This morning I headed to Sullivan County to follow up on some of the shorebird action John Haas and others have had there recently. I was hoping for some good photo ops, or that maybe I might see something special. I also thought that I still needed Greater Yellowlegs for the county, but I checked eBird when I got home and I’d had one in Hurleyville back in May; it was not a memorable siting as you can tell.
My first stop was Morningside Park, where I didn’t have a large variety of shorebirds (Killdeer and Least, Semipalmated, & Spotted Sandpipers), but as always the photo ops were incredible, in spite of the overcast, low light conditions. I enjoyed spending time up-close with the Leasts and the Semisandpipers; while the Spotteds kept their distance and the Killdeer were flyovers.
While I was at Morningside, I spoke with John and he suggested my next stops should be Swan Lake and Lake Jefferson. Swan Lake didn’t have all that many birds present, but there was some decent variety: Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper. Lake Jefferson proved to be my most productive stop; I had (7) species of shorebirds there (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs).
Back in Orange County, I stopped at Bullville Pond to check out conditions there. The pond is mostly dried up, but there was a good number of shorebirds still present (KILL, LESA, SPSA, SOSA, LEYE). Also of note, on Friday evening I found (4) American Golden-Plovers in the black dirt. They were a little distant for good photos, but it was nice to see them and to document.
As I was winding down at work today, Bruce Nott contacted me to let me know he had a RUDDY TURNSTONE at the Moodna Creek sandbar in Newburgh Bay on the Hudson River. I have long wanted to kayak this area, and tonight I took the opportunity to do so. The turnstone hung in there for me, and the lighting was nice, so it made for yet another fabulous shore birding experience this season. The RUTU was my 270th species in Orange County. As a bonus (as if I needed one), there were (7) Caspian Terns also present on the sandbar, making a racket and being generally beautiful and entertaining. Huge thanks to Bruce for a great evening!
QUICK POST: This morning Bradley White located a MARBLED GODWIT on the west side of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Birding bud Maria Loukeris notified me, and Linda Scrima followed up by reporting the bird on the Mearns Bird Club app in the afternoon. I headed to the loop right after work. I hustled to the west side, but when I arrived there was no sign of the bird. Fortunately I ran into Ronnie DiLorenzo, who let me know the bird had relocated to the southernmost pond in the loop. I once again hustled to the back pond and this time I got lucky and the bird was not only present, but not too far out. This is the second straight Monday where I got an absolutely fabulous shorebird – it’s definitely a good cure for a bad case of the Mondays!
My focus this week has, unsurprisingly, been on shorebirds. The rest of the week paled in comparison to my amazing experience with the Red-necked Phalarope on Monday evening, but there are some decent shorebirds around and it’s been good to get out.
6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary has been decent for shorebirds. I birded from the Heritage trail twice this week and the place is loaded with Least Sandpipers and Killdeer. I also had a single Pectoral Sandpiper each visit. On Saturday afternoon I ventured out to Citgo Pond; a spot I haven’t been to in absolutely ages. The trail is totally overgrown, and getting to the pond was a bear. Once there, sweaty and bloody, I had a Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a single Semipalmated Plover.
I was leaving the Heritage Trail one evening this week and I drove past the Goshen Park and Ride. I noticed that the water level was low, so I stopped and was happy to find good conditions and a decent number of shorebirds. I’ve stopped there several times this week and had the following birds: Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, and Killdeer. This place could get a good bird this fall, and parking is super easy and the viewing is not too bad either.
I also ventured back to Sullivan County to Morningside Park for a second time this week on Saturday morning. Unfortunately a Merlin seems to have taken over the place, and the only shorebirds I found were a Killdeer and a single Solitary Sandpiper. There was also a couple of Bald Eagles present, including one young bird which was crying the entire time I was there. Otherwise, it was pleasant to be out on the calm beautiful water just after sunrise, and I also had a nice experience with a Pied-billed Grebe which didn’t seem to mind my presence very much.
Today while I was working I received an alert on the Mearns Bird Club app; John Haas had a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at Morningside Park. I immediately knew I would run for the bird after work if it stuck around. John reported the bird again in the mid afternoon, so things were looking good.
I tried to not speed too much on my way to Morningside Park, I’d already been delayed because I had to put air in one of my tires. I arrived, put my kayak in the water and headed out. I made the rounds of all the mud/stump islands in the lake, but didn’t have any luck. There was a good number of shorebirds present, I had: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, and (6) SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Normally this would be a banner day, but I was itchy about the phalarope and beginning to think it had moved on.
On my second go-round, I was happy to see the Red-necked Phalarope come in and land at the island where I was looking. I “parked” my kayak in the muddy shore and watched, photographed, and just enjoyed this incredible little bird. The bird was beautiful and extremely confiding, making its way closer and closer to me and never flushing. It was a very special birding experience, one that I won’t forget any time soon. What a bird.
John called as I was making my way back to shore. I told him how it went – he stopped me in my tracks when I mentioned the dowitchers. They hadn’t been there earlier, so John jumped in his car and joined me at the park to get them just before darkness fell. Huge thanks and congrats to John for finding and reporting a great bird. Check out his shore birding accounts from the day here.
At least shorebirds are moving to some extent at this point. You probably saw that I had an UPLAND SANDPIPER on Friday evening. On Saturday no one appears to have relocated the Uppy, but Bruce Nott did find 3 Caspian Terns at Cornwall Bay, and later in the evening I tried for the Uppy again and was rewarded with a flyover of 4 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS. I actually picked them up in a distant field, but they picked up an flew; as far as I know they didn’t return. It’s refreshing to see that fall migration is beginning; let’s hope for a good one.
Tonight after work I headed out to the black dirt again, and I finally caught up with my target bird for this week: UPLAND SANDPIPER! I was having a pleasant evening – it was birdy enough to keep me interested, it was Friday night, life was good. Then, life became excellent when I spotted an Upland Sandpiper hanging out with a couple of Killdeer. Unfortunately the bird flew not long after I found it. Linda Scrima joined me in the search, and she was able to relocate the bird, but only briefly before it flew again. Try as we might, we were unable to relocate the bird again before it got too dark.
Work has been super stressful for me lately, and as we all know so well, Mondays are the absolute worst. Usually birding is my respite from any worries in my life, and it’s normally particularly effective when it’s work related. But lately, even on good birding days, I haven’t been able to completely shake it and it’s taken some of the joy out of my birding. Tonight, however was different. It was a beautiful evening to get out, and as I entered the black dirt I could feel the tension leaving my body.
It was pleasantly birdy in the black dirt, and then I had a really nice experience with one of my favorites – a Horned Lark. Horned Larks breed in the county, but really, I don’t see them all that often in the summer. So I was pretty happy to come across one this evening. To make it better, instead of the usual distant look, the bird was relatively close and slowly worked its way toward me, allowing for excellent looks and a chance to get some photos. It’s strange how things coalesce sometimes; the right bird at the right time, on a beautiful night in the black dirt.