Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Sleep is For Sissies... Right?

When I last left Earic Miller and Birdingdude, the light was gone as we walked away from the Snowy Owl on the 17th. Our attention turned to the other goodies around, and would we be going after them.

Two items were discussed - cleaning up some loose ends on Saturday the 19th, and would we put together a trip for Sunday the 20th for the goodies upstate. Way upstate...

With the great finds on the recent Bronx CBC, it was opportune to get them for the year, after work Saturday.  Earic went to the Bronx earlier with Birdingdude, while I met Bob Hayes at the convenient McD on 20th avenue after work.

We started at the location I found a Barred Owl on the CBC, but came up empty. We then tried a second spot, but it was over run with people enjoying the park and playing loud music. I was going to try a third spot but Bob suggested we try the fourth spot where it was most recently seen. 

Arriving there, we ran into Earic and Birdingdude, so we were able to get right on the Barred Owl. I also snagged the porcelain electrical wire insulators that Jean had left behind on her prior visit, and good thing too, as the utility workers were there replacing the wires and poles that had come down and they would have disappeared.

From here we decided to go to the 'secret warbler spot'. This is Earic's name for the unusual places he finds micro-habitats that harbor over wintering birds. True, he uses this name for more than one place, but this is the Bronx secret warbler spot. It was the south facing side of the embankment of the highway as it passes over the Hutchinson River. A place none too easy to find, and not a place one would associate with good birds in winter, let alone several warblers. 

The birds cooperated, being found in roughly the same location. The first being a Prairie Warbler that queued up nicely in a grounsel bush, and then shortly thereafter a western Palm Warbler. 

After a coffee stop, we headed back to Owl spot #3, where we were not disappointed and had a second Owl. I snagged two more insulators off of the downed power poles, and we headed out to the baseball field in hopes of relocating at least one of the seven Fox Sparrows I had seen on the CBC. No dice. 

There were birds around though, and mixed in with the flock of Goldfinches Earic and Birdingdude heard "either Pine Siskin or Common Redpoll".  Birdingdude was the one to locate the bird and we all got great looks at a Common Redpoll. Fourth year bird for the day.

We spent the rest of the time exploring a trail the went down to Orchard Beach. Bob and I took a more leisurely pace, while the other two forged on ahead. They had seen Fox Sparrow, but we missed it. Doh!

Back at out cars, we made plans for the next day. Hoary Redpoll, Bohemian Waxwing, Northern Shrike, and Pine Grosbeak were too tempting to pass up, so we agreed to met at 4:30am to go after them.

I contacted Joan Collins of Long Lake, NY who had as many as three Hoary Redpolls coming to her feeders{!} and she graciously invited us to come up and see her birds. She also offered reconnaissance info regarding several other good birds in the region. 

So with expectations of a looooong day we set out dark and early. This allowed us to miss the inevitable regional traffic, which was good because we lost time later on. As the Adirondacks are wont to do, the weather can be fine surrounding them, but once within the belly of the beast, it snows, and snows hard!  

We traveled up I-87 to exit 26, then headed west towards Hamilton County. shortly thereafter, snow began to fall, and as we progressed it got worse and more had accumulated on the ground. The curvy one lane roads are bad enough at impeding progress; covered with snow makes them a lot less fun.

Add to this that the navigation software stopped working. Verizon recently pushed out an obligatory OS update and this really screwed up the functions of the S3. The GPS was not able to find the satellites on it's own, though it is supposed to. Cell coverage is for all intents and purposes non existent in this region, so navigation was lost. So much for all the planning and marking google maps. I was pissed.But hey, we got Ravens. year bird one for the day.

Birdingdude's phone was able to get satellite lock, so we found Joans place in due course. But on arrival, there was a good 2" of snow on the ground, and her very steep driveway was not one my car could go up. I decided to back down the short distance traversed and park on the main road's pullout. 

It was in the 20's, windy as all heck, and Bob somehow forgot his coat. We had stopped at a rest stop along the way and he bought a sweatshirt, and I also offered him another layer I had brought, and we all trudged up the hill. 

Joan cheerfully greeted us, and in short order she had found one of the Hoary Redpolls in a tree and lined it up in her scope. We all got great looks, and Birdingdude some great shots digiscoped. Year bird two!

Finding it hard to tear away, we eventually started making our way further north and west. We spied Tupper Lake from a few vantages, but no doubt due to the high winds we could not locate the deer carcass Joan told us about. A group the previous day had spotted it on the lake replete with Ravens, Bald Eagle, and Golden Eagle. What a score that would have been, but it did not materialize. Ravens were all about as expected in the 'dax, just not the other birds.

With the GPS not working I made a wrong turn and it sent us way out of the way. It didn't help that the snow was sticking to the road signs and completely obscuring them. None the less we did eventually get to Potsdam and Canton. Doing our best to search the various locations, we were hindered by weather and insufficient time. If there were 100's of birds around, they sure did a good job hiding.

On one of the back roads, Earic spied a bird way up in a tree. It looked good for Northern Shrike, one of our targets. Unfortunately, the distance, lighting and the bird dropping down before we could get a scope on it made confirmation impossible, and we all declared that it was presumptively a NOSH but that none of us would officially count it.

Out of 7 possible birds I got a stinking two. The rest of the trip was just long. Very long. The navigation routed us poorly, the roads were slick and snow covered, and the snow did not let up until Schenectady. 

I was beat, and I mean really beat, having driven for 14 hrs before relinquishing the driver's seat. Bob took over for a while, and then Earic did the last leg. We didn't get back to our cars in Queens until 1am.

 Ah sleep, perchance to dream... 

...about chasing that next bird!

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