February 04, 2006

Weekend Birds

The past few weeks have been pretty slow bird-wise but this weekend was excellent. Yesterday, February 3rd, I took the entire day to do some solo birding, chasing some of my big year list misses so far. I started with an hour of standing around in the rain an Onondaga Lake Park calling for Fish Crows (with no luck). I then headed to Shop City in Syracuse where I did pick out a pair of suspicious looking crows on one of the large lights in the parking lot. They were a slightly smaller build with a somewhat noticeably hooked beak, and one of them would get really agitated when he heard the tape above the din of the traffic. Finally, after chasing them around for a while, he gave a very brief but distinctive call as he was flying away. So FISH CROW made my first year bird of the day. I’ve only seen a Fish Crow one other time, years ago with Bill Purcell at Onondaga Lake Park, so it was exciting (though I probably looked pretty strange, walking around in the rain, staring at crows with my CD player and little portable speakers blaring away). A quick stop at the pond on Meadowbrook Drive got me two male GREEN-WINGED TEAL. I then headed for the Thruway to case field birds. Lapland Longspur has long been a nemesis of mine. I saw one once with Mary Alice Koeneke on Point Peninsula, Jefferson County, but that was either 2000 or 2001 and it wasn’t a very good look. There had been a large mixed flock of Buntings and Larks reported from the Babcock Hill area, south of Utica in extreme southeastern Oneida County, and there were supposedly a few longspurs mixed in with them so I thought I’d try for them. When I arrived there were a few small groups of larks and buntings in the area, but finding a little brown bird in such an immense area seemed impossible. However, after a while I did flush what turned out to be a winter male LAPLAND LONGSPUR (Region First) on the west side of Mapledale Road just south of it’s intersection with Babcock Hill Road. It was a beautiful individual with strong facial markings, chestnut wings and nape, light bill, wing bars and heavy streaking. Click here if you want to see my very poor photos of the bird. Though surprisingly difficult to locate I had wonderful, prolonged looks at him through the scope. He would scurry, military style, up and down the rows and then switch rows without warning. That, combined with his amazingly well camouflaged plumage and poor lighting, made finding him extremely difficult, even at close range. Eventually he joined up with a second Longspur, probably a female, but there were no other obvious birds in the area. Today, Sarah and I headed to the lakeshore. We found a flock of roughly 20 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS (Life Bird for Sarah) in some larches on the east side of Route 3 near Selkirk Shores State Park, Oswego County. Bill Purcell originally reported these birds but we had to walk quite a way in on the trail to find them. It was a brief but adequate look before they left the tree and flew out of sight. Shortly after seeing the crossbills a COMMON RAVEN croaked and flew overhead (migrant?). We picked up various odd year birds along the lakeshore, including Pine Siskin and my first American Robin at Derby Hill. At Oswego Harbor Sarah picked out a SNOWY OWL sitting on the breakwall, though we were unable to find any interesting gulls. The rest of the afternoon was fairly quiet. Over these past two days I’ve been to almost every county in Region 5 – Oswego, Onondaga, Madison, Oneida, and Cayuga. Didn’t quite make it to Herkimer but almost. My year list is now at: 67.