On Tuesday, Election Day here in the United States, Will and I put off our civic duty and headed north for some serious birding. We had a plan that would take us from Albany north and a bit west to the Central Adirondacks in search of boreal woodpeckers and then north and east across the mountains looking for winter finches before driving back to the south along Lake Champlain looking for waterfowl and whatever other feathered creature might be willing to stay still long enough for us to identify.
I picked up Will at just after 5 AM in the dark, rain, and cold. Our voyage up the Adirondack Northway was uneventful except for a couple moments of sheer terror brought about by hydroplaning. After catching Route 28 just north of Warrensburg and driving northwest for awhile we were amazed by this weird, white, slushy stuff that made the road slippery…wait, that stuff was snow! Welcome to the Adirondacks.
When our elevation dropped as we entered the hamlet of Blue Mountain Lake both the snow on the ground and the rain falling from the sky disappeared. It was still gray, but not so gray that I failed to notice some birds perched in the bare branches of a tree. Our sudden deceleration might have startled Will a bit but he didn’t mind once we got out of the car and realized we were looking at a small flock of six Bohemian Waxwings! They didn’t stick around long and we certainly didn’t get great looks but a year bird is a year bird is a year bird. We also found out the next day that the small flock was only the fourth-ever report of Bohemian Waxwings from Hamilton County (the third was only about a week ago).
Will has a similarly lousy shot on his post about our day
We continued on to Ferd’s Bog when the waxwings flew off, and, once again, Ferd’s Bog was not kind to me. Why it has a reputation as a great spot to see boreal birds I’ll never know. Despite the fact that the sun had come out and it had turned into a glorious autumn day all we managed to see were Black-capped Chickadees and Mallards.
All the way to Ferd’s Bog for Mallards? The birding gods are so unkind…
Well, that’s not entirely true. At one point I could hear the tapping of a woodpecker but couldn’t find the darn thing. While I was walking up and down the trail trying to triangulate its location Will got bored and wandered back into the bog. After about fifteen minutes of fruitless searching I finally found the culprit: a Downy Woodpecker. Not exactly the Black-backed Woodpecker I was hoping for, and, to make things worse, when I walked into the bog to tell Will how much I hate Downy Woodpeckers he let me know that I had missed (what we later learned was) the fifth-ever record of Bohemian Waxwings in Hamilton County, when he saw a flock of four.
Downy Woodpecker (at Jones Beach)
The drive out along the dirt Uncas Road was also completely fruitless and we wouldn’t see another good bird until we stopped at a pond on our way to the Newcomb Visitor Interpretive Center and found some Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers, and Ring-necked Ducks.
At Newcomb, where we hoped to find winter finches at the feeders, we found only Red Squirrels and Black-capped Chickadees.
Leaving Newcomb, we proceeded along Boreas Road, where recent reports had placed Pine Grosbeaks, which would be not only a year bird but a lifer. Alas, we failed to find them. Instead, I drove Will half out of his mind by singing mindless, made-up songs about how birding sucks when you can’t find good birds. I’m not sure if it was the inane lyrics or my horrible voice that was worse…
A quick ride further up the Northway got us to Ausable Point State Park where we found Horned Grebes and other relatively common waterfowl and a big ol’ flock of Bohemian Waxwings which, despite being oh so close to the car wouldn’t let us get great pictures.
note the diagnostic orange-red undertail coverts in the second pic
Come back tomorrow for even better birds (and even worse pictures, if any!). Or, if you are really curious as to what Will and I saw next you can go read his post about it, that is, if you don’t mind a spoiler…
Oh, and by the way, learn how to win a big beautiful bird book by going here. Seriously. Do it. Why are you still here?