So I took the plunge this week. My buddy Kyle Dudgeon was looking to upgrade his equipment, so he offered me a great deal on his Canon 500mm f/4 Mark I lens. It was an offer couldn’t resist, especially since I know that this particular lens is capable of taking spectacular shots – you can check out some of the work Kyle did with it here. I never really pictured myself upgrading to such a large lens, but I have to say, a week into it and I’m hooked.
Kyle warned me that there would be a learning curve before getting optimal results with this lens, and that has certainly shown to be true; I’ve had a real mixed bag of results. But, I like where it is heading, and I’m looking forward to learning some new things. I’m also looking forward to getting some more decent opportunities with birds, because this week was sort of a dud for me with not many opportunities.
I met up with my brother-in-law Bill this morning and we hiked the Bearfort Ridge and Surprise Lake Loop, which is located just west of the southernmost point of Greenwood Lake. It’s an 8 mile loop, and AllTrails includes its rating as moderate. For someone in my shape, I think that means you only have a moderate cardiac event when you hike it. Actually, after the first mile, where we climbed approximately 700 feet, it wasn’t too bad. But, wow that first mile was a doozy.
The weather was perfect, mostly sunny and just cool enough. There are many good lookouts throughout the trail, and we could see New York City from several of them. As for the birds, Turkey Vulture was the bird of the day. They were often overhead and we had a pair of them perched looking over West Pond. Other raptors included at least a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks and a Red-tailed Hawk. The best bird of the day was a couple of Fox Sparrows which Bill spotted rooting around the leaf litter under some trees. A small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets were a close second place.
In the end, it took us approximately 5 hours to hike the 8 mile loop. That was with plenty of stops for rests, taking in the views, and some birding. When we got back to the cars, we dug into our lunches. Tuna on rye never tasted so good.
I’ve become more and more obsessed with gulls, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with my ‘Gulls Simplified’ book by Pete Dunne and Kevin T. Karlson, and on the Facebook page North American Gulls. It’s put me in the mind of just trying to get out and enjoy the gulls while I still can. Our “season” for good gulling is quickly coming to a close. So, I headed out to the Newburgh Waterfront this evening to see what was going on. Gull numbers are certainly down a bit, but there were still plenty of birds to enjoy.
Unfortunately, most of the gulls were WAY out, and the heat shimmer was making it too difficult to sort through them. So instead, I focused on the nearby birds; they were mostly Ring-billed Gulls, but there was also a handful of immature Herring Gulls (HERG) and what I believe was a single immature Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG). I hope I am correct, otherwise this post will be a total embarrassing bust, lol. The bird (above) shows what Dunne and Karlson refer to as ‘piano keyed appearance’, it was slightly larger than nearby HERGs, and had a noticeable overall whiteness to it, compared to the more drab brown look of the HERG (below).
Both are good looking birds, but I have to say I’m partial to the GBBG, it’s a handsome beast. As the sun started to set and it cooled a bit, I was able to go through some of the distant gulls – nearly all Herring Gulls, with one adult Great Black-backed Gull and an Immature ICELAND GULL. Good gulling!
I headed up north to Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County this morning to try and catch up with the RED CROSSBILLS which have been reported there in recent days. On my way up I became convinced that I’d waited one day too many, but fortunately I was wrong and the birds continued. I got nice looks and just so-so photo ops of these fantastic birds. I also ran into Rick Hansen and PJ Singh; it was really good to see the two of them and enjoy the birds with them.
I was out and about on Saturday too; it was mostly unremarkable birding but very pleasant to be out of the house and birding. Here’s a few shots from the day.
I can remember, way back when, when I was just starting birding and I had just begun this blog (nearly 9 years ago now!), I always wanted to photograph male Hooded Mergansers. They are a fabulous looking bird, and while these days I’m not quite as enamored with them as I used to be, it was nice to happen upon one this morning at Greenwood Lake. The drake was accompanied by two females and I had some good timing and was able to get some decent shots.
In spite of less than ideal conditions, I decided to head out to the Grasslands for sunrise this morning. By less than ideal conditions, I mean it was partly to mostly cloudy with a pretty strong northwest wind. Ideally I would prefer the steady morning sun and a south wind (so that the raptors hunt facing south, keeping the sun on their face and at my back). Anyways, I got there quite early and I was able to get into the only blind that’s open on the weekends (southernmost blind). While the strong winds seemed to keep the birds from flying quite as much as I would have liked, I had some decent opportunities and some nice birds. Raptors included Northern Harriers (4), Rough-legged Hawks (3), Red-tailed Hawks (3), a couple of Turkey Vultures, and a single American Kestrel. One other highlight was my first Eastern Meadowlark of the year.