Sunday, March 23, 2014

Woodcocks Pint When They Are Quarting?


A relaxed day of birding. That’s what is was because nothing far away was in need of pursuit, and the available choices did not require a lot of time or effort. Avian and Garouse and I met at Kissena to look for Woodcock.

While waiting for Garouse to arrive Avian and I checked out the grassy field at the velodrome. It was populated by a lone samoyed being left to run around in the enclosure; I amused myself by noting the sign prohibiting dogs.

The field was not without birds though, as many Robins were evident. We looked closer and I found a group of 5 Chipping Sparrows. YB1. Garouse joined us, got the chippies, and we made our way to the orchard.

The orchard has a maze of trails with a lot of off shoots. I walked slowly on these side trails and discovered two things. One, there were Woodcock where I though they would be, and two, their camouflage is quite good. YB2.

The first one I came across put up and flew towards Avian and Garouse. I yelled out to them but only Avian was quick enough to see it fly by. No matter, in a short time I flushed another and this time we all saw it.

As we were approaching the far side of the orchard, we either flushed one of the previous birds, or yet another, but this time we saw where it landed and were able to approach and get a few shots, and much better looks!

We then headed over to Oakland Lake to see what was around, and the Redhead Duck was still present [ as was the one on Alley Pond ] but no Rusty Blackbirds. At Alley Pond, the restoration area was quiet, and Garouse called it a day.

Avian and I continued on to Massapequa Park, where he finally had the opportunity to see a Screech Owl; one of the two [ or three?] present for some time, and particularly easy to locate as they are usually several people looking at or photographing them. We also tried Belmont Lake where a Screech had been seen recently, but did not locate that one.  A nice epi-spring day. 

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #20


The March doldrums. Oh, yay.

The sun is stronger, and so is the wind. At least the sun is lifting out from being perpetually in the eyes, though it also appears that the birds are busy packing for a trip rather than making themselves obvious.

Garouse and I made another foray out east. It seems that Elvis has left the building, and took the birds with him. We braved the wind to look at gulls, but to no avail.  He, being more heart set on getting Black-headed Gull, spent the previous day up in Connecticut. Also without success.

Today, together, we fared no better. Groan. We did some exploring though, and found some places that might prove productive on occasions where birds are actually present.

On the way back, we stopped at Shinecock. The highlight is we finally saw a Gannet! YB1. They hve also been curiously absent. Boy, I can’t wait for migration....

Monday, March 17, 2014

New Riders Of The Purple Sandpiper


Cheese and crackers! How hard can it be to find a so called ‘common’ bird?  I am embarrassed to say how many times I have targeted this species since January 1, so I will leave it at ‘way too many’.

I had been out yesterday with Garouse in desperate hopes of pinning down the Black-headed Gull out east; dismayed to hear the RBA report listing them as having lingered there during the winter. So much for folks bothering to post sightings. And so much for the bird being any easier than it has been for being found.

I had awoken with a headache, and scanning in the glare of the sun was contra-indicated, but I did so anyway hoping to pick out the Black-headed Gull from within the group of resting Bonaparte’s Gulls on the flats. That the Bonies were there was at least encouraging, as was finding a Lesser Black-backed Gull, but the BHGU was as elusive as ever. More Green-winged Teal had arrived since my last visit, as well as several Pintail. 

We decided to try Mecox, and on the way found this 'uncommon' bird napping with some Mergansers and Ruddy Ducks. Again, last year difficult, this year - everywhere.

Red-necked Grebe
Red-breasted Merganser

We also tried elsewhere, but no luck. Okay, so Black-headed isn’t necessarily a common bird, but jeez, how hard can it be to squeeze out a Black-headed?

Today Jean LeConte Sparrow gave me a call in the morning as I was preparing to go out for the day. We decided to meet up at Point Lookout and give the Sand Purples another go. None visible, but I did get my first Oystercatchers. YB1. The Harlequins were not present either despite the beach rejuvenation having been completed. The missing ducks were upsetting to David LaMagna, who was out trying to get the duck for his friend who would thus get a lifer. 


With neither birds present, I mentioned that the best course of action was to try the numerous jetties at Long Beach. We all met up again there, and by the fourth jetty or so I spotted a Sand Purple at a great distance. We got closer, and finally the pipers submitted to my persistence. Phew! YB2. 

Purple Sandpipers!
David and his friend kept going west, and we don’t know if they ever got their ducks, but I sure hope they did. Jean and I moved on, eventually stopping at Massapequa Preserve. We scouted a bit, hoping to turn up a Woodcock that are being reported everywhere. No luck there, but in keeping with the general theme of birding, we easily located a Screech Owl. It was made all the more enjoyable as the light permitted some photos, we were shown a second bird, and told of a possible third bird as well! To review, I couldn’t find a Screech Owl last year if it were nailed to a coffee table. This year two, the most I had ever seen at once. Go figure. That birding goddess is a mischievous, capricious and fickle one...

Screech Owl 1!

Screech Owl 2!!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Going, Going,... Not Gone!


Planning today's outing was more difficult than usual. In the recent past so much good stuff was around that was being reported, it was easy to plan. In fact I had been looking forward on many occasions to go after one thing or another. But today was different. Nothing except a Thick-billed Murre off Brooklyn, but Capt'n Bob and his boat were unavailable. Looking for it  from limited and unknown shore vantage points was less than desirable.

After much mulling, Earic's secretary Shrimpkee suggested going after the Golden Eagle again, because he had heard a positive report recently.  We met Garouse at our usual location at a later than usual [ read: very casual ] time and set off for our quarry.

We arrived at the park and once again were pleased to have practically no wind, bright sun, and a colder than desirable yet pleasant nevertheless day. Like the previous times, we had to wait a bit before we saw any birds about, but the Turkey Vultures led the guard and soon enough were joined by Black Vultures, Ravens and Crows.

We all scanned the skies and the south face hoping for a sighting. I wandered south to see if a different vantage would reveal a hidden perched bird, but had no luck. After a while though, Earic spotted a bird come around the bend being harassed by a Peregrine. He followed it to a perch on the side of the mountain.

Alerted, I ran over to join the others and got my scope on the bird. Success! After two dips, this gorgeous bird remains loyal to its favorite haunt. YB1.

The view from the parking lot. Yes, the bird is in the photo, dead center, +/- 3500' away

Close-up of the above.    Heat distortion and distance :(
We were enjoying views of the bird for some time when we were joined by Gerhard, a birder from the area who has been keeping tabs on these birds for some time. As you can see from the above, the birds are quite a distance away and getting a decent photo was a challenge.

Having made some RFI inquiries, there had been little info about the presence of these birds. If people were seeing them, no one was bothering to post. The least fellow birders can do is post reports of good sightings. This climate of not posting is sad. I sent out a report to the list, but could not include coordinates as I usually do because I could not get a GPS fix. I also predicted that I would get requests for location info because this was missing, and was correct. 

Once our desire was satisfied, we set off further north to try for the Sandhill Cranes in Ulster Park for Earic and Shimpkee. In keeping with my observation, he had that bird easily last year, and dipped today. But a great day of birding nonetheless.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Goosing, on a Sunday Afternoon


On the road yesterday, the conversation touched on many things, including places desired to visit, and birds of the year desired to get. Garouse mentioned having dipped on Greater White-fronted Goose and wanting to find one, while I mentioned that I still need Ross's Goose.

Wouldn't you know it, we arrived home to receive reports of an impressive slew of 8 geese species out east. Amongst them were the two species sought, and D Ro aka 'Goose Man' unsatisfied with having had 'a' Pink-footed Goose (his declared favorite) found an unprecedented second bird!

I made my way to the Buffalo Farm in the am, and scanned longingly for the blackbird that I have continually missed. I'm sure it's gone, but what the heck, I was there anyway... Grackles, Red-winged Blackbirds and Cowbirds, and lots of geese landing in the field across the way. I made my way down Reeves avenue, and stopped at a vantage to scan for the geese.

It didn't take long to find a single white bird even in a flock of 1000's of brown birds. YB1.  But the field was huge, and the birds were far away! It appeared that the Ross's Goose was closer to the vineyard on the other side and there were others scanning from there, so I gave it a shot. Who did I meet but Bilrick, Andy and Jennifer from NJ. Bilrick was certain of the ID as were everyone else, but truly, I wish the bird was closer for a better look. I got a look through the new Swaro 95mm scope, because someone Welshed on a scope. Yes I got a better view of the goose, but as envious as I was of the monstrous scope, after the shock of the reported cost, my rapid conclusion was that any benefit was not worth the exorbitant cost. Humility dictates however, that should anyone feel it necessary to donate one to me so that I might further evaluate it's wonders,  I would of course oblige.

Even digiscoping has its limits - Ross's Goose

I made a post of the sightings, and folks started arriving. Garous and D Ro called to tell me they were on the way and wanted updates. With the birds moving around, we eventually ended up where I had started on Reeve Avenue. Both Pink-footed were found though at opposite ends of the flock, as well as the Greater White-fronted for Garous. And I thought that the birding activity was slowing down!


Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ulster-ial Motives


Catching up on misses. Reading another's post that they had also tried for the Golden Eagle last week made me consider an additional try. Garous, Capt'n Bob and I made the attempt back up to Storm King, though did not do quite as well as last week. It was a bright and sunny day, cold but not too much wind, but the birds were more scarce. We didn't have Peregrines, nor sadly, the Golden Eagles; the reason for the trip.

On a brighter note we had a Flicker and 3 Bluebirds came in to feed on the Sumac right in front of us, as Robins had done last week. Garous and I got our cameras to get a shot and wouldn't you know it, some folks showed up and naturally, had to explore right where we were, spooking the Bluebirds in the process. A whole rest stop, and all who stop felt like joining us despite all the open space.

Satisfied our luck would not improve, we continued on to our next location: Ulster Park. Sandhill Cranes have been frequenting a creek here, and with multiple reports I felt we had a good chance. This was also a bird I missed despite many attempts last year. As we approached the location, we were delighted to see a birder with a large lens photographing something in the creek. Stopping adjacent to him on the narrow road, we got our quarry! YB1.

The road here was very narrow. Too narrow to linger long, thought quite a few others stopped for a look. Beautiful birds, and probably the closest looks I have had of them.

Sandhill Cranes

Back on the road, we made our way down some picturesque country roads on the way to Shawangunk NWR. Here and there were flocks of Juncos, and down a road to a horse farm we found another group of Bluebirds.

Approaching the perimeter of the  refuge, Garouse spied some raptors, and we got our first of many Rough-legged Hawks. We had nice close looks at dark and light morphs interacting. The Galeville park was closed so we continued on to the refuge entrance and it was cleared all the way.

In every direction, it was hard to look without finding perched or flying Rough-legged. And out in the fields Capt'n Bob spotted a Coyote hunting rodents under the snow. But probably due to the bright sunshine, Short-eared Owls remained hidden.

None of us felt like sticking around for sunset, so we got on the road after we had our fill. This gave me time to reflect and if I had to specify a recurring theme for this years birding so far, it would have to be that some easy birds of last year are being difficult to find this year, and vice versa.