I had a fabulous day of birding today. I started out nice and early. I was in a great mood because once again it was a nice, sunny, cold, and crisp morning – perfect for winter birding. I hit the black dirt first; my first highlight wasn’t a bird, but a good looking Coyote. It’s been ages since I’ve seen one, so it really got me pretty damn excited. Not long after that, I had a nice sized flock of SNOW BUNTINGS. Again, it’s been a while since I’ve seen an actual flock of SNBUs, so it was great to see 35 or so of them together.
A little later, on Skinners Lane, I had a couple of interesting sparrows flush as I was driving along. They landed back on the road ahead of me, this time I got my bins on them – it was a pair of VESPER SPARROWS! The rest of my time in the black dirt was mostly uneventful. I ran across many birders presumably looking for the Ferruginous Hawk (it was relocated today, btw), so that was my cue to head home for lunch and avoid all the nonsense. On my way home I saw a light morph Rough-legged Hawk off of Maple Avenue, and then right around the corner from my house I got a great look at a young Cooper’s Hawk stalking a neighbor’s feeder.
In the afternoon, I headed to the Hudson River and met up with birding bud Bruce Nott. We had two excellent birds, both immature – ICELAND and GLAUCOUS GULLS. I put the word out and eventually Rick Hansen joined us and we got him on both birds. As I was leaving, more birders were arriving, and Bruce later reported to me that they located an incredible 3 Glaucous Gulls! I was sorry to have missed that, but still, what a day!
Saturday and Sunday were both gorgeous days – mostly sunny, cold, crisp, with a brisk wind out of the north. It was great to just be out and about after a week staring at my work computer. On Saturday I went up to Sullivan County to try for the Northern Shrike near Liberty NY; unfortunately I had no luck. That’s my third time trying for that bird, and I’m sort of feeling like three strikes and you’re out. The trip was still worth it though, I had a single COMMON REDPOLL and a brief look at three EVENING GROSBEAKS, my first of the winter. In the afternoon I went to the Newburgh Waterfront, where I located a first winter ICELAND GULL.
On Sunday morning I walked the Winding Waters trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. It was a beautiful, freezing cold walk, and I enjoyed it immensely. The highlight was a single COMMON REDPOLL, my first in Orange County this winter. In the early afternoon, Bruce Nott reported a GLAUCOUS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront. I ran for the bird; when I arrived we actually located a second bird for two GLGUs! Huge thanks to Bruce as always. It was a good weekend, and I even got a few shots to share, which makes me happy.
Yesterday during the waterfowl count, Linda Scrima spotted an interesting hawk. She was thinking it was a perhaps a leucistic Red-tailed Hawk, took some photos to check out later and continued with the count. It ends up the bird was a FERRUGINOUS HAWK! There were many birders out trying to relocated the bird this morning, but it was of course John Haas who found the bird on Celery Avenue (click here to see John’s post with some fantastic photos). I rushed over and joined several other birders to view the bird. It was a little distant and in the trees, so scope views of this gorgeous bird were fantastic, but photos were tough. The bird eventually flew and was relocated by Bruce Nott on Lynch Avenue. The bird was in the air tangling with a couple of Red-tails, but then put down in a field. The bird moved around after that, and as of this writing had been relocated two more times, with many, many birders going for it. From what I’m told, this is a first New York State record of Ferruginous Hawk; super exciting birding! Nice job and congrats to Linda on an amazing find.
This morning, for the third year running, I teamed up with Linda Scrima to do Mearns Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. Our area is basically the black dirt region; we divided and conquered with Linda taking the west side along Route 12 for the most part, while I was mainly on the east side off of Pulaski Highway. It wasn’t the most exciting waterfowl count, but I do enjoy contributing towards these counts from time to time. Linda had our best birds, a couple of Snow Geese and an American Coot. Here’s our totals:
Canada Goose: 3,009
Snow Goose: 2
American Black Duck: 12
Mute Swan: 9
Common Merganser: 12
American Coot: 1
In the afternoon I headed over to the Hudson River. My first stop was at the Storm King State Park parking area, where I was finally able to catch up with the wintering GOLDEN EAGLE. I’d tried for this bird several other times this month without any luck, and I was beginning to worry that maybe the bird hadn’t returned. From there I went to the Newburgh Waterfront for some gulling. There were plenty of gulls present, with more coming in as the day drew to a close. Bruce Nott joined me, and not too much later, he located an adult ICELAND GULL in flight. I was able to get on the bird and get some documentary shots of it. We believe this is likely the same bird we had last Saturday, which, upon further review was determined to be an Iceland rather than a Glaucous. It wasn’t a good day for photos, but it was a good day for birds.
Other than the gulls at the Hudson River, it was a relatively uneventful weekend of birding. I tooled around the black dirt region both mornings and had less than the usuals. Even large flocks of geese were hard to come by. But, as always, especially on these cold, sunny, crisp mornings, it was just good to be out. A slow day of birding beats a day at the office any day of the week, no doubt about it.
My birding today was sort of a comedy of errors. After some unremarkable birding in the black dirt in the morning, I headed over to the Hudson River, where some excellent gulls have been reported recently: Lesser Black-backed Gull, Iceland Gull, and Glaucous Gull. I spent some time at the Newburgh Waterfront without any luck, so I headed over to Beacon. In Beacon, I again had no luck. So, I headed back to Newburgh. As I started scanning, I received a call from birding bud and fellow gull enthusiast Bruce Nott. He was just north of me, and he had located a young GLAUCOUS GULL across the river in Beacon. I located the bird easily with his directions and then jumped in the car and headed BACK to Beacon to try for a better look and some photos.
Once in Beacon, I couldn’t relocated the Glaucous Gull, lol, but I did find a first winter ICELAND GULL. I called Bruce and he was still on the Glaucous – it had drifted pretty far south, so I repositioned myself and got on the bird with my scope. I tried for photos, but it was just too far. I went back to the where the Iceland was but moments after I arrived, a train spooked the gulls and the Iceland flew north until I lost sight of it.
I continued to scan from Beacon, and I located a bird on the Newburgh side of the river that looked good for a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL. I called Bruce; he got on the gull and sure enough it was a LBBG! So, I jumped in the car once again, BACK to Newburgh! I joined Bruce at Newburgh Waterfront and he got me back on the bird; it was a beautiful second winter bird that looked incredible in the scope, but again just too far for photos.
Bruce and I lingered for a while, shooting the breeze and scanning for gulls. And it payed off. Bruce located an adult bird with white primaries. It was on the water, head tucked in and distant. My camera wouldn’t focus on the bird – too far again. But Bruce got some shots of the bird on the water, and then when the bird took flight, I followed it in my scope and gave Bruce direction as to the location of the bird so he could get some flight shots (see above). Bruce and I weren’t sure if the bird was an Iceland or a Glaucous; in the field the bird did not appear noticeably smaller or larger than the nearby Herring Gulls. Thankfully Bruce got the photos, which he sent around; the consensus was adult GLAUCOUS GULL, my 265th species in Orange County. What a crazy good day; huge thanks to my partner in crime Bruce.
I headed back up to Sullivan County this morning to try once again for the Northern Shrike that has been seen near Liberty, NY. My second target species was Common Redpoll which have also been reported recently in the same area. I spent the morning traveling the area and scanning for birds, but unfortunately came up empty on both counts. I was enjoying being in the area; it was a beautiful winter morning (sort of) and I was just happy to be out, so flipped open my copy of A Birding Guide to Sullivan County NY and followed the directions over to the Beechwoods Area, which is between Hortonville and Jeffersonville.
The Beechwoods Area proved to be more productive. Although most were the usuals, there were enough birds around to make it interesting. I had many Black-capped Chickadees, they were definitely the bird of the day. I also had six Bald Eagle sitings – I’m not sure how many individual birds but there were at least two that I saw at the same time. The bird of the day, however, was a single COMMON REDPOLL on Buddenhagen Road. I spent loads of time with the bird as it was very accommodating, but the light wasn’t in my favor so I was working for photos. Some days you just pick the right thing to do – by that I mean it’s really what you’re in the mood for. Today was one of those days for me.