Saturday, April 26, 2008


I got out birding today for the first time since February. I've of course birded locally around campus, but this was the first time I've gotten out of Ithaca and gone birding around Cayuga Lake up to Montezuma NWR. Things are a lot different now - lack of snow being a big difference. Gone are the waterfowl rafts on the north end of the lake. The only remnant of them was a single Canvasback. Here is my report from cayugabirds-l, annotated with pictures and comments:

Paul Hurtado and I headed up to Montezuma around 6:30 this morning. We stopped briefly on Lake Road for singing Eastern Meadowlarks, Savannah Sparrows, and Turkey. We scanned the north end of the lake from Mud Lock, there was a lone Canvasback and not much else. At the refuge headquarters, the Purple Martins are back in force. One seemed to have some white speckling all over his head, I couldn't tell if it was disheveled feathers or actual pigmentation.

A busy Progne house

On the wildlife drive, we had a singing Warbling Vireo at the entrance. On the main pool we had a fair number of ducks composed of Northern Shovelers, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, Gadwall, a Black Duck x Mallard hybrid, Ruddy Ducks, a Redhead, and a handful of Ring-necked Ducks. Shorebirds present included a small gathering of Dunlin, a single Black-bellied Plover, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpiper, and the always-present Killdeer. I noted that the shorebirds did not seem to be in full breeding plumage - when do they finish molting?

Camera-shy Shovelers


Black-bellied Plover

At Railroad Road, we had two foraging Caspian Terns. Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows were singing away, and Paul picked out a Marsh Wren nest hidden in the reeds. We heard a Virginia Rail kik-kikking in the marsh.

We looked for Sandhill Cranes at Marten's Tract and Carncross Road with no luck. We did here some Yellow Warblers singing at one point.

Our last stop was at the Seneca Fairgrounds for Upland Sandpipers. We were lucky and got to observe a single bird in the northwest corner and a pair walking together on the east side. These are great birds. They look very much like a curlew (Numenius), to which they are the sister genus. I also noted their name, Bartramia longicauda, as they exhibited a little bit of tail-bobbing behavior which emphasized their long tail. They also share the name Bartramia with a moss, which makes google searching confusing. If Wikipedia gets anything right, the sandpiper was named by Alexander Wilson for the naturalist William Bartram, while the moss is named after his naturalist father John Bartram. Here are some photos:

Back in Ithaca, I had Paul stop so we could check some of my Rough-winged Swallow nest tubes on Cascadilla Creek. The only thing occupying the tube was a yellowjacket nest (man, they occupied that fast!) but the highlight of stopping was finding at least seven Northern Watersnakes (Nerodia sipedon) in only 30 meters of creek. Walking along the walls looking down at the creek, we could see them basking and swimming without disturbing them. The patterns really stick out when they're in the water. Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera with me for this short side-trip.

It was a fun day. I'm looking forward to getting out and seeing some warblers now. More and more are arriving every day. I'm glad I only have a week left of classes to distract me.