A Few Good Days

I’ve had some good birds over the last three days. Unfortunately, as it often goes with shorebirds in our area, most of the birds were too distant for photos. After work on Thursday I ran for a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER that Bruce Nott had located earlier in the day at Pine Island Turf Nursery. It took me nearly an hour, but I finally relocated the bird, just before the rain started. BBSA is an all-time favorite, so I was pretty happy to have caught up with that bird.

~Belted Kingfisher at the Liberty Loop, 08/29/20.~

On Friday morning Rob Stone found another BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER, and Linda Scrima located a BAIRD’S SANDPIPER; both birds were at Skinner’s Lane. I headed over during my lunch hour; I had no luck with the Buff-breasted, but fortunately the Baird’s was still present and relatively close to the road. I got great views, but unfortunately the heat shimmer during the early afternoon was brutal and killed my photos.

~Beautiful bird. BAIRD’S SANDPIPER at Skinner’s Lane, 08/28/20.~

This morning I got out early, with expectations of more shorebirds in the black dirt. This was not the case, so eventually I went to the back pond of Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop. The Little Blue Heron continues, and I believe the Snowy Egret does too (just as I got on the bird, a young Bald Eagle flushed it, so I’m not 100%). Shorebirds had a good showing, with: Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, and not one but two BAIRD’S SANDPIPERS. Also noteworthy was a decent number of raptors: Red-shouldered Hawk (3), Red-tailed Hawk (1), Bald Eagle (2), Northern Harrier (2), and Osprey (1). Not bad!

~Laying low. BASA at Skinner’s Lane, 08/28/20.~

While I was at the back pond, birding bud Maria Loukeris gave me the heads up that a BLACK TERN that she located at Owens Station Road had flown and was heading my way. I kept my eyes to the sky, but I didn’t see the bird. After leaving (via Owens Station Road), I went to the Liberty Loop parking area on Oil City Road, and lo and behold, there was the Black Tern feeding at the front pond. It flew back south only minutes after I’d arrived, towards the back pond. I knew that a birder that I’d met earlier in the morning, Yahvey, was at the back pond. I called him and gave him the heads up… and don’t you know that bird showed up there as well! That tern was seen in 3 locations, by 3 different birders, in about 30 minutes! Pretty crazy.

~If you are a fan of Killdeer, the black dirt did not disappoint this week. Killdeer and more Killdeer!~

Liberty Loop Back Pond, 08/23/20

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.

~GLOSSY IBIS striking a pose at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop, Sussex County NJ, 08/23/20.~

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)
  • Killdeer (30+)
  • Sanderling
  • Least Sanpiper (10+)
  • Pectoral Sandpiper (3)
  • Semipalmated Sandpiper (4)
  • Wilson’s Snipe (3)
  • Solitary Sandpiper (3)
  • Lesser Yellowlegs (20+)
~Immature LITTLE BLUE HERON at the Liberty Loop, 08/23/20.~

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.

~Lesser Yellowlegs were plentiful in the back pond this morning. Liberty Loop 08/23/20.~
~Green Heron at the Liberty Loop, 08/23/20.~
~One more Glossy Ibis shot; I was pleased to have these birds in pretty close. That came to an end when a dog walker came by and flushed them. Liberty Loop, 08/23/20.~
~This Northern Harrier was keeping the shorebirds on their toes. I’m not sure what it was hunting, but the shorebirds were flushed by it several times this morning. Liberty Loop 08/23/20.~
~Semipalmated Plover in the early morning fog. Liberty Loop 08/23/20.~
~Tree Swallow from earlier this week. Black dirt 08/20/20.~

Cedar Waxwing Fledgling Update, 08/21/20

I called the Avian Wildlife Center this morning to get an update on the Cedar Waxwing fledgling. I spoke with Giselle and so far it’s all good news. The bird is comfortable and eating well. In fact, the bird has begun eating on it’s own out of a bowl. Next step is to introduce fruit on the vine to allow the bird to practice eating more like in the wild. The bird is still begging for food, opening wide whenever food is being given, and it won’t be until this stops that the bird will be released. Also, Giselle never releases a single Cedar Waxwing. They are a social bird and she has found that they do much better with other CEWAs. Fortunately, there is another CEWA at the center, so if all goes well they will be released together. The two birds are not together yet as “my” fledgling still needs to have a stool sample tested for parasites. So far, so good. I’ve got my fingers crossed, I’m knocking wood, etcetera…

~What a little sweetie. Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

I also wanted to apologize for my delayed response to many of the comments on the last post. The site has been updated, and as with many updates, there have been some issues. For some reason it is not notifying me via email of new comments. I’ll try to work out that bug, until then I’ll try to check for comments more diligently.

Cedar Waxwing Update & Sunday Shots, 08/16/20

I went back to Beaver Pond first thing this morning. When I arrived, there was no sign of the fledgling Cedar Waxwing. But, after about 10 minutes, I heard the bird calling. Not long after that, as I walked with my scope horizontally on my shoulder, the bird came down and landed on the legs of the scope. It didn’t stay long, the legs were wet from the rain and the bird didn’t seem to like it.

~I’ve come to love this little dude. It’s amazing how small they are when seen in the hand. Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, on its way to Avian Wildlife Center, 08/16/20.~

So, I got in touch with Giselle Smisko from the Avian Wildlife Center in Wantage NJ . I told her my story, and she believed that the bird had been cared for by someone as a nestling and was perhaps released too soon. She said that any typical fledgling would never go to a human but that nestlings will just open their mouth for anyone to receive food. We agreed that if I could capture the bird, I would bring it to her, so it would get the proper professional care it needs. *Important note: Giselle said never to feed a bird wet cat food – it’s not good for their digestive system. Dry food is okay, if moistened. High protein is best.*

~I had plenty of opportunity to photograph this bird, but really, I didn’t take advantage of it. Here’s one shot from Saturday, when I first arrived at Beaver Pond and saw the bird for the first time.~

Meanwhile, Bruce Nott and Karen Miller had arrived to search for shorebirds. The fledgling did not come to me the entire time they were there, but within 5 minutes of their departure, the bird flew down and landed on my scope. I worked it onto my fingers and was able to take it in my hand. I spoke with Giselle again to make arrangements and she said to feed it berries or grapes if I could. I went to the QuickChek once again, and bought some grapes. I broke up a couple of them into manageable sizes and fed the fledgling – it gobbled it up like it was going out of style! It was a really excellent experience. I had to kill a little time before Giselle would be able to take the bird; it was excruciating for me – I just wanted to get the birds into her hands. Eventually, I successfully dropped it off at the center. Giselle said the bird looked well and that its feathers were in good condition. I am able to call in and check on it, so I will. Fingers crossed all goes well. I also wanted to mention that Avian Wildlife Center is privately operated; it does not receive any funds from the government. Tax deductible donations are welcome; you can visit their website here.

~Great Blue Heron at Beaver Pond, 08/16/20.~
~Young Bald Eagle at Esopus Lighthouse Park in Ulster County, 08/15/20.~
~Soft photo of a Sandhill Crane flyover (fly through?) at the Liberty Loop, 0/10/20.~
~Not a great shot, but my first Great Egret of the year in Orange County, at Beaver Pond to be more precise. 08/16/20.~

Beaver Pond Craziness, 08/15/20

I certainly had an interesting afternoon and evening at Beaver Pond on Pines Hills Road in Chester. I went to try for shorebirds of course, but when I arrived there was a bird on the wires that, as I pulled up I wasn’t sure what it was. I got out of my car, and the bird flew down and landed on my car door – it was a Cedar Waxwing fledging. It only stayed for a moment and then went and perched in a small tree.

~iPhone shot of Cedar Waxwing fledgling in hand at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20. All pics in this post were taken with my iPhone.~

So, I went about my business of searching for shorebirds, and it was fairly productive with 5 species of shorebird present: Lesser Yellowlegs (4), Solitary Sandpiper (3), Least Sandpiper (2), Semipalmated Sandpiper (1), and Killdeer (6). But then, the fledging Cedar Waxwing flew across the road and landed on my scope; I put my hand up and he hopped onto my hand. The bird was begging for food the entire time, mouth wide open, neck straining. I didn’t have any food, so I walked over to my car, CEWA in hand, and poured some water into my free hand. The bird drank from the water three times and then flew back to the tree across the road.

~Cedar Waxwing fledgling perched on my scope at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

The next time the bird came down, it landed directly on my arm. I worked it to my hand and again gave it water to drink from my cupped hand. It drank, but clearly the bird wanted to eat, not drink, and it flew across the street again, this time perching in a lower bush.

I continued to scan for shorebirds, but I was preoccupied by the fledging calling and calling from across the street. I looked online quickly and it looked like the general consensus was to leave fledgling birds be, that their parents were likely nearby and it amounted to kidnapping rather than saving. But, I’d been at the pond for nearly 3 hours at that point, and there was no sign of any adult birds. I didn’t want to “kidnap” the bird, so I ran to the QuickCheck and bought what I’d just read was one of the foods you can feed young birds: wet cat food. I also grabbed a coffee stirrer to feed with.

~Cedar Waxwing fledgling at Beaver Pond, 08/15/20.~

When I returned, the fledging was still in the bush, calling, calling, calling. I walked across the road to the bush and the bird came out to me mouth wide open. At first it was unsure of the cat food, but eventually it ate 3 large mouthsful and then moved up and further into the bush. It was the first time since I’d arrived that the bird wasn’t calling.

I’m going to go back and check on the bird first thing in the morning. I’m not sure exactly what my plan is; I’m going to do some additional research this evening and see what my options might be. Hopefully the adult(s) will have returned and all is well, but we shall see.

OC Shorebird Update, 08/09/20

We’ve had some decent shorebirds in the county this week. It started with some post-tropical storm Isaiah puddling at Turtle Bay Road. Right after the storm, Linda Scrima was on the scene and located a SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER as well as: 3 Semipalmated Sandpipers, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, 4 Least Sandpipers, 3 Semipalmated Plovers, a Spotted Sandpiper, and of course a bunch of Killdeer. Not a bad haul! A couple of days afterwards, I finally made it over, and fortunately the dowitcher had stuck around, as did the Semipalmated Plovers. Turtle Bay continues up to today as pretty much the only good shorebird spot that I know of in southern part of the county, and although the SB Dowitcher has moved on, I had as many as 8 Pectoral Sandpipers over the weekend. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts, as the spot is getting dryer by the day. Meanwhile, Beaver Pond and the Camel Farm appear to have water levels too high for optimum conditions. I haven’t been out to Citgo Pond, but I’m assuming the same holds true there. Let’s hope they dry up enough for good conditions soon.

~I tried Pine Island Turf Nursery on Saturday and had a grand total of one shorebird, this Solitary Sandpiper. PI Turf Nursery 08/08/20.~
~Short-billed Dowitcher at Turtle Bay Road, 08/06/20.~
~A typical Orange County look at shorebirds: two Pectoral Sandpipers WAY downtown. Location Turtle Bay Road, 08/09/20.~

BLACK TERN, 08/08/20

Three BLACK TERNS were reported at Wallkill River NWR’s Liberty Loop on Friday by birding bud Maria Loukeris. I couldn’t make it out Friday after work, but tried for them on Saturday morning, fully convinced that they would be gone. But!, luckily one of them hung in there for me; as I walked the east side of the loop a woman who did not appear to be a birder told me it was in the back pond.

~Black Tern with a Barn Swallow in pursuit, Liberty Loop 08/08/20.~

Black Tern is a really cool bird, and I enjoyed observing and trying to photograph this bird, which I believe was an adult in non-breeding plumage. Unfortunately, Black Tern is a photo-nemesis bird for me. I don’t know what it is, but in spite of seeing this species at least a half dozen times now, I just can’t get a good photo. One thing that hit home yesterday was that it’s a small tern. I realized it because as the bird fed, there were swallows giving it the business the entire time. It’s the smallest tern we get in the our area, listed in Sibley as a mere 9.75″. Compare that to 12″ and 13″ inches for Common and Forster’s Tern respectively, and a whopping 21″ for Caspian Tern. Add to that an erratic flight while feeding, and the bird is tough to pick up and get into focus in the camera. That said, I’ve had the species perched and still the pics were not great. One day I’ll get a goodie.

~Banking Black Tern, Liberty Loop 08/08/20.~
~This is a bird I never get tired of. Northern Mocking Bird at the Liberty Loop, 08/08/20.~
~Great Blue Heron from earlier in the week. Beaver Pond, 08/30/20.~
~I had no idea the bird had turned completely upside down until I saw my photos. Black Tern with Tree Swallow, at the Liberty Loop, 08/08/20.~
~Bunny at the Loop, 08/08/20.~

Hurricane Birding on the Hudson, 08/04/20

QUICK POST: Today would have been a good day to get out of work early. As it was, I had a hellacious work day and ended up working pretty late. I did make it out the Newburgh Waterfront in time for one darn good bird late in the evening: a hatch year LAUGHING GULL. The bird was hanging out with a number of Ring-billed Gulls on the docks by Blue Pointe restaurant. Earlier in the evening, I missed some good birds. Rob Stone had two SOOTY TERNS fly south along the river, as well as another unidentified tern. Also, Bruce Nott, after putting in a lot of time at the river, went to Washington Lake and located a Common/Forster’s Tern there. And finally, while not not on the river, Linda Scrima had a Short-billed Dowitcher in the puddles at Turtle Bay. Once again, bad weather = good birds.

~Juvenile Laughing Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 08/0420.~
~One more shot of the Laughing Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 08/0420.~

Sunday Shots, Catch-up Edition, 08/02/20

Since returning from Maine, work has been busy, and I’ve also been busy with projects at home. So, while I’ve gotten out a fair bit, I haven’t really had time to look at photos or do any posts.

The big news this week was on Thursday, when Bruce Nott finding an adult LITTLE BLUE HERON at Beaver Pond on Pines Hill Road in Chester. I ran for the bird on my lunch hour and was able to get a brief, distant look. I got better looks (not much) yesterday; I’ve included a severely backlit and distant photo of the bird at the bottom of this post.

~A young Eastern Towhee peers through the vegetation, Goosepond Mountain State Park, 07/24/20.~

Other than that, for me it’s been mostly more of the usuals. Shorebirds are on the move, but it’s usually tough to get good shorebird shots in Orange County. In the last couple of days, I’ve had the following shorebirds:

  • Citgo Pond: Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Killdeer.
  • Beaver Pond: Least Sandpipers, Solitary Sandpipers, Killdeer, and Semipalmated Plovers.
  • Camel Farm: Lesser Yellowlegs and Killdeer.
  • Skinner’s Lane: Killdeer.
~Singing Hermit Thrush at Schoolhouse Pond Preserve in Boothbay Region in Maine, 07/22/20.~

I’ve also include some shots from Maine, where Red-breasted Nuthatches and Hermit Thrushes were pretty easy to come by. I also had a nice pile of harbor seals loafing on the rocks at Porter Preserve and Roberts Wharf.

~Another Hermit Thrush at Schoolhouse Pond Preserve in Boothbay Region in Maine, 07/22/20.~
~Always a favorite, Red-breasted Nuthatch at Porter Preserve, 07/22/20.~
~Fittingly, it has been the year of the yard bird for me. Ruby-throated Hummingbird in my yard on 07/13/20.~
~A young Red-winged Blackbird checks me out as I take its photo. This is a shot that I just love for some reason. 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 07/26/20.~
~Eastern Kingbird at Owens Station Road in Sussex County NJ, 07/25/20.~
~Swamp Sparrow singing at the Liberty Loop, 07/13/20.~
~Harbor Seals at Porter Preserve in Maine, 07/22/20.~
~Silhouette of a beautiful LITTLE BLUE HERON, 08/01/20.~