Trip Reports
Rockland Lake (Rockland County) — November 8, 2015

Note: This field trip was sponsored by the Ralph T. Waterman Bird Club, a NYSYBC Partner Club, and led by Herb Thompson, who is a NYSYBC adult advisor as well as a member of RTWBC.

Looking it up, photo by Joe Hernandez
Looking it up...

It was a cold November day as I and my fellow NYSYBC members and accompanying adults began a wonderful little hike around Rockland Lake State Park, an excellent site for water dwelling stopover birds. Right off the bat, a lucky few of us managed to spot a Snow Bunting near the parking lot on the ground, though only the early birds managed to get a look (unfortunately, I was not among them). As we got our introductions out of the way, I could not help but notice a deer leg in the grass. It looked as if it had been there a while, as it was mostly bone.

After that, we began to walk the paved path, which we stuck to the whole trip. The first birds we saw as a group were a few Northern Shovelers and Buffleheads, both unique anatids. We continued on, coming across Wood Duck, Gadwall, Pied-billed Grebe, Hooded Merganser, and a lot more shovelers (not many Mallards, for some reason). The Wood Duck and merganser were especially enthralling with their glorious plumage.

Great Blue Heron, photo by Joe Hernandez
Great Blue Heron

A short walk further brought us to a docking area, rife with Bufflehead and American Coot. We also came across a Great Blue Heron, not a stone’s throw away from its spot on a dock, as well as a magnificent autumn meadow hawk (a dazzling species of dragonfly). After the heron moved, we observed it pecking at a small bush on the old, rotten, free-floating dock it was standing on. We could not determine why it was behaving this way. Perhaps it was a small frog or insect it was hunting that was invisible to us. Also in this location, we spotted a collared Canada Goose, RJ27 (Still waiting on the U.S. Geologic Survey on what that means, and my certificate).

After we had finished our spot of birding and resting, we carried on down the path, observing Carolina Wrens, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Black Vultures. It was also in this area that a few of us where surprised by an immature Red-tail bursting out of the trees with an angry mob of crows close behind, all of which flew straight over our heads. I also managed to catch a few insects along the way, including a yellow jacket, some sort of red-legged grasshopper, and a beautiful, cryptically colored moth.

Halfway along the trail, we turned back, noting the Double-crested Cormorants at the turnaround point. It was also on the way home that we saw a Red-tailed Hawk being mobbed by a Sharp-shinned Hawk (bad day for Red-tails) and were nothing short of amazed when the Red-tail performed an evasive barrel roll. At this point, some of us had to leave, but the few that stayed managed to get a nice, long look at what was presumably the same Snow Bunting as before. I had secured myself a new life bird, which I must say was an excellent end to an excellent trip.

                                                                              — Garret Van Gelder, Age 15

View field trip photo gallery

List of Birds Seen on this Trip  by Silas Hernandez, age 15

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Northern Shoveler
Hooded Merganser
Pied-Billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Turkey Vulture
Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Ring-billed Gull

Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Fish Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird

European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Snow Bunting
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
Species Total: 40