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BOS Trip to Buckhorn

Published January 01, 2018
Tags: Parks and Preserves, merlin, tundra swan, rusty blackbird, wild turkey, eastern screech-owl

Happy 2018 to all!

Today, on New Year's Day, the Buffalo Ornithological Society (BOS) held a field trip for all those "crazy birders" who wanted to get a jump start on their 2018 birding lists.  I am fully credentialed as one of those "crazies", so of course, I went!

With Shelley in tow, I headed the car up to Buckhorn Island SP where round 2 of the field trip was happening.  Shelley and I opted out of round 1, the Goat Island part, because of the frigid temps.  Word had it we made the right decision! 

Since we arrived a little early, we drove around looking for a reported Northern Shrike.  We didn't have any luck with that bird, however, we did find a trio of Wild Turkeys roosting in trees close to the park.  That was a nice start to our lists! 

When we pulled into the parking area at Buckhorn, Chris Kundl, the field trip leader, had handed over the leader's reigns to Alec Humann who has a great affinity to Buckhorn.  Alec showed us some of his favorite "hot spots" in the state park, starting with the feeding station he has set up at the Wood Creek parking area.  Our party of eighteen was treated to eleven Rusty Blackbirds and many American Tree Sparrows.  A good mix of White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Cardinals, and other songbirds were present as well.

My two favorite treats of the day were a perched Merlin and a red morph Eastern Screech-Owl.

I think the Merlin tolerated our group so well because of the icy cold temperatures.  Rather than waste the energy to find a new hunting spot, the falcon stayed perched while we camera enthusiasts rapid-fired like frenzied pavarazzi.  That Merlin is probably the most photographed Merlin in Western New York now!  In the midst of all the shutter clicks, a Belted Kingfisher announced itself with its loud rattle call.  It flew in and perched right above the Merlin.  One look at that raptor and the kingfisher quickly changed locations!

The bright sunshine made for a beautiful day in spite of the cold - and we all added several songbirds, ducks, and a pair of Tundra Swans to our lists as we walked along.  A Northern Harrier was a nice sight to see as it hunted over the cattail island.  And we all thought we had a beautiful, male Canvasback to add to our lists until Celeste astutely pointed out that the duck was rather large and rather "stiff".  Sure enough, that bird was a wooden decoy!  We all thanked Celeste for pointing out our error as we begrudgingly removed the duck from our checklists.

Back at our cars, the mobbing sounds of Blue Jays along with one very excited White-breasted Nuthatch reached our ears.  Tracking down the source of the frantic birds, we discovered a beautiful red (or rufous) morph Eastern Screech-Owl high up in a tree cavity.  Of course another photo session ensued as we excited birders adored this gorgeous little owl with our cameras.

All in all, it was an exhilarating first day of 2018!  Many thanks to Chris Kundl and Alec Humann for leading our fun field trip!
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Wild Turkey
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Rusty Blackbird
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Merlin perched - notice the blood stain on its belly. She's had a recent, successful hunt!
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Merlin taking a short flight
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Tundra Swans
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Red morph Eastern Screech-Owl