Jory Langer (The Quiz Master at 10,000 Birds) and I covered Ssection “A” of the Southern Rensselaer County CBC. Our section (which ironically is entirelyy in Albany County) covered the area from Henry Hudson Park in Bethlehem to Menands and includes all of downtown Albany and lots of the Hudson River.
I met Jory at 6am in the parking lot of the K-Mart in Glenmont. As soon as he arrived, it started pouring rain, putting the kabosh on any thoughts of Owling. After spending 20 minutes in his car discussing different digital cameras, at 6:30am we headed into Panera’s for breakfast.
45 minutes later, the rain had let up and the sky was slowly graying. We headed down to our first stop, Henry Hudson Park in the Town of Bethlehem.
Arriving, we spotted the usually assortment of American Crows, a few Tufted Titmice called from the woods, along with American Robin, Northern Cardinal and Pileated Woodpecker.
While checking out a hunk of floating ice with the scope (Trying to make them into Scoters) a 1st year Bald Eagle floated through the view on chunk of ice.
From there we headed north, birding a lot of the side roads off Rt. 144, adding many common birds along the way, but nothing very exciting. The rain came on and off, making viewing difficult at times and making us not want to get out of the car a lot of the time.
With the poor weather and lack of birds, we were moving through our territory faster than we really wanted to, and after a brief stop at a Cumberland Farm’s to use the restrooms and obtain refreshment, we headed off to the Port of Albany.
Now, Ports are not scenic places. In fact they are awful to look at, and worse yet to smell. Mostly what comes through the Port of Albany is food stuffs (including grain), cars and fuel. Yet despite the dreary surroundings, birds can be found, if you look hard enough.
As we passed through the Port, hundreds of American Crows were found picking through the grain and compost heaps. On another building easily 700+ Rock Pigeons were found, along with 100+ Canada Geese feeding on spilled grain. All the while, the occasional Red-tailed Hawk was seen along with the big 3 Gulls (Ring-billed, Great-Black Backed and Herring).
Stopping at Island Creek Park (a tiny City Park in the most unlikely spot), getting out of the car we quickly heard the distinctive nasal call of the Fish Crow. Along the shores of the park, a whole bunch of Mallards, just up from them was a bright white gull. I could only get glimpse of it before it floated past my view, but I knew it was something good. I called over to Jory and he and I made our way around the various 18 Wheelers (a truck stop is next to the park) and there nearly 10′ away was a 1st year Iceland Gull! It was still, clear and rather tame. Of course my camera was back in the car, I ran quickly to get it, but by the time I returned a Red-tailed Hawk had gone by and flushed everything, and though I tried to re-locate the bird, I couldn’t. I didn’t bring the camera with me, because of the rain… Drat!
From there our birding slowed down considerably. We checked several more River vantage points, adding more gulls and Mallards, but little else. We checked the factories and ponds in Menands where rare birds had been spotted in the past, with almost no bird life on this day.
To Round off our 1st half of the day, Jory and I made our way by car through Albany Rural Cemetery and St. Agnes Cemetery, adding a few more common birds, but nothing exciting. Albany Rural Cemetery is one of the most famous ones in the United States and has the honor of being the resting place of President Chester A. Arthur.
After a quick lunch turned into a long lunch at the Albany Pump Station, Jory and I headed back south again, retracing our morning path. It was now much warmer (by about 10 degrees) and the rain had all but stopped and the sun was peaking through in spots. A few Common Mergansers were now visible on the River and another young Bald Eagle was seen soaring over the Port.
We noticed a small blob on an electrical pole at the Port, which closer inspection via scope revealed to be a Merlin! But other than what we saw earlier there was nothing new to report.
Heading south along the side roads, we added more common birds we had missed earlier. At the end of one road, a feeder had 15 Red-winged Blackbirds at it, a good find for December in Upstate New York and as of this writing, were the only Red-winged Blackbirds on the count! But that would be our last good find of the day and by 3:30pm, Jory and I had had it and went our separate ways. Jory did go to the compilation dinner, while I went home and decided to have a 100 degree fever (thankfully I recover quickly).
I have never had a bad CBC, they are always fun and almost always turn up something good and Iceland Gull and Merlin certainly are not every day occurrences in this neck of the woods.