Often I suggest our readers take part in a bird identification walk or field trip – one that I can lead or one that is conducted by an organization such as the Rochester Birding Association.
I was happy to be part of such a recent field trip on June 26th. It was very fun. The trip covered an area of southern Livingston County, from Nunda and Dalton to Allegany County and two state forests. Our caravan of birdwatchers stopped at many places on a route that has developed over the 14 years of this particular excursion. This annual trip is organized by Jerry and Carolyn Barnhart of Rochester who own a camp and property near Dalton.
Our trip started in the parking lot of a grocery store in Nunda at 7:30 am. As our group of birders formed, we already had a list of at least 25 species of birds identified at this location. These birds are said to be common birds such as the Catbird, Meadowlark, Killdeer, Chimney Swift, Phoebe, Rough-winged Swallow, and over 30 Red-headed Vultures emerging from roost in the distance.
Our route started along a secondary road towards Dalton with great habitat to locate several species of birds. We picked up Bluebird, Blue-winged Warbler, Wood Thrush, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Towhi, Chickadee, Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Common Yellowthroat, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Waxwing cedars, raven, indigo bunting, scarlet tanager, pine warbler, and many more as we crisscrossed the region, stopping at known hotspots. We got lots of great looks at beautiful birds along the way. We enjoyed watching a Meadowlark perched on a short pole in front of us with its dark lemon yellow chest adorned with a black collar. We were surprised to locate more crows than crows. Crows are larger than ravens and offer several ways to tell them apart.
Our subsequent travels among the hills of this region revealed several new species for our day’s growing list. A family of sapsuckers, bald eagle, field sparrow, hooded warbler, brown thrasher, bobolinks, purple finch, yellow-billed cuckoo, crested flycatchers, juncos, veery, kestrels and hummingbirds had compiled our species list. at around 70 as lunchtime approached at 1pm. We were to make one more stop very close to Barnhart camp which would give us a not so common species of warbler – a prairie warbler – which has its preferred habitat of trees and mixed grassland. Sure enough, we were immediately rewarded with a great look at this beautiful warbler that nests in New York. While checking this warbler, we were also able to observe a black-billed cuckoo. It was now around 1:30 and lunchtime. What a great lunch it was with all the food from Barnharts and others to share!
After lunch we walked around their property full of birds and wildlife. Now was the time to visit two state forests in southern Allegany County, where we would add more bird species to the list. The species record on this ranked trip was 91. We had about 15 to go to get there. We were convinced that we could break the record. The trees helped shelter us from the scorching sun as we stopped along narrow dirt roads through the state forest – places where some species of warblers had been spotted in recent years. We picked up morning warbler, Canada warbler and black warbler – three good ones – all in one place. We then stopped in a marsh and found wood ducks, mallards, osprey, great blue and green herons and marsh sparrows.
Our list was 88 and signs of twilight were all around us. Would we find more species? Two of them would be the golden-crowned kinglet and the white-throated sparrow – both of which are extremely hard to find in western New York in the summer. Then, finally, a big peak. We were at 91 – tied for the record.
There was one last stop on the agenda where the magnolia warbler can usually be found in its nesting habitat – and of course – as we stopped our caravan this magnolia sang its familiar song and appeared in fair view just ahead of us – 92, a new record for this field trip. We still had a chance of getting a barred owl there. Just when we were ready to give up on the barred owl, she suddenly gave a loud call, as if to say she wanted to be 93 and another record high.
It was a fun day with great birding with several experienced birders, nice people, great camaraderie and a little drama to see if we could set a record. The Barnhart’s hospitality made for a wonderful day of birding on a beautiful day in late June.
I am so happy to have dedicated my day to this field trip. You might want to try it, or a shorter one, for a little while – because you learn a lot and have fun taking full advantage of God’s magnificent gift of nature.
Hans Kunze is an avid birdwatcher and nature enthusiast who has been writing about birds and nature for over 30 years. He writes for the Daily News twice a month. Write to him at 6340 LaGrange Rd., Wyoming, NY 14591 or call (585) 813-2676.