Century Run Saga Part 2: Scouting Pays Off
When I ended part one our intrepid team of bird-seekers was still at Black Creek Marsh and the sun had just risen.
Flycatchers were calling and we spent more time than we should have identifying both Willow and Alder Flycatchers. They look almost exactly alike so we told them apart by their calls: in fact, we never looked at them, we just turned our ears towards wherever they were calling. It was a relief to get them out of the way though, because it would allow us to ignore them for the rest of the day.
Will managed to spot a Brown Creeper near its usual location and got the rest of us on it, a good find, especially as we wouldn’t get another the rest of the day. We didn’t really spot many other tough birds at Black Creek, and we were especially short of warblers, with only Common Yellowthroat, Yellow, and Chestnut-sided Warblers checked off when we got back in the car (and we were dismayed to learn that Larry’s team had managed to find a Blackpoll Warbler).
A quick stop at a Stewarts for coffee and food was a necessity before we hit up the Huyck Preserve and Partridge Run SWMA, two relatively high-elevation locations in western Albany County. Will and I had scouted them earlier in the week and I had returned for more scouting the day before the Century Run. Normally we would have Tom, an amazing birder who lives up there to guide our way, but he was graduating from surveying school so we were on our own.
First we pulled up next to Lake Myosotis in the Huyck Preserve, where we spotted Bald Eagles earlier in the week and where waterfowl sometimes linger. No on both counts. Disappointed, we continued up the dirt road to Lincoln Pond, a spot we had scouted heavily, and that we expected to pay off with Blackburnian and Black-throated Green Warblers, Winter Wren, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Spotted Sandpiper, Red-breasted Nuthatches and a bevy of other possibilities. We were successful on all of our targets except for Winter Wren and had the added bonus of Worm-eating and Black-and-white Warblers! Also, a young Bald Eagle was perched over the pond, a good find and a bird we were afraid of having to go out of our way for.
Back to the car for the rough back roads of Partridge Run (road names will not be included: we had to work hard to figure out where stuff was and so should you!). A stop where we knew a Canada Warbler would be produced…a Canada Warbler! A power line cut where I had Indigo Bunting and Prairie Warbler the day before produced just a Prairie Warbler. No big deal, we had plenty of other locations for Indigo Buntings. Onwards and upwards we drove until we were high enough to find our scouted-out Dark-eyed Juncos and Purple Finches with the added bonus of a Magnolia Warbler and another Louisiana Waterthrush. Then, just to show off, I stopped the car and said, “Here is the White-throated Sparrow spot.”
Before the windows were even rolled down we heard the “Old man Peabody-peabody-peabody” song.
I repeated the trick with the “I am so lazy” song of Black-throated Blue Warblers. Big Days aren’t successful just because of what happens on the day of the count, but because of the time you put in in the days and weeks ahead of time.
More back roads and a quick hit on the brakes at a birdy spot where Chad and Will focused on a flycatcher that turned out to be a Least Flycatcher and I focused on a small creek that amazingly held a female Common Merganser! A Ruby-throated Hummingbird then flew by in front of the car but as the driver I was the only one who spotted it so we couldn’t count it.
Another quick stop at a ravine loaded with Hemlock Trees got us our Common Raven, Scarlet Tanager and Northern Parula, but still no Hermit Thrush. Last year it was the only spot we managed to get one and this year we would end up doing without a Hermit Thrush, a big miss in this part of the country.
A last stop while still at a decently high elevation was at a several-years-old clear-cut where we hoped to come across a flock of migrating warblers, or Indigo Buntings, or anything, but the cut was as bereft of bird life as the moon is of cheese. We did get great looks at a brilliant Scarlet Tanager perched about five feet off the ground though, but we hardly even looked at it. After all, we were on a Century Run, not a field trip!
Leaving the western portion of our Century Run we had ninety-something species, a bit behind last year’s pace. But a lot of easy birds were still out there so we were confident nonetheless. Come back tomorrow for Part 3 of the Century Run Saga: Surprise Hits and Misses.