Bill and Jayne Fiero and I scoured their sector of the Orange County CBC today searching for as many birds as we could find. It was warm (40 degrees) and wet with occasional mist and fog. We ended with a total of 37 species, a low total for the area. We had no birds of note. The best birds were a single Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Northern Harrier. The most numerous bird was Common Grackle with a single field holding approximately 2000 of these birds.
I have been quite busy, birding most of the time and some holiday preparations too. I haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d catch you up! The highlights of the week really haven’t changed much. COMMON REDPOLL, SNOW BUNTING, BARRED OWL, PINE SISKIN, NORTHERN GOSHAWK and EVENING GROSBEAK are the main finds. Most of the birds continue to be found in the areas they have been reported over the last week. The Northern Goshawk was seen by me for the second time this week, yesterday, again at Sue Rayano’s yard. It went after a dove, though last I saw them they went over the hill with the hawk hot on the dove’s tail. Barred Owls have turned up all over the place. I saw my fourth one in five days late yesterday near the Pine Boat Launch at the Bashakill. Common Redpolls are still moving into the county, my most recent sighting of 34 birds in the Beechwoods area of Delaware Township. The most reliable spots for Evening Grosbeak continue to be the Rayano and Marsden feeders on Smith and Woodard Roads respectively. Pine Siskins are most reliable in Bradley on Grant Road. Two feeding stations, one on the right immediately as you turn onto Grant from 52/55 and the other just a quarter mile in, also on the right. Out of the county, I got a call from Bruce Nott this afternoon informing me he had found a drake CANVASBACK at the Newburgh Waterfront near Gully’s Barge. I zoomed down and after my fifth chase of this elusive species over the years, finally added it to my Orange County list! A big thanks to Bruce for keeping an eye out for this species for me! Karen Miller also came and saw the bird. So great birding continues throughout the area!
Another cold morning with 15 degree temperature. Snow on the ground, especially up county. I arrived at Clements Road @ 8:45 to find a beautiful Barred Owl perched in the open on a pine tree. It stayed the entire time I was there, shifting its gaze back and forth at unseen prey in field. I was speaking with Matt Zeitler who was coming up to try for the grosbeaks and I headed out to meet him at the Rayano’s feeders. We were only there a few minutes when the first Evening Grosbeak came in. There were three present, but I could only see one. While we waited, we got a call from Karen Miller. She was photographing the Barred Owl on Clements when she heard redpolls. Thirteen of them were feeding in the same group of trees that they were two days ago. Matt and I went right over and enjoyed great looks at the birds. I then headed on and stopped at the feeders on Tazman Road. There were a dozen American Goldfinch and two Pine Siskins. I then went on to Woodard Road. I stopped at the Marsden’s and spoke with Mrs. Marsden informing her that birders would be stopping by since she was getting Evening Grosbeaks. She was thrilled to hear it and said anyone is welcome to park along the road and view the feeders. She said the grosbeaks come several times a day, mostly in the morning. From there I went on to Hunter Road and ultimately the Rondout Reservoir. As I approached the eagle nesting area, I noticed a kettle of eagles soaring high above the reservoir. I immediately noted that one was larger and showed distinct dihedral. I pulled over and jumped out, getting my bins on the birds. The bird in question was a beautiful immature GOLDEN EAGLE!! My first of the year! I quickly snapped five shots, most of which didn’t come out well. One was identifiable though (below) and that’s all I needed. The golden head and nape, small head, white spots in the wings and white tail band are all clear in the shot. Many birders came to the county today. Some from Orange, Rockland and Dutchess counties, and all were pretty happy with their visit. Lets hope these great birds continue right into the new year!
On the heels of my post about redpolls yesterday, the first Hoary Redpoll in New York this season has been reported in Tompkins County just to our north west. Redpolls continue to move south, lets keep our eyes peeled!
I headed out early this morning. I knew that several birders were heading to the county this morning to try for a number of the good birds I’ve been seeing over the last several days. It was cold, 10 degrees, as I headed out. It was also blustery and snow squalls were coming in periodically. I always like these conditions, it always seems to deliver the birds. My first good stop was on Grant Road in Bradley. A feeding station there had some common feeder birds and 12 PINE SISKINS. These birds have all but disappeared in the last two weeks and I was glad to see them. The next good stop was at Sue Rayano’s feeders. I knew Karen Fung was coming up from Manhatten this morning and was going to be looking for EVENING GROSBEAKS. As I came down the road, I thought I had passed Karen and called her when I stopped. She came right back and we had nice looks at 12 Evening Grosbeak. Shortly thereafter, the birds flushed. Patrick Dechon arrived, hoping to see them so we waited for their return. As we talked, two birds came flying over Sue’s house. The first was a crow, but the second was a big surprise. A beautiful adult NORTHERN GOSHAWK flew right over the yard, and then right over us, standing on the road. What a beautiful bird! My last Goshawk was just two years ago in this very yard! I left Karen and Patrick to wait out the grosbeaks and I moved on. I had little unusual, but when I reached Hunter Road, I spotted a BARRED OWL perched in a tree just off the road. Though I’ve had many Barred Owls this year, this is the first that I actually got to see. I moved around the county for some time, seeking anything new that people (and I) would like to see. As I headed back to Clements Road (quiet earlier) I got a call from Tom Burke and Gail Benson that they had just passed me. As we talked, Tom said a flock of COMMON REDPOLL had just flown in. I turned around and joined them for nice views of 30 of the birds! I hope everyone who came out today had as good a day as we did!
PS: This afternoon Tom and Gail found a second flock of Evening Grosbeak on Woodard Road. Historically this has been a good location for them, but I have yet to connect this winter. Hopefully this will become an additional good spot for them. The flock of 30 Common Redpoll continued on Muhlig Road late this afternoon.
In Sullivan County Common Redpoll in December is rather rare. In most irruption years a few show up in late December and our major influx occurs at the beginning of the year, usually the first week of January. In our most recent irruption, redpolls began showing up the first week of December 2012. Their numbers fluctuated through the month, with mostly single digits reported and with a high of 30 reported in one day. A major influx occurred the first week of January 2013 resulting in our biggest irruption in my recollection. If there was a bigger irruption in our area, it was before my time and not documented in ebird. We have been pretty much without redpolls for several years now. My last record was January 2015. Why do I mention this? As of today, I have already reported 74 Common Redpolls this week, with a high count of 42 at one location. This exceeds my earliest, high counts by a third and much earlier in the month. With a reliable forecast for an irruption year already in place, this could be our biggest irruption ever! If anything like the last, everyone should get them at their feeders this winter. Scotty, keep those thistle feeders full, you’re gonna have company!
PS: we have never had a Hoary Redpoll report in the month of December. The first one was reported recently in Vermont, and there are quite a few in the St. Lawrence River valley in Canada. If a huge influx of Common Redpoll occurs, we may be looking for our first December record of Hoary. BTW, we should get some in January either way!
You may recall that I had twenty Common Redpolls on Clements Road in Liberty on Tuesday. I have checked each day since with no luck until this morning. Today, there was a flock of 42 Common Redpolls feeding in the catkins on White Birch right along the road. They remained in the same trees, being flushed momentarily by passing cars, for 45 minutes while I was there. It was a good opportunity for photos. It was great to spend some time with these beautiful birds. It was a snowy blustery morning though and quite cold. I eventually moved on from there and found a second flock of 12 Common Redpolls on Muhlig Road, just east of the crossroads at the big fields. Karen Miller was in the area and called to inform me she had found a Long-tailed Duck on the Neversink Reservoir, so I went over and saw it with her. Another great morning!