This morning I headed up to the Sullivan Grasslands to see what might be happening. I hadn’t been up since last week and thought perhaps things had changed some. It was a cold, windy, blustery day with frequent snow squalls. That seemed to keep most of the passerines hunkered down and few were seen. Hawks however were taking advantage of the winds and out hunting. When I reached Radio Tower Road I spotted a hawk in the distance that looked dark. Fortunately (as some hawks have recently!) the bird flew right in my direction. As it got closer, it dove down into the second field away, catching some sort of prey. Though I couldn’t get a look at that distance, the hawk tore it into three pieces, each of which it swallowed. It then took off and was dived on by a Red-tailed Hawk. I was able to move somewhat closer and got some shots of the bird. This is my favorite hawk that regularly occurs in our area so I was really happy to see it! Otherwise, it was rather quiet.
Along with the many other great birds we are seeing in Sullivan County this winter, the Northern Shrike continues. This bird is probably the same bird present as an immature last winter. It follows the same patterns of behavior and like last winter can be hard to connect with. That said, the bird is most often being seen along Aden Road in the town of Neversink. It has also been seen on Mulhig, Muthig and Tanzman Roads. There are a great number of land locked farm fields in the area where the bird may be spending its time out of view. Just a bit of persistence, and you will see this bird. As is usual, when looking for this bird, keep an eye on the very tippy tops of the trees in tree lines around the fields. Good luck!
Late last night I received word from Linda Scrima that she had found a hawk in the Orange County Black Dirt Region whose ID was initially unclear. She posted the photos of the bird to Facebook and the ID came back as FERRUGINOUS HAWK! This morning I headed right down in hopes that the bird could be relocated. I spoke with Linda and Bruce Nott and knew they were covering the west side of the river in the area where she had originally found the bird. I decided to cross the river and check out the Celery Avenue area. As I reached the end of Celery, I spotted a large pale hawk walking on the ground three fields away from the road. The sun was right behind the bird and scope views, though looking good, could not cinch the ID. As I watched, a Northern Harrier dived on the hawk. The hawk took off and landed in the tree line just off the road from me. In flight, the bird was extremely pale underneath with just a few dark markings. From above, the bird had two large white wing panels in the anterior of the wings. The bird perched for twenty minutes as I notified Linda and Bruce and many others of its presence. The bird remained as people began to arrive. After nearly half an hour, the bird flew further back in the woods along the river. Fortunately, it was still easily viewed from that location. More and more birders arrived, but the bird suddenly took off, flying to the other side of the river in the direction of Lynch Avenue where it was located again later in the morning. A big congratulations to Linda on yet another great find! How great? This is not only a first county record, its a first New York State record!
Just half way through the month and 2021 is proving to be a great birding year already. There have been an abundance of excellent species in the county thus far and I’ve been having a great time finding them. Today was no exception! I started out by finding several Common Redpolls on both Woodard and Hunter Roads. Moving on I ran into Scotty who had just seen some Evening Grosbeaks. We hung around and were treated to a total of forty this morning! I then went to the Rondout Reservoir to survey the waterfowl there. As I glanced back toward the ridge from my first stop, I glimpsed an eagle passing the cleft between two ridges. My thought was “finally a Bald Eagle” as I had missed them on my last two visits. I then moved down to the overlook by the spillway. As I scanned the gulls for something good, they all tilted there heads in my direction, almost as if looking at me, but in reality they were looking above and behind me. I turned around to see what they were looking at and found an adult GOLDEN EAGLE soaring behind me. Fortunately, the bird worked its way closer to me and I was able to get many shots. Though the dark skies made for poor shots, some weren’t that bad. I was thrilled to see this bird and grateful to the gulls for their astute awareness! BTW, third trip with no Bald Eagle. Waterfowl was about the same, but no Ring-necked Ducks were seen. I’m sure they’re still there, just too many birds and too much habitat to find everything. I finally pulled myself away to head home for lunch. A quick stop at the College found ten of the Snow Buntings still there. Great morning!!
I birded the northwestern part of the county where I had a lot nice birds. Once again I found the Horned Lark on Reum Road. Moving along I had many typical birds, but once I reached Long Road, I found my FOS ROUHG-LEGGED HAWK! We had had a number of them in December, but I hadn’t found any for the new year until today. Continuing on, when I reached Radio Tower Road I found a flock of 54 Common Redpolls. I then headed further up county to Hess Road in Fremont where I found my second American Kestrel of the year. Upon returning to Beechwoods Road, I found either a second Rough-legged Hawk or the bird had moved four miles from the previous location during the hour since I had seen it. Further into the Jeffersonville area I found my second American Kestrel of the day. Later, at the Bashakill, I found my FOS American Robins! Another great day!
Today, I along with Bruce Nott and Karen Miller birded the northeastern portion of the county in search of many of the good birds I’ve seen in the last few days. Once again today, birding was good. I personally saw a dozen Snow Buntings between two locations and we were able to find 42 Evening Grosbeaks in the town of Neversink! It was nice to once again see good numbers of these birds that occur annually in our county. Unfortunately, I was unable to come across any Common Redpolls, but make no mistake, there are many out there. Good birding!
This morning I headed up to the Rondout Reservoir hoping for something new. The Rondout has been so active lately that its a joy to bird. I found no new species, but several were up in number. I still found no pintail nor teal. Hooded and Common Mergansers were both way up. I was able to count 70 Commons, and 10 Hooded Mergansers, but when I left, I found 13 more Hooded at the west end just before you reach Rt 55. Gulls were up too, 200 Ring-billed and 15 Herring included 3 juveniles. The Kingfisher continued as well as the common waterfowl. I then move on to Hunter Road where I found a big surprise. 10 EVENING GROSBEAK in a tree over the road! 2 Males and 8 females were a real treat!
Moving on around the Neversink Basin, I found 18 Common Redpolls in the Birch Stand in the field at the corner of Tanzman and Muhlig Roads. Unfortunately, I was still unable to find the Shrike again. From there I headed to the Neversink Reservoir where I found nothing. On to the Sullivan County Community College. There I found 10 Common Redpolls in the Birches at the east side of the circle. As I approached them, they took off, so no photos of that group. On the midway, I found 8 Snow Buntings! They were pretty cooperative, so yes to photos. It was now time to head home for lunch, quite satisfied with a rewarding morning!
This morning I headed to Forestburgh to try to find the Red Crossbill flock I had on my CBC. I haven’t had them yet for the new year. I never found them, but I did get a surprise Barred Owl. As I turned onto Cross Road, I pulled up along the “blow down” lot of pine trees. These blew down several years ago in a hurricane. As I stopped, the owl, which was sitting on top of one of the trees took off, flying deep into the nearby pine woods. I was sorry the experience didn’t last longer. Later this afternoon, I was birding at the Bashakill when I came upon a Barred Owl in the Orchard off Haven Road. The bird was very cooperative and I got some nice shots of it. I then decided I was having such a good Owl day I would pursue some more. I went to Wurtsboro where I immediately found the roosting Eastern Screech-owl! I then headed back to the Bashakill and found yet another Eastern Screech there! I then waited at the Deli Fields until well after dark hoping for the Great Horned Owl pair I had heard last week. Unfortunately, they never called this evening. Four owls in one day sure isn’t bad though!
Though I haven’t posted in a while, there has been some decent bird activity in the area. Probably the hottest spot of the last week has been the Newburgh and Beacon Waterfronts. Bruce Nott has led the way by discovering numerous uncommon gulls in both these areas. At least two each Iceland and Glaucous gulls, including one adult of each were found by Bruce. Those, as well as an ongoing Lesser Black-backed Gull have brought many birders to the area. We can’t thank Bruce enough for his diligence in seeking out and identifying these great birds.
On the local scene here in Sullivan County, birding has been good too. Snow Buntings have been found in a couple of areas where they typically are (Beechwoods and Neversink). A single Horned Lark has been present in the Beechwoods area as well. Common Redpolls have been found throughout the county and may turn up just about anywhere. The Rondout Reservoir continues to be the hot spot for waterfowl with as many as ten species being seen there. In my sector of the Monticello CBC, the Green-winged Teal that I found was finally seen really well on January first and determined to be a “Common Teal” the Eurasian counterpart to our American Green-winged Teal. This is a first record for Sullivan County, though it is not currently recognized as a separate species by the ABA. I’m going to be seeking out Red Crossbills again now that I will have the time to do so. I’ll keep you posted if I can find the first one of the new year.
Monday I spent some time going around the county again. The Rondout Reservoir continues to be the hot spot of the county with an abundance of waterfowl present. Highlights included Greater and Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Northern Pintail, Bufflehead and Common and Hooded Mergansers. Alewives are running and gull numbers are again building. There were probably 100 gulls, but so far still only Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. At least one Belted Kingfisher was present and some Red-breasted Nuthatches were in the hemlocks. Of course, Bald Eagles are present as well. I searched the Neversink Reservoir basin for the Northern Shrike, but found neither it nor the Common Redpolls that had been present. That said, as I worked my way home for lunch, passing a large stand of White Birch along Rt 17 at exit 111, I found a flock of, at best count, 105 Common Redpolls! This is my second largest flock this winter. I put out an alert, and Karen Miller was able come view the birds too. Later in the day, the Bashakill was pretty busy, but only Canada Geese, Black Ducks, Mallards and Hooded Mergansers were seen along with the ongoing Mute Swan. Plenty of common passerines were coming to our feeding stations as well.