal at Beaver Pond near Glenmere Lake. The rest of the day proved to be uneventful. Wickham Lake held no new birds. I tried Greenwood Lake but it was socked in with fog. I stopped at Round Lake and photographed a Bufflehead. Then I headed to the Hudson River where the birds were on the scarce side. It was a tough day for pics with few opportunities and poor light. I had my best photo op of the day with a Great Blue Heron in the pond near my house, just before finishing up for the day.
I’ve enjoyed some good birding in recent days. I got out on both Thursday and Friday evenings after work and a couple of times today. In those three days I was able to add 10 species to my Orange County 2021 list:
Barn Swallow, 4/8 at Wickham Lake
Osprey, 4/8 at Wickham Lake
Palm Warbler, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
Swamp Sparrow, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
American Coot, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
Virginia Rail, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
Eastern Meadowlark, 4/10 at Wisner Road
Chipping Sparrow, 4/10 at Greenwood Lake
BONAPARTE’S GULL, 4/10 at Washington Lake
PECTORAL SANDPIPER, 4/10 at Lynch Road in the black dirt
Other good birds included a distant Common Loon at Greenwood Lake this morning, and excellent looks at an immature ICELAND GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront. Huge thanks to Bruce Nott for reporting both the Bonaparte’s and the Iceland Gulls. Also thanks to Maria Loukeris for letting me know about the post regarding the Pectoral Sandpiper on the Mearns Facebook page – thanks to Amy Klein for posting it.