Thursday, February 22, 2018

Just Ducky

Snowy Canvasbacks
Yesterday it hit 75. 

Today it is snowing like January.

We still ran down to the boat launch to look for waterfowl and got lucky.

There were ducks everywhere. Some were too far out in the snow to see anything but dull outlines. However, there was a flock of Canvasbacks, which are far from common here, and tons of Hoodies and Common Mergansers.

What fun!

Update: a couple of better shots from after the snow

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Lulling Us

Into a false sense of spring....

The sun tracks the tiniest of fractions higher in the sky each day. Although it’s still low enough at daybreak and in evening that there is nearly equal light on all horizons, you can see the changes in shadow and shine.

New warmth is swiftly perceptible, a welcome hint of joy on winter-wind-chilled faces and hands. It is good to stand, sheltered from the wind, to just enjoy it now and then.

The snow can feel its subtle pressure too.

On days when the wind is right, a nubbin of the white stuff will break off the shale cliffs to the west of the farm house. Then another and another, until a fine storm of natural snowballs flows down the steep face, each gathering rosebuds as it may.

Or rather gathering more and more snow, until the ditch at the bottom is littered with them... Imperfect nautiluses, ephemeral as spring.

Snow rollers we call them. I love to see them, although it is nearly impossible to stop to photograph them, what with the wild and woolly traffic on our little road these days.

Then as they melt away and the snow covering the cliffs does too, the bright blue ice below shows its colors. Each year sheets of ice emerge from broken rock faces, along many nearby roads. sometimes it is white, or dirty brown, but here and there it shows sky blue, turquoise, or greenish-blue, in a sort of weird and lovely road art.

I wonder when the next storm will come.....

Sunday, February 18, 2018


I see you, but I can't always ID you...(Herring Gull BTW)

 I am terrible at gulls. If the commonest, most ordinary, most every-day sort of gull, say a Ring-billed or Herring Gull, were to land on my shoulder and start pointing out its own field marks, I would second guess myself anyhow.

Thus I often post gulls, even such things as first cycle Ring-billed Gulls on bird ID pages....just to be sure.

Glaucous Gull

I was pretty sure I saw a Glaucous Gull today. Big, even when compared to adjacent Herring Gulls, the right color and all. However, I posted asking if it was an Iceland Gull, as that seems to be the go-to plain white gull around here.

However, happy dance, it was a Glaucous. Then, as I was deleting unwanted photos I noticed what appeared to be a smaller white fella, with an all black bill...

Iceland gull

Whadda ya know, an Iceland Gull in the same picture.

How cool is that! A twofer.

The twofer

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Mystery

A couple of weeks ago we noticed what appeared to be a trap near the Schoharie Crossing State Historical Site, where a flock of American Black Ducks has been hanging out since the worst of the ice went.

Hmm, who would be trapping "our" ducks.

There are often ducks inside the trap apparently eating some sort of bait. There are often tracks leading down from the shoreline above.

The mighty Schoharie from one of the spots where we look for ducks

We figured that it was some sort of scientific project so we weren't too worried, but still, inquiring minds want to know.

Yesterday I found this story, which led me to this story, and all became clear.

How neat that the ducks we count every day....looking for birds less common than American Black Ducks and Mallards...are contributing to scientific understanding of duck populations.

BTW, it is great fun to watch the Black Ducks ride the roller coaster of the little falls above the aqueduct. They are like fat black corks, gliding over the riffles and ripples and then flying back up. I think they are having fun.

American Black Duck


Horned Lark, taken up in Stone Arabia yesterday

From spring, or at least far from real spring. However, one day last week the male American Goldfinches were singing up a cluttery storm. The Carolina Wren started a few days later. He has to be the loudest bird in NY.

 This morning three Tufted Titmousies were calling spring songs. A Northern Cardinal was singing, as were the goldfinches. A White-throated Sparrow spoke of Canada or Sam Peabody depending on your interpretation. Sounded like spring for sure.

We saw a Song Sparrow the other day too. The starlings are making calls like Red-winged Blackbirds. Can the real deal be far behind? I think I saw some at dusk up in Sprakers the other night, but we were going too fast and it was too dark to be sure.

To me, the RWBLs are true harbingers of spring. Everyone tags robins for this job, but they hang around all winter. Most years we see our first American Robins within a week of the New Year. We must have seen a hundred yesterday in our marathon Valentine's Drive Around.......

We saw genuine winter birds, too. Horned Larks and Snow Buntings were plentiful everywhere we drove. The latter are wildly beautiful when they undulate over a field in bright, thin sunshine.

Also spotted two Northern Rough-legged Hawks flying together up on Fiery Hill. They are also northern birds, here for the hunting during the cold times. These two were stunning, with one almost pure white except for the diagnostic markings they sport. They were quite obliging and flew around us for a few minutes before sailing away.

It's certainly not spring yet, but it is kind of fun birding the cusp