Friday, March 1, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #11

Capt'n Bob had been under the weather for a few weeks because a really bad cold knocked him on his ass. Feeling better, he called to inquire where we were going birding. As he has been jonesing for a Golden Eagle ever since we went to Arizona, and the spate of recent reports from Storm King Mountain,  we made plans to get this bird. I contacted Earic Miller who coincidentally was also in a mind to chase this bird, and we met in the morning.

Crows, Red-tails, and Turkey Vultures were in the sky along the way, TV being a year bird for me. YB 1, 151 de l'annee. But I might want to clarify at this point as I am 'counting' NYS birds, so there are a few birds I have seen outside NY this year, but they are not part of the big-year-iness. 

Pulling into the Storm King state park pull-out along 9W, we found a nice big flat patch of concrete. A 6' square that made a great place to set up our scopes off of the wet grass. Way down below on the river we spotted an Immature Bald Eagle { YB 2, 152 de l'annee } on the ice, as well as Canada Geese, Mute Swan, and even a few Crows. 

Kettles of TVs passed over the mountain, and then we spotted Black Vultures mixed in with them! YB 3, 153 de l'annee. Many birds were soaring about Storm King, and then we picked out one that looked different.  Was it a Golden Eagle?

We followed this bird to the side of the mountain where it landed on a snag. All of us had questions about the plumage characteristics of the bird, making us spend a lot of time studying it in our scopes.  

Throwing us off was the light tawny back of the head and neck, almost giving it a Bald Eagle like look. 

Really bad digi-phone-scope shot of the Golden Eagle
The bill was not as large as would be expected for a Bald Eagle, and the dark face and throat made for a sub-adult Golden. A lifer for Capt'n Bob, and year bird for me and Earic. YB 4, 154 de l'annee.

After quite some time with the bird, we decided to break for lunch. We also pondered where to go next. Shawangunk came to mind, as did the recent report of the Pink-footed Goose, but the later had only been seen once and none of us were familiar enough with the area to want to try to get lucky. 

Enjoying a leisurely lunch of pizza, no sooner had we finished eating than I got an email that the Pink-footed Goose had been relocated and was being seen now! Checking the directions, it threw me a bit as the town listed is quite far away from the specific intersection.  Never the less, I had Bob set his GPS to the town of New Hampton, and en-route played with my maps to pin down where the bird was. 

When we arrived we found several birders looking out into the field. Curt McDermott, who had sent the email, informed us that the goose had just taken off... What timing!

But Curt knew of another location nearby that the goose had also been seen, and we followed him caravan style to the 'onion fields'. There were lots of canada Geese there and we all set up scopes to try to find our quarry. Curt managed to pick it out first from all the others and every one got good looks. YB 5, 155 de l'annee. Thanks Curt!

Also present were large numbers of Snow Geese and looking at the trees, we were  able to find a lot of hawks, and of particular interest, some Rough-legged Hawks! YB 6, 156 de l'annee.

Not being familiar with the area, Curt gave us some ideas on where to bird and at his suggestion we birded nearby Indiana road. Earic Miller found us a Lapland Longspur in with a flock of Horned Larks, but not much else.

At this point we decided to try Wallkill River NWR, as it was close by. We wanted to go to Shawangunk, but it was too far and too late.  A very health population of Pintail was present, easily the most I had ever seen at once. Both Hooded and Common Mergansers were on the river, and impressive flocks of blackbirds streamed by - many thousands. 

While we were scanning the area, Earic yelled out Snipe! Where? Flying over he said. Bob and I as well as another birder were able to get looks as it flew over. Earic inquired if we were able to hear it making it's 'snip' call. We all looked at him blankly. He then started laughing at himself as he recalled that I refer to him as Earic instead of Eric...

 Though in the upper 40's the whole day, with the sun setting, the wind picking up, and the damp air it felt a whole lot cooler. On top of this, I awoke with a scratchy throat, and by now was feeling very under the weather. No mater what I did I could not get warm, so I sat in the car with the heat on, still chilled. 

We set a deadline of 5:45 to leave by, and that came and went. We were hoping for Short-eared Owls, but we had to settle for a lot of Red-tails and even more Harriers. All of us needed to be back; I had a conference to attend at 8.  No sooner had I walked in at 8 than I got a call to remind me to attend.

Well, they say timing is everything, and certainly the day had an element of synchronicity. But feeling like crap means that I will not try to beat myself to a pulp by attending the pelagic trip on Saturday.

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