A great place to explore
I was heading to Plattsburgh the other day so I figured I would give myself a few hours to explore in and around AuSable Marsh and AuSable Point. It is a great place along the northern shores of the Adirondack Coast to poke around for birds, and the weather, although very windy, was pleasant. Wren and I started with a quick scan of the marsh from the short boardwalk. From here I spotted a Northern Harrier - before we walked along the campground road to check out the bushes for migrant sparrows.
The wind kept many of the songbirds quiet, but we did find a few American Tree Sparrows – recent arrivals from the north. There was also a small flock of Mallards in the marsh along Lake Champlain which included a couple American Wigeon, and we kicked up a Wilson’s Snipe as we went.
We headed to AuSable Point where Wren could play in the sand while I scanned the waves for ducks. And there were waves – legitimate waves – a welcome sight to the dudes who were windsurfing them. But while it was cool to watch them, I didn’t see any birds of note. With the wind so strong out of the south, nothing was migrating that day. After checking out another view from the point, we nosed our way back along the campground road – peering into the marsh along Lake Champlain as we went. We could see the Mallards and Wigeon and I soon noted a Greater Yellowlegs, trying to use the car as a blind to snap some photos of it.
The Yellowlegs fed its way along the shoreline and out of shot of my camera but as it did it chased up a second Wilson’s Snipe along the edge of the cattails. Our stop was rounded out by a flyover Sharp-shinned Hawk and we drove around to the back entrance to the wildlife management area – accessed off a gravel road which reaches Route 9 almost directly across from the junction with Route 442.
A walk on the dike
The path along the dike through the marsh looked like it had recently been cleaned up and we walked for a spell around the dikes in search of sparrows. We found a few species in this way including Swamp, Song, White-throated, and more American Tree Sparrows, as well as Dark-eyed Juncos. I also spotted two Rusty Blackbirds perched in a low tree – on their way through to wetlands in the south where they will spend the winter. Rustys are a species of growing conservation concern and they were one of the species I was hoping to find – I often find them during fall migration in AuSable Marsh.
On our way back out to the car 3 Horned Larks called as they flew overhead and we were met near the parking area by at least 4 Eastern Bluebirds – both species nice to find – and we drove up the road to check out the pile of Canada Geese which was hanging out on the edge of the marsh along Route 22, north of the entrance to the campground. The geese were feeding in the shallow water or resting on the exposed mudflat, and I gave a quick scan of the large flock. There were a few Mallards and American Black Ducks in the mix, but I became excited when I spotted shorebirds feeding on the mudflat. So, making sure I was well off the road, I scanned through them and counted 9 Black-bellied Plovers, 4 Dunlin, and a Lesser Yellowlegs. Not big numbers by any stretch, but it is always fun to see shorebirds – particularly as we get later into the fall.
I continued to scan the entire flock and soon noticed a small goose in the middle of the gaggle. I had to wait a few minutes for the larger birds to move to give me a view and for the goose to lift its head for better inspection, but its small size, short neck, and short bill confirmed it as a Cackling Goose – an uncommon species and a bird we look for in flocks of Canada Geese (and sometimes Snow Geese) this time of year. It seemed I had saved my best find for last and with that we headed to Plattsburgh for the regional soccer game, finding a few groups of recently arrived Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, and Greater Scaup as we went.