Things are starting to happen

One of the Peregrine Falcons perched at the Hawk's Nest this morning.

One of the Peregrine Falcons perched at the Hawk’s Nest this morning.


I traveled around the county a bit today and parts of Orange County as well. Jim Carney had called me yesterday to inform me that a PEREGRINE FALCON was flying around the Hawk’s Nest on Rt. 97. After making a quick check of the Bashakill this morning, I headed over there. As I was pulling up I could see a Peregrine flying around the pull off. Once out of the car, I quickly found both birds. They were zooming all over and calling back and forth to each other in chirping calls. They put on quite a show as usual. This is the third year these birds have been present at the Hawk’s Nest. From there I worked my way back into Sullivan county. The most notable birds today were blackbirds. I had Red-winged Blackbirds in low numbers in several locations. Also seen were single Common Grackles at Dr. Duggan Road and then my feeders where I also had Red-wings. Gulls were also noted moving in a couple of spots and I had only my second Herring Gull this year at the Bashakill this morning among a group of Ring-billed Gulls. I forgot to mention that at the Hawk’s Nest I had Herring Gulls fly down the river and my FOS Killdeer as well. A nice “Gray Ghost” in the Beechwoods area was a surprise, they are not usually present in winter. A couple of Cooper’s Hawks and Red-tailed Hawks were seen, as well as several Bald Eagles. Not a bad day of birding, especially for raptors and blackbirds.

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A Good Day

I worked my way through town this morning, trying to see if anything new had come in to feeders. The best bird I found was a Fish Crow along Sullivan St. Scott tells me there have been a couple, often near Stewart’s Shop as usual, but this was my first in a while. From there I headed to McDonald Road. Here I heard a Murder of crows mobbing something in a stand of pines. This almost never works out for me and it turns to be a Sharpie or a Red-tail. Today however, it was my FOS in the county BARRED OWL! I positioned myself to get a shot of the bird, but my camera said “charge battery”. This is the first time that has ever happened. I usually charge every couple of days and the battery has never died. Oh well! From there I headed to Linear Park. I had an assortment of birds, the best of which was a Red-winged Blackbird (only second time in county this year) and two RUSTY BLACKBIRDS! I then birded the Bashakill. Things were about the same there. Temps in the teens overnight kept it pretty frozen and only the regular five species of waterfowl were seen. On Haven Road, it got quite warm by now and I checked the ridge for raptors. I eventually had six TURKEY VULTURES! These were FOS in the county as well. As I checked out other birds including the continuing Swamp and Song Sparrows, a dozen HORNED LARK flew in. They only remained a moment before moving on, but they were my first since the first week of the year in the county. All in all, a pretty good birding morning. With more warmth predicted, we should get some more new arrivals soon.

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A Quiet Week

Karen Miller and I found our FOS Hermit Thrush on the Linear Park Trail at Summitville yesterday, only to be followed by a second Hermit at the Bashakill a few hours later.

Karen Miller and I found our FOS Hermit Thrush on the Linear Park Trail at Summitville yesterday, only to be followed by a second Hermit at the Bashakill a few hours later.


If you take out the wind, cold and snow/removal, there wasn’t much going on this week. Most of the water is again frozen and in spite of constant northwest winds this week, few new birds have arrived. There are a few exceptions though. Blackbirds have begun to move into the area. RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS have begun to show up at feeders through much of the area and a few flocks have been passing over Haven Road late in the day. PINE SISKINS continue to be seen throughout the county. Most of our regularly frequented feeders have at least half a dozen showing up. A flock of SNOW BUNTINGS in the valley at the Big Valley Trailer Park have been frequenting a feeder there and the flock has grown from an initial ten to eighteen birds. Karen Miller and I hiked the Linear Park Trail from the visitors center to Summitville yesterday looking for the Great Blue Heron, but didn’t find it. In stead we found many AMERICAN ROBINS and EASTERN BLUEBIRDS. Among them was our FOS HERMIT THRUSH! I’ve been looking for this normally overwintering species all winter without luck. A while later, I found a second Hermit Thrush at the Bashakill. Hopefully, the water will open up and we’ll get another influx of waterfowl with the increasing temperatures of the coming week.
The flock of Snow Buntings at Big Valley continues, and has grown to 18 birds. Scott Baldinger and I were able to view them again yesterday

The flock of Snow Buntings at Big Valley continues, and has grown to 18 birds. Scott Baldinger and I were able to view them again yesterday.

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Great Gray Owl in Northern New York

I think this one ended up being my favorite shot of the owl, so I couldn't help but add it on!

I think this one ended up being my favorite shot of the owl, so I couldn’t help but add it on!


The fabulous Great Gray Owl at Robert Moses today!

The fabulous Great Gray Owl at Robert Moses today!


Friday evening I received a call from Lance Verderame informing me that the Great Gray Owl in Massena, New York was relocated today. He asked if I wanted to go for it. I had plans for the evening including my God Daughter Jackie’s Birthday dinner. After much discussion, I decided I’d be home by 10pm, up by 2 am and we’d head north to St. Lawrence County. I departed Yankee Lake with snow falling. I picked up Lance and we headed north. The snow stopped in Delaware County and we had an uneventful trip to the St. Lawrence River. We arrived at Robert Moses State Park at 9 am. Upon exiting the tunnel under the loch, I immediately spotted a NORTHERN SHRIKE! We began our search for the Great Gray Owl, but it was initially unsuccessful. Surprisingly, we found NO other birders present. As we searched, birders began arriving. We met a couple who had come down another road who informed us they had been there since 8 am with no luck. Other birders included Bill Purcell and Gary Chapin. We searched all of the areas the bird had been being seen to no avail. Then as we decided to head down another road, Bill Purcell came up flashing his lights. He had just found the Great Gray just past the entrance to the Nature Center. We headed right to the spot. I thought we would be having distant views of this bird, but instead, it was only forty feet away! We sat photographing the bird which at that point was all ours! Other birder arrived to great views of the bird. We spent a half an hour with the bird getting great views and photos. We then headed out of the park starting our six hour trip home. As we exited the park, we ran into the couple we had first met this morning. We filled them in on the location of the bird and they sped off in hopes of seeing it. Shortly thereafter, Lance received a text informing us that a second Great Gray Owl had arrived and was being seen by the birders present. This was a most exciting event for us. It was a life bird for Lance! It was a new New York State bird for both of us! I’d like to thank Bill for letting us know he had found the bird! If you can, travel north and get this most majestic of owls!
This wonderful bird entertained many for over half an hour as we watched in awe.

This wonderful bird entertained many for over half an hour as we watched in awe.


What an experience this was! I have only seen Great Gray Owl once before (see Yellowstone National Park trip "09) and it was an exciting addition to my New York list (405).

What an experience this was! I have only seen Great Gray Owl once before (see Yellowstone National Park trip “09) and it was an exciting addition to my New York list (405).

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Interesting Snow Bunting Observation

Snow Buntings at a feeding station in Big Valley Trailer Park this morning.

Snow Buntings at a feeding station in Big Valley Trailer Park this morning.


This morning I birded the valley hoping for something new. That didn’t happen, in fact, there were far fewer birds in the valley than before the storm. The storm dumped ten inches of snow on us and the plummeting temperatures had us waking up to 8 degrees this morning. Most of the birds, especially the waterfowl, were gone. As I birded the valley, I went through “Big Valley” trailer park outside of Wurtsboro, hoping for blackbirds. I didn’t find blackbirds, but I had a new experience in birding. As I drove around the park, I turned onto the last drive along a field adjacent to the park. The last trailer on the west side of the park had feeders out. I saw there were birds under the feeders, so I drove over. I was surprised to find 10 SNOW BUNTINGS feeding on the mixed seed under the feeders. I have never seen buntings at a feeder in my life. They seemed to be filling up on millet. A snow plow came around a couple of times, flushing the birds as it went. Each time, the birds flew back down to the feeders to resume eating. I can’t help but wonder how many people have seen Snow Buntings at a feeding station before.
I wasn't able to get a shot of all ten buntings, there was a depression under the feeders and a pile of snow behind them. Both of these features kept a few of the birds hidden.

I wasn’t able to get a shot of all ten buntings, there was a depression under the feeders and a pile of snow behind them. Both of these features kept a few of the birds hidden.

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ABA Bird of the Year and our own follow up!

The Ruddy Turnstone from Morningside Park in 2013.

The Ruddy Turnstone from Morningside Park in 2013.


I thought this might be of interest on a snow bound day. Each year, the American Birding Association designates a national “Bird of the Year”. This year, the designee is the “RUDDY TURNSTONE”. I think its safe to say we are all familiar with this beautiful shorebird. It is currently depicted on the annual seal of the organization and an article about the species is present in the current ABA publication “Birding”. In keeping with this theme, I thought you might enjoy an update on our own special guest in Sullivan County in 2013. On July 28, 2013 I found the first and only record of a Ruddy Turnstone in Sullivan County. This bird was banded with a Lime green flag engraved in black with the number 0AH. I reported the bird to the national banding registry. The bird was originally banded on 5/22/11 on Kimble Beach in New Jersey. It was an adult male at least one year of age. The bird was not reported in 2012. I found it in 2013. It was then reported several times at Mispillion Harbor in Delaware in May of 2014. The bird was not reported in 2015. Then in May of 2016 the bird turned up at another birding hot spot, Pickering Beach in Delaware. The bird was reported by five birders in the course of two days, 5/17 and 5/18/16. This bird is now at least six years of age and still doing great. Hopefully, it will continue its regular migration between North and South America and be reported again this year at one of its east coast stop overs!

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A Taste of spring………….before the storm!

Some of the thirty American Wigeon present today.

Some of the thirty American Wigeon present today.


With the recent mild temperatures and the south winds overnight, birds were bound to come in to the Bashakill. Scott Baldinger texted me this morning that he had seen a flock of Ring-necked Ducks on his way out this morning. I was already headed to the Bash and this only hastened my trip. I reached Haven Road to find it still fogged in. In spite of that, I still found some waterfowl. Off the bridge, I spotted six Common Mergansers and two Common Goldeneye. Mallards, Black Ducks and Canada Geese were all present too. Bob Fiore stopped to say hello, and as we talked I was surprised to have five AMERICAN WIGEON fly right past us. I eventually worked my way to the other end of the kill, where Scott had seen the Ring-necks. I found them immediately, still where he had seen them. There were 32 in all. Scott arrived and I told him about the wigeon. I had no sooner said it, and scanning to my right, found a flock of them. As it turned out there were 30 of them! That is a great record for the Bashakill. I don’t think we’ve ever had anything near that number in February! Among the birds at this spot, there were also five Hooded Mergansers. Four Bald Eagles and many other passerines were seen during the course of the morning. An early sign of spring even though the forecast is for snow tomorrow. I returned later to find a pair of Wood Ducks had joined the numbers of waterfowl.
Most of the 32 Ring-necked Ducks present this morning.

Most of the 32 Ring-necked Ducks present this morning.

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