Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Out in the Water: Buffalo's Mega Rarity, The Brown Booby

Last Monday, Birder Jim Pawlicki spotted a Brown Booby in Buffalo. Word spread like wildfire throughout the birding community and even got a top news spot. For more on the story, see the Buffalo News story here. My husband was able to rush right out there the day it was located to catch a sighting of it but I, on the other hand, because of work had to sit day after day hoping that it would stick around until I could get out there to try for it myself. 
Much to my relief, five days later the bird was still being spotted and had actually established a routine by then, giving everyone a good idea when the best time and place would be to locate the bird. Consistently it had been seen hanging out with hundreds of Double-crested Cormorants, roosting on a decrepit lighthouse, and relaxing on a concrete break wall known as Donnelly's Pier from Lake Erie and up the Niagara River a little ways.

So Saturday I headed to Buffalo, but had a prior engagement to attend first. After that, I was off to the Erie Basin Marina around 4pm. Due to the enthusiasm and number of eyes out looking for her, combined with regular updates from the rare bird alert text messaging service, emails, and phone calls from my husband who had been staked out since dawn, I was able to get on it easily. All I had to do was schlep my 38 1/2 week pregnant body up four stories to the top of the Observation Tower at Erie Basin Marina. 

As soon as I got to the top of the tower and caught my breath, Birder Alec Humann graciously pointed the bird out to me and offered his spotting scope for me to look through. And there was the Brown Booby, hanging out on the tip of the lower level of the lighthouse out on the lake. Basically, this was the view. Okay, maybe it was a little better since you could watch her stand up and move her head and such. Enough to get an ID based on size and shape. Not to mention, I digiscoped this image by holding my Droid Razr up to the scope. Utter failure. 

The fun did not stop there though. It was a beautiful Fall day in Buffalo with temperatures in the mid 70's, so relaxing in the tower for a few hours was actually a pleasure. Certainly a far cry from the experience one has when seeking refuge there in the dead of winter in search of exotic gulls. A few days earlier, some people we knew had the opportunity to flag down a boater who kindly took them out onto the water to get close up views and amazing photographs (see Buffalo News story for details on that). All of us had wished we had that kind of "right place at the right time" kind of luck. That is when Alec took matters into his own hands and went to seek out a similar experience for all of us in the tower. We got lucky. Really lucky. He found someone who was not only willing, but sober, who offered to take us out there in his boat. Of course, his generosity did not stop there and after seeing how many of us there was, he offered to go get his ship, that would accommodate all of us at once. He took a small group out to the lighthouse, then went down river to switch out his boats. 

 Aboard the Alexandria

We anxiously awaited their return, boarding the ship literally minutes before sunset. It was a thrill riding out there, and the weather was still perfect. We were able to get close enough to see the bird wonderfully with only binoculars, and those with their bazooka sized camera lenses tried to get some good photos in spite of the lack of proper light and movement of the boat. Armed with only my small lens, I was restricted to landscapes and snap shots, but seeing the bird in the first place, and the adventure that followed was more than enough for me. I can not offer enough thanks to both Alec for finding us a ride, and the kind man who went above and beyond to take us out there. There sure are some really great people in the Buffalo area and I was with a great group of them, plus a few really nice new faces from out of state. 

Fellow Booby enthusiasts boding us a farewell from the top of the 
Observation Tower at Erie Basin Marina
From the ship, a view looking at the Reef Lighthouse where the Brown Booby has been roosting along with the Cormorants. City of Buffalo in the background.
Photo of the Brown Booby on concrete base of the Reef Lighthouse 
as seen from the boat. Photo courtesy of Brian Morse
Some birders like this guy, set up vigil for the booby, arriving before dawn to see her off in the morning and sticking around until she roosts at night. Alright, he stuck around for me to make sure that I was able to see her when I could get there, but sitting here with the fresh lake air blowing through his beard, I know he is glad that he did. 
The City of Buffalo.
On the far left you can see the Observation Tower where there has been a steady stream of birders daily from dawn to dusk trying to catch a glimpse of the bird. 
Captain Moeen (left), and Birder Andy Guthrie as Skipper
Alec Humann, our hero who found us someone willing to take us out, and Greg Lawrence, give the thumbs up after a successful trip to see the Booby at the roosting site. 
We owe you one Alec. 
Saluting our Captain of the Alexandria
Thanks aren't enough for this man.

For more from our trip out on the water visit:
Or these articles and photos on the web from: 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Adirondacks, Labor Day Weekend 2013

We finally got in a camping trip to the Adirondacks Labor Day weekend. We stayed at Lake Harris in the town of Newcomb, NY at camp site 89, which was located right off of the trail to the Santanoni Preserve. It rained off and on the first day up there and we got caught in a few downpours while out on short hikes to Ferd's Bog and a stop at Grassy Pond 

Our first stop once inside the park was at Ferd's Bog to try and pick up some boreal bird species 
Bog Bilberry 
Was lucky enough to see some Pitcher Plant with blooms at the bog
After our escape from a downpour at the bog and a fresh shirt, we made a stop at Grassy Pond, where we got caught in an even worse downpour. It was very humid and not the weather I am accustomed to when camping in Adirondack's in September. Being pregnant doesn't help either...either way, it was still beautiful.

Buttermilk Falls just outside Long Lake, New York
Banks of Raquette River at Buttermilk Falls
Cladonia (Cup Lichen) 
Hudson River head waters on road to Harris Lake Campground
Harvestman on Alder at our camp site.

A nice cluster of Turkey Tail Fungus
The remains of Frontier Town
Atop Whiteface Mountain. The only mountain climbing we would be doing for this trip would have to be by car, so to get out alpine fix, we took the Honda Fit up the Veteran's Memorial Highway in Wilmington to the top of Whiteface Mountain. And yes, the little Fit was a trooper. 

On the last day we took a short hike along the Northville-Placid Trail south from Route 28N in Long Lake

Coral Fungus 
A few peeks at the Fall colors to come
The Trail
Some moss heads in the bog.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Buggin' at Rock Point Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

While it is that time of year where the birding sure slows down, some friends of ours and my husband have been relying on chasing dragonflies and butterflies for entertainment...and a new challenge. Like all new things, I am slowly learning as I go. Like all things wild, there are more complexities to them than most people care to think about. For now, I will just try to capture some decent photos of them so I can figure out what species they are and just enjoy them for their beauty. 

These were taken on a Sunday trip to Rock Point Provincial Park on the beautiful Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. We like to take day trips here mainly for late summer/early fall shorebird migration which is excellent, but things were a little slow today so this is what caught our eyes instead. 
Black Saddlebags
This was, in my opinion, our best bird of the day, spotted in a field along the road on our way to the park. There were two of these fabulous Sandhill Cranes, who up until this spring were my nemesis birds.

We managed to do a little birding, but our attention quickly turned to the variety dragonflies and damselflies buzzing along the lake shore. Our friend Willie, seen here is doing a 2013 Big Year within the Buffalo Ornithological Society Region that includes Western New York and extends west into the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, Canada. He has been delving into the wonderful world of Odonates himself. Check out his blog and photos here
I will just call this a dragonfly rainbow
Lots of bugs are getting frisky this time of year.
Twelve Spotted Skimmer
Female Eastern Forktail Damselfly
Tule Bluet Damselfly

Below are some photos taken last year during a trip to Rock Point that feature more of the landscape.

Along the shore of Rock Point you will find exposed limestone with a variety of fossils which are very interesting to get up close and personal with. It is here you will find little pools of water that attract migrating shorebirds and other local birds like herons, gulls, and terns. You could sit here for hours watching the water, or peering around at the rocks beneath you. Not too far from these rocks is a nice sandy beach for those who enjoy swimming. 

Killdeer, a common local shorebird friend. 
A view of downtown Buffalo, NY from across the lake in Fort Erie, ON before returning home.