Despite the heavy overcast, 45 degree weather, and strong winds, Tifft Nature Preserve was alive yesterday. I encountered Wilson's Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Barn Swallow, Marsh Wren, Northern Shoveler, and multiple silent Flycatchers that I was not able to identify. The real highlight was the ever-elusive Virginia Rail. What a treat! I've included a few random shots from the prior days or so at Forest Lawn Cemetery as well.
Today I want to talk about my "spark bird." Sounds kind of funny, right? Am I talking about a glittery bird made from fire sparks that's about to burst into flames like the legendary Phoenix? Haha. Almost. A spark bird is the one that started it all for you. It's the bird that made you decide you would be a birder. It's a special bird, and probably your favorite one, or at least the one that gets extra attention every time you see it. My spark bird is the Magnolia Warbler, and this is the story: I was at Tifft Nature Preserve one day looking around for a little yellow bird. The Yellow Warbler breeds at Tifft in the thousands, but just for a second I could have sworn I saw a Hooded Warbler appear, and then flitter off in an instant. I was frantically searching around for the Hooded Warbler with my binoculars when out of nowhere came the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. A Magnolia Warbler. It landed on a branch right in my view where I was looking for the Hooded Warbler. It took my breath away. It filled my entire world with beauty. All there was was me and that bird in a special moment. I had no idea what it was, aside from the most spectacular gem in the universe. I just could't believe that I was the only person in the entire world enjoying that special treasure. Right then and there I decided I was going to be a treasure hunter for the rest of my life, and that I would dedicate myself to sharing that beauty I found in the Magnolia Warbler with the rest of the world. Right then and there I decided I was going to be a birder, and right now I'm still on that same mission to share the beauty of the natural world with everyone I can. I hope you find the same enjoyment in this Magnolia Warbler that I do, and if you have a spark bird story, I would love to hear it. If I ever find your spark bird, I'lll post your story along with a picture in one of my future posts.
Yesterday, 09MAY2014 was a huge success! My friend, John Sullivan and I participated in a 24 hour fundraiser to help support the Buffalo's Beaver Meadow Audubon Society. We found a total of 105 birds throughout the day! With all of the wonderful sponsors we were able to find, that should bring in exactly $700! We started our day at Forest Lawn Cemetery and racked up 60 species there. The next spot we hit was Rumsey Woods in Delaware Park where amongst a few good birds, I discovered a male Mourning Warbler in full breeding plumage. This bird was a lifer for me, and not an easy one to find! We made our way to Squaw Island North after that and picked up a few gulls. The rest of our day was spent at the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge with good results. In order to keep this post short, as I have a huge list and tons of pictures I want to post... I just want to thank everyone that came together to make this happen. You know who you are, and the entire natural world thanks you you for coming out in support of this venture. So, the birds in order of appearance were:
Hoot doesn't love owls? I know I do. You just can't beat seeing one of these beautiful nocturnal raptors out in the daylight. My friend Corey Holler stumbled upon this one being mobbed by American Crows yesterday, and gave me a call. Sometimes finding birds is all about having good friends. It was flying around Forest Lawn Cemetery trying to avoid the chorus of birds loudly alarming away its positions. That's as specific as I can get. In other news, Forest Lawn Cemetery remains the absolute best spot in and around Buffalo for Warblers right now. If you focus your search around the giant Willow Tree next to Mirror Lake you will not be disappointed. I hit Delaware Park with my good friends Alec Humann and Kevin Rybczynski before we went to Forest Lawn yesterday and found a Northern Waterthrush in the flooded woods between the soccer field and Hoyt Lake. We also had great looks at a Blue-headed Vireo. He was lit terribly for pictures, but I'll get some one day. Scored big on that Waterthrush though! After that, we checked Forest Lawn Cemetery and had a blast amongst the countless passerines there for about an hour. I finally got a few decent pictures of the Yellow-rumped Warbler with partial leucism that has been hanging around. Next stop was the Eternal Flame at Chestnut Ridge Park for Louisiana Waterthrush. Lifer. The bird was singing loudly on territory when we arrived. It was just a few minutes down the trail above the falls where the flame is. It was a bit more touchy than we anticipated, and flew off after only about a minute. Alec and I had brief looks at the bird. You'll want to look up instead of down if you go searching for it. It was signing from high perches in the conifers. Good luck! Now for a few pics:
Just a few pics from the last few days. I've only been able to break out for a few minutes at a time, and the weather has been abysmal to say the least. Poor lighting, wet gear, and cold hands most of the time. My buddy Alec Humann found an Orange-crowned Warbler at Forest Lawn Cemetery today. Lifer! The pics are from afar, but confirm the id at the very least. I've missed the Clay-colored Sparrow seen around Buffalo a few times due to a heavy workload. I want that bird so badly! One day it will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine. I hate to sound so negative! So...
While I was scoring my lifer Orange-corwned Warbler today, the Yellow-throated Warbler picked a bug off my arm! How awesome is that? I was punched in the arm by a rare bird alert. I guess I should also mention I'm doing a Bird-A-Thon fundraiser for Beaver Meadow Audubon. I have 24 hours to find as many bird species as I can around Buffalo NY. Traditionally people pledge a small amount per species I find. Nobody has ever found more than 100 species, so if someone pledged 10 cents per species, that wouldn't even be $10! People could also just pledge a flat dollar amount if they wanted. I'm up to $6 per species I find, plus a $70 flat donation on top of that! Shoot me an email if you want to help raise money for the birds! On to the pics: