A Tundra Swan on Lake Road in Cayuga.
This morning I was once again searching for a spot to get in some good birding. It didn’t take long to review the alerts on ebird for me to decide on Cayuga Lake. Headed north, not arriving in Ithaca until 11:30. I was searching Stewart Park for a Glaucous Gull that had been reported for the last several days, including this morning. Lots of Redheads, and Common Mergansers as well as the common gulls. I didn’t find the gull, so I moved north. My next stop was Aurora Boat House. Here I had many Red-breasted Mergansers, Greater Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Mallards and Canada Geese, but no grebes of any kind. This is unusual for this location. I continued on to Union Springs. Here I found more Redheads, Buffleheads and common waterfowl. On to Cayuga. Here I found my first TUNDRA SWANS of the year! Redheads were so abundant, there may have been thousands. Moving on, I spotted a group of about two dozen gulls. I stopped to check them out and found an adult GLAUCOUS GULL and first winter ICELAND GULL! Moving on to River Road. Here I found hundreds (if no thousands) of Canada Geese, Redheads, Mallard and Black Ducks, a surprise Great Blue Heron and more. As I started back down the road, I spotted a couple of dozen distant Tundra Swans and then some much closer swans which I was able to get some shots of. I eventually pulled myself away, heading south. I once again stopped at Stewart Park where I found a second cycle GLAUCOUS GULL and a hybrid Herring X Great Black-backed Gull that had been previously reported. Believe it or not, I only had twenty species for the day, but its quality not quantity! Great birding!
Tundra Swans on River Road.
Though the light was terrible, I was able to get an identifiable photo of the second cycle Glaucous Gull.
Arlene Borko and I toured the county looking for something new and interesting this morning. I didn’t get anything new, and it was a relatively quiet morning. On the other hand, we had two ROUGH-LEGGED HAWKS in the Beechwoods area. This isn’t too exciting for you Orange and Ulster County folks, but Rough-legs have gotten to be rare in Sullivan County. In fact, there is only one record each year in ’15 and ’16, and none for 2017. Prior to that, they were pretty common in the county. This was Arlene’s first in four years! Raptors in general were in decent numbers this morning. Here is our list:
Bald Eagle 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 10
Rough-legged Hawk 2
One of highlights of the morning was that one of the Rough-legs was playing with a Common Raven! At first, I thought it was an altercation, but it proved to be just plain fun! The two birds soared, shot upward, plummeted and zoomed around. The entire time, the Raven was making interesting vocalizations almost like cooing and gurgling. It was clear they were having a good time!
The shot above shows the Barnacle Goose mid-left and the Cackling Goose third bird to its right.
This morning Karen Miller and I had just discussed the ho-hum plans we had had for the day. I got a call from Tom Burke and it changed everything. For the third day in a row (yup!) I zoomed down to Westchester County to try for the BARNACLE GOOSE that has been being seen the last four days (missed it the last two). With Karen along (says she was the good luck charm!) we finally got the bird! We spent the day with Tom and Gail Benson, having some really great birding. After an hour and a half, the Barnacle Goose accompanied by its companion CACKLING GOOSE flew out with the Canada Geese group. We grabbed a quick but delicious lunch at the Rye Deli and headed to the Bronx. We were going to bird City Island, looking for some target grebes. We were only out of the car a couple minutes when Tom announced he’d found the EARED GREBE! It was in the company of a couple of Horned Grebe, especially close to one showing a nice comparison as to size, bulk, and its slender bill. The only goodie we didn’t find was the Red-necked Grebe that may still be in the area. Other good birds we had today were Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Brant, Greater Scaup, Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye. On the way back to Rye, we stopped by Church Street in New Rochelle, getting great views of Monk Parakeets, giving Karen three new state birds and one lifer for the day. We would both really like to thank Tom and Gail for once again showing us around and finding some special birds for us! What a great day!
I was out birding just before noon when I heard from Bruce Nott that he had found a flock of GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on The Wallkill River along Rt. 208 just west of Wallkill in Orange County. I zoomed right over to join Bruce and Ken McDermott who were already viewing the nine birds present. Scott Baldinger joined us shortly thereafter. The geese gave great views and decent photo ops. Once we finished there, we went to Denniston Road in Ulster County to see if the remainder if the GWFG were there. ( a total of 15 GWFG were seen over the weekend) There we found about 800 additional Canada Geese, 1 CACKLING GOOSE and 1 SNOW GOOSE. We never found the additional GWFG, though they still may be in the area. Many other birders eventually came to see the geese. Karen Miller first noted in one of her photos that one of the GWFG was banded. I checked my photos, and one did show a band. It appears to be silver with the #3 on it, not enough to get banding information for the bird. Perhaps it will be seen and photographed again and more information can be obtained. Great day with great birding friends. (great to have Bruce back out there too!)
At 2:30 pm yesterday, Jim Clinton found 12 GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE on Denniston Road in Ulster County. If not a record, it is pushing it. I had birded Denniston Road earlier in the day (10 am) and found only a couple of hundred Canada Geese. Geese are clearly moving throughout the area with all fields open/snow free. These numbers (along with the birds Bruce Nott and I have found) are indicative of a good showing of geese this spring. Bruce also had over 200 Snow Geese (his birds were in Orange County). These birds are most likely northbound migrants at this time. None have been in the area previously and we are nearing the time when they normally start moving north which these are likely doing. There was a huge movement of both geese and swans south this past fall, well beyond our area. Hopefully, we will get to see many of these birds as they return to their breeding range. Keep your eyes on the geese!
Late this morning I headed to Blue Chip Farms, the Shawangunk Grasslands and the Beacon Train Station. I had some specific targets in mind, and managed to get one of them. I missed the Northern Shrike at the grasslands. At Blue Chip, I had two adult GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GEESE. These were my first in Ulster this year, and I missed them there last year. I finally pulled myself away, headed for Beacon. I arrived just before 2pm and scanned the roughly 200 hundred gulls there. I found nothing unusual. As I moved to look at another spot, ten gulls flew in and I notice in flight that the LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL was among them! He put down far out on the ice edge right where the line of flowing water passed. Though it gave good scope views, my photos weren’t the greatest. In fact today, most of the birds today were tough for photos. I’ve attached a couple of my better shots.
Distant shot of the two Greater White-fronted Geese at Blue Chip Farms today.
The immature Lesser Black-backed Gull at the Beacon Train Station.
Things have been on the quiet side in Sullivan County over the last several days. Arlene Borko and I toured the county Sunday, and I was out and about on Monday and Tuesday. Today, I traveled to Rockland County to try for something new. The highlights in the county the last three days were Purple Finches, Fox Sparrows and Snow Buntings. All of these are easily seen if you go to the right locations. A Rough-legged Hawk was probably the best bird, having become extremely rare in recent years. For some reason, waterfowl has suddenly all but disappeared. The number of birds is down by 90% and nothing new has come in. In Rockland County this morning I visited Piermont Pier. My target bird here was my first CANVASBACK of the year. I easily found 35 of these beautiful ducks. Bird numbers were low there too. I had 5 Common Mergansers, 15 Bufflehead and 8 Ruddy Ducks. The common gulls were the only other birds of note.
The light was terrible, and none of my photos came out very good.