Monday, April 13, 2015

April 11 - 13 - Visiting friends and chasing a rarity

Ann and I visited our friend Loretta, in Columbia County in upstate New York over the weekend. Originally, we planned on driving up on Friday (April 10), but the weather was bad, with dense fog here at home and we heard rain in Columbia County, so we put the trip off until Saturday. Not even word of a Crested Caracara in Montgomery in Orange County was sufficient to change plans back. Sean Sime made the dash up for the Caracara and after seeing the bird called to say it seemed to be happily feeding on a carcass and would probably stick around for at least a day or two. Saturday dawned bright and sunny. I did a quick walk through Inwood Hill Park early and did not find much. Ann and I then packed and headed up to the Caracara spot outside Montgomery. I kept checking the online bird reports hoping for an update on the bird, but by the time we left there had been nothing. When we arrived at the spot where the bird had been on Friday, we spotted the carcass it had been feeding on, but alas there was no sign of the bird. I thought it was strange there were also no birders around, but lacking smart phones we had no way to check for recent reports. After watching for a while we continued on to Columbia County. When we arrived at Loretta's, her feeders were active with Red-bellied and Downy woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches and lots of Dark-eyed Juncos. The juncos seemd to be carpeting the grass in front of her house.

Sunday dawned with bright, brilliant blue skies. Loretta has a pleasant, little house off a dirt road with a back deck overlooking a ravine with a stream below. In the morning I heard Louisiana Waterthrush singing from the bottom of the ravine and Golden-crowned Kinglets flitted through the trees on the edge of the ravine. A Red-breasted Nuthatch coming to the feeders out fround was a pleasant surprise. Later in the morning I heard from Sean that the Caracara was still present down in Montgomery. The reason we had missed it (and the reason we hadn't encountered any birders) was that it had relocated to a nearby golf course. We now knew we would be going home via Montgomer again on Monday! Later Sunday morning we drove over to the Ooms Conservation Area, but on such a beautiful day there were lots of people and little wildlife so Loretta suggested moving on to the Wilson Powell Wildlife Sanctuary. Our highlight here was some non-avian widlife. Coming from a wet area up the trail from the main parking area was an incredible chorus of calling Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica). They sounded like a large flock of waterfowl. A recording of their chorus can be found here. At one point they briefly became mostly silent as a Red-shouldered Hawk flew low overhead and perched in a nearby tree. After giving a few screams the Red-shoulder flew off again and the frog chorus resumed.Back at the parking lot I spotted a Fox Sparrow and we heard American Goldfinches singing.

Monday morning was again lovely and sunny, though a little cooler than Sunday. I heard a Pileated Woodpecker calling distantly in the woods, one of about thirty species I recorded in the three days at Loretta's house. Loretta left early for work and Ann and I headed south after breakfast. A final wildlife spotting from the back porch was a Coyote passing through the ravine below.

Outside the village of Montgomery in Orange County we drove to the Scotts Corners Golf Course where the Crested Caracara had been reported fot he last several days. As we drove in the access road we immediately spotted some birders and photographers looking up into the trees on the edge of a open area. Sure enough, the Caracara was perched there. The owners of the golf course have been extremely generous to the birders arriving to look at the rare visitor, just asking birders to park in the lot near the clubhouse and walk back along the access road. While we were there a local birder arrived who told everyone that if we retreated to the parking lot and waited there the Caracara would come down from the trees and feed on the opossum carcass that we hadn't noticed on the grass. We all went back to the lot and soon the bird did obliging common down to feed giving us all great views.

Crested Caracara, Scotts Corners Golf Course, Montgomery, Orange County, New York.
Normally only found in the United States in Florida, Texas and some of the border areas of Arizona, this was needless to say, a new species for my New York State list - number 415!

While we watched, two adult Bald Eagles flew over and some of the local Turkey Vultures took an interest in the carrion.

Turkey Vulture, Montgomery, Orange Co., NY April 13 2015
Ann and I reluctantly left for home and some errands we had to run on the way. Altogether a fun and very successful weekend.

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