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

End of January Sightings

Published January 28, 2018
Tags: General Observations, Red-shouldered Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-headed Woodpecker, Iceland Gull, Northern Shrike, Rough-legged Hawk

Well, I finally resumed my task of surveying for Eastern Bluebirds for Audubon's Climate Watch the other day.  For this particular count, volunteers are asked to hold twelve five-minute counts in an assigned square of of a few miles - with each stop being at least 2 miles from any of the other stops.  Surprisingly, this takes quite awhile to accomplish.

Unfortunately, this year, there were only a few bluebirds to be seen.  I think, in part, because the weather has been so cold, with daytime highs under 20°F.

I did, however, find my FOY (first of year) Pileated Woodpecker at one of the stops.  I watched with fascination as this female flew up to a berry bush that was near where I was parked.  She contorted her body in all sorts of wild shapes as she downed quite a few berries in just a couple of minutes.

During the same week, I had two sightings of  Red-shouldered Hawks: one adult and one immature.  I had a distant view of a dark Rough-legged Hawk and a Northern Shrike too.

Heading up northward, to end one of my outings, I ended up at Sturgeon Point where again I saw the over-wintering Red-headed Woodpecker.  It's great he's still doing well!

Lastly, I saw my FOY Iceland Gull at La Salle Park in Buffalo.  It was a nice day out and I thought I'd take advantage of the sunshine and low winds to scope through gulls and ducks.  The Iceland Gull was pretty much the only thing to really note, other than a far out Snowy Owl on one of the breakwalls.

Many photos are distant, but hope you enjoy them...
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Immature Red-shouldered Hawk
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Distant dark morph Rough-legged Hawk
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Northern Shrike
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Pileated Woodpecker
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Pileated Woodpecker twisting for berries
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Pileated Woodpecker
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Adult Red-shouldered Hawk
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Continuing Red-headed Woodpecker
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Pretty little Iceland Gull
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Waaaaaay far out Snowy Owl on the breakwall


Bohemian Waxwing and Southtowns Birding

Published January 22, 2018
Tags: General Observations, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, Red-tailed Hawk, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl

Doing some birding around the southtowns this past week, I came upon a few nice finds...

First, nothing rare, but a real life example of how difficult winter can be for wildlife.  I know Red-tailed Hawks prefer a fresh kill of rabbits, squirrels, etc...  But along my travels, I watched how an adult Red-tail was grabbing a meal from a deer carcass, most likely the victim of roadkill.  Every time a car would pass, the hawk would fly to a nearby utility pole.  I watched it do this several times, grabbing a bite or two in-between.

A few days later, I came upon a Snowy Owl out in a farm field.  That was pretty cool as it turned out to be a Wyoming County first for me.

The best (or second best) sighting of all this past week, though, was on Sunday when I started out to do the Audubon Climate Watch count for Eastern Bluebirds.  I was heading to my first point when I spotted a large flock of waxwings - 70 in all.  The flock was large enough to stir a little excitement in me - hopes rising that maybe a Bohemian Waxwing would be in that flock.  I quickly got out my scope and began combing through the flock.  Sure enough, I found one Bohemian in the mix!

Unfortunately, the flock didn't stay for more than twenty minutes after I first found it.  There were a couple of small flocks that were hanging around the awesome nursery, Boston Hills Nursery on the corner, taking advantage of some good food sources on the young fruit bearing trees, but no Bohemian was found among them.  I was especially hoping a couple of best birding buddies would get the chance to add this guy to their Erie County checklists but... well, there will be another chance, I'm sure.  Maybe even this winter yet...

If you're not familiar with a Bohemian Waxwing, check out the photos below.  This waxwing is larger than a Cedar Waxwing; it has a gray belly, and a beautiful cinnamon flush to the face and deep cinnamon undertail.  It's a gorgeous bird and I urge you to check out any flock of waxwings during the winter.  This waxwing only visits Western New York during the winter and usually hooks up with a flock of cedars.  Their nomadic life style of searching for berries and fruit to eat, earned them the name of "bohemian".

Interesting fact:  did you know that waxwings can get become intoxicated from eating fermented berries?  It's a true fact!  They can actually die from this, so it can be quite serious!

Later that same night, I drove out to a spot I've been watching that looked perfect for Short-eared Owls.  Just as I was beginning to think it was another bust, one showed up on a fence post!  Very cool!  It was well worth the wait to finally see one at this spot.  I think it's kind of neat when you can envision some bird in just the right habitat - and then find you were right about it.  This sighting was very rewarding - maybe topping the Bohemian Waxwing...
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Red-tailed Hawk eating a deer carcass
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Flying off to a utility pole when a car came by
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Snowy Owl
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Snowy Owl
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Bohemian Waxwing (top) and Cedar Waxwings (bottom)
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Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings
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Bohemian and Cedar Waxwings
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Short-eared Owl shot in very low light


Mew Gull in Oswego, a Life Bird

Published January 20, 2018
Tags: Life List Happenings, Mew Gull, Slaty-backed Gull, Glaucous Gull

A Mew Gull was found by Jay McGowan on Thursday afternoon near the Oswego Harbor in Minetto, NY.  I woke up very early yesterday morning - and when I read his post about it, I quickly threw things together and made a run for it.  I had tried for this species once before in Dunkirk when Gale VerHague found one.  That bird didn't stick around - and neither did the Mew Gull found on Long Island earlier this past week.  This species doesn't seem to linger!

After a long drive, when I arrived at the spot, several birders were already on the bird.  A tough climb up a snow bank brought me to the group of happy birders. I got my first view of a Mew Gull, thanks to Bill Purcell sharing his scope.  It was a life bird for most of us and everyone was in great spirits.

The Mew Gull is a pretty, little gull with a subtle pink wash on its breast, a dark eye, a slightly darker gray mantle (back), and a more dainty bill than a Ring-billed Gull.  There was a slight ring on the lower mandible (bill), but nothing like a Ring-billed's ring.  It's also a little smaller than a Ring-billed.  When it flew, there was a nice show of white on the primary tips of feathers P9 and P10.  All in all, it was a very pretty gull and finally, an addition to my life list.

Nearby, at a spot along the river, a wonderful birder and all around nice guy, George Chiu, re-found a Slaty-backed Gull (another rarity that was found earlier in the week by David Wheeler).  Unfortunately, the bird was far out on the ice but we got nice scope views.  I actually took my first usable digi-scoped shot of that gull (included below).  Kevin Rybczynski will be proud!  To my surprise, there were two birders from Massachusetts there, hoping to see the Slaty-backed.  They were thrilled when I told them George had re-found the bird!  And I thought MY drive was long!

A Glaucous Gull was on the ice a bit closer and was pointed out by Pat Martin.  Thank you, Pat!

I was very glad I made the very long drive!
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Mew Gull
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Mew Gull
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Mew Gull
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Mew Gull
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Mew Gull
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Mew Gull
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Digi-scoped Slaty-backed Gull
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Glaucous Gull