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.
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.