After yesterday’s gull excitement, today was pretty much a dud. I birded locally; cruising the black dirt early, tried and failed with the Northern Shrike at Wickham Woodlands Park, and then went and to the riverfront. I was hoping the Golden Eagle might be present at Storm King, but no such luck. I think that’s maybe the 6th time I’ve dipped on that bird. Interesting birds today included large numbers of mixed blackbird flocks throughout the black dirt. I had my first Wood Ducks of the year, both on Celery Ave and at Wickham Lake.
Yard Birds 2022: (25) species. I added Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Hairy Woodpecker this week.
I went to Long Island today to visit my dad. Since he is not an early riser, I took the morning to try for some good gulls that have been reported recently at Old Field Point and Lighthouse in Suffolk County. It was a cold but very successful morning; I was able to locate 3 of my 4 target birds: ICELAND GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, and LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (I missed on the Black-headed Gull). Additionally, I met a birder there named Jay Rand; he got me on an interesting gull that has been reported as well, but as of yet is unidentified.
The Glaucous Gull was the whitest gull I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if this is just a light individual, or if there some possible sun bleaching going on, but the bird has been confirmed on eBird.
As for the Gull species, it looked like a Herring Gull, but with a slightly darker mantle and yellowish legs/feet. When I got home I checked my emails and found some reports and a write-up by Shaibal Mitra on the NYSBIRDS list serve. He describes the bird broadly as a Herring Gull type, and offers 3 typical possibilities for this bird:
Smithsonianus Herring Gull, which apparently show some degree of yellow in the legs/feet in the late winter and early spring.
Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid.
After viewing the bird, however, he has reservations about these three options and offers a fourth possibility: Northern European L. a. argentatus, to which he found similarities in the mantle color and wingtip pattern. Apparently we will find out what the experts identify it as in the coming days. I will keep you posted. And regardless, it was a really cool bird to see and added some excitement to my morning.
One of my goals for 2022 is to break 200 species in Sullivan County (I’m currently at 194). I’ve come up with a short list of possible species to try and catch up with, and Northern Shrike is on it. So, on Saturday morning I headed to the Bashakill to try for the shrike which was there earlier this week. I dipped on my target bird, but it didn’t prevent me from having a nice morning birding the Deli Fields. I ran into and caught up with John Haas (Bashakill Birder). John mentioned that it was a slow morning there, but I had 23 species, which didn’t seem too bad to me. My best bird was a Hermit Thrush that popped up briefly before disappearing into the underbrush.
I was back in Orange County for the afternoon and evening, spending most of my time at the Newburgh Riverfront. I enjoyed birding the river and there was enough going on to keep me entertained. The highlight was (3) first winter Iceland Gulls, which I can’t get enough of, but I won’t torture you with yet another pic.
On Sunday morning I tried for the Northern Shrike at Wickham Woodlands Park. With this shrike, I had better luck. The bird was vocalizing frequently and perched close enough at one point to get a decent shot. I was pretty excited, it was fun to actually spend some time with a shrike rather than just a few moments.
Afterwards, I headed to Piermont Pier. Earlier this week a Little Gull was reported there, and while I know the chances of seeing that bird were astronomical, I figured I would go and just enjoy birding the pier. It was good to see some different ducks – Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads, and a single Common Goldeneye. Gulls were scarce and I only recorded the (3) expected species.
Yard Birds 2022: (25) – No new species since my last post.
I didn’t have a plan for my birding today. And I didn’t know it was supposed to snow like it did. So I woke up, saw the snow accumulation, and took my time getting out of the house. Since I had no real plan, I figured I would just try for some snowy photos locally. I was thinking about raptors as I was heading out, Rough-legged Hawks in particular, but it was a couple of Northern Harriers that ended up delivering.
I enjoyed a pleasant and tranquil morning in the snow; I sorted through Horned Larks and found five Lapland Longspurs. Snow Buntings continue, but their numbers appear to be down slightly. I sorted through some geese too, and I finally located what I believe is a Cackling Goose. The bird was on the Wallkill River along Celery Avenue and I was able to get some decent shots of that bird.
I’m digging the stark aesthetic in these wintery photos. What they lack in color in detail, they make up for in atomosphere.
Yard Birds 2022: (25) – I added Common Grackle this week.
My plan this morning was to take a hike in Port Jervis, near Reservoir 3. I decided to take the long way there and meander through the black dirt. Geese were moving around the area, and I sorted through a couple of smaller flocks for rarities but had no luck. Horned Larks were scarce; at one point I heard several birds calling, so I stopped my car and got out. I scanned but was unable to find the larks. I looked to the east, over a field, and a backlit bird was flying about 10 feet above the field straight towards me. I initially figured it was just another crow, but as it got closer I realized it was a Short-eared Owl. The bird flew right to me and sort of did hovering maneuver right in front of me, looking me in the eye the entire time. Then it circled overhead a couple of times and headed on its way. As it flew away, I ran to the car, grabbed my camera, and snapped a few shots. It was a really cool experience, and believe it or not it’s the second time a Shorty has done that to me. Years ago, late one evening, after sunset, another SEOW did the same thing, only much closer and for a longer duration. It was mind blowing to an even greater extent.
As I made my way towards Port Jervis, I located another flock of Canada Geese. As I was sorting through them, all of the geese went completely silent and motionless. I realized that they were alarmed for some reason and looked around and saw a nice looking Coyote making its way across the field beyond the geese.
At Reservoir 3, I hiked just over 5 miles. It was birdy in some areas, but mostly not, as I’ve grown to expect when hiking. I was happy to add several year birds to my list, including two pretty good birds: Hermit Thrush and Brown Creeper. Photo ops weren’t happening, but a nice hike and some fresh air was just what the doctor ordered.
Well, it was yet another gorgeous, cold, sunny, and icy weekend in our area. I wasn’t very adventurous; I stuck to the black dirt and the Hudson River for the most part, but the nice light and the icy conditions made for some really nice photo ops. I enjoyed several continuing good birds: Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspurs, American Pipits, and Iceland Gulls. Interesting new birds for me included the bird of the weekend, a Northern Shrike, as well as a Chipping Sparrow and a Field Sparrow.
This week’s photos are heavy on Snow Buntings; I had some good opportunities and I tried to make the most of them because before you know it they will be gone until next winter. I think next weekend I will think about mixing it up a little bit and getting out to some different spots since I’ve been in such a routine recently.
Yard Birds 2022: (24) – No new birds since my last post.
This morning I FINALLY caught up with a NORTHERN SHRIKE at Wickham Woodlands Park in Warwick. I say finally because I haven’t seen a Northern Shrike since 2019, and it’s not for lack of trying. Over the past couple of winters I’ve tried more times than I can count – going after reported birds in Liberty, Sullivan County, the Grasslands in Ulster County, and of course locally here in Orange County. Today’s bird is likely the same bird that Kathy Ashman reported this past October. Since then, I’d received several reports that the bird was still around, and I tried for the bird at least a dozen times this winter.
To say I was excited is definitely an understatement. But, that said, the encounter was entirely too brief; the bird darted behind some vegetation and I was never able to find it again. It would have been awesome to spend some time with the bird. One really cool thing about it, was that I found the bird by ear. I could hear it calling, and although I haven’t heard many Northern Shrikes before, I knew it had to be the bird. I followed the sound and sure enough.
2022 Yard Birds: (24) – I added Brown-headed Cowbird and Red-winged Blackbird since my last post.