I spent yesterday on Long Island visiting with my family; it had been a while, so it was really great to make up for lost time. But, that meant no birding. So, I woke up early this morning, hoping that the weather would bring in some good birds. I was at the Newburgh Waterfront just after sunrise, but unfortunately there was nothing going on. It was hight tide, as I knew it would be, so that may have had something to do with it.
I also checked a couple of lakes in the Newburgh area and came up empty. Then John Haas put out an alert that he had several CASPIAN TERNS at the Bashakill. It took me what seemed like ages to get there, but the birds stuck around. There ended up being a total of (7) Caspian Terns in all, and they did offer a few decent photos ops as they flew back and forth over Haven Road. It was very enjoyable birding, and CATE was my 207th species in Sullivan County, so that is exciting.
After leaving the Bash, I just cruised around southern Orange County to see what I could find. The birding was just the usuals (American Pipits in the black dirt was the highlight), but by a stroke of luck I found a litter of Red Fox kits. They were just awesome – inquisitive to a certain extent, but mostly just very cautious and of course, cute as can be. As much as I enjoyed the terns, these little beasts made my day.
When I first started birding, I remember looking in my bird guide book at Lapland Longspurs and Snow Buntings in breeding plumage. I didn’t realize at the time that it’s extremely unlikely to see either of those birds in breeding plumage unless you travel to their breeding grounds. But then, a few years back, Rob Stone put it in my head that it was possible to get Lapland Longspurs in the early spring in beautiful plumage. I can remember this beautiful bird that I found in early April of 2018 – it was nearly there. But it wasn’t until today that I was finally able to see and capture a LALO in breeding plumage. I was so excited!
I hit the black dirt this morning, hoping mostly for shorebirds, but also hoping for American Pipits, since I’d seen that they were reported on Saturday. Shorebirds were a bust for me, but I did find a flock of approximately 30 pipits; I enjoyed watching and photographing them in the morning rain. Then I located a decent sized flock of Horned Larks in flight. I tracked them with my bins and saw where they put down; I got my scope on them and one of the first birds I saw was a beautiful LALO in breeding plumage. The birds were distant, and I was unable to get photos. I knew I wasn’t going anywhere, so I waited them out and finally got my opportunity. There were at least (3) longspurs in the flock; I have photos of 3 distinct plumages.
On Saturday I took a 6 mile hike at Black Rock Forest. I was just in the mood to take a hike and get my legs moving, but it ended up being surprisingly birdy. I added 10 birds to my OC year list; highlights included Brown Creeper and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Afterwards, I ran for the WILSON’S PHALAROPE that Jeanne Cimorelli reported at the Camel Farm on Friday evening. That’s a really great find and an excellent bird for the county, however I didn’t get too excited about it because between the great distance and the heat shimmer, my looks were pretty terrible.
Good birds in the county continued today to a lesser degree. I was able to locate three female Red-breasted Mergansers at Greenwood Lake early in the morning, and remarkably they were close enough for photos. A little later I joined Rob Stone at the Newburgh Waterfront, where he had located six Bonaparte’s Gulls. We were hoping the 6 were just the beginning, but after scanning for a good while, no additional gulls would join them.
I played golf first thing this morning. While I was playing, my phone was blowing up with some good birds being reported. Bruce Nott had one heck of a morning and located the following birds: A White-winged Scoter at Orange Lake, A Red-necked Grebe at Washington Lake, and a Black-crowned Night-Heron at Masterson Park. I tried for the birds after golf, and it was a little bit comical to me because for all three, I parked my car, got out my gear, and immediately got on the bird. Excellent birds for the county, but unfortunately they were all just a bit too far for decent photos.
I went to the Hudson River afterwards, and had a little bit of luck there as well. At Donahue Memorial Park, I first located a very distant Common Loon; I mean it was miles out there. As I continued scanning, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the loon calling! I was downwind, so I guess that helped the sound travel so well! It was really cool.
I scanned some more and eventually found a pair of distant White-winged Scoters sitting on the river. They eventually picked up and headed north up the river towards Newburgh.
Happy Easter to everyone out there who is celebrating. It was a busy week for me – work was the usual craziness, and then in the evenings Tricia and I spent our time getting prepared to have 11 guests for Easter. So, I got out less than I usually would at this time of the year. The thing about it though, when there is a lot going on in my life like this, I enjoy birding just a little bit more when I am able to get out. I walked Winding Waters Trail at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge early this afternoon, and boy did it feel good to be out and walking a trail on a gorgeous day like today.
Nothing says happy Easter like an angry looking Osprey. Okay, maybe I can think of a few things, lol. Anyways, it’s the time of the year when we get our first of the year for so many birds, so here’s a couple of shots of my first Osprey of the year.
I focused my birding time mostly on waterfowl again this weekend. For the most part it was the same birds we’ve been seeing, but I was able to add (3) new species to my Orange County year list. On Saturday birding bud Bruce Nott let me know he had a Common Loon on Orange Lake (I would find another one at Glenmere Lake on Sunday). Then, I had my first Blue-winged Teal of the year this morning at Beaver Pond in Florida, NY. And finally, I ran to the mouth of the Quassaick Creek where it meets the Hudson River, to catch up with a GREAT CORMORANT located by Bruce earlier in the morning. This was definitely the bird of the weekend (even if my photos weren’t very good). It’s been a number of years since I’ve had that bird in Orange County.