Loons, Grebes and Deer Flies, Oh My!

It seems I had just fallen asleep when the alarm went off at 3:30am.  Corey and I woke, dressed and got our act together.  Corey went across the stoop and made sure Tom and Jory were up.

Outside the rain had stopped, but it was still wet.  Tom said it was raining only a few minutes before we woke.  The first bird of the day, a calling Common Loon on Cranberry Lake.  It was amazing how fast we got all of our stuff together.  In the end we waited on Tom, to make himself beautiful for the day, but even though it took Tom some time to put his game face on, we were still in the Cars and pulling out of the hotel at 4 am, exactly when we wanted to leave.

We followed a long short cut that Tom knew about.  This short cut was long, I can’t imagine how long the regular route had to been.  However this was a very pretty road, which we could see nothing in the dark and fog.  Lots of Bunnies and a few Deer made driving interesting.  We stopped at a couple of points to listen for Owls, but only heard a Barred Owl at one of the stops.  We pressed on to Canton, New York and Stopped at the McDonald’s, which we were all dissapointed to discover it didn’t open until 6am.  We were there at 5am.

Our first target was Irish Settlement Road, just outside of Canton for field species, in particular Sedge Wren.  The weather refused to cooperate as light rain fell, while lightining flashed off in the distance and thunder rolled.  Corey spotted a Northern Harrier crusing over the fields.  An American Kestrel was seen and Tom and I had a Savannah Sparrow singing, but no Wrens.  We pressed on, the rain falling, but not heavy.  We checked a couple of more fields before we finally heard the distinctive song of a Sedge Wren.  It took some time, but Corey and Tom got brief looks to confirm the bird.  It was a lousy lifer for me.  While we waited for the Wren, two American Bitterns dropped into the field.  White-breasted Nuthatch and Red-bellied Woodpecker (unusual in this area) were also sighted.  Feeling somewhat encouraged, we pressed onto Upper and Lower Lakes Wildlife Management Area, also just outside of Canton, New York.

At the first stop we quickly started to add birds we didn’t see the previous day.  A Marsh Wren sang from the reeds, Pied-billed Grebes were common and it was interesting to hear them calling.  A bunch of immature Double-Crested Cormorants were being very wet on a dead tree.  Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks and Mallards were common.  We also spotted (distantly) another of our target birds, Black Tern.  We saw several of the birds flying off over the marshes, along with a few Common Terns as well.

Even though the rain hadn’t stopped we proceeded to the next tower, which is the shorter of the two.  Here we added Yellow Warbler and Gray Catbird and got much better looks at both Black and Common Terns.  A couple of Common Loons, some with chicks could be seen as well.  Corey took a walk down along the edge and flushed a whole bunch of Wilson’s Snipe and a pair of Northern Harriers.  A family of Common Ravens flew over and we had a nice flyby of a single Caspian Tern.

We made out next stop at the Indian Creek Nature Center, where we had our first major engagement with Deer Flies.  We also added Eastern Towhee and Northern Cardinal.  From the tower we spotted most of the birds we had previously seen, along with an adult Bald Eagle and an interesting Grebe.

This interesting Grebe gave us fits for awhile.  Lucky for us, it gave us good close scope views.  All four of us made the decision that it was indeed a Red-necked Grebe.  This got us rather excited for awhile, since Red-necked Grebe has never nested in New York State and some birds were observed displaying from this very tower in June.  However, our bird looked to be in some sort of strange transitional plumage and could fly, likely ruling out the chance of it being a Hatch Year bird.  A good bird none the less.

From here we hit the McDonald’s in Canton (finally!) and then decided to try for boreal birds one last time in Hamilton County.  Our next stop was Sabattis Bog, where the weather cleared (and I got sunburned) and it got hot.  Few birds were active, and we faced a long and difficult battle with Deer Flies.  I did get a couple of good shots of a Northern Parula and a Lincoln’s Sparrow.

Northern Parula, Sabattis BogNorthern Parula, Sabattis Bog

Lincoln's Sparrow, Sabattis Bog

Although I don’t spend nearly as much time as Corey does photographing insects and Butterflies, We did find an interesting butterfly and a Sphinx Moth on the way back to the car at Sabattis Bog.

Okay Patrick, What is it?

Hummingbirds have nothing on me!

While we struck out on boreal birds yet again, we made one last final, desperation shot at Ferd’s Bog in Hamilton County.  We arrived at the Bog, only to have it start raining again.  The bog was very quiet.  A few Lincoln’s Sparrows were busy tending nests and some young Ravens were screaming nearby, but no woodpeckers (except for Pileated), Gray Jays or Boreal Chickadee’s.  As sort of a consolation, I did get one really good picture of a Swamp Sparrow singing.

Just singing in the rain, what a wonderful feeling...

After getting skunked yet again, we parted ways with Tom and Jory, Corey and I returned to Albany.  The ride seemed to take forever, with Corey and I trying to turn Nirvana lyrics into birder friendly songs.  Jory slept and then informed us of the Western Reef Heron sighting in Brooklyn.  The best part of the ride home?  Was sitting in nearly stopped traffic on I-87 just south of Warrensburg and watching a mouse cross this busy highway, without getting hit.  At least someone out there has some luck!

But it was a great weekend, with great company.  I got to visit a lot of new and interesting places in the Adirondacks I had never visited before.  I always find it amazing to find such unspoiled habitat in a state that has around the 4th largest population in the U.S.  Simply Amazing.

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5 responses to “Loons, Grebes and Deer Flies, Oh My!

  1. It sounds like you guys had an interesting day. I can’t wait to make it back up there. The butterfly is a Red Admiral and the moth is a Hummingbird Clearwing.

  2. Pingback: Back Through the Adirondacks

  3. Pingback: I and the Bird #53 - Happy 2nd Anniversary!

  4. Great photo of the Swamp Sparrow. I was hoping you could contact me: kate.ballantyne@ontario.ca. I would like to discuss the possibility of using the photo in a video we (the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources) are producing on biodiversity. Thanks.

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