My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

Chirps and Cheeps Bird Blog

A Birder's Blog About Birding in Western New York

Batavia Birding and a Tufted Duck

Published November 23, 2014
Tags: Life List Happenings, Tufted Duck, Snowy Owl, American Pipit, Pine Siskin, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur

After a VERY snowy few days, I was thrilled to escape from the house yesterday!  Western New York received record breaking snowfall this past week, amounting to over 7 feet in some areas!  We had a little over six feet at our house in Orchard Park (conflicting reports say 63" or 71", depending upon whom you listen to).

Since some of the major roads were back open Saturday morning, I jumped at the chance to go birding with friends out in the Medina and Batavia areas.  We missed on a couple of our targets but saw some very nice birds, namely: a few Pine Siskins, 4 Lapland Longspurs, an American Pipit, a huge flock of Cedar Waxwings that numbered around 500 birds, Tundra Swans, a gorgeous, nearly all white Snowy Owl, and a couple of Greater White-fronted Geese. That was a great day of birding, despite the cold, soggy day.

Normally, that would be super birding for a weekend - but what a thrill to follow up with a life bird the next day!  A Tufted Duck was found inside the breakwall at LaSalle Park by birder-extraordinaire, Alec Humann. Mingling with some closely related scaup, the female's tuft stuck out a few times - and thankfully, it didn't escape Alec's notice. The female Tufted Duck was a little smaller than the scaup, had a darker back, lighter flanks, lacked the white at the base of the bill that scaup have, and, of course, had this wispy tuft that was very obvious at the right angle.  I had missed another of these ducks this past spring, so I was especially happy to get this life bird today.

The Tufted Duck is a rare visitor to our area with no record of breeding in North America. It hails from Eurasia, with infrequent visits to North America during migration. When found, it's usually a single bird that mingles with Ring-necked Ducks or Lesser Scaup. It is a diving duck whose numbers have actually increased due to its adaptation to man-made lakes and the open water created from gravel extraction.

I was able to capture a few photos of the Tufted Duck and posted those along with some birds from yesterday's birding and some "blizzard birds" that visited our feeders during this past week's Lake Effect storm.
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Pine Siskin at nyjer thistle feeder
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American Pipit
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Lapland Longspur
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Horned Lark to the right of a Lapland Longspur
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Snowy Owl
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Snowy Owl
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Snow Buntings
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Two Greater White-fronted Geese
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Tufted Duck
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Tufted Duck
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Tufted Titmouse during snow storm
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Tufted Titmouse
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House Finch (male)
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American Tree Sparrow
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Female Northern Cardinal braving the storm
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Male Northern Cardinal
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Downy Woodpecker
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Red-bellied Woodpecker
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Dark-eyed Junco
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Black-capped Chickadee
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White-breasted Nuthatch


Lark Sparrow and Snowy Owl in Hamlin

Published November 16, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Lark Sparrow, Snowy Owl

A Lark Sparrow was found by Brad Carlson up at Hamlin Beach today. I've only seen a Lark Sparrow one other time (A Lark Sparrow in Fort Erie), which was in Fort Erie and very close to being exactly a year ago by about 10 days.  This must be the time of year they're on the move.

Celeste and I went up to Hamlin Beach to see if we could find this rare occurrence and, as luck would have it, we found a group of American Tree Sparrows that it was hanging around with.  The sparrow was very cooperative, giving great views to Celeste, Chris Stanger, and I.

After the group of sparrows flew off a little further down the beach, we heard a Snowy Owl was found by Kim Sucy not too far away in Kendall.  We easily found the owl and enjoyed this very white bird for a little while before heading to Point Breeze.

At Point Breeze, we were given great looks by some Horned Grebes and Red-breasted Mergansers. A Glaucous gull was sitting on the pier with some Ring-billeds and Great Black-backed Gulls - and a little further out, a Red-throated Loon was drifting near the beach on the west side.  It seemed a little too dim for photos by this late point in the day, but now I wish I had taken a few of the Horned Grebes, loon, and the Glaucous Gull...

For a gray and cold November day, there was lots to see!
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Lark Sparrow
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Lark Sparrow
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Lark Sparrow
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Lark Sparrow
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Snowy Owl
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Snowy Owl


Cattle Egret in Hamlin

Published November 10, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Cattle Egret

Today, I finally caught up with a Cattle Egret!  I've tried hard for this bird this year. A big thanks to Dave Tetlow who found this one up in Hamlin, and also to Steve Taylor who re-found it the next day and reported it right away. As it turned out, this bird was found just around the corner from where I've looked several times this past month!

Right around noon, Celeste and I arrived at the farm where the egret had been seen. Celeste quickly had her eyes on it and soon, I did too. The Cattle Egret is surprisingly small but its brilliant white coloring made it stand right out from the pasture's greenery. The egret had attached itself to one of the cows and it was acting like it was its new best friend.  Where the cow went, the egret went.  I was nervous for the safety of this little guy as it went under the cow and in-between its massive legs. Fortunately, the egret's quick, darting moves allowed it to dodge the large beast's slow, plodding steps.  Still... one has to wonder about the Cattle Egret's mortality rate out in the farm fields.

You may already know that the Cattle Egret seeks pastures with cattle or horses because it feeds on the insects that the large animals stir up while grazing.  It's quite an interesting relationship. The birds have also been known to ride on the backs of the cattle!  I haven't seen this yet, but I sure hope to one day.  Other than its yellow bill, our bird was all white, lacking the peach coloration that is seen in breeding plumage.

Standing near the fence, we were delighted to see the cow slowly moving in our direction. It made us wonder if it might be curious or even hopeful that we had a snack for it or something.  And as it moved closer to us, so did the egret!  I fired off a ton of photos, very thankful for such a wonderful opportunity.

It was a gorgeous day to be outside and I'm pretty sure I smiled all the way home after that rare and close encounter!
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Cattle Egret following a cow around
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Cattle Egret and its new best friend
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Cattle Egret
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Cattle Egret
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Cattle Egret
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Cattle Egret
Reply from: Myrna Allen on 11/15/2014 12:35 PM
 How wonderful for you. You got some great photos too. I wonder if my son in Texas sees the cattle Egret hanging around his horses."