Friday, October 23, 2015

A Powerbirder et al In Search of A Power-chord Player

A bird that I was hoping to have visit NY this year, Townsend’s Solitaire, made an appearance albeit upstate. It was discovered on October 18th and relocated on successive days, so with an opportunity to go see it available on the 22nd, a posse quickly formed.

John Gaggle-o-geese , Phil Jabiru, Pelican, and I met at 6am. The traffic gods had other thoughts though. It was a slow tortuous crawl to the bridge, made a bit more pleasant by a nice sunrise.  

Sunrise on the Throgs Neck Bridge
Then it was smoother sailing from then on. The thruway is uninspiring, but a good way to get upstate expeditiously. Once we got off the highway, I was at home with the types of roads I love: small, winding, and picturesque.  With the fall foliage, it was blessed eye candy. 

The beautiful roads in upstate New York
With a lot of turns here and turns there, it was amusing to me on how the GPS routed us, especially compared to the more grid-like roads downstate. But that’s what makes a road trip more interesting.

Eventually we arrived at John Boyd Thacher State Park  and began looking for a sign for the visitor’s center and the Indian Ladder trail.  

Indians used to use this...
We stopped in to the visitor’s center and inquired of the park staff, but she was unaware of the celebrity in her midst. She did point us in the right direction, and we headed off to find our bird. A photo of the tree the bird favored had been posted online, and it proved helpful. The trail actually turns sharply and heads down from the Helderberg Escarpment to the valley below. We diverted to the picnic area adjacent to where they were busily and noisily constructing a new visitor’s center.

Arriving in this small field, we were immediately disappointed that there were no other birders present, and then fell into more disappointment as we could not locate the bird! We looked around, and realized that as tasty and tempting as the abundant fruits on the Juniper were, the bird was elsewhere.

With no bird to wow us, we explored and looked at the other birds present. Not a whole lot, but certainly better than nothing. Robins, Bluejays, Juncos, Chipping Sparrows, and 2 flocks of Pine Siskins flying by. 

The Posse
If the bird was there we certainly would have found it, but it was adept at hiding. This is counter to my previous experiences where it liked perching prominently. So we looked more, hoping that we had not gone a long way for naught.

The views off of the escarpment were spectacular. The foliage was brilliant yellows, oranges and reds and looking into a valley made the vista all the more impressive.  We walked around and we all could not help but take a lot of photos. 

What a view!
At some point, a birding couple happened by, relayed they had not had the bird today, but had seen it the day before. Groan. Later still another local birder John R. joined us, and despite more eyes we could not locate it.

With hopes that reports might give us a plan of action, we learned that it had been seen at the overlook the day before, and that it had been seen at this location earlier in the morning.  We exchanged cell#s with John R. and we went exploring elsewhere. 

Overcast yes, but again, what a view!!
What this place lacked in birds [ at least on this day ] it more than made up for with scenery. Clearly the view and the foliage was the star. We checked numerous spots down the road but to no avail. And the day was an odd day meteorologically. Lots of different clouds at different altitudes, and intermittent sprinkles of less than 2 minutes. Then John R. sent a text message that he was giving up. I was hoping it was a “it’s here”, but no.

Then it started to rain on us. Great. But it stopped rather quickly as we headed back to the car, and the sun came out for an ambient lighting experience that was unique: dark and foreboding over that way, bright and cheerful over there, and meh in that direction. And then a rainbow appeared right in front of us in the valley. One end appeared to head straight to the ground, and it was all I could do the restrain Pelican from pushing me off the cliff to retrieve the pot of gold. 

A Sign From the Birding Gods?
We decided to head back and have another look to see if our luck could turn. Back at the trail-head lot, with a light drizzle, Phil and I opted to leave our cameras behind. I joked: ‘that’s a way to guarantee we’ll see it!” Pelican and I headed off down the path, with John and Phil trailing behind.

Once we got to the clearing, I saw a bird sitting on top of the chain link fence enclosing the construction site. It swooped down for a bug or such and then landed, but the view was all I needed. THATS THE BIRD!  Pelican and I got good looks and I yelled out some more to Phil and John.

They arrived in time to see the bird in the nearby tree, and camera-less, we were forced to take photos with our phones. I still have not mastered aiming that thing, and the bird was in the top of the view instead of the center, but there it was. The ‘insurance shot’.

Bad shot, but its in the top left corner
Shortly there after it flew to a Juniper by the edge and I volunteered to go back for the cameras. I instructed Phil to keep an eye on it, and made my way back up the trail. I also called John R. To let him know we had the bird and he simply replied: “I’m making a u-turn.”

By the time I returned the bird was squarely hidden in the back of the Juniper, but Phil was great at keeping a tab on where it was, helping me, another birder who showed up, and that fellow John R. when he returned.

Finally, the bird flew out from its seclusion and alighted at the top of a tree as is more characteristic. It called a few times softly. We all then got great views and enjoyed the  visitor from out west. The bird was at 42.655473, -74.016603.  

Townsend's Solitaire
Clearly we were all pleased and relieved, and John G. mentioned that one of my observations: ‘Chasing a good bird often brings one to remarkably nice places that one might not otherwise explore’ was right on the money. What a beautiful place this park is. I had never even heard of it.  Goal accomplished for us all, and I am at YB 319.

1 comment:

Jean said...

great sunrise, & great day!