Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge 5/16/12

This is one of the THREE Green Herons we saw.

On Thursday I went out to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge to meet up with Karen Miller. Karen is good company and I really enjoy birding with her. We are both at a similar level with our birding and we are both really into it. We decided to walk just the eastern side of the Liberty Loop, out and back. We both agreed – that section of the trail is  where we have each had the most luck.

Well, luck certainly was with us, we had a very productive evening. We had over thirty species in just over an hour and a half and with not much effort. The birds just seemed to be revealing themselves to us. Here’s our list:

I really like that you can see the small hook on the end of this Eastern Kingbird's bill
  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Wood Duck (heard)
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Green Heron
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Killdeer
  • Spotted Sandpiper
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (heard)
  • Northern Flicker (heard)
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Song Sparrow
  • Indigo Bunting
  • Bobolink
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Brown-headed Cowbird
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • American Goldfinch

Karen messaged me that the Brown Thrasher, Peregrine, and Bobolink were here favorites, and don’t forget the Indigo Bunting! I was very excited to see the Bobolink also because it was a life bird for me, but my best bird of the day was the Peregrine Falcon. I will never get tired of seeing that bird! Here’s a couple more photos:

A female Brown-headed Cowbird shared the trail with us.
The Song Sparrows were not shy either. They always seem to be willing to pose for a picture.
This is not a great shot, but I am looking for help identifying this bird. Leave a comment if you can help - thanks!

Basha Kill 5/12/12

One of the many Red-winged Blackbirds out at the Basha Kill

I spent a long day birding out at the Basha Kill today. I started out on Haven Road, hoping to see an American Bittern again. I ran into a large group of birders- members of the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Mearnsbirdclub/). They had just spotted an American Bittern, but it was in the weeds and out of view. The group moved on, but I stayed for a while and I kept looking back to where the bittern had been found and eventually I was rewarded as the bittern flew most of the way across the Kill, only to disappear into the weeds once again.

Next I went to the Deli Fields where I saw Baltimore Orioles collecting nesting materials, many Song Sparrows, a Brown Thrasher (first of season for me), and I got a really nice look at an immature Bald Eagle. The Bald Eagle took me by surprise and was too far away for any good photos before I knew it. In general, it was a frustrating day with the camera. I was slow on the draw all day,  and in addition to that struggled with my settings, forgetting to make the proper changes as the conditions changed.

A good example of my camera struggles occurred at my next stop, the nature trail. I had a Yellow Warbler taking a bath, splashing around having a good time. I had just finished trying to get some shots of an adult Bald Eagle in bright sunlight and this warbler was in the shade. Lesson learned: It is so important for me to be aware of my current settings and change them as the light conditions change. Here is the best picture I got:

I really think I could have gotten some nice photos of this bird if I had my settings right.

I went to the “stop sign trail” next to try and see some warblers. I probably went there a little too late in the day- there was not much bird activity. I did see: more Baltimore Orioles, Yellow Warblers, American Redstarts, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Common Yellowthroat. I ran into Maryallison Farley from the Basha Kill Area Association. As always, it was really nice to see her and she invited me to go up to her place to get some photos of the Eastern Bluebirds that are nesting there:

Eastern Bluebird that is nesting in Maryallison Farleys yard at the Basha Kill. Thanks Maryallison!

At the end of the day I had identified 28 species, which not bad for me, but only a fraction of what can be seen out there. In addition, I saw and photographed a couple flycatchers which I continue to struggle to identify. The American Bittern in flight was the highlight of the day for me. Here are some more photos:

An Eastern Kingbird was hunting under the bridge on Haven Road
This Tree Swallow was also at Maryallison Farley's place.
An American Redstart sings.
Gray Catbirds are everywhere out at the Basha Kill.

Just another boring Sunday evening in Goshen…

An adult Bald Eagle flies over 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary

Yesterday evening I took a walk on the Heritage Trail which is just a block or so from my house. The trail runs along side 6 1/2 Station Road Sanctuary which, according to the Orange County Tourism web site (see links), is a “62 acre wetland bird sanctuary owned and maintained by the Orange County Audubon Society”. It is a great spot for birding and just happens to be a short walk from my house.

I headed out without high expectations. I have been struggling with the camera lately, not getting good exposures, so I just wanted to go out and experiment and try to work on a few things. For some reason I did not think there would be many birds. Boy, was I wrong! I had a slow start with a lot of the usual suspects – American Robins, Red-winged Blackbirds, Gray Catbirds, and a couple different kinds of warblers. Then things started to get good. A Green Heron flew across the water giving me a great look and then landed in a tree on the far side of the sanctuary. Not long after that I spotted a beautiful bright orange male Baltimore Oriole. As I was checking out the oriole, I heard some crows making a racket and I looked up to see two crows mobbing an adult Bald Eagle right above me. The eagle flew over several times giving me a really good look and a chance to get some photos. Moments after that I saw my best bird of the night – a COMMON LOON. I stayed for a while getting photos of the loon and got to hear it make its call.  What a great evening! I ended up with  twenty-four species in all, here are some additional highlights and some photos:

  • (2) Wood Duck
  • (6) Green-winged Teal
  • (4) Spotted Sandpiper
  • (6) Least Sandpiper
  • (1) Alder Flycatcher
  • (1) Yellow Warbler
  • (8) Canada Goose – two pairs with goslings
You can see the Bald Eagle has been banded.
I love the markings on this bird's underside - they look like hearts.
This was a tough ID for me. I have it as an Alder Flycatcher based on its size and overall shape. Anyone who would like to help with this ID please leave a comment - thanks.
I just love this bird, it is so cool looking.
One more of the loon.

Where’s Waldo?

Can you find the American Bittern?

The above photo of an American Bittern was taken at The Basha Kill Wildlife Management Area (http://www.thebashakill.org/aboutbk.htm) in Sullivan County, New York. The American Bittern is a fascinating bird that I have wanted to see for a while now. A couple of weeks ago I finally got a really good look at one. Much thanks to Scott Baldinger who posted the bird’s whereabouts and to Tricia for locating the bird in the field. American Bitterns are very secretive and their markings make an amazing camouflage. In addition to the markings, the bird moves very slowly and deliberately and will sometimes point his head straight up to blend with its surroundings. Here’s a close up of the same photo. You can see the Bittern creeping through the foliage.

Zoomed in and cropped you can see the American Bittern

Here are some more photos of the same bird:

GREEN HERON! First of the season.

Green Heron in a tree.

I went to the Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge (http://www.fws.gov/northeast/wallkillriver/index.htm) today after work and found a Green Heron in a tree. I walked the Liberty Loop trail which is about 2 miles long. I was almost back to my car when I saw the heron fly in and land in a tree nearby. I was able to get the above photo, which I don’t love but it was the best I could do. It was a really nice walk with many birds – I was able to identify 24 species. Highlights for me:

  • (1) Green Heron
  • (3) Double Crested Cormorant
  • (1) Osprey – Hovering and fishing
  • (4) Lesser Yellowlegs
  • (2) Common Yellowthroat
  • (6) Yellow Warblers – Flying very close to me as if I was not there

Here’s a couple more photos from the day:

Common Yellowthroat
Lesser Yellowlegs

Looking For Green Herons

I have been running around lately trying to see a Green Heron. There are certain birds that just get in my head and I have to try and find them, right now it’s the Green Heron. At this time last year,  I had already seen several, but I’ve had no luck so far this year. I saw on eBird that a Green Heron had been sighted recently at The Celery Farm, which is a 107 acre freshwater wetland in Allendale, New Jersey. I made it out there yesterday – it is just ten minutes from my work. Many species of bird can be found there, I saw and identified seventeen, but I did not get my Green Heron:

  • Canada Goose
  • Mute Swan
  • Mallard
  • Wood Duck
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Great Egret
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Mourning Dove
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallows
  • American Robin
  • Gray Catbird
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • American Goldfinch

I did hear what I thought was a Red-shouldered Hawk when I first arrived, but I never saw the bird and I am not positive about the call. I spent just over an hour there and I saw my first Gray Catbirds and Yellow Warblers of the season. Here’s a Yellow Warbler singing:

Yellow Warbler Singing

Orange Birding?

What the heck is Orange Birding? It’s my new blog dedicated to my birding adventures in  Orange County, New York and the surrounding areas. I am a novice birder- I have been into birds for years, but it is only in the last year or so that I have started to consider myself a birder. Now, in addition to enjoying finding and looking at birds, I am really trying to learn all I can about birds. It has been truly fascinating and I know that I am just scratching the surface.

I have also been trying to learn a little bit about digital bird photography. I feel like I have had some good results and I have some photos that I am really happy with, but boy is there a lot to figure out. First you have to get out there and try to find the species of bird you want to shoot, then you want to try and get close enough (without bothering or stressing the bird!), and ultimately you have to be able to use the camera properly to get a quality photo.  What a challenge!

Matt Zeitler