Friday, February 18, 2011

Signs of Spring in mid-February

The past two days have been in the lower to mid 50s and the snow from the many storms is melting quickly. It is really starting to feel like Spring. Went out to Waterport in Orleans county to pick up a new ATV and went birding at a couple places on the way home. The first stop was at Point Breeze, where the Barrow's Goldeneye has been seen all winter (and for the past 5-6 winters). When we arrived, we spotted the adult male Barrow's Goldeneye. In the channel at the outlet of Oak Orchard River, there were many ducks in very close. Here, I ran into Kathy Habgood, who was photographing a pair of Canvasback and some close White-winged Scoters. At Point Breeze, we also had many Greater Scaup, Common Mergansers, Long-tailed Ducks as well as close looks at a male Hooded Merganser.
Point Breeze-Orleans County, NY
Male White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca) just coming up and eating a mussel.
Another photo of a male White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca) just coming up and eating a mussel.
Another photo of a male White-winged Scoter (Melanitta fusca) just coming up and eating a mussel.
Female White-winged Scoter.
Canvasback (Aythya valisineria) with White-winged Scoters.

Later in the day, I went out birding with Kevin Griffith. We started out at Braddock Bay on the west spit where we trudged through deep, wet snow and spotted a lot of ducks at the mouth of the bay. Many of them included Greater Scaup but there were also good numbers of Redhead, Canvasback and Ring-necked Duck. Also present were Common Goldeneye and Common and Red-breasted Mergansers. However, our best birds were recent migrants and included 11 American Wigeon, 6 Northern Pintail and a male Wood Duck.

We checked the east spit of the bay for more waterfowl and found little more. Then, we went to Burger Park. Here, we spotted a nice Northern Flicker at the top of a tree as we drove in. However, the show had not begun yet. As we got to the bend in the road on the way in, we saw a show of Northern Harriers. There were five flying around in the fields and we even had them swoop down by our car a couple times. Unfortunately, I couldn't get any amazing pictures despite the opportunity but still came up with a couple good ones (click to zoom in for better looks).
Male Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) at Burger Park.
Male Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) at Burger Park.

After Burger Park, we drove a couple roads in Hamlin. Birds were few and far between, but North Hamlin Road had a good variety. We had a male Brown-headed Cowbird (early migrant perhaps or just an over wintering bird??) on the west end of the road.
Male Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater) on North Hamlin Road.

On the east end of the road we had a couple good looks at Horned Larks and also found a flooded field filled with birds. There were many Canada Geese and we were happy to pick out two Cackling Geese in with them and a possible third. Also, we had a few more American Wigeon and Northern Pintail as well as a Hooded Merganser amongst the Mallards. It was a beautiful day to be out despite the wind, since the warm air was such a relief from all of the cold of the past couple months.

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