Wild Goose Chase becomes Snipe Hunt
Friday saw me rushing down the NYS Thruway again to see Daisy for the weekend. This whole long-distance thing is tough! But since she had some studying to finish up in the library I had some time to take a shot at the recently reported Greater White-fronted Goose at Blue Chip Farm in southern Ulster County.
Greater White-fronted Geese are much more common on the west coast and along the gulf coast in Texas and Louisiana than they are in the east. In fact, in the east they are a genuine rarity. For me, a Greater White-fronted Goose would be a lifer.
I hopped off the thruway in New Paltz and drove through the country to Blue Chip Farm. Red-tailed Hawks were perched on roadsides and Canada Geese fed wherever there was some water in the fields. Upon reaching Blue Chip Farm I was dismayed. I had pictured it as little farm where a Greater White-fronted Goose would be easy to find. Instead it was hundreds of acres of pasture and fields. After carefully looking over two distant flocks of Canada Geese I was beginning to doubt that the object of my twitch was present. Sure enough, when I found another birder he told me that the bird had not been seen since at least early the previous day. But when I asked him why he was staring so intently at a wet spot in a field he told me another birder had told him that he (the 2nd birder) had spotted 49 Wilson’s Snipe that morning!
Wilson’s Snipe aren’t rare but they are cryptically-colored and not the easiest bird to find. I hadn’t seen any this year so it was time I checked it off my year list. On to the snipe hunt!
The wet area my fellow birder was looking at seemed snipe-less so I drove further along the road until I came to a spot where several Ring-billed Gulls and numerous Killdeer were feeding. A small seasonal (I assume) stream flowed through a grassy ditch perpendicular to the road. I put my binoculars up and looked down the stream and immediately spotted a snipe in silhouette. When I opened my car door to get out at least five more snipe flushed and flew a short distance into the fields where they disappeared. But there were still many snipe to be seen.
I didn’t count 49 but I saw at least 20 snipe overall. It was amazing how looking with the naked eye revealed nothing but slow scanning with 10-power binoculars revealed snipe after snipe.
I may have missed my goose but seeing so many snipe made up for it! This is just another example of how you might not get the bird you’re looking for but as long as you are out and looking you will see something.