My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

Sue's Bird Blog Archives

Cackling Geese, Grebes, Scoters, and More

Published October 10, 2013
Tags: Life List Happenings, American Pipit, Cackling Goose, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Black Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Surf Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, American Black Duck

I enjoyed some great lakeside birding along the shore of Lake Ontario today.  There were a few birds I was particularly interested in seeing: Cackling Goose, Red-necked Grebe, Surf Scoter, American Pipit, and a jaeger of any kind. I was with Celeste Morien and she was really hoping for a jaeger too.

Unfortunately, no jaegers appeared. And, as the wind wasn't very strong, we knew our chances were pretty slim on this gorgeous day, but we kept scanning the lake for one anyway.

There were plenty of other great things to see.  We found several Cackling Geese in amongst a over 150 Canada Geese. It was great finally getting to see that life bird! They were a little tricky to identify and I was very glad to be in the company of an experienced birder for help on discerning the subtle differences between those two species! Especially because the size of the birds can actually overlap...

There were many Horned Grebes on the lake today, with several of the same groups circling and settling on the water time after time, like they were restless or something. We eventually saw one grebe that was larger than the surrounding Horned Grebes with a much larger bill and more elongated head - a Red-necked Grebe! It was not in breeding plumage, but a little while later, we did spot 4 more that had throats that were molting to winter plumage, still displaying some red in their necks. These four were flying with two Horned Grebes making their size difference very obvious.

Another life bird for me today was the Surf Scoter. Two of these birds flew in and settled down near a large group of Red-breasted Mergansers. Once they settled in the water, it was easy to get an ID on them, ruling out Black Scoter as the only close possibility - which actually flew in a little later, giving both Celeste and I a year bird.

During the day, we were pretty sure a Snow Bunting flew over, we saw at least a dozen Common Loons, Long-tailed Ducks, American Black Ducks, some Eastern Bluebirds, a House Finch, Red-winged Blackbirds, and quite a few young Chipping Sparrows.

And for the icing on the cake, on the way home, we passed a field that had a lot of bird activity in it.  Suspecting Horned Larks, Celeste stopped the car so we could scope the field. Close-ups through our scopes quickly revealed to Celeste that they were American Pipits, another one of our target birds! There were at least 30 of them out there calling their chwee, chwee sounds and wagging their tails up and down as they walked and foraged the field.  One guy, not camera shy at all, remained perched on a wire and let me take a bunch of photos. While lake birding is fun, the distance factor doesn't give great photos, so thanks, little guy!
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American Pipit
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American Pipit
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Cackling Goose in the front with some Canada Geese
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Cackling Goose - front left: smaller, stouter bill, rounder head, and white line below the black on the neck
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Horned Grebes
Reply from: Lynn on 10/11/2013 6:29 AM
 I continue to be astounded at the variety of bird species throughout Western New York. Glad you were able to get a few more "lifers" checked off your list. Funny that the lack of wind was a detriment - what a beautiful Fall we've had.