In the last post our tenacious Century Run team had just left Cohoes for Vischer Ferry in Saratoga County, our fourth county of the day, and the rain had started coming down hard. The drive along Cohoes-Crescent Road and then River Road was without any new birds and our mood was falling faster than the raindrops.
At Vischer Ferry we briefly debated the route to walk, and decided on the towpath, as it would get us close to the American Bittern that had reliably called for me and other birders for the last two weeks or so. Chad and I set a brisk pace through the rain, our hands covering our binoculars to keep them dry. A cry from Will interrupted our power-walking. We turned and saw him pointing and yelling “Northern Waterthrush!”
Sure enough, the bird that Danika spotted and Will identified was working its way along the edge of the old canal, bobbing its tail and seemingly oblivious to the rain. Bird number 120 for the day!
As we continued our slog I heard a high-pitched four-part song. It tickled something deep inside the exhausted recesses of my mind and I got Chad to listen to it. I don’t remember which of us realized it first but we were both pretty sure it was a Blackpoll Warbler, but where was it? While we spished and peered into the canopy Will and Danika caught up and we all finally got on the Blackpoll Warbler foraging amid the leaves of a maple. Bird number 121! We really had no expectation of seeing two new species of warbler for the day at this last stop but we certainly were more than willing to take them!
At the normally extremely reliable spot for American Bittern we failed to get a response. I did learn that I do a pretty good imitation of one though (at least according to the rest of the team who might have been putting me on just to get me to do it again). We walked further along the towpath hoping to find something more but the rain kept coming down and we gave up and turned back. At the bittern spot I tried my imitation again but failed to elicit a response. I did spot a small duck on the wing and got my binoculars up, expecting to see just another Wood Duck and was amazed at the baby-blue patches on its wings. A Blue-winged Teal! My shouting and pointing got the rest of the folks on it as it flew into the rain. Bird number 122! One short of last year’s total!
The rain didn’t let up so we decided to forgo any more Vischer Ferry and head back to Cohoes and try for Common Nighthawks with the last light of day. They were our last bird last year and we had seen many swallows over the Cohoes Flats earlier and figured we had a good a shot there as anywhere. As soon as we got out of the car Will spotted one swooping over the river and we all got on it, and several others. It was a great way to end the day, even though we failed in our goal to top last year’s mark.
Next week I’ll do the rundown of our species list and a synopsis of what we know about how other teams did. It’s up here.