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.