For all that their wicheta-wicheta-wicheta is unavoidable all summer, it’s surprisingly hard to get a picture of a Common Yellowthroat. This little female was cooperative, for a change..
Posts Tagged With: five rivers
I moaned a bit late last year about not being able to find a Screech Owl locally. This year I’ve had better luck, having heard one call a few times (though not close enough to count as a yard bird!). Then there were these guys…
You see a bird somewhere once, and every time you pass that way you check the same dead snag or lucky tree. Years ago, before I was seriously birding again, someone saw an Eastern Screech Owl in a roost box in Saratoga. And religiously, every time I passed by there I’d give it a peep. I have no idea how many times I checked — it’s on my regular route up to the grasslands — but it must have been upwards of one hundred. Then one sunny morning in February I looked up to see this sleepy face.
At Five Rivers in April, this little owl chose to roost in a hollow tree not 15 feet off a busy trail, and if you weren’t looking for it you’d pass right by.
So that’s Screech, Great Horned, and Barred for the year. We didn’t have another arctic invasion of Snowy Owls, and the deep early frozen snowpack may have sent the Short-ears south to more hospitable hunting areas. I’ll see what the winter brings!
Birding was slow at Five Rivers this morning: only a few warblers. We’re still waiting on the waves of fall migrants.
So I turned my attention to the butterfly bush outside the education center. No hummingbirds, but I found this lovely hawk moth feasting.
I think this is a Hummingbird Clearwing, Hemaris thysbe. I was delighted to get several decent pictures as I followed it from blossom to blossom.
And now I should go outside, because there’s an Eastern Towhee in the grapevines and intriguing fluttering all around!
Fall is officially over, regardless of what the calendar says. Frost lingers in to mid-morning, and only the oaks retain their leaves. So I look back now to my favorite month, October, the season of mist and spiderwebs.
Another early-morning walk at Five Rivers. Warblers and vireos are making their last appearances, while the sparrow shift is taking place: Chipping Sparrows on the way south, White-throated and Tree Sparrows settling in. The tiny balls of energy that are Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets seem to use more energy than they can consume in their frenetic foraging. It’s the big feed-up before frost.
And the spiders are equally avid. A light drizzle highlights webs everywhere.
Goodbye, October. I’ll miss you.
The September Scramble is a recent addition to HMBC’s calendar, 10 hours of birding Five Rivers in the height (hopefully) of fall migration and despite its name it’s more of a Ramble, or an Amble. It’s just a great way to get out and enjoy late summer, the most beautiful time of year in the Northeast.
I started my day about 7:00 AM, a cool bite in the air and mist rising from the ponds.
White lace spiderwebs floated on the grass.
As I paused by the Wood Duck Marsh to watch a pair of Green Herons, a Sharp-shinned Hawk swooped down from his snag, diving into a clump of honeysuckle. A Blue Jay erupted from the other side screaming in protest and escaped to the top of the pines, pursued by the hawk. The clamor roused the rest of the flock and they chivvied the hawk mercilessly from tree to tree. The hawk was making the strangest distress calls — guttural yawps that sounded more like a Green Heron. I kept checking the tree to see if a heron was in fact in there with them, but it must have been the hawk.
This continued for some time, drowning out other birdsong. But in the distance I heard a call, repeated three or four times — cu cu cu, cu cu cu. It sounded like a Black-billed Cuckoo but I was never able to locate the bird, and crows (and there were crows nearby, stirred up by the hawk/jay ruckus) can make a similar sound.
As I moved away from the ponds the sun rose higher burning the fog off.
It was reasonably birdy out, several mixed flocks featuring American Redstarts and Yellow-rumped, Magnolia, Canada, Prairie and Black-throated Green Warblers along with the usual resident species and any number of mysteries. The woods of the North Loop trail were quiet, so I paused to appreciate this little mushroom grove on a fallen log.
There’s a section of closely-spaced spindly pines that I always think would make a great setting for a horror film. Image trying to force your way through, branches grabbing and tripping you, as the shamblers get closer…
Around 3:30 I was done for (did I mention I’d been on an all-day hawkwatch the day before?) and I headed for the parking lot past the ponds. And there on a snag was the Sharpie again, surveying his territory in peace, for the moment.
40 species for the day (not counting the dubious Cuckoo). Last year’s group total was 61 (38 for me) and this year, barring any late additions, is 63. Obviously, I’m missing or misidentifying a lot of birds.
I know, I know, it’s almost the end of May and I have so many posts to catch up on! I’ll try to get them in by the 31st!
In the migration months of May and September, birders gather at 7:00am for the Early Birders walks at Five Rivers. I managed to make it to all of them this month, despite clouds, drizzle, mud, and my general hatred of getting up at dawn o’clock. The morning starts with bagels and coffee in front of the big observation window, counting the feeder birds. At 7:30 we move out onto the trails, depending on what’s been seen where and how the conditions underfoot are. Around 9:00, the official part of the walk breaks up for those unfortunates who have to go to work, and I ramble on for a few more hours.
5/5 — My first spring EB walk. Cool and damp, on the edge of drizzle. Today was my last sighting of Dark-eyed Junco for the season. They’re off to their northern nesting grounds after being nearly daily visitors since late September, and the White-crowned and White-throated Sparrows weren’t far behind. An Osprey glided overhead as Blue-winged Warblers gave their ‘bzee-bzzz’ and Catbirds mewed and squeaked from every tangle. Eastern Bluebirds and Tree Swallows valiantly fought off invading House Sparrows. Everyone (except me) saw an Eastern Meadowlark in the fields. The Meadowlark is my nemesis bird — a not-uncommon bird in a predictable habitat, that I Just. Can’t. See. I’m always looking in the wrong direction… 39 species.
5/12 — What a beautiful day! See, we did have a few days this month without rain! I’m really working on bird song, writing my own phonetic description and listening repeatedly when I get home. I’ve ‘claimed’ one or two birds each week this way. Now to keep practicing during the off-season. My list of confident IDs includes House Wren, Yellow Warbler, Prairie Warbler (a quick ascending call, like a thumbnail on the teeth of a comb), and Great Crested Flycatcher ( ‘an emphatic wheep!’. I watched a pair of Baltimore Orioles work on their bag nest — actually she did most of the work while he flew off to a treetop and sang about how wonderful it all was. My best sighting was during my solo wanderings. A male American Redstart danced through the treetops, teasing me with glimpses of his bright red patches. 48 species.
5/19 — Another overcast squishy day. The cool damp has worked against us in warbler sightings. They’re bug-eaters, and while it’s pleasant to walk without being eaten alive, if the food’s not there, neither are the birds. We did see or hear Yellow, Yellow-rumped, Blue-winged, Chestnut-sided, and Prairie Warblers, and Ovenbirds. Eastern Towhees and Common Yellowthroats abandoned their usual skulky habits and proclaimed their territories in full sight. I tend to give up quicker on trying to tease out those LBJs and scan the treeline instead, so I frequently say, “Hey, raptor up there.” Two weeks ago it was the Osprey, this week it was a Kestrel hovering over the field. The Red-eyed Vireo is one of those treetop birds you never see, but once you know his song it’s ubiquitious. “I’m here. Where are you. Here I am. Over here.” More songs this week: Field Sparrow (a string of notes speeding up like a ping-pong ball bounding) and two of the Baffling Empids, small flycatchers distinguishable only by song, Least Flycatcher (a quick ‘chbek!’) and Alder Flycatcher (‘frre-beo’, with a roll of the ‘rr’). A hardy few of us headed down the Vlomanskill Trail, a creekside walk where Louisiana Waterthrushes nest. The ground was saturated and in an effort to avoid standing water, I stepped onto the railroad ties edging the path. BIG mistake. My foot flew out under me and I slowly tumbled down onto my back, soaking myself from right foot to shoulder but landing with my binocs held high. I know my priorities! 46 species.
5/26 — Even more than numerous eyes, the advantage of these walks has been numerous experienced ears. I’m pretty confident now with a number of birdsongs I didn’t know at the beginning of the month. I now think more about audio ID, writing down approximations in the field even for birds I know well by sight, and visiting sites like Xeno-Canto for all the variations. I don’t feel I have a handle on Warbling Vireo yet (a rapid tumble, ending on a high note), but the Eastern Wood-Pewee is like a more mournful Phoebe.This week’s highlight was flocks of Cedar Waxwings. It’s always a pleasure to see these sociable, subtle colored birds. And I did a raptor ID on my own! Insead of assuming a soaring hawk was a Red-tail, I birded it carefully, noticing no flash of red in the tail (duh) and shoulders, and distinct white patches on the wing-top in the primaries. Rough-legged Hawk! Add to that a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers tearing apart a rotten snag 15 feet from me and the Peregrine banding I watched on the way home, and it was a satisfying end to the Early Birder spring season. 46 species.
Totally forgot to put these in, and almost missed mentioning some good birds!
American Crow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Red-tailed Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Blue Jay, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Flicker, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, REd-winged Blackbird, American Goldfinch, White-throated Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, Rusty Blackbird, Northern Harrier.
18 birds, 2 new to this list.
This is the first time I’ve done a trip with the HMBC and it was a pleasure. You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful autumn day, though it started with the first frost of the season. Car windows needed scraping!
Sparrows were the stars of the day. White-crowned and White-throats were everywhere, though the WTs didn’t have their full song going yet. Two Flickers perched on a snag head-bobbing, neck-stretching, and yipping to one another. It was a good woodpecker day, with Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Pileated and the aforementioned Flickers seen or heard. We also saw my first Brown Creeper in several years. It gave us a good show highlighted in the sun.
Add a new bird to my life list– the Blue-headed Vireo! Admittedly, most of what I got was a concentrated look at its belly at tree-top level, but vireos in general are hard to distinguish. I’ll work on their songs this winter.
My last bird of the day was a Kestrel perched at a nearby marsh, but I’m starting to doubt that ID. My neighbor saw and photographed a Merlin at the same spot last week, and I’m thinking the bird was larger and more gray than a Kestrel. I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled when I’m in the area.
The group split up and as a whole saw some 45 species, but I didn’t see that many. It was still quite a productive day, especially for the time of year!
Blue Jay, Gray Catbird, Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, Canada Goose, American Crow, Eastern Bluebird, White-crowned Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, House Finch, American Robin, Song Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Northern Cardinal, Dark-eyed Junco, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue-headed Vireo, Belted Kingfisher, Mourning Dove, House Sparrow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Purple Finch, Hairy Woodpecker, Great Blue Heron, Mallard, Turkey Vulture, Carolina Wren, Tree Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, American Kestrel, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Mockingbird.
39 species between 5 Rivers and home, 4 new to this list, 1 life bird!
Q: How much rain did we actually have?
A: I don’t know. The container I was using overflowed hours before the rain stopped. However, there is this:
That’s nine inches of water in there, measured at the slightly-uphill side. The sticks are there to help any hapless critter climb out.
The deluge ended Friday afternoon, the swamp is pretty full and flowing out into the pond, and the wide muddy banks of the pond are covered with water. It was a gorgeous weekend, clear and crisp and colorful.
We took a long walk at Five Rivers Sunday. Not a whole lot of birds, but I did manage to absolutely/positively identify a CFW! OK, they were Yellow-rumped Warblers, which are not exactly difficult, but I’m still pumped.
Here’s a female Mallard enjoying the sun. She was sharing that log with several Painted Turtles and you can see what a great basking day it was.
No snakes having sex this time, but this Garter Snake wanted us to get out of his way. We complied, of course.We almost couldn’t leave. The flock of Turkeys stood in the road at the exit and strolled back and forth blocking traffic for several minutes. Obviously very accustomed to people — I could have reached out of the car window and touched one.
Red-winged Blackbird, Cardinal, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch, Song Sparrow, American Crow, Canada Goose, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, European Starling, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Raven, Turkey Vulture, Wild Turkey, Pileated Woodpecker, Gray Catbird, Belted Kingfisher, Double-crested Cormorant, Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Purple Finch, Mallard, Yellow-rumped Warbler.
34 confirmed species, 1 new to this list. One warbler which looked sorta like a Northern Parula and a maybe-kinglet. Lots of completely unidentifiable CFWs.
Those snakes were totally having sex!
I got in touch with a Buffalo-area herp club and they said, yes, garter snakes do sometimes mate in the fall. The female can store sperm over the winter, and if she isn’t fertilized again in the spring, she’s ready to produce her little snakelets later in the summer. How cool is that?
Moral of the story: ALWAYS bring your camera — you don’t know what amazing thing you’re going to see!