Saturday, February 28, 2009

Chimney Bluffs + Letchworth

It's been almost an entire month since I posted last--that's what happens when finals start creeping up on you. Let me see, let me see.....haven't seen much of the Red-Bellied Woodpecker at my feeders since his initial visit, spotted him briefly pecking at the suet a few days ago, but that's all. Juncos have started visiting very regularly, leaving their footprints on just about every inch of snow within a 2 foot radius of the "main" feeder post. At first there were a pair of them, but they must have told their friends, because the last time I counted the visiting juncos there were 7. The junco above is thinking, "num num num num." The downy and the pair of cardinals continue to come regularly, as well. The other morning I spotted the cardinals scavenging for dropped seeds on the ground at 6:30 am. Squirrels are still a moderate problem at my feeders. An invader (Feb 24):
on the approach (Feb 3): They can't climb the two posts I have up, but they do scurry in to get whatever dropped seeds they can, and my regulars don't appreciate that. The juncos put up with such intrusions for the most part, though. That about wraps it up for feeder news.

I'm really starting to itch for springtime now. To keep my impatience at least somewhat at bay, I've been exploring new places to go birding. On February 5th I drove out to Chimney Bluffs State Park. There was a lot of snow on the ground, and I wasn't able to hike the trails much at all (I knew I should have asked for snowshoes for my birthday afterall!), but it was pretty, and I can't wait to see it at other times of the year.
The other evening a friend of mine asked to use my printer, and while I fought with it (it was spewing lies about the new black ink cartridge not being compatible, when it was the exact same as the one I had just removed) he noticed the two big maps I have up on my wall: one of Massachusetts and the other of the Finger Lakes region. He asked if the push pins were birding places, I said yes, and then he asked why Letchworth had been ignored. I had indeed ignored Letchworth, in the bottom left corner of my Finger Lakes map. Odd that I overlooked it, too, considering it's impressive size: it's about 17 miles long and covers 14,350 acres. Well, lucky for me I have observant friends, who also happen to be Environmental Science majors with some knowledge of parks in the area. ;)

So, when I should have been packing to go home for break, I was driving out to Letchworth. It was beautiful outside, wanting so badly to be a spring day instead of a winter one, and trying so hard to fulfill that wish. I didn't have enough daylight to explore as much of the park as I would have liked, but it was a very satisfactory first visit. Even before I arrived I saw three red-tailed hawks hanging around 390 between exits 11 and 9. I hate driving on the highway and spotting a raptor, knowing I can't very well stop the car and grab my camera. Even on the rare occasion when I have spotted one while driving and indulged in the urge to pull over, I've never been able to get my camera out and aimed at the target in time. So, I was a little silly.....after the inital cursing that inevitably follows when this situation arises, I decided hell, I'm on my own schedule, and I don't see why I can't bird on the journey AND at the destination. So, I got off at the next exit, got on 390 northbound, and drove back. Then I "had some car troubles" and pulled over, turning on my emergency lights and thinking the entire time "this is unnecessarily dangerous and stupid" (I'm a sucker for those shocking video shows centered around dashboard camera videos, and I've seen a lot of videos of people innocently-enough pulled over, and then being crashed-into by another motorist). Anyway, I got some nice shots. The red-tail regarded me with slight curiosity before flying off into the woods behind him.
The dam at Letchworth:
I can't wait to see more of the park, which includes the highest waterfall in NY state. The trail ahead:
There were tons of downy woodpeckers and white-breasted nuthatches making their endearing calls, which have always struck me as a little silly-sounding.
Hogsback Overlook:
Better get to bed, if I'm very lucky my dad and I will take the kayak out tomorrow for some birding, although I haven't made up my mind yet about where I'd like to go: Assabet River, Great Meadows, or Oxbow?

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Fine Morning at the Feeders + Bird Beer

With all the excitement surrounding the injured Merganser last week, I forgot to even mention that I started seeing birds at my feeders. First it was a solitary black-capped, and a couple of days later a pair of cardinals showed up, too.
This morning I was thrilled to see the female cardinal at the feeder when I went downstairs for breakfast. The male was no where to be seen, and the female didn't stay too long. They seem to prefer coming to the feeders right around dawn. Then I noticed not one, but three chickadees! And my window feeder even got some attention, although I didn't manage to get a photo.

I am kind of assuming that the pair of cardinals are the same individuals each time I see them, which I realize may not be the case at all. I haven't noticed any particularly striking unique characteristics, but there also aren't a ton of cardinals in our backyard--ever. Or at least, that I've seen since we've moved in. (Yes, I know, I'm being hasty with my conclusions.)

My boyfriend's backyard is a different story. There's a decent amount of good brush cover, a nice thicket. The past couple of weeks I've been making notes (both mental ones and the real kind, on paper) of the "regulars" there. 4 male cardinals, 2 females, 2 mockingbirds, and a blue jay. I've also seen a goldfinch and a song sparrow, but they're not "regulars" yet.

Anyway, as I was enjoying the presence of the 3 chickadees at my feeders, I was treated to another very nice surprise--
And a moment later, another visitor!
I was thrilled to get such great shots of the downy, and the ones I got of the red-bellied woodpecker weren't bad either. My face must've been ridiculous. If any of my roommates had come downstairs they would've seen a young woman in her PJs with messy I-just-got-out-of-bed-morning hair, a camera around her neck, and a huge grin across her face. I think I may have done a little tip-toe dancing, too. I can't wait until tomorrow morning!

Then, in the afternoon, ANOTHER species to add to the backyard list. He didn't visit the feeder that I witnessed, but maybe in a day or two ;)
My afternoon class was cancelled, so I went out towards Braddock Bay. I ended up going down Edgemere Drive, Beach Ave, and exploring Ontario Beach Park (not exactly sure of the name) a little before continuing on to Irondequoit Bay. I'm just so infatuated with the diving ducks.

Saw some interesting.....hybrids? I really have no idea what to make of these two:
If anyone has any idea about those two.....waterfowl, by all means, let me know. I'd appreciate it. :) To be honest, they kind of remind me of Toy Story, the toys Sid puts different doll-heads on and whatnot. They just look.....I don't know.

There was an article called "Losing Ruby" in Bird Watcher's Digest (Jan/Feb 2009) I found therapeutic--I guess I really took it hard when the merganser didn't make it. So if anyone has recently had to say goodbye to a wild bird, I recommend reading it.

PS-My roommates rule. Check out what they got me for my 21st
You're jealous. Admit it.