This morning I birded the Bashakill on what turned out to be a beautiful morning. I started at the Pine Boat Launch (4 wheel drive only) and hiked around the entire trail. It was balmy, in the mid fifties, and the aroma of pine was permeating the air. So good to be able to hike the trails again! It was very birdy, and the sounds of singing Red-winged Blackbirds could be heard throughout. A big movement of this species could be noted throughout the morning, with at least three huge flocks passing through. On the ground, a flock of about 100 contained half a dozen COMMON GRACKLES. I had my first at my feeders this morning, and then these at the Bash. Waterfowl was present in low numbers for the first real movement this winter. The channel has opened considerably in several areas and waterfowl were taking advantage of it. 100 Canada Geese, 112 Mallard and 15 Black Duck were all seen. New for the year here were 7 Common Mergansers, a Hooded Merganser and a female American Wigeon. Also of note among about a dozen Ring-billed Gulls was a single HERRING GULL. While none of the birds were exceptional, it made for a nice morning under balmy spring like conditions.
I was able to get a number of shots of the Little Gull. Though they are all distant, the distinct dark underwing unique to the bird and its small size confirm its ID.
I was up and out of the house before 4 am today. I was heading down to Montauk Long Island to try for some of the interesting birds they’ve been seeing. I was hoping to find the Little Gull, Razorbills and Pink-footed Goose. I started out making my way down through a rain and ice storm. I made it alright because I had left so early, there were many problems with icing roads after I had gone through. Once I got to Montauk, 4 hours later, I started at Deep Hollow Ranch where the Pink-footed Goose has been being seen. Not today. I eventually checked Montauk Downs Golf Course, but found no geese there either. On to Montauk Point. There thousands of Scoters and Eiders there! A few Common Loons and a Horned Grebe, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck and the common gulls. After nearly five hours, I hadn’t seen any of my targets. I was birding with Fritz Mueller and Rob Taylor whom I met there this morning. They were both good spotters and we helped each other out. Shortly before 1 pm, a few Bonaparte’s Gulls showed up. We took this as a good sign, as the Little Gull was being seen with a group of Bonies there. Rob spotted a gull far out that we initially thought was a Bonie, but once I got my scope on it, it was clearly the LITTLE GULL! The birds small size and distinctive dark underwing clinched the ID. The bird actually flew toward us, allowing some distant but identifiable photos. Rob also spotted a NORTHERN GANNET, which I hadn’t really targeted because so few have been seen this winter. Razorbills never showed our entire time there, and finally shortly after 1 pm I headed back to Deep Hollow to see if the goose had shown up. It hadn’t, but there were two Snow Geese there. Also present were my FOS KILLDEER! From there I decided to head home. As I exited the area, I remembered that we used to bird Rita’s Stable grounds years ago when some good birds ie. Ruff were present. I remembered there were sometimes geese there so I decided to stop by to see there were any today. As I pulled in the drive, I immediately spotted the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE in the first field on the right. I snapped a few shots and left as I didn’t see anyone around. It was a great day overall. I missed one bird, but got two I didn’t really plan on. Great birding!
This morning I headed to the Black Dirt looking for something new. On my way I noticed many flocks of migrating Canada Geese in the air headed northeast. Upon arriving at the usual spots I didn’t find many geese and assumed most had moved on. I checked many areas for something good. My first find wasn’t avian. A pair (?) of Coyotes were feeding on a deer carcass in the middle of a large field. They move off a bit when they saw me, but then stopped to assess the situation. One of them began to yelp and I think he was expressing his displeasure with my presence. I moved on to let them get back to business, but a later passed failed to find them. As I was searching the area, I was out of my car when I heard a gun shot. I looked to my east to see and hear a cacophony of geese rising up in the air. Thousands of Canada Geese were apparently on Skinner Lane and had been flushed by hunters. As I watched, a tremendous wave of geese came up that were entirely Snow Geese! I headed right over. The Snow Geese had flown off toward Florida and could just be seen in the distance. I began to sift through the Canada Geese that had either remained, or were returning. As I watched, the Snow Geese returned as well. The hunters were still present on the north side of the fields, but it didn’t seem to effect what was happening. The Snow Geese eventually settled down, but it only lasted a few minutes. They flushed again, and this time headed southwest, not to be seen again. As I monitored the flocks of Canada Geese in the air, I noted a couple of odd geese that due to light and distance I couldn’t make out for sure what they were. I decided I was pretty sure where they were going, and I headed to a local pond where after considerable searching through nearly a 1000 geese, I spotted a pair of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE! I then continued my search of the area, finding the typically expected species, Horned Lark, Rough-legged and Red-tailed Hawks and both Vultures. As I was exiting Pine Island, I spotted my FOS MERLIN on a wire feeding on a Horned Lark. Another great morning!
The Coyote expressing his displeasure with me, the one in the back isn’t very clear.
This morning I headed to the Orange County Black Dirt Region to try for some new birds that I’ve missed thus far this year. I got my FOS COMMON GRACKLES, but dipped on Merlin. It was otherwise a great morning, especially for raptors! I had a total of 14 Red-tailed Hawks, 7 Rough-legged Hawks and 1 American Kestrel. The highlight of the morning however was three SHORT-EARED OWLS feeding along the road. I suspect the birds had difficulty finding prey last night due to the icing on the fields, so they were out under overcast skies trying to get a meal. I first came upon one bird right along the road and stopped to take a few photos of the bird. It never moved from the spot, just scanning the grassy area around it. I finally pulled away, then it took off and flew only about a hundred feet where it was immediately joined by another two Short-ears. They really talked to each other, vocalizing a number of times. I drove off, leaving them all perched on some small snags and a post. It was pretty neat, as I don’t usually get to see them so close or so clearly. I searched the Canada Geese all around the region, but came up with only one Snow Goose. Lots of sparrows were around, including a few White-crowned and a single Savannah. I had about 150 Horned Larks and 7 Snow Buntings. A really nice morning!
A Tundra Swan on Lake Road in Cayuga.
This morning I was once again searching for a spot to get in some good birding. It didn’t take long to review the alerts on ebird for me to decide on Cayuga Lake. Headed north, not arriving in Ithaca until 11:30. I was searching Stewart Park for a Glaucous Gull that had been reported for the last several days, including this morning. Lots of Redheads, and Common Mergansers as well as the common gulls. I didn’t find the gull, so I moved north. My next stop was Aurora Boat House. Here I had many Red-breasted Mergansers, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Mallards and Canada Geese, but no grebes of any kind. This is unusual for this location. I continued on to Union Springs. Here I found more Redheads, Buffleheads and common waterfowl. On to Cayuga. Here I found my first TUNDRA SWANS of the year! Redheads were so abundant, there may have been thousands. Moving on, I spotted a group of about two dozen gulls. I stopped to check them out and found an adult GLAUCOUS GULL and first winter ICELAND GULL! Moving on to River Road. Here I found hundreds (if no thousands) of Canada Geese, Redheads, Mallard and Black Ducks, a surprise Great Blue Heron and more. As I started back down the road, I spotted a couple of dozen distant Tundra Swans and then some much closer swans which I was able to get some shots of. I eventually pulled myself away, heading south. I once again stopped at Stewart Park where I found a second cycle GLAUCOUS GULL and a hybrid Herring X Great Black-backed Gull that had been previously reported. Believe it or not, I only had twenty species for the day, but its quality not quantity! Great birding!
Tundra Swans on River Road.
Though the light was terrible, I was able to get an identifiable photo of the second cycle Glaucous Gull.
Arlene Borko and I toured the county looking for something new and interesting this morning. I didn’t get anything new, and it was a relatively quiet morning. On the other hand, we had two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS in the Beechwoods area. This isn’t too exciting for you Orange and Ulster County folks, but Rough-legs have gotten to be rare in Sullivan County. In fact, there is only one record each year in ’15 and ’16, and none for 2017. Prior to that, they were pretty common in the county. This was Arlene’s first in four years! Raptors in general were in decent numbers this morning. Here is our list:
Bald Eagle 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 10
Rough-legged Hawk 2
One of highlights of the morning was that one of the Rough-legs was playing with a Common Raven! At first, I thought it was an altercation, but it proved to be just plain fun! The two birds soared, shot upward, plummeted and zoomed around. The entire time, the Raven was making interesting vocalizations almost like cooing and gurgling. It was clear they were having a good time!
The shot above shows the Barnacle Goose mid-left and the Cackling Goose third bird to its right.
This morning Karen Miller and I had just discussed the ho-hum plans we had had for the day. I got a call from Tom Burke and it changed everything. For the third day in a row (yup!) I zoomed down to Westchester County to try for the BARNACLE GOOSE that has been being seen the last four days (missed it the last two). With Karen along (says she was the good luck charm!) we finally got the bird! We spent the day with Tom and Gail Benson, having some really great birding. After an hour and a half, the Barnacle Goose accompanied by its companion CACKLING GOOSE flew out with the Canada Geese group. We grabbed a quick but delicious lunch at the Rye Deli and headed to the Bronx. We were going to bird City Island, looking for some target grebes. We were only out of the car a couple minutes when Tom announced he’d found the EARED GREBE! It was in the company of a couple of Horned Grebe, especially close to one showing a nice comparison as to size, bulk, and its slender bill. The only goodie we didn’t find was the Red-necked Grebe that may still be in the area. Other good birds we had today were Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Brant, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye. On the way back to Rye, we stopped by Church Street in New Rochelle, getting great views of Monk Parakeets, giving Karen three new state birds and one lifer for the day. We would both really like to thank Tom and Gail for once again showing us around and finding some special birds for us! What a great day!