One of the inviolable truths of birding is that you cannot force the bird. Just because you’re looking for it doesn’t mean that it has to make an appearance, no matter how earnest your desire. However, if you observe the birds you do find, you may be pleasantly surprised. Today’s birding expedition was a perfect example of these principles in action.

The Core Team joined a few experienced birders from Hudson River Audubon Society on a mission to spot owls in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx. We had it on good authority that no fewer than three different owl species may be found in the park and our leader, Bill knew where to locate them. So our intrepid group — Bill, Paul, Walter, and us — relentlessly combed the conifer groves. But we didn’t find the Northern Saw-whet Owl. We didn’t find the Great Horned Owl. Alas, we didn’t even find the Long-eared Owl. We were perfectly owl-less.

We didn’t spot the birds we set out for, but we still had a great time. Our birding companions were convivial as well as knowledgeable, and as a bonus, we saw some new birds. Pelham Bay Park is surrounded by various bodies of water, including the Long Island Sound, the Hutchinson River, and Eastchester Bay. Walking along the shore, we were able to spot a variety of waterfowl. The Canada Geese were outnumbered by the noisy Brant, of which there were hundreds. American Black Duck and Mallard stayed close to shore, but in the midst of one flock, we spotted a beautiful American Wigeon drake. Bufflehead swam further out, as did a flock of Ring-necked Duck, which were new to us. Also new were the four Red-breasted Merganser that plied the waters between the ducks, geese, and swans. We may have also seen a Common Merganser, but why be greedy?

We also saw the usual variety of gulls, raptors, woodpeckers, and passerines throughout the morning. The one notable sighting was the charming fellow in our photo. While searching desperately for a long-eared, we uncovered this raptor’s roost. He perched only ten feet above us and sat still for a good five minutes. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until he finally flew off that we could positively ID him…a Sharp-shinned Hawk, another lifer for the Core Team. Thanks, guys!

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Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.