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

BOS Cape May Trip and Gray Kingbird

Published November 04, 2016
Tags: General Observations, Cattle Egret, Brant, Northern Mockingbird, American Oystercatchers, Black Skimmer, Royal Tern, Willet, Carolina Chickadee, Eurasian Wigeon, Purple Sandpiper, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-throated Loon, Northern Gannet, Surf Scoter, Northern Harrier, Cooper's Hawk, Gray Kingbird, Cape May, dolphin

Alec Humann led a BOS trip to Cape May at the end of October and I had the great thrill of going. Alec did an outstanding job of organizing, planning, and sharing his extensive knowledge with the 15 of us BOS members who attended. I didn't get any life birds on the trip - although I came close to one - but I saw some great sights. Many - maybe even all of the others - got at least a few life birds.

Alec arranged a few banding demonstrations over the course of the five days we were there.  On a couple of nights, we got to see (and touch)  Northern Saw-whet Owls after being just caught and banded. We also had a couple of hawk banding demos where we enjoyed seeing up close and personal two Red-tailed Hawks, two Cooper's Hawks, and a Northern Harrier.  My favorite was the beautiful Northern Harrier with its soft browns and owl-like face. Seeing that bird so close was just wonderful.  One of the Cooper's Hawks was another favorite because I got to hold and release it!  The little guy snipped at me too, giving me a real appreciation for its sharp beak!  No worries - it really didn't hurt that much!  Rick Thomas took a video of the release that I need to figure out how to add here.

We saw some awesome birds: hawks, owls, shorebirds, passerines, and seabirds. All in all, I think the sea watches were my favorite activity. Seeing all the life out there on the ocean was so cool.  I've never seen so many scoters, Forster's Terns, and Northern Gannets - and we saw several groups of dolphins to boot!

We had a real fun group of all different levels of birding experience and Alec fielded our hundreds of questions very well!  I know I learned a ton on the trip and I'm sure everyone else did too.

It was hard leaving Cape May to come back to the diminishing birding of Western New York. However, as luck would have it, Melissa Mance found a Gray Kingbird over in Genesee County and it was still around as I was driving my westward journey home.  Even though I saw the one Greg Lawrence found earlier in the year, my life bird experience, I decided to take a slight detour on my way home and see this guy as it was giving great views.  Sure enough, the bird was there and I got some beautiful looks at it. The one Greg found was pretty far out and a scope was needed, so this was well worth the stop, even after having already driven 7+ hours!

Some photos of some of the birds seen on the Cape May trip and the Gray Kingbird are below...
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A Cattle Egret in a fir tree seen at the hawk watch on the first day
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And the next day, there were TWO Cattle Egrets!
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If I didn't get enough of those 11 Brant at home, I got my fill in Cape May!
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Northern Mockingbird
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American Oystercatchers
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A Royal Tern carrying a fresh catch
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We had a smorgesborg of shorebirds here: Willet, Short-billed Dowitcher, and yellowlegs are in this group.
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Carolina Chickadee
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A beautiful, male Eurasian Wigeon
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Black Skimmer
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Purple Sandpipers - Amazingly, Alec noticed a group of 4 sandpipers fly in while on our sea watch. They landed behind a rock jetty and we went out and found them!
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Ruddy Turnstones
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Two of eight Red-throated Loons that flew over us at one of the sea watches
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Two, young Northern Gannet flying in front of a flock of Surf Scoters.
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More Brant but a little closer. We probably saw thousands, altogether.
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Male Surf Scoter off the jetty where Alec and I were scoping for a Masked Booby. That hoped-for bird would have been a life bird for us both but no luck!
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Alec holding a Northern Harrier
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Alec holding a Cooper's Hawk
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Northern Harrier
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Cooper's Hawk
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Dolphins!
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Dolphins!
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Gray Kingbird seen in Genesee County on my way home
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Gray Kingbird


October Birding

Published November 03, 2016
Tags: General Observations, Black-bellied Plover, American Golden-plover, Sanderling, White-crowned Sparrow, House Wren, Red-shouldered Hawk, Northern Pintail, Rusty Blackbird, Bonaparte's Gull, Surf Scoter, Brant, Golden Eagle

Sometimes October can bring in some good birds!  True to form, we had a few rarities while we got to enjoy the last of the passerine migration and watch as geese and ducks began their movements through the region.

I think my best sighting of the month was of a small flock of Brant down near the lake shore. I had just arrived one morning and looked up to eleven geese-like birds flying relatively low overhead. They didn't call but my immediate sense was Brant. My camera settings were all wrong for a flyover, but I took a few shots anyway, hoping to confirm my suspicions.  After enhancing the photos later on, I was 99.9% sure they were Brant, but sent the photos over to Andy Guthrie just to be sure. Andy replied that they were, indeed, Brant - a county bird for me.  Brant were reported a few places in Western New York that day - the winds were just right, I guess!

Another great sighting, a little birthday gift for me, was that of a juvenile Golden Eagle. This bird graced me with low, lazy circles as he flew overhead just as I was finishing up some birding down by the waterfront. Wow! You couldn't ask for a better gift!

The month ended on a real high from the BOS trip to Cape May.  I'll post about that next.  Below are some photos of  the birds I was able to capture with my camera...
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A new Black-bellied Plover came upon the October scene
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...and Sanderlings too
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This bird nearly stayed through for the BOS October count. Someone advertised it on Facebook and I can't help but wonder if it was spooked as many of the "photogs" don't know how to treat these birds with respect and give them the distance they need.
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I was bummed I couldn't include it on the count. Sigh
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Here it is again - just two days before the count...
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Young White-crowned Sparrow
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House Wren
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Red-shouldered Hawk - a new yard bird for me!
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Northern Pintail
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Lots of Rusty Blackbirds were here as well as in many huge flyovers
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American Golden-plover - continuing for pretty much the rest of the month a little further north - these guys made it on the count!
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Black-bellied Plover
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Bonaparte's Gull
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A flock of Surf Scoters
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Brant
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A little closer view of the Brant
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My birthday Golden Eagle
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Golden Eagle


September Birding

Published November 02, 2016
Tags: General Observations, American Golden Plover, Black-bellied Plover, Lincoln's Sparrow, Indigo Bunting, Common Raven, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blackburnian Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Red-tailed Hawk, Marsh Wren, Black-throated Green Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, White-crowned Sparrow, Nashville Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Northern Parula

September began ushering warblers back through the region. Nesting is over at this date and adults and their young begin a slow migration down south. I like fall migration better for one reason and that is its pace is so much more relaxed, unlike the rush of spring migration when the birds are in a big hurry to get to their nesting grounds, pick a spot, build their nest, and raise a family.  Fall migration has none of that urgency and the birds filter down for a longer and more relaxed time.

The later shorebirds come through in September too. I was happy to get many looks at American Golden and Black-bellied Plovers. I visited them nearly every day during the month and they gave me a great opportunity for study.

On the 8th, Alec Humann and I had an awesome sighting of a Long-tailed Jaeger at the Erie Basin Marina.  The bird gave us extended scope looks, flew around and back the way he came. A few minutes later, he flew back through the same area a second time!  We were both pretty breathless by that point - and quite excited that it was a county bird for us both!

Celeste and I had a great time doing a lot of birding down in Chemung County during the annual two day NYSOA conference. We each tallied around 75 different bird species during our few days there.

One nice sighting for me locally, was that of a pair of Common Ravens right here in Erie County. I haven't seen them for a couple of years here as they seem to have abandoned the Huntley Plant in Tonawanda. I heard their loud croaking first, looked up and was rewarded with the pair flying right overhead. I've seen them, or at least one of them, a couple more times since then.

I also joined Greg Lawrence, his friend, Ethan, and Gale down in Cattaraugus County for a "big day" of county birding.  I ended up the last hour of the day on my own where I had a nice couple of Lincoln Sparrows - one of my favorites!

A few photos of some of these birds are below...
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Common Raven at Woodlawn
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Common Raven
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Common Raven
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Red-eyed Vireo
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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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Blackburnian Warbler in his fall plumage
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American Golden Plover
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American Golden Plover downing a worm!
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Cape May Warbler
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Cape May Warbler with a crossed bill
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Red-tailed Hawk at Amherst State Park
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Marsh Wren at Amherst State Park
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Two Black-bellied Plovers at Woodlawn - the one on the left is showing its black wing pits
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Black-bellied Plovers: peace and tranquility. I really enjoyed these two.
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Black-bellied Plovers
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Black-bellied Plovers - nap time for one
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Black-throated Green Warbler
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Ruby-crowned Kinglet
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Lincoln's Sparrow
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Indigo Bunting
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Young White-crowned Sparrow
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Nashville Warbler
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Chestnut-sided Warbler
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Yellow-rumped Warbler
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Northern Parula
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Another Northern Parula in mid-step!
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Another raven sighting nearly in my own backyard!