Thinking about the upcoming Christmas Bird Count

This unusual Barred Owl proved himself quite capable today.

This unusual Barred Owl proved himself quite capable today.


This morning I covered part of my regular Christmas Bird Count Sector. I got a late start but it still ended up being a great morning. I covered the central portion of the area from Rubin Road to Rio/Mongaup Reservoirs and had some nice and unexpected birds. If this had been the count day, I would have been pleased. Even more so since I only spent 2 hours here today. I had a total of 21 species (not bad for small area and short time). Highlights of the day included my first “flock” of Pine Siskins this fall. I had a total of 40 birds! They were initially gritting in the road and then flew up into dense stand of Black Birches laden with catkins. They were tough to photograph due to the dark skies and snow flurries, but I got a couple of identifying shots. Most of the rest of the birds were typical field and feeder birds. Red-breasted Nuthatches were plentiful at feeders and I suspect there will be an abundance of them on the count. The other exciting find was a BARRED OWL! This bird appeared to have some kind of abnormality. One side of its head appeared larger than the other and he kept his head cocked at all times. He was very active though, and clearly hunting. He nearly pounced on something, but changed his mind. I was a bit concerned about it until it suddenly flew off, into the woods and deep into them. I was on him the whole time and he navigated the flight with expertise! I guess no worries there. For my area, waterfowl was pretty plentiful too. I don’t get a lot of it by Christmas Count, but hopefully some of it will remain. Enjoyable morning!
Thirty of the forty Pine Siskins can be seen in this shot.

Thirty of the forty Pine Siskins can be seen in this shot.


Zooming in on them makes them a bit more identifiable.

Zooming in on them makes them a bit more identifiable.

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Another Great Bird!

This morning I traveled around the northeast portion of the county again, still hoping for more winter finches. It was a relatively quiet and I had no really exciting species for the morning until I reached Aden Hill Road. I was quite surprised to find a juvenile Northern Harrier hunting the snow covered fields. This is a rather late date for the species in Sullivan and my second NOHA this week. The first was on Tuesday at the Bashakill. From this spot, I headed to Sue Rayano’s Feeders to see if any winter finches had shown up there. I was watching the feeders for about five minutes. Blue Jays, Mourning Doves, Starlings, Juncos and Chickadees were all that I saw. As I was about to get in my car to leave I heard many birds screeching and starlings flying out over the road and up into the trees. As I looked back down, a gorgeous adult NORTHERN GOSHAWK was heading right at me. It turned into Sue’s yard about twenty feet from me. I knew instantly what the bird was. Pale silver gray back and shinning white underparts. As It banked, I could just see pale bars in the tail. As the massive accipiter navigated the yard, birds flew everywhere. I stayed with the bird as it entered the small wood lot right behind Sue’s yard. I thought sure it would pop right out again, but it didn’t. I ran down the street about 50 feet to look in the lot. I didn’t initially see the bird, but then it took off from the back side of a tree, back out over the yard and eventually right up over the trees. I got right on it with my bins and the beautiful stark white eye line and pale gray cap were easily seen. This was my first Goshawk in the county (or anywhere) in two and a half years! Great birding can happen in an instant!

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EVENING GROSBEAKS!

The three female Evening Grosbeaks in the tree tops at Melrose Farm.

The three female Evening Grosbeaks in the tree tops at Melrose Farm.


This morning I got a call from Scott Baldinger informing me he had three EVENING GROSBEAKS at his feeders! I zoomed right down to have Scott tell me a Sharp-shinned Hawk had scattered all his birds and he was trying to relocate the Evening Grosbeaks. We staked out the area for about half an hour when Scott pulled up along side my car saying he was sure he had just heard one. It only took a moment, and we both heard them. A quick search of the area found them in the top of a tree across the street at Melrose Farm. We had great looks at the birds which eventually returned to his feeders. Scott had put the word out and Kathy Ashman and Bruce Nott had arrived and gotten to see them as well. The birds were around for about an hour when the Sharp-shinned Hawk returned, scattering them again. There were more birders coming, Mary Busky and Arlene Borko arrived shortly thereafter, but the birds had not returned by the time I had to leave. Hopefully, they have returned and many others will get to see these formerly common, but now rare birds. I can’t thank Scott enough for his quick calls and ongoing hospitality, he always shares the birds at his feeders with our entire birding community! Congratulations to him on another great bird at his feeders!
One of the grosbeaks in the tree in Scott's front yard.

One of the grosbeaks in the tree in Scott’s front yard.


One of the grosbeaks on the shepard's crook at Scott's feeders.

One of the grosbeaks on the shepard’s crook at Scott’s feeders.

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Wonderful Waterfowl Day in Sullivan County

The twelve adult and one juvenile Tundra Swans at Lake Superior

The twelve adult and one juvenile Tundra Swans at Lake Superior

This morning I headed out to try to find some winter finches and the Northern Shrike I had seen Friday. I dipped on all of those. I did however have a great waterfowl day. Though I had only seven species, sometimes its the quality and the quantity! I had Common and Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Ducks, Canada Geese, Mallard and Black Ducks. The exciting find however came in the form of 13 TUNDRA SWANS on Lake Superior! This is a record high count of Tundra Swans for Sullivan County! I also had a total of 500 Common Mergansers on Kiamesha Lake, 130 on Wanaksink Lake and 75 on Lake Superior! That is also a single day high count of this species! All in all a great day!

A distant shot of many of the Common Mergansers at Kiamesha Lake.

A distant shot of many of the Common Mergansers at Kiamesha Lake.

Not quite so piled up, all thirteen viewable in this shot.

Not quite so piled up, all thirteen viewable in this shot.

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Long Island – Great Day!

Immature Male Rufous Hummingbird on eastern Long Island.

Immature Male Rufous Hummingbird on eastern Long Island.


This morning, Lance Verderame and I headed down to Long Island with some target species in mind. Our first stop was Jones Beach in search of the Red Crossbills that have been being seen. No luck, though we do think we heard one. Next stop was Lido Beach to try to pick up the Ash-throated Flycatcher for Lance. Again, no luck. It was extremely windy, if the bird was there, it was hunkered down. From there we went to Hendrickson Park to try to pick up the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE for Lance. No problem, found it easily. It seemed strange going to Long Island for this bird having just seen it yesterday in Orange County. It just fit into the day plan better for today. From there, we headed to Aquebogue to a private residence where we had killer looks at the their visiting RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD! The bird has been being reported as an immature female. I personally think it is an immature male due to the large gorget feathers coming in on the sides of the neck/throat. Also, if you look closely at the photo, the back is molting from green to rufous, a distinct indication of a male. The experts will have to decide. From there, we went to Pepperidge Pond in East Port. Here we immediately spotted a drake EURASIAN WIGEON! This bird has eluded me on six other occasions this year. Though we missed some targets, it was a great day overall! Many thanks to Margaret (home owner) for sharing the Rufous Hummingbird with us!
Drake Eurasian Wigeon on Pepperidge Pond.

Drake Eurasian Wigeon on Pepperidge Pond.

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Wild Day in Sullivan and Orange Counties!

The Northern Shrike on Hunter Road this morning!

The Northern Shrike on Hunter Road this morning!

This morning I headed up county to see if maybe something new had come in on the lakes and reservoirs or if some winter finches had finally shown up. I birded many areas around the north eastern portion of the county. My first good birds came in the form of a pair of GREATER SCAUP on the Neversink Reservoir! This was new for the county this year. Continuing on, the Rondout Reservoir area was quite birdy. It was the only place I had many passerines ie. Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Robins, Juncos etc. Waterfowl were scarce, but I did have my only COMMON LOON of the day here. I continued on to Hunter Road hoping for finches or buntings, but none were to be found. As I reached the second area of fields, I spotted a bird on top of a spruce (I’d already seen several Blue Jays like this) and I stopped to check it out. YES! My first NORTHERN SHRIKE in the county this year! The bird was quite cooperative, but eventually went down in some dense brush at the base of the spruce trees. I headed home to warm up (had lots of wind and sleet this morning). I didn’t even reach home when I got a text from Rob Stone informing me that Bruce Nott had found a PINK-FOOTED GOOSE at the Camel Farm in Orange County. Following a quick bite to eat, I headed right down to meet Bruce and Linda Scrima to have great scope views of the goose! Even though its been fairly quiet since my return home, you never know when everything will break loose like today did. GREAT BIRDING! Many thanks to Rob and Bruce for keeping me in the loop!
Very distant shot of the Pink-footed Goose at the Camel Farm.

Very distant shot of the Pink-footed Goose at the Camel Farm.

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A Very Unusual Find At The Bashakill

The pair of Black Swans at the Bashakill this morning.

The pair of Black Swans at the Bashakill this morning.


This morning went to the Bashakill to meet Karen Miller for some birding before the rain started. I immediately did a double take when I reached the bridge and looked off to my right to see a pair of BLACK SWANS chasing geese around the kill. This is the first record of this feral species in Sullivan County. Karen arrived and I called some nearby friends and eventually six of us were viewing the swans. They are quite beautiful birds and were obviously escapes from a waterfowl collection. They were fully flighted as I observed the presumed male fly after Canada Geese to drive them from the area. We watched the birds for an hour in total, then left to do more birding. I returned just after noon once the rain began, but couldn’t find the swans anywhere. They could still be present as it is a big place and they were able to completely disappear into the dense vegetation. Birding was pretty good this morning, but nothing other than the swans was exceptional.
The male took off after the Canada Geese several times, driving them from the bay. I was able to get this one spread wing shot.

The male took off after the Canada Geese several times, driving them from the bay. I was able to get this one spread wing shot.


Black Swans

Black Swans

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