Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, and I birded Richard W. DeKorte Park in Lyndhurst, New Jersey this morning. It was good birding and we had 32 birds, all the expected species for this time of year. I was happy, since I got a decent shorebird fix, with Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, and Short-billed Dowitchers all present.
In some regards, we were a little unlucky. We missed the American White Pelican when we first arrived by a mere 1o minutes. And, we missed the Least Terns that were reported after we had left. But, really, we were the lucky ones. We followed up on a tip that another birder (sorry we never got her name) gave to Linda, that there was a LEAST BITTERN near one of the blinds on the boardwalk. I was not optimistic – this is a Least Bittern after all, how long is it going to be out in the open? And would we even find it in the first place? And surely if we did it would be super distant. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. The bird was present, and it was just a few feet off of the boardwalk and happily feeding on what appeared to be a healthy supply of small fish. We took many photos and other birders and walkers came and went and the LEBI continued to hunt. After a good while, the bird must have been content and it slowly turned and made its way into the reeds. What an incredible experience! I really just couldn’t believe it; I can still hardly believe it. Excellent birding!
I met Linda Scrima out at the Liberty Loop viewing platform just after 7:00 this evening. My goal was to try to finally get my first BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON of the year in Orange County. Early on, Linda located some small shorebirds way in the back of the pool in front of the view platform. I got on them with my scope and we had 4 Least Sandpipers, and my first PECTORAL SANDPIPER of the fall migration. A little later, we had nearly twenty Great Egrets pick up from the southernmost part of the loop and relocated into some nearby trees, presumably to roost. And then, not too long after that, we had a single distant BCNH flying high on the east side of the loop, followed by a second one that flew from the middle of the marsh, straight towards the viewing platform and eventually settled in behind some vegetation a little ways out in the pool in front of the platform. I didn’t even try to take photos with my camera, but I was able to get a few decent looking digiscoped shots of the bird. I typically see this bird earlier in the year (I had my first in the month of June, three of the last four years). The BCNHs were my 199th bird in Orange County so far this year.
Put the summer doldrums on hold for a minute! With last night’s rainfall, I was optimistic that we might get a good bird today. Kyle Dudgeon and I were only half-joking about the outside possibility of a Roseate Spoonbill, since they’ve had one in New Jersey recently. Then I received a text from Linda Scrima – with an attached eBird report for a SNOWY EGRET at Citgo Pond, reported by a Kevin McGann at 8:23 this morning! I met Linda there after work to check it out; we were doubtful that the report would be accurate, not knowing Kevin McGann and having been burned on several inaccurate SNEG reports in recent years. We walked out to the pond, and sure enough there was a SNOWY EGRET! We put out the word and several birders were able to come join us in viewing the bird. Other highlights included hearing a Cooper’s Hawk calling from the trees (only my second time hearing the “kac, kac, kac” call), my first Lesser Yellowlegs in a couple of weeks, 10 (!) Green Herons, and a Red Fox on the far side of the shore, located by Kathy Ashman and Karen Miller.
I’ve had a busy week, so I spent most of my birding time this week staying local. I went to 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary’s Citgo Pond several times; I have mostly been trying for shorebirds since conditions at the pond have been perfect. Although there has been good number of shorebirds present, the variety has been lacking: Least Sandpipers (30+), Semipalmated Sandpipers (2), Solitary Sandpipers (2), and Killdeer (12+).
The trail and the pond have been birdy and I’ve been averaging 25-30 species of bird each visit, all expected species. Highlights include nine (!) Green Herons in a single visit. I also saw my first Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in ages and there are many young birds around (Song Sparrow, Eastern Kingbird, Marsh Wren, Common Yellowthroat, Tufted Titmouse…). So, while the birding has been decent, I am ready for some more significant shorebird movement, which hopefully isn’t too far away. Here’s several shots from the week, enjoy.
QUICK POST: Well, Rob Stone strikes again. This evening he somehow managed to relocate the five immature WHITE IBIS that had been reported in Orange County earlier this week, but had not been seen for several days (I thought those birds were long gone!). I, of course, ran for the birds and when I arrived, Rob got me on them immediately. They appeared to be getting ready to roost in the treetops on the shore of Wickham Lake. I have to say that seeing WHIB, in Orange County, in the treetops, just blew me away. It was so awesome! Linda Scrima showed up shortly after I did, and then Curt McDermott and Karen Miller not long after her. Curt had been Kayaking at Glenmere Lake, so he had his kayak. I was really excited when he pretty much insisted that I get the first run in the kayak to get some photographs while the light was still good. I paddled out and got great looks at the two birds at the very top of the trees and, of course, clicked away. Huge thanks to Rob for relocating the birds and to Curt for the kayak. What a night!
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to bird this morning, so I consulted John Haas‘ book ‘A Birding Guide to Sullivan County New York’, and decided to head out to Hickok Brook Multiple Use Area. John mentioned in his write up that Hickok Brook is good for breeding warblers, and more importantly, that Ruffed Grouse could be found in the area. I did okay with warblers, getting nine species: Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, Hooded, Chestnut-sided, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, Pine, and Black-throated Green. I had one bird calling that I couldn’t identify; I’m wondering if it wasn’t a Nashville. The best part came a little bit later in my walk. It was closing in on noon, and many of the birds had quieted down as I walked back to my car. Suddenly, from the ferns on the side of the trail, not 10 feet from me, a RUFFED GROUSE popped straight up and flew at high speed into the woods, never getting more than ten feet off the ground. It scared the heck out of me! And while I was happy to get the bird, it was a less than satisfactory experience. Let’s just say Ruffed Grouse remains on my nemesis list.
RANDOM TANGENT: I feel like my birding by ear is worse this year than last year. It could be that last year I spent all of my time in Orange County and I had learned most of the birds that I would hear. This year, I feel like I’m struggling. I noticed it for sure when Kyle and I went to the Adirondacks, and again in recent weeks when I’ve been birding in Sullivan County. There are some birds that I just don’t know by ear, but also I find myself getting a little lost from time to time and struggling with some of the birds I thought I knew. One of these days I am going to write a post about what makes a good birder, and birding by ear is certainly high on the list.
SHOREBIRD REPORT: I have been checking Citgo pond regularly and so far I’ve had low numbers of Least Sandpipers and just a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs. Conditions are good at the pond, so I remain optimistic.
QUICK POST: I got out several times this weekend; most of my birding was relatively uneventful with the exception of getting my first shorebirds of the fall migration – 5 LEAST SANDPIPERS at the Citgo Pond on Friday afternoon. I went back this afternoon and the only shorebirds present was a half dozen Killdeer. Here’s several shots from the weekend.
Maria Loukeris, Linda Scrima, Kyle Dudgeon, and I headed out early this morning to Wolf Brook Multiple Use Area. John Haas recently posted on his blog that he had several Canada Warblers on the trail there, so this was our target bird for the morning. We walked the road that leads to the trailhead and then nearly a mile of the trail. It was a birdy walk, but as expected at this time of the year, more birds were heard than seen. And photo ops were few and far between. Eastern Towhees, American Goldfinches, and to a lesser degree, Chestnut-sided Warblers and Black-throated Blue Warblers were the most numerous birds heard and seen. About half a mile into the trail, we were beginning to think maybe Canada Warbler was not in the cards for us, when Maria finally located one. We watched it for a good while, and we also relocated it on our way out. What a great bird, and really tough to photograph since it kept its distance and never stopped moving. We all had afternoon plans, so we ended up cutting the hike a little bit short, so we never made it out to the waterfall. We’ll leave that for next time. In just under 4 hours, we had a total of 32 species.
QUICK POST: Huge thanks to Linda Scrima, who contacted me tonight to let me know she had a FORSTER’S TERN at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. I jumped into the car and ran for the bird, and WOW, what a beautiful bird! It was perched on the measuring pole just to the left of the viewing platform, which made for a great photo op. I’ve never had FOTE in Orange County before, so this is OC bird #243 for me! Very exciting!