This morning I just had to chase something! I hadn’t had a new year bird in over three weeks and needed to find one. The problem recently, the birds have been mostly one minute wonders. If you were there when it went through, you got to see it. I went over my yearly needs alerts and decided on a destination. I headed north to just southeast of Syracuse to try for a Ross’s Goose. Then, only 45 minutes east of there, there were two Barnacle Geese. I thought this would be a plan that might pay off. Three quarters of the way up rt. 81, it began to snow and sleet with thirty mile per hour winds. I hadn’t counted on that. It slowed my progress. The storm lasted just over an hour, only stopping ten minutes after I reached my first destination. I arrived at Woodman’s Road Pond at 11:30 am, and was amazed at the waterfowl. This rather small lake had a tremendous number and diversity of birds. There were only about a 1000 Canada Geese when I arrived and I knew the Ross’ Goose was with Canadas. Over the next hour and a half, 3000 more CAGO came in. Other waterfowl included a CACKLING GOOSE, Northern Pintail, Northern Shoveler, Ring-necked Duck, American Coot, American Wigeon, Gadwall, Mallard and Black Ducks and Green-winged Teal. Great Blue Herons, Ring-billed Gulls, Bald Eagles, Red-tailed Hawks and a few passerines rounded the list. Wayne Myers, a local birder came along, informing me that the Ross’s Goose hadn’t been seen so far today. I decided to head over to the Utica area and try for the BARNACLE GEESE. It only took 45 minutes to get there, and I arrived at the pond on Cedarville Road to find several birders already viewing the geese. Kevin McGann was one of those present. We had heard a lot about each other, but had never met, very nice guy. These birds were an easy add. Its always great to see this species and it was my first time seeing more than one. I then decided to head back to Syracuse to see if the Ross’s goose might have returned, but it hadn’t. I started the long ride home, happy to have seen the Barnacle Geese and added many new birds for two counties I don’t normally get to bird.
The pair of Barnacle Geese at the Cedarville Road Pond.
The lone Black Scoter on the Neversink Reservoir.
Arlene Borko and I toured the county today hoping to pick up some more birds brought in by the storm over the last couple of days. We couldn’t relocate the Red-necked Grebe on Yankee Lake. At Morningside Park, we had some unexpected birds. As I scanned the waterfowl, I found Hooded and Common Mergansers, Mallards and Canada Geese and a couple of Green-winged Teal. Scanning the mud flats that I was surprised to find were still exposed, I found 3 Killdeer, 1 Dunlin and 1 Pectoral Sandpiper! It is late for us to have shorebirds, but all of these species have been seen at this time of year before. From there we went to the Rondout Reservoir where we had the typically expected waterfowl, 1 Ruddy Duck and another late Killdeer. From there we worked our way around the conifer forests around the Neversink Reservoir. The only birds of note were a few Purple Finches. At the Reservoir itself, we found a pair of Bald Eagles, a Ring-billed Gull, 1 Common Merganser and 1 BLACK SCOTER. A nice morning with several good birds!
Distant Ruddy Ducks on Kiamesha Lake.
I went out early this morning with limited time to check some of the hot spots in the county for birds put down by the heavy rain and high winds overnight (and continuing today). I was a bit disappointed overall as few birds actually showed up. That said, the best bird of the day, was right here on Yankee Lake. A winter plumage RED-NECKED GREBE! I then hit Kiamesha Lake where I found my FOS RUDDY DUCKS, six of them. No other locations checked (Neversink Reservoir, Morningside Park, Swan Lake) had any birds whatsoever. After attending the Bashakill Area Associations annual meeting, I returned to Yankee Lake at 1pm. The Red-necked Grebe continues, but the winds and waves were even worse than this morning making photos impossible. If the bird remains once the wind stops, I will try again.
The Brant along the road by the bridge.
I birded the Bashakill this morning with some nice results. In spite of the south winds over the last few days, birds have continued to come in. I think they have been backed up by the long lasting southerly winds, driving them to move regardless of wind direction. Warbler numbers were down today, as were sparrows. I did have my FOS Fox Sparrow at the Orchard yesterday. Rusty Blackbirds continue to come through with 31 seen this morning on Haven Road. Northern Harriers, Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks were my only raptors today. The stars of the show today had to be the waterfowl! I birded the Birch Trail both south and north from the Main Boat Launch. On the south side, there was an abundance of waterfowl! Green-winged Teal were in their highest number yet with about 110 seen! Blue-winged Teal numbered a modest 10. Mallards weren’t as numerous as yesterday with on about 35 seen. I also had 8 Wood Ducks which was way down from recent days. There were about 150 Canada Geese. There was a single duck that looked good to me for a female Northern Shoveler, but it got lost in the masses in flight before I could confirm it. When I was done with most areas, I headed back to Haven Road. Here I almost immediately found an immature BRANT! The bird was feeding and resting in a mass of weeds. I hadn’t seen it earlier, so think it may have come in while I was gone. I was able to let a bunch of people know and Scott Baldinger, Arlene Borko, Jim Carney, Pete Schyler and Jeff Goulding were all able to come see it. It remained in the area of the bridge for a while after having moved there from the marsh. It suddenly began to vocalize right at 1 pm and the took off, flying high until it cleared the ridge and flew off to the south over Orange County. Great morning!
The Brant when it was out in the marsh.
The Vesper Sparrow continues this morning.
I birded the Bashakill this morning, mostly Haven Road. I spent two hours there, unable to pull myself away. There was a big transition in birds overnight, but some specialties remained. As I was seeing so many great birds, I texted Scott Baldinger, who soon joined me. Between us we had eleven species of sparrows, the highlights of which were VESPER, LINCOLN’S, WHITE-CROWNED and SAVANNAH! (Scott had the Lincoln’s and White-crowned) Also seen were Swamp, Song, White-throated, House, Chipping, Field Sparrows and Dark-eyed Junco! I think that’s an amazing tally for one small stretch of road! As if that weren’t enough, I was thrilled to turn to my right and see a beautiful GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH feeding on a Winter Berry Bush right in the open along the road. It was immediately joined by a Hermit Thrush that were both flushed by a loud truck before I could get a shot of them. At the Deli Fields, Scott and I also had a SWAINSON’S THRUSH (another of which was in my yard when I got home). Yellow-rumped Warblers were again abundant with about 50 seen. Palm Warblers were more scarce with only 5 seen. A Common Yellowthroat the last thing rounded out the warblers. A big surprise also on Haven Road were four TREE SWALLOWS that passed by just before noon. I think this is the latest date I have ever had them. Raptors included Red-tailed and Red-shouldered Hawks, Cooper’s Hawk, Bald Eagle and Turkey Vulture. This is the third day of great birding at the Bashakill!
Uncommon at the Bashakill, this Northern Mockingbird has been present for several days now.
A male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker was feeding on Poison Ivy berries.
Vesper Sparrow continues!
I returned to Haven Road at 3:30 pm to see if the Vesper Sparrow was still present. It was easily found along the edge of the road just south of the DEC parking lot. If you go to the stand of Phragmities, you are probably too far up the road. It flushes to the trees when cars come by and may take up to five minutes to come down again. It will probably remain through the end of the day. This afternoon, besides the Song and Swamp Sparrows, it was in the company of a beautiful FIELD SPARROW as well. This was one we had missed there this morning.
A juvenile White-crowned Sparrow on Haven Road.
This morning, Karen Miller and I birded the Bashakill. There were many highlights, but the best showing of birds were sparrows. Haven Road was alive with sparrows, many having come in again overnight. Song and Swamp were expectedly the most numerous. Among these more common sparrows were a beautiful juvenile WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW and a really gorgeous VESPER SPARROW! Warbler numbers were down a bit from yesterday, but we still managed many Yellow-rumped Warblers, a couple of Palm Warblers and one Common Yellowthroat. On the birch trail, birded both north and south from the Main Boat Launch, White-throated Sparrows were fairly numerous, but down from recent days. 75 Rusty Blackbirds were feeding along the trail south of the launch. Green-winged Teal (38), Mallards, Wood Ducks and Canada Geese were all seen. Ruby-crowned Kinglets and a few Gold-crowned Kinglets were present. The Great Egrets were gone today. Two DUNLIN flying down the kill from the boat launch were a pleasant surprise! It was so busy, we never even made it to the Nature trail or Deli Fields. Great birding!
A beautiful VESPER SPARROW along Haven Road.