Thursday, October 14, 2010

Upstate New York, Part 1

South Florida is a bit of an island, in birding terms. Many birds that are common throughout the east coast have ranges that end relatively abruptly when they near the tip of the peninsula. While this absence is more than compensated by the availability of neotropical migrants, it means that there are still plenty of common species that are easy to pick up whenever we wander away from home. This past weekend is a perfect example. While visiting my parents in Upstate New York, we had lots of opportunities to watch the feeder and hike the countryside, and were able to pick up a number of lifers whose ranges stop just short of South Florida.

Our first such bird was a single Red-breasted Nuthatch who came to the backyard feeder only once, in contrast to the copious White-breasted Nuthatches who each made repeated return trips after hammering their yield into the tree branches. We found the Red-breasted on the very first evening of our visit, tricking us into thinking that we were bound to find more during our stay, but despite the time we put in watching the feeder, we never saw any more. 

The next morning, the trees across the street were super active, as usual. But where we usually find House Finches, House Sparrows, and American Goldfinches, we found that most of the commotion was the result of White-throated Sparrows. This was our first Fall visit to my parents new home since they moved there a few years ago, which is likely why we haven't encountered these sparrows before. But we later found ourselves surrounded, flushing several dozen whenever we walked along the birding trails.

White-throated Sparrow

Bourbon Red
On the drive back from one such trail, we came upon a field of Wild Turkeys. Apparently these are common in the area, but I only ever recall seeing one previously, and it was long before I became interested in birds. As Maureen got out of the car to take pictures, they slowly started wandering off behind a hill until they disappeared. The turkeys were more slender than I would have imagined, and were certainly a stark contrast to the domestic Bourbon Red turkey on display at a local food event we attended recently.

Just a few of the Wild Turkeys. This is how nature intended a turkey to look.

We also saw tremendous amounts of Canada Geese almost everywhere we went. Even when they were out of sight, they were almost never out of earshot. We saw flock after flock, trailing in their characteristic V-pattern, particularly in morning and evening. This wasn't a life bird for us, but just like the ones I described above, these geese range just about everywhere except South Florida. This arrangement definitely has its advantages, though, as we still find ourselves admiring birds that we might otherwise take for granted. 

Besides birding, we got some good looks at a few butterflies. These sightings were mainly on our walk at Olana - the historic house of painter Frederic Church. The garden was fairly active, and we were able to see Cabbage White, American Lady, and Pink-edged Sulphur close-up. The sulphur was a nice departure from the ubiquitous South Florida sulphurs, which rarely give you the opportunity to ID them. Maureen also got a lovely shot of a Fork-tailed Bush Katydid staking out a flower.

An American Lady in the Olana gardens

And a view of the underwing

Cabbage White

Fork-tailed Bush Katydid

A rather worn Pink-edged Sulphur

1 comment:

  1. About a year ago we were upstate NY too, and saw heaps of wild turkeys too. When you approach them by car, they sit still on the road, and when you think you can make a photo THEN they are suddenly in a hurry and walk off.