Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Birding Like Mad

That's what I feel like I've been doing. I've been seeing so many birds!

Yesterday I stopped by Hudson Pointe Nature Preserve, located off Corinth Road, somewhere between South Glens Falls and Moreau. I've never been there before yesterday. I like the location and the habitat, but I guess either the birds aren't as enthusiastic or they were deeper in the woods, far from the trails. So birding-wise, I was not impressed. Plenty of Chipping Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees, and woodpeckers, and various other typical woodland species. This preserve juts out into the Hudson River, so there were also swallows (likely tree) and a Belted Kingfisher making lots of noise over the water. Also notable were two Broad-winged Hawk flyovers and two little Brown Creepers who flew onto a trunk right in front of me, at eye level, to run around the trunk making alarm calls. Ah Brown Creepers, how I love thee.

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Today was busy for birds. I went with Sue to Hovey Pond and then to part of the Warren Bikeway (that's what I call it, I've seen other names - it's the long bikepath that runs through greater Glens Falls). To these spots, I shall return. Hovey Pond has a great wetland area (by wetland, I mean serious cattails, complete with green frogs and turtles). It is home to at least a dozen Red-winged Blackbirds, at least one Common Yellowthroat, and some Song Sparrows. I didn't hear much more, but the weather in this area was strange today. Extremely humid with showers at this time of morning (9:45 AM-ish). The bike path is a weird sort of area, lots of understory/brush with taller trees. It's an extremely pleasant place with plenty of wildflowers to check out, many with snails hanging around on them. The thyme has easily become a favorite. Bird-wise, there were lots of American Robins, plenty of American Goldfinches, an American Redstart, plenty of Northern Cardinals, and a Common Yellowthroat who came out into an eye-level bush to make lots of noise at us.

I then went to the Queensbury/Quaker Rd Hannaford to not go birding, but got a nice surprise at 12:45 PM (now very sunny, humid, and warm) when a Great Blue Heron flew over the parking lot. This may sound extremely surprising if you're not from the area, but Hannaford was built in a marshy area, and one apparently lives not too far away.

Finished with what I had to do for the morning, I decided to make my way to Ash Drive by Glen Lake. I've fallen in love with this spot. I got over there around maybe 2:20 PM, and as soon as I parked, I heard thunder. Uh oh, I thought. Looking around, I saw an extremely foreboding dark cloud heading rather quickly my way, and decided to stick around through it. A bit of rain and a few rumbles later, I decided to hit the trail, watching the gun-metal gray cloud leaving me. It never did clear up for the 35 minutes I was birding.
What did I see/hear?:
Yellow Warbler (2)
Common Yellowthroat (1)
American Goldfinch (5)
American Robin (3)
American Crow (1)
Red-winged Blackbird (10 M, 3 F, 7 heard - 20 total)
Eastern Kingbird (1)
Common Grackle (2 adults, 1 juv - 3 total)
Gray Catbird (4)
Great Blue Heron (1) - was mobbed by some male Red-winged Blackbirds
Chipping Sparrow (1)
Song Sparrow (2)
Red-eyed Vireo (1)
Eastern Wood-Pewee (1)

ALSO! Possibly Osprey, flying off in the distance over Glen Lake! The lighting was poor to really make it out, but the black face stripe made an osprey a likely candidate.

Another ALSO: I spotted by first Chestnut-sided Warbler! I almost didn't get to see him, he didn't respond well to pishing and refused to come down from any tall trees. Fortunately, when I did spot him, he kept peering down at me from the branch he was perched on, exposing his yellow crown to my sight. I also caught sight of the black eyeline, black mustachial stripes, white face, streaky back, white undersides and undertail coverts, and distinct chocolate brown long streaks down the sides. The only way I ever found him was by his constant singing, which to me sounded like, "tew tew tew tew, pee-pee-yoo," a bright, clear, cheery, quickly sung song, with the first four notes slurred upward and the last one downward. It felt like quite an accomplishment but I think I'd rather learn to ID them by song, as I got serious neck-strain from trying to find him.

I was run off the trail by another extremely dark (nearly black), forboding cloud bringing thunder overhead, coming right in my path. I tried simply outwalking it, but it was apparently moving about 25 mph and I had to jog to miss the rain. Little did I know that it would also bring lightning and an hour and a half downpour that would leave me stranded away from home since I couldn't even see to drive.


Also notable was the Wild Turkey I saw hanging out on someone's yard on Bay Road around 5:30 PM, after the worst of the storm was over. I chuckled, as they hold themselves as if they think of themselves as proud birds.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Birdsong - Sonograms/Spectrograms

I was looking at another birding blog and noticed someone's sonogram quiz with the outcome being a Common Yellowthroat. I can easily ID those birds in the field, but getting my brain to actually grasp what the 'song' is actually doing is difficult - I'm always about two notes behind the yellowthroat. It has a sort of spiraling or circling quality that 'witchity witchity witchity' just fails to grasp a bit. The sonogram clearly showed it.

I really feel like if I had a book of birdsong sonograms I'd learn the songs a lot quicker. I've been trained to read music, and birdsong doesn't stray far from those skills. I've also noticed that sometimes when I listen, I hear intricate little details other birders either don't care about or don't hear. They get completely left out of the common mnemonics, despite that for me, those tiny details are the parts that should be part of identifying the bird by song. Sure, you can make your yellowthroat say, "Witchity witchity witchity" but guess how many times I have thought I've heard that, only for it to actually be a Yellow Warbler? A Yellow Warbler doesn't just say, "Sweet sweet sweet I am so sweet." That species has a call very similar to the yellowthroat that mnemonics doesn't not really differentiate clearly. A sonogram, I bet, would.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Betar Byway

I went to the Betar Byway earlier today. SO glad that I did, because I saw 29 species in a little over an hour, and the individual count is much higher than that. It was just this onslaught of birds. It reminded me of last summer, when I was interning at a major migration stopover site. What I saw today was like the last few days of spring migration, when it dwindles down.

Also, Betar Byway tends to be fairly heavily traveled by locals, pedestrians and cyclists alike. Most people are cool. Almost everyone says hi, retired people like to ask if I'm with Audubon, and two preteen boys today were all excited to see a birder as they were riding their bikes! There was also a super-creepy dude cycling by, and a middle-aged woman glared at me and passed me by near inches despite that I was standing just off of the wide, paved path. I'm not sure what the hostility was about there, but it's not common. People tend to like birders. I also finally randomly ran across two other birders on the path who seemed to stray as far away from me as they possibly could, which was unfortunate because as I was spotting Yellow Warbler after Yellow Warbler, I heard the woman say something like, "It's a warbler, but I don't know that call, I don't know what it is." I really wished I could have shared with them my knowledge and helped them learn one of my fave calls.

Betar deserves a list rather than a paragraph, because of the number of birds:

- 10 Canada Geese (2 pairs of adults, 6 juveniles - they're starting to look like adults! awww)
- 25 Mallards (12 breeding males. The Mallards were sitting in the grass near the geese)
- 2 Mourning Doves
- 1 Downy Woodpecker
- 1 Pileated Woodpecker
- 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
- 1 Eastern Phoebe
- 1 Eastern Kingbird
- 1 Red-eyed Vireo
- 2 American Crows
- 5 Tree Swallows (1 had a nest in a cavity!)
- 6 Black-capped Chickadees
- 1 Tufted Titmouse
- 3 White-breasted Nuthatches (2 were on trees on either side of a walkway, constantly calling to each other - they were definitely a pair)
- 1 House Wren
- 2 Wood Thrushes (1 was very close to the Byway, calling constantly, but I couldn't spot it with my binoculars no matter what)
- 12 American Robins
- 9 Gray Catbirds
- 1 Northern Mockingbird (in the American Legion parking lot)
- 12 Yellow Warblers (saw 1 male, saw a few others flitting around - I also actually pished one right out onto the Byway in the dirt!)
- 9 American Redstarts (saw two beautiful breeding males, 1 young male, 1 female)
- 1 Scarlet Tanager
- 3 Song Sparrows
- 3 Northern Cardinals (a male sat right out in the open looking at me - SO beautiful)
- 5 Red-winged Blackbirds (3 males at the least)
- 5 Common Grackles (saw 1 adult with 2 juvs following behind - most people don't think of Grackles as cute, but they were. One was begging a little too much and the adult pecked it briefly)
- 1 Batimore Oriole (spotted it while the other birders were nearby, they missed out)
- 8 American Goldfinches (2 males)
- 1 House Sparrow (in American Legion parking lot)

WHEW I'm exhausted now. That adventure was so incredibly fulfilling.
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Sooooooo Behind - yard & WWPP

A week goes by, and I fall so far behind! I can't believe how busy June is for birding, despite that I know that birders often take summer easy compared to migration periods.

Last Sunday I went hiking at Moreau Lake State Park. Like, painful, strenous 1000' mountain hiking, complete with overlook. It was great. I just might have to do it again soon. I even hid in the trees on the side of the mountain near some deer due to a downpour. I also ran all the way back down, twisting my ankle in the process due to slippery, rough terrain. If you haven't been up the backside of Moreau Lake State Park, do it. The habitat is weird. You start off thinking you'll have tons of tall trees, and instead you get amongst tiny shadbush halfway up, with big boulders.

I'm not actually going to post about that trip yet, because I'm trying to get it into ebird using either "feet" or "miles" but those are hard to determine from an unmarked map.

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This week was strange. 6/25 (Thursday) we had the return of the Eastern Bluebird couple during a nice display of rather rare mammatus clouds. The Bluebirds seemed confused by the new boxmate we have, the House Wren. He finally has one set nest and I saw him bringing insects to it today. The Bluebirds stayed, but I can't figure out where they might be nesting now. There was also a Broad-winged Hawk overhead for three days straight earlier in the week, I could hear it calling in late morning each day. And now we have a bunch of Blue Jays, which are very welcome here. It seems there's two very hungry fledglings here who are a big skittish about going to my feeder (it has peanuts!). I like hearing them calling from the nearby hemlocks.
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I also went birding quite a bit this week at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve, which turns up quite a diversity and you don't have to stray far from Scout Road. The office has highlights such as Northern Mockingbirds who are out there practicing the songs of nearby birds, and mocking the Mourning Doves to trick them into coming closer so that the Mockingbird can fight them. The Mockingbird there also loves annoying and fighting the American Crows. Also notable at the office are Tree Swallows and Indigo Buntings.

At Delegan Pond I saw an Osprey yesterday! Yes! The call it emitted sounded like a high, mournful, "Cue cue cue cue cue," while it was flying to a perch, which it sat on for 20 minutes, nearly unmovable. I thought it was rather small, and the body reminded me of that of a Turkey Vulture's. I was mesmerized. There were two Belted Kingfishers resting on a dead log below - they were cute, as they were sitting very near each other. Likely a pair. That spot also gets Great Blue and Green Herons.

Camp Saratoga's parking lot is GREAT for birding. Such an array. My highlight yesterday was two Brown Creepers chasing each other around tree trunks and from tree to tree. Also, if you take the blue trail in to the left of the bigger building, you can pass one small field to your right to a much larger field to your right. This place is also bird-worthy. Look for/listen for Eastern Towhees. I heard their "Drink-your-TEEAAA!" song for the first time yesterday. There was also the ping-pong-on-table call of the Field Sparrow. There was also a black-and-white cat, which made me unhappy.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Oh hiya there

An update is coming quite soon. I had such a great birding/hiking day earlier at Moreau Lake. Twenty-nine species, all by my lonesome. One, the Prairie Warbler, is not even a common species in New York - the population is low, and declining here. I couldn't believe my ears - the song neatly goes up a scale of buzzy notes. It's quite interesting and if you have no chance of hearing one in real life, I suggest finding a sound clip.

I'm now paying in pain for my adventures. I climbed a mountain, through fields, over streams with wet rocks, boulders in grassy areas, and mud. I had a great sight at the overlook at top. I got poured on and hid in the understory near some deer for about 15 minutes. I ran all the way back down at nearly full speed, just for the joy, twisting my ankle (and apparently knee) in the process. And it was worth it. I saw an American toad, almost a dozen red efts, an Eastern garter snake, a possible brown snake, all sorts of fungus, and many unripe blueberries. And I didn't see another single person the entire time. I loved it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Weekend Rain = Grumpy Me

This morning I went to the Lake George Association and saw fabulous turtles. While I don't know the local turtles well, I like all the turtles I got to see. The spotted turtle was a favorite of mine, and I got to stare at a Blandings. It saddens me thinking it may be the only one I see in my life. The turtle was very curious so I got a great look at the nice pale yellow it sports.

A front is slowly rolling through New York this weekend, and it really looks like rain. If I desired to go birding ONLY by ear today, I could go for the next, oh, hour. But there's enough activity around here at the West Fort Ann house.

What kind of activity, you ask? Well, the Bluebirds have been gone for days now. We actually took the box down for maintenance, it was nearly in shambles, even despite knowing Bluebirds sometimes brood twice. But they seem long gone. No sightings, no vocalizations. Well, there's still a few other boxes on the same post. All spring I have heard a House Wren calling daily in the distance. Today a House Wren was sitting on the nest boxes, peeking in, going inside each hole, testing out how to get sticks inside the holes! Then it would sit on top of the post and call. I had a good laugh when the wren carried a very thin, 5 inch long stick to one of the boxes, tried shoving the stick in sideways, and when it shoved even harder the stick fell out of the box, onto the ground. The wren looked around for a few moments, then got on top of that box and called. So hopefully it'll nest here.

We also have more Black-capped Chickadees nesting in another nest box, and I spotted a young Tufted Titmouse at the feeder with an adult! The adults don't seem to mind my presence but the young one was a little unsure, but still curious.

There was also a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird repeatedly visiting the hummingbird feeder (yes, clear nectar) a few feet from where I was standing (I was hiding behind a bush to spy on the House Wren).

It also blew my mind to briefly hear a Wood Thrush off in the woods. There's a stream nearby so it's not unusual, except for the fact that in the 8 years that I've lived here, I have not heard one here.

Heard earlier was a Broad-winged Hawk. I heard them yesterday afternoon overhead as well, and ran through the house with my binoculars to get outside to make sure it wasn't that silly Blue Jay. Sure enough, there it was circling high-up. You could barely see it with your naked eye.

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I also heard another Red-eyed Vireo this morning at the Lake George Association! I know their population is widespread here, but it still excites me.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Brown Creeper

I heard a Brown Creeper for the first time today. Okay, maybe I've heard them calling before, but I just forgot about the song since I could never ID it before. Today I was in the yard taking photos (not of birds) and heard the bird begin singing. It drove me insane. I grabbed my binoculars, and couldn't find it. In fact, I found out that it would sing, pause, and move while pausing to another pine tree. It just wanted to stay in the pines. I never found it. Why? Because it's a tiny Brown Creeper in a massive, densely needled pine tree, cryptically colored to blend with the bark. It sang for hours and hours. I ran inside to transcribe it using my guitar.

The song is a very high, wavy-sounding, bright whistle of about 7 notes, quite melodic, and hurried. I think it sounds like a warped or worn cassette tape being played, how it has that wavy quality. Or, if you will, how a voice sounds when the person is extremely nervous. The individual here downslurs the last note - this is not always typical, however. Also, the notes are grouped. The first four together with a short pause before the highest note in the song and the rest of the notes following just cascade downward. The call sounds a lot like that of a Cedar Waxwing, extremely high-pitched and trilling.

And there we have the Brown Creeper.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Binoculars, Wal-Mart, and Lifelists

I have a confession to make. The binoculars I have been using are $15 camo rubber-cased Tasco ones you can find in the hunting section of Wal-mart. In fact, they're so cheap that the english section of the instructions is completely written in broken english! But I love them. I've seen many neat birds I otherwise would have never seen. I've dropped them so many times and they keep working like gold. They're apparently waterproof, although the problem I've had with them there is that they fog so easily in wet conditions.

I'm reading about buying quality birding bins, and trepidation has set in. $200-300 MINIMUM to not worry about the quality of glass?! Good god! I believe that's how much the guy at Moreau Lake paid for his (at least, they appeared to be fancy-pants bins) and he himself said they were crap. I got to play with them, and yes, they were absolute crap. They did not even remotely hold up next to my $15 Wal-mart ones. Sad.

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I did not go birding today. However, I did go to the Queensbury Wal-Mart to buy a mailing box and packing tape. Wooo. Upstate NY today got that cool steady rain we're more familiar with in April. I liked it, but a lot of people were making noises about it. I like it for birding too! As soon as I got out of my car, I heard a Red-eyed Vireo singing from a nearby wooded corridor. It was dead on to the mnemonic, so it was unmistakable. And it was so loud that a lady nearby looked up in the direction of song just as I was.

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I hit up Wild Birds Unlimited today. I love that place. I want to buy one of everything. Most notable was the book '25 Short Hikes and Interesting Walks in the Lake George, NY Region' by Roger Fulton & Michael Carpenter. Some of those walks were located in the Glens Falls region, and I somehow have not been on them yet! I have even spent quite a bit of time looking for these places online and Google never brought them up. That to me is so horribly frustrating, cities having all these little natural areas and nothing ever mentioning them. Although, the cool thing about that, is so few people know about them so they're quiet when I go.

Also notable was Thayer's software called 'Birds of My State' for both Windows and Mac. I want it! It's $50 and what I'd use it for requires an mp3 player, so first things first. I'm quite sure that's what they sometimes play in the store, and it's what I was looking for after my rant about the Peterson's CD guides.

Whoever I briefly talked to was very nice. I like the people who work in there. So what I'm about to say should not be taken personally should one of them happen across this blog. First, I understand that birders are often interested in rare birds. I don't know why, but I just don't give them that extra important space in my head. So when I'm asked if I've spotted any interesting low population or rare birds, I go blank. Oops.

There was also mention of lifelists. I have one, but it's nothing serious, I just wanted the number of species seen so far, and to be able to look back to see where I initially saw said species. To my utter annoyance, I keep finding birders who seem to care only about adding species to their lifelists. This aggravates me immensely. Not only do I care not about such competition between birders, but my motivation for birding has nothing to do with simply adding yet another species to the list. I bird because I like the birds, because I gain information every time I watch them, and they do somet interesting things. Plus I like comparing and contrasting field markings of species and individuals. I am not thinking, "Oh my god I get to add this to my lifelist! I'm so awesome and special!" It also doesn't help to keep meeting total lifelist nazis. I've heard all sorts of dumb crap regarding them, and the sheer pissiness and attempts to control how one uses ones own lifelist from other birders is ridiculous. I have recently been told that it doesn't count if I only heard the species. I disagree, plus it's not THEIR list, it's MINE. I like birding by ear, and sometimes I prefer it, and am not concerned about seeing the individual. I can't even begin to tell you how pleased I was to pick up Pete Dunne's 'Pete Dunne on Bird Watching' and see that he claims hearing them counts for the lifelist. Thanks Dunne. Thunne.

American Robin Love

It appears that I forgot to mention hearing a Red-bellied Woodpecker at Ash Drive amongst all those others. I really had no idea what it was at the time, and only after listening through the Macaulay Library did I find it. Their call is so strange and nonbird-like that I used to chalk it up to some weird tree frog. It sounds not of this earth. You can only imagine the amount of surprise I felt to find out what it was, and I know that I have heard it at the Betar Byway earlier this year.

I was quite bummed all day. The Bluebirds have definitely left the yard. I don't even know if the little one actually fledged. The nest boxes have been taken down for cleansing, and I can assure you that the Bluebird box reeks so badly! At least a group of American Robins visited while I was weeding at dusk. They were right behind me when I turned around to see that they were there (within touching distance), and they just stood there and called a few times while I watched, but they didn't run away.

I also seem to have failed to mention the brief Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeder visitor earlier this week, and the trick a Blue Jay was pulling yesterday. I ran outside after hearing the teeee-yeeeeeeeee of the Broad-winged Hawk hoping to see one. I looked all over the place, seeing absolutely nothing, except for a lone Blue Jay hopping out of the woods. I had a good laugh.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Ash Drive/Warren Bikeway; also Queensbury

Yesterday I headed back out to two spots Sue showed me this past weekend, and for that, I'm am so grateful. Not only did I found out they were fantastic birding spots, but they are LOCAL! They're both only about 15 minutes from me. I'm psyched, because the surrounding area doesn't seem all that great for birding unless I go in the other direction, and I'm not yet ready to park alongside private farmlands off rural roads with people driving 60 mph. But there's practically nowhere to bird closer to the towns, and getting into the trails at a nearby recreational park is nearly impossible. Weird...

Ash Drive is neat. It's a little road near Glen Lake, and you can pull right off at part of the bike trail that goes through this area. The pull off is right near a bridge covering a massive marshy area, with a nice view of mountains in the distance. It's a very pleasant spot. In the marshy area I saw/heard:

- 8 Red-winged Blackbirds, almost all were M. I also spotted a noisy F feeding her even noisier young that was sitting in some reeds, and it looked like another pair of F & young was up to the same activity.
- 2 American Robins
- 7 American Goldfinches, most of which were in flight above me.
- 3 Common Yellowthroats! One of them flew right into the bush right in front of me. I could have reached out and patted him on the head. He even sang while looking at me. Thanks, Yellowthroat buddy.
- 1 Yellow Warbler - She too came to visit in the same bush at the same time! She wouldn't sing in front of me but after she flew away she gave her variation of "I am so sweet!"
- 5 Grey Catbirds. I was happy to see them, after banding so many last summer I feel like I intimately know them.
- 1 Eastern Kingbird, sitting on a perch over the marsh, preening and posturing like it was king of the marsh. I don't know how they got their common names, but this one really did have that bill in the air, I'm-so-hot posture going on.
- 1 Song Sparrow perched, singing, right in the open and allowed me to stare, so I wrote down every field mark I could get, since sparrows for me are birding on hard mode. Seriously, if you want to see me get upset while birding, point out a sparrow. Sibley's doodle of the Song Sparrow sucks, by the way. I wrote down: brown cap (I couldn't get a view from above), brown eye line, pale supercilium, blackish chest dot, dark brown streaks making necklace, white breast and belly, dark malars, pale bill.

I wandered off down the bike path south to Birdsall Rd. There were plenty of cyclists, most of whom kept to themselves, though a few seemed annoyed that I was out there. Strange. Even weirder was the local driving by on Birdsall Rd who glared. Whoa. Anyway, down the bike path, which turns into more of a wooded area, I heard/saw:

- 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee just calling away. I caught a glimpse, and I couldn't believe how drab it was. Good thing they sing a lot, if I saw one without it making noise, I'd be screwed.
- 1 Willow Flycatcher! I didn't see it, but from a distance I started hearing "FITZ-bew!" over and over! It was very quiet and buzzy, but even despite, it carried a long distance.
- 2 Tufted Titmice making hoarse alarm calls I've never heard them make before. They sounded possessed. I got out of there quickly.
- 2 more American Robins
- 1 White-breasted Nuthatch
- 2 Blue Jays who were very curious. It also creeped me out that it sounded like their wings kept slapping the branches of the trees they were flying around in.
- 1 Indigo Bunting - if you read below, you'll see that I struggled with their ID before. Not this time.
- 2 Chipping Sparrows
- 3 Black-capped Chickadees
- 2 American Crows
- 1 Scarlet Tanager - also in the distance, but with that distinct "CHIP-burrrr"

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I also went back to the meadow in Queensbury, which I have not actually listed here. I found out that they mowed across the road and were talked to about it. I really have no idea how much danger this meadow is in, but it does have a purposely mowed walkway complete with benches and a sign about leashing your dog, so maybe it's safe. It's a difficult spot to bird in though due to McMansions being nearby - some people get paranoid about someone with binoculars seemingly pointing at their windows.

- 4 M, 2 F Red-winged Blackbirds
- 6 M, 1 F Bobolinks
- 1 American Crow
- 3 Song Sparrows - with the same field markings as above, plus I mentioned the wings being rufous with darker streaks all over them, and the blackish streaks making the necklace are on a white background
- 1 Flycatcher sp.?? totally unidentifiable to my eyes, and it wouldn't sit still. It appeared to have a forked tail, greyish-black head, yellow wingbars, dark body, and yellowish-buffy underparts. Who knows, who cares, since it didn't sit there.
- 8 Eastern Meadowlarks - I got a great sighting of one with it's bright yellow! The rest were hiding in tall grass making ascending "tweee" calls and their other call that resembles the Woodcock.
- 4 Tree Swallows - one was sitting at the nest box, periodically putting it's head in the opening, making me think it was nesting.
- 4 American Goldfinches
- 1 who knows??? - totally unidentifiable, also wouldn't sit still. Medium-sized (smaller than robin but not tiny), dull-grey back and head, buffy/whitish wingbars, mostly white underside, buffy undertail coverts - the call was similar to that of the Song Sparrow.
- 6 House Sparrows - they were just outside the meadow.
- 4 apparent Savannah Sparrows - they're new for me. The call fits. So does the habitat. They were very streaky birds but dull and small, with yellow lores, blackish streaks on crown, and pencil-thin dark brown streaks on face, sides, and breast.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Monday, June 15, 2009

June 15th - Liebig's Berries, Granville, NY

Another day where I didn't expect to bird, but got excited! This morning I went to Liebig's for strawberries. If you haven't gone out yet, this is the time to get them! They're delicious. My grandma and I did our annual sitting in the hay picking berries while periodically chatting about life and watching the clouds go by.

The strawberry field is loaded with Red-winged Blackbirds. They were flying all around us the entire time, calling. Also there:
- 1 American Crow
- 1 Eastern Wood-Pewee in the woods
- 1 Eastern Phoebe in the woods (grandma actually ID'd it first!)
- 2 Yellow Warblers! I could hear them singing 'Sweet sweet sweet I am so SWEET'
- 1 Common Yellowthroat! Singing a variation, 'Wichity wichity wichity' and only occasionally giving the 'wit' on the end.
- 4 Tree Swallows flying around us, staying silent
- 3 Mourning Doves (why am I seeing SO MANY lately?)
- 4 Song Sparrows
- 1 American Robin (poking around in the berries)
- 2 Chipping Sparrows

So awesome. We also spotted two Great Blue Herons flying near the rural roads on our way back out towards Hudson Falls. We also stopped at my grandma's house in Hudson Falls, and we spotted 1 Gray Catbird, 3 Black-capped Chickadees, and she had a singing House Wren come right up to her! I had to stifle a scream for glee. I've heard them calling all spring from a distance. This House Wren came right up like he/she is my grandma's best friend. It's possible that it is, as she said, "Oh, would you look at that!" Awww.

So yeah, AWOL Bluebirds at the WFA house. I missed them terribly. The female was impressing me the night of June 14th by having figured out that if she waits till dusk, the flagpole light will turn on and she can easily hunt all the insects she wants.

June 14th - WFA House; Empty Nest Syndrome

I finally did a little bit of birding at home again. It feels like it's been awhile, though I do watch the birds at the feeders every single day. We've had a nesting pair of Chipping Sparrows (which fledged on the morning of June 13th), a nesting pair of Bluebirds (the baby seemed to still be in the nest box on June 14th but not a single Bluebird was spotted today, June 15th), and a nesting pair of American Robins (they fledged at some point in the morning of Sunday, June 14th). There are ALWAYS other American Robins who like to eat what seems like every earthworm in our front yard. Also, American Goldfinches frequent the yard daily to fight with each other, eat a ton of the bird seed, and to go nuts every time another species fledged. They're great fun to watch, and the males sit around making different calls much to my amusement. There's also a House Wren who calls every day, and an Eastern Wood-Pewee and an Eastern Phoebe that come around later in the day and call from a hidden tree. And the day that the yard did not get Black-capped Chickadees would be the day that I would be convinced a nuclear bomb must have destroyed all the wildlife and that death would be imminent.

I did actually bird on 6/14th at 11:25 AM:
- 2 Black-capped Chickadees
- 3 M, 2 F American Goldfinches, with one pair interacting (possible mating?)
- 1 American Crow (weird, because we rarely get them near the house)
- 1 Blue Jay
- 1 American Robin
- 1 House Wren
- 1 F Bluebird
- 2 Chipping Sparrows
- 1 White-breasted Nuthatch (a very welcome visitor/resident)

June 13 - youth and secret spot in Queensbury

I woke up depressed and tired on Saturday due to becoming recently unemployed. Well, my unhappiness was soon interrupted by constant alarm-calls coming from all over the backyard of the WFA house! I had no idea what was going on when I groggily stepped outside, till I saw a bunch of round little fledglings. They let me get close while making their machine-gun calls. Chipping Sparrows! It sounded like there were 10 of them. I really only counted about 5 or 6. They were enjoying the many feeders around the yard. They kept up quite a racket until I left the house in the evening.

I also checked the robin nest, and the 2 babies were still in there, but they grow SO quickly. They were resting one on the other and peeking out at me, staying quiet. The robin parents were right nearby and not all that happy, so I left them alone.

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In the evening of Saturday I met up with my nature buddy Sue. We had delicious nachos and some beer and stimulating conversation about all sorts of stuff, which I greatly needed after such a hellish week! I really supremely appreciated it. We got quite the rainstorm that afternoon and we waited it out, and hit the road to go to the spot in Queensbury where she spotted Eastern Meadowlarks. Well, it rained right when we got there, and we were SOAKED by the time we were finished! I didn't care though. I wanted to see if I could catch a glimpse of a Meadowlark. It never happened (they seemed to be staying low in the tall grass due to rain), but we could hear two of them making various calls, including a rattle and another call that greatly resembled the 'peent' of the Woodcock. However, I had a blast! There were Bobolinks flying around! I've never seen a Bobolink before! It was interesting how they were silent while perched, but would call on lifting off. And they sound just like R2D2 (yes, I love Star Wars). Bobolinks just strike me as really bizarre birds, their head coloration makes no sense to me, and the call is, well, robot-like. So weird. I really like them. The female, however, was nothing to really look at, and the one I saw was keeping quiet while perched below the male.

There were also a bunch of Red-winged Blackbirds there. I never seem to write much about them, but they're one of my absolute faves. I love their colorations, their flights, and the multitude of calls. I also appreciate them being a massive source of confusion last summer when I kept hearing the males calling in a descending three-note minor key. No one believed me.

Also spotted was a completely unidentifiable sparrow. I've tried using multiple books and sites, and it's just a sparrow, there were so many conflicting markings and it was soaking wet when I saw it. The bird itself was soaking wet. I remembered seeing a grey chest with a black spot in the middle of the breast, and a yellow-and-black or yellow-and-brown necklace. Nothing matches. Seriously, it looked like a hybrid between an American Tree and something else. The call out of it's bill most closely matched a Savannah Sparrow, which would make sense habitat-wise. So who knows!

We also spotted a Great Blue Heron down the road in a stream; it was quite shy and likely wanted to stay out of the rain.

Wilton Wildlife Preserve - June 12

Oh hello there! Yes I've been behind. I'll get right to it.

Friday, June 12th I went to the Wilton Wildlife Preserve around 9:30 AM to help out with Karner Blue habitat monitoring at the Old Gick parcel. It's really something to see, the habitat itself is rather unique in upstate NY, all that sandy soil with habitat specific nectar plants. It makes me think of a beach without the water. It's also early successional, with a few older trees scattered here and there. Great habitat for birds, really. The open location is surrounded by woods, creating nice edge habitat.

I didn't really bird while I was helping the 5 other people there as I wanted to focus on counting lupine stems and nectar plants, but Chris, who works with the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and TNC, was curious as to what birds that area was attracting, so when those 5 went off to lunch I took the time to check out the area with my binoculars.

Here is what I got:
- 1 House Wren (calling)
- 1 American Robin (in the tall grass)
- 1 Black-capped Chickadee
- 1 Field Sparrow (despite that there had been a few more calling earlier)
- 2 Scarlet Tanagers (never did see, but they were making various calls, and this is the first time I got to hear their 'chip-burrrr')
- 8 Mourning Doves (I flushed them all in a group out of the tall grass)
- 3 Chipping Sparrows
- 1 Song Sparrow (though more had been calling earlier)
- 2 Indigo Buntings! Likely a breeding pair. They were difficult to ID at first, they were not making typical calls (at least, not the recorded ones I listened to - the song was a high note, then low, then back to the high one, then a low trill). If there's anything else with a royal blue body with darker (almost black) tail and lores, let me know. And the lighting was weird that day, making the male look like he had a yellow bill. Weird...
- 2 American Goldfinches
- 1 male Downy Woodpecker (I got a great sight of him)
- 1 Eastern Kingbird? Is the white terminal tail band diagnostic? Because I totally saw one. But this looked quite huge compared to the ones I'm used to. The head and face were deep black with an extremely contrasty white throat and breast, with buffy undertail. Had a quite sharp, very loud 'chip.' It was great watching it exhibit typical flycatcher behavior - the tail flicks and flying out from a perch to catch an insect and to fly right back to the perch.

I was excited! For not even having planned to go birding, that was a really good list. And the Old Gick parcel is not very big. Any place where I can see Indigo Buntings and Kingbirds and hear Scarlet Tanagers and Song Sparrows and Field Sparrows excites me. And the House Wren's song always brightens my day.

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I can't exactly recall now, but I believe this was the day that there were 2 Broad-winged Hawks flying over the WFA house calling out their "TEEEE-yeeeeeeeeee" whistle and 2 Turkey Vultures following closely behind.

Also an update on the fledglings. Who knows! There were chickadees alllll over the yard on Friday. I also found a nest with two baby robins in it on Friday! I was so excited!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Was in the Air Today

Sue has been letting me in on a spot that contains Eastern Meadowlarks and Bobolinks, two birds I have not seen before. I scoped out the area a little bit today and it looks very promising for other birds as well, and I look forward to going there this weekend. Plus it's only about 10-15 minutes from the WFA house!

Speaking of the WFA house, I returned to it soon after noon-time. As soon as I went out where the feeders are, I spotted 10-15 downy gray feathers all tipped in blue. My heart skipped a beat and I wondered if they were from a Blue Jay or if a Bluebird youngster had been killed. I looked all over and found no bodies to draw chalk lines around, so I just hung out on the deck. A Blue Jay swooped down and landed on the feeders and out of seemingly nowhere, the male Eastern Bluebird who has been nesting nearby began dive-bombing the Blue Jay! It was hilarious. The Blue Jay kept making alarm calls while attempting to dodge the hits, while the male Bluebird gave weak little calls while swooping at the Blue Jay's head. Each bird tried snapping their bills at each other in an attempt to rip out feathers. I spotted the female Bluebird nearby on a post and she was standing there flapping her wings and incessantly making alarm calls. I cracked up. The Blue Jay flew away and the Bluebirds went to feeding whatever they have in their little next box.

Just when I thought the backyard bird fun was over with, I went back outside a few hours later to talk to my mom. While standing near my car, the male Bluebird flew right over to the other side of it and hovered in the air! I did not even know Bluebirds could do that! He rested on a post and then flew down to some out-of-sight yarrow, probably to grab an insect or two. I had another laugh because a male Goldfinch tried knocking him off the top of the nest house, so the Bluebird put one open wing up in the air and made little alarm noises at him. I know that people love Bluebirds because they're pretty, but this guy is just comical.

Also while standing out there, I heard a Pileated Woodpecker across the road in some pines. It was not visible, but it was definitely loud. There's also a nesting pair of Chipping Sparrows in the yard - they are fairly shy right now.

I went back inside, ate some food, and came back out because my parents were making quite a bit of noise. I quickly found out that all the excitement was because 5 young chickadees made their very first flight out of their nest box! Nobody even knew they were there, and I had forgotten the nest box due to it being hidden by apple trees. Well, one of the little chickadees (they weren't much larger than a Ruby-throated Humminbird) had fallen into the pool and my dad fished him out with the net, and they couldn't get the chickadee off. I went over to see and it was soaking wet and shaking. It also screeched and jumped right off the next on my approach, and hid by some rocks and shook it's wings. I looked it over and it seemed fine other than stressed and wet, and since it was out of harms way and it was really warm out, I just left it there. It sat for about 20-30 minutes, and then my dogs demanded to be let outside, so I picked up the mostly-dry chickadee and set it back in it's nest box. My mom got really worried that the adults weren't back after an hour, so I checked on it. It just sat there for a moment, then realized what was going on and flew right out at my face and up into some trees, so I guess it's okay now!

And that's that. These things above are why I love birds so much.

Updates may include birds at the Wilton Wildlife Preserve, as I'm headed there tomorrow to help out with habitat monitoring, and then potential meadowlark/bobolink sightings with Sue. :)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

eBird Love

I'm quite sure I have not talked about how much I love ebird.org. You may have noticed that some of my birding posts turn into lists of species with numbers. This is due to me already having put the data into ebird.org and I'm looking it over to write my blog post.

If you're wondering what the heck I'm using ebird.org for, well, it's a site where you sign up and can log all your birding observations. They are flexible enough for users where I'm confident that it doesn't ruin the data they receive. There are different types of observations that you can log - traveling, stationary, casual, and area counts. If you're totally new to the types, I highly suggest you check out the FAQs there. They are great info! Trust me. I've done group point counts before, and it discusses how these are done, which is valuable info if you ever want to join in on point or Christmas Bird Counts. Plus, if you follow the FAQS on how to record better data, you'll be birding a lot like a professional would.

And if you're freaked out about having to learn latin names of birds, well, don't. You can search everything by common name if you desire.

And if you sign up, you can check out neat data on birds in all sorts of forms. My favorite is to pull up the map, type in a not-so-common species, click on the location when the map comes up and change location to 3 counties I bird in to see where previous birders have spotted that species. It makes me feel like a spy. Then I can plan to hide out and sneak up on the birds. Oh, it also shows you WHEN previous birders saw that species, which is INCREDIBLY helpful. I once asked it to show me where and when I can find the Pied-billed Grebe here, and I now know I'm less likely to see it and will have to probably wait till autumn. There's not many other places I can get this info.

I could go on and on. But I think you should check it out for yourselves. It's awesome. It's influenced me to bird even more.

Also, check out this awesome article about Anna's hummingbirds!

Posting Comments on This Blog

After finding out the default setting was apparently only registered users being able to post comments, I have changed it so anyone can leave comments. So, comment away!

Between training at work (ugh!!!) and me sifting through my massive personal to-do list and reading my notes from the great book Identify Yourself (a book on easily identifying the birds that seem awfully similar in the field), I'm a little behind on birding. I did notice some Killdeer near the road in Queensbury this evening though, and Northern Cardinals, American Robins, unidentified Sparrows, and Common Grackles dodging my car all through Argyle, Fort Ann, and those in-between places. I also heard some of those Cedar Waxwings with their whispery tsee calls.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Just A Note...

I haven't forgotten about this! It's on my list, for sure. I have some updates coming soon. I just started a new job and am not settled, so by the time I get home I'm really stressed out and not feeling up to taking the time to type here. Plus, I lost one of my birding lists, which is driving me mad! All I know is that it stated that I saw 1 male Yellow Warbler and 1 Batimore Oriole (I nearly screamed with glee - I can't remember the last time I saw one!) and 1 Gray Catbird during my lunch break at work last week in Argyle, NY. I'm super-excited to see Yellow Warblers up here. I first encountered them last summer in Erie, PA. They were THE summer bird there, just everywhere I turned in the state park there. I was sad that I probably wouldn't be seeing them in upstate NY, so they are very welcome. And the Oriole...well, people don't see those very often, and I love their orange and black combo. It was a treat.

This past weekend I spent some time at Moreau Lake State Park - absolutely one of my favorite places. I helped a bunch of boy scouts clear out a trail in the morning, and then came back in the evening for a Full Moon (strawberry!) hike. I had a blast talking to Gary Hill (the naturalist) in the morning, he always has fun little facts to tell me, and he's so kind. I don't know some of the other guys I see around there, but they are always cool. And of course, there is Dave (the environmental educator), who cracks me up when he gets going with his wit and is all around interesting to talk to about anything and everything. Plus seeing him wolf down about 7 hot dogs in one day is no less than amusing.

I didn't actually do too much birding there this time. Not that I wasn't interested, but when you're dangerously wielding some hedge clippers, it's a little difficult to stop and look up with some binoculars. And as much as I like going on hikes there, I have found that the summer groups are full of campers who expect Dave to babysit their loud, annoying children, which just ruins the mood. However, I did note the "Here I am, in the tree, look up, at the top" call I kept hearing during the morning adventure. My brain failed me at the time so I asked Dave if he knew, and he wasn't confident but thought it was the Red-eyed Vireo. He was correct!

There was a great point during the hike where Gary brought out his bird calls. The turkey call didn't bring anything, but his crow calls absolutely did - in no time a mob of American crows was overhead, loudly cawing. I can't even describe how awesome it was. It also brought in another bird who began calling behind us which caught the attention of another hiker, Dave, and Sue (who is so totally amazing I also have a hard time putting it into words). The call was confusing at first, but I quickly realized it sounded a lot like an American Robin with a sore throat, which Sibley noted as the call of the Scarlet Tanager. Unnamed hiker handed over his crappy binoculars, and between the bins and the poor lighting, all I saw was an orange-red belly and the underside of some wings which looked gun-metal grey. Sue pointed out that the bird had a forked tail. And Dave amazed me at his great eyesight - he pointed the bird out to me before I could remotely figure out where it was. So all of us there were quite convinced it was a Scarlet Tanager despite that observation didn't lead to anything too solid.

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I also did some birding last night at the WFA house. I'll leave the counts till later.

I do want to point out that while sitting in my car in Argyle, NY during lunch today, I caught sight of 6 Cedar Waxwings sitting in dead trees. It was very overcast and quite windy today and I noted that the dead trees were protected by much taller vegetation. They were very cute, all huddled together on the bare branches, making their thin, high tseee calls.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Betar Byway - May 31st

So yes. The Betar Byway. Yesterday, Sunday was my first time. And I am SO glad that I went, because what I saw was absolutely amazing.

I started at the main entrance off of First Street, by the gazebo. It was absolutely weird parking behind the SGF American Legion. The last time I did that was 9 years ago, when I was going to my first hardcore/metal show. So bizarre to think of it that way.

The weather yesterday was not very birdwatching friendly, and I feel like I missed out on a lot, despite the enormous amount of birds I got to see and hear. But the gusts were up to about 35 mph, which caused the leaves to overturn, which made the smaller birds invisible to the eye and songs incredibly difficult to locate. Awful. But it didn't stop me, oh hell no.

First birds I saw, were of course, Common Grackles. They were hanging out by the gazebo, snacking away in the grass. A Song Sparrow was calling right by the parking lot which already made my day; I love their calls.

When I got onto the actual path, I immediately spotted Mallards floating along in the Hudson River. Two mating pairs. There were also quite a few Red-winged Blackbirds along the trail, near the river. I counted 5 in all. There were also quite a few American Robins - I counted 7.

I saw a pair of Tree Swallows mating, almost by sheer accident. I had not actually spotted a bird but looked all around with my binoculars, hoping to spot something. I did, right off a horizontal branch of what looked like a dead birch tree. Little metallic green/blue bird flitting around. The male kept touching down to the female, which was sitting on the perch, and he looked like he was being so gentle.

Also swimming around in the water were two pairs of Canada geese, with young in tow! One pair had 4, and the other had 3. I couldn't take my eyes off of them, and they were attracting the eyes of other people using the trail.

I heard three birds calling the same call, but couldn't figure out what they were. I suspect they were actually Northern Cardinals with a call I wasn't used to hearing - in a high whistle they were calling something like, "Pew pew pew, chew chew chew, wit" with the pews being the highest and the chews being the lowest. I did hear other calls that definitely were Northern Cardinals, making their count up to 3 individuals.

A tiger swallowtail was pretty much blown against it's will in the air across the path. I was excited to even see one.

I started hearing another call that I was only vaguely familiar with, and it kept driving me nuts every time I'd hear it. I stalked one bird down with my binoculars and nearly screamed for joy: a male American Redstart! I did not become familiar with these birds until last summer when I was in Erie, PA. I'm so glad I've become acquainted - watching them spread their tails and seeing their orange and black patterns is great. In fact, they are just as beautiful in their buffy/tan with yellow colors - I suspect it was the female, but wasn't sure (the males look similar before acquiring their male colors). In my notes I had written down that I had heard a hurried, not-buzzy call much like "see-see-see-SEE-seet" and after listening to calls of Redstarts, this seems right on. The weird part is that I swore I heard about 10 different birds calling this.

Two American Goldfinches were heard. I actually don't often see them unless at home at the feeders. While looking for them, a female Hairy Woodpecker swooped right down in front of me to land in a dead tree. I watched as she furiously stabbed the bark off the side, searching for insects.

I laughed as I spotted a lone male Mallard. He quacked at me and swam up to me before finding out I didn't have food.

Further up the trail, it becomes a bit more wooded and on the left if you're headed south on the trail is a small marshy spot. I desparately looked for the Pied-billed Grebe, but no luck. But I was happy to hear an Eastern Wood-Pewee. I never spotted it but it sounded like it was following. Just a ways further the ground dips up a bit and you can see off the edge down onto an inlet created by the Hudson River. As soon as I looked down, I saw two white ducks with bright orange bills. I had absolutely no idea what they were. I found out later on that they were simply domesticated Mallards.

There was an American Crow in this area. Also in this area, SGF has another small pond by a small public water building. Two male Mallards were swimming around in it, and a song sparrow was nearby, calling.

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I made my way around that pond and found myself at the edge of the inlet. This was a great secluded marsh area, completely with plenty of lily pads. As soon as I got over there, I saw about three Red-winged Blackbirds flying around as if they were furious. I looked to where they kept diving down, and couldn't believe my eyes! A Great Blue Heron was lurching around quietly, although it did seem to get quite obviously annoyed at the harassment. At one point I watched the heron stand completely still and then dart it's neck and head straight down into the water only to bring it back up with a 4" fish in bill. Unfortunately I didn't get to watch him fish for much longer because those two white mallards had followed me, and came right up to me while I was watching the heron, and began quacking loudly. Jerks.

Also near the inlet marsh was an American Robin and a Mourning Dove. I also got to see a Common Grackle bathing, which was neat.

I heard something making noises while it was pushing through the dried leaf litter near the pond. I had to look. What did I see? A painted turtle! It didn't like the sights of me and stopped moving and squished it's head back into it's shell, so I had a stare and then left it alone.

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Further down the Byway past the inlet is a beach and a boat launch area. I was not all that impressed with that actual area, but there's some nice bushy edge habitat right near the water, and there's edge habitat on the other side of the parking lot. Birds love this. In that area I saw a Red-winged Blackbird (I suspect there were more but the wind was whipping), heard two Song Sparrows, two Tree Swallows flying overhead, and get this - 1 Eastern Kingbird! First time I have seen one around here. It was sitting up on a telephone wire, making no noise. I've actually only ever seen them on telephone wires. It's like they live on them.

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I had to head back past the inlet to get away from the beach. On my way back past it, I saw an Eastern Bluebird male sitting on a tiny sign near the inlet, keeping a close eye on me. Behind him on a bush was the female, keeping safe. While I was watching them, overhead I started hearing extremely loud, multiple, very high-pitched "tsee"s! Not only that, but the trees overhead were extremely fragrant. I looked up without even thinking, to see two locust trees in bloom, FULL of Cedar Waxwings! I probably don't have to explain the draw they have since I noticed most people LOVE them, but I enjoy watching their social habits. And for the first time ever, I got to witness their courtship. Pairs would sit near each other on a branch and the male would bounce away from the female toward some flowers, choose a petal, rip the petal off the flower, and bounce to the female, holding the petal in his bill for her to take. She would take it, bounce away from him, look away from him, look back at him, and bounce toward him and he'd take it back. They would pass the petal back-and-forth until she either ate it or it was blown away by the wind out of her bill. Absolutely one of the cutest, sweetest bird behaviors I've seen so far.

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I headed up Beach Road, which connects the Byway to a parking lot of the SGF Department of Public Works, and if you walk around the building you get to a sort of Byway Pt 2. I've walked this before, and it wasn't all that productive. It was even less this time around. Along the way, I heard 1 Grey Catbird, 1 Pileated Woodpecker, 3 Black-capped Chickadees, 1 American Goldfinch, and 1 Tufted Titmouse. I was disappointed and turned around prematurely. The trail was actually better for butterflies - I saw 2 Mourning Cloaks and a Tiger Swallowtail.

But when I got back to the Department of Public Works building, I got a treat. Two little streaky brown birds were flitting about, and sat on the fence mere feet away. I nearly passed them off till I saw that one of them had a reddish face and head! And such a huge, cone-shaped bill. Unbelievable. I found out later they were merely House Finches, but I have never in my life seen them. They were so pretty up close.

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I then had to backtrack all the way to my car, back along the Betar Byway. The birds mostly died down during that time because it was mid-afternoon and even windier. But I did get to see two Song Sparrows mating right in front of me on the ground. The male saw me and hid off in the bush nearby as if he was embarrassed.

Also along the way I saw an enormous grey squirrel. It was so huge and just laying on it's belly on a branch. Another came to it's defense and made catbird-like mews at me. I actually did hear a catbird soon after.

There were two more American Robins. Yippy.

I also got to briefly see one of my Turkey Vulture buddies just soaring along.

And then, I heard it. Earlier along the trail I kept hearing what sounded like a messy version of the "Sweet, sweet, sweet, I'm-so-sweet" of the Yellow Warbler. I could NOT find it with my binoculars and got really annoyed. It doesn't help that someone earlier this year claimed we do not get Yellow Warblers (I don't believe her). Anyway, I walked by this same tree covered with vines, not expecting ANYTHING, and then I heard it, loud and clear, and slow enough for it to be distinct: "Sweet...sweet...sweet...sweet...I...am...so...Sweet!" Yes Yellow Warbler, you are. Thank you.

Further down the path I heard was I swore was a Warbling Vireo. I define the call as buzzy, somewhat hurried warble, with two nondistinct phrases repeated and descending, with the last warbled phrase slightly ascending. You may not hear it like this. But when I do plays of the recordings, it's very similar on the recording as I heard it yesterday. Also, I had tried pishing the vireo. I swear it had the correct size and coloring, but it was flitting around too much to see the eye, and dog walkers scared it off before I got a chance. GRR!!!

I started walking faster down the trail just to get to my car. I don't know what possessed me to look up when I did, maybe the sun hitting the Hudson River the right way. As soon as I did, I saw the Great Blue Heron flying onto the shore! This shore is right out in the open, very few trees, and people everywhere. Somehow, I was the only one who spotted it. And it seemed that it was eyeing me as it walked along the shore. In fact, with eye pointed at me, it walked the same slow distance I went at the same time, stopping at the same points I did. It eventually apparently got sick of this and went back to the water edge, plopped down in, and started fishing away. This heron was catching fish up to 8 inches long! It'd stand there, let the fish wiggle, and then try to gulp it down. I couldn't believe it. Although, while watching it fish was great (especially when it was standing diagonally to watch the water), I think the best part is how shy the heron certainly wasn't.

And that concludes my awesome Betar walk. I will be doing it again soon.

General Feeder/Yard Update

To start with, upstate NY weather has been awfully strange lately. It's supposed to be warm, in the 70's, and sunny. Instead the temp has been all over, ranging from freezing at night to maybe 65*F some days, and it's been very windy with gusts up to 30 mph most days, and last week there were about 3 days with rain. It feels like autumn here.

But that hasn't stopped the birds from enjoying the yard. We've had plenty of goldfinches, both male and female. Watching the males fight is fun. A ruby-throated hummingbird is now visiting the yard. One rainy day I caught him far from the hummingbird feeders and instead checking out my window feeder that had a White-breasted Nuthatch perched. The hummingbird also looked in my window and then perched on a low branch nearby. American Robins have been visiting the vegetable garden. The bluebirds are still nesting. And one of my faves, the Tufted Titmice, have been at the feeders almost daily.