So far this weekend, my family and I have continued to get more than our
share of birding joys and surprises on Finger Lakes Land Trust preserves.

On Saturday, Miyoko and I went to the Dorothy McIlroy Bird Sanctuary in
Summerhill, stopping briefly on the way at the Genung Nature Preserve.

Our first highlight was a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER singing a four-note song like
a Golden-winged Warbler, then eventually offering dazzling sight
confirmation right along the road by the Genung Nature Preserve parking

Upon our arrival at the southern border of the McIlroy Bird Sanctuary along
Peth Road, Miyoko spotted a big brown lump in the first green field.
Though it was less than ten meters away, completely out in the open, we
couldn’t figure out what it was.  A log?  A snapping turtle?  Then, the
shape burst up from the ground and with heavy flaps revealed itself as a
female WILD TURKEY (a first for my month-long Spring Bird Quest species
tally).  We think that she might have been flattening herself down over a
nest site, though we could not figure out why she would pick somewhere so
open.  Nor could we find any eggs or chicks in a quick scan.

Saturday’s other bird drama also unfolded along Peth Road, where we found
two SAVANNAH SPARROWS countersinging for several minutes in the same tree –
one sounding normal, and the other omitting the usual sad-sounding note
after his trill, rather like a Grasshopper Sparrow, but also eventually
confirmed by sight.   I kept expecting one sparrow to chase the other off,
but it seemed that they dueled to détente – each retreating to his own
field, one to the north and one to the south, with the tree itself serving
as a DMZ between them.

Then on Sunday, our son Tilden Chao joined us on a hike at the Logan Hill
Nature Preserve in Candor.  We found the expected great variety of breeding
songbirds, including fine looks at HOODED WARBLER, Chestnut-sided Warbler,
American Redstart, Blue-headed Vireo, Indigo Bunting, and others), plus a
couple of passage migrants (SWAINSON’S THRUSH and TENNESSEE WARBLER).

But the surpassing thrills of the morning came out of the blue from five
CHIMNEY SWIFTS, which first zoomed and banked in close formation and
exhilarating synchrony over the fields and across the sky, like an avian
version of the Blue Angels, then descended to the pond to drink on the
wing, skimming the surface with their little bills, all while hardly losing
any airspeed.  For a family used to watching Chimney Swifts over downtown
Ithaca but not elsewhere, it was a revelation to witness this species’
wildness up close, and to its relationship with habitat beyond our world of
metal, concrete, and glass.

Mark Chao


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