Posts Tagged With: NYS 2012 count

Statistics and retrospective

Numbers, it’s always fun to look back at the year’s numbers. 2012 was the first time I decided to keep a year list. I sort of aimed for 200, but thought realistically 175 was more likely. In fact I came in at 189, all in New York, mostly in the 11 counties of the Hudson-Mohawk region.

I took unsuccessful runs on several rarities: two tries for Pine Grosbeaks in Queensbury, and Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in Boonville (275 mile round trip, to learn the bird was last seen 20 minutes before we got there). I passed on others: first state records for Lucy’s Warbler in Queens, and Common Pochard on Lake Champlain. I concluded chasing is not for me unless the bird is within a reasonable distance. Of course, ‘reasonable’ is a flexible term…

In spite of the dips, I added 17 new species to my life list. The loveliest was the elegant American Avocet, well worth a trip to Montezuma NWR. I saw the brick-red Orchard Oriole, the truly Cerulean Warbler, and the deep radiant sapphire Indigo Bunting. Eastern Meadowlarks had been nemesis birds for years, until I saw them singing from fenceposts in the Washington County grasslands. Most unexpected — the oddball sighting of the year — was the nesting pair of Monk Parakeets in Watervliet. (Post with their story to follow.)

Monk Parakeets

Monk Parakeets

17 new species! That’s great, right? It means I’m a better birder, right?

No. In fact I was lazier this year. I went along on too many field trips accepting IDs without putting in any work. Sedge Wren? Marsh Wren? I heard them both for the first time this year, but I couldn’t recognise either of their calls now. I may have added them to the list, but I haven’t added them to my mind. I haven’t earned them.

I began 2012 disabled, and ended it struggling with depression. Through it all observing birds has brought joy to my life, inspired me to research and study, introduced me to other birders who have become friends. Birds have, quite literally, been the only things to get me out of bed many days. I cache the memories against dark days, from the sleepy cat-face of a Screech Owl to the heart-stirring clamor of 10,000 Snow Geese, like a Blue Jay storing acorns against the winter.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Bird photos, NYS 2012, Why? | Tags: , , | Leave a 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

Coxsackie, Vosburgh Marsh, Catskill 3/4/12

Remember all that ice that isn’t on the Hudson this year? Yeah, so the ducks that would ordinarily be staging in open water waiting for the thaw may have already dispersed, because they sure weren’t floating around waiting for us. At the Coxsackie Boat launch virtually the only birds were Bald Eagles perched on either side of the river and a flyover Cooper’s Hawk.. So we worked our way down Rt. 385 to 4 Mile Point Road and Vosburgh Marsh. Some Teal, Pintails, and Wood Ducks were briefly visible to the lucky leaders of the pack before taking alarm, while the phlegmatic Mallards tolerated us. A Ruffed Grouse drummed briefly tuning up for his big performance soon.

Ring-billed Gull, Bald Eagle, Common Merganser, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackle, Canada Goose, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, American Crow, Herring Gull, Red-tailed Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, Mallard, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Pintail, Northern Cardinal, Ruffed Grouse, Rock Pigeon, Bufflehead, Cooper’s Hawk, Turkey Vulture, Mourning Dove.

26 species, 2 new for 2012.

Categories: Field trip, NYS 2012 | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Grasslands afternoon, 2/25/12

Hudson River, Fort Edward, Fort Miller.

It’s always nice to start a birding trip with a leisurely breakfast, meandering up to the meeting point at 12:30. We started late so as to stay out until dusk looking for Short-eared Owls. The owls stiffed us but I have probably never seen as many Northern Harriers in my entire life as I did on this one day. Harriers in pairs, two males courting a female, six at one time coursing over a field — it was an amazing sight. I’ve never seen more than one male — the spectacular Grey Ghost — in a day.

Hooded Merganser, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Bald Eagle, Canada Goose, American Crow, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Common Merganser, American Black Duck, Common Goldeneye, Song Sparrow, American Robin, House Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay. Ring-necked Duck, Snow Goose, Northern Pintail, Northern Harrier, European Starling, Red-winged Blackbird, Rough-legged Hawk, American Goldfinch, Mourning Dove.

26 species, 2 new for 2012.

Categories: Field trip, NYS 2012 | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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

In which I do not see a Snowy Owl, 2/2/12

Another Thursday, another trip up to Saratoga County.

A hopeful crowd assembled this week hoping the Golden Eagle from last week was still around (disclosure: it wasn’t). And not much else was around, either — just the usual ducks and gulls. We cruised around the grasslands where even the usual raptors were missing. No larks, no buntings…

But from the car window, far across a field, we spotted something that looked unusual. Large, and light, perched in a tree — we stopped and fixed out binocs on it. The car behind us stopped, then the one behind that, scopes were deployed, and we were all ready to swear we could make out the head and tail of a large light bird. It had to be a Snowy Owl!

Then the lead car swung back and we heard a cry, “It’s a stump!” “It’s is not!” I shouted back defiantly, but the seed of doubt had been sown. Was it, maybe, a bit too still? And then came the VLS (Very Large Scope) to remove all doubt.

*sigh* If I’d been alone and just seen it through my binocs, I’d still be swearing it had to be a Snowy. How embarrassing.

Setting aside illusory owls,  the best bird of the day was a Peregrine atop a power pole, pecking at some small bloody thing. On the way home we swung back along the river, finding a mixed flock of Canada and Snow Geese.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

American Crow, Red-tailed Hawk, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Canada Goose, House Sparrow, Ring-billed Gull, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, American Black Duck, Common Merganser, Common Goldeneye, House Finch, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Mallard, Bald Eagle, Eastern Bluebird, American Goldfinch, Northern Cardinal, Tree Sparrow, Peregrine Falcon, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Harrier, Pileated Woodpecker, Snow Goose, Hooded Merganser, Great Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Dark-eyed Junco, Downy Woodpecker.

33 species, 1 new for the year.

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, NYS 2012 | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Create a free website or blog at