I made it out to Tifft Nature Preserve with my good friend Kevin Rybczynski yesterday to try and score a lifer Fox Sparrow that was spotted earlier in the morning. While we did not find the Fox Sparrow, we managed to get sucked into the magical world that is Tifft Nature Preserve. I was focused on finding that one species so I missed out on countless waterfowl and other fantastic birds that were there, but... I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves:
The last two days have been very waterfowl heavy. I took a long morning with my good friend Alec Humann, and hit a ton of places along the Niagara River hoping to score some good gull pics or a Red-necked Grebe for my life list on Sunday 24MAR2014. No such luck, but we did encounter a Common Raven engaged in aerial battle with a Red-tailed Hawk over the Mid-river Marina near the Huntley plant where the Raven are nesting on a smokestack. If you are looking for them: pull up to the plant, and pull over in front of the two smokestacks on River Road in Tonawanda. Follow the service ladder all the way to the platform on the closest smokestack to the road with your bins, and look just to the left of the stairwell. That is one giant nest! So, we did spot an Iceland and Glaucous Gull on our travels, but never a Red-necked Grebe and both gulls were too far out for photos. Alec and I split ways and I headed to Forest lawn Cemetery on my way home. It was a surprisingly good day there as I happened upon a Pied-billed Grebe, and female Ring-necked Duck right as I pulled up. Just a few minutes later I watched a Blue-winged Teal drop in from the sky (the in-flight picture). I called Alec and he made it over like a Super Hero responding to a woman in distress and mentioned it was the first report he had seen of the beautiful migrant this Spring. Good stuff. Later in the day, a male Ring-necked Duck showed up along with a pair of Hooded Mergansers. I'm missing tons of stuff, but I only grabbed good pics of a few things. I also made it down to Devil's Hole State Park the next day and found some beautiful Long-tailed Ducks. Other highlights at that location were a lone, breeding plumaged White-winged Scoter and an eye-level flyby of a Turkey Vulture while I was at the top of the gorge. The stairways on both ends are covered in ice and getting down or up is extremely dangerous. I would not suggest the journey to anyone right now until it thaws out. Here are a couple of shots form the last few days. Bird hard and lifer:
Today was one of those days that will go down in my birding hall fame history. I accompanied my good friend, Kevin Rybczynski out to the Braddock Bay Raptor Research hawk watch in hopes of scoring a Northern Goshawk or Golden Eagle today. We must have arrived a bit early as the watch was yet to be manned, so we took advantage of our time and headed over to a place nicknamed, "Owl Woods," to see if we could possibly turn up a Long-eared Owl or Northern Saw-whet Owl. Having never been there before I eagerly searched every young coniferous tree, and not 15 minutes into our search did I come face to face with a Northern Saw-whet Owl. I can't begin to describe that feeling of discovery when your heart beat skips and your stomach drops to your feet, but I love it. It's one of the motivating factors that probably keeps most of crazy birders out there in freezing temps looking for who knows what to turn up. We took few a pictures and gave our nocturnal friend the space it needed to rest. We then headed out to look for a recently found Eurasian Wigeon after that and failed miserably. Freezing cold and dejected about the missing duck, we decided to check back at the hawk watch and met up with the friendly british hawk watcher, Luke Tiller and put our eyes to the sky. We turned up a few Red-shouldered Hawks, a Cooper's Hawk, multiple Northern Harriers, a few juvenile Bald Eagles, as well as couple Turkey Vultures. The awesome amount of non-raptor birds like Snow Geese, and various waterfowl at Braddock Bay was amazing as well. The weather and winds were below optimal for raptor migration, but any hawk watch is a good hawk watch. Not to mention, I finally... after an entire winter of chasing, scored my lifer Norther Shrike right from the Hawk Watch platform after talking about how badly I needed one. You just can't beat it. Unless of course I mention that we headed back to the area where the Eurasian Wigeon was spotted the day prior and put it over an hour in the freezing cold for some amazingly difficult looks at that incredibly rare lifer for Kevin! You really have to earn some birds! Braddock Bay is a must visit location if you even remotely enjoy birding. Birding at its finest! And without further adieu:
I made it out for a little while with my girlfriend, Alma and my good friend, Alec today. I'm a sucker for anomalies and that's just what we found! This stunning drake is a perfect example of an American Black Duck x Mallard hybrid. Woohoo! It looks like the green paint got wet and started running down the duck's face. Just beautiful. We also saw a nice Horned Grebe in transition from molt to breeding plumage while we were at the Mid River Marina in Buffalo along the Niagara. Not a bad outing.