It was really, really nice to have four days off in a row. And with the pandemic still raging, we did not travel. So, that made for a good amount of birding during those four days. Noteworthy birds included more RED CROSSBILLS at Reservoir 3, the BARNACLE GOOSE continues in the area, being seen mostly at the Camel Farm, a handful of Snow Buntings at Skinners Lane, and I had my first ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK of the season. I had a good weekend with raptors, topped off by an early morning visit to the Grasslands today. It was enjoyable to be out there sitting in a blind. It sort of felt like the old days when I used to photograph many more raptors.
It’s amazing how sometimes things just work out. Today Bruce Nott located a BARNACLE GOOSE at the Camel Farm. He reported it in the early afternoon – right at my lunch time. I raced over and joined Bruce and Linda Scrima, who informed me that the bird had just taken a short flight and was out of view. John Haas arrived, and moments later the bird took flight again. I was able to get distant flight shots as it flew across the Camel Farm and put down again.
As we were observing the bird, it became clear that it was moving about with 4 other interesting looking geese. It was speculated that these were likely the same birds which have been reported around the northeast in recent years: One Barnacle Goose with 4 Barnacle x Cackling Goose hybrids.
I have to say that I was freaking out. I have waited SO long to get a Barnacle Goose in the county, it was just a fabulous looking bird, and it did not disappoint. It’s been absolutely ages since I was this excited to see a bird. The Barnacle Goose was my 264th Orange County life bird, and my 222nd bird in the county for 2020. I can’t thank Bruce enough!
I enjoyed a good couple of days birding this weekend. The highlight came first thing Saturday morning, when I had a group of six RED CROSSBILLS flyover at Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis. This is the first time I’ve had them in Orange County, making it my 263rd life bird in the county, and also my 221st bird of the year in OC. I was especially pleased because I managed to get some photos as they flew over; terrible photos, but good enough to document the species in Orange County.
Early Saturday afternoon I ran up to Kingston following up on a report of a Mew Gull. The bird was still present, but unfortunately it was ultimately determined to be a diminutive 1st cycle Ring-billed Gull. It was an interesting looking bird, I learned a little bit, and I got to see some birding buds. So, while disappointing, it wasn’t all bad.
On Sunday, my best bird came first thing again. I went to Wickham Lake, where I found a beautiful drake LONG-TAILED DUCK. This bird was just gorgeous. Unfortunately it was miles out; I’m including a documentary shot at the bottom of this post. Long-tailed Duck is probably my favorite species of duck, they definitely fit into the category of inherently cool. Leaving Wickham Lake, I went by Wisner Road on the off chance of a Northern Shrike, but of course no luck.
I spent the rest of Sunday morning tooling around the black dirt. It was birdy in general, and I sifted through several flocks of Canada Geese, but didn’t turn up anything interesting. Likewise, I looked through a flock of American Pipits without finding any longspurs or buntings. Still, always nice to see some pipits, especially when they are close enough for photos. The only real excitement I had in the black dirt was witnessing a very distant Great-horned Owl being mobbed by American Crows.
Yesterday was my final day of the year at Mount Peter Hawkwatch, it’s amazing how quickly the season goes by. It was a cool crisp day with a cold WNW wind. It was sunny but with enough clouds in the morning to help find birds. I finished the season on an up note, with a decent day consisting of 72 migrating raptors. Highlights included four Bald Eagles moving through; two adults and two immatures. Also noteworthy was 21 Red-tailed Hawk and seven Red-shouldered hawks; 2 adults and 5 immatures.