2007 Birding Year in Review

For anyone who cares, I finished 2007 with 251 species in New York State, throw in a few species I picked up while on vacation in Disney World in Florida and that number only goes up to 255.  Certainly this is well short of Corey’s big year of 316 or Rich Guthrie  at 317, but I’m not retired nor do I have a girlfriend in law school who happens to live only a short drive from Jamaica Bay.  I also have 2 young kids, which as Mike at 10,000 Birds understands is a challenge to give enough time, effort and energy to both loves.

There were of course a lot of great moments, I’ll have to admit I spent a lot of with Corey of 10,000 Birds.  In February we had two great trips one was north to Oregon Plains Road where we might have had the best success of anyone, with stunning looks at Red and White-winged Crossbill, Pine Siskin, Purple Finch and a nice and very cooperative group of Gray Jays.  Another trek that same month was on Presidents day to Jones Beach to seek a bird, which I shall not name here.  It was cold, cold and cold.  It was also the first time I got to meet Mike from 10,000 Birds  (noticing a theme here).

There was also the Short-Eared Owl spectacular in Ft. Edward, which I saw with both Corey and my Wife.  By late March, Corey and I were standing in a snow covered field listening for American Woodcock, which did not sound but we found many tracks in the snow.  We also got to hear hooting Great-Horned Owls, a new property bird for that location.

March was also a fabled trip to Lake Champlain to look for Tufted Duck and the first time I met Jory.  We saw nearly every kind of duck that day including Barrow’s Goldeneye and Eurasian Wigeon, but no Tufted Duck.

April the great excitement builds for migration and we made lots of little local trips.

In May I headed down the NYC over mothers day to participate in the New York City Audubon Birding Challenge, where once again the team from Staten Island that I was one narrowly edged out the team from Brooklyn for the victory.  A week later I joined Corey, Chad Witko and my wife to do the HMBC Century Run, where despite miserable conditions we finished with over 120 species in 24 hours.

In June, 4 bird bloggers (Corey and Mike from 10,000 Birds, Patrick from The Hawk Owls Nest and myself) traveled over hill and dale in search of field birds such as Henlow’s Sparrow and Upland Sandpiper and the next day climbing a mountain in the dark to listen to the surreal song of the Bicknell’s Thrush (and we also got Mike his life Ruffed Grouse).

July had yet another trip up north with Tom W., Jory and Corey to search for Spruce Grouse, in one of the most remote and dramatic places I had ever visited in the Adirondacks, the trip was a bust on our target species, but no trip to the Adirondacks is ever a bust.

August is time for shorebirdsand other than a quick trip to Montezuma NWR in Central New York to get Sandhill Cranes (and missing a Whimbrelbecause we were lazy), we spent a lot of time at the Cohoes Flats and Peebles Island.  Corey had his mystery shorebird, that even David Sibley commented on, but a lot of the sightings would not have been possible without Zach B., who spent a lot of time looking through every shorebird in Cohoes, and eventually would turn up a pair of American Golden Plovers a rather uncommon bird in these parts.  I also was one of two people to snag a briefly stopping Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Albany County (Thanks Rich and Corey!)

September Corey and I did the first ever fall Century Run with the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club.  We were one of only two groups that participated (it was labor day weekend) but we ended with around 90 species.

October Corey went to Germany and I hung around the house.  November rolled in with winter finches and waxwings and it wasn’t long before Common Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak, Northern Shrike and Bohemian Waxwingwere all added to my year list.  A late trip to Noblewood on the shores of Lake Champlain also got us a late Dunlin and a Little Gull (Hey Corey, we saw a Little Gull!)

December was spent doing Christmas counts, in Saratoga, Albany, Rensselaer and Columbia Counties and while I only added one new species (Snow Goose which I had somehow managed to miss up till then), but there is nothing I like better than spending the day counting birds.

What’s in store for 2008?  Well who knows, as of this writing I’m 10 days in to the year and haven’t gone birding once.  Too tired, a little stressed and generally distracted.  I will however I have the opportunity to be on the Gulf coast the first week in April, so hopefully I’ll get something good out of that!

A Bohemian Lifestyle (Boreal Birds or Bust Redux, Part I)

It was a dark and stormy night.  No really it was.  I met Corey from 10,000 Birds in my driveway a little after 5am on Election Day and although it was fairly mild (temps near 50) the pouring rain and wind made it feel colder.  After doing our bleary eyed greeting, we got onto the Adirondack Northway for the 2.5 hour drive to Ferd’s Bog (Those who read either 10,000 Birds  or this blog on a regular basis will know about Ferd’s Bog).  The goal was to get Corey the two Boreal woodpeckers he was missing, Black-backed and Three-toed and maybe a surprise or two.

The entire way up the Northway from Albany to Warrensburg was in the rain.  Once in Warrensburgh on Rt. 28 the rain tapered off, but shortly after crossing into Hamilton County, the rain changed to snow and soon the ground, and then the road was a slushy white.  Although the snow had stopped before we passed through, things were still messy and would continue that way through Indian Lake.  Once at Blue Mountain Lake, the snow was gone, except for the Mountain tops.

Shortly after 7am and shortly after crossing into Raquette Lake on Rt. 28, Corey’s sharp eyes noticed a group of birds perched on the top of a tree along the road.  Pulling over very quickly into the adjacent pull-off, we quickly hopped out of the car and soon heard the high pitched buzzy calls of Waxwings.  Using our binoculars in the dim light, we could see that these birds had rusty red under-tails, the tell tale mark of Bohemian Waxwing.  It was cloudy and dark, but both of us took some shots of the birds.  Although you can’t see color well, the crests are very distinctive for Bohemians.

Suddenly driving through all the rain in the dark and slipping and sliding on snow covered roads was quickly forgotten with a new year bird for both us (which is rare these days).  Continuing on the way to Ferd’s Bog, the sun burst through the clouds and all of our troubles melted away.

A quick stop at the gas station in Inlet for some (homemade) breakfast sandwiches and chocolate milk, we soon found ourselves at the trail-head to Ferd’s.  Awaiting us at the trail-head was a Brown Creeper, one of many we would see that day.

Walking into the woods was an eerie feeling.  It was dead silent, and as I mentioned to Corey it was like being in a Stephen King novel.  I gained an understanding of how silence can drive people mad.  Sadly, the bog didn’t hold much more.  A few Black-capped Chickadees, another Brown Creeper and a Downy Woodpecker was about the best we could muster.  At then end of the boardwalk (naturally while Corey was away) a small flock of 4 more Bohemian Waxwings flew in, landed and then quickly left again.  No Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees or any of the ‘good’ woodpeckers were even remotely seen or heard.  The sun however was bright and it created a very beautiful scene in the woods with the wet evergreens, shadows and sunlight, which my camera barely captured, it was for a lack of better terms, glorious.

Ferd's Bog, Inlet, New York

Taking the back way out of Ferd’s down Uncas Road was a waste of time.  From there we traveled to Adirondack Visitors Interpretive Center in Newcomb, hoping for Evening Grosbeaks and other winter finches, but first stopped a pond north of Long Lake on Rt. 28 N, where we had 2 Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers and a small group of Ring-necked Ducks.

Newcomb too was a bust, with lots of very tame Chickadees and a now famous Red Squirrel.  A quick walk around the visitors center building yielded another Brown Creeper and flushed two Ruffed Grouse.  One of the dozen or so Black-capped Chickadees  at the feeders is below.

Black-capped Chickadee, Newcomb, New York

You know the birding is slow when Corey starts to sing and sing he did all the way from Newcomb to Ausable Point State Park on the shores of Lake Champlain.  I now have several songs stuck in my head, I may never get rid of.

Those who remember well will realize that Ausable Point State Park is where Corey and I along with another birder named Jory went in search of, back in March, for a Tufted Duck.  Today the focus wasn’t on waterfowl, although there was some, namely Horned Grebes, Great Blue Herons, Common Mergansers and a Double-Crested Cormorant.  A rather large flock of Bohemian Waxwings had been sighted there and we wanted better pictures.  Our first pass through the park yielded little, although Corey did get excited when he thought he had spotted a flock of Evening Grosbeaks, which turned out to be Cedar Waxwings.  But on the way out we hit the jackpot, with a good flock of over 50 Bohemian Waxwings, with a few Cedars mixed in for good measure.  Enjoy the pictures of one of the Northern Hemisphere’s prettiest birds.  Notice the diagnostic rust red under-tail coverts.  For such tame birds, they were remarkably difficult to photograph, even though the birds were often only a couple of feet from us.

Bohemain Waxwing, Ausable Point State Park

Bohemian Waxwing, Ausable Point State Park

Bohemian Waxwing, Ausable Point State Park

Bohemian Waxwing, Ausable Point State Park

Bohemian Waxwing, Ausable Point State Park

From there we traveled south through the ‘Golden Triangle’ and visited Noblewood, Westport, Essex and Port Henry along Lake Champlain, where we had perhaps the best birds of the day and you will find out about in part II, but before then don’t forget to check out Corey’s account at 10,000 Birds.