It was hot, very hot. The kind of summer hot that just drains your body. I was sitting in air conditioning in my office when the phone rang.
“Thanks for calling the Irish-American Heritage Museum, how can I help you?”
“Hey Will, it’s Corey. I’m here a little early and I’m out front.”
“Okay, I’ll be right out.”
It was nearly 4pm on Friday and I had no work that required further attention. I gathered my stuff up and headed out into the blistering heat. From there we made it to Corey’s penthouse suite where we sat in his kitchen sipping bottles of union water looking out over the industrial waste yards of Albany.
We were waiting for the other half of our merry troupe to arrive. Patrick from the wastelands of suburban New Jersey and Mike from the 9th level of Hell, the Bronx. We knew that they were coming already, so we didn’t have to wait long. After a brief greeting and some introductions, we piled like clowns into Corey’s car and drove like mad men over hill and dale to Schoharie County in search of hard to get field birds.
In about an hour we found ourselves along the side of Goodrich Road in Schoharie County. Within moments of stepping out of the car, we heard our first target species ‘singing’. “Tlisk”…”Tlisk” We were all happy just to hear the song of a Henslow’s Sparrow, but being the greedy people we are, we wanted to see the bird. Becuase it was singing so loud, we knew it was close and it was Corey who first found the bird in a nearby shrub, most of us struggled to find it, but found it. It flew back further into the field and landed ontop of a bush and continued to sing. Patrick pulled out his scope and we all got great looks at this secretive field species. It was a lifer for Patrick. In less than 15 minutes we already had one of our target species. A quick walk along the road, yielded nothing surprising. We once again got into the car and headed for the nearby town of Ames in Montgomery County.
A brief stop on Kiltz Road in Sharon Springs did not yield the normal Grasshopper Sparrow, but we knew we had other opportunities to find them as well. After a few more brief stops (including watching baby Killdeer), and again striking out on Grasshopper Sparrow in a few other spots (but getting Savannah) we arrived at the farm where Corey and I have both seen Upland Sandpiper before. As we drove along the road, an Upland Sandpiper flew up from the road and flew around for a while. A life bird for Mike, he was happy enough to just get good binoc views as it flew around. We tried several more stops for Grasshopper Sparrow and again missed. We circled back past the farm and this time we all got great looks (and I think Mike got some lousy pictures) of an Upland Sandpiper walking around someone’s backyard. We next headed to an area in which Sedge Wren has nested and met a landowner, who reported that there were some way off the road with no access. He did sound hopeful that they would at some point during the summer move closer to the road. One last stop on Kiltz Road yielded a distant singing Grasshopper Sparrow which Corey and Mike were able to get distant, brief and lousy looks.
We also got a Vesper Sparrow nearby, so our Sparrow list was already impressive for two hours of birding! But we had other birds to get. Mike had never seen a Virginia Rail, so off to Black Creek Marsh in Albany County.
We arrived at dusk and headed out into the marsh. Swamp Sparrow sang, giving us yet another Sparrow for the day. It was long before we heard the distinctive chatter of Marsh Wren, which would follow us the rest of the time. But the marsh was quiet, many of the speices are busy nesting and no longer calling. But a few Virginia Rails were still grunting, but none showed themselves (We didn’t use tapes). Mike was happy he got to hear them, but he is from the school of ‘bird watcher, not bird listener’, so I don’t know if he will count it. Hopes at American and Least Bittern were crushed and we returned to the car, knowing we had a very succesful evening. We loaded up on supplies and they dropped me off at home, where I proceeded to get a hair cut. The rest went back to Corey’s where they dined on fine liquor and expensive bread and cheese. We would start again on phase II of our plans at 2am the next morning.