Maine 2022

Tricia and I spent last week on vacation in Maine. It’s our third vacation in the state in the last eight years, and we enjoyed this year so much that we had our hotel on Monhegan Island (The Monhegan House) pencil us in for the same week next year.

Monhegan Island is a very small island approximately 10 nautical miles off the coast of Maine, between Portland and Rockland. The entire island is only around one square mile, but it includes 9 miles hiking trails. It has long been a destination of artists seeking inspiration and plein air painting. It also a birding hotspot as it is a famous migrant trap and offers super birding during both spring and fall migrations. My sense is that fall is the best time to visit, but that’s just based on searching the internet and finding more results for fall excursions.

~Black Guillemot in non-breeding plumage on the ferry from Monhegan Island, 09/27/22.~

We spent four days on the island, and next year we will do a full week – there is just that much to explore and enjoy. As for the birding, it’s nonstop. There are birds absolutely everywhere. For the time we were there, while there were not many rarities (Red-headed Woodpecker and Yellow-breasted Chat were seen, but I unfortunately missed both), there were many interesting observations. Red-breasted Nuthatches, which we see relatively few of, were everywhere and arguably the most numerous species of songbird on the island. On the second day, we had an influx of Northern Flickers which was remarkable. For the remainder of the week, while hiking I would flush a flicker just about every five minutes or so. Falcons were also numerous; I saw approximately 5-10 Merlins/Peregrine Falcons every day. I never did positively ID any American Kestrels, but I did have a few zip by which I suspected might have been.

~Nashville Warbler near Lobster Cove on Monhegan Island, 9/24/22.~
~I have this as a Blackpoll Warbler, Monhegan Island 9/24/22.~

In the four days, I had a modest 8 species of wood warblers; I’m sure most folks would do better than I did. I had a few misses with skulking birds, but the birds I did have were typically quite accommodating and provided excellent looks and good photo ops.

~Cape May Warbler near Whitehead on Monhegan Island, 09/24/22.~

The island also is known for its population of very tame Ring-necked Pheasants. I saw many though the days; sometimes seeing up to 10 birds on a lawn.

~Female Ring-necked Pheasant on Monhegan Island, 09/25/22.~

Just after sunrise on Monday morning, 9/26/22, I did a seawatch at Lobster Cove. The wind was up, but I found a nice low wind area and set up my scope. It was a fun and rewarding morning. I added some interesting birds to my island list, including Black Scoter, Surf Scoter, and Black-legged Kittiwake. There was a nice flight of over 20 Northern Gannets, and of course there were plenty of Common Eiders and Double-crested Cormorants. I’d found a single Great Cormorant the evening before too.

~Northern Gannet in flight. This was taken on the ferry to the island, 09/24/22.~
~Great Cormorant, Monhegan Island 09/25/22.~

There are also plenty of seals around. I found seals at four different locations and although each time was a thrill, it was especially exciting when this young seal peaked around a rock to check me out.

~Young seal near Pebble Beach, Monhegan Island 09/25/22.~
~A more expected look at some seals. Monhegan Island 09/25/22.~
~And more seals, Monhegan Island, 09/25/22.~

I had a total of 68 species on the island in four days. I have no idea how that rates, but it was certainly fun seeing them. I’ve included a list of all species at the bottom of this post. You may notice a lack of my favorite type of birds – shorebirds! I asked around, not seeing many shorebirds reported in previous years, and apparently there just isn’t enough good habitat for them. I did not see one shorebird during our stay on the island.

I knew I wanted to make up for that, so at our next stop in Rockland, Maine I sought out a good shorebird spot: Weskeag Marsh. I took one day off to just enjoy the town of Rockland, but was back to it on Thursday and Friday. I found a good spot at the marsh which was somewhat productive and also allowed for some really interesting photo ops. My best bird was Stilt Sandpiper; there was a pair at the marsh on Thursday and one remained through Friday morning.

~Lesser Yellowlegs coming in for a landing. I was pleasantly surprised by these photos, because it was not nearly as clean and remarkable as I took the pics. Note that this is how calm and smooth the water was – other than reducing the camera noise, no alterations have been made. LEYE at Weskeag Marsh 09/28/22.~
~And touchdown. LEYE at Weskeag Marsh 09/28/22.~
~Probably my favorite bird of the trip, Stilt Sandpiper at Weskeag Marsh, 09/28/22.~

It was yet another great vacation in Maine. Inland I added another 23 species, bringing my trip total to 126 birds. The weather cooperated unbelievably. The birds were awesome. We can’t wait to get back.

~Herring Gull in Rockland Maine, 09/27/22.~

Maine 2022 Teaser & Hawkwatch 10/01/22

Tricia and I returned on Friday night from a week’s vacation in Maine. We spent 4 days on Monhegan Island and the rest of the week in the Rockland area. Monhegan Island is a birding experience unlike any other; I look forward to getting through my nearly 1,900 photos and putting together a post. For now, here’s a photo of arguably of the most numerous songbirds I observed on the island: Red-breasted Nuthatch.

~Red-breasted Nuthatch on Monhegan Island, 0/25/22.~

Meanwhile, I was the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today. It was raining when I headed out, and when I arrived at the mountain, it was totally fogged in. I did some local birding and enjoyed a flock of 70 or so American Pipits in the black dirt. I went back to Mt. Peter just before noon a it was still socked in. I birded Wickham Lake, and then went back to finally start the watch at 1:30.

The flight wasn’t substantial, but I was happy to get some good variety, with 8 species of migrating raptors. I’ve included my HawkCount report below.

Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/17/22

We had a respectable flight at Mount Peter Hawkwatch today, with a total of 470 migrating raptors. It’s the time of year when Broad-winged Hawks are moving in huge numbers, so while I enjoyed my biggest day of counting in years, Mt. Pete still needs a couple of big days before the Broad-winged Hawk migration is over.

I was lucky enough to have some help up on the mountian today. Fellow counter Tom Millard, Kyle Knapp, Bruce Christiansen, and Bob & Linda Pasak all spent considerable time at the watch, lending the extra eyes. Highlights included 421 Broad-winged Hawks, 7 Bald Eagles, and 3 Ospreys. We enjoyed one triple digit kettle of BWHAs, with a total of 103 birds. See my report at the bottom of this post for more details on the day.

~A local Red-tailed Hawk flying by the platform, Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/17/22.~
~A small kettle of Broad-winged Hawks with an adult Bald Eagle crashing the party. Mt. Peter Hawkwatch, 09/17/22.~

Sunday Shots, 09/11/22

My first bird of the weekend was a new yard bird for me – Common Raven. It was just after sunrise on Saturday morning and the bird landed on one of the evergreens in the backyard and was calling repeatedly. I grabbed my camera and the sun was just barely over the trees and casting the bird in warm light as I snapped some shots. The bird was species number 55 in my yard for 2022; I thought that was a nice way to start the weekend’s birding.

~Common Raven in my yard, 09/10/22.~

I was the official counter at Mount Peter Hawkwatch on Saturday. I got out early and birded the black dirt for a little while before heading up to the mountain. I was rewarded with a couple of BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPERS. There were also hundreds (thousands?) of Tree Swallows around. When I saw them, in a few separate fields, they were on the ground and periodically picking up and taking flight. It was the most Tree Swallows I’ve ever seen.

~A favorite of mine and so many other birders, Buff-breasted Sandpiper in the Black Dirt on Sunday 09/11/22.~
~Tree Swallows in the black dirt on 9/10/22.~

Tree Swallows would prove to be the theme of the day; when I got to Mount Peter there were just loads of them migrating through. Again, I witness hundreds and hundreds of Tree Swallows as I searched the skies for migrating raptors.

The raptor flight was weak, and I only had 14 migrating birds for the day. I did count another Osprey (always cool to see in migration), and I counted my first migrating Bald Eagle of the year. For more details, see my report for the day at the bottom of this post.

~American Kestrel in the black dirt, 09/10/22.~

This morning I birded the Black Dirt Region again – I was able to locate three Buff-breasted Sandpipers, but no other shorebirds (other than the expected loads of Killdeer). I’m coming across loads of American Kestrels in the black dirt recently; I saw ten just this morning.

~BBSA striking a pose in the black dirt, 09/11/22.~
~And one final shot of a BBSA in the black dirt, 09/11/22.~

Monday Catch Up, 09/05/22

It’s hard to believe it’s Labor Day already; this summer flew by for me. But, that means that Hawkwatch Season is upon us. I spent Saturday morning up at Mount Peter helping the Mt. Pete crew clean up the area. We cleaned up trash, cleared up some of the trails, and cut back any small saplings which would grow up to eventually block our view. Word has it that the DEC has finally agreed to remove some trees to help provide better viewing, but we won’t enjoy that until the 2023 season. On Sunday I was the official counter. As we should expect this early in the season, it was slow. I had a total of 14 migrating raptors, you can see my report below.

~A Northern Harrier was keeping the shorebirds at the Liberty Loop on their toes, 09/04/22.~

Shorebirds remain my main focus, however. Early in the week there was a BUFF-BREASTED SANDPIPER located at Skinner’s Lane (apologies, I can’t remember the original locator). I caught up with that bird a couple of times; unfortunately it was waaaay out there and photos weren’t even an option. I also had a couple more American Golden-plover sitings in the black dirt this week. Conditions at the Goshen Park and Ride continue to be good, and there has been a small but diverse group of birds present (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, both Yellowlegs, and Solitary Sandpiper). The most exciting bird this weekend was a STILT SANDPIPER found by Kyle Knapp on Sunday. I was able to catch up with that bird after hawkwatch, I had good scope views, but photos were tough.

~Glossy Ibis at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 09/05/22.~

This morning Kathy Ashman found a Glossy Ibis at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary. I ran for the bird; it’s always cool to see a GLIB, but I was also hoping to find some interesting shorebirds. Unfortunately, that was not the case and I was only able to locate Least Sandpipers and Killdeer.

~Common Nighthawk over my park on 08/28/22.~

And finally, my yard list is starting to pick up. I added three birds this week – A Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Pileated Woodpecker, and I had several Common Nighthawks flyover last Sunday evening. My yard list total is now up to 53 species.

~I’m torn about showing photos like this. As you can see, this Coyote is suffering with some sort of skin condition; I don’t know much about what health issues Coyotes are likely to have to deal with and how serious this might be. This one seemed to be doing well in spite of it, and was working a field in the black dirt, absolutely going to town chowing on insects it was finding in the grass. Black Dirt, 09/03/22.~

Shorebird Sunday Shots, 08/28/22

This morning I headed to Sullivan County to follow up on some of the shorebird action John Haas and others have had there recently. I was hoping for some good photo ops, or that maybe I might see something special. I also thought that I still needed Greater Yellowlegs for the county, but I checked eBird when I got home and I’d had one in Hurleyville back in May; it was not a memorable siting as you can tell.

My first stop was Morningside Park, where I didn’t have a large variety of shorebirds (Killdeer and Least, Semipalmated, & Spotted Sandpipers), but as always the photo ops were incredible, in spite of the overcast, low light conditions. I enjoyed spending time up-close with the Leasts and the Semisandpipers; while the Spotteds kept their distance and the Killdeer were flyovers.

~Semipalmated Sandpiper at Morningside Park, 08/28/22.~

While I was at Morningside, I spoke with John and he suggested my next stops should be Swan Lake and Lake Jefferson. Swan Lake didn’t have all that many birds present, but there was some decent variety: Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Pectoral Sandpiper. Lake Jefferson proved to be my most productive stop; I had (7) species of shorebirds there (Semipalmated Plover, Killdeer, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, and Lesser Yellowlegs).

~Least Sandpiper at Morningside Park, 08/28/22.~

Back in Orange County, I stopped at Bullville Pond to check out conditions there. The pond is mostly dried up, but there was a good number of shorebirds still present (KILL, LESA, SPSA, SOSA, LEYE). Also of note, on Friday evening I found (4) American Golden-Plovers in the black dirt. They were a little distant for good photos, but it was nice to see them and to document.

~American Golden-Plover in the black dirt, 08/26/22.~
~Least Sandpiper at Morningside Park, 08/28/22.~
~One more Semisandpiper shot, Morningside Park this morning.
~Two of four American Golden-Plovers in the black dirt on Friday evening.~
~Not a shorebird. Red-winged Blackbird this morning at Morningside Park, 08/28/22.~

Orange County Bird #270, 08/25/22

As I was winding down at work today, Bruce Nott contacted me to let me know he had a RUDDY TURNSTONE at the Moodna Creek sandbar in Newburgh Bay on the Hudson River. I have long wanted to kayak this area, and tonight I took the opportunity to do so. The turnstone hung in there for me, and the lighting was nice, so it made for yet another fabulous shore birding experience this season. The RUTU was my 270th species in Orange County. As a bonus (as if I needed one), there were (7) Caspian Terns also present on the sandbar, making a racket and being generally beautiful and entertaining. Huge thanks to Bruce for a great evening!

~Another excellent shorebird for our area – Ruddy Turnstone at the Moodna Creek sandbar, 08/25/22.~
~Caspian Terns at Moodna Creek sandbar, 08/25/22. I absolutely love the markings on the young CATE’s wings.

Sussex County MARBLED GODWIT, 08/22/22

QUICK POST: This morning Bradley White located a MARBLED GODWIT on the west side of Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge’s Liberty Loop. Birding bud Maria Loukeris notified me, and Linda Scrima followed up by reporting the bird on the Mearns Bird Club app in the afternoon. I headed to the loop right after work. I hustled to the west side, but when I arrived there was no sign of the bird. Fortunately I ran into Ronnie DiLorenzo, who let me know the bird had relocated to the southernmost pond in the loop. I once again hustled to the back pond and this time I got lucky and the bird was not only present, but not too far out. This is the second straight Monday where I got an absolutely fabulous shorebird – it’s definitely a good cure for a bad case of the Mondays!

~Wow! Marbled Godwit at the back pond of the Liberty Loop, Sussex County NJ 08/22/22.~
~Marbled Godwit, Liberty Loop 98/22/22.~

Sunday Shots, 08/21/22

My focus this week has, unsurprisingly, been on shorebirds. The rest of the week paled in comparison to my amazing experience with the Red-necked Phalarope on Monday evening, but there are some decent shorebirds around and it’s been good to get out.

6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary has been decent for shorebirds. I birded from the Heritage trail twice this week and the place is loaded with Least Sandpipers and Killdeer. I also had a single Pectoral Sandpiper each visit. On Saturday afternoon I ventured out to Citgo Pond; a spot I haven’t been to in absolutely ages. The trail is totally overgrown, and getting to the pond was a bear. Once there, sweaty and bloody, I had a Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers, Killdeer, and a single Semipalmated Plover.

~An extremely accommodating Pied-billed Grebe at Morningside Park, 08/2022.~

I was leaving the Heritage Trail one evening this week and I drove past the Goshen Park and Ride. I noticed that the water level was low, so I stopped and was happy to find good conditions and a decent number of shorebirds. I’ve stopped there several times this week and had the following birds: Least Sandpiper, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Greater Yellowlegs, and Killdeer. This place could get a good bird this fall, and parking is super easy and the viewing is not too bad either.

~Least Sandpiper at Morningside Park on Monday evening, 08/15/22.~

I also ventured back to Sullivan County to Morningside Park for a second time this week on Saturday morning. Unfortunately a Merlin seems to have taken over the place, and the only shorebirds I found were a Killdeer and a single Solitary Sandpiper. There was also a couple of Bald Eagles present, including one young bird which was crying the entire time I was there. Otherwise, it was pleasant to be out on the calm beautiful water just after sunrise, and I also had a nice experience with a Pied-billed Grebe which didn’t seem to mind my presence very much.

~Bald Eagle at Morningside Park 08/20/22.~
~Solitary Sandpiper at Morningside Park, 08/20/22.~
~Red-tailed Hawk in the Black Dirt last weekend, 08/14/22.~
~Rose-breasted Grosbeak at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 08/18/22.~
~Lesser Yellowlegs at Morningside Park on Monday 08/15/22.~
~Green Heron with prey at 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary, 08/14/22.~

Sullivan County RED-NECKED PHALAROPE!

Today while I was working I received an alert on the Mearns Bird Club app; John Haas had a RED-NECKED PHALAROPE at Morningside Park. I immediately knew I would run for the bird after work if it stuck around. John reported the bird again in the mid afternoon, so things were looking good.

I tried to not speed too much on my way to Morningside Park, I’d already been delayed because I had to put air in one of my tires. I arrived, put my kayak in the water and headed out. I made the rounds of all the mud/stump islands in the lake, but didn’t have any luck. There was a good number of shorebirds present, I had: Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper, a couple of Lesser Yellowlegs, and (6) SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHERS. Normally this would be a banner day, but I was itchy about the phalarope and beginning to think it had moved on.

~Red-necked Phalarope at Morningside Park, 08/15/22.~

On my second go-round, I was happy to see the Red-necked Phalarope come in and land at the island where I was looking. I “parked” my kayak in the muddy shore and watched, photographed, and just enjoyed this incredible little bird. The bird was beautiful and extremely confiding, making its way closer and closer to me and never flushing. It was a very special birding experience, one that I won’t forget any time soon. What a bird.

~Beautiful bird. RNPH at Morningside Park, 08/15/22.~

John called as I was making my way back to shore. I told him how it went – he stopped me in my tracks when I mentioned the dowitchers. They hadn’t been there earlier, so John jumped in his car and joined me at the park to get them just before darkness fell. Huge thanks and congrats to John for finding and reporting a great bird. Check out his shore birding accounts from the day here.

~I had these as Short-billed Dowitchers in the field; I checked John Haas’ blog before posting and he had them as SBDO too. Morningside Park, 08/15/22.~
~Red-necked Phalarope, Morningside Park 08/15/22.~