What an amazing day for birding (in spite of the fact that the weather was 
atrocious)!

Susan, Ann, and I headed out early, intent on being on Armitage Road just after 
the WESTERN MEADOWLARK woke up. We got to the corner of Rt 89 and Armitage, 
with just a little speeding, at 8:00 and, as we drove west on Armitage, less 
than 100 feet along, we heard the bird sing loudly three times. We jumped out 
of the car - and couldn't find it anywhere. We never heard it again. We ran 
into Micky Scilingo just up the road. He had seen and heard it earlier in the 
same area, but that was it.

>From there we headed for Carncross Road to look for the RUFF. Viewing was a 
>bit difficult as we were forced to scope into a fierce, cold easterly wind. 
>The reeds and the trees behind us were coated with ice and made a pleasant 
>jingling sound as the wind played with them. We found a few yellowlegs and a 
>small flock of Dunlin, but no ruff. We checked Marten's Tract (the ramp up to 
>the pavilion was iced over, and we could skate down) and the Morgan Road 
>ponds/marshes to no avail. Then we drove out Railroad Road. The marsh is 
>filling in with reeds and should be great rail habitat soon. The big surprise 
>was the 50-odd WILSON'S SNIPE that we flushed as we drove along. There were 
>certainly several times that number farther out in the marsh, but we never 
>even got out of the car.

Someone had the bright idea to check the sometimes-good shorebird habitat at 
the end of West Shore Trail. That's the dirt road left off of Van Dyne Spoor 
Road, heading east. We scoped the flooded corn field and found only a few 
Greater Yellowlegs as well as two Trumpeter Swans, a few Shovelers, Teal, 
Buffleheads and an Eastern Phoebe. At one point two yellowlegs flew in to just 
below us, calling loudly. Then another, somewhat similar-sized shorebird flew 
in, circled several times, and settled briefly near the yellowlegs. As it flew 
we observed the unique pattern on the upper surface of the tail: a solid black 
line down the center of the back that tapered out before the tip of the tail, a 
white "U" on either side of that line out to the tip of the tail. The bird 
landed facing away from us and we observed the broadly-barred tertials and the 
large, mottled feathers on its back (not the speckled, black/white pattern of a 
yellowlegs). We were able to take two photos and, putting it all together, 
concluded that it was a/the REEVE. The bird then flew back to the north end of 
the field and was not seen again. 

At that point (11:30) we were thoroughly chilled and welcomed the fact that 
Dave's (now Rose's) in Savannah had hot soup and tea. After lunch we checked 
Carncross again (no Reeve), Armitage again (no meadowlark) and headed back down 
the lake to see if we could find the CAVE SWALLOW that had been reported at 
Salt Point. 

There were hundreds of Tree Swallows, dozens of Barn Swallows, ten or so 
Rough-winged Swallows, and a couple of Bank Swallows foraging in the bay just 
north of Salt Point. Most of them were stretched out into the lake over the 
outlet of Salmon Creek. We walked west along the beach to get as close as 
possible. Shortly after we got there Susan called out "There it is" and, sure 
enough, the CAVE SWALLOW flew past us - then returned. For the next 15 minutes 
we stood on the shore as that bird swirled around us, sometimes coming as close 
as five feet from our heads. It felt that we could have caught it with a 
butterfly net!

It was already feeling like great day. After all, the drizzle had stopped and 
the temperature has risen into the high 30's. We made one more stop at east 
Shore Park where Ken Kemphues had found a SURF SCOTER earlier in the day. It 
was easy to find, close in, and surrounded by over a dozen horned Grebes. We 
watched it until a sailboat came by and flushed it towards Stewart Park. What 
were sailboats doing out there on a day like this??

Never have I seen so many rare/unusual birds on one day, at least around here.

Bob McGuire

 



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