I enjoyed an excellent morning/early afternoon of birding at Kowawese Unique Area at Plum Point. Birding bud Bruce Nott let me know he had some good birds on the Hudson River earlier in the morning, so I went over to check it out. Looking out onto the rainy and foggy river from the shelter of the park’s pavilion, it was a slow start, but over approximately three hours of birding I accumulated some good birds:
At least 15 Common Loons
A fly-by of nearly 20 Bonaparte’s Gulls,
(5) Long-tailed Ducks
A GREAT CORMORANT
A Skein of approximately 175 Brant
A fly-by of (14) Northern Pintails
A flock Scaup (species) see photo below
And the usuals: Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, (3) Bald Eagles, Double-crested Cormorants, and American Black Ducks.
Based on the weather forecast, I had very low expectations going into today’s hawkwatch at Mount Peter. I was expecting it to be uncomfortably warm with a non-existent flight. But, there was a cool breeze all day which kept it very comfortable on the viewing platform and there were enough migrating raptors to keep it interesting. The highlight for me, however, was not raptor related. I had (4) skeins of BRANT fly over, with a total of approximately 450 birds. I always hope that I’m up at Mt. Pete when Brant come through, and today I was lucky. As always, I’ve included my full report at the bottom of this post.
It was an interesting weekend in local birding. On Friday afternoon, Linda Scrima located a NORTHERN WHEATEAR in the black dirt. On Saturday morning, it was raining (as usual this fall), so I was able to spend some time searching for the bird. Unfortunately I didn’t have any luck, but I enjoyed another rainy morning in the black dirt, seeing the absolutely massive numbers of American Pipits, and I also found an unlikely sparrow for this time of year – a late Grasshopper Sparrow.
I also enjoyed a nice look a Merlin:
In the afternoon, when the rain stopped, I managed to squeeze in two and a half hours at Mount Peter Hawkwatch. I had 15 migrating raptors, including another Merlin and a Peregrine Falcon. I’ve included my full report at the bottom of this post.
On Sunday morning, I found a Long-billed Dowitcher at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh. This is a species which we don’t see all that regularly in Orange County; I believe that today was my just 4th siting in the 13 years I’ve birded OC.
After an early morning of unremarkable birding at Winding Waters Trail, I headed up to Mount Peter to see if any raptors were flying. I was not prepared for what the mountain had in store for us today. When I arrived, Ken Witkowski informed that Turkey Vultures were moving in numbers. He wasn’t kidding; he had over 130 the hour before, and we topped that the next hour with 199! They were actually kettling up! Tom Millard joined us shortly after I arrived, and the three of us enjoyed some of the best hawk watching I can recall in recent years.
I couldn’t help but think of the epic day we had at Mt. Pete in October of 2021, when we counted over 850 migrating Turkey Vultures in an afternoon. Today didn’t quite reach those heights, but a total of 636 migrating TUVUs were counted today. Plus, we also had loads of other migrating raptors; they came through in decent numbers and with an excellent variety (11 different migrating species counted). See Ken and Tom’s full report below for more details. What a great day – it was a cool fall day, with a beautiful sky, excellent company, and absolutely loads of migrating raptors.
I’ve had rotten luck this year with hawkwatch – I got rained out again today. Between vacation and poor weather, it’s mid October and I’ve only counted at Mt. Peter Hawk for grand total of 10.5 hours. I did enjoy some good birding today in lieu counting raptors. After checking in at Mt. Pete to assure it was in fact raining up there, I went to the black dirt, where some good shorebirds continue, including (40+) Killdeer, (6) American Golden-Plover, (1) Black-bellied Plover, (1) Pectoral Sandpiper, and (1) Wilson’s Snipe. I was also pleased to find a nice sized flock of American Pipits; always a favorite of mine.
Afterwards, I checked in with Bruce Nott, hoping that the recently reported Laughing Gull was seen at the Newburgh Waterfront today. Unfortunately it hadn’t been seen, but he let me know that there was a young Lesser Black-backed Gull present. I ran for the gull, and it did not disappoint – what a beauty! I really enjoyed seeing and photographing this sharp looking bird.
Just when I was beginning to think that fall shorebird migration was winding down, I enjoyed an excellent morning of shorebirding in the black dirt with birding bud Bruce Nott. Dodging raindrops as the rain persisted on and off all morning, we enjoyed finding over 60 individuals and (7) species of shorebirds:
Black Bellied Plover (4)
American Golden Plover (6)
Pectoral Sandpiper (37)
Semipalmated Sandpiper (3)
Lesser Yellowlegs (5)
When the rain finally cleared out of the area for a while, I went to Mount Peter to count hawks (I was the official counter for the day). It was windy and much cooler on the mountain, but unfortunately not too many raptors were migrating through. In two hours of observation, I had only 7 migrants, the highlight being an adult Bald Eagle.
Last week, Tricia and I spent 7 fabulous days on Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine. The weather was spectacular, and while most of the birders on the island (and there are plenty of them) considered the birding to be on the slow side, there was still plenty of birds to be found. I observed a total of 73 species for the week (5 better than last year), and even managed to get a lifer (Philadelphia Vireo). I’ll include a complete species list at the bottom of this post.
For me, there are two different birding approaches to take on the island. The first I’ll call birder-birding. It’s a very small island, and as I indicated above, there are loads of birders around. If you are a social birder, this is the style of birding you will excel at. It’s not my forte, but I did my best to stay in touch with the other birders and to hit all the known hotspots each morning to see if anything new came in. Interestingly, most of the hotspots are right in town. It’s definitely the most productive birding you can do on the island. Plus you get to meet some really great people. Some not-so-great people too, but that comes with the birding territory (and life in general, I guess). My best birder-birding species included: Lark Sparrow, Philadelphia Vireo, White-crowned Sparrow, Virginia Rail, Sora, Rusty Blackbird, and Northern Waterthrush.
The second approach is what I call adventure birding. This is my preferred style – I think I walked every single trail on the island this week. I wish I’d tracked all my hikes, but I estimate that I probably hiked 40-50 miles (and many of the trails are not easy going, especially along Cliff Trail #1). While it’s generally less productive, I really enjoy the sense of adventure and potential in this type of birding. I include doing a seawatch in this style because I get the same feelings while doing one – you never know what you’ll see looking far out over the ocean! Species highlights from this kind of birding included: Great Cormorant, Laughing Gull (Herring and Great Black-backed are the only expected gulls), Broad-winged Hawk (any buteo is considered rare on the island), Surf and Black Scoters, and plenty of Northern Gannetts. Plus, while I was at it, I got to see whales, dolphins, and seals.
As always, I took loads of photos. I hope you enjoy them – I’m including a lot in this post, I hope it’s not overkill.
Tricia and I spent the week on Monhegan Island, a small island in Lincoln County Maine, approximately 12 nautical miles off the coast. We went to the island last year at this same time; click here to see my blog post from that visit. It’s a perfect vacation for us, as it’s an established artist’s retreat as well as a fabulous birding destination. It was a great week, but I have loads of photos to get through before I’ll be able to post. Here’s a look at one of the many Black Guillemots I saw over the week… stayed tuned for a full report.