The weekend got off to a slow start since we were snowed in most of Saturday. In the afternoon I finally got out and headed to the Hudson River, where I enjoyed my evening of birding, in spite of the bitter cold, gray, snowy conditions(it was still snowing in Newburgh!). In addition to the three expected gull species, I had one distant Iceland Gull, and then one that put down in front of the boat launch as it was getting later. Same bird? Hard to say; Bruce Nott had (6) ICGUs one night this week, so likely two birds.
Saturday was a gorgeous sunny, cold day. Like really cold. I decided to primarily car-bird, so I cruised the black dirt. It was mostly uneventful, but I did run into Linda Scrima, and while we were talking, my best bird of the weekend landed right in front of her car – a fabulous Fox Sparrow. I made it back to the river in the afternoon, but that too proved to be mostly uneventful, with just one gull of note, a very distant first winter Iceland Gull. Bald Eagles were numerous and kept the gulls on their toes.
This past Thursday was an absolutely gorgeous day here in Orange County. It was my favorite kind of winter weather, cold, crisp, and sunny. I was, of course, working. But the weather was eating at me, plus I was having a hunch that the Newburgh Waterfront might be good. So, I got the okay from my boss, and I left work a little early and headed to the river, where I immediately hooked up with birding bud Bruce Nott. We were barely getting through our salutations when I located a first winter ICELAND GULL on an ice floe directly in front of the boat launch.
Shortly after locating the bird, all the gulls on the floe took flight. And, for the first time this season, they actually flew closer to us, putting down not too far out after making a couple circles. I was pretty excited because I’d been able to stay with the bird in flight and just because it was such a good look when the bird put down in the river. It was a beautiful, if slightly disheveled bird, and Bruce and I thoroughly enjoyed its presence as we spent a fabulous evening scanning the river for gulls.
Yard Bird Total as of 01/29/22: (22) – I added a Red-tailed hawk this week, which was exciting because it’s a species that I missed last year.
I have to say that I am really enjoying winter birding these days. I love the cold, crisp weather, and the birds have been pretty darn cooperative. I also think that because I can’t bird during the week at this time of the year, I really get into it on the weekends.
I split both mornings between the black dirt and Campbell Hall, where two times I caught up with the LARK SPARROW that was found by Jeanne Cimorelli earlier this week. I was pretty happy that bird stuck around til the weekend. The black dirt was productive both mornings; I had loads of Horned Larks, good sized flock of Snow Buntings, (8) American Pipits, and at least (3) LAPLAND LONGSPURS. Also notable were large flocks of both Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles (at two different locations).
On Saturday afternoon I went to the Newburgh Waterfront for gulls, where I ended up birding with Bruce Nott, Joe Chernak, and Jeanne Cimorelli. Bruce located one, maybe two Iceland Gulls (the gulls picked up before we could confirm), and I was able to locate a Glaucous Gull. With the expected gulls, that made for a (5) gull day.
I am also pretty jazzed about the weekend of birding because I feel like this week’s photos are pretty interesting. I struggled mightily to get good shots on Saturday morning; in spite of the beautiful light, I think the cold temperatures were creating a little havoc in the air, leaving most pics with a shimmer effect.
One final note – I am also really enjoying my yard birding this year. Moving forward I will be putting a note on the bottom of each post with my yard list total for the year. This week I moved up to 21 species, adding three birds: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, and a beautiful adult Bald Eagle flyover.
I really enjoy the cold and sunny weather we had for most of this weekend. It’s a pleasure to gear up and get out into the cold, especially when the sun is out, and ended up with some good birds and some decent photo ops. My best bird by far, was the MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD in Ulster County that I ran for today. I drove up to Esopus Meadows Preserve first thing this morning. When I arrived just before 9:00, there were already several birders on the bird. By the time I got out of my car, the bird was no longer in sight. I waited alongside Ken McDermott, and we both got our first glimpse of this beautiful bird as it hovered alongside a tall evergreen across the road. The MOBL was a beautiful and cooperative bird, and my 315th bird in New York State. It wasn’t a lifer, as I’d seen MOBLs in Colorado back in 2013.
Afterwards, I tried for gulls/waterfowl at the Hudson River, first trying from Long Dock Park on the Beacon Side, and then from the Newburgh Waterfront. I didn’t have any luck with gulls nor ducks, but I did finally catch up with the Tennessee Warbler which has been hanging around near the sewage plant.
Saturday was less successful, but it was still good to be out. In the morning I participated with Linda Scrima in Mearns Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. Unfortunately it was a bit of bust for me – I had a total of only (5) species of waterfowl (Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, American Black Duck, and Common Merganser). I think this is the first time doing this that we did not find a rare goose of some kind. In the evening I went to the Newburgh Waterfront. It was COLD! And a bust for gulls, but I enjoyed a close up Common Merganser and (4) Bald Eagles flying over pretty low.
My first stop on this icy, cold, morning with freezing rain was at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, which thankfully is only a mile or so from our house. Peter and Joe Chernak reported a couple of Canvasbacks there late yesterday, and I was hoping the birds were still around. When I first arrived, I was not having any luck with my targets, but I did locate a pretty darn good bird for the county – a single Common Goldeneye. Then, partially hidden by Canada Geese, I located one and then two CANVASBACKS. Canvasback is a really good bird for Orange County – I checked my personal records and I’ve only had them in the county two times prior to today. Huge thanks to Peter and Joe for finding and reporting the birds.
I went to the black dirt this morning and was able to catch up with 3 of my 4 target birds. Early on I got a distant look at my first Rough-legged Hawk of the season, a beautiful light morph bird. A little later I caught up with a flock of Horned Larks; I looked through them and found a single Snow Bunting and a single Lapland Longspur. I tried for the Greater White-fronted Goose which has been reported at the Route 1 pond, but no luck there.
In the afternoon I headed to Newburgh. I dipped on the Golden Eagle at Storm King State Park, but I cleaned up with gulls, tallying 6 species: Ring-billed, Herring, Great Black-backed, FRANKLIN’S, Iceland, and Glaucous. What a refreshing, cold, beautiful day of birding. Beats sitting at the desk like I did all week, that’s for sure.
Generally speaking, this is a feel-good blog. I’m typically posting when something interesting, exciting, or just fun is happening. Today, unfortunately, is the exception. This morning Tricia and I headed over to the Beacon waterfront; I was hoping for gulls even though I know that early in the day is typically a bust for gulls on the river. As expected, it was very quiet at Long Dock Park when we arrived. Just a handful of Ring-billed Gulls around, and some Common Mergansers and a Great Black-backed Gull way out on the river.
We walked out by the kayak launch, and at the end of the dock there was a single gull. It was a first winter ICELAND GULL, but, it was in some sort of distress. It was very messy looking and kept either trying to call or regurgitate something but was not having any luck. As I watched, a young child ran near the bird and it did not fly, it just slowly walked away.
I went to my car to get my carrier (it’s for my gear, but also perfect for bird rescue). When I returned, Debbie van Zyl was with the bird and she helped me capture the bird, which actually proved to be quite easy, an indication of the condition of the bird. Tricia and I drove the bird to the veterinary hospital, where it was going to be picked up by the rehabber. We headed home, hoping for the best. Unfortunately, not too long after arriving home, I received word that the bird did not make it. We know that a high percentage of gulls don’t make it through their first year, that’s just natural, but it’s heartbreaking to be invested and to witness it up close and personal like that. May that bird rest in peace.