Gulls at Sandy Hook, 11/25/22

I spent the morning after Thanksgiving birding at Sandy Hook. While I was a little disappointed with my waterfowl count (I only identified 9 species: Canada goose, Brant, Mallard, American Black Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Scoter, and Common Loon), I was really impressed with the number of gulls present. I’ve birded a lot of beaches (and some dumps) over the years, and I’m pretty sure it’s the most gulls I’ve ever seen at a location.

~While many of the gulls were eating on the wing, this Ring-billed Gull took his prize to the shore to enjoy it. Sandy Hook Beach, New Jersey 11/25/22.~

I started out just scanning the ocean. There was a steady stream of gulls flying – I’m talking nonstop. I’m sure there were some good birds out there that I wasn’t able to identify, but I did see several Bonaparte’s Gulls (the only ones I would see all morning), and of course it was easy to pick out the Northern Gannets. I located a large group of loafing gulls further north on the beach. I relocated and was able to get good looks and go through the birds. Meanwhile, to my right, just at the shore break, there were loads of gulls feeding on small fish – there must have been absolutely loads of fish because the gulls were experiencing an excellent success rate – it was unusual to see a bird come up without prey. I spent a good amount of time going through the gulls, and I was disappointed to only find the expect species: Herring, Great Black-backed, Laughing, and Ring-billed. Add my earlier Bonaparte’s and that’s a 5 gull day. I’d be happy with that number of species in Newburgh; at Sandy Hook I was sort of hoping for more. Especially considering the number of individuals present.

~I thought that this Herring Gull was quite striking, especially lording over this gang of Laughing Gulls. Sandy Hook Beach, 11/25/22.~
~Feeding frenzy at the shore break. Three species are captured here – Ring-billed, Laughing, and Herring. Sandy Hook 11/25/22.~
~Laughing Gull eating on the wing, Sandy Hook NJ 11/25/22.~
~Herring Gull with prey, Sandy Hook 11/25/22.~
~Laughing Gulls in flight, Sandy Hook, 11/25/22.~

Rockland County Red-throated Loon, 11/26/22

I got off the beaten path a little bit today, spending time in Rockland County, Westchester County, and of course, Orange County. The highlight of the day was finding a RED-THROATED LOON at Piermont Pier. It was funny because I ran into Jody Brodsky while I was out there. We were commenting on how quiet it was, and Jody mentioned that she was hoping that there might be a Red-throated Loon… Well, we parted ways, and on my way off of the pier, sure enough, I saw a RTLO. I got word to Jody, and she came and enjoyed the bird as well. I thought that maybe the loon was a new county bird for me, but looking back at my records, I had one in Stony Point back in 2018.

~Now this is a beautiful bird. Red-throated Loon at Piermont Pier, 11/26/22.~
~And one more shot of the bird of the day. RTLO at Piermont Pier, 11/26/22.~

Orange County YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, 11/19/22

First thing this morning I went to the Courtyard Marriott Middletown/Goshen to follow up on a confirmed eBird report of a YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER. After just over an hour with no sign of the bird, I departed to go try my luck in the black dirt. Just after 9:00 am, Jeanne Cimorrelli reported the bird was present on the Mearns Bird Club App. I ran for it, but the bird had moved on before I arrived.

~Yellow-throated Warbler in Orange County, 11/19/22.~

I joined a good number of birders, and we waited for the bird to return. Which it did, about an hour after it was last seen. It flitted around the ‘Courtyard’ sign on the side of the hotel for only about a minute before it flew off. As far as I know, the bird has not been seen since. I was pretty happy to have gotten lucky enough to see the bird, it was a life bird, and of course a county and state bird for me. It was also good to see some of the birders I haven’t seen in a while.

~I thought for a while that I might have to settle for a Yellow-bellied bird today. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at the Courtyard Marriott Middletown/Goshen, 11/19/22.~

Afterwards, I spend some more time in the black dirt. Highlights included many Horned Larks with a handful of Snow Buntings, a flyover of (5) Sandhill Cranes (a first for me to see that many in OC), and I enjoyed sifting through a large flock of mixed blackbirds. I was hoping to maybe find a Yellow-headed Blackbird, but of course, no such luck.

~Five Sandhill Cranes flying over the black dirt today, 11/19/22.~
~Tis the season. Northern Harrier in the black dirt, 11/19/22.~

A Good Weekend, 11/13/22

We had some weather move in this weekend, and along with it came some good birds:

WICKHAM LAKE: First thing Saturday morning, I met up with Kyle Knapp and we had 15(!) HORNED GREBES on the lake. We had a spectacular photo op as the birds came right to us… until afterwards when I went to look at my shots and the back of my camera read “NO MEMORY CARD”. Ugh! I was initially a little sick about it, but I got over it. I went back in the evening to try for them again; no magical close up opportunity, but I did document the birds. On Sunday morning, Kyle Knapp had 22(!) Bonaparte’s Gulls over the lake. I arrived a little bit later (after spending time at the Hudson River), and one Bonaparte’s remained. As did one Horned Grebe. New birds included 5 Lesser Scaup, a pile of Buffleheads, and a single Ruddy Duck. I also tried Greenwood Lake early on Saturday morning; I had one single duck, a very accommodating Bufflehead – see pic below.

~14 of the 15 Horned Grebes at Wickham Lake on Saturday, 11/13/22.~
~Female Bufflehead at Greenwood Lake, 11/12/22.~

HUDSON RIVER: I went to the river first thing this morning. My first good find was 6 Bonaparte’s Gulls. They were distant, but nice to see. The highlight, however, was a single Brant associating with a flock of Canada Geese just south of the boat launch. It was my first Brant of the year in Orange County, and the bird was close enough to get some decent photos.

~One Brant on the Hudson River near the Newburgh boat launch, 11/13/22. I was pretty darn happy to get this bird – I’m a huge fan of Brant, and I hadn’t had them in Orange County yet this year.~

HUDSON RIVER: I went to the river first thing this morning. My first good find was 6 Bonaparte’s Gulls. They were distant, but nice to see. The highlight, however, was a single Brant associating with a flock of Canada Geese just south of the boat launch. It was my first Brant of the year in Orange County, and the bird was close enough to get some decent photos.

~2 of the 6 very distant Bonaparte’s Gulls on the Hudson River this morning, 11/13/22.~

MOUNT PETER HAWKWATCH: The season wraps up this Tuesday, so Saturday was my last day of the year counting. I thought I had a possible Golden Eagle, but upon review of the photos and help from John Haas, the bird was an immature Bald Eagle. That said, my final day was a pretty good one. Highlights included 5 migrating Bald Eagles, 18 Red-tailed Hawks, and I was joined by Hawkwatch Leader, Judy Cinquina. I didn’t get to spend much time with Judy this season, so I really enjoyed our time. As usual, you can see my report at the bottom of this post.

BLACK DIRT: I only got out to the black dirt region one time this weekend, but it was a goody! Loads of Horned Larks have moved in. A good number of American Pipits are still around. Add about a dozen SNOW BUNTINGS and a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR, and you’ve got some darn good black dirt birding.

~Turkey Vulture at Wickham Lake, 11/13/22.~
~Ring-billed Gulls on Wickham Lake, Saturday evening 11/12/22.~
~Another shot of the Brant on the Hudson River, 11/13/22.!

Sunday Shots, 11/06/22

To be honest, this week was a little bit of a dud for me as far as birding goes. There was one clear highlight – after seeing reports from elsewhere in the region, on Wednesday evening I went to Wickham Lake hoping for and finding BLACK SCOTERS. Seven to be exact. It was remarkable to me how quickly it was getting dark, so I was happy to quickly document them before photos wouldn’t be an option.

Black Scoters on Wickham Lake on 11/02/22.~

On Saturday I was the counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. It was a terrible week for the watch – I think with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having, raptors are just not moving. It was no different for me on Saturday – I woke up to temperatures in the low 60’s (in early November!), and it only got warmer. I recorded only 3 species of migrants for the day – (4) adult Bald Eagles and a handful each of Turkey and Black Vultures. As usual, my report is at the bottom of this post.

~White-crowned Sparrow at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge, 11/06/22.~

Later in the day on Saturday, and on Sunday, I tried for more waterfowl. Wickham Lake has been a good spot, as has been Liberty Marsh. Most waterfowl has been the usual suspects, but I was happy to add American Coot to my Orange County 2022 list. And today at Wickham I had 4 scaup, way out there. I suspect Lesser Scaup, but they were too far to be sure.

~Mute Swans coming in for a landing at Wickham Lake, 11/05/22.~
~Double-crested Cormorant cruising by at Wickham Lake, 11/06/22.~
~One more White-crowned Sparrow shot, Liberty Loop 11/06/22.~