Monday, August 3, 2015

Trip to the Finger Lakes of New York

Red headed Woodpecker, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
We travelled out to the Finger Lakes region of New York last Thursday and came back yesterday. Although not a birding trip I managed to hit a few spots each day including two morning outings with Ian D. Before the trip my New York list stood at just 66 so I set a goal of reaching 100 species by the end of my few days out there. With much help from Ian I managed to reach 118 species over the four days I was there with most of those on the weekend mornings so easily hit my 100 species goal.
Watkins Glen SP, NY, July 31, 2015
Bird families of the world mural, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, July 31, 2015
We arrived out there on Thursday and visited a variety of wineries and other attractions late in the day but didn't really do any birding at all. On Friday we visited Watkins Glen State Park, a variety of wineries and then over to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where we got a behind the scenes look at the operation. The lab building was a very impressive new building set in among the woods northeast of the main campus of Cornell. It was neat to see where all the bird related activities are developed and maintained by Cornell although I was expecting a real time status board for eBird constantly updating (I envisioned something akin to the stock exchange...I suspect that is in the works now that I have given them the idea!) One of the more impressive sights in the public area was a mural with life size representations of every bird family in the world painted onto a map of the world. The details on the birds of the nearly completed project were truly impressive.
Least Bittern, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
Red headed Woodpecker, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
Common Gallinule, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
Black Tern, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
Pied billed Grebes, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
Snow Goose, Montezuma NWR, NY, Aug 1, 2015
Saturday morning I met Ian at 4:30 and we headed about an hour north to Montezuma NWR where we spent the next five and a half hours exploring a variety of locations within the large refuge including the Wildlife Drive, Mays Point Pool, Towpath Road, Van Dyne Spoor Road and Tschache Pool. The refuge features a very large expanse of freshwater marsh as well as extensive mudflats which attract a large selection of waterfowl, marsh birds and shorebirds. Waterfowl included such highlights as a Snow Goose, Green winged and Blue winged Teal and Gadwall. Marsh bird highlights included Pied billed Grebe, Least Bittern, Black crowned Night Heron, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Gallinule, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Black Tern, Caspian Tern and Marsh Wren. A total of eleven species of shorebirds were seen with the main concentrations along the Wildlife Drive and Towpath Road. Other highlights included a pair of Red headed Woodpecker plus thousands of swallows plus a few Purple Martins. Overall we managed to find a total of 83 species on the refuge as well as few other species on our way back.

Wildlife Drive:
Mays Point Pool:
Towpath Road:
Van Dyne Spoor Road:
Tschache Pool:

On Sunday morning we headed out once again but I slept in a bit so we didn't meet up until just before 5 AM and then we headed over to Catherine Creek Marsh to check out the birds leaving their morning roost. The first species to leave the marsh were Barn Swallows which numbered well over 4000 (and likely much more...tough to keep a good count as they milled around). Oddly the only other swallow species I saw was a single Tree Swallow flying low heading south. The next group to leave their roost included a mix flock of blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds and starlings. Overall count totaled over 23,000 individuals (more details in the list below). We also added a few more species as we walked the road coaxing in early migrants and dispersals. By mid morning I had to get back to the hotel to check out so managed less stops and therefore less birds on Sunday compared to Saturday. After parting ways with Ian I headed back over Sapsucker Woods for a few walks beginning the long trek home. Not lots of bird activity around but did get to watch a Mink apparently building a den. It would reach out from a hole in the roots of a tree and drag in leaves and sticks. I didn't have my DSLR so I was not able to get any photos but it was very interesting to watch.

Sapsucker Woods:

Solitary Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Aug 3, 2015
A stop this morning in the East Meadows on my way to work produced my 15,000th eBird checklist for Massachusetts. Unfortunately it did not produce any notable birds for me.

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