2021 Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that yet another year of birding is behind us. It was a good year for me, one where I changed my approach a little bit. I tried to put aside the birding expectations I’ve had in the past and simply strive for the most enjoyable overall experience at any given time. For example, there where times when a good long hike is what I needed in my life; we know these long hikes aren’t nearly as birdy as some other locations, but I enjoyed the experience and appreciated whatever birds came my way. I also focused more and more on the species of birds that I enjoy most – raptors, gulls, and shorebirds. The result was a year where my species counts were the lowest they’ve been in years, but where I enjoyed my birding time immensely.

~Ferruginous Hawk in the black dirt, 02/07/21.~


We had some very notable rarities our area this year. Here’s my top five, which include the (2) life birds I saw this year:

  1. Ferruginous Hawk in the black dirt. Originally located by Linda Scrima on 01/16/21, this raptor was a BIG deal and pleased birders for most of the winter.
  2. Franklin’s Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront. Originally reported by Ronnie DiLorenzo on 12/16/21. The bird continues as of this writing, being seen mostly at the sewage treatment plant and sometimes at the boat launch.
  3. Sedge Wrens at Wisner Road. I don’t recall the original finder, but I went for these birds on 7/27/21 and was successful in locating at least (4) birds present. This was especially exciting for me because it was a life bird for me.
  4. Ash-throated Flycatcher at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. This might be considered extralimital, but this location was only about an hour away. On 12/28/21 I enjoyed relocating and getting some decent photos of this surprisingly attractive bird. This too was a life bird for me. I believe this bird continues at this location.
  5. Snowy Owl on the Newburgh Ferry. On 12/04/21, while gulling the Newburgh Waterfront with Bruce Nott, I located a beautiful Snowy Owl perched on top of the ferry. The bird, as suspected, was a one hit wonder and wasn’t relocated.
  6. Rarities Notable Mentions: John Haas found a Wilson’s Phalarope at Morningside Park on 05/31/21. Jeanne Cimorelli located a White Ibis at the Camel Farm on 10/18/21. And finally, a bird that seems to be becoming a true rarity in Orange County – I had (3) Upland Sandpipers flyover at Skinner’s Lane on 08/08/21.
~Snowy Owl on the Newburgh Ferry, 12/04/21.~
~Beautiful gull – Adult Iceland Gull preening at the Newburgh Waterfront on 02/13/21.~


It was another great year of gulling in Orange County where I observed a total of (8) species of gull in the county for the second year in a row. This has increasingly become my favorite type of birding; I really enjoy spending the afternoons at the Newburgh Waterfront scanning through all the gulls. Also of note, I ran for the Lesser Black-backed Gull in Sullivan County on 11/21/21, and it was kind enough to stick around for me. It was my 193rd bird in SC.

  1. Ring-billed Gull
  2. Herring Gull
  3. Great Black-backed Gull
  4. Lesser Black-backed Gull
  5. Bonaparte’s Gull
  6. Iceland Gull
  7. Glaucous Gull
~FRANKLIN’S GULL in flight on 12/18/21; Newburgh Waterfront.~
~American Golden-Plovers in flight at Skinner’s Lane, 09/14/21.~


I had a decent year for shorebirds, with (22) species observed. In Orange County and I totaled (18) species for the year (It very easily could have been (19), but I never went for American Woodcock). The highlight of the year for shorebirds was enjoying the large flock of American Golden-Plovers at Skinner’s Lane for a week or so in mid-September. Other highlights included the Wilson’s Phalarope in Sullivan County on 05/31/21, a flyover of (3) Upland Sandpipers on 08/08/21, and kayaking at Morningside Park to get the Long-billed Dowitcher located by John Haas on 10/17/21.

  1. Black-bellied Plover
  2. American Golden-Plover
  3. Semi-palmated Plover
  4. Killdeer
  5. Semipalmated Plover
  6. Ruddy Turnstone (Seneca County)
  7. Dunlin
  8. Purple Sandpiper (Westchester County)
  9. Baird’s Sandpiper
  10. Least Sandpiper
  11. White-rumped Sandpiper
  12. Buff-breasted Sandpiper
  13. Pectoral Sandpiper
  14. Semipalmated Sandpiper
  15. Short-billed Dowitcher (Seneca County)
  16. Long-billed Dowitcher (Sullivan and Orange Counties)
  17. Wilson’s Snipe
  18. Wilson’s Phalarope (Sullivan County)
  19. Spotted Sandpiper
  20. Solitary Sandpiper
  21. Greater Yellowlegs
  22. Lesser Yellowlegs
~Long-billed Dowitcher at Morningside Park, 10/17/21.~
~Good yard bird – Ovenbird in my backyard on 04/29/21.~


I continued to work from home of 2021, so once again, yard birding was a focal point. I decided early on to keep a list; I was really curious to see what kind of numbers of species I might be able to observe in my own yard. Part of the way through the year, Judy Cinquina and I were talking about it and decided to place a friendly wager on it. I ended the year with (72) species, and Judy finished with an impressive (68) species, in spite of getting a late start. We have already agreed to a rematch in 2022.

I was surprised by how many warblers I had in my yard – (9) species. I never considered my yard a place to get warblers until the past couple of years. And some of them were impressive, including Cape May, Black-throated Blue, Cerulean, and an unexpected Ovenbird. Other surprised include a Hermit Thrush, and my final bird of the year, a Brown Creeper. There were also three birds I would have expected to have a good chance to see, but did not: Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Pigeon, and Hairy Woodpecker.


Here are my personal favorite photos that I took in 2021, starting with my number one shot of the year, an American Pipit in flight. Each year choosing the top photos seems to get more difficult for me. As I go through the year’s pics, each year I am more and more underwhelmed. I think it’s because now that I’ve been doing this for a good number of years (this spring will be 10 years doing the blog!), it’s becoming more difficult to get new and exciting shots. Anyways, here’s my picks for the top ten photos of the year:

~American Pipit in flight in the black dirt, 10.24.21.~
~Ring-billed Gulls in the snow at Beacon Waterfront, 11.28.21.~
~Eastern Coyote in Warwick, 11.06.21.~
~Great Blue Heron in the small pond in my neighborhood, Goshen NY 04.11.21.~
~Great Crested Flycatcher at Elks Brox Park, 05.15.21.~
~Canada Geese at Wickham Lake, 11.06.21.~
~Blue-winged Warbler at the Bashakill, 05.02.21.~
~Black-bellied Plover at Skinner’s Lane, 09.13.21.~
~Black-throated Green Warbler at Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 10/09/21.~
~Double Crested Cormorant, Round Lake 03.28.21.~

As always, I’d like to thank all my birding friends that have helped to make it such an enjoyable year of birding (you know who you are). I’d also like to thank everyone for tuning in to the blog, especially those of you who subscribe and those of you who comment – it makes my day when I get a comment on a post! Happy New Year to everyone, here’s to another great year of birding in 2022.

Good Birding Back in Orange County

I spent the last two days birding locally and was lucky enough to get some good birds. Yesterday morning I birded the black dirt; early on I found a handful of American Pipits feeding on some piles of discarded onions, but the real highlight came a little later on Turtle Bay Road, where I located a single GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE among a flock of approximately 1,000 Canada Geese. In the evening I went gulling at the Newburgh Waterfront with Bruce Nott. While we were together, we had (5) species of gull (Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, LESSER BLACK-BACKED, and ICELAND GULL), but Bruce was finishing up a remarkable (7) gull day (same as above plus: FRANKLIN’S, and GLAUCOUS).

~Always a favorite of mine – Common Loon at Greenwood Lake, 12/30/21.~

This morning I was sort of taking it easy and I just visited some nearby lakes: Wickham, Greenwood, Round, and Walton. I had a total of (9) species of waterfowl: Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, A. Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, and the highlight of the morning, a relatively cooperative COMMON LOON. The loon was at Greenwood Lake; the bird was not too far out and I stood on the shore patiently until the bird came close enough for some decent shots.

~COLO at Greenwood Lake, 12/30/21.~
~Regular readers of this blog know how much I like pipits – American Pipit on a pile of onions in the black dirt, 12/29/21.~
~Can you pick out the ICELAND GULL? Hint: it’s the one with the very pale primaries. Newburgh Waterfront, 12/29/21.~
~Lesser Black-backed Gull at Newburgh Waterfront, 12/29/21.~
~Greater White-fronted Goose at Turtle Bay Road, 12/29/21.~
~One more shot of the COLO at Greenwood Lake, 12/30/21.~

Westchester County ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER, 12/28/21

I’m off work this week, so I’ll likely be getting out all week. Yesterday morning was frustrating: I tried for three different locally reported Northern Shrikes and came up empty. But, my luck began to change in the evening at the Newburgh Waterfront. First, I caught up with the continuing FRANKLIN’S GULL. Then, a little later in the evening, I joined forces with Bruce Nott, and we were able to locate two Iceland Gulls on the river.

~Ash-throated Flycatcher on a nice perch, Rockefeller State Park Preserve, 12/28/21.~

This morning I headed over to Westchester County to try for the ASH-THROATED FLYCATCHER which has been reported recently at Rockefeller State Park Preserve. It was a beautiful morning, with the fog lifting and the sun coming out. I wandered around the park; it was birdy, but initially there was no sign of the flycatcher. I was joined by three other birders, all looking for the bird. I eventually located the bird and got two of the three others on it. It made only two brief appearances before retreating to the tree line. I waited for a while for the bird to show again, but then I decided to leave. I’d gotten good looks and some decent photos of this good looking bird, so I was ready to continue birding elsewhere. The ATFL was a life bird for me (#424) and, of course a NYS bird (#314).

~One more shot of the Ash-throated Flycatcher at Rockefeller State Park Preserve, 12/28/21.~

Sunday Shots, 12/19/21

I enjoyed good birding on both days of the weekend, but the highlight undoubtedly came early Saturday morning when I relocated the FRANKLIN’S GULL which was reported at the Newburgh Waterfront on Thursday and Friday. I feared that with the drop in temperature and the rainy weather the bird might have moved on, but fortunately that was not the case. FRGU is a really good bird anywhere in New York State, and now I’ve seen two right here in Orange County. To say I got a better look at this bird than the one in July of 2020 would be a huge understatement. This bird was very cooperative and I enjoyed fantastic looks.

~Franklin’s Gull in flight, Newburgh Waterfront 12/18/21.~

Sunday was a different kind of day. The weather turned out to be very nice – crisp and cool with a mix of sun and clouds. I headed out to the black dirt, and early on it seemed to be quite birdy, so I decided to count my total species for the morning of birding. Which, surprisingly, is not something I do very often. I cruised the black dirt, spend a few minutes at the viewing platform at Liberty Marsh, went to Wickham Lake, and finished up at Greenwood Lake. I had a total of 43 species for the morning, which doesn’t seem too bad for this time of the year. I had a some nice surprises – a Brown Creeper at Celery Ave, (8) Northern Shovelers at Liberty Marsh, my first Merlin in ages on Onion Ave, and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Wickham Lake. I’ve included my complete list below.

~Ruby-crowned Kinglet at Wickham Lake, 12/19/21~
~American Goldfinch at Celery Ave, 12/19/21.~
~Not a great shot, but it’s been too long since I’ve seen/photographed a Merlin. Onion Ave, 12/19/21.~
~Brown Creeper trying to hide from me. Celery Ave, 12/19/21.~
~One more shot of the Franklin’s Gull in Newburgh NY, 12/18/21.~
  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Northern Shoveler
  4. Gadwall
  5. American Wigeon
  6. Mallard
  7. Ring-necked Duck
  8. Greater Scaup
  9. Bufflehead
  10. Hooded Merganser
  11. Common Merganser
  12. Rock Pigeon
  13. Mourning Dove
  14. Ring-billed Gull
  15. Black Vulture
  16. Turkey Vulture
  17. Northern Harrier
  18. Cooper’s Hawk
  19. Bald Eagle
  20. Red-tailed Hawk
  21. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  22. Downy Woodpecker
  23. Northern Flicker
  24. Merlin
  25. Blue Jay
  26. American Crow
  27. Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  28. White-breasted Nuthatch
  29. Brown Creeper
  30. Carolina Wren
  31. European Starling
  32. Northern Mockingbird
  33. Eastern Bluebird
  34. American Robin
  35. House Sparrow
  36. House Finch
  37. American Goldfinch
  38. American Tree Sparrow
  39. Dark-eyed Junco
  40. White-crowned Sparrow
  41. White-throated Sparrow
  42. Song Sparrow
  43. Northern Cardinal

Mount Peter 2021 Season Report

At the conclusion of each hawkwatch season, Mount Peter Hawkwatch leader Judy Cinquina writes a report summing up the year. She always does a great job with the write up, and this year is no different. As she has in the past, Judy provided her report to me so I could include it here on the blog (thanks Judy!). Enjoy the read.

Mount Peter 2021, by Judy Cinquina

Except for a curious Black Bear and an unprecedented invasion of Turkey Vultures, Mount Peter’s 64th annual fall watch provided few surprises. Eleven volunteers manned our 71-day count for 472 hours, September 1 through November 15 and produced 10,120 migrants, primarily Broad-winged Hawks, resulting in a very average 21.44 hawks per hour.

~ My personal highlight of the season, Golden Eagle over the platform on 11/06/21.~

Our most abundant migrant, the Broad-winged Hawk awarded leader Will Test our only four-digit day, September 19. The 3,888 he recorded appeared in “huge” distant kettles, resembling swarms of gnats on light NNE winds. Most began moving at 10 a.m. EST and continued through the nine-hour day, peaking with 1,502 between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m. The next morning, Elisabeth McGrath and Ken Witkowski mopped up leftovers, netting 991 more, and then things quieted down. Red-shouldered Hawks came in under their 10-year average at 119: 56 adult, 17 immature, 46 undetermined. Although our watch was extended into November in the ‘80’s, it wasn’t until 2012 Red-shoulders topped 100 or above at our lookout. Our all time record was set only four years ago when 213 took advantage of strong NW winds. Red-tailed Hawks failed to show up this season, coming in 14% below our 10-year average and well below our record 905 set in 2003. Our final tally of 113 was the lowest since 1980 when the count was extended into November. It is concerning, but history has taught us that this species moves on strong NW winds which 2021 failed to produce. Our two best days garnered a mere 13 apiece, November 1 and 10. 

Since scoring a record 2,440 Sharp-shinned Hawks in 1986, our 10-year average for this small accipiter has dropped 34%.  Only 871 showed up this season, one of seven of our counts under 1,000 since 1978 when our watch expanded into October. Our count mirrors a decline of Sharpies across the Northeast. One explanation, according to Trudy Battaly, Editor of the North East Hawk Watch Journal, may be a decline in songbirds, an important food source for Sharpies.  Sharpie numbers may be going down but the larger Cooper’s Hawk numbers are up. This season’s 114 tied their current 10-year average and is a 119% increase over the 52 averaged in the 1980’s. Their larger cousin, the N. Goshawk failed to make an appearance for the third straight season. 

Are American Kestrels on a new, positive trajectory? For the second consecutive fall, their numbers held above the 100 mark at 125: 14 male, 25 female, and 86 unknown. Most were too high or far out to sex. The 10-year average of this little falcon has plunged 133% since the 1970’s. Ken Witkowski scored the best day with 30 on WNW winds, September 30. To put that in perspective, our best day in our 64-year history was September 11, 1965 when 210 Kestrels moved through along with hundreds of dragonflies, a favorite food. Any migrant Merlin or Peregrine Falcon is considered a gift at our lookout. Although both produced below average counts, the 8 Merlin and 11 Peregrines were welcome treats. 

The last three fall watches brought us the best Bald Eagle numbers in our 64-year watch. A good tally of 140 was noted this fall: 62 adult, 76 immature and 2 undetermined, although it doesn’t beat last year’s record 177.  Will Test claimed the best day with 11 that went through with the Broad-wings, September 19. Golden Eagles showed well across the Northeast this season. Between October 19 and November 6, we recorded four Golden Eagles: 1 adult and 3 immature, all on northwest winds. Our record stands at 12 Goldens in 1994.

For the 13th consecutive season, Osprey came in below their 10-year average with 122 recorded. Beverly Robertson nailed the best day with 22, September 12, on light northwest winds.

Like the beleaguered Kestrel, the N. Harrier has declined so much from the 101 seen in 1980 that any slight improvement elicits cheers. The 46 Harriers counted this fall was above the 10-year average: 5 male, 7 female, 14 immature and 20 unknown. Two male Harriers helped draw the curtain on our 2021 watch, on November 15. Leader Bill O’Keefe spotted the two pearl-gray males flying south ahead of an approaching snow shower, as our 2021 watch drew to a close.

~The Big Turkey Vulture Event of 2021. Just a fraction of the 850+ migrating TUVUs on 10/23/21.~

Vultures have always been a problem for our leaders. Both species are constantly around, perching on the microwave towers in front of us and hunting the farm fields below. Last season reinforced the fact that some of our vultures do migrate when an unbroken stream of 175 Turkey Vultures went over in one hour, October 27 and pushed our final tally to a record 850.  This year the big Turkey Vulture event occurred, October 23. Just as things were getting boring, hundreds of dark specks were spotted in the distance. Leader Jeanne Cimorelli described it as “a tremendous, single-event stream of 851 Turkey Vultures beginning at 2:55 P.M. EST and lasting 45 minutes as birds streamed and kettled out over the valley west of the platform. At its peak, there were three kettles of varying sizes with streaming birds to either side and more birds coming in from the north.” The last of them shifted southeast right over the platform.  “It was just beautiful to watch,” Jeanne wrote. Black Vultures came in under their 10-year average with 77. But, like all our vultures, they’re difficult to count and always hanging around. 

Although local Ravens entertain us daily, Tom Millard observed two migrating south, October 7. That same day, he was alone, scanning the sky when he looked down and was startled to find a Black Bear directly below the platform. “He looked around for a minute,” Tom wrote, “and went back into the woods.”  Ruby-throated Hummingbirds totaled a very average 21 in September. Our record is 45 in 2013. Monarchs migrate in almost any weather with a healthy 1,152 counted through October 27. We counted 4,075 Canada Geese with Denise Farrell toping counts with 1,061 on October 18 and 1,314 on the 27th. Rick Hansen scored 120 Brant, October 22, and Tom Millard noted the only Snow Geese with 20, November 11. 

Other birds of interest included: Common Nighthawks September 12 and 14; Great Egrets on September 27 and October 23;Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from October 24 through November 6; Red-breasted Nuthatch singles from September 7 through November 7; and Purple Finch migrants daily between October 23 and November 14. 

  Thanks to our very dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer crew who put in 472 hours, sometimes without company, and made this report possible.  We’re very grateful to Tom Millard for repairs on the platform and installing and taking down our platform box and to Bill O’Keefe for painting over the graffiti.  Many visitors benefited from the informative posters created by Denise Farrell. Kudos to our clean-up crew, Denise, Tom, Bill, Rick Hansen, Tom Mitchell and Will Test who picked up trash and cut back weeds 

A 6 Gull Day, 12/11/21

Although it was another slow start to the birding day, in the end it was quite successful with a nice 6 species of gull observed in Orange County. It makes me happy because at this time of the year I am only birding on the weekend, so it’s very rewarding to have a good day. This morning I had a BONAPARTE’S GULL (species #1) at Wickham Lake, and a good number of Ring-billed Gulls (species #2) in the fields nearby. In the afternoon, joined up with gulling buddy Bruce Nott at the Newburgh Waterfront. Bruce was on fire today; not long after my arrival, he spotted and got me on a distant adult ICELAND GULL (species #3). That bird eventually relocated to the roof of Gully’s, where in spite of the very low light we were able to get some shots of the bird. Bruce also located a LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (species #4) in the mess of birds on Gully’s roof. Add to the mix approximately 150 Herring Gulls (species #5) and about a dozen Great Black-backed Gull (species #6), and you have a great day of gulling in the county.

~A Ring-billed Gull comes in for a landing at Bellvale Farm near Wickham Lake, 12/11/21.~
~Adult ICELAND GULL (behind Ring-billed Gull on the roof), showing off its pale primaries. This is a sharp looking bird, it’s a shame we didn’t have any better light for photos.~
~Terrible photo, but adult LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL on the roof of Gully’s at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/11/21.~
~One more shot of the adult ICELAND GULL on the roof of Gully’s at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/11/21.~

Snowy Sunday Shots, 12/05/21

Although it had a slow start, yesterday was quite a day for me. I went to the Grasslands for sunrise and walked out to one of the blinds. Unfortunately neither the light nor the birds cooperated. I saw several Northern Harriers early on, but after rising, they seemed to be leaving the refuge to hunt; I saw at least 5 birds fly over the southern tree line and head out to the farm fields. Three hours in the blind with only one close encounter, and the light wasn’t very good.

~Snowy Owl in Newburgh NY, 12/04/21.~

Things improved when I went to the Wallkill River in Wallkill and located a good looking GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE. I was able to find a pull off on the road and get a decent shot of the bird.

~Beautiful goose. Greater White-fronted Goose in Wallkill, Ulster County, yesterday 12/04/21.~

I went home and had some lunch and did a few things around the house. In the afternoon I headed to the Newburgh Waterfront where I ran into birding bud Bruce Nott. He immediately got me on an adult Iceland Gull in his scope. The bird was nearly on the other side of the river, but the light was perfect and we enjoyed pretty darn good views of this super sharp looking bird.

BUT! The real excitement started shortly after that. I was scanning for gulls in my binoculars. On top of the ferry, I thought I saw something that looked like a SNOWY OWL. I whipped my scope around and got on it and said to Bruce “unless this is a fake, I’m looking at a SNOWY OWL!!!” We were, of course, freaking out; it was so exciting. Many other birders got to see the owl, which was really cool. I sat and waited as it got dark, figuring the bird would eventually pick up to go hunt. It was getting pretty dark, but sure enough the bird eventually left its perch on the ferry. I did okay with the flight photos, especially considering I had to shoot at ISO 16000. It’s the first time I’ve seen a Snowy in flight since 2014, so that was a thrill. From what I can tell, this bird looks like a one hit wonder, as it was not relocated today.

~A Snowy Owl on a boat, who’d of thought?~
~SNOW leaving its perch, 12/04/21.~

~Snowy Owl in flight over the Hudson River, 12/04/21.~
~This was my best shot at the Grasslands yesterday morning, 12/4/21.~
~Perched NOHA in the black dirt this morning, 12/05/21.~