This week I have spent countless hours, in heavy snow, sleet, rain, wind and sun chasing a Pacific Loon on the Tomhannock Reservoir in nearby Rensselaer County. Needless to say, I haven’t found it yet and I seem to be the only one.
Finally I was sick of seeing about every other kind of waterfowl, but this dang Loon. So Danika and I decided to mix it up a bit and we planned a trip on Veterans Day to Partridge Run WMA in Southwest Albany County, to search for winter finches.
Our day did not get off to a good start, I manged to sleep till 10am for some reason and we just never seemed to be able to get moving and out of the house. We finally did around 1 pm, after getting nutritious happy meals for the kids, we headed up into the hills and woods where we arrived around 2pm. We had very low expectations and in fact were already talking about dinner plans. But we pressed on.
Our first couple of stops got us silence, which isn’t unusual this time of year up there. We figured we would take a quick ride through and be done. We went several more stops and heard nothing or the occasional chickadee. Finally at one stop we heard a flock of Chickadees and we got out to see if anything was with them…
…Turns out there wasn’t, but as we were working the flocks were heard the distinctive “jip-jip-jip” call of Red Crossbill and Danika got quick binocular views of two solid red birds flying away. At least our trip wasn’t a waste as those were our first Red Crossbills of the year. Encouraged, we got back into the car, rolled down the windows and began slowly driving along listening for more Crossbills as well as Evening Grosbeak which we have frequently had at a feeder up the road.
As we passed a little beaver pond, next to a dense stand of evergreens, I heard the distinctive nasally “sick-a-jay-jay” call of a Boreal Chickadee. I have seen and heard this species plenty of time in the Adirondacks, but I also knew of a couple of other reports from near Boston and Coney Island in New York City. Within seconds I could see a little brown bird popping up from a weedy area next to the road, focusing my binoculars on the bird confirmed the bird, the brown cap, tight black bib, small white cheek, gray breast with extensive rusty flanking, plain gray/brown back. Danika grabbed the camera and went about trying to get a shot of this little guy, who vocalized several more times, but was oddly alone. No Black-Capped Chickadees were initially with us. As we tried to “spish” the Boreal up for a picture (Boreals don’t seem to respond as well to spishing) we attracted a flock of Black-Capped Chickadees and a surprising number of drumming Ruffed Grouse. Once the Black-Caps got there, the Boreal vanished into the woods.
We spent the rest of the daylight hours working every Chickadee flock we came across but they were all Black-capped Chickadees. No other finches were found either. To think if we had left when we planned, chances are we never would have heard the bird and if we hadn’t stopped and got those Crossbills, we likely wouldn’t have had the windows down (it was cold!). Just goes to show how lucky you have to be sometimes, but that’s what makes birding great!