Trip Reports
Wallkill River NWR (Orange/NY & Sussex/NJ) — March 29, 2015
posted 7/1/15

Note: Once again we were lucky to be invited on a trip with Gerhard Patsch and Bob Slechta of the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club, a NYSYBC Partner Club. Many thanks to Gerhard and Bob for guiding us around the Black Dirt Region!

Tundra Swans, photo by Richard Perkins
Tundra Swans, photo by Richard Perkins

With snow on the ground and a biting wind in our faces, the NYSYNC braved these late March conditions to bird some of the best places in the Black Dirt Region in southern Orange County. Our first stop was Mission Lane Road, and we saw a large flock of Snow Geese that were way out in a field with Canada Geese flying nearby. There were so many Snow Geese and they were packed together so tightly people thought it was just a large snow patch! A flock of Horned Larks flew overhead, delighting us with their high-pitched tinkly notes. 3 Killdeer were sleeping in the fields, and they reminded us that Spring can't be too far away!

Our caravan drove off to the Liberty Loop section of the Wallkill River NWR, a NWR that is in both New York and New Jersey. In a large pond near the parking lot, we saw a lone American Wigeon among the many Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, and the hundreds of Canada Geese. Northern Harriers frequently flew over the marsh, and one female flew right over us and gave us great looks. Truly majestic! All of a sudden, a flock of almost 300 Pintail flew out of the marsh! They circled the marsh and came back in for a landing, and although we couldn't find what was bothering them, we suspect a Falcon or a Bald Eagle. 

Once when we crossed into New Jersey (gasp!), we set up our scopes on one of the flocks of ducks in the marsh. A lone Canvasback, American Coot and Northern Shoveler were spotted, along with more Ring-necked Ducks, Green-winged Teal, and Northern Pintail. Further down the trail, 3 Eastern Bluebirds were seen as well as many people's first Eastern Phoebe of the year! It surely didn't feel like spring, but the Phoebe gave us hope! As we approached the bend of the trail, we spotted some Killdeer and what suspiciously looked like a Pectoral Sandpiper. The lighting was poor, however. In better lighting, it was determined to be an American Pipit. Lighting can make all the difference! 

Around the halfway point, there was a frozen pond with 4 breathtaking Tundra Swans! Everyone relished looking at native swans, which doesn't happen much in New York, unfortunately. A lone Great Blue Heron sat in the corner of the pond. The Tundra Swans took off, and they flew right over us! We could faintly hear a trumpet like call they give, and it was spectacular to see these majestic birds fly and call. As they flew off into the horizon, a Bald Eagle and some Turkey Vultures appeared, trying to catch a thermal. 

Going around the bend back, we saw a flock of 15 American Pipits, and 3 Northern Harriers patrolling the marsh. As we approached the New York border once again, some more Turkey Vultures appeared and 2 more Bald Eagles as well. 

For a blustery and unusually cold March day, everyone had an awesome time and there were many great birds seen. Many thanks to the Edgar A. Mearns Bird Club for sponsoring the trip and to Gerhard Patsch and Bob Slechta for leading it!

                                                                                                                  — Eamon Freiburger, Age 15

View photo gallery 

List of Birds Seen on this Trip

Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Ring-necked Duck
Hooded Merganser
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
American Kestrel
Eastern Phoebe
American Crow
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
European Starling
American Pipit
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle

Species Total: 42