I spent the morning in Orange County again this morning. I had seen that a couple of species were being seen that I had yet to run into and wanted to try for them again. I was quite pleased when I pulled on to Indiana Road to immediately find a dark phase ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK hovering right over the road. I followed the bird in and took a few photos here and there. It suddenly seemed to disappear. I moved on, finding a few Horned Lark here and there as well as a Northern Harrier. Over the course of the next few hours I would find 4 Harriers, 2 American Kestrels, 5 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Red-shouldered Hawk, 2 more light phase Rough-legged Hawks (possibly only one, but found an hour apart and three miles from each other) and many more Horned Lark. I sifted through flock after flock of larks, but was unable to find a Longspur. Two very large flocks were too far off to sift through and the Longspurs may very well have been among them. I also tried to find good numbers of geese, but the numbers were way down and I found nothing interesting. A really nice morning overall (though really cold!).
This weekend, Scott Baldinger, Arlene Borko and I scoured the county for winter waterfowl. While I will have to look it up to be sure, for me it was the best count we’ve experienced in many years. I attribute this to the overall mild winter we are having and the abundance of open water. I believe there were others out covering other parts of the county, but I have not heard their results. This report covers the Bashakill, Wurtsboro Ponds, Phillipsport Marsh, Rondout Reservoir, Neversink River and Rio/Mongaup Reservoirs. For me, the highlight of the count was two SNOW GEESE! We seldom have Snow Geese in the winter in Sullivan County and it was a nice addition to our count. For me, the only disappointment was not finding the two Long-tailed Ducks. They have been present for nearly a month, but were not found this weekend. Here are the combined totals from all areas:
Mute Swan – 2
Canada Goose – 753
Snow Goose – 2
Mallard – 239
Black Duck – 230
Greater Scaup – 1
Ring-necked Duck – 1
Bufflehead – 2
Common Goldeneye – 26
Common Merganser – 180
Hooded Merganser – 11
Total – 1,447
This was an excellent total! I’d like to thank Scott Baldinger and Arlene Borko for their help with the count!
Earlier this week I learned of a SUMMER TANAGER that was coming to a feeding station at a private residence in Dutchess County. Due to the location and possible conflicts in the community, the exact location was not being released. With that in mind, I made some calls and was able to arrange for myself and Lance Verderame to visit the site and see the bird. Though I am unable to say where the bird is, I thought you might like to see some photos (though not the greatest). It is in female/immature plumage and feeding on sunflower hearts and some sort of suet. It is great to know that extreme rarities like this can and do occur in the winter and we should always be on the watch for something special at our feeders!
I traveled around Sullivan, Orange and Ulster Counties this week picking up a new bird here and there. It was some nice winter birding with nothing really exceptional found. Today I headed back to Ulster and Orange Counties to try for some birds that have been being seen. Somehow, the Iceland Gull in Newburgh and I have had alternate schedules of late. I started the morning at the Shawangunk Grasslands where I ran into Ralph Tabor. It was great catching up and hearing whats been happening there this winter. A nice way to start the day. I wasn’t able to find a Rough-legged Hawk and Ralph informs me they have been very scarce this winter. I moved on to the Wallkill River in the hamlet. There was an abundance of geese on the river and I love sorting through them. I soon spotted the Snow Goose that’s been being reported. I was surprised to see it was an immature bird. I had been thinking it was the adult that I had with Bill and Jayne Fiero on our CBC there, but it wasn’t. As I scanned through the geese I saw a Great Blue Heron, Mallards and many Common Mergansers. I was just planning my next move when Bruce Nott pulled up. Bruce was looking for the Cackling Goose which I hadn’t seen to that point. I informed him it wasn’t where I had been looking. As we talked, a large influx of geese took place, landing anywhere from well down river to directly in front of us. We began to search in front of us again when I spotted the Cackling Goose, obviously newly arrived. As we watched the waterfowl and gulls a MERLIN flew in, making a half hearted attempt at one of the gulls. From there, Bruce and I went to Newburgh, spending the afternoon searching for the Iceland Gull and Golden Eagle. We ended up with neither. It was a great day in spite off that and great to be out with Bruce for the day!
The Barnacle Goose at Belmont State Park above.
Lance Verderame and I traveled to Long Island today to try for new year birds. Lance is doing a New York State Big Year! We had a great day! We had some target birds in mind, but the day exceeded all expectations! There was an intense south wind on the south shore. This provided many birds on shore that we may otherwise have missed. A feeding frenzy in the inlet at Jones Beach would offer the most exciting birds of the day. Herring, Ring-billed, Great Black-backed and Bonaparte’s Gulls were joined by at least a dozen NORTHERN GANNETS! For me, the most exciting species was the RAZORBILLS that joined the frenzy. We had at least sixty Razorbills. We weren’t expecting this species at Jones Beach today. Over at the Coast Guard Station we found the BLACK-HEADED GULL! From Jones Beach we moved on to Camman’s Pond. Along the way we stopped to see the Monk Parakeet colony. At the pond we had many common species as well as the Black-crowned Night-herons and Northern Shovelers I needed. We moved on to Millpond. There were so many species of waterfowl there it was astounding. The highlight was the ongoing COMMON GALLINULE! I have never had this species in the winter before. On to Belmont State Park. Here Lance quickly spotted the BARNACLE GOOSE! What a day of birding! Thanks Lance for taking me along!
One of many Razorbills flies past us at the inlet!
It was 12 degrees at my home this morning, but the sun was shining brightly. I know what this means. The EASTERN SCREECH-OWL in Wurtsboro is almost guaranteed to be sunning itself in its hole to keep warm. And it was. From there I went to check Phillipsport Marsh. Unfortunately, the deep freeze completely froze it over and all the waterfowl were gone. I then headed to Ulster County to look for some new birds. I started in the hamlet of Wallkill in search of the CACKLING GOOSE. I sifted through what surely seemed to be a couple of thousand geese sticking to the river in the cold. I moved southwest as I scoured the birds. Eventually I was about a quarter of a mile back into Orange County when I finally spotted the goose. I managed to get a few distant shots, but lost the bird in the throngs of other geese. From there I headed to New Paltz to check Van Nostrand and Weston Rd Swamps for RED-HEADED WOODPECKERS. I had one at Van Nostrand and three at Weston Rd. I then returned to the Shawangunk NWR prepared to wait a couple of hours for the SHORT-EARED OWLS to come out. No need. As I went up on the platform, an owl flew by. I said to the others there “that’s an owl!” They informed me they were well aware, three had been flying around since 1:45 pm. No doubt another side effect of the deep freeze overnight. I then headed back home, having gotten to see all of my targets for the day!
I spent the day in the Orange County Blackdirt Region yesterday. It was a productive day with some nice sightings. Highlights of the 35 species seen included: A blue phase Snow Goose on Turtle Bay, over 100 Horned Lark on Indiana Road (no Longspur for me), 2 Northern Harriers, 4 American Kestrel, 2 White-crowned Sparrows and 10,000 COMMON GRACKELS! That’s correct! When I get my first grackle of the year, I really go for it! Actually this massive flock was a big surprise for me. Found across the road from the Pine Island Turf Nursery, the flock went on and on. I’m attaching a single photo, but for more extensive views, check out my afternoon ebird report for the Black Dirt Region yesterday. I was hoping for more uncommon geese, but couldn’t find them. Overall, it was a great day. Another highlight was a beautiful Red-shouldered Hawk on Oil City Road. The shot below shows just one of a couple of dozen trees of grackles!