Monday, March 30, 2009

Spring Progresses at Horseheads Marsh

This post should upload as I'm on my way to the Chemung County courthouse to fulfill my civic duty. Yep, I've been summoned for jury duty so I'll be wrapped up for 30 minutes to one month, depending on the how the jury consultants respond to me.

Saturday was tied up with prepping for, hosting, and recovering from our daughter's fifth birthday party (it went well, thank you, especially when I caught one of the parents photographing the Purple Finches at the feeder instead of the kids inhaling strawberry shortcake).

Song SparrowOne of many Song Sparrows bursting with song.

Sunday morning I took an hour-long hike at the Horseheads Marsh, strolling slowly down the Railroad tracks with camera at the ready. It was warm, vaguely misty, and completely overcast. Not great for photography, but decent activity and a few "First of the Year" birds. Expected birds were thick, with Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and American Robins serenading from all directions.

Red-winged BlackbirdOne of many (many, many) Red-winged
Blackbirds, staking his territory.

Several Northern Mockingbirds and a pair of American Kestrels made appearances. A few new waterfowl joined the Canada geese and Mallards, including Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, and both Blue- and Green-winged Teal. The next pool hosted American Wigeon and Hooded Mergansers, along with nearly two dozen Tree Swallows flitting across the water's surface.

Wood DucksTwo pair of Wood Ducks flushed as soon as I arrived, circled
for several minutes, before settling in a distant pool.

Last week it was a snipe, this week a somewhat mystery bird took off from the vegetation a few feet off of the tracks. It didn't vocalize, my impression was it was a Green Heron-sized bird, but not a Green Heron. I shot photos instead of observing it, click for larger images.

BitternWading bird taking flight. Note the clear difference
between the darker wing tips and the paler inner wings.

BitternI'm fairly sure it's an American Bittern, but I wonder
about the darkness on the back - it shows up pretty
dusky in these images. Possible Least Bittern?

I'm reasonably sure it's an American Bittern, which wouldn't be overly unexpected, but the color of the back seems darker than it should be. The size seemed small, too. Then again, Least Bitterns aren't expected for another month or so. American Bitterns, and Green Herons for that matter, aren't expected until mid-April, though Bull's Birds of New York State observes that "early arrivals the last week of March have occasionally been reported."

Thoughts appreciated!



jan m said...

Happy 5th birthday to your daughter.
It sounds like another good day at The Holding Point. In all the years of zipping up the Watkins Road, I never considered that there would be that much wildlife there. Thanks for enlightening me.

noflickster said...

@jan_m - thanks for the birthday greetings for Reina. My wife and I are taking the event as our own celebration, too.

Almost 115 bird species have been reported to eBird from that stretch of marsh, and I'm sure that list should be quite a bit higher. I'm hoping to stop more, especially because you can often get pretty close to a lot of species.

There's been some activity on the railroad tracks, I'm wondering if I'm going to get chased off of them one of these days. Geese are one thing, trains are another!

Thanks for reading!

nishiki_85 said...

Yes r.r. tracks. Reminds me of the the Northern Hawk Owl that appeared in December of '07 and stayed into early '08 near Hamilton, Ontario. The owl was in an area along the CNR line. It was handy to get to the owl that was 200+ metres from the road but the line is well used by trains. At the time, there were warnings on the listserve indicating people could be charged with trespassing if found walking along the line. Not to mention the white mice controversy. We ticked the same bird twice. On Boxing Day (Dec. 26) for a lifer and 2007 year list and then in January for the 2008 year list. Excellent!

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