Ken Kemphues and I led a group of 11 enthusiastic birders on a half day
trip along the east side of Cayuga Lake and venturing into the farm fields
of King Ferry. We started at Stewart Park, where the ice still extends far
out so that views of birds on the lake were pretty distant. We had better
viewing from East Shore Park, where all of us were able to see LONG-TAILED
DUCKS, WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS, and a raft of Aythya, which included both
GREATER and LESSER SCAUP, and a few CANVASBACK with the many REDHEADs.
COMMON GOLDENEYE and COMMON MERGANSERs were easy to spot, and a couple of
RED_BREASTED MERGANSERs were seen. A small flock of EASTERN BLUEBIRDS were
in a near tree, and Leigh and Wes spotted a YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER there
just before the birds took flight.
At Ladoga we found more LONG-TAILED DUCKS, but not many other waterfowl
besides GOLDENEYE, CANADA GEESE and a single PIED-BILLED GREBE. A surprise
was finding an immature COOPER’S HAWK that perched for good scope views,
enabling us to see its yellow eye, banded tail and slightly mottled back.
We moved on to Myers Point, and while viewing the waterfowl there,
including RING-NECKED DUCKS, we noticed the gulls suddenly take to the sky.
When searching the sky for a possible raptor, Ken and Wes spotted a new
lump on the spit - a SNOWY OWL had landed there! All of us got great
views- very close! The owl was resting pretty peacefully, but AMERICAN
CROWs started coming to check it out. The owl tried threatening postures
against three crows, but they drove it into flight. I believe Paul Anderson
was able to get a video of the Owl during this interval. Seeing this Snowy
Owl was a thrilling bonus for the field trip! We even heard its cries as it
flew low over the water being pursued by crows.
We next headed toward Belltown Dairy via Davis Road, looking for Horned
Larks or Snow Buntings, but found neither. Continuing toward King Ferry, we
turned on Center Road and were rewarded with about 20 SNOW BUNTINGs and
40-50 HORNED LARKs, many of them at the edge of the road making for good
viewing. Luckily auto traffic was nonexistent, so we were all able to get
well-positioned for spending some time looking at the birds, even seeing
the differences between male and female Horned Larks. As we left we passed
another large flock of Snow Buntings further down the road.
We took a break at the Corner Store in King Ferry and then went on to
Aurora. One BALD EAGLE was perched in the tree with the eagle’s nest near
Poplar Ridge Road and Route 90. A NORTHERN FLICKER and RED-BELLIED
WOODPECKER were active in the trees near the pullout. Further on, at the
Aurora Post Office parking area, we scoped the lake and added HORNED GREBEs
to our list.
We still had time to make it up to Union Springs to look through the ducks
on the North Mill Pond. Among the many REDHEADs were BUFFLEHEAD, GADWALL,
AMERICAN WIGEON, and a HOODED MERGANSER. MALLARDs were gathered near the
pond’s edge, and a couple of WHITE-BREASTED NUTHATCHes and a TUFTED
TITMOUSE flitted above us.
It was a great trip overall - good looks at the local winter birds in good
light - with a great group of people. We really enjoyed the day.
- Diane Morton
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