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Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge Tour and a Eurasian Wigeon

Published April 09, 2013
Tags: Parks and Preserves, Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Bufflehead, Wilson's Snipe, Greater Yellowlegs, Lesser Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Rink-necked Duck, Mallard, Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron, Purple Martin, Pied-billed Grebe, Gadwall, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Mergsanser, Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge

Presented with the fantastic opportunity to be personally toured around the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge by a local birder, I gathered my birding gear and took off for a very full day that brought 5 lifers and some great sights.

Celeste Morien was my knowledgeable guide who showed me many areas and great spots in the federal and state refuge areas that I never would've found on my own. By the way, Celeste did a "Big Year" last year and placed #8 in all of New York State, having seen 308 birds! Amazing!  She said it was a lot of work, though, and isn't inclined to do that again any time soon!

Our first stop was to try for the Eurasian Wigeon at Cinnamon Marsh - but no luck. The sun was at a bad angle and it was difficult to discern the waterfowl far out in the marsh. We left there and stopped next at Cayuga Overlook where we joined a group of school kids who were watching 6 - yes, 6 Bald Eagles: 2 adults and 4 juveniles. The adult eagles sat on or near their nest, while the others soared over the water scattering the ducks and geese! A little later, a juvenile gracefully soared by us, landing in a nearby tree giving us some pretty close looks. I got to see my first kettle: a group of eagles that funneled upwards in the sky as they took advantage of the wind currents. That was very cool.

Amongst the Canada Geese, we found American Wigeons, American Coot, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Shoveler, Green-winged Teal, Ruddy Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, and Bufflehead - I think I'm missing a couple too.

At Cinnamon Marsh, we were able to locate the Eurasian Wigeon that was found a few days earlier by Kurt Fox. The wigeon typically has a northernmost range in Europe and Asia - and was mixed in with some American Wigeons. He was easy to spot because of his beautiful, copper colored head that glowed in the sun. Those were my first 2 lifers for the day.

At Kumpf Marsh, we were happy to find some shore birds, including 2 Wilson's Snipes, 5 Greater Yellowlegs, a Lesser Yellowlegs, and a Killdeer.  The snipe and Greater Yellowlegs were also lifers for me.  I missed out on a nice photo opportunity of a couple of Pied-billed Grebes that lazily floated by. Northern Shovelers, Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teal, Gadwalls (my 5th lifer for the day), more Mallards, and American Wigeons were seen too.

Somewhere in the mix of marshes, ponds, and trails, we tried for Fox Sparrows with no luck. We checked out the refuge and state Purple Martin apartment houses that Celeste helps monitor; I think we saw 4 in all. We saw a pair of Belted Kingfishers at Spring Marsh where we also found more American Wigeons, Rink-necked Ducks, Mallards, a couple of Wood Ducks, and a Great Blue Heron.

At the end of the day, we wrapped up at Mallard Overlook, where, along with some Canada Geese, Greater Scaup, Pied-billed Grebes, Red-breasted Mergansers, and a couple of Common Mergansers, we saw 4 Osprey: 2 obviously paired couples. The newer couple appeared to be thinking about nesting on a snag out in the middle of the water.

I saw a whole lot and I learned a whole lot - and hopefully, most of it will stick!  Thank you, Celeste!
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Eurasian Wigeon - a lifer and a nice find!
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Eurasian Wigeon
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American Wigeon
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Tree Swallow
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Wilson's Snipe - another lifer!
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Wilson's Snipe
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Greater Yellowlegs
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Juvenile Bald Eagle
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Juvenile Bald Eagle
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Belted Kingfisher (female)
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Belted Kingfisher (female)
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Killdeer
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Turkey Vulture - for you, Celeste! :)
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American Kestrel
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American Kestrel