In the short-lived cool air of early morning on Monday, four birders joined me at the Goetchius Wetland Preserve in Caroline for the third of my four weekend bird walks for the Finger Lakes Land Trust Spring Bird Quest (FLLT SBQ).
We began our short visit in the big field by the parking lot. This area, formerly all grass, now has some large scrapes holding shallow water and gravel, which seem to constitute decent habitat for migrant shorebirds. We found two SPOTTED SANDPIPERS and a KILLDEER here, but no probable passage migrant shorebirds. We also found two Mallards, sparing me the embarrassment of missing this species on my weekend tally. The new depressions in the field do seem to break up the grassy field, but this year anyway, the BOBOLINKS, SAVANNAH SPARROWS, and EASTERN MEADOWLARKS are still present. Having grown accustomed to seeing testosterone-charged male Bobolinks relentlessly chasing females and each other around here on past SBQs, I was very surprised to see two males foraging together in peace in a gravel patch, along with four Rock Pigeons and a Mourning Dove. >From here, I also heard one typical whinny of a SORA, evidently from the expansive wetland down the road. We walked over and look a long look and listen, but alas, didn't hear the Sora again. (Later, John Confer arrived and heard one short grunting phrase from a VIRGINIA RAIL, which I missed.) But still we had a fine time just standing among many expected birds, including both WILLOW and ALDER FLYCATCHERS singing in territorial defense, plus a HOODED MERGANSER and three GREEN HERONS flying by. Then most of us headed over to the Baldwin Tract of the Park Nature Preserve, in time for the start of the weekend's last bird walk at 8:30. Here we had a terrific turnout of 20+ people. It was our great privilege to be joined by Frank and Blythe Baldwin themselves, who purchased this tract more than 30 years ago, protected it from development, welcomed visitors, and finally arranged a few years ago for the Land Trust to take it over. Everyone who loves this site and the birds who live there owe Frank and Blythe profound gratitude; it was very satisfying and fitting to be able to extend our thanks directly and en masse at this year's SBQ. After spending our first few minutes watching a snapping turtle laying eggs right by the road (Blythe put up a road-hazard sign to help protect it from parkers), we entered the preserve. We found almost all of the site's expected breeding species, including one or more singing PRAIRIE WARBLERS, MAGNOLIA WARBLER, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, CANADA WARBLER, OVENBIRD, and BLUE-HEADED VIREO. Regrettably, most of these birds didn't oblige us with good views. A WINTER WREN sounded its incomparably beautiful and complex song at least a couple dozen times by the shelter above Six Mile Creek, but despite our concerted effort, he too remained out of sight. Oh well - as I told the group, given a choice between a good look at a silent Winter Wren, or a prolonged audience with a hidden one, I certainly wouldn't object to the latter. We did get one reward for our efforts to spot birds - a HERMIT THRUSH, who took a long pause from flurries of conspecific chasing and perched for long scope views, right by the shelter. Finally, as I led the group through the sunshine back to the parking lot, my young baseball friend Mark Dodici came running up. He reported that he and a few others, who had stayed behind for a few extra moments at the shelter and creek, had heard a BARRED OWL hooting twice in the ravine! I ended up with a list of 87 species found on Land Trust preserves for the weekend. Notwithstanding my most embarrassing misses - Red-tailed Hawk and Downy Woodpecker - I'm pretty satisfied with the total, given the heat and my inability this year to do much birding on my own outside the group walks. I think that others found at least six species that I missed, including that rail and owl. And counting repeat customers, we had over 50 people come out for the walks! We collected over $300 in on-the-spot donations to the Land Trust; combined with pledges for my weekend tally, I expect that this year's SBQ will raise well over $3000 to support the Land Trust's continuing efforts to preserve habitat in our region. To all who came out for the walks; to all who supported me and the Land Trust with pledges; to Bob McGuire and Betsy Darlington, for assistance with guiding the groups; to Frank and Blythe Baldwin once again for uncommon vision and generosity in creating the preserved tract that now bears your name; and to everyone who has had the patience to read my rambling posts three days in a row - many thanks for another wonderful SBQ! Mark Chao -- Cayugabirds-L List Info: http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsWELCOME http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsRULES http://www.NortheastBirding.com/CayugabirdsSubscribeConfigurationLeave.htm ARCHIVES: 1) http://firstname.lastname@example.org/maillist.html 2) http://www.surfbirds.com/birdingmail/Group/Cayugabirds 3) http://birdingonthe.net/mailinglists/CAYU.html Please submit your observations to eBird: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/ --