Saturday, November 3, 2007

Seeing those finches for myself

Finally got out to do some birding, and to try to see some of the winter finches that are appearing in increasing abundance and diversity in the Cayuga Lake Basin. I saw Pine Siskins last week at feeders at Sapsucker Woods, but failed everytime I chased the Evening Grosbeaks that showed up around campus and Cayuga Heights. Today was a different story. I joined several people on a Cayuga Bird Club trip. Paul Hurtado reports on cayugabirds-l:

This morning I was joined by Susan Danskin, Bill Baker, Claire (?), Michelle (?), Stewart (?!), Nick Sly, Shawn Billerman, Nancy Chen, and my sister Katie (visiting from WY for the weekend) for the Cayuga Bird Club trip.

We started at CLO and headed up 13 to the Dryden area to check the lake and George Rd. before heading up to Summerhill and Montezuma. Highlights were many of the birds already mentioned by Mike A., plus SNOW BUNTINGS, a RED-THROATED LOON, and female LONG-TAILED DUCK at Myers this afternoon.

After leaving the lab around 7:45, we had a COMMON RAVEN perched in a tree just past the airport with American Crows perched above the raven, allowing a nice (quick!) comparison as we drove by.

Arriving at Dryden Lake, we found few birds and many duck/goose hunters, so decoys were by far the most common "birds" on the lake! A male Pileated Woodpecker put on a brief showing complete with plenty of vocalizations, and after some initial scans of the lake Bill Baker spotted a single BRANT across the lake on the shore with a Canada Goose. Katie did a great job of playing a "Westerner" and gushed about the first male Northern Cardinal we managed to put in the scope for her (understandably!). Despite Nick's diligence, the only waxwings to be found were Cedar Waxwings.

From there we headed to George Rd. where we found a handfull of Canada Geese and Mallards (not much!), so we continued on up north roughly following Fall creek through McClean (looks like it could be a birdy place - nice cemetary) to Summerhill to look for finches.

We struck out on the Shrike that Tim and Mike had along Salt Rd. (thanks for the heads up Ryan!), but we did have 4+ EVENING GROSBEAKS and a lone PINE SISKIN at the Hovels' feeders. We also had some amazing long looks a flock of 15+ RED CROSSBILLS (type 2?????) near the corner of Hoag Rd. and Salt Rd. -- definately a highlight of the day! We all got great looks at various individuals, heard numerous bouts of vocalizations, and were able to see the crossed bills in action as these birds fed on spruce(??) cones. Very cool. ;)

Satisfied with Summerhill, we headed through Moravia towards Aurora on to MNWR. The new pool at the start of the wildlife drive held numerous Canada Geese, Northern Shovelers, and N. Pintail, with an unusual Canada Goose showing lots of white in the neck and head (no cackling geese). Lots of ducks and geese on the main pool including Am Wigeon, Pintail, Ruddy Duck, Shovelers, Mallard, Gadwall, CANVASBACK, Redhead, TRUMPETER SWANS (2+), Snow Geese (lots), Canada Geese, Am Coots, etc.

Thanks to Tim Lenz and Mike Anderson, the group also got some nice looks at the RED-NECKED PHALAROPE out near the large flock of Snow Geese. We had a LAPLAND LONGSPUR fly over twice, providing a nice example of their flight calls. We tried our hardest to turn some of the Snow Geese on the main pond into Ross's Geese (but with no success).

From there we headed to Armitage Rd. where we had 3+ Lesser Yellowlegs, 1 Greater Yellowlegs, 2+ Pectoral Sandpipers, 5+ Wilson's Snipe, and 2 White-rumped Sandpipers. It seems like a great place to keep an eye on for late shorebirds for the near future...

By that time it was after 2pm, and we needed to get Nancy to King Ferry to meet up with friends, so after Armitage we headed through the mucklands (not much was there) and down 90 towards King Ferry.

We stopped at Myers before getting back into Ithaca, and within minutes Shawn B. found a group of 3 SNOW BUNTINGS on the spit and a RED-THROATED LOON swimming off the point. Later a female LONG-TAILED DUCK joined the numerous gulls (the usual 3 species) and Mallards a short ways off of the point, providing close but brief looks for us all. From there, we called it a day and headed back to the lab.

Certainly not a bad day to be out birding! :)

Also -- while such appreciation often goes unmentioned, I'd really like to thank all the trip participants for their many contributions to the day, and also the other birders that we saw or recieved calls from throughout the course of the day. We would certainly have missed some great birds without everyone's help, and this really contributed to making for such a fun trip. So, thanks! :)

Good birding,
Paul Hurtado

So, I ended up seeing Evening Grosbeaks - only the second time ever, the first time being four years ago in Michigan. I had some pretty good looks, as well as hearing their call notes well. I also saw Red Crossbills for the first time in the Basin, and that was a real treat. They were in the tops of the trees right next to the road in great like, and I enjoyed long scope looks of males and females calling and feeding. Truly wonderful. Finally, something that Paul forgot to mention - a MINK! I'm fond of Mustelids (weasels) but I've never seen one in the wild, and have desired to do so for a long time. We observed one for about a minute near the Hovel Chalet feeders, frolicking on the lawn next to a small pond, tormenting the muskrats. Unfortunately he disappeared shortly thereafter. A great day, overall.

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