Posts Tagged With: first of season

Welcome back!

I know, we still have to get through March, Albany’s two heaviest snowfalls were in March, the Polar-freakin’-Vortex is on its way south again…

but the first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year sang in my yard today.

IMG_0393 IMG_0394

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, First of season | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wilson Powell Sanctuary, Old Chatham 4/30/13

Been here… been there… been to all the usual spots. Time to check the local field-trrip guide. Hmm, Wilson Powell Sanctuary isn’t too far away…

Some wrong turns and a twisty route through northern Columbia County later, I arrived at the sanctuary. It was still early spring and the trees had only begun leafing out. Wildflowers carpeted the forest floor.

The trail starts rising gently to a steep slope on the edge of a ravine where I heard Northern Waterthrush, Ovenbirds, and my first Worm-eating Warbler. A pair of Broad-winged Hawks whistled overhead. At the top of the trail you take a left to find yourself on Dorson’s Rock, looking over the Hudson Valley to Green County.

A Raven flew so low I could hear it push the wind through its wings.

Back down near the parking lot, there’s a pond and marshy area. A Snapping Turtle had just hauled herself out of the winter’s mud and basked.

It’s a nice place for a saunter.


37 species, one new life bird.

Categories: Field trip, flowers, Life bird!, the occasional herp | Tags: , , | 2 Comments


Yard species #101 — Brown Thrasher checking out the cracked corn under a feeder.

As their family name Mimidae suggests, they, along with Gray Catbirds and Northern Mockingbirds, mimic other birds’ songs. You can tell them apart by song pattern: the Mockingbird repeats his borrowed phrases at least three times and to my ear is the most accurate imitator, while Catbirds sound like an entire flock of random birds and a cat are in the same thicket. Thoreau suggested the twice-repeated songs of the Thrasher sounded like advice to a farmer:  “While you are planting the seed, he  cries — ‘Drop it, drop it — cover it up, cover it up — pull it up, pull it up, pull it up.'”

Categories: NYS 2013, Species count, Yard first | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Spring at last!

You can tell it’s here by the stack of books next to my bed. Field guides, warbler ID books, bird call CDs, tales from other birders’ Big Years — I’m ready for waves of migrants.

Some people like to waste their spring mucking around in the dirt of their gardens. Me? I’ll let this energetic leaf-scratcher do my raking.

Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow

(No, he wouldn’t come out from behind that post, even when I asked politely.)

The Fox Sparrows will rummage around under trees and in leaf piles for a week or so before heading off north, and that will be the last of them until they make a quick stopoff in the fall. I love their warm chipmunk color.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, First of season | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

FOY kind of day

On my usual circuit around Snyder’s Lake I saw my first little chickenbeak — a Pied-billed Grebe. They dive vigorously when startled, but also make a stealth dive where they just sink below the surface, leaving only their head exposed, like the conning tower on an avian submarine.

Taken last year at Montezuma NWR

We walked down the road just before dusk. Spring Peepers are just beginning their evening chorus in the swamp across the road, and as we passed the fields we heard two American Woodcocks peenting and whistling. On the way back in the dark, a Killdeer flushed from the cow pasture calling a single note of alarm. Overhead what might have been a bat flittered by. I did see some moths and insects in the air, so in-flight snacks may be available.

General list of what’s been in the neighborhood in the past week:

European Starling, American Crow, Blue Jay, American Robin, House Sparrow, Ring-billed Gull, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Mute Swan, Ring-necked Duck, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Mallard, Canada Goose, Dark-eyed Junco, Hooded Merganser, Eastern Bluebird, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Turkey Vulture, House Finch, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Goldfinch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, American Tree Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Northern Mockingbird, Bufflehead.

3 species new for 2012.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, First of season, NYS 2012, Species count, the occasional herp, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Conversation with a Kestrel, 3/11/12

Sunday was the kind of day when my dad used to gather us up and go for a drive. The beach was a favorite destination when we were kids, an afternoon of swimming, beachcombing, and sunset-watching. In later years he and I would go birding out to Orient Park. So in the spirit of a spring day, I took a meandering drive up to the Winter Raptor Fest.

The Hudson was quiet until I crossed onto one of the many River Roads, this one across from Schuylerville. It’s a few miles of dirt road, river on one side, fields and sloughs on the other. A half-dozen Snow Geese shone out among thousands of Canadas in an embayment. I’ve been watching a shallow pond thinking it would be a great duck stop, and this week the migrants had arrived including my FOY Green-winged Teal.

The best part of the Raptor Fest was the chance to see birds of prey up close. This Broad-winged Hawk had been wing-shot. Sorry for the horrible lighting, but she was inside a yellow and blue circus tent on a brilliantly sunny day.

The rehabber had the difficult task of answering questions ranging from the complications to the bird’s respiratory system from a broken bone, to one person who couldn’t seem to get that ‘healed’ did not mean ‘all better’, and why this bird would sadly never fly again.  Add the inevitable bored fractious infants with parents determined to stick it out to the end, and it was a frustrating presentation redeemed by the chance to see the Broad-wing up close.

Inside the barn the rehabbers had Barred, Screech, and Saw-whet Owls, and this little charmer:


Rufus is an American Kestrel, “rescued’ by a well-meaning but uninformed person who found him fledged, out of the nest on the ground, and assumed the poor little thing would die without human intervention. Which consisted of feeding him on hamburger and lamb, leading to metabolic bone disease. That’s the avian equivalent of rickets. Rufus’ wing bones are strong enough for limited flight, but his feet are deformed and he would soon starve if he had to hunt.

He is very socialized to crowds, but doesn’t like certain handlers. Whenever the woman holding him spoke, he glared at her and screamed KIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKIKI loud enough to be heard outside and down the driveway.

I like this picture, showing how huge his eye is on a Robin-sized bird, and the notch in his beak for severing the spinal cord of a mouse. And yes, he was KIKIKIing here.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mallard, Canada Goose, Hooded Merganser, American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Ring-necked Duck, American Widgeon, Green-winged Teal, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, Snow Goose, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Black-capped Chickadee, American Crow, Blue jay, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, American Robin, Eastern Bluebird, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Junco.

26 species, 1 new for 2012.

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, First of season, OMG bird, Species count | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Way the hell ‘n’ gone, 2/23/12

This was definitely the farthest afield I’ve gone with the Thursday group. Reports of siskins and waxwings tempted us north to Warren County and then some. First stop was in Warrensburg, looking for a flock of Cedar Waxwings with possible Bohemians mixed in. No sign of them, so off to Thurman Station where among the Eastern Bluebirds and Goldfinches, we heard the zippy zeeeeet! of Pine Siskins all around us.

Onwards and upwards again, past Stony Creek, along Harrisburg Road as it got narrower and less populated until it ended in an icy trailhead. Here it was mid-February and we had to go nearly 70 miles to find snow! I have no idea how we got there; maps seem to indicate we were on the other side of the river… Again we were surrounded by Siskins and little else but a quick flyover by a Bald Eagle and a Raven.

Back at Warrensburg, the Waxwing flock returned. Careful scrutiny may have disclosed a Bohemian Waxwing or two among the 50 Cedars, but given the poor light I don’t feel I can say I saw one. See the last photo in this post for a picture of both Waxwings in bright sunlight.

On the return trip I drove through Saratoga County along the Hudson, mostly seeing the usual ducks. Route 4 between Schuylerville and Stillwater is pretty desolate midweek, and when I saw a Raven at the side of the road I was able to pull over and watch him tear at a dead rabbit for several minutes before another car disturbed him. I see large crows and think they are ravens, but when I see a raven I wonder how I could have made such a mistake, there is such a difference in size, scale, and flight.

To complete my journey south I heard my first-of-year Red-winged Blackbirds calling. Males only — when I see the ladies approving their choice in real estate I’ll believe it’s almost spring.

Red-tailed Hawk, Tufted Titmouse, American Crow, Ring-billed Gull, Mallard, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Pine Siskin, Eastern Bluebird, American Goldfinch, Common Raven, Blue Jay, Cedar Waxwing, Purple Finch, Northern Flicker, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, Wild Turkey, White-breasted Nuthatch, Canada Goose, Greater Scaup, Song Sparrow, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Merganser, American Black Duck, Herring Gull, Northern Mockingbird, American Widgeon, Red-winged Blackbird.

31 species, 5 new for the year.


Categories: Field trip, First of season, NYS 2012 | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

What’s new this week

The spring birds are trickling back up. On Snyder’s Lake I saw two pair of American Widgeons and three young Mute Swans, their white still touched with grey. Common Grackles, Brown-headed Cowbirds and Redwings add their calls to the barnyard blackbird flocks. And today, after being tricked by redtails a few times, the FOY Turkey Vulture! Like the Redwings, it was about a week earlier than last year.

And tomorrow, six inches of snow! I love the northeast!

Categories: First of season, NYS 2012 | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cohoes and up the Mohawk, 2/9 – 2/11

The Thursday trip was a scouting run for the scheduled trip Saturday, so I’ll combine them into one entity, much as Thoreau condensed two years, two months and two days into one year on Walden Pond. (I’m feeling grandiose today.)

Normally this time of year postings like this pop up on the local bird list: “In scanning the 2500+ gulls on the ice, a single second-year Thayer’s Gull was immediately evident*.” Not too many of these this year, mostly because the river ice the gulls frequent just didn’t form. Like the eagles at Cohoes, there’s no need to cluster at the edge of open water if it’s all open. So our gull sightings were limited to the usual three — Herring, Great Black-backed, Ring-billed — and not in any number.

We stopped for a look at a little pond next to 787 to check for ducks and had a surprise — an overwintering Belted Kingfisher. I didn’t expect to hear that rattle for another month at least. Along the Hudson, two Bald Eagles hung out near where a nest collapsed in last year’s storms. Perhaps they’ll rebuild.

The Collar City Bridge on Green Island is home to a Peregrine nest box. We stopped in a tiny public parking lot in a apartment complex to scan the cottonwood trees. On Thursday we had a low flyover by a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and Saturday the resident falcons were perched in clear view. The larger bird, probably the female, was facing us at first and she must have just eaten. Her crop looked like she had swallowed a softball. The male was a few trees over.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Even the landfill was disappointing, except for at least a dozen Red-tails. The normal crowds of Gulls were all off somewhere else. It’s been a great winter for economizing on heat and plowing, but birdwise, it’s been really… odd.

Belted Kingfisher, Fish Crow, Red-tailed Hawk, Mallard, Common Merganser, Black Duck, Canada Goose, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, Bald Eagle, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Sparrow, House Finch, Mourning Dove, Rock Pigeon, American Crow, Dark-eyed Junco, European Starling, Eastern Bluebird, Blue Jay, American Robin, Common Goldeneye, Peregrine Falcon (pair), Eastern Mockingbird, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Carolina Wren.


*Immediately evident, that is, if you have a scope as powerful as the Hubble Space Telescope, limitless patience, and a really keen eye for microscopic differences in plumage. I have never seen, nor do I expect ever to see, a Thayer’s Gull.My eye is insufficiently refined.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Field trip, NYS 2012, OMG bird, Species count | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

RWBB, hell yeah!

Bill told me after his morning walk he had heard a Red-winged Blackbird calling Tuesday morning. Yesterday I stopped by a little marshy area and heard and saw a dozen males konk-a-ree-ing their hearts out, epaulets flashing.

Last year my FOY RWBB was March 3, so we’re a bit early. This time last year the snow was thigh-deep and we hadn’t seen bare ground since before Christmas.

Categories: First of season, NYS 2012, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at