Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Black Dirt Region of Orange County NY


Last year, I was introduced to the Black Dirt Region because the Pink-footed Goose showed up there. It was worth exploring more, particularly since it was a bit of a ride. This year, I was the first one to find the Pink-footed Goose out in Riverhead, so that justification was eliminated. Rough-legged Hawk has been in the area as well as Lapland Longspur. But why see one when I can see multiples up there?

We started off by diverting to Storm King hoping to repeat last year's acquisition of Golden Eagle. It had not been reported on the lists I subscribe to recently, but that doesn't mean anything necessarily. We arrived on another nice day, and scanned the peaks. We had several Bald Eagles, Ravens, Both Vultures, Peregrine Falcons, but no Golden Eagle.  I have found out though, that the Golden Eagle had been present in the prior weeks as suspected.

We then set out for the 'region'. Arriving, we tried to reprise our last visit but we were thwarted by lingering snow on dirt roads. Doing what we could we prevailed nevertheless. Chiron Road had a flock of Horned Larks feeding on the snowy edges of the road. While most were feeding, one bird appeared to be acting as sentry.

Secreted amongst them was our first Lapland Longspur. YB1.  I had thought finding one might be more challenging, but we got one straight away. Trying to sneak up on them, and turning the car sideways to facilitate photos we saw at least three Lapland Longspurs in with the ever skittish flock.

Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting

In the fields nearby we had a Kestrel, a bird I was surprised to find out upon returning home was YB2. It is harder to keep track of what I've seen by memory, than meets the eye. There was a Red-tailed Hawk, and also our first Rough-legged Hawk. YB3. 

We tried the other locations including the Camel Farm, full of an odd assortment of animals, but nothing of interest otherwise. Heading towards Wallkill, we explored Mission Island Road and were rewarded with multiple flocks of larks. In amongst them, more Longspurs.

How many Longspurs can you find?

In one flock, we counted at least thirteen, but we had more over the course of the day.

At Wallkill, we observed several Rough-legged hawks hunting the fields, and hovering, and returning the their favorite perches. Sometime they would approach closely.

Rough-legged Hawk
 In  addition, there were a few Red-tailed Hawks, a Harrier, and when 6pm came around, 3 Short eared Owls. Judging by the crowded lot and the large number of assembled birders, the choice to experience the longspur and rough-legged show was a good one.

The day signed off with a lovely sunset accented by a passing flock of Canada Geese.

1 comment:

Jean said...

nice pics... I esp like the sunset & the hawk.