Arctic Blast Black Dirt Birding, 02/04/23

I love these cold, crisp, sunny days. Especially after a long work week with absolutely no birding – it just feels good to be out and about. This morning it was cold enough for me to stick primarily to car birding, so I drove around the black dirt. I made an effort to explore some areas that are a bit off my personal beaten path; it gave me a little bit of sense of exploration even though I was close to home. It was an enjoyable morning with pretty much the usuals. There is still a large flock of Snow Geese in the area – these days they are on the south end of the black dirt, close to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. I found several flocks of Horned Larks but no flocks of Snow Buntings. Sifting through the larks, I was able to find a couple of Lapland Longspurs and a couple of Snow Buntings.

~Horned Lark in the black dirt, 02/04/23.~

I also had several large flocks of blackbirds. These flocks were probably 99% Common Grackles, with just a smattering of Red-winged Blackbirds, Brown-headed Cowbirds, and European Starlings among them. At one point I caught a flash of white in a flying flock – my immediate thought was Yellow-headed Blackbird. I eventually relocated the bird and it was a Common Grackle with several white tail feathers and white at the back of the head. It was a cool looking bird, and it got my heart racing for a minute. Unfortunately the bird did not cooperate for any decent photos.

~Common Grackles galore. Black dirt, 02/04/23.~
~There were 3 Red-tailed Hawks in this tree, and a fourth in another evergreen right next to it. Black dirt region 02/04/23.~
~More Common Grackles in the black dirt, 02/04/23.~

Sunday Shots, 01/29/23

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.

~Snow Geese on Maple Ave on Saturday, 01/28/23.~

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.

~Mostly Herring Gulls, but there is one Ring-billed and one Great Black-backed as well. Can you locate them? Beacon Waterfront, 01/29/23.~
~Roadside Horned Lark in the black dirt, 01/28/23.~
~Snow Geese on a pond in the black dirt, 01/28/23.~

Sunday Shots, 01/22/23

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.

~Cackling Goose on Maple Road, 01/21/23.~

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.

~Great Black-backed Gull in flight over the Hudson River, 01/21/23.~
~I had to use my small lens this weekend (due to the weight of the big lens). I would have liked the little bit of extra reach for this Lapland Longspur. Black dirt 01/22/23.
~One more of the Cackler in the black dirt region, 01/21/23.~

Sunday Shots, 01/15/23

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.

~Northern Harrier in flight at the Liberty Loop, 01/14/23.~

As for yesterday’s waterfowl count, Linda provided me with our results. Note that this is just for the Black Dirt Region:

  • Mute Swan: 2
  • Canada Goose: 2,642
  • Cackling Goose: 2
  • Snow Goose: 5,615
  • Mallard: 31
  • American Black Duck: 13
  • Common Merganser: 3
  • Bufflehead: 1
~Horned Lark on the road in the black dirt, 01/15/23.~
~Young White-crowned Sparrow at the Liberty Loop, 01/14/23~.
~Northern Harrier at the Liberty Loop, 01/14/23.~

Snow Day, 01/14/23

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.

A Couple Coyotes at Sunrise, 01/08/23

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.

~Presumed female Eastern Coyote in the black dirt, 01/08/23.~
~Followed by a presumed male… black dirt 01/08/23.~

Good Birding in Orange County, 01/07/23

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.

~This Cooper’s Hawk was enjoying a meal of pigeon when I arrived at the Newburgh Waterfront this afternoon, 01/07/23.~

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.

~Snow Buntings in the black dirt, 01/07/23.~

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.

~One of two Iceland Gulls at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/07/23. That Herring Gull behind it doesn’t seem impressed, lol.~
~Snow Geese flyover in the black dirt, 01/07/23.~
~One more look at the Coop at the Newburgh Waterfront, 01/07/23.~

Manasquan Inlet, 01/01/23

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.

Note: I’m experiencing some problems with the blog receiving comments. I’m trying to figure out what the problem is… please let me know if you try and comment but can’t – any information will be helpful. Email me at, thanks.

~Bonaparte’s Gull at Manasquan Inlet, 01/01/23.~
~BOGU over the water at Manasquan Inlet, 01/01/23.~
~Sanderling getting flushed by a big wave, Manasquan Inlet 01/01/23.~
~BOGU taking off. Manasquan Inlet 01/01/23.~
~Sanderlings in the sun. Manasqan Inlet, 01/01/23.~

2022 Year in Review

Honest to goodness, the years go by faster and faster as I get older. Today puts yet another year of birding in the books, and as always, I like to take the opportunity to look back on my year here at I had an enjoyable year where I once again focused on the birds and the types of birding that brought me the most joy. That said, I end the year with a respectable 209 birds in Orange County. And, I put some effort towards getting my Sullivan County life list over 200 birds; I added 12 species, putting my total life birds for the county at 206.

~My 204th bird in Sullivan County: Red-necked Phalarope at Morningside Park 08/15/22.~

For this year’s wrap up post, I thought I would look back month by month at the year’s highlights here on the blog.

JANUARY: The year got off to a sad start when I located a sick Iceland Gull at the Beacon waterfront. I brought it to a veterinary hospital, but ultimately the bird was too far gone and passed away there. Things could only go up from there for the month, and I was able to get some really good birds for the area, including the MOUNTAIN BLUEBIRD in Ulster County, CANVASBACKS close to home at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, a LARK SPARROW in Campbell Hall, and the continuing FRANKLINS GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront.

FEBRUARY: Always a favorite, I was able to catch up with the NORTHERN SHRIKE at Wickham Woodlands Park several times. I also was able to get on my first CACKLING GOOSE in a good while. At the end of the month I went to Long Island to visit my dad, and was able to do some good gulling, with Iceland, Glaucous, and Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the north shore.

~Lark Sparrow in Campbell Hall, 01/23/22.~

MARCH: I continued to enjoy wintery birding in OC, particularly in the black dirt and at the Newburgh Waterfront. My best birds of the month included a large flock of Snow Geese in the black dirt, RED CROSSBILLS at Black Rock Forest, and one of my few good finds this year – four TUNDRA SWANS in muddy field on Celery Avenue.

APRIL: After work on the 19th, I enjoyed the excellent waterfowl fallout at Wickham Lake. Birds included a remarkable 13 White-winged Scoters, a couple of Long-tailed Ducks, and 21 Horned Grebes. Other highlights from the month include a single CASPIAN TERN and 19 BONAPARTE’S GULLS, both at Plum Point.

~Bonaparte’s Gulls at Plum Point, 04/23/22.~

MAY: There were two very exciting birding events in May. On the 13th there was the unprecedented number of ARCTIC TERNS found inland – I followed up on Karen Miller’s report and had 7 at Glenmere Lake. Then, towards the end of the month, a NEOTROPIC CORMORANT was found by Bruce Nott and Ken McDermott. I also went on my first 24 hour pelagic, where I picked up 3 life birds (Sooty Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-petrel, and Leach’s Storm-petrel). Tricia and I spent some time in Cape Cod, and the blog celebrated its 10 year anniversary.

JUNE: Birding started to take on a summery doldrums feel. Exciting birds included a GRASSHOPPER SPARROW and a DICKCISSEL in the black dirt. I also saw my first black bear in quite a while, while hiking at Sterling Forest.

~Arctic Tern at Glenmere Lake, 5/13/22.~
~Dickcissel singing in the black dirt, 06/11/22.~

JULY: Summer birding kicked in for sure. I did a good amount of hiking. A photo I took of a beaver at Black Rock Forest made it into their 2023 calendar. Birding highlights included excellent looks at an AMERICAN BITTERN at the Liberty Loop and a very accommodating LITTLE BLUE HERON at Algonquin Park.

AUGUST: August was an excellent month for shorebirds for me. Local exciting birds included: UPLAND SANDPIPER, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, RED-NECKED PHALAROPE (and SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS), MARBLED GODWIT, and RUDDY TURNSTONE.

~Marbled Godwit at the Liberty Loop, Sussex County side, 08/22/22.~

SEPTEMBER: Hawkwatch began. I enjoyed seeing BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS in the black dirt and there was a GLOSSY IBIS at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. At the end of the month, Tricia and I went on vacation in Maine, which included several days on Monhegan Island.

OCTOBER: I was still seeing some good shorebirds in the black dirt, including more BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS, as well as WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS. Hawkwatch continued but was mostly uneventful. On the 28th I enjoyed 13 species of waterfowl at Wickham Lake, including a SURF SCOTER.

~BLACK GUILLEMOT on the ferry ride to Monhegan Island, Maine, 09/27/22.~
~Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the black dirt, 10/15/22.~

NOVEMBER: Hawkwatch wrapped up – it was the first season in a while that I did not record a migrating Golden Eagle. But, there were plenty of good birds during the month, including my lifer YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, a nice look at a RED-THROATED LOON at Piermont Pier, a BRANT at the waterfront, and 7 BLACK SCOTERS on Wickham Lake.

DECEMBER: December brought even more good birds. I enjoyed close looks of the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on State School Road, got lucky with the Ulster County ROSS’S GOOSE and LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE on the same day, saw the SURF SCOTER with 2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS at Rondout Reservoir, and I got my county lifer ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER at the Newburgh Waterfront.

~Greater White-fronted Goose in the rain on State School Road in Warwick, 12/3/22.~


Here’s my personal top 10 photos that I took in the past 12 months. I start with my favorite shot of the year – the Red-necked Phalarope at Morningside Park, and then I continue from there. I noticed this year how much the species seemed to weigh in on my decisions – many of my favorites are featured.

As always, I’d like to thank all my birding friends that have helped to make another great year of birding (you know who you are). I’d also like to thank everyone for reading the blog, especially those of you who subscribe and if you are a commenter please keep it up -I live for the comments! Happy New Year to everyone, here’s to another great year of birding in 2022

~Red-necked Phalarope at Morningside Park, 08/15/22.~
~Horned Lark in the snowy black dirt, 02/13/22.~
~Northern Mockingbird in the black dirt, 06/04/22.~
~Lesser Yellowlegs at Weskeag Marsh, 09/29/22.~
~Mountain Bluebird at Esopus Meadows Preserve, 01/16/22.~
~Snow Bunting in the black dirt, 02/05/22.~
~It’s been a while since a Short-eared Owl made my top ten. SEOW in the black dirt, 03/02/22.~
~Pied-billed Grebe at Morningside Park, 08/21/22.~
~Northern Harrier in flight, Liberty Loop 09/04/22.~
~This one made the top ten purely because it’s a Northern Shrike! Wickham Lake 02/20/22.~

More OC Gulls, 12/30/22

I didn’t work today, so I spent a nice long day of birding. It was an enjoyable day in spite of not really finding anything out of the ordinary. I birded the black dirt briefly in the early morning and then headed up to the Grasslands. I met up with Jodi Brodsky to try for the Loggerhead Shrike, but unfortunately, we had no luck. It was a good morning for raptors, however. Between the black dirt and the the Grasslands, I had a total of 8 raptor species: Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Sharp-shinned Hawk, and American Kestrel. Somehow I still don’t have Rough-legged Hawk this season.

~Ring-billed Gull at the Newburgh Waterfront, 12/30/22.~

In the afternoon, Jodi and I joined Bruce Nott at the Newburgh Waterfront to look for gulls. We had one first winter Iceland Gull waaaay out in the river, but besides that, we just had the 3 expected species. Later in the afternoon the light got really nice, so I took a bunch of photos; I always enjoy photographing these light colored gulls in the late day sun with the dark river as a background.

~Ring-billed Gull showing off it’s “bastard wings” or alula as they are called.~
~Herring Gull zipping by the boat launch, 12/30/22.~
~Ring-billed Gull, Newburgh Waterfront 12/30/22.~
~I have this as a first winter Great Black-backed Gull. Newburgh 12/30/22.~
~One more Ring-billed Gull, Newburgh NY 12/30/22.~