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 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 arrived at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop just after sunrise this morning, with hopes to catch up with the American Bittern Ronnie DiLorenzo reported on Thursday. Shortly after my arrival, Kyle Knapp joined me with the same target bird. As he was preparing to hike the loop, I spotted an AMERICAN BITTERN flying across the marsh. I couldn’t see where it put down, but Kyle did and we walked the trail to the approximate area.
After a good while of searching, I finally found the bird, feeding in a little wet area behind some dense vegetation. We enjoyed spectacular views in my scope, and tried to find any angle where we could get photos. As I was watching the bittern, a SORA walked into my view, feeding just in front of the bittern. I got Kyle on the Sora, and in his bins he saw that there were actually 2 Soras present. It was fantastic to get pretty good looks at such a secretive bird.
Afterwards, we headed to the back pond of the Liberty Loop. We were hoping for shorebirds and Least Bitterns. We totally dipped on the Least Bitterns, but we did have a smattering of shorebirds – 3 Least Sandpipers, 3 or 4 Solitary Sandpipers, several Killdeer, and a couple of Spotted Sandpipers. The highlight, however, was finding the 2 local Sandhill Cranes feeding just 20 or so feet off the trail. We snapped some photos as we passed, shocked to be so close to them, and left them feeding in the same spot as we continued on our way.
Well, it sure feels like summer is finally here. And, for me, it’s brought along the birding doldrums with it. I’ve tried to be resourceful and to think of some places to visit and birds go for; that’s helped, but ultimately my birding on this long holiday weekend felt uninspired.
On Saturday morning I went to Sullivan County to bird Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area. My target bird was Ruffed Grouse, and I’m happy to report that I did, in fact see one. For about 1 second. I paused to try to find a singing Magnolia Warbler, when about 30 feet away, a Ruffed Grouse exploded out of the brush and flew like a rocket deep in to the woods. It was simulaneously exciting and disappointing, as it was great to get the bird, but a total bummer to once again get such a brief, poor look. Otherwise, the trail at Hickok Brook was birdy enough to keep it interesting, but as it goes at this time of the year, most birds were heard, not seen.
On my way home, I went through the black dirt region. The Camel Farm was surprisingly active with shorebirds – I observed over 20 Killdeer, several Spotted Sandpipers, and a single Lesser Yellowlegs.
On Sunday evening I went out to Sterling Forest. I went a little later in the evening so that I would still be there around sunset; my target was to finally get Eastern Whip-poor-will in Orange County this year. The Whip-poor-wills were right on time and it was really cool to hear them calling on and on, sometimes from quite nearby. Otherwise, it was quiet birding with not much going on.
This morning I went to the Liberty Loop nice and early, hoping for Least Bitterns. I did observe (2) LIBIs briefly in flight, but the birds were not as numberous/accommodating as they have been in past years at that location. I stopped by the Camel Farm on my way home and had basically the same shorebirds, but today there were at least (6) Spotted Sandpipers present.
Yard Birds 2022: I am stuck on 49 species; I had no new birds since I last posted.
This morning I got out relatively early and went to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Winding Waters Trail. It was a cool, mostly sunny morning; pretty much a perfect fall morning for birding. The trail was hopping, and I found myself enjoying birds for nearly every step of the my 2.5 mile walk. Sparrows were numerous and the expected species for this time of the year: Savannah, Song, Swamp, White-throated, and I’m happy to say, a good number of LINCOLN’S SPARROWS.
Other highlights included a couple of Blue-headed Vireos, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a couple of Blackpoll Warblers. By the time I got back to the lot, I had tallied 36 species for the morning, and managed to add (2) species to my Orange County 2021 year list (Golden-crowned Kinglet and Lincoln’s Sparrow).
Early Saturday morning I went to Black Rock Forest and hiked up to Jupiter’s Boulder. I was trying for Ruffed Grouse, but unfortunately I had no luck. I did pick up my first Acadian Flycatchers of the year; it’s always nice to see and hear that bird. Afterwards, I went to Newburgh to follow up on an eBird report of a pair of Eurasian Collared-Doves, but again I had no luck. On my way home a played a hunch and went to the OC Airport to see if the Killdeer there had a second brood. They did, there was one young bird with two adults; the bird was so small it kept tipping over, lol.
This morning I went to the south end of the Liberty Loop. I’ve been meaning to get out there to try for Least Bitterns, so I finally did today and they did not disappoint. Once again, the southernmost compound at the loop is loaded with good birds during the summer. Least Bitterns were the big draw, but I also enjoyed seeing a young Pied-billed Grebe, many Common Gallinules, Killdeer, and loads of Wood Ducks.
The back pond at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop has been one of the hottest birding spots in the area recently (this part of the loop is located in Sussex County, NJ for all of you concerned with which county and state the birds are located in). I spent a pleasant and productive morning there; I’m pretty sure I got all the recent good birds/rarities reported: GLOSSY IBIS (3), LITTLE BLUE HERON, SNOWY EGRET, and SANDERLING.
My main goal of the morning was, of course, shorebirds. Although besides the Sanderling I did not find anything else out of the ordinary, shorebirds were plentiful in number of both species and individuals:
Semipalmated Plover (2)
Least Sanpiper (10+)
Pectoral Sandpiper (3)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (4)
Wilson’s Snipe (3)
Solitary Sandpiper (3)
Lesser Yellowlegs (20+)
I left the refuge just before 10 am, just as it was starting to get a little warm. I finished the morning with 44 species; the only target bird I missed was Least Bittern, which I’ve been getting out there on a regular basis. Nice morning of birding, and some photo ops on top of it all.
I missed posting last week because Tricia and I went to the Jersey Shore on a mini-vacation. I fit some birding in while I was there, and I’m working on that post. Meanwhile, I got out early this morning and headed to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. Kathy Ashman was already there when I arrived; we joined forces and had an amazing morning of birding. It was one of those lucky mornings where the light was beautiful and the birds were plentiful and didn’t mind our presence in the least.
My main goal was, of course, shorebirds – I’ll get to them in a minute. Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets are still present at the refuge in good numbers, and this morning they were joined by several very accommodating Green Herons, as well as a brief but amazing look at a pair of Sandhill Cranes. Swallows were also present in good numbers. I had mostly Tree Swallows, with a handful of Barn Swallows and a couple of Bank Swallows. Kathy had Northern Rough-winged before I arrived. Also of note, we had my first Northern Harrier in a good while.
As for shorebirds, we had a respectable nine species:
Semipalmated Plover (3)
Least Sandpiper (35+)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (2)
Wilson’s Snipe (1)
Spotted Sandpiper (3)
Solitary Sandpiper (2)
Greater Yellowlegs (1)
Lesser Yellowlegs (4)
I did pretty well with photos, as the birds seemed to be coming closer and closer rather than the opposite. Which was nice for a change. It was an enjoyable morning of birding; it was great to see Kathy who I hadn’t seen in ages and the birds were numerous and cooperative. Hard to beat that. Stay tuned, Jersey Shore post to come later this weekend…
I enjoyed a really nice morning birding at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I started at Owens Station Road, where I was surprised to find a SNOW GOOSE in the parking area as I pulled in. Well, I actually wasn’t surprised about there being a Snow Goose present, as there had been 6 reported there recently – it was more that it was in the front parking area and it proceeded to walk down Owens Station Road, apparently heading to New York on foot:
I hiked in from Owens Station Road and walked a portion of the Liberty Loop Trail in Sussex County. Afterwards, I drove around and parked on Oil City Road and birded part of the loop in Orange County. I had a total of 45 species seen or heard. Highlights included several LEAST BITTERNS; I had distant but nice looks at 3 birds and heard a fourth. Common Gallinules are plentiful in both counties. Mostly I just enjoyed being out early to beat the heat. The light was nice for photos too, so that never hurts. All in all, a very pleasant morning of birding.
Some evenings are better than others. Tonight was one of the better ones; and it was made even more so because I went out with little or no real expectations. I met up with Kyle Dudgeon at Wallkill River National Wildlife refuge; we were trying to get together one last time before he headed 0ut west for the summer. As we pulled into the lot, the evening started off pretty well as the rain subsided and a huge double rainbow appeared.
The evening that followed was just flat out fun. We had a close encounter with a VIRGINIA RAIL (my FOY). Kyle got an incredible shot of the bird; it’s hard to express how good this guy is, the bird was visible for probably less than 5 seconds, Kyle was hand-holding a 500mm lens with and extender, and he gets the killer shot at the top of this post. Honestly it blew me away. An American Bittern was calling on an off all evening, as were several Sora. I sifted through a collection of shorebirds, finding Killdeer, Solitary Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and Greater Yellowlegs. A Black-crowned Night-Heron flew across the marsh in the distance (another FOY). We could see that there were many COMMON NIGHTHAWKS feeding at the pool in front of the platform, so we headed back there and enjoyed what I can only guess was 30+ Common Nighthawks and countless swallows feeding on insects over the marsh. At times we had nighthawks flying just feet away from our heads – it was incredible. We heard a SANDHILL CRANE calling and then watched as 3 cranes flew over the marsh, putting down in the south side of the loop. A young Bald Eagle cruised down the west side of the loop, also heading south. What a night!