On Saturday December 15, I joined Corey from 10,000 Birds in covering sector c of the Saratoga Spa State Park CBC. This is a relative newbie to the CBC world, with ‘only’ 20 or so years of records.
The territory we had is rather pleasant, its largely horse farms (what else would you expect in Saratoga?), with some nice mixed forests with sporadic (and increasing) suburban development.
We left Albany around 6:15am and were on territory by 7am. Our first stop was the boat launch at the very north end of Saratoga Lake. The temperature in Corey’s car read a balmy 10 above and a quick scan of what water was open, yielded a few Mallards.
From there we drove a bit further up Fish Creek to another bridge. Arriving we found a few Canada Geese and some more distant Mallards and American Black Ducks. We also started to add common birds which had started to wake up. Mourning Dove, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, European Starling, Northern Cardinal and Dark-eyed Junco were all present. Just as we were going to leave, we heard a few gun shots go off and then one of the most dramatic waterfowl flights I have ever seen in this part of the state. Hundreds of Canada Geese, over 100 Mallards and dozens of American Black Ducks flew over our heads from their roosting location in the marshes nearby. Tried as we might, we didn’t find another type of duck.
Leaving that location we began to search the back roads (and people’s feeders!) for new birds. On the first road we turned down, we found a very active feeder station with a lot of common birds and within a few moments we found the first Common Redpoll of the day. Also present at this one feeder was a Hairy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Carolina Wren(quite unusual here) White-throated Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Blue Jay, White-breasted Nuthatch and Tufted Titmouse.
Further on down the road we found a feeder that was mobbed by House Sparrows and a group of over 90 Rock Pigeons trying to keep warm on the wires.
It was shortly after this point, we quickly learned that Dark-eyed Junco and American Tree Sparrows were going to be very abundant. No matter what road we drove down, clouds of these species would fly up from the road sides, making it difficult to count at best.
We spent the rest of the day essentially riding around and around, getting out only twice to do some walking at the Bog Meadow Nature Trail. It was a cold walk and not worth it.
Who Say’s you can’t get good birds from a car? Taking our time we added Northern Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, several flock of Horned Larks, Red-tailed Hawk, a giant flock of Wild Turkey, a lone Ring-billed Gull (okay we poached it form the Wilton Mall), Song Sparrow, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Snow Bunting, Northern Harrier and Northern Mockingbird.
But the highlight of the day was near the end of the day. We were wrapping up our tour and discovered we had missed a road, Edie Road in particular. It didn’t look promising. It was suburban with a busy, yellow line road only a stones throw from the extremely busy Wilton Mall. As we drove down, Corey and I were chatting (I have mentioned before that birders are the worst gossipers) and I saw some ornamental crab-apples in front of house, three of them right next to each other, loaded with fruit. I remember thinking to myself, wouldn’t it be great if they were someplace with Pine Grosbeaks? Just as we passed I saw a grayish bird flit down into view and my brain just screamed Pine Grosbeak. I blurted out to Corey “Pine Grosbeak!” and he looked at me as if I had two heads. I replied a second time “Pine Grosbeak!”, perhaps more clearly and calmly this time, to which his reply of “Are you serious?” to which I replied “Yes.”. Well Corey slammed on the breaks and threw it into reverse (good thing no one was behind us). Sure enough in front of this ratty looking trailer in these super loaded, crab-apples was not only one Pine Grosbeak, but eleven, including two stunning males and one immature male. Here were these birds of the deep boreal forest practically next to a suburban strip mall. Go figure.
At the compilation which featured cold beer, great chili and cornbread, we discovered we had the only Pine Grosbeaks on the count. For pictures of the Pine Grosbeaks, Turkey’s, Redpolls and American Tree Sparrows, plus the totals for the day, make sure you check out Corey’s take on the day over at 10,000 Birds!
The Catskill-Coxsackie CBC is tomorrow, wish us luck!