The highlight of my weekend was running for the Sullivan County Lapland Longspur yesterday afternoon. But I did get out both mornings as well. American Pipits continue in high numbers in the black dirt, so I took advantage and tried for photos both mornings: Saturday in the rain and puddles and Sunday in the nice light. Late shorebirds in the heavy puddling in the black dirt were my main focus both mornings, but unfortunately they were relatively scarce. I had a nice sized flock of Killdeer Saturday morning (35+ birds), and then on Sunday I found 3 Lesser Yellowlegs at the Camel Farm on Sunday.
Bruce Nott let me know he had a Black Scoter at the Newburgh Waterfront on Saturday; I got there a little late in the morning but the bird was still present. Photos were tough, but scope views were fantastic and the bird was my 202nd bird in Orange County this year.
And finally, later on Sunday morning into the early afternoon I joined official counter Ken Witkowski at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. I expected a decent flight, but unfortunately it was on the slow side. We did have some pretty good looks at several migrating Red-shouldered Hawks, but otherwise it wasn’t noteworthy.
Those of you that know me or have read the blog for a while probably know that LAPLAND LONGSPUR is one of my favorite birds. So, I was pretty stoked this afternoon when John Haas called me to tell me he’d had a very cooperative LALO at the Neversink Reservoir. It was a little late in the afternoon, but I decided to run for the bird. On my John called me; he was going to meet me out there to help locate the bird. When I arrived, John was already there and on the bird. Running for a bird doesn’t get any easier than that! And the bird was a beauty, in beautiful plumage and was very confiding as John had indicated. The icing on the cake was a single Snow Bunting on the rocks; it was another cooperative bird. The Lapland Longspur was my 192nd bird in Sullivan County. As always, huge thanks to John for all the help.
I went out to the black dirt first thing this morning with American Pipits on my mind. I wasn’t disappointed; I saw many (hundreds) and I was able to get some decent photos in the early morning light. Sparrows were also abundant with Savannah and Song Sparrows being most abundant. I did see a couple of White-crowned Sparrow and caught a brief glimpse of a Vesper as well. In the afternoon I went back to Mt. Peter Hawkwatch and counted with official counter Will Test. It was pretty good flight while I was there with a decent flow of birds and good variety (Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper’s, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle, and Osprey). Interestingly, Turkey Vultures continued to move through; we counted 120+ while I was there.
Earlier in the week I spent some time in my yard – it’s been pretty birdy recently. I added Blue-headed Vireo to my 2021 yard list and the vultures are roosting in large numbers, probably 50-60 birds, mostly Turkey but with a handful of Black Vultures too.
This afternoon I joined official counter Jeanne Cimorelli and Tom Millard at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch. Early on, it was mostly uneventful, with a smattering of the usuals – Sharp-shinned Hawks, Coopers Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, and a Northern Harrier. But, just before 3:00, Jeanne located a number of distant birds… and they seemed to be kettling up. They were quite distant, just specs in the bins, but Jeanne got on the kettle with her scope and they were Turkey Vultures! Over the next 45 minutes, we watched as over 850 Turkey Vultures passed through, forming multiple massive kettles as they did so. It was pretty incredible! We surpassed last year’s total count for Turkey vultures in a mere 45 minutes. I believe the previous daily record for migrating TUVUs was around 200 birds; that record was shattered today. Photos don’t do it justice, but here’s several that I took as it was happening.
While I was out birding this morning, I got a call from John Haas – he had a LONG-BILLED DOWITCHER at Morningside Park in Sullivan County. At first I was hesitant about running for the bird; I would first have to go home for my kayak and then head to the the park, it would be close to an hour and a half of travel time to get there. But then I thought about it and there were too many good reasons for me to go for it. At this time of the year how likely is it for me to see any more shorebirds in our area? Plus, Long-billed Dowitcher is a great bird that I don’t get to see very often, especially not locally. And, I would get great views of the bird in the kayak. AND, it would be a new species for me in Sullivan County (my 191st).
So I ran for the bird, and I’m sure glad I did because I had an awesome time. It was great to see John, and as I paddled up to him he informed me that the dowitcher was still present, and had in fact been joined by a Pectoral Sandpiper. It was very windy on the lake, so I wedged my kayak against some branches in the water not too far from he island the birds were on and sat tight. They weren’t very close at first, but I stayed put and they both moved a little closer and I was able to get some great looks and photos before backing my kayak away and heading back in. On my way back I stopped to enjoy a couple of Ring-billed Gulls on a couple other islands; you know I always enjoys seeing and photographing gulls. Huge thanks to John for heads up, he made my day.
I was the official counter at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch today. It was a relatively slow day, with a total of only 19 migrating raptors. But, it was an absolutely gorgeous day to be outside and there was just enough raptor activity and non-raptor activity to keep me entertained nearly the entire time. Jeanne Cimorelli joined me for a couple of hours and helped assure we didn’t miss any birds shooting through the “gap” between the trees on the east side of the lookout. There was a pretty good southeast wind blowing, and I think that kept the birds down, giving us some pretty good views of the few birds that passed through. My Hawkcount.org report is included below.
On Saturday morning, my phone let me know that it was eBird’s October Big Day. I certainly wasn’t doing a bid day, but it did make me curious to know how many birds I would get on a normal day out in early October. So, I eBirded more locations than I normally would, and I kept track of the birds that I saw en route to get a total for the day. I spent the early morning in the black dirt, where my highlight was a sizable flock of American Pipits, always a favorite of mine. From there I went to Wallkill River National Wildlife refuge. I walked Winding Waters Trail for about a mile or so, and then I spent some time at the viewing platform at the Liberty Loop. I didn’t have any exciting birds, but it was busy enough to add a good number of birds to my tally.
My next stop was Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, where I joined Tom Millard and Judy Cinquina for about an hour and a half. The flight was slow but steady, and with a good variety of migrants. My raptor highlight was a Peregrine Falcon which flew, very high, directly over the platform. For non-raptors, we had a migrating Common Loon fly close enough for a photo, a first for me at Mt. Pete. My final stop was Wickham Lake, where my best bird was a Greater Scaup. I finished the day with 57 species; I’ve included a complete list at the bottom of this post.
On Sunday I was the official counter at Mount Peter. Unfortunately the weather did not cooperate, with a combination of clouds, fog, and light rain making the flight practically non-existent. I had a total of 4 migrating raptors, 2 Cooper’s Hawks and 2 Northern Harriers, before I called it at 1:30 when the fog had really rolled in and the rain was starting up again.
Canada Goose (Wallkill River NWR, Mount Peter, Black Dirt, Wickham Lake)
Mute Swan (Glenmere Lake, Wickham Lake)
American Wigeon (WR NWR)
American Black Duck (WR NWR)
Mallard (WR NWR)
Greater Scaup (Wickham Lake)
Common Loon (Mt. Peter)
Double-crested Cormorant (Wickham Lake)
Ring-necked Pheasant (Black Dirt)
Great Blue Heron (WR NWR)
Great Egret (WR NWR)
Black Vulture (Mt. Peter)
Turkey Vulture (Mt. Peter, WR NWR)
Bald Eagle (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
Northern Harrier (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
Cooper’s Hawk (Mt. Peter)
Red-shouldered Hawk (WR NWR, Mt. Peter)
Red-tailed Hawk (Black Dirt, Mt. Peter)
American Kestrel (Black Dirt, Mt. Peter)
Peregrine Falcon (Black Dirt)
Common Gallinule (WR NWR)
Killdeer (CVS Goshen)
Ring-billed Gull (Wickham Lake)
Rock Pigeon (Wickham Lake)
Chimney Swift (Mt. Peter)
Belted Kingfisher (Beaver Pond)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (WR NWR)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Wickham Lake)
Downy Woodpecker (Wickham Lake)
Northern Flicker (WR NWR)
Eastern Phoebe (Black Dirt, WR NWR)
Blue Jay (Mt Peter, WR NWR, Black Dirt, Wickham Lake)
This morning I got out relatively early and went to Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Winding Waters Trail. It was a cool, mostly sunny morning; pretty much a perfect fall morning for birding. The trail was hopping, and I found myself enjoying birds for nearly every step of the my 2.5 mile walk. Sparrows were numerous and the expected species for this time of the year: Savannah, Song, Swamp, White-throated, and I’m happy to say, a good number of LINCOLN’S SPARROWS.
Other highlights included a couple of Blue-headed Vireos, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a couple of Blackpoll Warblers. By the time I got back to the lot, I had tallied 36 species for the morning, and managed to add (2) species to my Orange County 2021 year list (Golden-crowned Kinglet and Lincoln’s Sparrow).