Wow! A Fantastic Monday Night of Birding!

~Broad-winged Hawks kettling over the Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/21/15.~

I got out of work late today, but not too late to get up to Mount Peter Hawkwatch. I arrived just after 4:00 pm and joined official counter Ajit Antony, Judy Cinquina, Tom Millard, Denise Farrell, and Gerhard and Tracy Patsch on the viewing platform. Apparently, I had missed several large kettles of Broad-winged Hawks! I was bummed, but not for long. About twenty minutes later, we had a huge group of Broad-winged Hawks coming in, just to the west of the platform. Many streamed straight through, very high up. Then two kettles formed over the valley at the same time just a few binocular fields apart. One of them was low enough and large enough to be seen naked eye. In all, over 750 BWHAs had just passed over! I was able to fire off a few photos, but really the photos don’t come close to doing the experience justice. It was so AWESOME! It was a really good day at the watch with a total of 1,887 migrating hawks!

We had a steady number of migrating hawks until right around 5:30, when the skies seemed to empty. At that point, I headed to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I was following a lead from Bruce Nott – he told me that a dowitcher had been reported there the day before. When I arrived, I was already losing the light. I was pleasantly surprised when I quickly located the dowitcher. I took a bunch of photos and then called John Haas, who had recently had a Long-billed Dowitcher in Sullivan County. I remembered from his post that for LBDO, the tail typically would have thicker black bands than white, which this bird appeared to have. John had me look to see if the tertials had pale edging, which to my eye was the case with this bird. When I got home, knowing how difficult it can be to identify birds with just photos, I emailed several to John. The birds were a little bit distant and of course the light was low, which made for less than ideal pictures, but looking at them, he indicated he could not see any rufous on the edge of the tertials, and that the scapulars which haven’t been molted yet appear to have totally black centers (no rufous ribbing up the middle). Also, the feeding shot I sent over shows a hunch-backed appearance. All of these indicate LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER! Back in October of 2013, I had a pair of LBDOs in this same location, so it is certainly not out of the question. I will submit to eBird and see if the reviewer agrees with this assessment. Any thoughts on this bird please feel free to comment.

~A likely Long-billed Dowitcher at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/21/15.~
~The dowitcher along with a Lesser Yellowlegs, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/21/15.~
~Possible Long-billed Dowitcher, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary 9/21/15.~

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch 9/19/15

~I didn’t have many photo ops today on the mountain, but we did have an early Sharp-shinned Hawk which flew over pretty close to the platform.~

In the three days prior to today, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch had over 6,400 migrating hawks! Pretty amazing right? Of course, I was working and or busy and could not make it out for any of the three days. But, I was on as counter today… how many kettles of Broad-winged Hawks would I have? How many total migrating hawks would I count? How many thousands? Um… how about 34 migrating hawks? They can’t all be winners. It was actually a nice day up on the mountain with great company, the only thing lacking was the birds. Tomorrow is another day! Here is my report:


Observation start time: 08:00:00
Observation end time: 16:00:00
Total observation time: 8 hours
Official Counter Matt Zeitler
Observers: Ajit I. Antony, Bill Connolly, Denise Farrell, Liza Antony, Tom Millard

Don Leak, Bob Montgomery, and Silvia Kleff.

Mostly sunny and warm with some clounds. Light wind coming from the south/southwest. Temperatures ranged from 18 to 30 degrees Celsius.

Raptor Observations:
Migrating Raptors: One unknown and 2 male American Kestrels. Non-migrating Raptors: At 1:20 two adult Bald Eagles were observed flying low over the valley. They eventually headed north.

Non-raptor Observations:
Cedar Waxwing (23), Blue Jay (40+), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2), Downy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee (3), Chimney Swift (3), Tree Swallow, American Goldfinch (18), Eastern Phoebe, Carolina Wren, Rock Pigeon (6), Ring-billed Gull (2), and Monarch butterfly (22)


On a more positive note, on my way home I passed through the black dirt and finally located (3) American Golden-Plovers! The birds were distant, so no good pics, but I was happy to get them for Orange County.

~A distant look at one of the three American Golden-Plovers I had in the black dirt tonight, 9/19/15.~
~A distant, documentary look at one of the three American Golden-Plovers I had in the black dirt tonight, 9/19/15.~
~This was actually taken earlier this week – Northern Harrier just before sunset in the black dirt, 9/17/15.~

Buff-breasted Sandpipers, 9/14/15

~Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the Black Dirt Region, Orange County NY, 9/14/15.~
~One of my favorites – Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the Black Dirt Region, Orange County NY, 9/14/15.~

I went out to the black dirt after work this evening and looked for the American Golden-Plovers that have been seen out there. Reports of as many as 80 birds can be found on eBird in the past week, with the most recent sighting being a single bird seen yesterday. I was away in Vermont for a long weekend, so I have missed out thus far. I did try for the birds the end of last week without any luck, and I was again unsuccessful in locating any tonight. I did, however, get a super consolation prize when I came across a trio of Buff-breasted Sandpipers that were not very far from the road. Buff-breasted Sandpiper is a bird that I really like, one of my favorites for sure, so I was pretty happy to get such great looks and to finally get some decent shots.

~I love these sweet looking birds. BBSA in the black dirt, 9/14/15.~
~It was tough for me to get the camera to focus on the birds. For some reason, I had several shots of the bird head on that were relatively in focus. Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the Black Dirt Region, 9/14/15.~
~Buff-breasted Sandpipers in flight, Black Dirt Region, 9/14/15.~


Great Horned Owl!

~Digiscoped with my iPhone through Karen Miller’s Zeiss spotting scope, Great Horned Owl in the black dirt, 9/9/15. As you can see there is something going on with the birds left eye, if anyone has any thoughts what might be going on there, please comment. ~ 

QUICK POST: After my golf match tonight, I called Karen Miller to see if she had relocated the 17 American Golden-Plovers (!!!) that Bruce Nott had located in the black dirt earlier in the day. She had not, but she HAD located a GREAT HORNED OWL. I didn’t think I would arrive before it was too dark, but I decided to try for the bird. I joined Karen and Diane Bliss and we got incredible looks at this magnificent creature, what a big beautiful beast. Wilma Amthor joined us and got her lifer GHOW, so congrats to Wilma! I was, of course, wishing I had my camera to get some photos. Karen offered her scope so I could try to digiscope it. I was pretty happy with the results; I’ve tried with my own scope and never had any decent results. What a great, fun night. Huge thanks to to Karen and Diane for locating the bird and letting me know about it. I am actually out of commission through the weekend (I’m going away on a golf trip), so this was a great way to go out.

Good Shorebirds Continue with Orange County BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS!

~One of 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers takes flight after a gun went off in the distance. Black Dirt Region, 9/7/15.~

POST UPDATE: Thanks to Ken McDermott’s report and Bruce Nott’s subsequent review of his photos, it has come to light that we actually had 3 Buff-breasted Sandpipers and a single Baird’s Sandpiper, rather than the 4 BBSAs I initially reported. Sorry for the missed ID, it’s not a great feeling, but I’m glad to be able to get the accurate report out.

There I was, peacefully paddling my kayak around the lake at Morningside Park a little after Sunrise this morning. I had made three laps around the islands that form out in the lake, searching for the Short-billed Dowitcher that John Haas reported on his blog yesterday, but without any luck. I was in the middle of making lemonade out of lemons by trying for some good Spotted Sandpiper photos; I’ve never done any good with them before since they are so flighty. That’s when the phone rang, it was Bruce Nott who was on 3 BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS in the black dirt. I started to head back to shore, I stopped only briefly to photograph a couple of Least Sandpipers that had just flown in. I strapped my kayak to the roof and headed out to the black dirt, wondering if I would get the Buffies, since I was 0ver 45 minutes away.

Luckily, I made in time. Bruce had been joined by a number of other birders and I joined them to get pretty good scope looks at the birds. On two occasions, someone fired a gun off in the distance which luckily moved the birds temporarily closer to us. Photos are distant and of course heavily cropped, but what a thrill to see one of my favorite birds. Thanks to Bruce for putting in the time and having a great eye.

~All my distant shots are pretty terrible, but here’s one just for documentary reasons. Two of the 4 Buff-breasted Sandpipers in the black dirt, 9/7/15.~

After seeing the Buff-breasted Sandpipers, Linda Scrima and I headed over to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, Citgo Pond, to see if the Stilt Sandpiper was still around. It was and although the light was harsh, we got relatively close looks at the bird, which looked really great in the scope but photos were not good at all. Congrats to Linda, this was her lifer Stilt Sandpiper.

I spent a little more time searching the black dirt for  shorebirds, but I really didn’t come across many. I got lucky when a pair of American Kestrels landed not to far from my car and I was able to get my first kestrel shot in a LONG time.

~Female American Kestrel in the black dirt, 9/7/15.~

My final stop of the day was Turtle bay to see if the Baird’s Sandpipers were still around, and they were! Bruce showed up and then I called Marianne O. and Karen Miller who both got scope views of the three birds. By that time, I was overheated and it was time to go home.

Oh, and back to first thing this morning. The light was nice and the Spotted Sandpiper was cooperative – I think I got some interesting shots of the bird, and I’ve also thrown in one Least Sandpiper shot just because it’s a cute bird.

~Spotted Sandpiper feeding on one of the islands at Morningside Park in Sullivan County, 9/7/15.~
~A Spotted Sandpiper doing its best Upland Sandpiper impression. Morningside Park, 9/7/15.~
~My brother-in-law Bill B. will like this one – Spotted Sandpiper with reflection, Morningside Park, 9/7/15.~
~A fluffy Least Sandpiper at Morningside Park, 9/7/15.~

Hawkwatch Begins!


~It’s that time of year! Get ready for some Turkey Vulture photos! Even when the migrating raptors are flying high, these dudes usually give up a photo op. Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/5/15.~


So the big news of the day is that it was my first day of the season as official counter out at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. For those who don’t know, Mount Peter Hawkwatch is located on Kain Road, just off of route 17A in Warwick. It’s right across from Bellvale Farms Creamery. Every day from September 1st until November 15th, there will be an official counter tallying all the migrating raptors that pass over. The results from each day’s count are reported to the Hawk Migration Association of North America (HMANA) and can be seen at their website HawkCount. They can also be seen on the Mount Peter Facebook Page.

~One of 2 migrating Ospreys from today’s count. Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/5/15.~

I am excited to be the official counter every Saturday of the season with the exceptions of September 12th and 26th. The season has gotten off to a slow start, but I expect that to change quickly. I had a decent day with only 17 migrating raptors, but plenty of non-migrating raptor action to keep me entertained. For the day I had 10 BALD EAGLE SITINGS! Only four of the birds migrated and went on the official count, but what fun to see so many eagles. The highlight was certainly having one immature and two adult Bald Eagles flying high, directly over the viewing platform. I’ve included a sequence of distant photos of one adult and the immature mixing it up pretty good. I swear, I saw the adult do two barrel rolls! It was fantastic.

~It was great fun to watch this live. An adult and an immature Bald Eagle tangle way overhead. Heavy crop here! Mount Peter Hawkwatch, 9/5/15.~

And here is my report for the day:



I actually got out early this morning and went back to look for the Baird’s Sandpipers that were at Turtle Bay yesterday evening, hoping to get a better look and perhaps some photos. I located one at Turtle Bay, more distant than they were the day before, and then Bruce Nott called to say he had 3 Baird’s Sandpipers at his location and they were pretty close. I hustled over to meet Bruce and was able to improve on my photos from last night considerably. Huge thanks to Bruce for the heads up!

~Baird’s Sandpiper in the grass in the Black Dirt Region, 9/5/15.~
~Two of the 3 Baird’s Sandpipers that I photographed this morning in the black dirt. The photo is backlit but still appeals to me for some reason. 9/5/15.~

After I left Mount Peter, I went to 6 1/2 Station Sanctuary Citgo Trail to see, one if the Stilt Sandpiper was still around, and two, if anything new had come in. When I arrived at the pond, the STSA was still present, a little closer and in nice evening light. I was able to improve on my shots of this bird as well. The pond was quite birdy, with many Least Sandpipers again, plenty of Killdeer, and several Pectoral Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs. It was a nice way to end a really super day of birding.

~Stilt Sandpiper feeding at the Citgo Pond, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/5/15.~
~This is what I call a lot of swallows! I ran across these birds in my travels this morning in the Black Dirt Region. From what I can tell, these are basically all Tree Swallows, 9/5/15.~


Orange County Baird’s Sandpiper (x4!), 9/4/15

~Two of 4 Baird’s Sandpipers at Turtle Bay this evening, 9/4/15. HEAVY crop here. ~

QUICK POST: It’s Friday night so I’ll do my best to make this quick. Rob Stone located 4 BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS out at Turtle Bay this morning. I went for the birds when I got out of work in the evening and was able to relocate them, so I put the word out. When I first arrived, I got nice scope views of the birds and was able to snap some documentary photos. By the time Linda Scrima and Maria Loukeris joined me, the birds had gradually worked their way to the back of the field, out of photo range but they still got decent looks in the scope. Click here to see what this beautiful bird actually looks like – I got great looks and photos of a Baird’s last year in Sullivan County. Huge thanks to Rob Stone for the heads up on these birds.

~Baird’s Sandpiper with Killdeer Turtle Bay 9/4/15.~

Orange County Stilt Sandpiper, 9/3/15

~STILT SANDPIPER, on the left with a Lesser Yellowlegs on the right, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/3/15.~

I made it out to the Citgo Pond side of 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary this evening after work, and I’m glad I did (it was so hot and humid, I almost bailed on it). As soon as I arrived at the pond, I looked through my scope and immediately saw what I thought was a STILT SANDPIPER. I watched the bird for a little bit in order to be a little more comfortable with the ID, and then put the word out. John Haas joined me first and concurred that it was a Stilt Sandpiper, most likely in first winter plumage. Karen Miller arrived shortly after that and we enjoyed good scope views of the bird as it worked the pond. The bird did not seem all that far out, but it was still a little too far out for quality photos, so what I’ve posted here is the best I could do. There were many shorebirds present at the pond with Least Sandpipers being by far the most numerous (100 birds +/-). Also present were Killdeer (15), Lesser Yellowlegs (5), Solitary Sandpipers (2), and a single Pectoral Sandpiper.

~Stilt Sandpiper at the Citgo Pond, 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/3/15.~
~One more of the Stilt Sandpiper, with a Least Sandpiper back and to the right. 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 9/3/15.~

Liberty Loop Shorebirds, 9/1/15

~I only had a single Lesser Yellowlegs at the back pond of the Liberty Loop at Wallkill River NWR today, 9/1/15.~

QUICK POST: I hope folks are not sick of shorebirds – I am obsessed with them. I made it out to Liberty Loop back pond at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge tonight looking for shorebirds. I entered from the south via Owens Station Road, so I did not check the west side of the loop for shorebirds. The shorebird highlight of the afternoon was getting a pretty good look at one of the 5 Wilson’s Snipe that I had for the day. Here’s my list:

Killdeer 15
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Least Sandpiper 40
Pectoral Sandpiper 7
Wilson’s Snipe 5

~This Northern Harrier was causing havoc in the back pond, making 4 passes over the compound and shuffling the shorebird deck each time it did. Walkill River NWR, 9/1/15.~
~This was a nice look at a Wilson’s Snipe, although the photos just turned out so-so. Back pond at the Liberty Loop, 9/1/15.~