Blue Chip Farms and Shawangunk Grasslands NWR Ulster County

I was glad to get some decent shots of the Cackling Goose this time around.  Last trip, it was so deep in the Canada Geese I couldn't get any pics at all.

I was glad to get some decent shots of the Cackling Goose this time around. Last trip, it was so deep in the Canada Geese I couldn’t get any pics at all.


This morning Karen Miller and I birded the above areas. Karen arrived shortly before me and had already found the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE before I arrived. Upon my arrival, I immediately found the CACKLING GOOSE! I met up with Karen and we shared each of our finds. There were at least 1000 Canada Geese along Bates Lane, and many more huge flocks in nearby fields and in the air. As I was coming up Bates Lane, I noticed half a dozen Turkeys at the compost pile. We then went to the grasslands. We hiked the entire main trail watching raptors as we went. At least four Northern Harriers, two Red-tailed Hawks and an American Kestrel were present. We saw no Rough-legged Hawks this morning. We searched extensively for Eastern Meadowlarks that have been being reported, but no luck. It was a brisk but beautiful morning and we had some great birds!
Cackling Goose on Bates Lane.

Cackling Goose on Bates Lane.


Greater White-fronted Goose at Blue Chip Farms.

Greater White-fronted Goose at Blue Chip Farms.

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Very birdy day on Long Island

One of many Black-crowned Night-herons at Cammanns Pond Park.

One of many Black-crowned Night-herons at Cammanns Pond Park.


I finally worked out a trip to Long Island today. I was up and out early and had arrived at Cammanns Park in Merrick at 7:30 AM. I had seen BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERONS reported here and wanted to get one for the year. Quite an active little park and pond. I had a total of 18 BCNH’s here! There were dozens of Northern Shovelers, Mallard and Black Ducks and Canada Geese. There were also quite a few Hooded Mergansers and a pair of Northern Pintail. From there I headed right down to Jones Beach (only a few miles). I started at the Coast Guard Station. Here I had a pair of Surf Scoters, dozens of Common Loons and a few Red-throated Loons. Fifty Bonaparte’s Gulls were following a flock of feeding Red-breasted Mergansers, snatching fish when they would surface. The bushes near the station were loaded with YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS! I headed over to the West End Parking area. From there I walked out to the jetty through the dunes. This is quite a walk both distance and effort wise. The sand is quite soft and you do get a workout. My targets out there were easily found. PURPLE SANDPIPERS and RUDDY TURNSTONES. There were also about 40 BLACK SCOTERS. Also among the shorebirds were 100 Sanderlings and 40 Dunlin. One miss here was Harlequin Duck. Other birders informed me that they had just flown to Point Lookout, I would try for them there later. I tried to find the Lark Sparrow that many had already seen this morning, but missed it. I then headed to Point Lookout. On my way over I had a surprise GREAT EGRET fly up out of the marsh and across the road in front of my jeep. At Point Lookout I walked in through the town park. I immediately came upon four Tree Swallows feeding on the wing among the grasses. There were actually lots of bugs out and I’m sure they were getting their fill. There were thousands of Brant in this area, as well as probably 50 Common Loons. A few more Bonaparte’s Gulls as well. I walked along the jetty and came upon three of the six HARLEQUIN DUCKS that had been seen at west end earlier. Beautiful birds and a nice add for the year. When I got back into town, I stopped at my favorite deli and had a great sandwich there. Now that it was nearing noon, I decided to head back to the Coast Guard Station and see if the incoming tide had brought in any of the shorebirds I was missing, it had! There were 20 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS and 10 RED KNOTS on the sand bar! I must have hiked five miles in the sand altogether and was quite beat by this time. I decided to drive around to see if I could find any Boat-tailed Grackles, my only miss of the trip, but couldn’t find them. Really great day with very nice mild conditions for January at Jones Beach! Some of you may have noticed that I did a lot of birding this month. January is usually just bleak and I always try to get as big a list of birds as I possibly can. Its a lot of fun and it helps a rather dismal month pass quickly. This year I set a goal to get the most birds for the month that I ever have. My previous high was 123 species. This year I ended with 135 species for January!! Next years going to be a tough one!
A Bonaparte's Gull at the Coast Guard Station.

A Bonaparte’s Gull at the Coast Guard Station.


Ruddy Turnstone on the West End Jetty.

Ruddy Turnstone on the West End Jetty.


Black Scoters off the jetty.

Black Scoters off the jetty.


Beautiful Purple Sandpipers on the jetty.

Beautiful Purple Sandpipers on the jetty.


One of the three Harlequin Ducks at Point Lookout.

One of the three Harlequin Ducks at Point Lookout.

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Orange County = Great day!

Greater White-fronted Goose on Turtle Bay Road.

Greater White-fronted Goose on Turtle Bay Road.

This morning I headed once again to the Black Dirt Region of Orange County with some target birds in mind. Long story short, I got none of them. What did happen made for some great birding. I made my usual stops along the valley, and found basically nothing. When I reached Breeze Hill Road, I found five Snow Geese, three near the pond and two in the horse paddock. Then on Turtle Bay Road, I found at least 2000 geese! I began to sift through them. At first, looking for Cackling Geese, I found nothing. As I scanned, I suddenly found myself looking at a beautiful adult GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE! This bird was vibrant in color and just a gorgeous goose. I made several calls, alerting all my friends to its presence. Bruce Nott, Linda Scrima, Bill Fiero and Rob Stone were all able to come see the bird. I then toured the valley, continuing my quest for the target birds and came up empty. Finally I returned to the fields at Turtle Bay where I once again found the GWFG. I then headed east to the Newburgh Waterfront to try for the Iceland Gulls that have been being reported there. I met up with Ken McDermott, and it didn’t take long before we found a first winter ICELAND GULL! We searched the abundant gulls for the next hour, but did not relocate the Lesser Black-backed Gull* that has been being seen (we’ve already seen it) the past few days. I finally pulled myself away from a great day of birding with some great birders.

*After I left, the group once again located the Lesser Black-backed Gull

Distant but identifiable shot of the first winter Iceland Gull.

Distant but identifiable shot of the first winter Iceland Gull.

Three of the five Snow Geese on Breeze Hill Road.

Three of the five Snow Geese on Breeze Hill Road.

Another shot of the Greater White-fronted Goose.

Another shot of the Greater White-fronted Goose.

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The Valley

Rusty Blackbird walking on ice on Linear Park Trail.

Rusty Blackbird walking on ice on Linear Park Trail.


I birded the valley from Summitville to Westbrookville today. It was quite a nice day, even though it never got really warm. Here are the highlights of the morning:

Winter Wren – 2, one on Linear Park Trail and one in the usual spot in the development
Carolina Wren – 2, at Linear Park
FOX SPARROW – a county FOS in the development with the wren
Rusty Blackbirds – 3, Linear Park
Belted Kingfisher – 1, Linear Park
Green-winged Teal – 1, Linear Park
Wood Duck – Linear Park
Red-winged Blackbird – 1, development
Brown-headed Cowbird – 1, development
Swamp Sparrow – 2, Bashakill at Melrose Farm
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 2, (1 Nature Trail, 1 Deli Fields) Bashakill
Robins – everywhere

I had a total of 37 species, but never saw a raptor of any kind.

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Cedar Waxwings

Got out for a short time this morning. I checked out the Rondout Reservoir and Neversink River. Everything remained about the same, no new birds. The highlight of the morning were two flocks of Cedar Waxwings. One in Monticello and one at the Orchard at the Rondout Reservoir. They put on quite a show at both locations. Here is a shot of some of the birds in Monticello.

Cedar Waxwings in Monticello

Cedar Waxwings in Monticello

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Lippencott Road and Newburgh Waterfront

A pair of Northern Pintail on the Wallkill River at Lippencott Road.

A pair of Northern Pintail on the Wallkill River at Lippencott Road.


On Tuesday I birded Ulster County. I covered the grasslands and Blue Chip Farms with little success. A couple of Red-tails and Northern Harriers were all I found at the grasslands. I was hoping for a Meadowlark, but no luck. At Blue Chip, the geese were the farthest away I have ever seen them. They were piled up as far back as possible along the boundary with the grasslands. They were so bunched up it was impossible to discern anything good among them. At Lippencott Road, it was very birdy. Bruce Nott had alerted me to a NORTHERN PINTAIL he had seen on Monday, so that was my target bird. I had over 80 Mallards, 2 Bald Eagles, 1 Belted Kingfisher, 6 Common Goldeneye, 14 Common Mergs and 3 Hooded Mergs. Bruce had also mention an American Coot. I didn’t initially find it, but after about twenty minutes I found it swimming with the three Hooded Mergansers. It was an extra special sighting, as I had never (how did that happen?) had a Coot in Ulster County before. Thanks Bruce for all the intel! I headed home from there only to see a post from Ajit that the Iceland Gulls were back at the Newburgh Waterfront. I headed over there after lunch where I found an abundance of birds. I spent a couple of hours sifting through the gulls and other birds, but found no Icelands. I was on the phone with Bruce, about to call it a day. He encouraged me to stay a bit longer as he has had the Iceland Gulls right at the end of the day. As we spoke I noticed a lot more gulls coming in, so I knew he was right and I should wait it out. More and more gulls came downriver on ice flows. As a mid river flow came down, I realized that even though there were extensive heat rays, it was finally close enough for me to scan with the scope and identify the birds. As I scanned for an Iceland, I came across a black-backed gull. Initially obscured, it moved into full view. It was the same size as the Herring Gulls, smaller than the Great Black-Backed Gulls and had heavy streaking on the head and nape. A basic LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL! I tried to get photos, but they came out really poor due to the heat rays. I hadn’t really thought about this bird today, as I haven’t seen any recent reports of this species. It was a very pleasant surprise. Unfortunately, I never did find an Iceland Gull. Thanks for your help again Bruce!
A poor shot of my first ever Coot in Ulster County.

A poor shot of my first ever Coot in Ulster County.

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I Headed North – FANTASTIC DAY!

American White Pelican at Syracuse Inner Harbor.

American White Pelican at Syracuse Inner Harbor.

This morning I awoke very early. In only minutes I knew I wanted to do something different today. I checked out my “Ebird Daily Needs” list. Two recently planned trips to Long Island had to be scrubbed due to the weather. I knew they would still be cleaning up down there, so that was out. I have been thinking about the AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN for a while, so I had my destination. I went through the other birds I might get in that region and put together a target list. I was out of the house by 6 am (rare for me). Two and a half hours later (as the jeep flies) I pulled up on Hiawatha Street at Syracuse’s Inner Harbor. I searched the creek and the channel where the bird has been, but didn’t find it. A gentleman who had been viewing the bird yesterday afternoon pulled up. He gave me some pointers, but cautioned that the bird had flown out yesterday afternoon, did not return by dark and that it hadn’t been seen yet this morning either. He directed me to a Linear Park Path along the creek. I began searching out to the main lake. I met another birder who also hadn’t found the bird, so we started a systematic search and would let each other know if we had found it. An hour later I was back at the harbor parking lot, ready to call it quits. I decided to check by the bridge one last time. No bird. I crossed to the other side of the bridge where I hadn’t seen it earlier either. That side had a foot of snow on the sidewalk of the bridge and it was quite frozen. As I checked under the bridge, I was crunching the snow. As I leaned over, I saw a yellow wand wave from behind a snow bank. Suddenly, the bird looked up from behind the bank. He was snuggled into a little grotto, probably a warm spot. I went to the end of the bridge where there was a small balcony out over the water and could see and photograph the bird well from there. I alerted the other birder and he came and saw it as well. If the bird hangs out in that spot, it can easily be missed. The first gentleman I spoke to said it is quite active and maybe that will mean it won’t stay there all the time. From Syracuse, I headed to Cayuga. I wanted to check out the lochs at the north end of the lake, as many of my targets were being reported there. Fortunately, the pair of TRUMPETER SWANS were right near the loch with many Canada Geese. They were quite vocal. Eventually, they swam down to a spot where there were many TUNDRA SWANS, and I had great comparisons of the two species. From there I headed south along the lake. In Union Springs I stopped at the usual roadside pond and had a pair of AMERICAN WIGEON among the Buffleheads, Red Heads and Coots. Continuing south along the lake I saw many birds. At the Aurora Boat House I quickly located the EARED GREBE! I read that it had been showing well over the weekend and it surely did today. One of the best views I’ve had at this location. Very distant for photos, but I added one here anyway. From there I decided to head home. Once I reached the south end of the lake, I decide to continue on as nothing had been reported that I really needed and I had a long ride. At the very end along the road, there was a huge group of gulls on the ice. They were obviously easy to view from a pullover, so I couldn’t resist. Within a minute, I had found an adult GLAUCOUS GULL! I haven’t seen one in a number of years and it was great to get to see this one. Finally, I headed home!

Pair of Trumpeter Swans near the north end lochs.

Pair of Trumpeter Swans near the north end lochs.

Here the pair of Trumpeters (in water) pass by a pair of Tundra Swans.  Note the longer straighter bill of the Trumpeters.  Also the larger size.  The Tundras have smaller bills and yellow spots in front of their eyes.

Here the pair of Trumpeters (in water) pass by a pair of Tundra Swans. Note the longer straighter bill of the Trumpeters. Also the larger size. The Tundras have smaller bills and yellow spots in front of their eyes.

very distant shot of the Eared Grebe

very distant shot of the Eared Grebe

Gorgeous adult Glaucous Gull at the south end of Cayuga Lake.

Gorgeous adult Glaucous Gull at the south end of Cayuga Lake.

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