On December 29, I joined one of the oldest and most respected CBC’s in the Albany area, the Troy Count, which is sponsored by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club. I originally did not plan on doing this count, but after Larry Alden, the count compiler, posted that he was having trouble finding people for the Tomhannock Reservoir sector, I was intrigued and was even more surprised to find out that no one had taken the challenge! I know full well that in ideal conditions this reservoir can hold a lot of interesting waterfowl, the chances of finding something good is high.
Brad W., a Cornell Student who was home for the Holiday’s and Eric W. joined me for the count. We started at Dunkin Donuts in Brunswick around 7am in a light rain (hey it was rain!), and headed for our territory.
Like I said this sections has a lot of potential in ideal years. This was however, not an ideal year, 75% or more of the Reservoir was frozen, but shortly after arriving, we found a little patch of open water which held a few Common Goldeneye. Overhead the endless river of American Crows went overhead from their roost near Troy out into the surrounding country side.
Finding everything else quiet on the south end of the reservoir, we proceeded up the east side, stopping at nearly every pull off to spish. Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker and a few Golden-Crowned Kinglets were found. At another stop a flock of Cedar Waxwingsflew over and then we heard (and Brad ID) the tew-tew-tew call of a small flock of Pine Grosbeaks, which slowly flew down the road over our heads.
Our next spot was quiet active with a lot of Chickadee’s, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, more Golden-Crowned Kinglets, Brown Creeper and a small group of Common Redpolls which flew over. The Reservoir you might ask? It was 100% frozen in this section.
At the north end of the reservoir we found some open water and some waterfowl. Nearly 200 Mallards were sitting on the edge of the ice. A few American Black Ducks, Common Mergansers and a small group of Ruddy Ducks were seen just off the ice. We had previously encountered a small group of Hooded Mergansers just prior to this area. The spot in which we stopped to scope also had Carolina Wren and Red-breasted Nuthatch (a difficult bird to find in these parts this winter). Red-tailed Hawks remained abundant in the country side, but otherwise we found many promising areas bird less. American Crows were common and we were able to find some flocks of Canada Geese and Wild Turkey, but Sparrows of any kind were hard to come by. White-throated Sparrow and American Tree Sparrow were common, but there was distinct lack of Juncos and only one lone Song Sparrow. No Harriers, No Shrikes no good birds at all.
By 11am we had covered the whole territory and made our way again around the Reservoir. We were able to pad our numbers on certain species and add one or two like Red-bellied Woodpecker. Back at our waterfowl spot, the Mallards had changed into Canada Geese and one lone Snow Goose stood out like a sore thumb. 2 sub-adult Bald Eagles flew over and a nice couple from Vermont, reported that they had seen an additional two sub-adult Bald Eagles over by the dam (the Eagles flying were in a different direction, later Larry Alden would find all 4 on the ice near the dam).
Another quick ride through the surrounding country side got a few small groups of Eastern Bluebirds and a lone American Kestrel. By 1:30 pm we had covered the entire area twice and headed home. In years with open water, normally by 1:30 pm you would just be leaving the reservoir, but not this year.
In case you were worried, we did have most of the common birds as well including Mourning Dove, European Starling, Rock Pigeon, American Goldfinch, House Finch, American Robin, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Herring Gull, and Blue Jay. 44 species total for the day, which is not bad for late December in Upstate New York.
Happy New Year!