Friday, March 29, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #13

Either I am overly ambitious, the '13' in the title of this post is responsible, or doing a 'big year' is far far more challenging than I had ever imagined.

Spring is upon us and the chance to get winter finches is  slipping away. With reports far afield and a convenient Thursday, I did some logistical planning in order to make the shlep worthwhile.

What started with a post mentioning Bohemian Waxwings in Queensbury, morphed into a much more extensive trip. Queensbury is the same distance as Carlisle, MA., but obviously it is better if more than one bird can be gotten on the same quest.

I discovered that the Bowax were also being seen near Utica, and the reports there about also indicated Sandhill Crane, Tundra Swan, and Evening Grosbeak. So I came up with  a plan...

Plotting the bird locations on a map and travel time I came up with this.

What - its only 640 miles round trip
Earic, Capt'n Bob, and I met at Mickey Deez at 7 am, because Bob had to drop his wife off at the airport. Otherwise, we would have left earlier. Making our way through morning traffic though, the traffic demons did their best to delay us.

The 'early morning' demons had their way with me though too, making me think less clearly than needed. I was going to go out I-80 and up I-81 to the Evening Grosbeaks first, but Bob inquired if I was going to stop at the station on the Palisades. This threw me off and after I realized it decided to do it the other way around. 

Once we made our way through the teeming masses, it was smooth sailing at "very good" highway speed. We arrived at our first destination an hour earlier than planned despite the initial displays. This is due to Bob's well developed foot flexor muscles when his foot is externally rotated.

So we arrive in the area of New Hartford, being guided by GPS coordinates. Nearing our destination, we passed an open field, where Earic spots a bunch of birds he says might be Starlings. Bob misses the cue that he is supposed to pull over immediately. Unfortunately, his foot does not seem to work equally well internally rotated: as he has not grasped the concept that 'STOP!' yelled by a birder means leave a skid mark. Way too far down the road to see the tree in question, I suggest we continue on to our destination instead of trying to u-turn.

We found the location easily enough, but the trees were devoid of birds. It became evident that there was a lot of fruiting trees and habitat for these birds to be in, and after walking around a while, we spotted a very large flock flying by and it was the Bowax!

We tried to drive around and see where they went, and eventually stopped at the field where the 'Starlings' were. They were still there, or the birds we saw fly by landed there. We set up scopes and got better looks. Had they been there all that while? And then as if on cue they departed!

We drove around some more and relocated the flock sitting high up in another tree near a small cemetery. We got scope looks, and then walked through the grounds to get a better look. All appeared to be Bowax, a lifer for Bob and year birds for me and Earic, but I was hoping for some Cedars as well as I needed that for the year too.

We drove around some more and stopped again at the field where Earic had first spotted the 'Starlings'. We pulled over and scanned, and while sitting there we suddenly discovered that we were just 15' away from a Barred Owl. He was sleeping sitting on a pole, just feet from the busy road!

Barred Owl on a Stick
Having done well, but mindful of the clock, we took off for our next destination in Montezuma NWR. The Knox-Marsellus Marsh had held Sandhill Cranes the day before, and we were told our best bet, as in most often seen here.

Scan we did, but no cranes did we find. We drove over some dirt roads for alternate vantages, while Bob boasted of his 4 wheel drive. What we did find was unexpected. Our next target bird was Tundra Swan, and several swans were out in the water, but these were actually Trumpeter Swans. A lifer for Bob, but Earic and I had had them already in Yaphank.

Trumpeter Swan
We tried some alternate locations, where we found rangers and were told the cranes were out in the marsh, or at least they were yesterday. We walked around, then drove to some other vantages, but no dice. Dang.

So we moved on to our next stop in Cayuga Lake. Lots of ducks, and I mean LOTS of ducks, but no Tundra Swans. Double Dang.

Time was slipping away, and we had a distance to go. We headed off and Bob was not amused by my prodding for haste, making excuses like: "I cannot pass that car" or "It's a red light" and "stop looking at the speedometer". 

We were vexed by small local roads and traffic with folks in a distinct lack of purpose in getting somewhere. But we finally arrived pretty close to where we were supposed to be on Carpenter Road in Georgetown.

The instructions given me were to look for a house before the first intersection with a lot of feeders in the yard. We only passed one house with feeders, and they were lonely and besides, filled with the wrong seed for Evening Grosbeaks. 

We tried surveying up and down the road and finally I decided that it was not the correct house. I was also told that the homeowner, Linda Salter was very birder friendly, so I tried googling her - its what a powerbirder does.

Lo and behold - I found a snippet with her name and a telephone number. Could I be so lucky? I tried it - figuring if it was the wrong number I would simply apologize. A man answered, and i asked if I had reached Linda's residence. He said yes, but one could palpate the curiosity in his voice.  I explained our predicament, and he told us where the house actually was.

We arrived to find Linda outside to greet us, welcome us, and share the news of the Evening Grosbeaks. That is to say that they were seen about an hour and a half ago and that typically they would not be returning again this late in the evening. Groan. 

But she welcomed us to park in her driveway and keep vigil should they prove her wrong. They did not. But she returned some time later offering us the use of a restroom if need be, and several very tasty homemade cookies. What a nice lady. 

Nearing 8pm, it was time to head home. 1 year bird for me of the 4 potential. I have to do better...

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