Waterfowl Weekend

~A Common Loon enjoys what looks like a small crab. Five Islands Park, Westchester County, 02/24/18.~

Well, it was an interesting birding weekend, that’s for sure. Things are happening and birds are on the move, particularly waterfowl. Things got started on Friday afternoon, when Rob Stone located over 60(!) REDHEADS in a small pond on Breeze Hill Road in New Hampton. I was unable to get there before sundown, but apparently several local birders were able to.  I’ve only had Redheads one time in Orange County, and to get over sixty must have been amazing.

~Common Mergansers shifting around the lake, Wickham Lake 02/24/18.~

On Saturday, I was at Breeze Hill Road at sunrise but the birds had already moved on (there was just one lonely Ring-necked Duck left!). I made the rounds hitting several OC ponds and lakes; I had a total of 12 different species of waterfowl:

GLENMERE LAKE & POND: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, Mallard, Amer. Black Duck, GREATER SCAUP, Bufflehead, and Hooded Merganser.

WICKHAM LAKE: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Bufflehead, Gadwall, American Wigeon, GREATER SCAUP, Ring-necked Duck, and Common Merganser.

GREENWOOD LAKE: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Amer. Wigeon, and Common Merganser.

INDIAN KILL RESERVOIR: Canada Goose and Common Merganser.

Common Mergansers were the bird of the day; there were easily over 200 at Wickham Lake and maybe another hundred or so at Greenwood Lake. Sterling Lake was nearly 100% still frozen over, which was surprising to me.

~Ring-billed Gull at Five Island Park in Westchester County, 02/24/18.~ 

In the afternoon, I decided to try for the Black-headed Gull that has been reported at Five Island Park in Westchester County. I had no luck with the gull, but I did well with waterfowl, tallying 14 species: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Gadwall, Mallard, Amer. Black Duck, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, RED-THROATED LOON, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Great Cormorant, and a skein of over 100 TUNDRA SWANS! I had pulled off the road to get a look at a falcon in flight (by the time I pulled over the bird was out of view). Searching for the falcon, I saw a large skein of birds. I first figured Canada Geese – but no, they were white. My mind went immediately to Snow Geese and I took a few quick pics and jumped back in my car; I was blocking someone in where I had stopped. It wasn’t until I got home an looked at the pics that I realized they were swans. I reached out to John Haas and Rob Stone and both indicated Tundra were likely. Then I put it on NY Birders/Facebook and learned through that post that there was huge Tundra Swan movement yesterday.

~Now that’s a lot of swans! And that’s not even the entire skein! TUNDRA SWANS in flight, New Rochelle, NY 02/24/18. 

On Sunday morning I made the rounds in the black dirt, hoping that maybe some Tundra Swans had put down there. Unfortunately, I did not have any luck with the TUSWs. I did have four swans fly and land out in Liberty Marsh, which prompted me to walk the Liberty Loop in the rain. I only found Mute Swans, but the refuge is full of ducks right now and most seem to be Northern Pintails. I checked Glenmere and Wickham but there were no new birds at either location. On my way out of Wickham, I had over 500 gulls in a field. I sorted through them, hoping for something good, I found 494 Ring-billed Gulls and 6 Herring Gulls. Interestingly, one of the RBGUs that I photographed had been banded with a silver band. In my pics I could only make out part of the writing: WH…. LAUR… 794…. I can’t remember seeing a gull banded before, so I thought that was interesting.

~Banded Ring-billed Gull, Warwick NY, 01/25/18.~ 
~Not something you see every day, a Ring-billed Gull with cattle in the background. I had a really nice conversation with the farmer that owns this land and he was telling me that he has always used birds and bird behavior in correlation to weather patterns/season changes. He also said that he convinced a local hunting club to stop hunting coyotes and ever since they have noticed a decline in the “local” Canada Goose population, which apparently can be a problem.~ 

On a final note, I want to mention that Kathy Ashman had a pair of Northern Goshawks at what I call Glenmere Pond (the small pond just up the road from Glenmere Lake). Heartbreakingly, I was with her at the pond but left just a few minutes too soon and missed the birds. Congrats to Kathy, that’s a great OC bird, I look forward to getting one someday…

6 thoughts on “Waterfowl Weekend”

  1. Hey Matt,
    Well, I guess all the waterfowl that have departed from our winter digs here in Florida have found their way up to you folks. While the ducks were abundant during the month of January, we now are limited to a good number of Blue-winged teal and then a smattering of scaup, pintails, a couple of wigeon, several shovelers, and that’s about it! It is fun watching the herons, cormorants and others beginning to nest down here and our first warblers are already making it into the neighbourhood. My traditional first sign of spring the Northern parula actually showed up well ahead of schedule several weeks ago. Crazy winter/spring.

    1. It’s interesting to get your perspective on early migration. Hard to believe you’ve had N. Parula already. When do you come back north?


      1. We’ll head north in late April. Usually, we say we’re chasing the warblers back home. But it looks like they may already be there when we arrive! Hard to say why the strange scheduling of their migration patterns. We’re right on the ocean and in years past, it’s not unusual to see dozens of Northern gannets out over the sea. This year, they are very few and far between! Mother Nature can be fickle. If you ever get down here in the south, we’d love to host you and show you around some of our favourite birding haunts.

        1. Be careful what you say Dave, I may just take you up on that offer. It’s been an interesting spring already, I’ll be interested to see how warbler migration goes up this way. See you sometime late April or shortly thereafter. Matt

    1. Oh, Chris you are breaking my heart. I figured I would see some here in OC today, but I had no luck. That must have been excellent to see. Matt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *