May 25, 2006

Birds: 200th Bird & Birdathon results

Hello everyone. Today I saw my 200th year bird! Or heard rather; it was a Black-billed Cuckoo in case you were wondering. Migration is beginning to wind down although there are still a few more birds I could get before the end of the month. I told you I was going to report on our Birdathon results. The truth is, I've kind of been avoiding it. It's not a very pleasant story and, well I guess I've just been trying to put the whole thing behind me. But I'm not the kind of guy who goes back on his word so here it is... Birdathon 2006.

This is a pic of Jay and I after we'd been in the field almost 20 hours. The weather was nearly as bad as it could have been: wind and rain all day long. And it was really cold too. Rain and cold are no fun but the real criminal here is the wind because you just can't hear anything. We started at about 1:00 AM at Whiskey Hollow. First bird of the day was Ovenbird (as usual) but our best pre-dawn finds were LEAST BITTERNS at both Peter Scott and DeWitt marshes. At 5:30 AM we made a second stop at Whiskey Hollow for ACADIAN FLYCATCHER and we also added a singing LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH before heading back to Oswego County. At Great Bear we did have GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (photo by Jay) but we started to run into trouble with more common inland birds. There just weren't enough of them around. On our way to the lake shore we had two UPLAND SANDPIPERS and GRASSHOPPER SPARROW at the Oswego County Airport. We had great luck with (mostly breeding) warblers at Sithe Energy and Sunset Bay Park but little else. We missed Black Tern at Pine Grove for the first time in years. But there were some bright spots. A quick stop to look at the lake produced WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and a single RED-NECKED GREBE, both rare finds for this competition. Still when we left Oswego Harbor a little after noon it was with a dismal 99 species. We picked up a few more breeders like GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET and VESPER SPARROW before heading towards Oneida Lake. The supposedly ultra-reliable, virtually un-missable Prairie Warblers on Churchill Road were a little to cold and miserable (I presume) to show themselves while we were there and our foray into Happy Valley was mostly unsuccessful. Things began to pick up a bit in the evening as they often do. PROTHONOTARY and CERULEAN WARBLERS were both in their traditional places at Toad Harbor and a pleasantly surprising CAROLINA WREN was also singing in the vicinity. Phillips Point had COMMON LOON, COMMON TERN and Jay managed to pick out our last missing swallow, a male PURPLE MARTIN. Our last few birds of the day were a female HOODED MERGANSER in Constantia, a male NORTHERN HARRIER working the fields near the mosquito station, a single WHIP-POOR-WILL that finally called after nearly an hour of waiting at Roosevelt Road, and an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL back at Toad Harbor. We missed lots of easy stuff like American Bittern, pewee, White-crowned Sparrow, kestrel, both nuthatchs and creeper. Our 'grand' total for the day was 122 species which essentially amounts to our worst Birdathon ever. Still, we placed third overall which isn't that bad considering. So that's the lowdown on Birdathon 2006. I think we're due for a comeback next year. Or at least I hope so.

One parting shot... this is an odd white duck Sarah and I found this morning in West Monroe. Any ideas on what it is? Probably domesticated but it doesn't look quite like a Mallard to me.