First, a paragraph of thoughts buffeted by the weather:
Over the past couple days we have had strong southerly winds, culminating today
in a front coming through with more northerly winds and a temperature drop of
over 30°F this afternoon. Today’s weather change is dramatic but the pattern is
typical here. Despite appearances, this change is not vindictive, and it is
even explainable: Our weather moves in from the west at our latitude (look up
Hadley Cells), and we are between the colder drier Canadian air and the warmer
moister Gulf of Mexico air. When a ripple along that boundary moves in from the
west, it’s often an obvious storm, with lower pressure and therefore a
counter-clockwise rotation (look up Coriolis Effect), just like all northern
hemisphere cyclones, such as hurricanes. That combination of rotating
counterclockwise while moving east causes warmer winds to come from the south
for one or more days before there’s precipitation and then colder air comes
from the north for one or more days.
Then some generalized remarks about birds:
Birds, being lightweight fliers, use the winds to help them travel long
distances with less effort. The recent south winds inspired several species to
move north into our area. These are species which can handle some of the cold
weather & precipitation which is sure to follow, and for whom the advantage of
being first to get to a breeding territory first may be worth the risk.
Now some bird specifics:
Tens of thousands of SNOW GEESE have come into the northern Cayuga Lake Basin
to feed in farm fields. They are in addition to the several-hundred to
few-thousand Snow Geese which were already in our area for weeks, creating a
white island when they rested in the widest part of Cayuga Lake between Aurora
and Dean’s Cove.
Among the new Snow Geese in the Mucklands along NYS-31 in Tyre has been at
least 1 ROSS’S GOOSE, reported by Wade & Melissa Rowley on 20 February with a
slightly confusing description, and by Robert Spahn et al and David Wheeler
A dramatic arrival was NORTHERN SHOVELER, which showed up in several places
today, 21 February, even though it’s a rare species in winter. To cite sighting
Stewart Park, Ithaca;
Visitor Center area at Montezuma NWR, Tyre;
Mucklands, NYS-31, Tyre;
Montezuma Audubon Center, NYS-89, Savannah;
Van Dyne Spoor Rd, Savannah;
Several of these places had multiple shovelers seen by multiple observers in
multiple parties at multiple times, but all today. It wasn’t always easy to
sort out who found the birds independently and who found out from someone else,
so the list of observers is very long (see Cayuga Bird Club website Resources
page with link to First Records). I find this a fascinating phenomenon, when a
wave of migrating birds intersects with a wave of birders.
Another rarer yet yearly species was also reported today, as far as I know for
the first time this year, in the Cayuga Lake Basin: EURASIAN WIGEON, seen by
David Wheeler in the Mucklands along NYS-89 in Tyre. The species was previously
found by Dave Kennedy on Seneca Lake which, is considered outside the Cayuga
Lake Basin despite draining into Cayuga Lake.
The first shorebird of the year has been reported as well: KILLDEER calling
over Fitzgerald Road in Hector, heard by John & Sue Gregoire, either on 20 or
21 February. I guessed the 21st, but I’d happily be corrected.
Another species was reported today just outside the Cayuga Lake Basin in the
Tompkins County Town of Caroline: a PINE GROSBEAK. If the photos in Steve
Kelling’s eBird report reflect how lousy his view was, then this is a great
example of piecing together subtle clues to build an ID.
- - Dave Nutter
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