I spent the morning in the Black Dirt Region again today. This has been the best location recently for many species. Horned Lark were abundant, Snow Buntings (my first this fall) were quite numerous and LAPLAND LONGSPUR was in pretty decent numbers. I only had one longspur myself, but Ken and Curt McDermott found eight in a small flock together! I found quite a few Northern Harrier today, and a few Red-tailed Hawk. Still no Rough-legged Hawks. A beautiful Merlin was quite cooperative. The best birds of the day for me were FIVE CACKLING GEESE!! This is the highest count I have ever had of this species. Still looking for Greater White-fronted Geese, I noticed that I hadn’t found a single Cackling Goose in the snow covered fields this morning. As I crossed over the Wallkill River near Pine Island I noticed a large number of geese on the water. I got out and scanned the masses. On a small peninsula just upstream from the road, I noticed a Cackling Goose. I scanned to its right, adding a second, third, fourth and fifth Cackling Goose!! Ken and Curt McDermott joined me. Curt crossed the road with me, and we were able to pick four of the five out while he was there. There is a really good showing of Cackling Geese in the Hudson Valley this winter!
The five small geese in the center of this shot are all Cackling Geese!
Four of the Cackling can be seen in this shot, though the cloudy skies have kept them from showing they are paler than the larger Canada’s
The three Cackling Geese can be seen in the direct center of this shot.
This weekend was a very busy one, but I managed to get some good birding in in the Black Dirt Region of Orange County. I headed down early Saturday morning in hopes of finding some good birds before snow was due to start at midday. I worked out pretty well and though still can’t find a Great White-fronted Goose, I was pleased with what I found. I initially came upon a flock of Canada Geese on Onion Avenue, at least 2000 strong. Since they were in the back half of the huge field, I didn’t know if I would be able to pick out any good geese among them. I scanned and scanned the masses which seemed to move continuously, hampering viewing. On the far left back of the field, I came upon a Cackling Goose. It immediately became clear that there were two other individuals with it. I was able to get some distant shots and then posted them to “Whats App”. I continued scanning and then got a phone call informing me that a Snowy Owl had been seen in the Black Dirt Region earlier in the morning. I headed right over to the spot and found the bird on top of a telephone pole. I took a few photos before it began to snow in earnest. I decided to try for some more geese before it snowed to hard. I found another flock, but scanning them was very difficult through the now hard falling snow. I headed back home before it got any worse, very satisfied with my morning.
The Snowy Owl in the Black Dirt Region was Orange County’s second this week. The bird has not been reported since Saturday.
I took a relatively quick trip to Ulster County this morning with the same target bird in mind, I didn’t get it. I did have the ongoing Cackling Goose on Bates Lane and the ongoing Northern Shrike at the grasslands. Perhaps the biggest surprise was a flock of approximately 5000 Common Grackles streaming through the grasslands. Another surprise was the fact that I didn’t have a single hawk of any kind at the grasslands. I don’t think I have ever had that happen before.
I had been out birding all day and had just walked into my house at 4pm when my phone rang. It was Ken McDermott letting me know he had just received word of a SNOWY OWL on the roof of Orange Regional Medical Center. I told him I would head right down and try to find it. As I headed down, I realized that it was now near dark and sunset would be in less than 15 minutes. It was also very cloudy with a very light rain. I reached the hospital, but didn’t know where the bird might be. I worked my way all around the hospital, finding the bird just left of the Emergency Room on the very top of the fifth floor. I managed a couple of quick shots before it was too dark for the camera and alerted folks on Whats App that the bird was still present. Linda Scrima, Karen Miller and Curt McDermott were able to arrive and see the bird in spite of the fading light. The bird can be found by taking the main entrance to the hospital, make an immediate right following signs to the Emergency Room. Make the left as if going to the Emergency Room, but make the very next left into parking lot “D”. The bird was at the very top of the building as you face it. With tonights storm, perhaps it will remain through the morning. Good luck if you go! A big thanks to Ken McDermott for getting word out to us just in time!
I have been finding a number of Cackling Geese in the Black Dirt Region of Orange County for the last several weeks. I have at up to at least three birds on a few occasions. Due to the fact they weren’t together and the geese move around a lot, it was hard to say exactly how many may be in the region. While I still can’t say for sure, today, I had three Cackling Geese all together at the Camel Farm! I was able to photograph all three together for the first time. I initially found one bird, that was shortly joined by a second. As I was photographing the two, a third flew in and landed just a short distance from them. It initially walked toward them, but then stopped and jumped up on a rock that was just under the surface of the water. The Cackling Goose on the right gives the illusion that it is larger than the other two. In reality, it wasn’t. The fact that it gives a side view and is standing on a rock makes it appear this way. All three birds remained within a few feet of each other until the two Bald Eagles that had flown out on my arrival returned. At that point, all the geese crowded together at the far end of the pond, and the Cackling Geese were harder to pick out. A Merlin flew in and perched in a tree down from the eagles for a few minutes before flying on. Other than that, I found little else in the Black Dirt this morning. There were hundreds of Horned Larks as well.
One very striking Cackling Goose was present on Bates Lane on Saturday 12/2. Goose numbers were way down today. No other rare geese present.
This morning I headed out around the northwest central portion of the county to try for some new birds. I found no new ones, but did have a nice morning. The hot spot of the morning was Lake Superior Park on Dr. Duggan Road in Bethel. It was good for both passerines and waterfowl today, one of the few spots that was. On the water between the two lakes (Black Lake is on the opposite side of the road) there were well over 400 Common Mergansers, 60 Common Goldeneye (wish they were a bit closer for viewing), Mallard, Black Ducks, Bufflehead and Canada Geese. A total of 8 Bald Eagles were present, 2 adults and 6 immature. A large flock of American Goldfinch feeding in the Black Birch was nice, they seem to have disappeared lately. A good size flock of Robins was present as well as most of the expected woodland species at this time of year. Another highlight was a Belted Kingfisher feeding from a snag in the hemlock grove. From there, I went to the grassland area of the county in Delaware Township. As well as the geese I had seen at Lake Superior, I found several more large flocks to sort through. Upon arriving on Likel Road, a big flock of geese were taking off from a farm pond. As they began circling, I sorted through them for Snow Geese. I didn’t find any, but I did notice a small goose flying among them. Hoping it might be a Cackling Goose, I waited them out. They circled the area for 15 minutes, just exercising I guess and eventually came back in to settle on the pond. I spotted the small goose as they came in and got on it quickly. As I began to surmise as they were flying around in the distance, it was too small for a Cackling Goose. It was almost certainly the same juvenile Brant I had found in the area three weeks ago. As it turned out, I was only a couple of miles from the pond I had originally found it in. Since it has stayed this long, maybe it will continue for December and even into the new year depending on our weather. It turned out to be a pretty good birding day with 30 species seen. Below, the Brant rests on the pond among the Canada Geese.