Myers to Montezuma Sept 15

On the beautiful morning of September 15th, I led the first field trip of the season. The original plan was to leave from Stewart Park at 7am, but this had to be changed at the last minute because the AIDS Ride for Life round the lake bicycle ride was leaving at the same time. Instead we met at the CLO and left from there. We started with four people, and picked up one more later.

The week leading up to the day had turned up lots of good birds at Montezuma, so we were keen to get up there as quickly as possible. We stopped briefly at Myers Point, but moved on quickly because it was quiet. The next stop was at the Factory St. Pond in Aurora, but the hoped-for Screech Owl did was not present.

The first stop that yielded good birds was Mud Lock. The seemingly-injured male Greater Scaup that had been resident there since the spring was present, but without the female it has been seen with. A Green Heron was by the shore just south east of our vantage point. An Osprey was actively hunting. At one point we watched it plunge towards the water. Although our direct view of the action was obscured, we saw a Bald Eagle then fly in and immediately leave carrying a fresh fish, which we think it must have stolen from the Osprey.

We then moved on to the Montezuma Visitor's Center, where many Greater Yellowlegs were foraging. Also there were many Northern Shovelers, Mallards, Green-winged and Blue-winged Teal, and a couple of Wood Ducks. We fell in with Dave Nutter who was there independently and joined us on some of our next stops.

Our first stop on the Wildlife Drive was LaRue's, where the best bird was an American Golden Plover. Also there were some Semipalmated Plovers and Semipalmated Sandpipers, and some more Yellowlegs.

We had high hopes that the Cattle Egret that had been hanging out at Bennings would still be there, but these were dashed when it didn't show. Later we heard that it had been seen at Knox Marcellus, but we didn't find it there either.

On the previous day, all five peep species had been seen among the pools formed around the new excavations further along the Wildlife Drive. We stopped there, but saw only Least and Semipalmated Sandpiper and more Semipalmated Plovers.

From there we climbed the Tschache tower and looked over the marsh. Here we saw two young Bald Eagles on the ground in the far distance. Many Great Egrets and Blue Herons were present too, and quite a few Pied-billed Grebes.

We moved on to Towpath Road where we looked out over Knox Marcellus and Puddler's Marsh and lots of shorebirds. The great distance and shimmer made distinguishing these difficult, and not all of us were successful at identifying these, but among them was an American Avocet, a Bairds Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, and both Black-bellied and American Golden Plovers. The Trumpeter Swans now seem to be a regular feature at this location. We were happy to find several Sandhill Cranes here too. One of the most impressive sights was the sheer number of Great Blue Herons. I counted exactly 250 on our two stops, and this was down from previous days when I hear it had been as high ast 350. Several Harriers were sweeping the area. At one point a Broad-winged Hawk flew over along with a Cooper's Hawk. We did not catch either of the Peregrine Falcons that have been frequenting that area, but others we met had seen one.

From there we headed out to Van Dyne Spoor Road. At the very end were several Coots, about a dozen Common Gallinules, many Pied-billed Grebes, and a single Ruddy Duck - likely the same individual that has been present there over this summer. On the way out we decided to stop and try for warblers and other passerines in the wooded area along the side of the road. Pishing pulled in lots of Chickadees, a Red-eyed Vireo, a Blue-headed Vireo, a Yellow-rumped warbler, a probable Wilson's warbler, and a Catbird or two.

On the way home we decided to give Knox Marcellus another view from the East Road overlook. We found nothing we had not seen previously, but it provided the highlight of the day, at least for me. Two Sandhill Cranes were making their way across the grassy area fairly close in. As we watched, one of them started to dance! For about five minutes, the dancer leaped and bounced exuberantly in a seemingly vain attempt to impress its nonchalant companion. A fine way to end a good day birding.

- Paul Anderson