February 13, 2006

Birds: Pacific Loon, Eared Grebe

This past weekend Sarah and I did a little extralimital birding around Cayuga Lake. We started at the Aurora Boathouse, Cayuga County, where we met Matt Young, Bernie Carr and some other folks who put us on an EARED GREBE (life bird). At first this bird was simply unidentifiable. It was way out on the lake and a bit wobbly-looking from the heat wave. However, as we watched the bird came in a bit closer and we began to pick out the distinctive field marks: pointed head, dark face, and odd compressed-looking shape to the body. Eventually it became clear that it was definitely a grebe and all the other species could safely be ruled out, thus making it my first life bird of 2006. We then followed Matt and Bernie around to the far side of the lake where we had the, juvenile?, PACIFIC LOON (life bird) that had been reported for some weeks from the Sheldrake area in Seneca County I believe. When we located the bird it was maybe a couple miles south of Sheldrake Point. We had excellent, prolonged looks at close range with superb lighting. The bill shape, plumage, overall proportions, etc were all easily seen. It was even joined by a Common Loon at one point for great comparison. I forgot my camera (stupid... stupid...) but you can check out Matt V's website: http://www.fickity.net/palo.html or the Cayuga Bird Club's website http://www.birds.cornell.edu/CayugaBirdClub/photobb.html for exceptional photos of the same individual. Both the grebe and the loon were unfortunately uncountable on my year list because they were seen outside of Region 5 but well worth the trip. On February 15 we went out for a couple hours before church and located a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR (life bird for Sarah) with a flock of roughly 100 Horned Larks and 20 Snow Buntings along the south side of Hunt Road, Onondaga County I think. The only new bird I’ve added to my year list was a very aggressive ICELAND GULL, seen in Fulton on February 6, bringing my current total to: 68.