Trip Reports
NYSOA/NYSYBC Shorebird Weekend (Seneca County) — August 26-27, 2017

Special thanks to Dr. Kevin McGowan of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for delivering an outstanding Shorebird Identification workshop on Saturday. We learned so much and enjoyed applying our new skills during Sunday's field trip, which was led by NYSYBC alumnus Greg Lawrence, who now works for the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Many thanks to Greg for an awesome birding tour that took us to some of the hottest spots within the Montezuma complex! 

On Sunday, August 27th, 2017, at 8:00am eight young birders, accompanied by their families, met at the Montezuma Visitor Center for the New York State Young Birders Club Montezuma Trip, led by NYSYBC alumnus Greg Lawrence. After the normal check-in and ice-breaking routine, the group began to scan the Visitor Center Pool, which was still pretty much completely dry. Highlights included many flyover Bobolink, Northern Pintail flyovers, and we were already seeing large concentrations of swallows over the Montezuma marshes.

Semipalmated Plover - Photo by Nick Kachala
Semipalmated Plover - Photo by Nick Kachala

We moved on to one of two major stops of the trip, the Wildlife Drive. Although we were not equipped with FRS radios, we made it work. Sometimes madly pointing out of the window at a bird, but most of the drive was done independently. In the beginning half of the drive, highlight species included Solitary Sandpiper, two Least Bitterns, two Black-crowned Night-Herons, and an American Bittern. About halfway through the drive, at Benning Marsh, we all pulled over and got out of the cars to discuss and scope. This is one of the best places for shorebirds along the drive and is one of the few places that you are permitted to exit your car. Here, we also ran into Kevin McGowan, who was leading a NYSOA shorebird field trip as a follow-up to the shorebird workshop he had given the previous day at the Montezuma Audubon Center. We all scanned together and heard about three Stilt Sandpipers that were seen here earlier that morning. None were seen, though. We were able to pick out Semipalmated and Least Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, and a Semipalmated Plover. There was also a decent mix of ducks there: Northern Pintail, both expected teal species (Blue-winged and Green-winged), Mallard, Redhead, Wood Duck, and Northern Shoveler. There was also a bit of excitement when Rion photographed a duck flying in, that no one else ended up seeing. We identified the photo to be a Canvasback in flight! Rare for the location! But alas, upon further photo review after returning home, it proved to be a different Aythya species, Redhead. These aren’t so uncommon and were seen on the drive by most. As we headed back to our cars, a young Peregrine Falcon took a dive at our shorebird flock! It came up empty-handed, but it’s still a fun sight, at least after you’re done scanning the flock. Another big highlight of the Wildlife Drive was the number of Bald Eagles. Twelve were counted by our group on the drive! We headed down the last part of the Wildlife Drive on our way to our next location: Knox-Marsellus Marsh. We went faster on this second, less productive half of the drive and added only Trumpeter Swan to the list, seen by two participants.

Birding at Mays Point Pool - Photo by Carena Pooth
Birding at Mays Point Pool - Photo by Carena Pooth

Now it is around 10:30am. On the way to Knox, we stopped very quickly at Tschache Pool for a bathroom break and then a little longer at Mays Point Pool in hopes of finding the Red-headed Woodpeckers. The pool itself was completely unproductive, with no water at all. The marsh along the road and fishing access parking lots were successful though. We worked our way along the marsh on the road, with one mixed passerine flock provoked by spishing, and then moved down to the fishing access lot, which was much more productive. Almost immediately, Greg Lawrence spotted two Red-headed Woodpeckers, one adult and one young, near the nest cavity they have been using for several years now. After a minute or two with good looks, the birds flew off. With a little more spishing, and Josh’s great imitations, we were able to pull out another, more productive feeding flock that included a close Yellow-throated Vireo and a male Nashville Warbler! While some members of the group were focused on the passerines, others had relocated the Red-headed Woodpeckers and now had three! This created a dilemma: Passerines or woodpecker. This was undeniably our best stop for passerines and well worth the time. The last highlights here were the trip’s first Common Grackle, Bald Eagles circling overhead, at least four unidentified warblers flying over us and into trees just out of sight, and the trip’s first Green Heron, spotted by Jeff Kachala. A very productive spot, but at 11:20am, it was time to move on.

Shorebird Workshop with CLO's
        Dr. Kevin McGowan

Overview video by Josh Cantor

Knox-Marsellus: We all exited our cars at the Knox-Marsellus Overlook on East Road eager to get out on the dike after hearing about the reports there over the last week and knowing that we had permission! We immediately picked out three Sandhill Cranes down in the grasses. The Rochester Birding Association was arriving at the same time we were, but let us go out on the dike ahead of them. Kevin McGowan’s group could be seen almost at Towpath Road. We worked our way down onto the dike and immediately had close looks of feeding Stilt Sandpiper and Short-billed Dowitcher along with both Yellowleg species. This was a great chance for people that had attended Dr. McGowan’s workshop the previous day to put those skills to use. We continued along and ran into a couple of guys from Cornell. They told us they had had the Red Knot at the end of the dike, along Towpath Road. We continued and found a flock of gulls that contained (probably) our first Herring Gull of the trip, and many Green Herons were flushed along the dike. A pair of Trumpeter Swans flew in, probably the same ones from the Wildlife Drive, and excited everyone else. At the first curve, many peeps could be seen going in and out of the cattails, but they were too difficult to scope. We continued along the second half of the dike looking for the Red Knot and a possible Ruddy Turnstone that had been sighted there earlier that day. The occasional American Bittern being flushed from Puddler’s Marsh, flyover Broad-winged Hawk, and better looks at the Sandhill Cranes kept the group chugging along. We were quite spread out now and part of the group got to the end of the dike and found three Soras (we’d been tipped to the location of at least one) and had the interesting experience of hearing Virginia Rail interaction calls behind us in Puddler’s. While part of the group was back farther, they got on a Wilson’s Phalarope that was also seen by part of the RBA group. Then a Cooper’s Hawk flew over, flushing nearly all the shorebirds, causing us to lose track of the Wilson’s Phalarope, but some of us were able to pick out at least one White-rumped Sandpiper in flight! Greg went to the last pool at the very end of the dike alone to look for the Red Knot, but there were no birds. Once everyone was satisfied with their looks at the Soras, we turned back and headed towards our cars. A larger shorebird flock had accumulated near the bend of the dike after the Cooper’s Hawk flushed them all. This contained three White-rumped Sandpipers and great comparisons with them and other peeps. The last half of the dike was pretty much the same as when we came down. Eventually, we all made it back to our cars around 1:40pm. Sadly, this was the end of an incredible young birder’s trip. A great time was had by all attendees and a special thanks is given to Greg Lawrence for leading this awesome trip! Our final trip total: 87 species!

Robert Buckert, Age 14

        View photo gallery

 List of Birds Seen on this Trip  by Nick Kachala, age 17

Canada Goose
Trumpeter Swan
Wood Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
American Wigeon
American Black Duck
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Pied-Billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Least Bittern*
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Turkey Vulture
Cooper's Hawk
Bald Eagle
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Virginia Rail
Common Gallinule
American Coot
Sandhill Crane

Semipalmated Plover
Stilt Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
White-rumped Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson's Phalarope
Spotted Sandpiper
Solitary Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Caspian Tern
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-throated Vireo

Warbling Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Marsh Wren
American Robin
Gray Catbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Yellow Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

      Species Total: 87