This morning I led bird walks at the High Vista Preserve and the Hinchcliff Family Preserve in southern Onondaga County up on the western slopes of Skaneateles Lake, to kick off this year’s Finger Lakes Land Trust Spring Bird Quest.
Our first group – comprising birders from Ithaca, Aurora, Auburn, Skaneateles, and even all the way from California – converged at 7:30 AM at High Vista, along Vincent Hill Road. We found an excellent variety of songbirds right by the parking area, including a singing MOURNING WARBLER, at least four CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLERS, BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, AMERICAN REDSTART, a pair of YELLOW-THROATED VIREOS, two INDIGO BUNTINGS, a SCARLET TANAGER, a couple of male BALTIMORE ORIOLES, and an EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE. The Chestnut-sided Warblers were about as cooperative and conspicuous as I’ve ever seen, and I think most or all of us saw the orioles and the wood-pewee. But alas, the other birds stayed mostly hidden, yielding views to only subsets of us, or to none of us at all. In the woods, which have some of the densest understory I’ve recently seen in a local forest, we heard two more singing Mourning Warblers, plus several HOODED WARBLERS on territory, some OVENBIRDS, VEERIES, a WOOD THRUSH, a ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, and others. Again, however, we didn’t manage to see any of these birds. Still, I think we got a sense of the serenity and lush vitality of those woods. And I think I had already reached my highest single-outing Mourning Warbler count ever. At 9:30, a spirited majority from the 7:30 walk rejoined me, plus a few new arrivals, at the Hinchcliff Family Preserve just five minutes north along Covey Road. Immediately upon arrival, several of us got views of a BROWN THRASHER that flew from the edge of the parking area back the hedgerow along the entry road. Then we proceeded slowly around the preserve. We took our time enjoying common birds such as Common Yellowthroat, Red-winged Blackbird, and American Goldfinch, and again got a couple of nice views of CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER. In the shady woods, cooled by breezes sweeping up from the lake, we found more of the same forest birds as at High Vista, including 3+ HOODED WARBLERS, SCARLET TANAGER, WOOD THRUSH, VEERY, ROSE-BREASTED GROSBEAK, and AMERICAN REDSTARTS in the sunny patches. But again we whiffed on getting more than the most fleeting views. We ended the morning with a slow walk back up the slope at the southern edge of the big grassy field. Here we heard BLUE-WINGED WARBLER, EASTERN TOWHEE, and a very close but still stubbornly invisible Chestnut-sided Warbler singing its smooth, unemphatic alternate song. Finally, to cap off our morning of vociferous but visually secretive birds, we got very close to another loudly singing MOURNING WARBLER in some dense edge habitat not far from the parking area. This time, a couple of us at least (not I) got a long look at the bird deep in a tangle of twigs and leaves. So a big question for me today is whether these 4+ Mourning Warblers were passage migrants or summer breeders on territory. My guess is the former, because I haven’t found these species in these preserves before, and also because that Black-throated Green Warbler was also presumably a late still-northbound migrant. I’m hopeful that the weather tomorrow morning will cooperate long enough to allow for a safe and fun (and maybe even dry) walk at the new Houghton Land Preserve along Spencer Hill Road in Corning, starting at 8 AM. I look forward to seeing some of you there! 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://email@example.com/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/ --