06 March 2015

Winter Birding Around Cayuga Lake

The past week was a breakthrough with a few more year birds to add to the list.  After two weeks of temperatures hovering around zero and no new birds I was beginning to get a little itchy.  This is my first year living in a truly cold winter (who knew Colorado had mild winters!) and my cabin fever was setting in. Spring can't come fast enough for New York! 

To my surprise last Saturday was sunny, in the 20s and perfect for birding. My first stop was Myer's Park where I found Common Goldeneye by the skyfull.  Redhead and Common Mergansers were in large number as well. No new birds at Myer's but the sheer number of duck species was great as I reached double digits before leaving to the next stop.

After getting a brief look at a lifer White-winged Scoter in flight with the Goldeneyes I decided to try for another lifer - the Lapland Longspur.

I headed to County Line Road but there was some type of hunting activity going on with dogs and men in trucks at every stop.  I wasn't too surprised to find the usual birds to be gone but I did find a Horned Lark that gave me a discerning eye as I slowly drove by.  With the dip on the longspur I decided to just keep heading north and go to Long Point State Park.  There I found Tundra Swans, Bald Eagles, and a few land birds in the neighboring communities.

Feeling invigorated, I headed north to Union Springs where I found the pond teeming with Canada Geese, American Widgeon, Gadwall, and a new year bird - Horned Grebe.  You can see the little Horned Grebe in the photo above - just a wisp of a bird in all those geese.

At this point I had made the whole length of Cayuga Lake so instead of backtracking I merely decided to loop over the top and search for both the Gryfalcon and the recent Snowy Owls.  I scanned in the Gryfalcon territory but came up with only 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Rough-legged Hawk, and a very spritely Sharp-shinned Hawk that attacked a large flock of European Starlings.  The Sharpie came up empty and then an American Crow pecked the top of its head as it flew by.  It was interesting to watch the whole scene unfold.  Hunger was setting in as I headed to the Snowy Owl fields and I got a little mixed up and only later realized I didn't go far enough East to see the Snowy that was sitting in a field all day. A lifer left for another day!

Overall, great birding on Saturday and though I dipped on both a Snowy and an Eastern Screech-owl on Sunday it was a pleasant birding weekend. I was finally able to emerge from the house and get outside (though in only brief moments). This weekend I plan to bird with the Cayuga Bird Club on Sunday and hopefully find a few target species.  Wish me luck!

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