Saturday, March 25, 2017

March 25 - Brooklyn Birding

A visit to Prospect Park in Brooklyn was on tap for today.  We had a few spring migrants like the Eastern Phoebe, Pine Warbler, and Wood Duck.  An Iceland Gull was unexpected.

Our primary target was the Northern Goshawk that has been exploiting the recent heavy snowfall that covered much of the available food and has caused many birds to rely on the feeders.  After about 2 hours we saw the Goshawk in a long flight.   Soon after we again saw the Goshawk flying a shorter flight.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

March 12 - Owl Prowl

Our first stop today was in Pelham Bay Park.  We were looking for the Owls that are prevalent during the winter months.  After a short search I was able to locate some tell-tale signs of Owl activity, and then Jennifer immediately saw the bird. It was a Saw-Whet Owl.  I had not seen this species last year, so it was nice to see it again.

Next up was our search for a species that I had not seen in many years....After a short search I was able to spot an interesting silhouette, and upon further inspection the bird was revealed to be a Long-Eared Owl !!

Lastly we made a stop at Croton Point Park and were able to locate a red-phase of the Eastern Screech-Owl.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

February 19 - Owling in New York

I took advantage of a nice Sunday afternoon to head north up to the NJ-NY Stateline.  I went to the Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge at Liberty Marsh.  Here I stopped at the overlook platform along Oil City Road.
As I hoped for, just before dark the Short-Eared Owls began putting on a show. There were 4-5 owls and they were quite active.  The first one I saw had a rodent in it's talons and was flying off somewhere to eat it.
The others were hunting and interacting with the Northern Harriers.  Several times the Owls came very close, and often perched in the trees a short-distance away. the binoculars, and the scope provided great views of the owls and also a dark-morph of the Rough-Legged Hawk.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

February 11 - Nassau County birding

With snow and sleet predicted for Sunday, the regular group of 4 got together on this Saturday.  With there not being reports of many goodies being around we decided to find our own good birds.

We found the Lido Beach parking lot closed due to the snowfall from Thursday so began at Point Lookout and scanned the ocean.  There wasn't a tremendous amount of activity on the ocean although Scoters and Gannet could be seen well offshore.  Turning our attention to the Jones Beach Inlet we immediately had Razorbills leaving the bay and heading out from the incoming tide.  A Great Cormorant was on a triangle-shaped channel marker, and a single female Common Eider was seen.
We then had fine views of a handful of Harlequin Ducks at very close range, several Horned Grebes, and a flyby Bonaparte's Gull.  I could not locate any Purple Sandpipers, but Jennifer did find us a few Ruddy Turnstones.

We then went to Jones Beach with the first stop being the Coast Guard Station.  Here we had close Razorbill, Black Scoter, RB Mergs, and other commoners.  We then hiked the median of West End 2 and found numerous Red-Breasted Nuthatches, Yellow-Rumps, Juncos, etc  At the Swale we had groups of Horned Lark, Snow Bunting and a nice count of 10 Lapland Longspurs.

Heading back west toward New Jersey we stopped at Camman's Pond.  Here we saw the Black-Headed Gull as soon as we arrived.  Departing the car to take a close look the bird took off toward the ocean.

Finally we stopped at Hendrickson Park and easily located the Pink-Footed Goose that's been here since November, and also the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

February 5 - Black-Backed Oriole

Today we went to the Keystone State to try for a potential first record for the US in the form of a Black-Backed Oriole.  The bird is visiting a feeder that is about 2 hours from my home in the town of Sinking Spring.  We arrived about 7:45 and saw the crowd in the driveway across the street from the feeders that the bird is frequenting.

We saw bird straight away.  There were some periods where it was in the center of the arborvitae, but often it was out on the platform feeder giving the assembled crowd very nice views.
credit: Franklin Haas

Afterward we stoped at Brenneman's Quarry where we saw a dozen Greater White-fronted Geese, which is the most that I have ever seen at one time.  Also seen were Redheads, Cackling Geese, Wigeons, Pied-Billed Grebes, Northern Shovelers, Ring-necked Ducks, and a Lesser Scaup.

The final stop today was at Owl Creek Reservoir.  Here we initially saw the flock of Red Crossbills flying overhead but it took us another 90-minutes to locate the flock in the trees.   We had some nice, but backlit, views of this species that I had not seen since New Year's Day 2013.

credit: J Mcclure

Sunday, January 29, 2017

January 29 - Ross' Gull on Tupper Lake

From Richard Guthrie's article in the Albany's Times-Union newspaper:
"The Ross’s Gull is one of the most sought after birds in the world. Usually the only way to see them is to visit Siberia where they nest or stop by Point Barrow in October to catch a few migrating to their wintering grounds – the Arctic Ocean. Ross’s Gulls don’t leave the Arctic ever. That is except for one every now and then, usually at intervals of about ten to fifteen years."

This mega-rarity was made known to the public earlier this week on Thursday, however I had obligations yesterday (Saturday) and I could not join my my only chance was today.  Fortunately my considerate wife agreed to accompany me on the 275-mile drive up to the Franklin County town of Tupper Lake.
A trip to the Adirondacks isn't complete until you see these conditions !
click to enlarge

We arrived about 12:15 and luckily I spotted some birders alongside the roadway getting  ready to depart. I inquired about any updates and they told me the bird was right there on the ice about 30-40 yards off shore.
I quickly got out with my scope and within minutes I was enjoying seeing this life bird. For the next 15 minutes I watched the bird eating the snow and also taking a short flight, only to return to the precise spot from whence it came.
Inevitably nature called and my wife and I took a 5-minute break to attend to a deserved rest after that 4.5 hour drive...We returned and I was able to view the bird for another 15-minutes.  A snow squall came and the bird flew off and could not be quickly re-found.  So we decided to take a lunch break.
We returned about 45-minutes later and the bird had not been seen for about 15-minutes.  I looked for the bird for a bit longer and sat out a squall or two, but the bird never returned.  Hopefully it will be seen again tomorrow as I'm sure many others are still making their way to look for it.

Based on the Range Maps for each species, when I began chasing specific birds I would never have guessed that I would ever get to see either Ivory Gull or Ross' Gull and I've been lucky enough to see both species.  As of this writing, the Ross' Gull is ABA Life-Bird # 647 for me.

Here's some images, with proper attributions to the generous photographers, coming shortly.

credit:  Larry Scacchetti

credit: James Smith

credit jewforgsoc

Thursday, January 26, 2017

January 26 - Gyrfalcon

This afternoon I was finally able to see the Gyrfalcon from the Stateline Lookout in Alpine, NJ !!

The bird has been sporadically reported since last Sunday the 22nd, however other obligations & stormy weather has kept me from seeing this beauty.  The Stateline Lookout is only 8-10 miles from where I work so once fellow birder Ray Gilbert sent out the word that the bird had just re-appeared at 1:30 pm I was instantly off to see it.
While it was just a short drive the exhilaration was in full swing as I headed north on the Palisades Parkway. Upon arriving I could see a handful of birders peering north along the western side of the Hudson River, and there perched in a tree just above the Palisades Cliffs one could see the bright white chest of the bird !
Quickly I setup my scope, which I had kept in my car all week in anticipation of this moment, and  was then able to get wonderful views of this fierce predator.
I have seen the Gyrfalcon previously in Massachusetts, and on Long Island, and Upstate New York, however these views in New Jersey may be my best thus far, particularly since it was a sunny afternoon.

Here is a fine image of this bird taken earlier this week by Greg Gard.
Please visit Greg's website for images of much better quality:

click to enlarge

 This is NJ State Bird # 383 for me !