I covered a considerable portion of the county on the northeastern side this morning. Things have gotten quite quiet again. Most feeders had few birds. The only location I had any Grosbeaks this morning was the Rayano Feeders on Smith Road in Liberty/Neversink. To my knowledge, after visiting twice, she had only four Evening Grosbeak today. It appears that the latest movement of grosbeak have followed the previous influxes and for the most part continued south. I will continue to update with any pertinent information.
I had errands to do this morning, so I got a late start. When I was done, I headed up to Neversink to see what I might find. As I was on my way, I was passing the Ashram in Fallsburg when a flock of birds flew across the road in front of me. I pulled over to find ten Cedar Waxwings flying from tree to tree. There is a stand of fruiting crabapples on the right side of the road there and they were likely feeding in those trees. As I watched, three Evening Grosbeak flew in and joined them. I got some photos of them before I was stopped by “Security”. I was questioned extensively about my presence, even though they agreed I had never gone on the property nor committed any violation. More and more security showed up until there were three of them and three people watching. I mentioned that I couldn’t believe someone looking at birds had caused such a commotion. It all ended rather congenially, but I wouldn’t’ stop by the Ashram if I were you. From there I went to Sue Rayano’s. I spotted ten Evening Grosbeak at her feeders and then spoke with her. She informed me that a large group had come in early in the morning, but she had only seen smaller numbers since. I went on my way, eventually returning an hour and a half later. The ten birds were still present at 12:30 pm. The birds had just finished feeding and in shifts, they all flew down to a small rill coming out of a snow bank and had a drink. I know people will be looking for these birds this week/weekend and a helpful hint would be to go in the morning. Evening Grosbeak are characteristically more active in the morning hours and even though they may frequent feeders the entire morning, they usually disappear in the afternoon. You can get them late in the day, but it is not nearly as likely. I hope you get them if you go!
I headed up county again this morning hoping for some movement, I wasn’t disappointed. When I arrived at Sue Rayano’s yard, I immediately heard a cacophony of Evening Grosbeak calls! They were everywhere. I snapped a few shots and began counting. I was just about at 45 when a second flock flew in and landed in the trees behind the yard. I was counting them, nearing 30 when everything flushed. They all flew off into the woods behind Sue’s. I went up to the house and joined Sue and her husband Pat. They weren’t able to get a good look at the second group that flew in, but had already counted the 45 that were feeding and in the trees directly behind the house. This was by far the largest flock of Evening Grosbeak I have ever seen! (there are 30 birds in the photo below)Scott Baldinger joined me shortly thereafter and we took many shots of these beautiful birds. I finally pulled myself away, headed for Clements Road. I was hoping for Pine Grosbeak or Bohemian Waxwings (a good spot for both in the past) in the abundance of fruiting Crabapple there. I didn’t find them, but did come across a flock of about 20 COMMON REDPOLL feeding in the Goldenrod in one of the upper fields! These were my first in the county in several years! They took off and flew directly at me and over my car, flying off over the hill. I searched but couldn’t find them again. Birding has just been wild recently. It is really bad for a few days, then it goes off the charts. Great morning!!
This morning I got a call from Matt Zeitler informing me he had found two WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS on Wickham Lake in Warwick. I headed down quickly. I arrived to find Matt and Rob Stone viewing the birds. Rob had remembered that I still needed the bird for the county and let Matt know. I was really pleased to pick up my 270th species for Orange County! Thanks to both Matt and Rob! I then headed back to Sullivan where I made the rounds of Delaware and Freemont Townships. I found little of interest in the rain today. The only birds of note were a flock of Turkeys on Pleasant Valley Road in Freemont. They were split between two field about a mile apart and totaled 148 birds! I also found two Pine Siskins in White Lake. That was it!
Arlene Borko and I headed up county this morning to try for the Evening Grosbeaks again. They would have been new for her for the year. The feeding station on Tazman Road was much quieter than yesterday and no siskins nor grosbeaks were found. We were touring the area hoping for something new when I got a call from Patrick Dechon. He was at the Neversink Reservoir and had just found a WHITE-WINGED SCOTER! We weren’t far away and went right over to see it. Thanks Patrick, it was new for the year for both of us! We headed out again and had lots of luck with field birds. One flock after another of Snow Buntings (35, 7, 4, 2) were seen. The largest flock also contained one smaller brown bird that gave the characteristic buzzy flight call of a LAPLAND LONGSPUR! A Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle, Turkys and common woodland birds were all else that were seen. Beautiful morning to be out, fresh snowfall and bright sun with no wind, great winter day!
Following a really quiet nine days, today things were jumping! Most of the activity was in the Town of Liberty on Tazman Road. I headed up county this morning as snow was falling lightly and it made for a beautiful ride. I was hoping birds would be actively seeking food in the snow, and it worked out that way. A really good feeding station (the Martin’s) on Tazman Road was the most productive spot. Along with the usual feeder birds were 18 EVENING GROSBEAK (my largest flock this fall) and 6 PINE SISKINS! I spent a great deal of time here, enjoying getting a few photos and watching the birds move between the feeders and an Apple Tree feeding. I finally moved on, finding some typical birds along the way. As I reached the intersection of Muhlig and Tazman Roads, I noticed a hawk fly into the top of a tree. It was my FOS ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK! (above) As I moved around to get some photos, I flushed a flock of 36 SNOW BUNTINGS! That’s a pretty nice selection of birds in a couple of miles on a single road. I spent more time in the area, eventually swinging around again an hour later to find all the birds still present. I then moved on, eventually reaching the Rondout Reservoir. Here I found Common and Hooded Mergansers, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye and Ring-necked Ducks as well as the more common species. Not a bad morning of birding in a winter wonderland sort of setting.
I haven’t posted in some time. The reason has been that after my last post extolling the great birding of the last number of weeks, the birds vaporized! The deep freeze of Thanksgiving morning (zero) and continued deep freeze for several days, pushed most of the birds right out of our area. The water froze and the winds were extremely high. I found nothing much to report Thanksgiving morning, but was sure things would change. I have covered this county from east to west and north to south since then and finally today, I admit there a few birds anywhere. Feeding stations that were recently very busy have no birds. The field edges that had buntings, larks and longspurs don’t even have juncos in most locations. The only spots that seem to have some good birds persisting are Scott Baldinger’s and my feeders. I have a flock of about nine PINE SISKINS and a Swamp and Fox Sparrow among the common feeder birds. Scott still has a few Pine Siskins and a single EVENING GROSBEAK! Hope is still on the horizon. Common Redpolls, Bohemian Waxwings and Pine Grosbeak are all still being reported in excellent numbers up state. Lets hope our drought abates and a flood of these wonderful winter finches comes pouring down on us!