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

 

 

 


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