Sunday Shots, 11/24/19

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to spend my birding time. I guess it’s because with the time change, I now only get to bird 2 days a week. When your time to bird is that limited, you want to make it count or get as much out of it as you can. I’ve been asking myself a couple of different questions, usually the night before going out:

  1. What birds would I really enjoy seeing tomorrow? That is, of the birds that are likely to be around, what’s going truly bring me joy?
  2. What kind of birding experience am I hoping for? Am I hoping for a peaceful walk in the woods? Or maybe try and cover some territory in Orange County, driving to multiple spots?
~I’ll always be mystified as to why, whenever I have Northern Shrike on the brain, I always find several Northern Mockingbirds. Wickham Woodlands Town Park, 11/23/19.~

My birding time on Saturday was limited, so I tried to relocate the Northern Shrike I found last week in the morning, but was unsuccessful. In the evening, I had gulls on the brain, so I headed to the Newburgh Waterfront where I found a fairly sizable accumulation of the three expected species of gull (Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed), but nothing out of the ordinary (I was hoping for Iceland or who-knows-what). A RED-THROATED LOON flying downstream was nice consolation prize.

~I love gulls, but I really haven’t put the time and effort in to be able to age them Referencing the Crossley Guide, this looks to me like first winter (left) and a second winter (right) Ring-billed Gulls. Newburgh Waterfront, 11/23/19.~

Today, I had geese on my mind. Both Barnacle and Pink-footed had been reported the day before in Massachusetts, and I’m really hoping to get one or both in our area this year. I found large groups of Canada Geese in 6 locations this morning and sifted through them in the rain without any luck. I really enjoy looking through geese, but the rain can make it frustrating. I have the gear to stay dry, but I just can’t keep my optics dry, especially if I’m looking into the wind. Anyways, it’s early in the season so I’m still hoping we will get lucky with these birds. Especially Barnacle Goose, that would be awesome.

~This young Cooper’s Hawk looks as ticked off and wet as I was today. Black Dirt, 11/24/19.~

Orange County Northern Shrike, 11/17/19

This morning at Wisner Road in Warwick, I located a NORTHERN SHRIKE. I was freaking out because this bird is among my all time favorites. That was the good news. The bad news is that the bird was not very cooperative. Within five minutes of finding it, the bird took off from its distant perch and flew north. I tracked it in my scope as it disappeared behind trees in the distance.

~Northern Shrike at Wisner Road in Warwick, NY 11/17/19.~

Rob Stone joined me to help relocate, and then Bruce Nott after him. We checked the areas north as well as the area where I first saw the bird for a good long while (I tried for the next three hours), but unfortunately we were unable to relocate it. Hopefully that bird is still around; I was thrilled to get it, but for me a lot of the joy gets zapped if no one else gets the bird. Time will tell, I guess.

~Field Sparrow, Warwick NY 11/17/19.~
~Bruce and I had 3 Bald Eagles while we were trying to relocate the shrike, 2 adults and one young bird. Wisner Road in Warwick 11/17/19.~

Good Day in the OC, 11/16/19

I got a nice early start this morning, meeting Linda Scrima at Wickham Lake just after sunrise. It was relatively uneventful, but we did have a single CACKLING GOOSE, which we first saw in my scope and then heard calling periodically while we were there. With the wind whipping pretty good, it was brutally cold on the lake, so after determining there were no other interesting waterfowl on the lake, we were happy to move on.

~These guys (gals?) were tough to photograph! They were moving around so quickly! One of three Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at Lake Osiris, 11/16/19.~

After a quick and unproductive stop at Glenmere Lake, we decided to follow up on some of the great birds that were reported this week. We headed to Lake Osiris to try for the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE that Bruce Nott found on Tuesday. There were many Canada Geese on the lake, but after scanning pretty thoroughly we were ready to leave without any luck. Just as we were getting ready to leave, several skeins of geese flew in and landed on the lake. We scanned again, and voilà, there it was! We did our best to get some decent shots of the bird. The light was nice, but, as it goes with these geese, the bird was quite distant. Interestingly, just like the Cackler earlier, the bird started calling from time to time. It was a first for both of us and it was really cool. The bonus for the stop was watching an interesting exchange between three young Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. They seemed to be playing, chasing each other through the trees right next to us, oblivious to our existence. It was awesome.

~Always a favorite of mine. When I was thinking about what birding I wanted to do over the weekend, this bird was tops on my list. GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE, Lake Osiris 11/16/19.~

From there, we headed to Orange Lake to chase yet another Bruce find – a WHITE-WINGED SCOTOER from earlier in the morning. It was a good stop; we located the bird, an adult male hanging out with 4 adult male LONG-TAILED DUCKS. Unfortunately the birds were just too distant for even documentary shots. The heat shimmer just rendered my images useless.

~Great Cormorant at Brown’s Pond, 11/16/19.~

Next stop was Brown’s Pond to try for the GREAT CORMORANT that Ken McDermott reported last Sunday. Fortunately, the bird was still present and after a little searching, Linda located the bird on the far side of the pond.

~American Pipit at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 11/16/19. Apparently this bird had an injury on the right side of its face; I never actually photographed that side. It seemed to be getting around and feeding well, so I’m hoping for the best for this cutie.~

For our final stop, we met up with Maria Loukeris and walked the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop trail. It was a nice, brisk walk which was mostly uneventful, but we did have two birds that I was pretty excited about: Fox Sparrow and American Pipit. Mostly, however it was nice to get out with friends for a walk and be outside for a while.

Sunday Shots, 11/10/19

On Saturday I was mostly out of commission as I had a wedding to attend in Westchester County. I say mostly because between the church and the reception we had some time to kill, so Tricia and I made a stop at Five Islands Park in New Rochelle. I was hoping for Monk Parakeets, but alas we didn’t have any luck with them. It was the third time I’ve been to that park and still I haven’t seen the Monk Parakeets.

~I nearly missed this bird. I was talking on the phone with Tricia and it flew directly at me; I put the phone down and grabbed my camera in one motion and got it just as the bird turned off. Merlin at Croton Point Park, 11/10/19.~

On Sunday I got up early and checked my emails. An Iceland Gull had been reported in Westchester County, not far from Croton Point Park. I figured I could make the morning of it by heading over to try for the gull and then bird the park afterwards. I didn’t have any luck with the gull, but I got lucky in another way. I ran into another birder, the original locator of the Iceland Gull. He is a long time birder/naturalist from New York City. We checked for the gull near the Boathouse Restaurant and the neighboring park and then he showed where he had originally located the bird at the Croton Point Park train station. I had never birded that spot, even though I knew of it, so it was good to get the lay of the land. He shared stories of his birding over the years; he had seen some really amazing local birds and he also had gone on some amazing birding trips. He showed me a photograph that he took of a Spoon-billed Sandpiper in full breeding plumage back in 1995 on a film camera; it was unbelievable and made me want to cry. What a bird. Anyways, my takeaway from it was that there is an awful lot of birding out there, be it locally or even more so if you are willing to travel. It made me look forward to when I can look back on 30++ years of my own birding adventures…

~I think a lot of folks have photographed this bird. Red-shouldered Hawk at the Croton Point train station, 11/10/19.~
~A late Osprey at Five Island Park in New Rochelle, 11/09/19. This bird looked a little rough around the edges and I was worried that something might be wrong with it’s wing until I relocated it at some point on another perch on the other side of the park.~

GOLDEN Day at Mount Peter, 11/02/19

I had a great day at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, with the highlight being not one, but TWO GOLDEN EAGLES! The first one was a subadult bird that I located over the valley to the west of the viewing platform in the morning. I watched this bird for the nearly 5 minutes it took for it to slowly rise up over the valley and eventually head southwest. The second was an adult bird, which I also located over the valley, in the afternoon.

~Cedar Waxwing at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/02/19.~

That was the exciting part. The less than exciting part is that both birds where quite distant, so I didn’t get any photos. And, what was really unfortunate is that fellow counters Judy Cinquina and Tom Millard (who both help me tremendously today) didn’t get to see either bird. When Judy arrived, she had missed the first bird by mere moments. The second bird was a heartbreaker; it was a distant bird and I had it in the scope. Judy and Tom tried to get on it with bins without luck. I had Tom try to see it through the scope; I think I may have bumped the scope because when he looked he didn’t see the bird. I tried to jump back on the scope but there were no landmarks in an all blue sky and I never got back on that bird.

~Red-tailed Hawk at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/02/19.~

All told, we had respectable 75 migrating raptors for the day. Other highlights included a nice showing by Red-shouldered Hawks with 9 migrants. And I always love to find unusual non-raptors in the sky; today we had 2 Common Loons. As always, I’ve included my HMANA report at the bottom of this post.

~I had my first Dark-eyed Juncos of the season. Mt. Pete Hawkwatch 11/02/19.~
~American Crow at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/02/19.~
~There were loads of American Robins around the watch today. This one is enjoying a snack. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 11/02/19.