This morning I headed up county again to try for the Northern Shrike seen again yesterday by Steve Sulzer (thanks again for the updates Steve!). Unfortunately, I spent much of the morning and again late afternoon, searching without any luck. Tom Burke and Gail Benson also joined me in the search this afternoon. Even though I didn’t find the shrike, I did have some nice birds today. On Blue Hill Road I had three PURPLE FINCHES (below) among the hundreds of Goldfinches present. I did say hundreds of Goldfinches! I was able to count 220 birds, before moving to another spot which had many more. They all eventually joined up to form a cloud of finches swirling in the air. From there I moved on to Pole Road, Fir Brook. There I had a Bald Eagle, many Chickadees and three RED-BREASTED NUTHATHCES! (above) Eventually I went to the Rondout Reservoir before going back to search for the shrike. I was surprised to find that the reservoir had opened up considerably since my last visit. More surprising was the fact that most of the birds that had been frozen out of the area had returned. The Mute Swan, Northern Pintails and Common Goldeneye were all back among the more common species. Where were they when they were gone? Anyone’s guess. All in all, not a bad day of birding.
Pretty much tired out from a lot of running this week, I decided just to bird the valley today. It was a really productive day. I had picked up a number of nice birds for the morning when I started hiking the Linear Park Trail. I came upon a small flock of 7 RUSTY BLACKBIRDS. I knew Lance Verderame still needed this bird for his “Big Year” list, so I called him. He came down and joined me at the trail, where we quickly got back on the birds. We then birded Phillipsport Road and then the Bashakill on Haven Road. It was a good morning. Other birds of interest included 2 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Northern Flicker, Northern Mockingbird and many others.
Lance Verderame and I traveled to the east end of Long Island today to try to add a few more birds to Lance’s Big Year list. It was a tough morning, but we managed to get some great birds. The temperature was hovering around zero when we departed at 4 am. We reached Culloden Point at 8 am. This location hosted an abundance of sea ducks. Common Eider (above), Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Common Loons and at least two RED-NECKED GREBE were seen, the last new for both of us. Our main target was a duo of King Eiders that had been seen earlier in the week, but we never found them. From Culloden, we went to Montauk Point. There we had many Long-tailed Duck and Black Scoters, but little else. We moved on to Harbor Mill Road to try for the TOWNSEND’S SOLOTAIRE! We spent a long time searching for this bird, joined by Anthony Collerton. Together we searched for quite some time, eventually stopping to talk and catch up a bit. As we stood there, I noticed a bird fly in from the bay side of the woods. It looked good for the Solotaire and I alerted the guys that it was coming in. As it landed on top of a maple tree, we simultaneously exclaimed “that’s it!” We were all fixed on the bird for just moments when I decided to move to get a photo. Before I could even budge, the bird dropped down in the trees, unfortunately, not to be seen again. Still, a great find. We headed on quite happy with our sighting. Lance and I then headed to Shinnecock Inlet to try for the King Eider there. It was not our day for a King. Pat Lindsey and Shai Mitra joined us there, but a couple hours of searching failed to turn up this King either. We did have an abundance of the previously seen birds as well as a Merlin and a flock of Snow Buntings. It was already heading for 4pm, so we headed home. Great birding, minus a King.
This morning I headed up county again hoping to find a Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Shrike or Lapland Longspur. That didn’t happen. What did happen was a great morning of birding! When I reached Radio Tower Road in Beechwoods, I found a flock of 11 HORNED LARK. These were new birds for the county this year. I sifted through the, mousing around in the thick grasses, but they were all larks, no longspurs. I then headed up to Hankins and Fremont to try for birds there. I noticed I was seeing a lot of Bald Eagles, but the best was yet to come. When I reached the sweeping vista on Pleasant Valley Road, I saw an abundance of Bald Eagles, 14 to be exact. They were perched of flying around all over in front of me. I began to take some photos and look for a GOLDEN EAGLE. It only took a minute before a beautiful immature Golden flew in front of me! These eagles were all just loafing around. I couldn’t see anything for them to feed on and they were just relaxing and having some fun. The Golden in particular kept flying at the immature Balds. I was able to get lots of photos of the birds and finally pulled myself away after about 15 minutes. I had only driven two miles when I saw a bird with dihedral flying behind some trees. I jumped out to get photos, thinking it was my first county Turkey Vulture. It wasn’t. It was a beautiful adult Golden Eagle! This bird too just floated around for at least ten minutes allowing many photos. It was a lot fun watching these wonderful birds! I then moved farther south, running into a flock of Blackbirds. Among them my first county year Common Grackles. Later today, I went to the Bashakill to see if anything new showed up. I found some Pintails and a Green-winged Teal among the more common ducks. On Haven Road I had my FOS WOOD DUCKS. Then I went to the Pine Boat Launch where I saw a total of five more! Three new county birds today and those great eagles!
The Bashakill was quite busy today. Among the usual waterfowl there were a few new arrivals. A pair of GREEN-WINGED TEAL and a drake AMERICAN WIGEON were new for the county this year. Lots of Mergansers, Mallards and Black Ducks, but still no Wood Duck for me. Red-winged Blackbirds continue to move through daily, some holding over and singing in the Cattails. Out in Phillipsport I had one of the Northern Mockingbirds and five Field Sparrows. a pretty good day overall.
This morning I headed up county to try to find the Northern Shrike found by Steve Sulzer yesterday afternoon. It was truly a winter wonderland with a fresh five inches of snow still falling. Though I spent three and a half hours, I never found the shrike. I’m sure it is still in the area and most likely the bird I saw just briefly in the area nearly two weeks ago. That said, It was quite a birdy morning. The snow eventually stopped and birds came to life. All fruiting trees and bushes hosted lots of birds, mainly American Robins, which seemed to be everywhere this morning. American Goldfinches, likewise everywhere, were abundant at every feeding station. As I traveled along Muhlig Road, I spotted two beautiful male PURPLE FINCHES feeding on Crab Apples! These were new for the year for me. On Huson Road, one of the best spots for RED-BREASTED NUTHATCHS, I managed to spish up five of these little cuties! Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers accompanying them. A pair of Ravens, usually skittish, posed in a snowy treetop for photos. Even though I missed the shrike, it was a great morning of birding.
Today Bruce Nott and I headed to Suffolk County Long Island to seek out some new year birds and enjoy the beach/bay habitat. We had a really good day. We started at East Hampton Beach and Hook Pond. Highlights there included PURPLE SANDPIPER (above), Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Black Scoter and more. We then headed to Georgica Cove Hollow where it took a bit of time, but we found two of the WILSON’S SNIPE that have been being reported. From there we went to Shinnecock Inlet East, hoping for the King Eider which we unfortunately were unable to find. There were at east 1,000 Common Eiders, but they were all well out in the bay. This made sifting through them impossible. We did have many scoters, mergansers, Long-tailed Ducks and more. The previously reported Snowy Owl was in the dunes a couple of hundred feet off the trail where we were. A haul out of about 15 Harbor Seals could be seen on the sand bar out in the bay. We then headed all the way around the bay to Shinnecock Inlet east. As we crossed the Ponquogue Bridge I told Bruce I wanted to check the park under the bridge. I’ve often had BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE (below) there in the past and it was worth a shot. We had lots of birds there including both Scaup, Eiders, Gulls and more, but most importantly, we got the grackle! We birded the inlet and beach, took a break for lunch at Sunday’s and then did Dune Road. We had many more birds, but little new. All in all, it was a great day! I’d really like to thank Bruce for joining me for the day!