Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Sightings is Golden

I had already made two trips so far this year trying for Golden Eagle. In the first, trying for some owls earlier in the day proved more difficult than anticipated, and did not leave enough time to get both the eagles and home on time.

In the second attempt, the ungrateful bugger never showed up. Of course we again did not have unlimited time to spend waiting for it, and its most regular observer Gerhard joined us and told us this one had become more unreliable.  Groan

Hoping to break my losing streak, I set off March 10, 2015 with Phil Jabiru and we gave it another try, this time at another location in Dutchess County reputed to be ‘the place’.

We headed down the highway, "enjoying" the slow ride due to the roving pothole repair crews. I suppose I should be happy that they are filling them, but we both remarked that it would be nice if they did so overnight when they were not slowing everybody down.  Eventually though, we passed them and thereafter made good headway.

With the temperatures warming up, a lot of snow was already melted off of the shoulders of the roads. It was nice to be able to see the grass beneath, but it also revealed a gruesome reality. Every few miles there was a dead bird uncovered from the no longer present snow. Most of them were Canada Geese, and a few Ring-billed Gulls, of the ones I could see and or make out. I’m sure the harsh conditions took a tremendous toll on many birds trying to wait out the conditions around here.

The roads upstate near our destination were bucolic and oh so different from the suburban sprawl of Lawn Guyland. Oh well, its one or the other. But with nice mountain ridges, {I’m sure my friends from the west coast would scoff at the term ‘mountains’ as compared to theirs} it is home to species that are not as prevalent on the island; though that may not always be the case! Ravens have repeatedly nested as have Bald Eagles, so can Golden Eagles be far off?

Just before our intended stop, we perused a house with a feeder. Tree Sparrows, Juncos, and Cardinals were evident; but Phil looked over and spotted a Ring-necked Pheasant hiding under a tree with bittersweet vine tangles. A surprise YB1 for both of us!

Continuing on a short way, we set up scopes on Benson Road. {41.728414, -73.553549 } This is a good spot because it is a dead end. The other roads with a view of the ridge were traveled by cars and without any places to pull over. Looking around, I was hoping for some action but it was quiet except for crows flying and crowing all around, and the sound of gun-fire at a range nearby.

Eventually, more stuff started to show. First a House Finch landed at the top of a tree that Phil was happy to hear, very pleased with the new hearing aids he just gotten. I had to check it in my scope as I had forgotten to pack my glasses. Doh!

And fortunately for me the birds that started to make appearances were soaring instead of perching so the scope was a fine choice. But I felt so naked, and several times reached down for my imaginary glasses that were not around my neck. Needless to say, I packed them in the optics bag first thing upon returning home.

Then we heard croaking in addition to cawing, and soon we had a Raven flying by with what appeared to be nesting materials. And the Red-tailed Hawks started flying, and soon the air was way more filled than when we arrived. They must be union and were on their coffee break when we arrived.

Another bird showed up, and it was large and got us excited. But we looked at the young bird and saw that the markings were of a Bald Eagle, and not of our primary target bird. For the umpteenth time, its amazing how the Bald Eagles have really made a remarkable comeback. Its getting so seeing one on just about most trips is getting to be common. Yippee!

So we looked and looked. Phil spotted a raptor in a tree south and east of where we were, along the ridge. I got my scope on it and it was another Red-tailed Hawk. But Phil was looking through his glasses, and with the wider field of view saw another bird fly up that was much larger. Getting me on the bird, we looked and got great looks at a Golden Eagle!  YB2 for us both and a lifer for Phil!

This time, while still a distance off, it was not nearly as far away as the Storm King bird.  And the bird deigned to perch nicely for us showing off first one side then the other, and lifting its wings for us to see the underside. A truly accommodating bird.

Satisfied with our success, we sought out another year bird Phil gleaned from ebird.  We headed across the river to Ulster County where there was a Red-headed Woodpecker. On the way, and while stopped at a light, a raptor flew across the road in front of us and landed in a tree. We got cursory looks as we had to drive by, hounded by the non birders behind us. Sheesh, can’t a birder get a break? Nope, not on a busy road. So we got quick looks at a Red-shouldered Hawk, but far from satisfying ones.

Making our way to the required location, it was not until the final turn that I recognized the road and realized I had been here before. It was one week later, but two years earlier in this same flooded marsh on Weston Road. {41.789741,-74.02462}

Finding a stretch where we could pull off, we looked and listened for the Red-headed, but all we heard was a Red-bellied.  But before too long, we saw our target and I have to say that no other woodpecker gets me quite as jazzed as this bird. What a great looking bird! And YB3.

The ride home was mostly uneventful, except for another Red-shouldered hawk that landed in the tree along side us. I got a quick look and alerted Phil, but he was busy looking at his iPhone. Kids today... sheesh.

No comments: