Field Trip Feb 11th, 2012

- by Bob McGuire

The big surprise for this trip was that the weather was actually better than predicted. Instead of highs

in the low 20s and winds gusting to 30 mph, we started the day with temperatures in the low 30s

and no wind at all!

Nine well-layered folks joined me for a drive around the lake looking for waterfowl and anything

else of interest. A huge Aythya flock had been seen north of Union Springs during the previous week,

and we headed straight for it. Our first stop, at the Aurora boathouse, yielded 15 Horned Grebes but no

Eared Grebe. Perhaps the highlight was the discovery of several small, distant, tail-bobbing shapes that

resolved themselves into American Pipits. We then checked both of the ponds in Union Springs, with

not much to show for it.

We drove down several fire roads just north of the Village of Union Springs, searching for the raft

of Redheads. Although we never did find it, we did come upon the pair of Western Grebes that had been

with the ducks all week. They were conveniently close to shore, and everyone got great looks. One

of the birds was obviously lighter, with almost white lores, leading to speculation that it might be

a hybrid Clark’s X Western Grebe. Along with the grebes, we noted dozens of Tundra Swans, a couple

of Bald Eagles, and five more pipits that flew along the shore.

At the south end of the Village of Cayuga, we noted Lesser Scaup, Greater Scaup, Redheads,

Canvasbacks, Common Mergansers, and one Common Goldeneye. From Towpath Machine Shop just

north of the village, we scoped the open water and picked out distant Tundra Swans and a few Northern

Pintails and American Wigeons. We had been leapfrogging Jay McGowan, Tim Lenz, and Brad Wallker

all morning, and here, with Jay’s help, some of us got fleeting glimpses of a Eurasian Wigeon.

Our last productive stop was along the road at Cayuga Lake State Park, where we scanned the hundreds of Tundra Swans to pick out a few Trumpeter Swans and a couple of Red-breasted Mergansers.

We then tried Dean’s Cove (no Lesser Black-backed Gull), Elm Beach Road (nothing of interest), and Sheldrake (again, the expected Mallards, Black Ducks, and a few Buffleheads). By then the temperature had dropped into the low 20s and the wind had kicked up some impressive white caps. We called it a day and actually returned to the Lab ahead of schedule.