May 07, 2010

Basin Birding

Yesterday I met Jay McGowan for a somewhat leisurely-paced “big day” of birding in the Cayuga Lake Basin. We started a little before 6:00 AM on Beam Hill with a nice assortment of woodland birds including a bunch of recent migrants that I was still missing. I got a little more familiar with the song of Canada Warbler, a bird I've only rarely heard before. Once it was a little lighter we went to the Hawthorn Orchard outside of Ithaca. There was a lot of (mostly warbler) activity as soon as we got out of the car. We had terrific looks at many species and even got some decent photos of Blackburnian, Tennessee and two Cape May Warblers. While scanning the lake at Meyers Point Jay heard a singing Orchard Oriole, another species I have very little experience with. After some searching we eventually found the bird, a young male, and had really nice looks. This was only the second time I've seen this plumage. We continued up the lake to Montezuma. At the Visitor's Center we found a beautiful breeding-plumage female WILSON'S PHALAROPE (my second in a week!) and heard that a Laughing-type Gull had been seen just a few hours earlier. We picked up many ducks and other “common” marsh birds during the afternoon. A pair of Sandhill Cranes on Carncross Road was a treat as well as a lingering Snow Goose near the mucklands and a singing Cerulean Warbler at May's Point. We headed down the west side of the lake and continued to pick up new birds like a small flock of Surf Scoters, eight Upland Sandpipers at the Seneca Fairgrounds and a nice breeding-plumage Horned Grebe (my first in a long time). At one point we found a large flock of Bonaparte's Gulls resting on the water and were able to pick out an adult LAUGHING GULL (NYS bird) with them. We continued to fill in holes in our day list for the next few hours then took a break around 9:30 PM while the wind was calming down. Finally, we went back out to try for owls on Hammond Hill. One stop was pretty unproductive but a second stop (in the main parking lot?) had several calling Barred Owls as soon as we got out of the car. After listening a while longer we also heard several intriguing single toots that we eventually decided must be Northern Saw-whet Owl. I've yet to hear a convincing “typical” song for this species. We ended the day with 156; I believe my highest single day total yet! This morning Jay and I again went out, this time to West Danby where, after a hefty hike we had some long, very rewarding views of a singing WORM-EATING WARBLER. This was almost a state bird for me (heard one briefly several years ago up at Sunset Bay Park on Lake Ontario... probably shouldn't have even counted it). Later on in the morning we also picked up a singing Prairie Warbler and had terrific looks at a Wilson's Warbler. I had sixty-three new birds bringing my NYS month-of-May list up to 173. Here are some recent pics...

Ring-necked PheasantPileated WoodpeckerSandhill CranesCape May WarblerTennessee WarblerWorm-eating WarblerWilson's WarblerJay with a gosling