Monday, February 13, 2017

A Tour of the Black Dirt Region with the QCBeasties

After discovering this productive region of New York some years back, the Black Dirt Region has become a regular trip for me to lead. A group of us met in Goshen consisting of Rich Kelly, Pat Aitken, John Gaglione, Arlene Rawls, Phil Uruburu, Ian Resnick, Donna Schulman, Bob Hayes, and Liz Patrick. We also met up with Steve Walter, but he was not on the trip proper; just doing his own photography thing.

We began by diverting to a local hot-spot to follow up on a report of a Barred Owl. We had a lovely walk in the cold yet windless morning air and enjoyed the sunrise if not an owl. Typical dickie birds were about and the area was capped off with a Ring-necked Pheasant spotted on a berm along side the road.

After hitting the beginning of the tour, we began to see the sought after specialties. We had numerous Canada Geese in the Walkill River, but searching within them did not reveal any goodies. That’s because they flew over our head in a nice V formation; they being 12 or so Snow Geese.

Of course there were ample Red-tailed Hawks, and as expected, Harriers, but upon reaching ‘the’ area, we had one then another Rough-legged Hawks. Better still, we spotted one, then three, and finally four total day flying Short-eared Owls. The birds were very cooperative and we all got great looks and photos.
Short-eared Owl      Photo: Steve Walter

Short-eared Owl      Photo: Steve Walter

That is to say, ~without~ going off the dirt road and into the farm fields. I have come to learn that after we departed, something approaching a small hoard of birders and / or photographers were in the same location enjoying the owl spectacle. I am not privy to whether access to the farm fields at this time of the year is permitted, ignored, or has not yet been realized by the owners, but not having first hand knowledge of what can and cannot be done with respect to this patently private property, I chose to lead my group within the bounds of what I knew to be absolutely permitted: restricting ourselves to the public road.
Rough-legged Hawk

There was much chatter about the trespassers on fazebuk, where some distressing opinions were voiced. One offered that in the absence of “no trespassing” signs, it was okay. No. Its not.

Unless you obtained permission, or were informed by a reliable source that entry was permitted, stay the heck out. Just because you saw others doing it, doesn’t mean they had permission, and if not for you, then for other birders and photographers who subsequently visit the area.

Suppose you saw a shop with a broken window and people running in and running out with TV’s. Would you then similarly presume that ‘they were doing it’ so it was okay? 

American Kestral
For the umpteenth time: Do Not Trespass. It is a lot harder to get permission ~after~ you have aggravated someone than before.  Trespassing shows a lack of respect, is unlawful (duh), and paints birders and photographers in a bad light. Again, it will ruin it for subsequent visitors.

If that doesn’t dissuade folks then soon we will have animosity towards all of us, be us guilty or not, and perhaps a switch to how they treat trespassers out west: shoot first.
Northern Harrier      Photo: Steve Walter
...Back to the trip. We continued to mission island where we scanned the nervous Horned Lark flocks, but could not find any Longspurs with them. Walkill NWR had more waterfowl in the open water and Harriers, but nothing unexpected. We did an abbreviated walk looking for sparrows, but the after lunch sluggishness, and the wind having picked up discouraged a more lengthy exploration.

At this point we normally would depart for Shawangunk, but as we had the owls so well,   I suggested a different option. I had heard reports of Evening Grosbeaks in Ulster county, so the group agreed to try our luck.

We checked numerous locations and despite our best efforts, we never did locate any. Most of us then did some additional exploring of the winding Ulster roads and enjoyed that, if not seeing some birds. The day was capped off with a tasty dinner at Mr Sushi.

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