New adventures on a beautiful day
With the beginning of the new year, and a beautiful day in the forecast, Wren and I headed to the Adirondack Coast the other day to see what we could find – it had been too long since we had explored there. We started at Westport like we usually do, and Wren led herself around with her nose while I scanned for ducks on North West Bay. The water was pretty quiet, but I did note a few Common Mergansers, Bufflehead, and both Mallards and American Black Ducks. The gulls on the sand spit at the wastewater treatment facility held nothing of note, and we continued on our way – taking Dudley Road on our way south towards Port Henry.
I was hoping for some raptors in the fields, but I didn’t notice any – instead finding a lone Snow Bunting along the edge of the road as it cut through Camp Dudley. I stopped in an attempt to get a few photos of the bird. After that I dropped south to Port Henry where the ice edge advancing from Bulwagga Bay and from below the Champlain Bridge had hopefully collected waterfowl.
Bulwagga Bay Ducks
I was not disappointed. From the Port Henry boat launch I could see a large flock of birds strewn across the flat surface of the water – dark blobs in the twinkling glare of the sun. I bumped into two birding friends at the launch and after looking through as much of the flock as we could from that vantage point, we drove a short distance south to the town beach (sometimes called Sandy Beach) where the angle of the light was much more conducive to finding birds.
We stood on the snow-covered sand for quite a while, sifting through the flock which consisted mostly of Common Goldeneye. There was also a large group of Canada Geese which included one Snow Goose. But soon enough we found Bufflehead, Hooded, Common, and Red-breasted Mergansers, a White-winged Scoter, and a Barrow’s Goldeneye – Common Goldeneye hybrid. Soon after that one of my friends noted a possible female Barrow’s Goldeneye, but then lost sight of the bird before anyone else got a nice look of it. The same thing happened when I spotted a male Barrow’s Goldeneye and we stood for a while trying to relocate the vanishing birds.
Eventually my friend re-found the female Barrow’s and we had all enjoyed nice looks of the bird, when I noticed the male Barrow’s in the foreground! It seems it had been hiding in plain view. Happy to have relocated the two Barrow’s, we turned to leave, topping off our stop by watching a Northern Harrier fly across the bay towards us.
Raptors in Crown Point
I had to make a stop near Port Henry and my friends had planned on heading north along the lake, so we parted ways. I first stopped at the small pond located in the yard of one of my friends. She had told me a Northern Pintail had been hanging out; she was right – it was still there and offered me a chance to take a few photos. After making my stop, I continued south where my friends had success on Crown Point the previous day.
Their prediction of lots of birds on the point was accurate. The small triangle of roads formed by Rt 185, Trimble, and Lake Roads was tremendous, and I stood in one spot counting 5 Rough-legged Hawks, 3 Red-tailed Hawks, 2 Northern Harriers, and a mixed flock of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings of better than 1000 birds! I waited in an attempt to get photos of the raptors, and picked through the feeding buntings and larks until I had found at least two Lapland Longspurs.
Eventually the light began to reflect soft and purple on the surrounding hills and I realized it was time to go. I had planned on ending the day at the Magic Triangle in Essex where I had hoped to find a Short-eared Owl. But I had been delayed a bit that day and didn’t have enough time to drive there with any daylight. So I opted for the next best thing by crossing the Champlain Bridge and trying my luck for owls and other raptors on the fields on the Vermont side of the lake. I found a few more hawks and another flock of Horned Larks by doing so, but as darkness fell, I came up empty on any owls and began my drive home. As I was driving, my two friends from earlier that day called me to let me know that they had taken my idea and had just spotted a Short-eared Owl in the Magic Triangle! Birding certainly teaches us irony if we are willing to pay attention. I’ll just have to go back and look for it another time.