Just as I was leaving work today, I received a call from Rob Stone – a CATTLE EGRET had been located in Warwick, New York by Charlie West. I hustled out of work, but when I arrived at Wisner Road, I could not locate the bird. Eventually, I noticed a glimpse of white, distant in the field, among some cows. I needed to go back to my car for my scope, by the time I got back, I could not relocate the bird. Cattle Egrets are on the small side, only 20 inches in length (Great Egrets are twice as big), so I could not see the bird very well because of the tall grasses. The bird flew just as Ken McDermott pulled up, and landed in an area which was a little more distant, but the grass was short so the bird was more visible. John Haas showed up moments later and we all got good looks in the scope. Not too long after that, the egret, which was being chased by the cows, flew behind some trees and out of view. It made another short flight away from us and down over a hill. At this point, I thought I would not see the bird again; John and Ken left. Ten minutes later, Bruce Nott showed up and the bird made its final appearance; it was chased around for a bit by the cows and then took flight, making a couple large loops around the field before heading southeast and not stopping (that we could see).
I looked on eBird, and according to their records this is the third Cattle Egret in Orange County. There was one at Wallkill River NWR back in 2011 (I got to see that bird as well), and also in 2004.
Yesterday during the day I received my eBird “Needs Alert” for Ulster County, NY. In it, many grebes had been reported – Pied-billed, Horned, and Red-necked Grebes had been seen in good numbers. Mark DeDea reported 12 Red-necked Grebes and 32! Horned Grebes at Ashokan Reservoir on Monday. With these reports in mind, I headed over to Glenmere Lake after work to see if I would have any luck. It was just this past Friday that I observed 9 Pied-billed Grebes there; I was hoping for some Red-necked and Horned. When I arrived, I was surprised to find a motor boat cruising the lake and several buoys floating at various locations. I eventually talked to one of the guys involved, and he told me that they were installing an aeration system in the lake; the goal is to eventually improve the health of the lake. Meanwhile, in the short term, there were hardly any birds on the lake. I saw several Double-crested Cormorants, a Great Blue Heron, and one single Pied-billed Grebe. Fortunately the grebe was close to the shore and I was able to get some photos before the motorboat came by, at which time the grebe made itself scarce.
It was late in the day and the clouds were passing by, so I shot this grebe in different light conditions. When the bird was closest, I unfortunately had the worst light of the evening. Here’s some more looks at the bird:
I made it out to two Hawk Watches this weekend. On Saturday, I was of course up on Mount Peter, where I was the official counter. After a slow start with very blue skies (which makes it hard to locate the birds), I ended up having my second consecutive good Saturday. For the day we totaled 125 migrating raptors, with the most numerous being, once again, Sharp-shinned Hawks (43). Huge thanks to Judy Cinquina, Bill O’Keefe, Scot Marchal, and Rob Pirie (who located both Bald Eagles for the day). I have no idea how many birds would have been missed without their help up there.
Here is my report from the day:
Warwick, New York, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Oct 25, 2014
Observers: Bill O’Keefe, Judith C. Cinquina, Scot Marchal
Joe + Linda Prunier, Marc Lebidois, Rob Pirie, Kyle Dudgeon, Herb Houghton,
and Terry Anne.
Sunny and cool with temperatures ranging from 7 to 17 degrees Celsius. Wind
was from the west at approximately 10 km/hr. A cloudless sky early and late
in the watch made it difficult to locate migrating birds.
One adult Bald Eagle and one immature Bald Eagle were observed migrating
during the watch.
Other Species: Dark-eyed Junco (12), American Crow (26), Common Loon (3),
Blue Jay (9), Canada Goose (188), American Robin (47), Common Raven (2),
Tufted Titmouse (3), Black-capped Chickadee (5), Pine Siskin (75), Purple
Finch (4), Ring-billed Gull (3), Rock Pigeon (1)
I spent Saturday night and Sunday morning on Long Island visiting family. On the spur of the moment, on my way back I decided to stop at State Line Hawk Watch. I have wanted to get out there for a while, after seeing many photos online and hearing about how you look down at many of the migrating raptors and that there are resident Peregrine Falcons that offer decent photo opportunities. Having spent 8 hours identifying and counting hawks the day before, my interests were more about getting some photos and getting a different look at the raptors, from the top, such as this Black Vulture:
As of this posting, the report for State Line had not gone through. While I was there, they had a relatively steady stream of Sharp-shinned Hawks, and I heard mention of a Golden Eagle earlier in the day. I will post their numbers from the day when I can get them. All in all, a good weekend to watch, count, and photograph raptors – very enjoyable!
Update: Here is the count for Sunday at State Line Hawk Watch –
BV TV OS BE NH SS CH NG RS BW RT RL GE AK ML PG UA UB UF UE UR Total
This evening after work, I stopped by Glenmere Lake and located what I believe was a single distant scoter. I was not sure which scoter it could be, but after watching the bird for a while, it did some preening and flapping of the wings which exposed the white secondaries – indicative of a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER. In the above video (which I know is horrible), right at about the 5 or 6 second mark, you can catch a glimpse of white on the wing. Here’s a heavily cropped grainy photo of the bird; it was actually much darker out than the photo indicates.
I made it out to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary a couple of times over the weekend – Friday after work and then again on Sunday evening. My visits continue to be very enjoyable; I’m not finding many new birds, but there are many birds present. I did not do a list on Friday, but tonight in a short visit, I had 35 species. The light has been nice and I have just been enjoying being out and taking some photos. Both visits I spent some time with the very accessible Yellow-rumped Warblers that are present. Tonight it really paid off, as a Blue-headed Vireo suddenly appeared and I was able to get a shot.
And of course, the Yellow-rumps gave me plenty of opportunities. I was enjoying trying to get shots of them through all the branches and leaves. Here’s some shots that I liked:
Both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets were present over the weekend. I had ample opportunity with a Ruby-crowned tonight but I did not get any good photos. I did a little better with a Golden-crowned on Friday:
Here’s my species list for tonight (10/19//14):
American Black Duck
Great Blue Heron
At long last, I finally had a good day at the hawk watch. I got my first migrating raptor before I even had a chance to unpack my gear as I arrived at the platform. Things stayed pretty steady for the rest of the day and in the end, I counted 109 migrating raptors. Thanks to Rob Stone and Rob Pirie (who I met for the first time today) for their help counting. Here’s my report from the day:
Warwick, New York, USA
Daily Raptor Counts: Oct 18, 2014
Observation start time: 08:00:00
Observation end time: 16:00:00
Total observation time: 8 hours
Official Counter: Matt Zeitler
Observers: Rob Stone
Rob Pirie, Rob Stone, Anthony Stone, Kyle Dudgeon, and James & Darlene
Cloudy and cool with W winds at approximately 20 km/hr. Temperatures ranged
from 12 to 18 degrees Celsius.
Migrating raptors included: (1) Adult Bald Eagle, (1) Male Northern
Harrier, (5) Unknown American Kestrels, and (1) Female American Kestrel.
Non-migrating raptors included (4) Red-tailed Hawks, many Turkey and Black
Vultures, and a Peregrine Falcon which was seen several times to the north
of the platform but was not seen moving through.
Other Species: Blue Jay (112), Tufted Titmouse (4), Black-capped Chickadee
(6), Palm Warbler (1), Canada Goose (84), American Goldfinch (24), Rock
Pigeon (4), American Robin (2), American Crow (23), Red-bellied Woodpecker
(2), Pileated Woodpecker (1), Downy Woodpecker (1), Northern Flicker (1),
Common Raven (2), and Monarch Butterfly (18)
The Winding Waters Trail out at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge continues to be loaded with birds. Sparrows dominate, lead by Song Sparrows and to a lesser extent Swamp Sparrows. I particularly enjoyed seeing several Field Sparrows and three Lincoln’s Sparrows.
When I entered my observations into eBird, I was surprised that I only had 19 species for the day. I guess with the high number of sparrows (they were everywhere!), I thought I would have more birds for the day. Here’s my list for the evening:
Great Blue Heron
I got out a fair amount this weekend, and sparrows seemed to be everywhere. The hottest spot for me was definitely Winding Waters Trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, which I visited three times and where I totaled 8 different sparrows:
I am, of course, still struggling with my sparrow identifications; at times I felt confident and capable and at other times I felt clueless. Here are my photos from the weekend – I am confident with all my IDs with a couple of exceptions which I have noted in the captions. Also noteworthy, I had my first Dark-eyed Juncos of the season on Saturday morning at Cascade Lake (which was also loaded with Ruby-crowned Kinglets – 15+).
I had an appointment cancelled, so I got to do some unexpected birding after work this afternoon. I had forgotten my binoculars at home, so I stopped by to pick them up and headed to the closest spot – 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I was thinking about sparrows as I took the Citgo Trail, but the wind had picked up pretty good and sparrows were scarce. I had a few pleasant surprises when I got to the pond – a nice sized collection of shorebirds: 22 Lesser Yellowlegs, 3 Greater Yellowlegs, and 1 Solitary Sandpiper. The highlight, however, was seeing my first Northern Shovelers (4) and Blue-winged Teal (3) of the fall. A Northern Harrier cruised through at one point and picked up many of the waterfowl and shorebirds. I think it was about 3 years ago that I would get a harrier at this location regularly, but this is the first one I have seen there in a while. It was a gorgeous night and I had some decent birds, which made me happy. Here’s some more photos and my list for the night:
Canada Goose 65
Mute Swan 4
American Black Duck 2
Blue-winged Teal 3
Northern Shoveler 4
Green-winged Teal 25
Great Blue Heron 1
Great Egret 8
Northern Harrier 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Greater Yellowlegs 3
Lesser Yellowlegs 22
Blue Jay 4
American Crow 8
Tree Swallow 18
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 4
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 85
Common Yellowthroat 1
Palm Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 12
Song Sparrow 2
Red-winged Blackbird 12
Common Grackle 20
House Sparrow 25
With the changing of the seasons and the cooler temperatures, I don’t think I’m alone in starting to think about Snowy Owls. I feel so spoiled after last year’s historic irruption; I want more Snowies! So, what will this winter bring? Well for what it’s worth, I have found a couple of items that encourage me to thinking we may see a least a snowy or two in our area. The first is an email from Project Snowstorm, where Scott Weidensaul reported:
“…a record number of owl nests on Bylot this summer. Whether that will translate into another irruption is far from certain — much depends on weather, and Bylot is almost 900 miles (1,400 km) farther north of the region of Quebec where the breeding boom took place last summer.”
The second item is from Michael Britt’s Blog. I don’t really know much about Michael Britt, he is a New Jersey birder that also spends some time in Orange County. I mostly know his name from seeing it on eBird reports. I like what he says about Snowies, mostly because it encourages me to fantasize about another winter filled with these beautiful birds. Michael writes:
“Snowy Owls are known to regionally irrupt, every 3-5 years. Winter 2000-01 was my first taste of a Snowy Owl invasion. Thereafter, I accurately predicted invasions prior to Winter 2004-05 and Winter 2008-09. A four-year cycle was the norm, for the first eight years of the millennium. Then, in Winter 2011-12, Snowy Owls staged a large continental invasion, seemingly everywhere BUT New Jersey. We all had to crowd over (not me…I refused to go see that bird), the Merrill Creek bird. I was not optimistic for winter 2012-13, thinking we probably got shafted, the previous winter. With that said, Winter 2013-14, took us all by surprise! I CONSERVATIVELY saw 19 different birds.
While Snowy Owl invasions average out to every four years (3-5), what has been a relative constant, is what I call, a “residual flight.” I’m sure there is a more technical term for this and if so, please enlighten me. In general, I have found Snowy Owl flights to be “two years on, two years off,” much like Short-eared Owls, whose flights do not always occur in tandem. While the residual flight is always smaller, last year’s flight was of such magnitude (certainly the largest in the last 90 years) that Winter 2014-15, will likely outshine all recent incursions, barring last winter of course…”
Well, time will tell. Keep your eyes open, starting right around Thanksgiving week.