May 18, 2009


May 17 – Lots of good stuff this past week. Two days ago I spent the morning down on Shackham Road in southern Onondaga County where I finally had a couple small groups of RED CROSSBILLS. The big surprise was that as I was scoping them I found a single male WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL as well! Other nice birds that day were Mourning Warbler and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Yesterday was the Onondaga Audubon Society's annual Birdathon. Sarah and I were a team this year and we had a more relaxed and civilized route but still picked up some nice birds. We left the house around 3:00 AM and went to DeWitt marsh where both Sora and Virginia Rail responded to our calls. Next we drove up to Peter Scott Swamp where we met Joe Brin who helped us find the bird of the day: a calling KING RAIL (20th Life Bird for 2009)! There may possibly have even been two of them. Also had American Bittern at the north end of the swamp. From there a brief stop at Great Bear gave us Mourning Warbler and other expected early morning birds. No luck with the Upland Sandpipers at the Oswego County Airport and when we arrived at Sunset Bay Park it was terribly windy with sporadically heavy rain. We eventually found some nice warblers at Derby Hill: a brief look at GOLDEN-WINGED, lots of Blackpolls and a single Canada were new to my year list. A few Black Terns were out at the Salmon River and a surprise NORTHERN PINTAIL was in a small pond south of the lakeshore. For most of the afternoon though we were dodging in and out of heavy rain. Picked up Bald Eagle at Three Rivers, ACADIAN FLYCATCHER at Whiskey Hollow and a Greater Scaup on Oneida Lake but by then the rain pretty much forced us to quit early. We headed back to Zieglers where we got Pine Siskin and Tufted Titmouse at their feeders before dark. We ended the day with a respectable 113 species. My year list is doing very well at 335 and my Life List is now at 470.
May 18 – Today I met Jay McGowan at Montezuma for some “clean up” birding. My main goal was Least Bittern so I arrived at Towpath near dawn to watch for them in the marsh. No luck, though I did have Black-crowned Night-Herons and Black Terns. Jay caught up with me at Railroad Road where we had Virginia Rail, Sora and American Bittern but still no Least. We did hear Willow Flycatchers, one of my worst misses last year. Two SANDHILL CRANES were at Martin's Tract. The wildlife drive was fairly quiet with some decent numbers of shorebirds but nothing remarkable. Short-billed Dowitchers were new for the year; breeding plumage Black-bellied Plovers and Dunlin were fun to see as well. We decided to head to Howland Island mid-morning to see what was around. We were pleasantly surprised to find a nice variety of passerines highlighted by a beautiful singing male BAY-BREASTED WARBLER, a single Wilson's Warbler, a “Brewster's” type warbler (yellow-ish wing bars, yellow breast, gray on back of the head, white below, black eye line) and at least 12 CERULEAN WARBLERS including several females which I don't recall every having seen before. We had a possible Gray-cheeked Thrush as well; cold gray face and back, no warm buff color or wash but it did have a distinct faint eye-ring. However the best bird for me was a PHILADELPHIA VIREO. This has been a very difficult bird for me to find the past few years and we had really nice looks. A second spin around the Wildlife drive produced a Peregrine Falcon and thus no White-rumped Sandpipers that we were hoping for. And I missed the Orchard Orioles on Jordan Road again. But it was still a great morning to be out and I managed to fill in a bunch of the holes in my year list. I'm now at 342.