Posts Tagged With: new to the list

One of these birds is not like the others…

Can you tell? Hint: these are all Goldeneye. The brown-headed birds are (probably*) all female and immature Common Goldeneye, and all but one of the black-and-white birds are male Common Goldeneye. That one exception…

Do you see the one that doesn’t match, a visitor from the far north and west?

That’s a male Barrow’s Goldeneye, life bird and NYS Species #255! After striking out twice last weekend, I was lucky that the bird was still hanging around this morning. So after errands we headed back upriver hoping third time was the charm. I was beginning to despair when the river looked nearly birdless, but then a good flock of waterfowl moved in and at last (with help) we were able to pick him out of the crowd. We spent the pleasantly springlike afternoon enjoying the ducks’ courtship performances.

Despite their best yodeling, the ladies did not look impressed.


Look at that beautiful eye! It’s obvious where they get their name.

Goldeneye are diving ducks, so sometimes just as I was getting the camera on them they’d do this:

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A Song Sparrow affirmed that spring really is coming, and he just had to sing about it!





*One sharp-eyed birder spotted one female with more yellow on her beak — probably a female Barrow’s. I was happy enough to be able to pick out the male!

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, Life bird!, New bird, Rara avis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

#104: Wheep!

Yard Bird #104 was a Great Crested Flycatcher wheep!ing vigorously from the spruce trees in the front yard.

Since I couldn’t get a picture of him, here’s an American Redstart in its fall lemon-drop plumage.

American Redstart

American Redstart

Categories: Bird photos, Yard first | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

In barren lands, 5/25-26/13

My first overnight trip with the bird club!  By happy coincidence two of the destinations were just a hop down the road from my friends, who really needed a visit. (Hi Millers!) An afternoon of catching up, an exhibit opening at the Antique Boat Museum, and early to bed for the big day ahead.

So the first stop of the trip wasn’t that close. The Tug Hill Plateau, west of the Adirondacks, is best known as the snow capital of New York. Montague, the town where I met up with the rest of the group, holds the state record for heaviest one-day snowfall — 77 inches! Fortunately the day, while chilly and damp, was snow-free. We rambled down Running George Truck Trail (and no, I don’t know who George was or why he was running) near Lowville. It was quiet down there and the birds busied themselves with more important things than entertaining the out-of-towners.

Bog near Lowville

Bog near Lowville

From there we ran up a few more exits on I-81, getting off at Watertown. We spent a few hours at Chaumont Barrens, a rare alvar grassland habitat — a thin layer of soil over limestone that supports plants found nowhere else in New York State.

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The other endemic rarity at Chaumont is the Golden-winged Warbler. A population in serious decline, they hybridize with and often sound like more common Blue-winged Warblers. We heard a brief burst of song, but no sighting.

The limestone is exposed in places, revealing fossils.

The trail loops through the open plains, over a limestone expanse with ankle breaker crevasses, through a dark and ominous forest, and back to a softer woodland floored with wild phlox, the closest I’ve seen to an English bluebell wood.

When I returned to Chaumont the next morning to finish walking the loop, I finally heard, loud and clear, the distinctive bzz-bzz-bzz! of the Golden-wing. Despite peering for a half-hour, I never did see the bird though he called constantly from the same spot, frustratingly just out of sight. Given the fragility of the landscape, I didn’t want to go thrashing through the undergrowth in the hopes of getting him to move. Sometimes you have to accept what the bird is willing to share with you.

From there we went on to Perch River WMA, nearly 8000 acres of wetland. During waterfowl migration it must be an awe-inspiring sight, the empondments filled with hundreds of thousands of ducks, geese, and swans. In late May we were seeing the resident birds. Black Terns and Caspian Terns danced overhead, Marsh Wrens giggled in the cattails, American Bitterns skulked in grass not quite tall enough to hide them, their beaks pointed skyward convinced of their invisibility.

My notes got a bit scrambled, but I’d estimate I saw about 70 species over the two days. And when I run away up north to see my friends again, I’ll have two amazing natural places to revisit. Maybe the Golden-wing will honor my persistence with a glimpse next time!

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, flowers, Life bird!, New bird, Rara avis | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Saratoga County, 1/19/12

(OK, the Thursday group went back out to Saratoga Co. today [1/26] while I was at home hacking a lung up, so I’m just gonna pretend this is what I did today. Because it’s what I’d much rather be doing.)

FBotD was an American Crow cawing as I scraped the windows on a clear frosty morning. First trip with the Thursday Group since my fall, hooray! Our destination was open water on the Hudson at Stillwater and points north, and the Ft. Edward grasslands. We headed upriver stopping at boat launches and shuttered fish-fry shacks, where among the Mallards and cross-breeds we saw wintering ducks. A Carolina Wren bubbled and giggled his oversized song.

How cold was it in the morning? I’ll let these frosted Canada Geese tell the tale.

At the dam in Northumberland five flashes of white caught our attention. Two were certainly Snow Geese, but the other smaller three raised a lot of debate. Snow Goose? Ross’s Goose? A crossbreed? They cruised in close formation with the two larger geese, leaving us with photos and questions.

Moving on to the grasslands, Rough-legged Hawks gave us excellent looks as did an immature Bald Eagle along the river.  The highlights of the day for me were a huge flock of Snow Geese, several hundred at least, rising from the stubble, and the first Horned Larks I’d seen in over 20 years.

Common Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Ring-necked Duck, Herring Gull, American Crow, Canada Goose, Ring-billed Gull, Common Goldeneye, European Starling, Rock Pigeon, Carolina Wren, Bufflehead, American Robin, Greater Scaup, Red-tailed Hawk, Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, Snow Goose, Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle, Eastern Bluebird, Horned Lark, Great Black-backed Gull, Northern Cardinal, American Black Duck, Mallard.

31 species, 10 new for the year, 1 new to this list.

(Oh man, I missed out on a Golden Eagle on today’s [1/26] trip. Rats!!)

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Field trip, New bird, NYS 2012, Species count | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

“I should like to be a merlin,” said the Wart politely.*

Today was my first birding excursion in over six weeks. It was just a quick drive to Cohoes and Peebles Island, but it felt so good to be out of my yard! I chose the destination because I wanted to see something really impressive to start the year off, and figured a Bald Eagle would fill the bill.

Well, the weather has been so mild so far that the Mohawk isn’t frozen yet, so the eagles don’t need to gather at the open water by the falls. We did see one adult soaring, but most of the show was thousands of gulls swirling against the dark clouds like a cyclone of white confetti. A few ducks and geese in roadside ponds and a soaring Red-tail padded my list, but I was wishing for a WOW bird. We pulled into the parking lot at Peebles Island less than an hour before sunset. We strolled along the river’s edge reminiscing about last year’s floods as a few pigeons zipped by. As we leaned on the bridge railing before turning back to the car, a slender-winged shape glided past — a Kestrel, perhaps, but it seemed browner and a bit large. She lit on a dead snag and relaxed, scratching an ear, stretching a wing, extending her tail. I could see then the less-defined falcon eye makeup and sideburns, and the more uniform brown back and darker body, even in the glow of the low sun. I’ve seen Merlins before, but never one at almost eye level, 100 feet away, and perching unfazed by passing cars, dogs, and nuthatches. We watched her until the sun was setting.

Merlin, female or immature.

Oh, for a better camera!

This photo ©Jessie H. Barry from

At home: Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Crow, Blue Jay, American Goldfinch, European Starling, Tufted Titmouse, Red-bellied Woodpecker.

At Peebles Island/Cohoes: Common Merganser, Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, Ring-billed Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, Canada Goose, Mallard, Merlin.

21 species, 11 new for the year.



*In The Sword In the Stone, part of young Wart’s training to become King Arthur  is magical transformation into all sorts of living things. He spends a night in the castle mews in the shape of a merlin, listening to the barracks-talk of the birds.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Field trip, New bird, NYS 2012, OMG bird, Species count | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment


On August 8, reports started coming in to the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club that an American White Pelican had been spotted at Cohoes Flats. Needless to say, this provoked a lot of interest and we decided this was a bird we couldn’t pass up. A lone Pelican may show up in our area once in five or ten years — we are way out of this species’ normal range. Did this one follow the coast, then the Hudson, north from Georgia, or did it meander over from the midwest?

We met other birders at Cohoes, all equipped with binocs, scopes, cameras — but the pelican hadn’t gotten the memo and was not to be seen. Bill and I drove over to Peebles Island to look from a different vantage point, and when we came to the point of the island overlooking the flats, there it was! From a distance you could mistake it for a swan, until it turned and we could see the massive beak and pouch.


It put on quite a show for us, moving from the open water near the spillway to the shallows paddling between rocks and flying short distances, preening and eating. Once it stood quite near a Great Blue Heron, letting us see it was nearly as tall as the heron, and much bulkier. I really enjoyed getting such a great viewing experience. Click here for some better pictures, and if you have no objection to Yahoo Groups, I suggest you check out  HMBirds. We have some very talented photographers in the group with the skill and gear for incredible shots of the pelican and plenty of other birds.

Big White stuck around for the whole month of August, sometimes hiding for a few hours but always returning to the same convenient- for-viewing spot, until Hurricane Irene dropped a foot of water on everything. The raging floods have calmed since Sunday but the river is still chocolate-milkshake brown with a county’s worth of rich topsoil scoured off. No more calm shallows with easily-seen fish. I hope our bird headed off south to the rest of his kind.

In conclusion, here’s a Double-crested Cormorant posing as a pterodactyl:

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, New bird, OMG bird | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Cherry Plain SP twice

Cherry Plain State Park is a wonderful place to visit in the summer. Up on the Rensselaer Plateau, it’s always cooler than in the valley. The water of Black River Pond is clear but deeply tannic, and even in August it’s as cold as any lake in Maine. The old dirt roads crisscrossing the park have funky names: Jiggs Highway, Pesticide Shack Road, Dynamite Shack Road.

In June I walked there with the Bird Club, looking for the last of the migrants passing through and some species who usually nest further north but consider these hills an acceptable substitute. The weather was not optimal for treetop-peering (grey skies being something of a leitmotif this year), starting in a drizzle that faded soon, though the sky remained overcast. We had excellent birders-by-ear with us, and the woods were full of sound. Two male Blackburnian Warblers challenged each other across a field, their firethroats glowing. Black-throated Blue warblers buzzed an ascending tzee-zeee-zee, while Black-throated Green’s was zee-zee-zee-zoo-zee! And the everlasting omnipresent Red-eyed Vireo monologued: “Here I am. Where are you? Right here. Vireo?” As soon as we moved out of range, another took up the chant.

By early afternoon, we gathered together to total up our count. As we added the last bird to our lists ( a calling White-throated Sparrow, gone from my yard since April), someone spotted a Broad-winged Hawk, distinguished from the commoner Red-tail by the broad white band across its tail. It had no sooner soared off when an adult Bald Eagle flew low and leisurely over us. As I walked back to the car, I heard an almost indescribable sound. Howling, yelping, croaking — three Common Ravens burst out of the trees circling, swooping, diving at each other. Whether they were driving off an intruder or just rough-housing, I’ll never know.

Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Least Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, Common Raven, Tree Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Veery, Hermit Thrush,  American Robin, Gray Catbird, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Chipping Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Purple Finch, American Goldfinch.

40 species seen, 6 new to this list.

Two months later the woods were quiet. It was all about fungi and butterflies this time.

When it comes to mushrooms, I know puffballs and the ones you find in the supermarket. But I love to see the variety of wild mushrooms as fall approaches, their fantastic colors and forms. Here are a few.

The little falls were running high after heavy rain. You can see how clear yet how amber the water is, like a flood in a brewery.

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These stunning butterflies were everywhere on the sunny road, tasting the gravel.

'Astyanax' Red-spotted Purple

White Admiral






These are both ‘forms’ of Limenitis arthemis, formerly considered to be different species. Astyanax is the more southern variety, while the Ad-mee-ral (I have to say it with Khan’s accent) is commoner up north. Along the dividing line which must be in upstate NY, they hybridize freely.

A flash of brilliant black and yellow caught my eye in a stand of Joe-pye Weed. I thought at first it was a Tiger Swallowtail, but it was larger and more solidly black, with a broad yellow crossbar and yellow fringes to the wings. Its body was pale with no striping. When I got home I pored over my field guides and the internet, concluding that it was a Giant Swallowtail, uncommon for this area. Giant indeed — I’d say its wingspan, extended, was the length of my open hand. The camera’s batteries were crapping out, so I could only get a few shots and hope for the best.

Giant Swallowtail on flower head


Wings closed, alas.







Hmmm, maybe I’ll add butterfly-watching — or is it butterflying? — to my obsessions.


Categories: Field trip, insects, New bird, OMG bird, Species count | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge

May was a very birdful month and I’m still catching up on my postings. Our big trip was to Montezuma NWR, the wetlands at the north end of Cayuga Lake. Since we had to be at the Ithaca end of the lake anyway, I really wanted to spend some time exploring this amazing habitat. I have a habit of road-birding which (I am told) can be unnerving for my passengers, so I was delighted to see Montezuma was perfect for me. No foot traffic is allowed. Cars must stay on the loop road with plenty of pull-offs for wildlife viewing. Given the unpromising weather, ours was the only car for a while, making it possible to drive while looking through binocs. Not that I would ever do that.

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We arrived on a drizzly grey morning, so right off we weren’t going to bother with warblering. MNWR has a nesting population of Cerulean Warblers, sky-blue birds that frequent the very tree-tops, and staring straight up into the rain will only get you a stiff neck and wet binoculars. Maybe they’ll still be there in August. A young fox trotted along the road’s edge, stopping to sniff, crunch something up, and leave some messages along the way. As we climbed an observation tower, a robin flew off calling angrily. We had scared her off her nest on the steps. Doesn’t she know the real estate mantra, ‘Location, location, location’?

If you’ve never seen your fill of Great Blue Herons, this is the place to come. We saw at least 50 in one marsh. I tried very hard to turn some into Sandhill Cranes, but they wouldn’t cooperate. Other waders included Green Heron, Great Egret, and Glossy Ibis, looking exotic and Egyptian. Lots of assorted ducks and grebes and a pair of Trumpeter Swans, and we had some good long looks at the weird Common Moorhen. They swim like a duck, have a head like a chicken with a wad of gum stuck to the forehead, and long-toed heron feet. They shared the flooded-field habitat with elegant Black Terns. This particular remote wetland was supposed to be our best chance of seeing the cranes. We did see Bank, Barn, and Tree Swallows, and an active Purple Martin colony.

Raptors included Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Ospreys, Turkey Vultures, and several Harriers including one pale grey male. I prefer the old name, Marsh Hawk, or Owl-faced Hawk would be a good name. Oh, did I forget to mention Bald Eagles? Yeah. Soaring overhead, fishing, perched five at a time in trees — yup, we saw a few eagles.

Shorebirds — oy. Little peeps, long-legged waders, busy-footed sandpipers, and most of them too far off to comfortably identify. Is it lazy birding to say I enjoyed just observing their lives for a while, their swift foraging, sudden flight, dash and stillness. “In Boston yesterday an ornithologist said significantly, ‘If you held the bird in your hand –;’ but I would rather hold it in my affections.” — H. D. Thoreau.

It was getting late in the afternoon; we were tired and as wet-footed as herons. We stopped at one last pull-off which offered a slightly elevated view down into the marshlands, giving us a better idea of the lay of the land. I was kind of discouraged — I really hoped to see a Sandhill Crane. Then suddenly a huge gray bird, bigger than a heron, flying with its neck extended, trumpeting its wild cry. I grabbed Bill’s arm, shouting, “There it is! There it is!” How exciting for my target bird to be the very last bird of the day!

We spent the night at the Hotel Clarence, and if you’re visiting the Seneca Falls/Montezuma area, I highly recommend it. It has vastly more character than the chain motels, for much the same price. And their cable included BBCAmerica, so we got to watch Doctor Who!

It poured overnight and was still raining lightly in the morning, and we did have a deadline for arriving at Cornell, so we did one more quick loop around, stopping to watch carp struggling to sneak from the barge canal into the waters of the refuge. Baffles on the sluices letting water flow from the Refuge to the canal stop most of the fish, though a few get through and are the source of startling leaps and splashes in the marsh. I filmed the carp-et of fish (thanks Caleb!).

And then we drove down the east coast of the lake through rain and dense fog, picked up our young man and his belongings, and headed home. Hmmm, it’ll be late August when we have to bring him back… migration time!

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, Life bird!, Mammals too, OMG bird, What am dat bird? | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Birds of May

Wow, what a month! 106 species, 31 new to this list, and 4 life birds!

Canada Goose, Trumpeter Swan, Wood Duck, American Wigeon, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Common Merganser, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Common Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Green Heron, Glossy Ibis, Sandhill Crane, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, Common Moorhen, Semi-palmated Plover, Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Black Tern, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Common Raven, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Veery, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Prairie Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Canada Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, Purple Finch, House Finch, American Goldfinch, House Sparrow.

Categories: Life bird!, Month count, New bird | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Birds of April

Comparing this to last month’s list, I see the Ducks have dropped way off. They’ve headed off the local lakes to their northern nesting grounds. My faithful visitor, the Carolina Wren, hasn’t been seen all month and the Junco numbers are dropping daily. The big Warbler wave is just starting and I hope to make inroads on that Sunday on a walk with the bird club.

So many first-of-year birds! Almost the whole second half of the list is new. It felt like every day brought new birds. Towhee and Veery were both birds I hear commonly, but never see. Bit there they were, under the apple tree! Two Loons still linger on Snyder’s Lake and I’m wondering if they will stay.

Wild Turkey, Blue Jay, American Robin, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Crow, Canada Goose, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, European Starling, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove, Tree Sparrow, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Killdeer, Mallard, Red-tailed Hawk, Common Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Wood Duck, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinal, Eastern Phoebe, House Sparrow, Hooded Merganser, Chipping Sparrow, Ring-necked Duck, Herring Gull, Common Loon, Barn Swallow, American Kestrel, Fox Sparrow, Rock Pigeon, Double-crested Cormorant, Brown-headed Cowbird, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Flicker, Turkey Vulture, White-breasted Nuthatch, Bufflehead, Tree Swallow, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Mockingbird, Purple Finch, Brown Creeper, Eastern Towhee, Osprey, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Cooper’s Hawk, Gray Catbird, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Veery, Spotted Sandpiper, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Eastern Kingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink.

63 species, 3 new to this list.

Categories: Month count, New bird, Species count | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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