Planning Around The Weather
I was looking at the weather for a planned guiding trip and saw our recent cold front poised to dump rain and wind upon us. We moved the trip off to coincide with the windy end of the front when it might push some birds of interest our way. It was good that we did. It rained and rained on our original date but when we met at Westport Boat Launch a couple days later it was sunny and blustery with a strong wind out of the NNE. That’s often the sort of conditions I hope for in the valley in the early fall as it is early for most of our waterfowl species and late for many warblers and shorebirds. As such, the beginning of fall is a time of transition, but those times can lead to some surprising and nice finds.
There wasn’t much at the Westport Boat Launch when we arrived, but we watched a few Common Loons, Double-crested Cormorants, and Mallards feed under the watchful gaze of an adult Bald Eagle. A Belted Kingfisher raced up and down the shoreline and a lone Killdeer fed on the exposed edge of the lake. As we were loading up to go we met up with a couple birding friends who were likewise checking out the lakeshore. We chatted for a bit and both of us promised to call the other if we found anything of note.
Finding A Little Gull!
We moved on to the outlet for Hoisington Creek where the wastewater treatment plant sits and after a brief scan of the water and sandbar we walked along the edge of the wooded patch where there was a lot of bird activity. We found a very nice mixed flock of birds including many Yellow-rumped Warblers, a Black-throated Green Warbler and a Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Flickers, White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Eastern Phoebes. We found Phoebes everywhere throughout the day. We also noted many Blue Jays migrating south – heading out of town on the strong winds.
While we were sifting through the flock a group of Bonaparte’s Gulls arrived at the sand spit without our initially noticing them, and so I took a few minutes to look through them – and found an adult Little Gull sitting there with them! We both enjoyed views of the bird before it was blocked from us by larger species of gulls and we waited until it came into view again. Then an immature Bald Eagle flew along the shoreline and chased everything up into the air and we could see the dark underwings of the Little Gull in flight. The gulls went over towards the Westport marina and we followed, quickly re-finding the Little Gull there – and remembering to call my friends to let them know about it, but I was only able to leave a message. We moved on to search along the fields surrounding Westport and eventually began to work into the Magic Triangle to see if any raptors were migrating through the area on the front.
A White-Fronted Goose!
Shortly after beginning our search of the fields I received a call from my friends. After hearing my message they shot back to Westport, but hadn’t found the Little Gull yet. Instead they had discovered a Greater White-fronted Goose with the recently arrived Canada Geese! So we turned and went back to Westport where the goose was dozing comfortably on the sand, occasionally lifting its head to show off its trademark white face. We waited a while and it eventually got and up walked around – displaying the black speckles on its belly and its orange legs and feet. And while there were only a few Bonaparte’s Gulls in view when we were there, my friends did catch up with the Little Gull later that day at the marina!
Excited by these two excellent finds my friend and I drove up through the Magic Triangle where the hedgerows yielded birds like Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Swamp Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, and many more Eastern Phoebes. We ended our day at Noblewood Park in Willsboro where the windblown sand spit was largely quiet as we scanned the white-capped waves offshore. We did, however find a Greater Yellowlegs along the mudflats, a Ruffed Grouse in the woods and another group of fall songbirds – most of them Golden-crowned Kinglets – to round out our day.
A couple days after our trip another birding friend of mine found a Eurasian Wigeon at Crown Point with a growing number of other ducks. I haven’t had time to search for it yet, but I’ll be doing so soon! After all, fall is here and each passing cold front can arrive with interesting birds in its winds. Check out our birding, outdoor recreation, dining, and lodging pages to plan your fall trip!