I was feeling better by Friday afternoon, so I was really looking forward to a weekend of birding. Unfortunately, there really wasn’t all that much going on this weekend. I started at Reservoir 3 early on Saturday morning. I was hoping for crossbills (we’ve had them there in the past), but it was super quiet and I didn’t even get very many of the usuals.
Afterwards, I caught up with the large flock of Snow Geese that has been in the black dirt. The birds have been hanging out at a pond across from Orange County Distillery. It’s a busy road, and loads of non-birders were stopping in the road to take photos with their phones. I didn’t stay long because I didn’t want to add to the chaos; it’s a shame because the birds were pretty close and it was a good opportunity to go through them.
On Sunday morning I checked some local lakes, but came up empty (Wickham, Greenwood, Walton, and Round). I decided to head to the Hudson River. The only bird of note was a distant Red-Breasted Merganser, which I viewed through my scope from the pavilion at Donahue Memorial Park. From the Newburgh boat launch, I could see that there was a good collection of gulls on the Beacon side. So, I headed over there and sorted through them for a good while. Unfortunately, I only found the expected three species.
I had surgery on Wednesday to have my gallbladder removed. Fortunately the surgery went well, but my birding was limited this weekend as I’m taking some time to recover. I drove the black dirt both mornings – highlights included the continuation of thousands of Snow Geese, a decent look at a Cackling Goose on Saturday, and a couple of Lapland Longspurs (one in nice plumage, see below) on Sunday.
Saturday afternoon I joined Bruce Nott at the Newburgh Waterfront to try for gulls. I’m trying to catch up with one of the (2) Lesser Black-backed Gulls he’s been seeing there, but I’m not having any luck. We did have a couple first winter Iceland Gulls; one bright white and the other a nice coffee color. Photos are limited this week, but I still wanted to check in for the weekend.
Outside of my snowy experience from yesterday, the rest of the weekend was mostly the usuals. On Saturday afternoon I went for gulls in Newburgh and only found one Iceland Gull (in addition to the expected 3 species). This morning I found the Snow Geese again; not quite as many – maybe 3,500 or so. I also found the three amigos in the black dirt: Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, and 1 Lapland Longspur. Wickham Lake had a good number of Common Mergansers and a very high number of gulls present – probably over 120 gulls. I’d say they were 65% Ring-billed, with the remainders being Herring Gulls.
As for yesterday’s waterfowl count, Linda provided me with our results. Note that this is just for the Black Dirt Region:
This morning I participated in the yearly Mearn’s Bird Club’s Orange County Winter Waterfowl Count. I joined Linda Scrima and we covered the black dirt region as we have for the past several years. I’ll post the results once I get them. While we were doing the count, we had many Snow Geese flying overhead. It was exciting to get them for the count, but it was even more exciting when I joined Kyle Knapp later in the day in the black dirt to enjoy approximately 5,000+ Snow Geese do their thing. It’s a spectacle which I always enjoy, and I love taking photos of Snow Geese. The large flocks are captivating and the photos often look like art; as individuals the birds seem to have so much character – constantly making a racket and feasting on corn stubble. All photos taken in the black dirt today, 01/14/23.
I always enjoy seeing Eastern Coyotes. This morning I observed a pair of coyotes in the black dirt, miles out in a field, just after sunrise. Two things stood out to me as I watched them through my scope. The first was how acutely aware they both were of me. In spite of the great distance (the photos below are pretty heavily cropped), both kept a very close eye on me as they made their way across the field. The second was the size difference between the two canines – the lead individual was much smaller (likely a female from what I read online), followed by a noticeably larger presumed male.
I enjoyed an excellent day of birding in the county today. My first stop was at Wickham Lake, where I joined Kyle Knapp. He’d had a RED-BREASTED MERGANSER in his scope just before I arrived, but unfortunately all the mergansers picked up and he wasn’t on the bird any longer. It took a little searching, but I was finally able to locate the female RBME among the approximately 250 Common Mergansers.
I checked some more lakes in the area and didn’t come up with anything too exciting. Then Bruce Nott texted me – he had REDHEADS at Brown’s Pond. I headed up and was able to get on the birds. They were too distant for worthwhile photos, but it was really good to get that bird for the county for the second year in a row.
I headed to the black dirt after that, hoping to get a LAPLAND LONGSPUR for 2023. I found a smallish flock of Horned Larks and sure enough there was a single LALO among them. I also enjoyed a large flock of SNOW BUNTINGS, I estimate 70 birds or so, as well as several more flocks of larks. Then, while I was waiting and hoping for some bunting pics, a huge flock of SNOW GEESE flew over, maybe 1500 birds or so.
In the afternoon, I went to the Newburgh Waterfront. I was able to locate two first winter ICELAND GULLS. Also present was an adult Cooper’s Hawk dining on a pigeon on the boat launch ramp. The bird was determined to eat its meal and did not fly until it was done. There was also a young Coop which seemed to be begging for a portion of the meal, but ultimately it didn’t get any.
I had a great start to the new year, joining birding bud Maria Loukeris on a day trip to Manasquan Inlet on the Jersey Shore. It was super birdy, as the shore always seems to be. Our best bird was RAZORBILL, of which we had several, both flying and on the water. Unfortunately they were too far out for photos. Our best fail was missing a Dovekie that flew through – it was called out, but somehow neither one of us was able to get on the bird; that was frustrating. The bird of the day for me, however, was BONAPARTE’S GULL. There was a good number of them around and the light lent itself to some decent photos. It was good to get out of the area, excellent to spend the day birding with Maria, and an all around great start to the birding year.
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