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

Recent Meanderings

Published March 08, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Iceland Gull, Bald Eagle, Redhead, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loon, Red-tailed Hawk, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, Lapland Longspur, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-shouldered Hawk

In spite of the sub-zero temps and the growing mounds of snow, Western New York still has plenty of opportunity to see some interesting birds. I've enjoyed field birds in Niagara County, waterfowl in Oswego, Onondaga, and Chautauqua Counties, and raptors almost everywhere.

Speaking of raptors, I hear the unusually cold winter has been taking a great toll on raptors. The little Eastern-screech Owls are particularly hurting as it's been difficult for them to find rodents under all the snow. Rehabbers are working extra hours and extra hard these days to try to save the hungry owls, hawks, and the ducks that people are taking to them. As I write this post, however, temperatures are finally on a slow rise and the short-term forecast promises some relief for all of us winter-weary birders and our hungry feathered friends.

The best sighting I saw over the last two weeks was two female Barrow's Goldeneyes. I've seen a male up at Point Breeze a couple of times, but I've never seen a female up until now. They were easier to pick out than I expected. Their head shape is completely different than a Common Goldeneye's, with it being more flat on top but with a steeper forehead. Their bills were entirely a bright yellow-orange too, as opposed to just the tips being yellow'ish on the Commons.  The day Celeste and I saw the Barrow's, we also saw a pair of Trumpeter Swans, which is always a nice sighting.

Another nice sighting was of three Iceland Gulls down at the Dunkirk Harbor. Are all gulls the same? No! Haha! I think many people think they are, but, if you look carefully, there are lots of different types of gulls. The Iceland and Glaucous Gulls are two of the white-winged gulls we get to see in Western New York. Winter is generally a good time for those two species and now I've seen both this winter. Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters gave close views at Dunkirk Harbor too. And a Red-throated Loon was lazily floating around the harbor, at times drifting close to the pier as well. Unfortunately, during my time there though, it never raised its head. I'm posting a photo of it sleeping anyway!

There have been a few signs of spring: I found a small flock of American Robins enjoying some berries at Sinking Ponds in East Aurora and we had a first year male Red-winged Blackbird stop at our feeders a few days ago. Reports are beginning to come in announcing sightings of Tree and Barn Swallows, American Woodcocks, and Killdeer too. I have visions of warblers in my head and I am most anxious for spring migration to begin.  It's coming!
bird photo
Snow Bunting in Wilson, NY
bird photo
Horned Lark (left) and Lapland Longspur in Wilson
bird photo
Horned Lark and Lapland Longspur
bird photo
Snow Bunting
bird photo
Lesser Black-backed Gull in Phoenix, NY
bird photo
Trumpeter Swans in Phoenix, NY
bird photo
Two female Barrow's Goldeneyes in Phoenix, NY
bird photo
Female Barrow's Goldeneye
bird photo
Hooded Merganser in Phoenix, NY
bird photo
Horned Grebe in Phoenix, NY
bird photo
Red-tailed Hawk - East Aurora, NY
bird photo
A harbinger of spring, a Red-winged Blackbird
bird photo
One of 7 or 8 American Robins feasting on some berries in East Aurora, NY
bird photo
American Robin
bird photo
Iceland Gull at Dunkirk Harbor
bird photo
Iceland Gull
bird photo
Iceland Gull
bird photo
Bald Eagle flyover at Dunkirk Harbor
bird photo
White-winged Scoter at Dunkirk Harbor
bird photo
White-winged Scoter
bird photo
Surf Scoters at Dunkirk Harbor
bird photo
Bufflehead at Dunkirk Harbor
bird photo
The sleeping Red-throated Loon
bird photo
American Coot (with banded leg) at Dunkirk Harbor
Reply from: shelley on 3/11/2015 8:55 AM
 beautiful photos as always Sue and those female Barrow's goldeneyes are gorgeous . i always learn from reading your blog!!"
Reply from: tim on 3/16/2015 8:50 PM
 Well said post and beautiful photos as usual Sue,bring on the warblers!"


MORE Bohemian Waxwings!

Published February 22, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Screech-owl

True to form, you can wait and wait and wait for a life bird - and then, when you finally see it, you end up seeing it multiple times afterward!  Sure enough, that's what happened with the Bohemian Waxwing.  I saw my first one at Fort Niagara exactly two weeks ago (thanks to Alec Humann and Joe Fell's great find!) and then yesterday (thanks to Linda Holmes), I got to see one again only minutes from my house.  And not just ONE Bohemian Waxwing, but FIVE!  I heard there may even have been six there, but I saw five, for sure.

What a treat this sighting was - and the fact that such a rare bird was just a few, short miles from my house, was icing on the cake.  When I pulled into the parking area, I noticed the trees with berries on them alongside the driveway.  I'm not sure what kind of trees they were, but there were at least 25 - 30 Cedar Waxwings in the branches making their high-pitched "zeeee" calls - and there was the trill of the Bohemians mixed in. I saw the first one almost immediately - its cinnamon undertail was a dead giveaway.  The waxwings were quite active, moving back and forth between these trees and some others more to the east.  It was hard to get a good count and to keep track of them.

I slid down in my seat and, using my car for a blind, I was able to get some better shots this time.  One Bohemian, in particular, gave me some great views.  A male Eastern Bluebird was in the area as well as a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, two Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, and a Tufted Titmouse.  On my circuitous drive home, I came upon some more bluebirds and another Red-tailed Hawk.

Back home, our Eastern Screech-owl continues to show every couple of days or so.  We've named him Sherman and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to show the little guy to my kids and grandkids the other afternoon.  I set up my spotting scope in the kitchen and they all got really nice looks at the owl as it soaked up the afternoon sun.  I hope s/he decides to nest here!
bird photo
Bohemian Waxwing
bird photo
Bohemian Waxwing
bird photo
With a mouthful!
bird photo
And another...
bird photo
They are such beautiful birds
bird photo
Quite a stretch!
bird photo
The toss...
bird photo
...and the catch
bird photo
A group shot of two Cedar Waxwings (left) and two Bohemians
bird photo
A beautiful Cedar Waxwing
bird photo
Male Eastern Bluebird
bird photo
Female Eastern Bluebird
bird photo
Sherman
bird photo
Another Eastern Screech-owl seen last week
bird photo
Sammie looking at Sherman
bird photo
Kate looking at Sherman


Life Bird - a BOHEMIAN WAXWING!

Published February 09, 2015
Tags: Life List Happenings, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark

When I heard that Alec Humann had found a Bohemian Waxwing up at Fort Niagara, I didn't hesitate - I RAN to get some gear together and got out the door in record time.  I've chased this bird several times before and I didn't want to risk missing this one!

It was a brutal day - windy, very cold, with sleet and ice on the way.  The roads were still good when I left and I made it to the fort in record time. It was tough trying to find a good viewing spot, especially since the snow plow guys asked another gentleman and myself to move our cars. As I was maneuvering my car into a spot I thought would be pass their inspection, Kevin Rybz texted that he had the bird. I looked around and saw his car near the place I had just left.  I quickly made my way over to him but couldn't get my eyes on the waxwing. Many Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and oddly, 5 female Purple Finches were all foraging in the crabapple trees near the entrance to the park.  Motivated by the freezing winds, I got my car back to the circle and started scanning the waxwings again.  Finally, there it was!  The rufous undertail was beautifully visible as was its grayer, larger, more rotund body. The black under its bill was more prominant and there was more rufous around its face. What a gorgeous bird - and, as Alec said, "elegant". It was, indeed, elegant.

I couldn't stop smiling for hours. After that first sighting, Kevin, Dennis G, and I had a few more observations of the bird as it went back and forth from the crabapple trees to the spruce trees.  I finally left with a skimpy, few photos due to the weather conditions - but still giddy that I finally got to see a Bohemian Waxwing.

This waxwing, by the way, is an uncommon, but regular visitor to Western New York. It  breeds in northern Alaska and Canada, occasionally visiting our region in the winter as it searches for fruit and berries.

Did you know a Bohemian Waxwing can actually die of intoxication if the fruit it finds has fermented?  True fact!

A couple of days later, I went up to see if the bird was still around, but found the place to be rather busy with more birders and photogs.  So, instead, I left the waxwings and decided to pursue some field birds instead. The Lapland Longspurs had been eluding me all winter so I was bent on checking that guy off my list!

A tip from Willie took me down a few roads and, after some painful scoping at my first stop, I finally got my eyes on some longspurs!  A couple of places had more Snow Buntings than I think I've ever seen at one time before. There were many Horned Larks as well and I was able to get a few shots of two out of the three species - the longspur eluding my camera this time!  As I drove east, I found many more small groups of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. Raptors seemed to be drawn to their locations as well. I saw a Merlin, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks all out surveying the fields. Between the cold and snow, the poor little things have to worry about raptors!
bird photo
Bohemian Waxwing - my life bird and greatly sought after bird!
bird photo
Bohemian Waxwing
bird photo
Bohemian Waxwing
bird photo
Cedar Waxing - another beautiful bird
bird photo
Snow Bunting
bird photo
Horned Lark
bird photo
Horned Lark
bird photo
Horned Lark
bird photo
Horned Lark
bird photo
Horned Lark