This morning I called a bunch of my friends to see if they’d like to go to Long Island for the day. Karen Miller, Scott Baldinger and Bruce Nott joined me for a really fun and successful day of birding the island. Our main target bird was the recently found PACIFIC LOON in Oyster Bay. We immediately ran into Tom Burke and Gail Benson who informed us that the bird wasn’t being seen. They were headed out to try to find it while we checked out the surrounding bay where it had been seen. In only five minutes, Tom called to tell us they had found the bird on Florence Avenue, so we headed right over. While the bird was somewhat more distant than it had been at the yacht club, we still had great looks and some photo ops. (Lifer for Karen and Bruce, State bird for Scott and only my second in the state) Many people showed up and it was quite a scene seeing everyone enjoying the bird. From Oyster Bay, we headed to other destinations on the island. Avon Pond in Amityville (thanks for the suggestion Tom and Gail!), Camman’s Pond, Hempstead Sanitation, Point Lookout and Jones Beach West End and Coast Guard Station. We did really well overall, all of us adding many new year birds. Other highlights of the day included Common and Red-throated Loons, Long-tailed Duck, Greater and Lesser Scaup, Monk Parakeet, Black-crowned Night-herons, Northern Shoveler and much more. We had lots of fun and some birds we don’t get to see every day. Thanks to Karen, Bruce and Scott for coming along and helping make it a great day!
The gang at Point Lookout!
This morning I got word from Bruce Nott that he had relocated the LINCOLN’S SPARROW on Onion Avenue that he had found yesterday. I zoomed down to see it. It took us a while, but Bruce found it again. Great bird and very unusual in winter. We spent some time with the sparrows and then Bruce went to check on another bird he had heard about while I went to Indiana Road. It was very active there today. I had two Northern Harriers, a Rough-legged Hawk and a Red-tailed Hawk. There were many Horned Lark. As I scanned through them, I first spotted three Snow Buntings. As I continued, I found a LAPLAND LONGSPUR!! The birds were flushed by one of the Harriers. I followed them around a bit and eventually found the Longspur again. As I watched it and tried to get some photos a second Longspur joined it. I had let Bruce know and he arrived shortly afterword. We had great scope views and eventually got some identifiable shots of the birds. We finally decided to leave, and as I headed out the road, I spotted a flock of American Goldfinch. I checked to see if there might be a Siskin among them and to my surprise, there was a COMMON REDPOLL! I called Bruce who was a ways behind me and he came right up. It took a few minutes, but we found the Redpoll perched in a tree at the edge of the field. We got some really distant poor photos, but better than nothing. This was my first Common Redpoll in the county in many years! A really great morning! Thanks Bruce!!
Once again I was looking for something different to do today. I always like to take a trip to Westchester County in January to get some of the good birds on the sound at Rye, New York. I didn’t make it in January, so I decided it was time to head down. I had a particular target in mind. Tom Burke and Gail Benson have been reporting a GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE on Playland Lake for some time now. That would be a new Westchester County bird for me, so I was hoping to find it. Gail had alerted me to the best time to look for the bird.(thanks!) It was almost too easy! I pulled in at 11 am, parked and walked right over to see the bird! It remained tucked in a pile of geese for much of my time there, but that would change. As I scanned the other geese, I was sure that a likewise tucked bird was most certainly a CACKLING GOOSE! It would take a long time before I could be sure. I went on birding the area including Playland Lake, Playland Park, Edith Read Nature Sanctuary and Rye Town Park. It was a great day. One woman said to me “its so cold!” I replied its in the mid thirties and to me it feels balmy after four days of sub-zero temps in Sullivan County. She was able to sympathize with that! I had many expected species with several highlights for me. GREAT CORMORANT, GREATER SCAUP and HORNED GREBE were all new year birds for me. Other birds seen included Hooded and Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Loon and the three common gulls species. I returned to the lake and noted that the geese were flying to the open water near the bridge where the lake flows into the sound. I waited and watched until both the GWFG and CACG flew in right near me where I was able to get the accompanying shots! I ended with a total 30 species for the day!
Once I got done with my snow removal this morning, I finally headed up county on the late side. I was hoping to get some birding in before the weather turned again. I hit most of my usual spots along the 17B corridor and the Beechwoods area. Though it had warmed up considerably, 18 degrees and was bright and sunny, there were few birds around this morning. I had several Red-tailed Hawks, a single Bald Eagle and a lone ROUGH-LEGGED HAWK on Gabel Road. I covered Beechwoods pretty well and had decided to move on. As I was going out rt. 52 from Fosterdale, I noticed a kettle of six eagles soaring quite high. There were cars coming in all directions and no where to pull over. Once I found a spot, I did, but the eagles were gone. I decided to head back into the area using Miller Road. I thought I might connect with them at the top of the ridge and see if the Golden Eagle was with them. No such luck, I never spotted the eagles again. What I did find was a field of fresh spread on Villa Roma Road. There were a couple of dozen crows feeding and I spotted a small flock of buntings taking off. They landed in the road in front of me, four birds. They quickly took off and landed in the open field where I was able to get a few shots. These were FOS SNOW BUNTINGS in the county for me. The wind started to pick up and the snow squalls started so I headed home from there.
Somehow this winter it seems that every time it snows, I go out to bird and have a really pleasant day. Same thing happened this morning. I almost didn’t go as it started to snow quite heavily. I already knew I was staying local, mostly the Bashakill, so I went out anyway. I ran into Scott Baldinger right away. He told me his feeders were jumping today so I headed there to see what was around. They were really busy! I finally got my FOS RED-WINGED BLACKBIRD! There were too many birds to get a true count by suffice it to say there were many American Tree Sparrows, White-throated Sparrows, American Goldfinch and Pine Siskins! All the usual feeder birds were abundant as well. Across from Scott’s at Melrose Farm there were Canada Geese and Mallards in the pond. I then traveled around the Bashakill, making a number of stops. The Deli Fields weren’t too active this morning, but a pair of Red-tailed Hawks were present and there was a Winter Wren at the boat launch itself. A pair of Hooded Merganser were there as well. I headed back to Haven Road where I found the pair of Bald Eagles not far from their nest in the back bay. The Orchard was jumping with birds too, more of the same species I had seen at Scott’s. I decided to head out South Road to where the channel parallels the road, but didn’t make it far. As soon as I reached the first DEC Parking Area on the left, I noticed a snow covered BARRED OWL (also FOS) roosting in a tree. I snapped some shots and then called Scott who came right over to see the owl. Scott arrived just in time as the owl shook off all the snow as we watched and then flew off into the woods. Another great snowy morning at the Bashakill!
This afternoon I headed to the Shawangunk Grasslands to try for Short-eared Owls. It was a cold but calm sunny day and quite enjoyable. I had about a dozen Northern Harriers, three Red-tailed Hawk and a single Rough-legged Hawk. Several Ravens flew around and there were many typical feeder birds at the feeders. An added benefit of my visit was getting to see Ralph Tabor! Its always great talking with Ralf and as always we are so grateful for all his efforts at the grasslands. I was out on the trails when at 3:50 pm the first Short-eared Owl came up. It was a while before three more showed and put on a nice show. What a scene, there were at least forty cars parked in the lot today and I can only guess how many photographers. This was the most people I have ever seen at the grasslands!
I headed back up county this morning in hopes of more Rough-legged Hawks, and to be honest, a Northern Shrike. Well the shrike didn’t happen, but it was a great day. It started snowing hard just as I passed White Lake. When I reached Dr. Duggan Road, it was tough to see. I did spot a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Cooper’s Hawk near the end of the road. There were also seven Brown-headed Cowbirds among the Starling flock there. I headed on to Zylstra Road where I was unable to find the Dark-phase Rough-leg in the heavily falling snow. I decided to head back down county rather than continue north, so I wound my way to Deppa Road in Bethel. There I immediately spotted one of the light-phase Rough-legged Hawks. It cooperated for photos as the snow lessened and eventually stopped. As the sun came out I decided to head back north. I reached the Beechwoods area and began spotting hawks, most Red-tailed. As I worked my way in to Radio Tower Road, I noticed many Bald Eagles. They were in trees, in the air, and on the ground. I had seen four here yesterday, but never found the source drawing them there. I proceeded slowly, counting as I went. There were six immatures and four adult birds. I was looking up and around wondering why they were there. As I moved forward slightly, I realized that right below me only thirty feet off the road there was an eagle on a deer carcass. As I looked down and the eagle raised its head, I realized it was an adult GOLDEN EAGLE!! It watched me as I moved onward very slowly. I knew if I stopped, it would flush. I continued down the road and turned around, heading back to try to get photos of one of the closest Goldens I’ve ever seen. As I approached, it flushed. It seemed to have a tough time getting airborne as its crop was fully distended with deer meat. When it did get up, nearly if not all one dozen Common Ravens chased after it! They were immediately joined by all of the older Bald Eagles. The Golden perched briefly in a pine, but was mobbed. It flew around a number of times allowing me to get many shots. Unfortunately, I’m no photographer. That said, I got some identifying shots! It was all very exciting! I then headed further north to Hankens, where I often find Rough-legs and kestrels. No Rough-legs today, but my FOS AMERICAN KESTREL for the county waited in the large field where I usually can find them. It was a fantastic raptor day! Patrick Dechon actually found three light-phase Rough-legs, none the one I saw. That means there are at least five Rough-legged Hawks in the county at this time (dark-phase from yesterday). Here is my list of raptors for the day:
Bald Eagles – 18
Red-tailed Hawk – 16
Red-shouldered Hawk – 2
Cooper’s Hawk – 1
Rough-legged Hawk – 1
American Kestrel – 1
GOLDEN EAGLE – 1
I also had Common Ravens in several spots – 20