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Friday, June 02, 2006

Road trip to upstate NY

Bashakill (Haven Road) at dawn

(Photo credit - Rob J)

We took another insane road trip to upstate New York. Doug joined Sean, Shane and I on our second one day, thousand mile birding marathon. My infinitely patient wife never even asks why we I do these things. I guess she understands when I crawl through our front door, tired and dirty but excited about sharing the day’s events.

Our plan was to arrive at Bashakill WMA by 4:00am and listen for Barred Owls. We would then head to the road that bisects the marsh and listen for rails in the water and Whip-poor-wills in the surrounding woods. From there we would drive north to Montezuma NWR to look for a flock of pelicans, Black Terns and, nearby, a family of Sandhill Cranes. We also made an unplanned stop at Cayuga Lake. There were several other breeding songbirds along our route that we hoped to locate.

Finding the Barred Owl was pretty easy. We drove to an area where, last year, we had observed a pair of fledgling Barred Owls. Within a short time a silent, dark silhouette passed above us and vanished into the forest. Moments later came a loud, “hoo-hoo-to-hooo, hoo-hoo-to-hoo-aw”. We left him alone in his forest kingdom and drove to Haven Road. The idea of parking in the center of the marsh and listening for birds in the darkness never struck me as being a very difficult task. However, I never counted on thousands of breeding bullfrogs (possibly even millions). Their low, rumbling calls seemed to multiply across the marsh like ripples on a pond, growing in volume and intensity. Then, just as it rose to a crescendo, it would gradually diminish. Adding to the low frequency serenade was an American Bittern’s deep percussive, “oong-ka-choonk, oong-ka-choonk, oong-ka-choonk”. It was nearly impossible to distinguish any other sounds.

Snapping Turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

As the sky began to lighten, Sean spotted a Snapping Turtle laying her eggs at the side of the road. By sunrise I could see several dirt mounds where other turtles had recently buried their eggs.

Snapping Turtle eggs plundered by a raccoon

(Photo credit - Rob J)

At Montezuma we had hoped to find a reported flock of White Pelicans, Black Terns and a family of cranes. There were plenty of terns but, despite circling the refuge several times, we couldn’t locate the pelicans.

male Petite Emerald (Dorocordulia lepida)

(Photo credit - Rob J)

Throughout our day I noticed that Eastern Cottonwoods were creating flurries of fine, downy snow showers. The blowing seeds created deep drifts along the edges of roads and converted green lawns into fluffy, white carpets.

Hop Clover & cottonwood snow

(Photo credit - Rob J)

-Click here for more info on Hop Clover-

Carncross Road dead ends near one of the area’s many canals. The habitat on either side of the road is a combination of wild, grass meadows and cut corn fields. It is in this area that a pair of Sandhill Cranes nested and are currently raising two colts. By this point in the day we were all exhausted and the temperature was soaring. Sean parked the car at one end of the road and we split into two groups. Between the long distances and heat distortion we were quickly becoming disillusioned. To come so far in one day and not find the cranes would be a disappointing way to end our trip. We climbed into the car and drove slowly back to the main road. Just as the last field was passing from view Doug yelled, “STOP“. Sean backed the car up, we rolled down the windows and pointed our binoculars towards the south horizon. There they were, mother, father and the two kids out for a late meal. The four cranes were very far away so Shane set-up his scope. I have only seen Sandhill Cranes in Florida and never with their young. We snapped a few photos through the scope, high-fived each other then got into the car for the 400 mile drive south.

Sandhill Cranes with colts

(Photo credit - Rob J)

(Photo credit - Doug Gochfeld)

-Click here for info on saving cranes-

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Bashakill WMA, Blue Chip Farms, Montezuma NWR, Montezuma WCA, Cayuga Lake, 5/31/2006
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Snow Goose
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Green-winged Teal
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Northern Harrier
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Wild Turkey
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
Spotted Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Black Tern
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Barred Owl
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Barn Swallow
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Golden-winged Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Wilson's Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
American Goldfinch

Other common species seen (or heard):
Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, American Robin, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow

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