Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Snowy Owls in Seneca County, NY

© Nicholas Kachala

January 15th was a wonderful day in Seneca County! 
3 different Snowy Owls...

On a more serious note, as I observed these birds at a safe distance, I witnessed two different parties approach one of the birds. They were walking through a farm field, obviously trespassing on private property. They got within 20 feet of the bird, snapped a few pictures with their professional lenses, and walked away in a hurry. From what I could see through my scope, the bird didn't look incredibly stressed, but it definitely increased it's head movements as it was aware that people were standing almost below it.

If anyone happens to go out and get these birds (or any Snowy Owl) in the future, just be sure to maintain your distance out of respect for the bird, and respect for other birders who want to share in the experience of observing one of these gentle beauties.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Birding Point Breeze to Seneca Falls, NY

© Robert Buckert

Had a very nice day of birding on January 21st... 
A bit of failure, but some nice surprises too...

I did the Hamlin Beach State Park to Point Breeze section of the Waterfowl Count along Lake Ontario in northwestern Monroe County, NY, with Greg Lawrence starting at Point Breeze. The fog became awful and provided pretty much no visibility of the lake, so we focused more on land and pond birds from Point Breeze to Buck Pond. (I won't get into TOO MANY specifics, but...) We had Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Snowy Owl as our inland highlights.

a cloud of Snow Geese above Cayuga Lake - © Robert Buckert
When I got home, I found out that Lynn Bergmeyer was heading to Seneca Falls for a second try at the Gyrfalcon's roosting spot where it has been going around 4:00 PM. This was our second attempt. We started at Cayuga Lake SP and got around 11,000 Snow Geese, a Ross's Goose, and some other nice waterfowl including the Black Swan (which is certainly an escapee). Unlike our first visit there on the previous Sunday, the Snow Geese largely outweighed the Canada's. They were flushed by a Bald Eagle and all departed around 3:35 PM, but most returned by 3:50.

Black Swan at left, on Cayuga Lake - © Robert Buckert

a raft of Snow Geese on Cayuga Lake - © Robert Buckert
We drove to the spot on Hoster Road where you could view the trees the Gyrfalcon has been resting in before it drops down into the quarry rocks for the night. One thing that was really cool during the wait was the same flock of around 2 dozen Horned Larks on Hoster Rd., except they were singing their spring songs! [editor's note: The weather was more like  March or April than January.] We waited there from 4:15 to 6:00 PM with NO FALCON! Maybe the Gyrfalcon took advantage of the nice weather to fly far away...

two Horned Larks flying - © Robert Buckert
Point Breeze to Seneca Falls in one day, with good photo ops, I can't complain!

[editor's note: each eBird hotspot link provides a zoomable map
 and a list of additional species reported]
Cayuga Lake SP--lake & launch http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L99628
North Hoster Rd., Fayette http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L2713867

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Raptors in Seneca County, NY

© Robert Buckert

On Sunday, January 15th, Lynn Bergmeyer and I took a day trip to Seneca Falls in New York's northern Finger Lakes Region, to look for the GYRFALCON. Although, like many others, we failed on the GYRFALCON, it was still a good day. We started at the Lott Farm* and Finger Lakes Regional Airport* and viewed two of the continuing three SNOWY OWLS. One of the owls was on a silo of the Lott Farm just east of Route 96. The other was perched on a telephone pole in the Lott Farm which is divided with many small roads (not real roads, just used for reference). The Snowy Owl was on a pole on "Hi Yelder Road." From there we just began searching the area for the falcon. We went all over Canoga Road, Hoster Road,* Ridge Road, Seybolt Road,* and Martin Road, along with many others. The search ended up fruitless, but we did have some other good birds. Early on, there was a flock of 24 HORNED LARKS in a field on Hoster Road. The flock consisted of adults and juveniles very close to the road. We did find the continuing NORTHERN SHRIKE on Seybolt Road.* [editor's note: there are four eBird hotspots for Seybolt Rd.] The whole day, there were RED-TAILED HAWKS everywhere. Also, there were GADWALLS and MALLARDS in a small, private pond that actually had open water. All of this was from about 10 am to 2:30 pm.

We then moved on to Seneca Lake just to see what was down there. The lake was mainly closed with ice, but there were many AYTHYA species in the open water. There were two BALD EAGLES, one Juvenile and one adult, on the ice, and as usual, many GREATER BLACK-BACKED GULLS. Also on the ice were RING-BILLED and HERRING GULLS. There were TRUMPETER and TUNDRA SWANS, COMMON MERGANSER, RED BREASTED MERGANSER, COMMON GOLDENEYE, AMERICAN WIGEON, and GADWALL viewed from Wolffy's Restaurant.* We then realized that there was a large flock of 20,000 plus geese on the ice farther north so we moved north and viewed this flock directly from Cayuga Lake State Park.* There were about 15,000 CANADA GEESE and 5,000 SNOW GEESE plus AMERICAN WIGEON, AMERICAN BLACK DUCKS, and MALLARDS. We were able to pick out one ROSS'S Goose, but no CACKLING GEESE.

After that fruitful portion of the trip, we went back to the farm fields of Seneca Falls where we were able to find one more SNOWY OWL viewable from Farron Road and an AMERICAN KESTREL. The SNOWY OWL was approached within 20 feet by two parties of photographers and caused the owl to become very alert. It was pretty troubling. I ask every one that reads this to remain a safe distance from the owls and to pay attention to their behavior to make sure you are not stressing them. Through this area there were thousands of SNOW GEESE flying overhead. As far as I know the GYRFALCON was not seen at all that day, but apparently it was seen in various places in Seneca Falls the next day. The last known was on the ice of Seneca Lake, viewed from Cayuga Lake State Park.

On an interesting note, when the GYRFALCON was best viewed on Saturday, January 14th, there was another gyrfalcon seen in Ithaca earlier that morning. I feel it is the same one and if so, it is showing how truly nomadic this bird is. That is not very far as the falcon flies.

From Seneca County we went to Bloomfield (Ontario County) to end the night with SHORT-EARED OWLS. As we approached the intersection of Taft Road and Sand Road, a SHORT-EARED OWL flew right in front of our car. We were running a little behind schedule, so we  were not able to get to the main show of five SHORT-EARED OWLS on Sand Road,* but we still got one!

Good Birding,

Robert Buckert (Rochester Birding Association)

*editor's note: each eBird hotspot link provides a zoomable map 
and a list of additional species reported:
Canoga Bait Ponds (Seybolt Rd.) http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L99394
Cayuga Lake SP--lake and boat launch http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L99628
Finger Lakes Regional Airport (0G7) http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L3284263
Lott Farm (restricted access) http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L262295
Lower Lake Rd.--Wolffy's Restaurant http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L1630504
North Hoster Rd., Fayette http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L2713867
Sand Rd. E of Taft, West Bloomfield http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L3320429
Seybolt Rd.--N of Bait Ponds http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L882643