Monday, March 26, 2007

March 25 - Garret Mountain

Ahhh, time once again to forego the long drives chasing birds elsewhere. Spring has returned, and with it the birds will now be flying towards me !
I truly enjoyed my short-drive to this migrant trap, some say it is the best spring spot on the Atlantic seaboard! Onto the birds...

Highlights today were my "first-of-Spring" Eastern Phoebe, Great Egret, and Fox Sparrows. Also seen were American Woodcock (including watching it do it's unusual walk), Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker, Winter Wren, more Sparrows (Swamp, Song, and White-Throated), and nearly 2-dozen Wild Turkeys in full display. A perched Merlin was noteworthy as previously I've only had them flying-by the park.

Over 40 species were seen, and this is just the beginning. Every day will now bring new arrivals back to the area. I'll be able to sleep a bit later, and my car will get a well-deserved rest after the many long, winter chases.

Monday, March 19, 2007

March 18 - Bloomingdale Bog

I left the house at 3 a.m today for a nearly 5-hour long drive up to Lake Placid, New York. This area hosted the Olympics twice, yet my interest was in the boreal birds of the Adirondack Region. Specifically the town of Bloomingdale and it's boreal pine forest.

Right away we saw some Pine Siskins, and it has been a few years since I last saw this species.
Next we tried for the Gray Jay but did not find this bird. However we did come across a flock of Chickadees, and mixed in were at least one, possibly two, Boreal Chickadees. I did not expect to see this bird, as it can be elusive, yet I got some great looks at it and saw it on 4 separate occasions.

Afterwards we wee driving through the bog area and found some beautiful male White-Winged Crossbills along the roadside. The birds are attracted to the road by the grit leftover from sanding the roads after the recent, and still continuing this morning, snowfall.

Previously in Maine a few years ago I had briefly seen a drab immature WW Crossbill, so seeing these bright red males with their black-and-white wings was just like getting a life bird.
And these males were very close, and no higher than a few feet off the ground.
They stuck around long enough for very nice binocular views, and I was able to get them in my spotting scope as well which gave me incredible closeups of their unique bills.

Later on our car got stuck in the snow, and we thought an expensive tow-truck visit was up next. But some nice local "Adirondackers" came by and pulled us out with a rope. This saved us lots of money, and importantly time.
After getting out, we drove around the area looking at the bird feeders and fortunately for us one contained a Gray Jay, which was another life bird for me today.

On the drive back home, we stopped in the Glens Falls, NY area of Fort Edward. This area of large farms is hosting an unprecedented, at least for me, showing of Short-Eared Owls.
I've seen this bird before in New Jersey, New York, Florida, and even Hawaii, but never before have I seen so many at once.

On the farm equipment, haybales, and pine trees, we saw an astounding 38-39 birds in view at once! The birds were incredibly close, and we saw over a dozen in flight at different points.
A truly remarkable experience that I'm sure not too forget.

In this area we were also treated to nice views of the arctic breeding species Rough-Legged Hawk.
We were able to see a few different birds, and included both the light-morph and dark-morph of this species.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

March 10 - Lazuli Bunting

This morning I went out with a couple of friends out to the town of Red Hill, Pennsylvania.
We arrived at 8:15 and found nearly a dozen birders already there. Best of all these birders were looking high up into a Sycamore tree, so I knew something good was happening.
They had located the Lazuli Bunting for the second time today. I quickly took a look thru another birder's scope to get my bearings, and then setup my own scope on the bird.
At first it was facing away, although even then it was distinctive. However, while in my scope view, the bird kindly did a 180 degree turn to present a textbook view of this species -- which was also a life bird for me !
photo credit - George Franchois

Unfortunately the bird stayed this way for just a minute before flying up and to the right. I relocated the bird in my scope, but after just a few seconds the bird flew out of the top of the tree and into some low brush. After waiting for about 90 minutes without the bird re-appearing we decided to leave this spot and visit the nearby Green Lane Reservoir.

At this reservoir was a nesting pair of Bald Eagles, Ring-Necked Ducks, Canvasbacks, Wood Ducks, Green-Winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Bufflehead and other duck species.

A great day is always the result when you get a life bird, and sometimes it's all just a matter of luck and obviously timing !

Monday, March 05, 2007

March 4 - Return of the Smitty

Today a few friends and I returned to Jones Beach to see the Smith's Longspur.

This bird has been here for a long time now, and is being seen almost daily. It took an hour or so, but the bird eventually re-appeared. The bird was visible for a half-hour or so, and provided nice scope looks. The bird had some more streaking on it's chest this time around, and the auriculars (ear coverts) were more clearly defined too.

The Lapland Longspurs that were seen today have really transitioned into their upcoming breeding plumage. Several bright males had wonderful chestnut on the nape of their necks, and also displayed more of the black on their faces and chests.
Also seen were very close Snow Buntings, Horned Larks, a Harrier, several dozen Black-Bellied Plovers, along with a handful of Dunlin.

Afterward we visited some ponds in the area. Of note was Capri Pond in Babylon(?).
Here there were over 75 Redhead ducks looking very nice in the sun, Canvasbacks, Gadwall, Wood Duck, Shovelers, Pied-Billed Grebes, Am. Wigeon, Green-Winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Greater and Lesser Scaup,and a Ring-Necked Duck.

Also seen today at various stops were Goldeneye, Bufflehead, all 3 of the Mergansers, Black and Surf Scoters, Great and Double-Crested Cormorants, Oldsquaw, and Bonaparte's Gull.

Things will be picking up slowly over the month of March, and returning birds that have not been seen in several months will once again be appearing in my binoculars.