After work on Monday evening, I went to Wickham Lake hoping for new waterfowl or maybe even some gulls. Unfortunately I didn’t have any luck on either count. There was, however, a good number of swallows present, including my first Northern Rough-winged Swallows of the year. Along with the NRW Swallows were a handful of Barn Swallows and more than 100 Tree Swallows. Without much else going on, and with the light pretty good from time to time, I decided to try much luck photographing swallows in flight. It was my first time doing this with my new 500mm lens, and it made it challenging. I shot freehand on this day, but I think next time I’ll see how I do with the monopod. It was a nice way to spend a Monday evening.
Well, in spite of still waiting for spring migration to really kick in, I had a satisfying weekend of birding. I spent Saturday morning at the Hudson River, but aside from the continuing Iceland Gull, it was uneventful. That gull frustrated me because it was on the floating docks at the Newburgh Waterfront, not too far out, but the bird kept its back to me and it was backlit to boot. I successfully chased a Long-tailed Duck at Orange Lake (thanks Bruce), and picked up a Red-breasted Merganser as a bonus. On my way out, I stopped at Gardenertown Road and patience paid off as I was able to locate 2 Wilson’s Snipe after some extensive searching.
Saturday afternoon I walked the Liberty Loop for the first time in ages. IT was a pleasant, if uneventful walk. Highlights included: American Coot, Common Gallinule, and my first Lesser Yellowlegs of the year. All three highlight birds were located on the Sussex County side of the loop.
Sunday morning I checked a number of lakes in southern Orange County, looking for new waterfowl or Bonaparte’s Gulls. For the most part I came up empty, but did manage to find a distant Horned Grebe in beautiful plumage at Round Lake. I stopped to use the restroom at Sterling Forest, and on my way out I had one of my best birds of the day, a Pine Warbler. I had to run to the car for my camera, but fortunately the bird lingered for me. A quick cruise through the black dirt yielded nothing of note, so I called it a day.
This morning started out well, I was able to add two new Orange County year birds at my second stop – Solitary Sandpiper and Blue-winged Teal at Beaver Pond near Glenmere Lake. The rest of the day proved to be uneventful. Wickham Lake held no new birds. I tried Greenwood Lake but it was socked in with fog. I stopped at Round Lake and photographed a Bufflehead. Then I headed to the Hudson River where the birds were on the scarce side. It was a tough day for pics with few opportunities and poor light. I had my best photo op of the day with a Great Blue Heron in the pond near my house, just before finishing up for the day.
I’ve enjoyed some good birding in recent days. I got out on both Thursday and Friday evenings after work and a couple of times today. In those three days I was able to add 10 species to my Orange County 2021 list:
- Barn Swallow, 4/8 at Wickham Lake
- Osprey, 4/8 at Wickham Lake
- Palm Warbler, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
- Swamp Sparrow, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
- American Coot, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
- Virginia Rail, 4/9 at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary
- Eastern Meadowlark, 4/10 at Wisner Road
- Chipping Sparrow, 4/10 at Greenwood Lake
- BONAPARTE’S GULL, 4/10 at Washington Lake
- PECTORAL SANDPIPER, 4/10 at Lynch Road in the black dirt
Other good birds included a distant Common Loon at Greenwood Lake this morning, and excellent looks at an immature ICELAND GULL at the Newburgh Waterfront. Huge thanks to Bruce Nott for reporting both the Bonaparte’s and the Iceland Gulls. Also thanks to Maria Loukeris for letting me know about the post regarding the Pectoral Sandpiper on the Mearns Facebook page – thanks to Amy Klein for posting it.
Happy Easter to everyone that celebrates. It’s been a quiet one here; hopefully the last quiet holiday of this rotten pandemic. This week was mostly uneventful as far as the birding goes. I got out often, but without many exciting birds nor good photo ops. On Wednesday I went out to Lynch Avenue in the black dirt to chase the Wilson’s Snipe that had been reported by Bruce Nott and Linda Scrima. It was nice to get a shorebird in Orange County that wasn’t a Killdeer. Yesterday I only had the early morning to bird and today I got out all morning. I spent both morning checking lakes and the Hudson River, mostly for ducks but also on the off chance of a Bonaparte’s Gull or a Caspian Tern (no luck on either). I added Ruddy Duck to my OC list yesterday morning at Glenmere, and I added Lesser Scaup (Orange Lake) and Common Loon (Greenwood Lake) to it this morning. Anyways, here’s some shots from the week.
So I took the plunge this week. My buddy Kyle Dudgeon was looking to upgrade his equipment, so he offered me a great deal on his Canon 500mm f/4 Mark I lens. It was an offer couldn’t resist, especially since I know that this particular lens is capable of taking spectacular shots – you can check out some of the work Kyle did with it here. I never really pictured myself upgrading to such a large lens, but I have to say, a week into it and I’m hooked.
Kyle warned me that there would be a learning curve before getting optimal results with this lens, and that has certainly shown to be true; I’ve had a real mixed bag of results. But, I like where it is heading, and I’m looking forward to learning some new things. I’m also looking forward to getting some more decent opportunities with birds, because this week was sort of a dud for me with not many opportunities.
I met up with my brother-in-law Bill this morning and we hiked the Bearfort Ridge and Surprise Lake Loop, which is located just west of the southernmost point of Greenwood Lake. It’s an 8 mile loop, and AllTrails includes its rating as moderate. For someone in my shape, I think that means you only have a moderate cardiac event when you hike it. Actually, after the first mile, where we climbed approximately 700 feet, it wasn’t too bad. But, wow that first mile was a doozy.
The weather was perfect, mostly sunny and just cool enough. There are many good lookouts throughout the trail, and we could see New York City from several of them. As for the birds, Turkey Vulture was the bird of the day. They were often overhead and we had a pair of them perched looking over West Pond. Other raptors included at least a couple of Red-shouldered Hawks and a Red-tailed Hawk. The best bird of the day was a couple of Fox Sparrows which Bill spotted rooting around the leaf litter under some trees. A small flock of Golden-crowned Kinglets were a close second place.
In the end, it took us approximately 5 hours to hike the 8 mile loop. That was with plenty of stops for rests, taking in the views, and some birding. When we got back to the cars, we dug into our lunches. Tuna on rye never tasted so good.
I’ve become more and more obsessed with gulls, so I’ve been spending a lot of time with my ‘Gulls Simplified’ book by Pete Dunne and Kevin T. Karlson, and on the Facebook page North American Gulls. It’s put me in the mind of just trying to get out and enjoy the gulls while I still can. Our “season” for good gulling is quickly coming to a close. So, I headed out to the Newburgh Waterfront this evening to see what was going on. Gull numbers are certainly down a bit, but there were still plenty of birds to enjoy.
Unfortunately, most of the gulls were WAY out, and the heat shimmer was making it too difficult to sort through them. So instead, I focused on the nearby birds; they were mostly Ring-billed Gulls, but there was also a handful of immature Herring Gulls (HERG) and what I believe was a single immature Great Black-backed Gull (GBBG). I hope I am correct, otherwise this post will be a total embarrassing bust, lol. The bird (above) shows what Dunne and Karlson refer to as ‘piano keyed appearance’, it was slightly larger than nearby HERGs, and had a noticeable overall whiteness to it, compared to the more drab brown look of the HERG (below).
Both are good looking birds, but I have to say I’m partial to the GBBG, it’s a handsome beast. As the sun started to set and it cooled a bit, I was able to go through some of the distant gulls – nearly all Herring Gulls, with one adult Great Black-backed Gull and an Immature ICELAND GULL. Good gulling!
I headed up north to Ashokan Reservoir in Ulster County this morning to try and catch up with the RED CROSSBILLS which have been reported there in recent days. On my way up I became convinced that I’d waited one day too many, but fortunately I was wrong and the birds continued. I got nice looks and just so-so photo ops of these fantastic birds. I also ran into Rick Hansen and PJ Singh; it was really good to see the two of them and enjoy the birds with them.
I was out and about on Saturday too; it was mostly unremarkable birding but very pleasant to be out of the house and birding. Here’s a few shots from the day.
I can remember, way back when, when I was just starting birding and I had just begun this blog (nearly 9 years ago now!), I always wanted to photograph male Hooded Mergansers. They are a fabulous looking bird, and while these days I’m not quite as enamored with them as I used to be, it was nice to happen upon one this morning at Greenwood Lake. The drake was accompanied by two females and I had some good timing and was able to get some decent shots.