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.