This morning I was planning on a late start. It had snowed and switched to freezing rain overnight. When I filled the feeders this morning there was a thick crust on the snow and I knew walking on trails would be tricky, so I decided to spend some time watching the feeders. As I watched, I was surprised when a hawk flew in right below the feeders. I knew it had something, but wasn’t sure what. It fluffed up and flew up to a branch right over the feeders. It became clear it was a juvenile RED-SHOULDERED HAWK and its prey was a small mole. It looked around for a minute then began eating the rodent. It pulled off small parts until it was about half gone and then threw back its head and swallowed the remaining parts whole. This beautiful young bird then rested and preened and remained perched for nearly an hour. Needless to say, I’m getting out even later than I thought, having enjoyed a great experience right in my own yard!
Over the weekend, it was beautiful! Temps just above freezing, full sunshine and no wind. I hiked around the valley quite a bit and it was really enjoyable. The only problem, very few birds! I did have my second Great Blue Heron on Linear Park Trail, but nothing much else of note. Today, I couldn’t wait to get out. It was snowing and freezing drizzle. This winter, these have been my best birding days and today didn’t do anything to change my story. I started at the Rondout Reservoir. Nine species of waterfowl continue, though the Mute Swan and Canvasback are gone. The drake American Wigeon is back once again. The weather put eagles down and as well as the pair at the nest, five immatures hunted along the ice. I then headed to Liberty, planning on going to the Bashakill. As I passed the Neversink Reservoir, I spotted a BARRED OWL perched along the road hunting. He was very confiding, in fact he paid no attention to me at all. I took many shots at my leisure. After seeing the owl I decided I’d better stay up county a while and see what else might be around. I headed in Tazman Road. At the feeding station there, I spotted what ended up being four COMMON REDPOLLS! This is only my second flock since the beginning of the year. I continued on to Muhlig Road. I was searching for buntings, but that didn’t happen. I did find a Common Raven and then in a field next to a house along the road, my second BARRED OWL of the day! I decided to head down county now, passing through Clements Road. I almost immediately came upon a light phase ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK! My first in a while. as I drove down Rt. 17, my third Barred Owl of the day flew across the highway! Finally, I headed to the Bashakill. Most of the waterfowl was located in Moose Head Cove. Mallards, Black Ducks, Wood Ducks, Common and Hooded Mergansers were all among the Canada Geese. Both pairs of Bald Eagles were seen by their nests. Not a bad morning at all!
One of my favorite times of the year for birding is just about upon us! Each February I can’t wait for the channel at the Bashakill to open up. As soon as it does, migrant waterfowl begin to show up. That’s exactly what is happening. I went out early this morning, in advance of the pending snow storm, to try for our FOS WOOD DUCKS! Yesterday Scott Baldinger had found seven of them near the Horseshoe Parking Area at the Bashakill. This is our 13th species of waterfowl in the county so far this month! Though I never found them yesterday, I found them easily this morning in the same location. In fact, they moved to the area near the Deli Fields Boat Launch and were easier to see from there. This morning the other waterfowl present included: Canada Goose, Mallard, Black Duck and Common and Hooded Mergansers. This is just the beginning. Last year was an exceptional year at the Bashakill for migrant waterfowl and I’m hoping this year will at least come close to that again. You just never know what might show up! Currently with a nice assortment of waterfowl still present at the Rondout Reservoir, we’re off to a great start. I’ll keep you posted!
This morning I got word from Gail Benson that the Ross’s Goose she and Tom Burke had found late yesterday was still present. I headed right to Crotin Point, in Westchester County, to try for the bird. Three quarters of my way there Gail let me know it had flown. I continued on in hopes that someone would find it somewhere nearby, but that didn’t happen. A nice consolation prize was a Snow Goose which has been seen in Verplanck. This bird, like the Ross’s would have been also, was a new county bird for me. If the Ross’s returns, I will try for it again. Other news around included the first sighting of the GOLDEN-CROWNED SPARROW in Delaware County in some time. Lance found the bird this morning at its usual location where it hadn’t been seen in two weeks. Another good bird for Sullivan County, the CANVASBACK continues on the Rondout Reservoir. From Orange County, Bruce Nott once again located the overwintering LINCOLN’S SPARROW on Onion Avenue in the Black Dirt Region. That’s about it!
I wanted to start the new week off right, so I headed out this morning with three target species in mind. Its a rare day when you go everywhere you had planned and have very few birds, but get the three targets! I went over to the Rondout to see if the drake CANVASBACK was still around. Waterfowl numbers had dropped significantly and three species were no where to be seen. That said, the Canvasback was there! I then headed to Sue Rayano’s to try for the EVENING GROSBEAKS. I visited several feeders in the county along the way and found NO birds at feeders anywhere. The same held true at Sue’s. Fortunately, just down the road and across the street, the wood lots were filled with Evening Grosbeaks! On to the Beechwoods area of the county. I was hoping some of the many ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS would continue so they could be added to the new period. I missed them in several spots where they’ve been regular recently, but found a beautiful Dark-phase bird on Gabel Road! A very rewarding day indeed!
This morning I decided to stick to the valley for birding. I figured I probably wouldn’t get anything new, but could update some records on birds that have been scarce due to the recent deep freeze. I had a pretty good morning. The highlight was easily three male RUSTY BLACKBIRDS I spotted along Rt. 209 across from the D & H Canal Linear Park Museum. This species winters in the valley every year, but since I hadn’t run into them, and there was such a deep freeze I presumed they didn’t stay over this year. Fortunately, they did! I had lots of common birds in the valley, including the NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD in Phillipsport. I hadn’t seen this bird since before the freeze, but now that the water is open, it is back in the thicket across the road from the old Homowack Hotel. I ended the morning with a modest 28 species.
Today I had some business to take care of so I was pretty busy most of the morning. When I was done, I decided to head over to the Rondout Reservoir to see if anything new had come in. All of the species that had been present earlier in the season were now present again. I had one drake American Wigeon (of two previously) and Ring-necked Duck (2), Bufflehead (2), Common and Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, Mallard, Black Duck and Canada Geese. The birds of the day were however, MUTE SWAN and CANVASBACK! There was one of each and the later was a nice drake. I had tried for the Canvasback that had been seen over the weekend at the Rio Reservoir, but that and the Greater Scaup were gone yesterday. I was pleased to find this bird. Last fall I found five Canvasback at Morningside Park, and they were the first we’d had in the county in five years! Hopefully this trend will continue. I notified our text group, and both Scott and Patrick were able to see the birds as well. Other highlights at the Rondout included Bald Eagle, Belted Kingfisher and Ring-billed Gulls. On the way home I stopped in Woodbourne and found five more Ring-billed Gulls and five Herring Gulls.