17 March 2015

Birds that find YOU

Here in Wellsville, there doesn't seem to be a lot that attracts out-of-town birders this time of year.  That's not to say that there aren't a few resident birders here, but compared to most other counties in New York, coverage here seems quite minimal.

To be honest, I don't mind that; I hope this dearth of coverage makes my menial checklists more valuable in filling some data gaps.  And as anyone who knows me knows, I find it pretty rewarding to have visualization of birding effort.  So yeah, I've been all about birding Allegany County for the last 1-2 weeks to see where it would take me.

Because I don't know this county like I should (considering I was born here), I've only been slowly feeling my way around, exploring roads here and there and repeatedly hitting some spots that seem productive.  But sometimes birds find you.

I was chugging down Highway 417 to the east of town when I passed an owl-shaped bump on a sign.  My first gut reaction was "Ok, who put a plastic owl decoy on a sign all the way out here?" but a split second later I realized it was a REAL owl, a BARRED OWL:
Woah, right?  I thought I had found something good for the county until... well... 10 minutes later I saw ANOTHER one somewhere else.  Ok, so maybe they're pretty thick around here.  Moving on.

Another spot I've checked several times is the Genesee River right in the middle of town (in the parking lot of a Tops grocery store, in fact).  One recent visit yielded 2 RED-BREASTED MERGANSERS which was flagged in eBird as rare.  Because of that fact, I snapped a picture so that whoever the eBird reviewer is would have some proof:
They're not rare around here but because I tire of seeing ROPI and EUST, I took a picture of this young BALD EAGLE along the river as well.  Of course, a gust of wind was blowing the neck feathers around AND the thing wouldn't look at me:
I've driven some of the hilltops around here hoping for more Snow Buntings but because we've gone into quite a thaw lately, more and more land is exposed and I think that's making the buntings harder to find.  In their place, however, were several HORNED LARKS.  Like the eagle, this one did a crummy job at posing:
Even with the recent thaw, bigger bodies of water around here aren't thawing quickly enough to get me excited.  This is a panoramic photo of a place we called Alma Pond (or Beaver Lake) which is a few miles to the SW of Wellsville:
Slap a filter on it via Instragram and one can make it look a lot more moody:
I did venture out on a county-listing endeavor yesterday though.  You see, although I spent many years growing up around here, I lack detailed (and reliable) records that I could enter into eBird.  And so in looking at my county map which I've posted lately, it's obvious that I had some work to do.  My goal yesterday was simply to make a checklist or two in as many counties as I could reasonably get to from home.  I ventured east, north, and then back west and south.  I ended up touching at least 10 counties yesterday which I thought was a good start.  Here's a map of only my NY counties:
You can see that I have 4 easy ones to visit up north and west of here; perhaps I'll attack those Thursday.

In any case, I ended visiting a hotspot or two yesterday in places I've hardly ever cared to look at birds.  One such public park in Chemung County had an area where families sponsored trees, benches, etc.  I was completely down with these folks sponsoring a bird-feeding station.  Even better, there was a little sign that said "Please fill the feeders".  Seeing that they were indeed empty and that the containers for seed below them were fully stocked, I was all about filling these bad boys.  I did just that and took a picture of of handy work:
Another hotspot I ventured to was calm, rather scenic, but completely lacking in terms of birds.  I'm sure this state forest will liven up when the breeding warbs return in a month or two:
One spot that had no shortage of birds was the Seneca Harbor Park in Watkins Glen.  In addition to species like RED-NECKED GREBE and GREAT BLACK-BACKED GULLS, the rafts of Aythya in the harbor proved to be entertaining for a while:
The CANVASBACKS were looking dapper.  This species is so-named because early Europeans thought that their backs was a canvas-like color.  In other languages, though, it basically translates to "white-backed duck".  Here's a male:
This species, like many ducks, dives completely underwater to find food.  The trick is to photograph them as they dive; here's one shortly after dunking its head:
Much more numerous than the Canvasbacks though were the REDHEADS.  Although they're somewhat similar-looking, note the gray back and bill differences on the Redhead.  This was an awesome place to get close looks at this sharp species:
In the end, it was one of my more enjoyable quick stops on my driving tour.  You can see the checklist here.