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.
I usually like to get my posts out in timely fashion, but I’ve had some problems with my computer and then when I sorted it out, it just took ages to get through all my photos and edit them. So, this post is from Sunday evening.
Sunday afternoon I was home for the day, done birding, relaxing. Then I read a post by Bashakill Birder and birding bud John Haas. He kayaked at Morningside Park, as he does most days this time of the year; he’d had a number of good birds there recently and they all were continuing. What got my attention was his excellent photo of a fabulous-looking American Golden-Plover.
With that, I got up off the sofa and loaded the kayak onto my car! What followed was a gorgeous night of paddling around the islands at Morningside Park with some very accommodating shorebirds. I’ve written about it before, but it is an incredible experience; it’s as if they don’t even know you are there. At one point, I had “docked” my kayak against one of the islands and I was just relaxing and watching some Least Sandpipers. They worked their way around island, towards me until they were close enough that I could reach out and touch them if I wanted! I sat motionless and just enjoyed their company. What a great evening, I have to thank John for his inspiration, it certainly beats sitting on the sofa watching the tube.
I’ve had some good birds over the last three days. Unfortunately, as it often goes with shorebirds in our area, most of the birds were too distant for photos. After work on Thursday I ran for a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER that Bruce Nott had located earlier in the day at Pine Island Turf Nursery. It took me nearly an hour, but I finally relocated the bird, just before the rain started. BBSA is an all-time favorite, so I was pretty happy to have caught up with that bird.
On Friday morning Rob Stone found another BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, and Linda Scrima located a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER; both birds were at Skinner’s Lane. I headed over during my lunch hour; I had no luck with the Buff-breasted, but fortunately the Baird’s was still present and relatively close to the road. I got great views, but unfortunately the heat shimmer during the early afternoon was brutal and killed my photos.
This morning I got out early, with expectations of more shorebirds in the black dirt. This was not the case, so eventually I went to the back pond of Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. The Little Blue Heron continues, and I believe the Snowy Egret does too (just as I got on the bird, a young Bald Eagle flushed it, so I’m not 100%). Shorebirds had a good showing, with: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and not one but two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS. Also noteworthy was a decent number of raptors: Red-shouldered Hawk (3), Red-tailed Hawk (1), Bald Eagle (2), Northern Harrier (2), and Osprey (1). Not bad!
While I was at the back pond, birding bud Maria Loukeris gave me the heads up that a BLACK TERN that she located at Owens Station Road had flown and was heading my way. I kept my eyes to the sky, but I didn’t see the bird. After leaving (via Owens Station Road), I went to the Liberty Loop parking area on Oil City Road, and lo and behold, there was the Black Tern feeding at the front pond. It flew back south only minutes after I’d arrived, towards the back pond. I knew that a birder that I’d met earlier in the morning, Yahvey, was at the back pond. I called him and gave him the heads up… and don’t you know that bird showed up there as well! That tern was seen in 3 locations, by 3 different birders, in about 30 minutes! Pretty crazy.
We’ve had some decent shorebirds in the county this week. It started with some post-tropical storm Isaiah puddling at Turtle Bay Road. Right after the storm, Linda Scrima was on the scene and located a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER as well as: 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 4 Least Sandpipers, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, a Spotted Sandpiper, and of course a bunch of Killdeer. Not a bad haul! A couple of days afterwards, I finally made it over, and fortunately the dowitcher had stuck around, as did the Semipalmated Plovers. Turtle Bay continues up to today as pretty much the only good shorebird spot that I know of in southern part of the county, and although the SB Dowitcher has moved on, I had as many as 8 Pectoral Sandpipers over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts, as the spot is getting dryer by the day. Meanwhile, Beaver Pond and the Camel Farm appear to have water levels too high for optimum conditions. I haven’t been out to Citgo Pond, but I’m assuming the same holds true there. Let’s hope they dry up enough for good conditions soon.
This morning I got a call from Rob Stone. I figured it had to be something good for him to call me while I’m working, and it was. He had located a WILSON’S PHALAROPE at the Camel Farm. I was able to run for the bird at lunch time and thankfully it hung in there for me. Gail Benson and Tom were on the bird when I arrived, which made it a very easy get. They said that they believed the bird to be a transitioning female, but wanted to check additional resources to be sure. It wasn’t the most colorful bird, but beautiful to see nonetheless. I tried to document, but between the distance, the harsh sun, and heat shimmer, the results were less than stellar. The bird was my 260th Orange County life bird.
I didn’t sleep well last night, but I somehow dragged my butt out of bed this morning and strapped my kayak to the roof of my car. I’m glad I did, because it was a beautiful and crisp morning; the wind was down, the clouds hadn’t completely rolled in yet, making for a pleasant paddle on Glenmere Lake. My main goal (as usual), was shorebirds, but today in addition to a smattering of shorebirds, I found a couple of favorites as well.
The bird of the day for me was undoubtedly the American Pipit. There were many on the lake, working all the little “islands” of muck that the shorebirds enjoy so much as well. I would estimate I had at least 75 AMPIs, but it was hard to get any sort of accurate count. I can tell you this: pipits are not like shorebirds (for the most part oblivious to me in the kayak). They are much more jumpy and moved frequently from island to island. I finally made a slow, smooth approach and was able to get a decent pipit shot.
I worked my way along the shore and came across a mixed flock. I’d noticed some activity and slowly made my way over. Birds seemed to be everywhere around me- Yellow-rumped Warbers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, American Robins, and Cedar Waxwings. Then I noticed a small flock of mixed blackbirds feeding on the ground in the vegetation along the shore. I could first hear and then see several RUSTY BLACKBIRDS among them. I was just settling in to try and get some photos when a Sharp-shinned Hawk flushed just about all the birds. The blackbird flock took off over my head (unfortunately I never did catch up with them again).
As for shorebirds, I found a pair of Least Sandpipers, (6) Wilson’s Snipe which were flushed by a Cooper’s Hawk, (4) Killdeer, and (6) mystery shorebirds, also flushed by a raptor – not sure which because I kept my binoculars on the shorebirds as they flushed; they flew up over the trees heading west and I watched in my bins until they disappeared in the distance. My best guess for those birds is Dunlin, but we’ll never know. I totaled 39 species, which isn’t too bad for a couple hours or so on the water.
I got a slightly later start than I wanted this morning. I struggled sleeping last night; I eventually got back to sleep around 5 am, but that made it tough to wake up early. My plan was to get to Citgo Pond before the sun was over the trees (once it’s over the trees, the birds are severely backlit and tough to ID). Anyways, I had to forego that plan and I headed directly to my next planned stop: Glenmere Lake. It ended up being a good decision as I had some really good birds in perfect light.
I kayaked the lake, just as I did last weekend. As I paddled out, I could see some good shorebird activity in the distance at the south end of the lake. I heard a shorebird call; I couldn’t put my finger on it and I also couldn’t locate the bird – it seemed to be moving over great distance. I eventually caught up with that bird, it was an AMERICAN GOLDEN-PLOVER, undoubtedly the bird of the day. Prior to locating the plover, I’d come across nearly a dozen Pectoral Sandpipers (always a favorite), and 5 Lesser Yellowlegs. Of course there were many Killdeer around as well. Photo ops were mostly good as the light was good and the birds were cooperative. One other bird of note was a single American Pipit flyover, calling as it went. Again, I can’t express how great it is to be able to see these fabulous birds up close and personal – kayaking for shorebirds rules. I’ll be out again in the morning, fingers crossed for some good birds.
I had an excellent weekend of birding, which frankly is not something I’ve been able to say too much recently. I’ll start with today, Sunday, because it was most exciting. While I was at Citgo Pond searching for shorebirds first thing this morning, Kathy Ashman put out an alert on the Mearns Bird Club app – she was at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary and had located a LARK SPARROW! I did my best to make sure I wasn’t missing anything good at Citgo and headed directly over to 6 1/2, where the bird was not only still present, it was also very accommodating, allowing for some decent photos in spite of the low light conditions.
The LARK SPARROW was a life bird for me – #420. It was, of course also a county (#258) and state (#305) bird for me. Huge thanks and congratulations to Kathy on an awesome find.
From there, I finally did some kayaking at Glenmere lake. I’m shorebird obsessed as most of you know, and I’ve had some shorebirds there recently, but it’s so tough to see from the shore with all the foliage in the way, so I wanted to get out on the water and see what I could find. While I didn’t come up with any new birds, I did have a good collection of shorebirds (Killedeer, Least Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Wilson’s Snipe). I got a much better look at the habitat at the south end of the lake – it’s good for shorebirds and it’s also vast! And then there is the magic of being in a kayak with shorebirds. If you move slowly and smoothly, they just don’t seem to know you exist and pay absolutely zero attention to you (except for the Killdeer!). It’s really amazing and allows for some incredible looks excellent photo ops. I was particularly happy to get the snipe up so close – I don’t think I’ve ever had them like that before.
SATURDAY 09/28/19 – HAWKWATCH AT MOUNT PETER
I had low expectations for hawkwatch on Saturday. The winds were not good (SE and SW), and plenty of birds had moved through during the week. I didn’t imagine there would be all that many moving for me on Saturday. But, I ended up having a pretty darn good day. With the help of fellow counters Ken Witkowski and Jeanne Cimorelli, I tallied 139 birds for the day. Highlights included 12 Ospreys, a massive and gorgeous Peregrine Falcon, and 3 Bald Eagles. My HMANA report is included below.
I spent the morning running for birds that most local birders got to see yesterday. Actually, my first stop was at the Volkswagen dealership to get my car serviced. Do you know they gave me a 6:20 am appointment and I was out birding by 7:15? I thought that was pretty incredible. Anyways, my first stop was at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge to run for the BAIRD’S SANDPIPER that was reported there yesterday. I got lucky, the bird was present, first distant but then it came in closer and I was able to get some shots before it was flushed by one of the two Merlins patrolling the refuge this morning.
I made my way over to Winding Waters Trail, where Kathy Ashman had reported an Olive-sided Flycatcher. Unfortunately the bird was no longer present. Then I cruised the black dirt for a good while hoping for more good shorebirds. I was hoping for the pair of BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS which had been reported yesterday, but I didn’t have any luck. From there I went over to Beaver Pond and Glenmere Lake. At Beaver Pond, shorebird numbers were down and I only had a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a handful each of Killdeer and Least Sandpipers. At Glenmere Lake, conditions at the south end of the lake are improving for shorebirds. I walked the trail to better survey that area, but only found a single Killdeer (as far as shorebirds go).
I was thinking about packing it in for the day when Jim Schlickenrieder put out an alert that he had relocated the BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. I ran and joined Jim and Bruce Nott in viewing one of my favorite birds. They were a little bit distant, so photos are documentary, but the views in my scope were incredible. Excellent bird, thanks Jim for reporting.