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

Ruff at Tonawanda WMA

Published July 28, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Ruff, shorebirds, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Short-billed Dowitchers, Pectoral Sandpipers

A Ruff was found today by Alec Humann at the west marsh in the Tonawanda WMA area. I've seen a Ruff before, but under terrible weather conditions, so seeing it in good lighting without getting drenched in pouring rain was a real treat!

I was hoping the bird would exhibit more breeding plumage because a male in that state is spectacular (I've only read and seen photos!). However, this bird was pretty subdued in coloring and was close enough in appearance to the other shorebirds that I'm pretty sure I may have overlooked it. Kudos to Alec for his sharp eye to have picked it out.

I have a few photos posted below - pretty much ID shots due to the distance - but if you're looking for this bird, perhaps they will help identify it for you.  Look for those orange legs!

The Ruff is a rare bird but a regular migrant in Alaska and along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as well as in the Midwest.  It winters mainly in sub-Saharan Africa and breeds in the Arctic (and some more temperate places) preferring freshwater marshlands and grasslands. They eat invertebrates but will supplement their diet with plant material. Occasionally, we will see one in Western New York. My first one was seen last spring in the same, general area: Rare Ruff in Shelby.

And did you know the Ruff is mostly silent? It may give a croaking call or low grunt when in flight, but otherwise, it remains quiet.
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Ruff - most likely a female
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In the background is the Ruff along with a yellowlegs in the foreground
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Ruff
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Ruff on the left and a Pectoral Sandpiper (I believe) on the right


More at Montezuma

Published July 26, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Red-headed Woodpecker, American White Pelican, Common Yellowthroat, Least Bittern, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Eastern Kingbird, Swamp Sparrow, Cedar Waxwing, Green Heron

I made the long trip back out to Montezuma today because an American White Pelican had been seen there and I just had to get another look at that massive bird! The first time I saw this species was at Tifft two years ago - and then again last year at INWR.  Lighting was very poor as it was just after sunrise when I arrived. But I did get to see him and the view was pretty decent in my scope.

I met Joe Brin for the first time there and together, we tried finding the Sandhill Cranes that I was pretty certain I heard (or was it a crow?). After getting directions from Joe, I left him and went to hike down Armitage Road. No Prothonotary Warblers were found, but I still had a few nice sightings: an Indigo Bunting, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Red-eyed Vireo, Cedar Waxwings, and, alas, a young Cowbird being fed by a House Finch.

I was surprised to see Joe coming up the road as I was walking back to the car; he found the cranes and had come to find me. Thank you, Joe! We went back to Knox Marcellus Marsh and scoped them for a little while - and then off I went again to do more area birding since I had come so far.

Many hours later, I ended the day with great views of the "famous" Red-headed Woodpeckers (an adult and its offspring) and several sightings of both adult and juvenile Least Bitterns.
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Least Bittern
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Least Bittern
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Least Bittern
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Least Bittern with his lunch
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Least Bittern
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Leaving his perch
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Least Bittern
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Least Bittern
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Red-headed Woodpecker
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Off to the right is a wood chip s/he knocked off
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Adult and juvenile Red-headed Woodpeckers
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Red-headed Woodpeckers - adult and juvenile
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Common Yellowthroat (male)
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Common Yellowthroat (male)
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Young Swamp Sparrow
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Eastern Kingbird (1 of 5 that must have been a family group)
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Cedar Waxwing
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Juvenile Bald Eagle
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1st Year Green Heron flyby
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Young Ospreys - what a huge nest they build!
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American White Pelican way out ont he marsh in very early morning light.
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Great Blue Heron - I think he's got something stuck in his bill.


Parakeets and Phalaropes

Published July 24, 2014
Tags: General Observations, Monk Parakeet, Red-necked Phalarope, Wilson's Phalarope, Caspian Tern, Lesser Yellowlegs

I was happy to learn the Monk Parakeets I've been visiting for the past few years were back again in the Rochester area.  I had gone back to see the parakeets in January, only to find that their huge, stick nest, atop a cell tower in a shopping plaza, had been taken down by some disgruntled shop keepers!  How disappointing!  BUT... they're BACK!  The parakeets have started a new nest at the same location - and I hope they're left alone.

When I first arrived, I didn't see any sign of the birds, so I sat down and patiently waited for them. I heard them three times before one finally appeared, their raucous calls coming from the neighboring trees.

This time, the bird sat down about mid-way down the cell tower on a ladder-like rung. I was able to get a few better photos at this lower height than my last visits.

As I was preparing to leave, I got a message from Pat Martin (thanks, Pat!) that the Red-necked Phalarope in the Tonawanda WMA had been refound by Sal.  At least we THOUGHT it was the same phalarope.  As it turns out, it was a different bird and this time, it was accompanied by two Wilson's Phalaropes to boot! I high-tailed it out there and was happy to see all three phalaropes, having missed the Red-necked a couple of days earlier.  There weren't nearly the numbers of shorebirds at the marsh on this visit, but we saw many, many more Semipalmated Sandpipers than the last time.

Although we seem to get a visit or two from the three species of phalaropes each year, they are still a rare occurrence and I love getting the opportunity to see these pretty, little shorebirds.  It was especially nice having them near one another so I could compare their physical characteristics. The Red-necked was much more dainty than the heavier-looking, more stocky Wilson's. The two Wilson's Phalaropes exhibited differences in their plumage. I'm not sure if it was a difference in their molting or if the one with more red was a female. Females in this species are the brighter birds, unlike most other species.

Some other species that were nice to see at the marsh were: impressive numbers of Great Egrets (nearly 80 of them!), Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, a Black-crowned Night Heron, an American Bittern flying over the marsh (good eye, Brian Morse!), Short-billed Dowitchers (a personal favorite), many peeps (Least Sandpipers and Semipalmated Sandpipers), many yellowlegs, Osprey, three Wilson's Snipes, and a few Black Terns, including a juvenile.
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Monk Parakeet
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Monk Parakeet
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Red-necked Phalarope at Tonawanda WMA (third bird from the right in the foreground - behind and just to the left of the little sandpiper)
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Two Wilson's Phalaropes among some Dunlin (the 2 lighter birds in the foreground, 2nd and 3rd birds on the left of the dowitcher on the far right)
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Wilson's Phalarope and yellowlegs
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Short-billed Dowitchers
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A Lesser Yellowlegs wandered closer enough for a photo
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Caspian Tern
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Great Egret
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Osprey
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Willow Flycatcher
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Song Sparrow
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Yellow Warbler
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Halloween Pennant