I went out this morning in search of waterfowl. I checked several lakes and ponds in southern Orange County, and finished up at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Marsh. In all, I totaled 17 species of waterfowl. My best bird was Common Loon, of which I found four individuals at three different locations. The hottest spot was definitely Liberty Marsh, which I walked in the rain. Below I’ve included a complete list of species seen, with locations.
Canada Goose (Glenmere Lake, Beaver Pond, Wickham Lake, & Greenwood Lake)
Mute Swan (Wickham Lake, Liberty Marsh)
Wood Duck (Glenmere, Wickham, Walton, & Liberty Marsh)
Yesterday morning, Linda Scrima joined me, as I headed back to Black Rock Forest. I was hoping for a better look and photos of the Red Crossbills, and Linda was hoping to get them for the first time in Orange County. We had success on one count, as we saw and heard the birds several times and Linda was able to get some documentary shots of the birds, but the birds never really cooperated for better looks/photos. The area by Tamarack Pond is really a fun spot to bird and many good birds continued (Red-breasted Nuthatch, Fox Sparrow, many Golden-crowned Kinglets, Purple Finches, and Brown Creepers).
On our way out, we ran into Ken McDermott who was trying for the birds. He reported later that afternoon that he’d been successful, pushing his total birds in Orange Count to an absolutely astounding 305 species. Congrats Ken!
Well, my good luck continued for another day. This morning I headed to Black Rock Forest to try for the Red Crossbills that have been reported there recently. I enjoyed the 3 mile hike to Tamarack Pond, in spite of the relatively cold and windy conditions. I didn’t have many birds until I got to the area of the pond, where there were plenty of birds, some of them really good, including a couple of Fox Sparrows, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, and a Brown Creeper.
But, it took over two hours of looking and listening and wandering the area before finding my target birds. I heard a call that I did not immediately recognize, as I made my way towards the call, two birds popped up out of an evergreen and landed on a leafless tree. I was able to snap some shots before the birds took off; I got enough to at least document:
The hike back to the car was nearly bird-free, but I was feeling pretty good about things and didn’t mind at all. I made a quick stop at the Newburgh Waterfront afterwards, but it seemed quiet there and I had only the 3 expected species of gull present (Ring-billed, Herring, and Great Black-backed).
Yard Birds 2022: (33) – no new birds since my last post.
I’ve been on a little bit of a roll, getting some pretty good birds the last few days. Thursday evening after work I went to Wickham Lake, where I found four distant Red-necked Grebes. I put the word out and a friend responded by saying they had an Eastern Screech-Owl in their yard and I should come over. I don’t mind if I do! It was a beautiful bird and I got some decent photos in spite of the low light conditions. It’s been a while since I’ve had either of those birds, so that was quite a night.
On Friday I went into the office for work and decided to stop by the Newburgh Waterfront on my way home. I had a hunch about Bonaparte’s Gull – the timing is just about right – and I wasn’t disappointed. On a night where I had mostly Ring-billed and Herring Gulls and just a couple of Great Black-backed Gulls, the BOGU was a welcome find. The bird spent most of the time feeding on the water; I was enjoying the elegant manner in which it picked things off the surface of the water.
This morning I headed to Cooley Bog in Sullivan County, to try for the Red Crossbills located there by John Haas last week. While I didn’t enjoy the great looks that folks had earlier in the week, I did get to hear one bird singing and I witnessed a couple calling flyovers. There were plenty of good birds around, but unfortunately not being very accommodating. Highlights included loads of Pine Siskins, several Red-breasted Nuthatches, a singing Winter Wren, a Red-shouldered Hawk, and a couple of Brown Creepers.
From there I went to the area known as the Beechwoods Area. It’s located in the area between Jeffersonville and Hortonville New York, and it’s a good spot for some car birding, which was just what I was looking for since it was snowing and raining on and off. In his book A Birding Guide to Sullivan County NY, John Haas provides directions for a nice birding loop you can drive. My target bird was Eastern Meadowlark, which I found almost as soon as I arrived, on Reum Road. Otherwise it was an enjoyable drive with plenty of the usuals.
I added 3 Sullivan County life birds (Red Crossbill, Brown Creeper, and Eastern Meadowlark) for the day, moving me a little bit closer to my goal of breaking 200 birds in SC this year. My total is now at 197.
Yard Birds 2022: Holding steady at 33 – I didn’t add any new birds this week.
Yesterday afternoon I located 4 TUNDRA SWANS in a field on Celery Avenue in New Hampton. They were far and away the highlight of the weekend. I spotted the birds as I was driving, and I was immediately excited, as I was sure they had to be either Tundra or Trumpeter Swans. When I got the birds in the scope, I could see a yellow spot at the base of the bill on both birds, indicative of Tundra. The birds appeared to be a family unit, with 2 adults and 2 younger birds. While I was looking at the swans, I heard a distant, familiar call. I looked straight up and 3 Sandhill Cranes were flying high overhead; they flew northeast until they were out of sight.
This afternoon the birds were still in the area, but had moved to the fields on Onion Avenue. I’m assuming it was the same group of birds; they were quite distant, so I wasn’t really able to make out the field marks as well as I would have liked, but with 2 adults and 2 young birds about a 1/4 mile away from where I had them the day before, I think this is a safe assumption.
The rest of my birding weekend was relatively unremarkable. I hit many of my usual spots – the black dirt, Wickham Lake, Greenwood Lake (totally fogged in), the Liberty Loop, Reservoir 3 in Port Jervis, and some places here and there in between. I was curious as to which birds and how many I’d observed over the weekend – I had a total of 65 species, and I’ve included a complete list at the bottom of this post.
Yard Birds 2022: (33) Species. This week I added Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird, and Great Blue Heron.
I guess winter isn’t over yet. After yesterday’s messy snow, we woke up to temperatures in the high teens this morning. I’m of two minds about it – one part of me is enjoying these last days of winter birding and the other is ready for some warm weather and new birds. Truth be told, many of my favorites are only here in the winter, so I’ve really enjoyed and tried to relish this winter, even when it was super cold.
Last night I went back to the Hudson River, hoping to get a look at the adult Glaucous Gull which had been reported on Friday. No luck with that bird; my best bird was a distant 1st winter Iceland Gull.
This morning I headed back out to the black dirt. A Ross’s and a Greater White-fronted Goose were reported yesterday evening; both of those birds were on my mind, but no luck there. I did catch up with several Lapland Longspurs – a couple had some great looking plumage, but never came close enough for photos. An American Pipit landed close to me several times, giving me some excellent photo ops. I’d put on my 1.4x extender since the longspurs were keeping their distance; it’s been ages since I’ve used it and I was pretty happy with the results.
Before we know it, spring will finally have sprung, so I’m happy to enjoy winter’s last hurrah.
I got out really early this morning in an effort to get as much birding in before the snow got too bad. I played a hunch and arrived at the Beacon Waterfront not too long after sunrise. I was rewarded with a beautiful first winter Iceland Gull perched on a tent on one of the docks. Not the prettiest perch, but I was still thrilled. I photographed the bird and hoped it would change perches, but alas it eventually took off and flew northeast without even a look back.
I checked the Newburgh Waterfront afterwards; there wasn’t much going on, so I headed out to the black dirt just as it started snowing. Once in the black dirt, one of my first birds was a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk. It was snowing quite a bit, but the birds were active. I found many Horned Larks and spent most of the morning looking through them, searching for my main target of the morning: Lapland Longspur. I eventually did locate one; its plumage was pretty nice, but this far into March I was hoping for better. A small flock of Snow Geese flew overhead, and I was eventually able to relocate them. They blended in very well in a distant snowy field.
The snow was starting to accumulate pretty good, so I headed home. I passed through Lynch Avenue, where in a flooded field I had 4 Northern Pintails with a group of Mallards and Canada Geese. I missed the Wilson’s Snipe which had been reported there, mostly because a large plow was coming through and I needed to get out of the way and get my butt safely home.
Yard Birds 2022: (30) – I added Red-shouldered Hawk and Ring-billed Gull since my last post. I will also mention that yesterday evening I had a white-winged gull fly over the house. It happened too quickly to get a photo; my impression was that the bird was likely an Iceland Gull, but I can’t be sure.
I got my best birds of the weekend right after work on Friday evening. I met Karen Miller at the main boat launch at Bashakill WMA; we walked the Birch Trail to find the TUNDRA SWANS which were located earlier in the week by John Haas. It was a gorgeous evening, and we enjoyed our walk in spite of having to be careful because of the icy conditions on the trail. The birds were still present; we were able to locate 12 of the 15 reported birds. Unfortunately they were quite distant and partly obscured by vegetation. Scope views were beautiful, but photos were tough. I’ve included a documentary shot at the bottom of this post.
Saturday morning I tried for the Northern Shrike at Wickham Woodlands Park, but was unsuccessful. From there I headed over to the black dirt, where I sorted through Canada Geese and flocks of mixed blackbirds looking for rarities; I came up empty. Then, on Onion Avenue, I was pleasantly surprised to find a large flock of Snow Geese. I’d seen reports of Snow Geese during the week, but I was under the impression that the birds had moved on. My estimate was approximately 4-5 thousand birds present. It wasn’t long after I found a nice pull off and grabbed my scope, that a model airplane flushed all the birds. It was quite a spectacle, of course, but I was disappointed to not have the opportunity to try and locate a Ross’s Goose among the flock.
I tried for gulls at the Newburgh Waterfront on Saturday evening, but unfortunately it was a dud and I only was able to locate the 3 expected species of gull.
On Sunday morning I went out to the black dirt to try and relocate the Snow Geese. I was only able to find a couple of smaller groups, but one of them was close enough for some decent photos. I received a report in the early afternoon of approximately 2,500 SNGOs, so it’s good to know at least some of the birds have stuck around.
Early Sunday afternoon Tricia and I went to Wickham Lake. There is now plenty of open water. It was an enjoyable visit, with plenty of birds to keep it interesting: Ring-billed Gulls, Herring Gulls, 2-300 Common Mergansers, an adult Bald Eagle, and a very noisy mixed flock of blackbirds which you could hear clear across the lake.
Yard Birds 2022: (28) Species. I added Fish Crow this week.
After yesterday’s gull excitement, today was pretty much a dud. I birded locally; cruising the black dirt early, tried and failed with the Northern Shrike at Wickham Woodlands Park, and then went and to the riverfront. I was hoping the Golden Eagle might be present at Storm King, but no such luck. I think that’s maybe the 6th time I’ve dipped on that bird. Interesting birds today included large numbers of mixed blackbird flocks throughout the black dirt. I had my first Wood Ducks of the year, both on Celery Ave and at Wickham Lake.
Yard Birds 2022: (25) species. I added Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Hairy Woodpecker this week.
I went to Long Island today to visit my dad. Since he is not an early riser, I took the morning to try for some good gulls that have been reported recently at Old Field Point and Lighthouse in Suffolk County. It was a cold but very successful morning; I was able to locate 3 of my 4 target birds: ICELAND GULL, GLAUCOUS GULL, and LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL (I missed on the Black-headed Gull). Additionally, I met a birder there named Jay Rand; he got me on an interesting gull that has been reported as well, but as of yet is unidentified.
The Glaucous Gull was the whitest gull I think I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure if this is just a light individual, or if there some possible sun bleaching going on, but the bird has been confirmed on eBird.
As for the Gull species, it looked like a Herring Gull, but with a slightly darker mantle and yellowish legs/feet. When I got home I checked my emails and found some reports and a write-up by Shaibal Mitra on the NYSBIRDS list serve. He describes the bird broadly as a Herring Gull type, and offers 3 typical possibilities for this bird:
Smithsonianus Herring Gull, which apparently show some degree of yellow in the legs/feet in the late winter and early spring.
Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull hybrid.
After viewing the bird, however, he has reservations about these three options and offers a fourth possibility: Northern European L. a. argentatus, to which he found similarities in the mantle color and wingtip pattern. Apparently we will find out what the experts identify it as in the coming days. I will keep you posted. And regardless, it was a really cool bird to see and added some excitement to my morning.
One of my goals for 2022 is to break 200 species in Sullivan County (I’m currently at 194). I’ve come up with a short list of possible species to try and catch up with, and Northern Shrike is on it. So, on Saturday morning I headed to the Bashakill to try for the shrike which was there earlier this week. I dipped on my target bird, but it didn’t prevent me from having a nice morning birding the Deli Fields. I ran into and caught up with John Haas (Bashakill Birder). John mentioned that it was a slow morning there, but I had 23 species, which didn’t seem too bad to me. My best bird was a Hermit Thrush that popped up briefly before disappearing into the underbrush.
I was back in Orange County for the afternoon and evening, spending most of my time at the Newburgh Riverfront. I enjoyed birding the river and there was enough going on to keep me entertained. The highlight was (3) first winter Iceland Gulls, which I can’t get enough of, but I won’t torture you with yet another pic.
On Sunday morning I tried for the Northern Shrike at Wickham Woodlands Park. With this shrike, I had better luck. The bird was vocalizing frequently and perched close enough at one point to get a decent shot. I was pretty excited, it was fun to actually spend some time with a shrike rather than just a few moments.
Afterwards, I headed to Piermont Pier. Earlier this week a Little Gull was reported there, and while I know the chances of seeing that bird were astronomical, I figured I would go and just enjoy birding the pier. It was good to see some different ducks – Canvasbacks, Ruddy Ducks, Buffleheads, and a single Common Goldeneye. Gulls were scarce and I only recorded the (3) expected species.
Yard Birds 2022: (25) – No new species since my last post.