Sunday, April 16, 2017

April 16 - Garret Mountain

The annual ritual of birding Garret Mountain Park has returned.  I have been visiting the park a few times recently.
The first time was on March 29 because my friend Bill E. had seen an American Bittern in the phragmites at the north end of Barbour Pond, so I went there the next morning before work and was able to see the bird.
Since April started I have made a few visits, with last weekend rewarding me with Louisiana Waterthrush, Pine Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Winter Wren, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows

With mid-April now here the new birds are starting to arrive daily.  This weekend brought in Blue-Headed Vireos, Purple Finch, and my earliest-ever Northern Waterthrush.

I'll start going daily before work beginning tomorrow.

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 !

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 21 - Evening Grosbeaks

I have been longing to see these birds again for many, many years now...because my last sighting was back in 2008...and I was presented with my best chance for this with a reliable flock that has been appearing at a residence in Canaan, Connecticut.

So, I was up early and off to the rural northwestern corner of the Nutmeg State. Just under 2 hours later I had made the 110 mile drive to home at the corner of Under Mountain Road & Cobble Road.

I was the first one on site at 7:45 and the birds were not yet around, but within a few minutes I could hear the squawks of the flock as they flew into the large tree above the home. There were about 32 of the birds and shortly thereafter they began the ritual of coming into the platform feeder in small groups  only to abruptly head off back into the trees, only to be replaced by yet another small group of Grobseaks.  I really enjoyed seeing this species again so I stayed for just over an hour, until the birds made a longer trip onto another feeding site.

credit: Corey Hayes

Saturday, January 14, 2017

January 14 - North Fork birds

The regular group of Andy, Jen, Bill and I went out to eastern Long Island's North Fork this morning for some birds.  The first stop was in the town of Southold for the previously reported & week-long staying Townsend's Solitaire.  Fortunately for us this was a drive-up bird as it was seen perched atop a tree as we arrived.  The bird does move around a bit, however stays in the same general area so viewing can be done from one spot.  At one point the bird had circled around behind us and was seemingly taking a look at us !
This was my 369th species seen within New York State.

Click to enlarge
credit: Bill Elrick

We then did some seawatching into the Long Island Sound where we saw some lovely White-Winged Scoters, Black Scoters, Long-Tailed Ducks, and Common Goldeneyes.

We then headed back west toward Riverhead and stopped at the home of Margaret, a nice woman that is welcoming small groups of birders into her backyard to see some rare hummingbirds.  As we were told the first hummingbird arrived in October, being attracted to her extensive flower plantings.  As the seasons progressed and these blooms died, she has setup a few heated hummingbird feeders.  To her further surprise yet a second hummingbird then began calling her yard home.   The hummingbirds appear to be Rufous Hummingbirds, and these birds will continue to be studied by local aviary experts to confirm their species.  The one bird was sporting a small gorget, indicating that it is a male.  Here is a fine gif of the bird showing it's wonderful colors, and respiration.

credit: Bill Elrick

With a short day today we then headed toward home, and made a final stop at Lake Ronkokoma. Here we saw a pair of Tundra Swans amongst the numerous Mute Swans, a surprising Red-Throated Loon on this freshwater lake, and many Common Mergansers.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

January 7 - Black Dirt region

A few hours of birding today up in the Black Dirt Region of New York's Orange County.  Here we saw some Rough-Legged Hawks, a large flock of Horned Lark that contained some Snow Buntings, and a pair of Lapland Longspurs.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

January 1 - Do You Hatsuhinode?

Do you ?
Hatsuhinode is the first sunrise of the year and is one of many firsts that the Japanese take note of during the celebration of the new year. This tradition has been practiced since ancient times – originally performed at the beginning of spring based on the lunar calendar, hatsuhinode is now practiced faithfully on January 1st . The ideal place to perform hatsuhinode is at the waters edge.

I ask this question because back in 2014 during my last New Year's Day visit to Montauk Point I learned that many people, including a majority of these folks being of Japanese heritage, enjoy taking in the first sunrise of the new year at the water's edge of the easternmost point of Long Island.  This morning we witnessed this event once again...

For the birding, we arrived at Montauk Point State Park, at the easternmost point of the Long Island's South Fork, just before 9:00 am.  Straight away we had Razorbills in flight, and throughout the next two hours we saw more than 50 of these alcids.

Bill E. had a brief view of a Dovekie, but it was not long enough for the rest of our group to get on it.  Along with the expected Red-Breasted Mergansers, Common Loons and Red-Throated Loons, Common Goldeneye, Long-Tailed Ducks, Common Eider, and three scoters of Black, Common, and Surf we were able to locate one Black-Legged Kittiwake.
Credit: Ron Knight

On our drive back west, we stopped at Hook Pond and saw a Greater White-Fronted Goose along Further Lane.

The next stop was Shinnecock Inlet.  Here I was able to spot a Snowy Owl, a species that likely will be rare this year as it is not an irruption year for them.  Later we saw a Harlequin Duck, and then I saw the Glaucous Gull sitting on the bay side jetty.