A few changes

Great Blue Heron at Morningside Park

Great Blue Heron at Morningside Park


I birded Morningside again today, hoping for some new shore birds, but little had changed. Last night, Lance Verderame found and adult Greater Yellowlegs at the Apollo Plaza, and it was there this morning around 9am. There were fewer Least Sandpipers at Morningside, but everything else was the same. I thought last nights storms would put something new down, but it didn’t happen. The Herons were a bit more cooperative for photos today than they usually are.
Greater Yellowlegs at Apollo Plaza

Greater Yellowlegs at Apollo Plaza


Green Heron at Morningside

Green Heron at Morningside

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Morningside Park

This Merlin kept the shore birds hopping at Morningside today.

This Merlin kept the shore birds hopping at Morningside today.


I spent a good part of the morning at Morningside Park. We had had some rain overnight and I was hoping it would have put down more shore birds. When I arrived at Morningside, it immediately began to downpour. I had to wait out the rain, then I kayaked the lake. A few more birds had put down, but no new species. Merlins are on the move, I wonder how the hawk watches are making out with them. I had one keeping everything jumping there this morning, and another here at Yankee Lake yesterday. When I submitted them to ebird, I found that another had been submitted this week already. The count of shore birds was decent, but not outstanding. Here are the totals:

Least Sandpiper 32
Killdeer 9
Semipalmated Sandpiper 4
Solitary Sandpiper 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2

There were a few Wood Ducks, Mallards, and a Great Blue and Green Herons.

An unusually cooperative juvenile Spotted Sandpiper

An unusually cooperative juvenile Spotted Sandpiper


He's back!  The juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper that I have been trying to turn into a Western Sandpiper for ten days has returned again.

He’s back! The juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper that I have been trying to turn into a Western Sandpiper for ten days has returned again.

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Interesting Ibis – My take for what its worth

Interesting Ibis at Six and a Half Station Road.

Interesting Ibis at Six and a Half Station Road.

This afternoon Matt Zeitler found an interesting Ibis at Six and a Half Station Road in Goshen. The bird had rather extensive white around the forehead and extending around the base of the bill to a lesser extent. The bill appeared a very dull pinkish red, as did the legs. The bird was very richly colored deep chestnut. There were some glossy highlights on the wings. Matt and I, as well as many other local birders spent a couple of hours with the bird, assessing the extent of the red bill and legs and trying to determine the eye color. Depending on angle and sunlight, the eye at times appeared reddish, but most often seemed dark. Our numerous photos seem to verify that they were dark. I studied quite a bit of information from a number of publications when I returned home. I also used Rob Stones information from the “Identification Guide to North American Birds 2″ by Pyle. The information that seemed most straight forward and easiest to use in regard to this bird for me was from the “Crossly Guide”. The dark eye (variable with age and light in both species) combined with the leg color (appeared reddish, but Crossley states the legs will be always be reddest at the knees) this birds legs were actually dark at the knees, lead toward Glossy. One of the most telling features for me was Crossley’s assertion that White-faced Ibis’ white always surrounds the eye, extending behind it. He also states that Glossy Ibis’ white goes to the eye at the upper and lower bill, but never surrounds it or extends behind it. This birds white ended at the front of the eye. Putting all these factors together, for me, it seems clear that this bird is indeed a GLOSSY IBIS. I initially thought the bird was a hatch year bird, but studying a number of photos including Matt’s of the hatch year birds at Oil City Road, I now think this is an adult bird molting into winter plumage. I’d like to thank Matt for finding this bird and bringing it to all our attention. It truly presented an interesting challenge. I can’t think of a better way to spend an evening than with a group of great birders assessing a beautiful bird!

Ibis found by Matt Zeitler this afternoon. Note how the white reaches the eye, but does not surround it nor extend behind it.

Ibis found by Matt Zeitler this afternoon. Note how the white reaches the eye, but does not surround it nor extend behind it.

Notice how extensive the white above the bill on the bird is.  This lead to questions in regard to the possibility that it could be a White-faced Ibis.

Notice how extensive the white above the bill on the bird is. This led to questions in regard to the possibility that it could be a White-faced Ibis.

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Orange and Sullivan Counties, a few good birds!

Little Blue Heron found by Curt McDermott this morning in Bullville.

Little Blue Heron found by Curt McDermott this morning in Bullville.

Caspian Tern at Morningside Park

Caspian Tern at Morningside Park


This morning I headed to Morningside for my usual routine. As I kayaked the lake, I spotted a large white bird heading in my direction. My thought of Great Egret was short lived as I was thrilled to see an adult CASPIAN TERN heading right over me. I made a couple of calls, but only Arlene Borko was able to come. The bird fished for over half an hour, with at least a couple of successful catches. It circled the lake at least a dozen times. The bird passed overhead many times, allowing me to get a few identifiable photos from my kayak. Just as Arlene was about to arrive, the bird circled very high and flew off to the south. The usual shore birds and waders were present, as well as a troublesome Bald Eagle that kept everything jumping. I had spoken to Curt McDermott, and he had found some good birds along 17K in Bullville/Montgomery. When I finally got the chance I went down and joined Ken McDermott, Bruce Nott, Lisa O’Gorman and Scott Baldinger to view an immature LITTLE BLUE HERON. This is a good bird for Orange County, only my third time having had one there. There were also a number of expected waders and shore birds present. Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Green Heron, Great Blue Heron and Great Egret. At a spot a few miles away, Curt had found two WHITE-RUMPED SANDPIPERS! He had gotten photos of them along with several other species of shore birds. By the time we all arrived, the White-rumps had departed. Still, this was a pretty exciting day of birding with some great birds seen by all.
Caspian Tern

Caspian Tern


side shot of Caspian Tern

side shot of Caspian Tern

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Morningside Park and Orange County locations

The dearth of shore birds in the county seems to be continuing. A lack of rain and intense northwest winds seems to have most birds overflying our area. This morning, our first fall juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs joined the Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers and Killdeer at Morningside Park.

Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs

Juvenile Lesser Yellowlegs


After finishing at Morningside I decided to head to Orange County to see if I could find anything good in the shore bird locations. I covered the entire Wallkill River Valley from Six and a Half Station Road to Oil City Road. The results were nearly the same. I found the same 7 species we’ve been getting in Sullivan County. Water levels were extremely low in all locations and some were dried up completely. If we don’t get some rain soon, we may miss the rest of shore bird season.

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Morningside Park shore birds.

Four juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipers at Morningside Park

Four juvenile Semipalmated Sandpipers at Morningside Park


In what has turned out to be our poorest shore bird season to date thus far, a few birds were at Morningside Park today. Last nights front brought in a few new birds, but no new species yet. The best find of the day were four fresh juvenile SEMIPALMATED SANDPIPERS. These were some gorgeous young Semipalmated Sandpipers. All were rather dark and showed a lot of rufous in their feathers. I had pipe dreams of Western Sandpiper, but couldn’t make them into that species. Also present this morning were 14 Least Sandpipers, 9 Killdeer, and one each Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers. A couple of days ago, our first fall Greater Yellowlegs was present with a Lesser Yellowlegs, but both were gone today. This brings to 9 the number of species we’ve had so far this fall. This is a very low total. Hopefully, we will still add more species as the season progresses.
juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper

juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper

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See Life Paulagics pelagic trip to Hudson Canyon 8/11-12/14

Wilson's Storm-petrel, note how the legs are long, extending beyond the tail.

Wilson’s Storm-petrel, note how the legs are long, extending beyond the tail.

Lance Verderame and I took the Overnight Pelagic Trip out of Freeport Long Island on 8/11/14. This was a fabulous trip organized by Sean Sime and friends. Conditions were near perfect and the timing couldn’t have been better. Approximately 40 participants and about ten leaders left Freeport just after 8pm, heading overnight to the continental shelf at the mouth of Hudson Canyon. The ride was not exactly smooth, but could have been much worse. We awoke early and once we reached our destination they immediately put out chum to attract the birds. Even though it was still dark, WILSON’S STORM-PETRELS began coming in. As dawn brightened and it eventually became light, it was evident that perhaps hundreds of storm-petrels were in the area. It wasn’t long before the first call of LEACH’S STORM-PETREL came out and was followed shortly thereafter by BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL!!! You never know if the bird you are seeing might be the only one, but it soon became clear that many individuals of both species were present. In fact, so many calls for each were going out that sometimes you weren’t sure which one to get on. In all my pelagic trips, I have never seen this many Leach’s Storm-petrels. Band-rumped Storm-petrel was a new state bird for me, having only seen them off Hatteras North Carolina in the past. We spent quite some time with this chum line, enjoying the opportunity to see so many species for good comparisons. As we watched, our first AUDUBON’S SHEARWATER of the day appeared in the distance. While able to ID the bird it didn’t come close for one of those great moments, but there would be a number of them before the day was out. Click on photos to see larger size.

a flock of Wilson's Storm-petrels just off our boat.

a flock of Wilson’s Storm-petrels just off our boat.

As we continued to check through the numerous storm-petrels, the first call came out for shearwater. This was short-lived and a real frenzy ensued. I’m not sure where the first call came from, but shouts could be heard all over. The bird turned out to be a FEA’S PETREL!!!! It was a wild event. Cameras were clicking all over for this fabulous bird. I even managed to get off one poor shot. The only record of this species for New York was a couple of years back and it couldn’t be identified as to species, only the Fea’s/Zino group. This bird was confirmed immediately as a Fea’s with fantastic photo documentation! This was perhaps one of the most exciting moments in New York Pelagic history! If accepted it will be the first Fea’s record for New York!

a shot of the Fea's Petrel as it banked away from us.

a shot of the Fea’s Petrel as it banked away from us.

The excitement to this point was palpable! None of us could have imagined a first state record on this trip! Who would think that the excitement would continue to grow. After finally feeling we had seen enough, we headed along the continental shelf for a while. At first birds were few, but many more of the same species began to show up. It was surprising how we continued to find both Leach’s and Band-rumps. Another Audubon’s Shearwater appeared and then our first CORY’S SHEARWATER of the day. Both of these birds gave good identifying views for all. While trolling along, our first BOTTLE-NOSED DOLPHINS began to show. A couple even leaped through the air at our bow. A couple of PILOT WHALES were also seen.A short time later, the first call came out for my most sought after species for the trip. WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL!!!! The bird remained for several minutes, getting lost in the swells and then relocated giving everyone great views! This was my first lifer of the day. We covered more areas as we eventually directed ourselves toward home for the long trip north. As we moved along, more Cory’s and Audubon’s Shearwaters were seen as well as our first GREAT SHEARWATER of the day. We finally had our first tern of the day, a COMMON TERN. At one point in the trip we noticed a whale spout in the distance. As we watched, a MINKE WHALE breached for most to see. Just in case anyone had missed it, it breached two more times in the next couple of minutes! Before long, the second call of yet another White-faced Storm-petrel came out. This bird moved quickly from one side of the boat, crossed the bow to the left and was soon gone. As we continued north, more groups of storm-petrels were seen that included a few more Leach’s and Band-rumps. As we got farther north, we saw our first gulls, Great Black-backed and Herring and eventually a Laughing Gull. Moving further along , we spotted some sporadic Sargassum Weed. I thought to myself, wouldn’t be great if there would be a BRIDLED TERN in the Sargassum. Only a couple of minutes later the call came Bridled Tern!! We came to the bird which flew only a couple hundred feet off the side of the boat from front to back!! Could it really be this good? Yes!! My second lifer of the day! Finally reaching Freeport, as we entered Jones inlet we saw many more trip birds. These included a couple of BLACK TERNS and BLACK SKIMMERS, both new for the year for me.

a rather distant Cory's Shearwater.

a rather distant Cory’s Shearwater.

In conclusion, this was a pelagic trip of a lifetime! Sean Sime and the group outdid themselves in organizing this great event! I can’t thank him enough. He is a great guy and a fabulous trip leader. His expertise in spotting, identifying and getting the word out about the birds was enjoyed by all. There were many other leaders on the trip (Tom Burke, Shai Mitra,Joe DiCostanzo to name a few) as well and they did a great job. When planning something like this it can go just about any direction from bust to fabulous. So many factors come in to play from winds, weather, timing etc. This trip, everything fell into place perfectly. I hope everyone gets to take a pelagic like this one some day. Here are some facts about the trip:
Distance: not positive, but I heard we went approximately 100 miles to the mouth of the canyon.
Birds: these totals are approximate, I heard these numbers mentioned as ballpark numbers
Wilson’s Storm-petrel – 500+
LEACH’S STORM-PETREL – 40+
BAND-RUMPED STORM-PETREL – 40 +
WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL – 2
AUDUBON’S SHEARWATER – 5
Cory’s Shearwater – 4
Great Shearwater – 3
FEA’S PETREL – 1
BRIDLED TERN – 1
Cetaceans:
Bottled Nose Dolphins
Pilot Whale
Minke Whale
My stats:
I couldn’t have imagined this trip could be so productive. I added the following to my lists:
Year birds – 11
State birds – 5
Life birds – 2

Addendum: Adjusted Species Totals-
Leach’s Storm-petrel – 43
Band-rumped Storm-petrel – 56
Wilson’s Storm-petrel – 1000+
White-faced Storm-petrel – 1 the second bird was never verified, and subsequently not counted
Shearwaters – all species had a slightly higher count by several individuals

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