My friends and I checked out a few spots in the Champlain Valley this weekend for birds. We had hoped to find a variety of migrants heading south, and while that didn’t materialize, we did find a few nice birds. We had a bit of a late start after birding in the Lake Placid area in the morning, but we headed north to the Chazy Riverlands to look for shorebirds.
Chazy did not have large numbers of shorebirds, but we did find a lesser yellowlegs, a couple least sandpipers, a handful of semipalmated plovers, and two pectoral sandpipers. There were also family groups of pied-billed grebes and common gallinules. Also of note was a great egret which stalked through the shallow water in search of fish and frogs. Even without large numbers of birds, Chazy is a great place because most of the birds are generally quite close to you, and the afternoon light on them was perfect. And while the birds were still a bit far for my camera, I took a few photos. We stood for a short while and waited to see if any other shorebirds or ducks arrived, but none did. Beautiful though the setting was, we decided to move on and we headed south.
Our next (and perhaps our most successful) stop was at AuSable Marsh near the AuSable Point Campground and we found a broad-winged hawk soaring overhead on our way there. The marsh can be productive when not frozen and we quickly had a large number of wood ducks, a few pied-billed grebes, a greater yellowlegs, great-blue herons, and 7 great egrets – a nice tally for this region. A distant northern harrier cruised over the cattails and marsh wrens called from hidden perches nearby. We also found a swimming muskrat and a beaver – both coming out as the evening shadows spread their fingers across the marsh. The point itself, which sticks out into Lake Champlain, had a variety of gulls on it, but nothing unusual. The lake was also quiet, but it will soon play host to migrating ducks on their way south.
From AuSable Marsh we dropped briefly to Wickham Marsh Wildlife Management Area as it was getting dark. We don’t generally find too much at Wickham, but we wanted to whistle for eastern screech owl which we had already done at AuSable Marsh without a response. We whistled again at Wickham without success. We were however rewarded in our efforts by a flyby look at an American woodcock against an orange sunset and by a calling great horned owl – a nice end to our day.