Cayuga Bird Club Newsletter -  February 2017
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February 2017

In This Issue:

Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, February 13
Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Walsh-Emond
How Adaptations To Tidal Marshes Shape Differences Between Saltmarsh And Nelson's Sparrows

From the President
Jody Enck


Cayuga Basin First Records

February Field Trips- Around the Lake

Photos from Share Your Photos Night

CBC Interview:  Lang Elliott

Field Trip Report, Around the Lake
Bob McGuire

Field Trip Report- Jan 28
Diane Morton

February 6 Seminar: Dr. David Bonter

Marie Read photo exhibit at Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Spring Field Ornithology 2017

Onondaga Audubon eBird Class

Great Backyard Bird Count

ABA podcasts 

Birds of East Africa tickets


Feb. 6   Monday Night Seminar, 7:30 pm
Speaker:  Dr. David Bonter
Of Islands and Undergrads: A decade of bird study in the Isles of Shoals
Feb. 11  Field Trip Around the Lake, 7:30 am - 4:00 pm
Leader: Ann Mitchell
Meet at Stewart Park east parking area

Feb. 13  Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, 7:30 pm 
Speaker: Dr. Jennifer Walsh-Emond
How Adaptations To Tidal Marshes Shape Differences Between Saltmarsh And Nelson's Sparrows: Lessons From The Field And Laboratory
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Feb 17-20  Great Backyard Bird Count

Feb. 26  Field Trip Around the Lake, 8:00 am - 4:30 pm
Leader: Suan Yong
Meet at Cornell Lab of O parking area

Mar. 6  Monday Night Seminar, 7:30 pm
Speaker:  Dr. Andrew Farnsworth
Perspectives on Nocturnal Bird Migration: What we've learned from BirdCast
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Mar. 10 - August 31 Free Spirits, Bird Photography by Marie Read, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Mar. 13  Opening Reception for Free Spirits, Bird Photography by Marie Read,
5:30 - 7:30 pm
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Mar. 13 Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, 7:30 pm
Speaker:  Jody Enck
Sister Bird Club Network: Linking Clubs in the US and Honduras through the Neotropical Migratory Birds We Share
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
See our Web Calendar for more events and field trips.
Listed below are Cayuga Lake Basin first arrivals reported last month, excluding those found on the Ithaca Christmas Bird Count, which were noted in the January 2017 newsletter.
Jan. 1    Mute Swan
Jan. 1    Trumpeter Swan
Jan. 1    Tundra Swan
Jan. 1    Wood Duck
Jan. 2    White-winged Scoter
Jan. 2    Sandhill Crane
Jan. 2    Snowy Owl
Jan. 2    Savannah Sparrow
Jan. 4    Cackling Goose
Jan. 4    Green-winged Teal
Jan. 5    Brant
Jan. 5    Ring-necked Pheasant
Jan. 5    Gyrfalcon
Jan. 5    Eastern Towhee
Jan. 6    Lapland Longspur
Jan. 7    Eared Grebe
Jan. 7    Field Sparrow
Jan. 7    Common Grackle
Jan. 8    Surf Scoter
Jan. 9    Glaucous Gull
Jan. 13  Northern Shoveler
Jan. 14  Short-eared Owl
Jan. 15  Red-shouldered Hawk
Jan. 15  Rusty Blackbird
Jan. 20  Marsh Wren
Jan. 22  Northern Saw-whet Owl
Jan. 25  Red-necked Grebe 
Jan. 29  Greater White-fronted Goose
2017 total count to date:   120 species
Thanks to Dave Nutter for compiling these records for the club. Details are available on the CBC website
January Cayuga Bird Club Meeting Minutes
are available at the CBC website
Field Trips Around the Lake
Feb. 11 and Feb. 26 

The Cayuga Bird Club will be having two field trips in February to look for wintering waterfowl and other winter birds. These trips are open to all.

On Saturday, February 11, Ann Mitchell will lead a full day trip (7:30 am - 4:00 pm) around the lake. Meet at the east parking area of Stewart Park at 7:30 am. Dress warmly and bring snacks. Will stop at the north end of the lake for food. Bring a spotting scope if you have one. If you have questions, contact Ann at

On Sunday, February 26, Suan Yong will lead a full day trip (8:00 am - 4:30 pm) around the lake to look for birds that have been reported recently. Meet at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology parking lot at 8:00 am.  Wear warm layers as it can be very cold along the lake. Bring a snack and/or lunch and beverage. There will also be a stop to purchase food. Bring a spotting scope if you have one.

Please check the Cayuga Bird Club calendar for updates in case there are date changes for these or any other field trips.

A Selection of Photographs from Share Your Photos Night
At January's Cayuga Bird Club meeting, Kevin McGowan once again hosted the club's annual Share Your Photos Night. Here is a selection from the many wonderful photos that club members shared that evening.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee, British Columbia,
Anne Marie Johnson

Martial Eagle with Monitor Lizard, Ethiopia, Becky Hansen

Kori Bustard, Namibia,
Tracy McLellan

Harpy Eagle, Brazil,
Lindsay Goodloe

Anhinga, Florida, Bob Horn

Bearded Reedling, Turkmenistan,
Mark Chao

Green Honeycreeper, Costa Rica, Sandy Wold

Asian Koel, Singapore,
Paul Anderson

Jocotoco Antpitta, Ecuador,
Diane Morton

Tricolored Heron, Virginia,
Sarah Blodgett

Violet-crowned Woodnymph, Colombia, Ton Schat

Eastern Phoebe chick, Pennsylvania,
Suzanne Henderson

Ruddy Turnstone with Least Sandpiper, Montezuma NWR,
Ann Mitchell

Wood Stork, Florida, Carl Steckler

White-rumped Sandpiper juvenile, New Jersey,
Kevin McGowan
CLO Monday Night Seminar

When: February 6, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road

Speaker: Dr. David Bonter, Director, Citizen Science, Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Title: Of Islands and Undergrads: A decade of bird study in the Isles of Shoals

Description: The Isles of Shoals, a craggy archipelago in the Gulf of Maine, is an ideal place to immerse students in learning and research focused on birds. For the past decade, Dr. David Bonter has taught Field Ornithology and mentored the research of Cornell undergraduate students studying the eiders, swallows, gulls, and warblers that invade the islands during the breeding season. This presentation will virtually transport you to Appledore Island where you’ll learn about the students’ findings and experience their journey through the trials and tribulations of ornithological field work.

Admission: Free

Free Spirits,
Bird Photography by Marie Read
Wildlife photographer and Cayuga Bird Club member Marie Read will be exhibiting a new collection of bird photographs, Free Spirits, at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology from March 10 through August 31, 2017. There will be an opening night reception for the exhibit at the Cornell Lab on March 13, 5:30-7:30 pm, before the Cayuga Bird Club meeting. 

Marie Read is known for her exquisite bird photos that often tell a story as well as being beautiful. 

Her images have been featured in magazines, books, calendars, websites, and educational exhibits. Marie's articles and photo essays have appeared in such publications as Living Bird, Bird Watching, Nature’s Best, and Women In The Outdoors. Her images have won awards in Nature's Best Windland Smith contest, Nature's Best Backyards, North American Nature Photography Association Showcase, Audubon Photography Awards, and Festival de L'Oiseau. She has authored several books about birds and their behavior, most recently Into The Nest, coauthored with Laura Erickson.

At the January 9 Cayuga Bird Club meeting, members present unanimously voted to contribute $230 from the club toward the building rental fee for the reception. Individuals may also contribute directly to the opening night event by sending a check along with a note that it is for the photo exhibit to Cayuga Bird Club, c/o Cornell Lab of Ornithology, 159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca NY 14850.

See you at the reception!
Spring Field Ornithology 2017

Discover birds of the Cayuga Lake region and beyond!

The 2017 Spring Field Ornithology course taught by Stephen W. Kress is now open for registration. This popular 8 week course features lectures, weekend field trips and special overnight trips to Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge and Cape May, NJ.
Sign up by Sunday, February 5 to receive early bird discounts for the lectures and weekend field trips. Cornell Lab members receive and additional discount. Consider inviting someone else to come along and share the fun!

For more information, see the course website at

Great Backyard Bird Count
February 17-20
This year's Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) will be held February 17-20, 2017. Participants of all ages are encouraged to count birds in their own backyards (or any other location) for 15 minutes or more, on one or more days, and to record their sightings at This citizen-science project, launched in 1998 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, helps scientists learn more about the dynamics of bird populations. 

To participate in this year's count, register online at

Don't forget to take photos! You can enter the GBBC photo contest with the photos you take of wild birds in their natural surroundings during February 17-20, 2017. Check the website for photo contest rules.
Free eBird Tutorial Class
From Onondaga Audubon 

Do you love birding and want an easy and secure way to save your species observation lists while contributing to citizen science at the same time?

Join Dave Wheeler in his upcoming:

Wednesday, February 15, 2017, 6pm-7:45pm
Salina Free Library, 100 Belmont St., Mattydale, NY

Sign-up: Dave Wheeler - or 315-373-5350
Bring: laptop or tablet, sightings or checklists you'd like to enter
Note: Class size is limited

Regional reviewer Dave Wheeler will host a hands-on eBird training and tutoring session at the Salina Library in Mattydale. Bring your laptop computer (or tablet) and any bird sightings or checklists you may have and learn how to use this powerful tool developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Dave will help you set up an account, enter sample checklists, and unlock eBird’s many ways to visualize data. If you’ve ever wanted to use eBird, this is a great chance to get started. Please contact Dave for more info and to sign up. Please note that the class size is limited so sign-up ASAP to reserve yourself a space.

New ABA Podcasts

The American Birding Association had begun producing a series of podcasts for birders.  The first podcast featured Laura Kammermeier of the Nature Travel Network.  Laura is also President of the Rochester Birding Association. Host Nate Swick talks with Laura about birding travel, what birders want when they head abroad, and how traveling for birds helps establish ecotourism and conservation initiatives around the world. You can subscribe to ABA podcasts on iTunes.

Birds of East Africa
A play by Wendy Dann
at The Kitchen Theatre

Kitchen Theatre Company begins 2017 with a world premiere of a new play called Birds of East Africa by Wendy Dann. We are reaching out to individuals and groups with interests in birding and ornithology about this exciting production. Ornithologists are not regularly the central character in plays, and rarely do we get to hear about the synergy between birds and humans in theatrical productions. Playwright Wendy Dann has done extensive research exploring the keen observational abilities of birders to inform the character Marion's unique world view.  
The play runs from January 29th to February 12, 2017 with six performances each week. There will be a special pre-show talk on Wednesday, February 8th by Lab of Ornithology Director Dr. John W. Fitzpatrick.
We are offering a special discount ticket for birders, ornithologists and researchers to see the play. To purchase a ticket call 607 272-0570 weekdays between 11am and 5pm or on-line here and use the code BIRDS25. 

Ithaca Native Landscape Symposium March 10-11, 2017
Cinemapolis Downtown Arts Theater

The Ithaca Native Landscape Symposium is open for registration. This event is open to the public, and is intended for anyone with an interest in native plants and their use in the landscape—from experts to amateurs, professors to students, practitioners to homeowners/ landowners. INLS has grown to be one of the largest and most wide-reaching of its kind in the Eastern US, and was founded nine years ago by Ithacans Dan Segal of The Plantsmen Nursery and Rick Manning, Landscape Architect.Ten speakers from the northeast will present over two days, on native plant topics ranging from design challenges, availability, installation, the nursery industry, plant selection, pollinators, created habitat, natural habitat and more. Registration can be for one day or both.
Speaker Spotlight:
Janet Allen,
Creating a Bird Friendly Yard
Saturday, March 11, 2017
Janet Allen will offer insight into how to provide the basic habitat elements birds need: food, water, cover, and places for them to raise their young. Participants will learn about the vital role of native plants in providing for the needs of birds. Finally, Janet will share how we can provide a safe place for birds in our yards and in the world beyond. 

Janet Allen is president and co-founder of the local Wild Ones chapter Habitat Gardening in Central New York (HGCNY). Janet has contributed articles to the Wild One's Journal, Upstate Gardners' Journal, Woodlands and Prairies Magazine, National Wildlife Federation's Habitats Newsletter, and many more. 

For more information or to register, visit the INLS website.

Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, February 13

How Adaptations to Tidal Marshes Shape Differences Between Saltmarsh And Nelson's Sparrows: Lessons from the Field and Laboratory

Speaker:  Jennifer Walsh-Emond, PhD

The harsh conditions found in tidal marshes make them suitable breeding homes for only a few bird species that are particularly well adapted to their challenging environmental conditions. In my work, I use salt marsh-adapted sparrows as a kind of ‘natural experiment’ to explore how bird species adapt to new habitats. Saltmarsh and Nelson's sparrows are two recently diverged, hybridizing tidal marsh specialists that inhabit marshes along the coast of New England. Although these birds appear superficially similar, they have fascinating differences in habitat affinity, morphology, genetics, and behavior that reflect their associations with salt marsh environments over evolutionary time. These birds are increasingly threatened by the loss of salt marshes caused by habitat alteration and rising sea levels; my work helps place these threats in a broader evolutionary context by showing how these species likely arose through their different adaptations to coastal-upland habitats, which in turn led to their reproductive isolation.

Jennifer Walsh-Emond has been working in salt marshes for close to 10 years, trying to understand how tidal marsh sparrows have adapted to these unique environments. A major goal of her work is to link understanding of evolutionary processes to tangible conservation strategies. Jennifer completed her PhD in Natural Resources and Earth Systems Science at the University of New Hampshire in 2015, and is currently a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, working with Dr. Irby Lovette. 

The meeting will be held at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. Doors open at 7:00 pm and there will be cookies and conversation starting at 7:15. Bird club business begins at 7:30 pm followed by the presentation. All are welcome.

From the President 

Jody Enck
Hello Cayuga Birders!

I’ve really been enjoying some winter birding. In my backyard, it has been fun watching four species of woodpeckers taking turns coming to the feeder with all the other feeder birds. I ventured out a little farther last weekend as I went with 9 other Club Members on a field trip looking mostly for waterfowl on a nearly ice-free Cayuga Lake. One highlight was seeing three pairs of Green-winged Teal on Factory Street Pond up in Union Springs. Typically, that species would not be found anywhere near here in winter. 

At our January meeting, we were treated to pictures of dozens of species encountered by club members in the last year or so. It was a joy to see all the various places to which club members have traveled for birding (and other reasons). If seeing those pictures brought a sunny disposition to your dark-of-winter attitude, then you are in great luck! Our wonderful newsletter editor, Diane Morton, has collected some of those pictures from the photographers and you can see them in this newsletter!

What do you have on-tap for February birding? Opportunities abound! Don’t forget about the Great Backyard Bird Count that will occur from the 17th through the 20th. Our bird club has several great field trips lined up. We have our monthly meeting on the 13th. And, of course, you can get together with friends and family and bird around your home. Whatever you do, tell us about it on the Cayuga Bird Club Facebook page.  

Happy Birding!


An Interview with Lang Elliott 
Diane Morton

Last month I had the opportunity to sit down with nature sound recordist and cinematographer Lang Elliott to hear about his upcoming North American Soundscape expedition. Lang has lived in the Ithaca area since the 1980’s and is a member of the Cayuga Bird Club. His natural sound recordings are used in the Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs, Eastern Region, as well as the Sibley eGuide to Birds, Audubon Birds and the Audubon Society’s Online Guide to North American Birds. He also has a website, Music of Nature, with many sound and video recordings of the natural world. His next project is to embark on a six-month recording and videography expedition to the western United States; he plans to share these recordings through a new interactive Nature SoundMap that he is creating, to be launched in early March. Here are some excerpts from our conversation.

How did you get started with sound recording?

It all started when I was an undergrad at the University of Missouri and I got interested in frogs. I took a herpetology course and the guy who was teaching it was really into frogs and their sounds. So I bought a Uher tape recorder - a little reel-to-reel - and I also bought a parabolic reflector microphone and started wandering around making frog and toad recordings, just for fun. Then I went to grad school in animal behavior and I ended up moving to the Adirondacks, where I recorded frogs but stayed away from birds because I’m high-frequency deaf and couldn’t hear many of their songs. Ultimately, though, I co-developed a device that takes the high pitched bird songs and lowers them so I could hear them.  

Is that the Song Finder?

Yes, the Song Finder, developed with my engineer-partner Herb Susmann. Over the years, I had thought, well, I can’t hear a lot of birds so I’m not going to record birds. It’s sort of crazy for somebody half-deaf to be a bird sound recordist… But with my device, which fits in a pocket, I am able to find the birds I otherwise wouldn’t hear, and get good recordings. The SongFinder lowers the high frequency sounds and employs a binaural headset so I can tell what direction they are coming from.

I worked at the lab of Ornithology for a number of years, in photography. I started getting interested in narrated tutorials having to do with birds, in the tradition of Arthur Allen and Peter Paul Kellogg, like [the 1958 recording] An Evening in Sapsucker Woods.  

Basically, what happened was I ended up embarking on projects myself, going out and collecting my own recordings. At that time, Steve Kress’s Puffin Project occupied a small outbuilding at the Lab, and it had an anechoic chamber originally used for bat research. Steve was using it as a storage room. When I told him I was looking for space where I could put together some narrated productions, Steve encouraged me to convert the anechoic chamber to a small sound studio. And that’s exactly what I did.

And then around that time I made contact with the director of the National Library Services for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and suggested I produce a bird song guide just for them. Thankfully, I ended up getting a small grant which was routed through the Lab. The end product was A Birdsong Tutorial for blind people to help them learn something of their surroundings, of the habitats, by keying into the birds they were hearing.  Pretty neat!

And that just led to one thing after another. I ended up leaving the lab, and producing some guides, Know Your Bird Sounds, Volumes I and II, which were the repertoires of common birds, mainly from recordings I’d started getting around here. I produced and self-published A Guide to Night Sounds, and Wild Sounds of the North Woods… and this collection of guides started building. It just sort of kept working out… I started doing more trips and collecting sounds (mostly using a parabolic microphone) all over the East, and was lucky, in spite of my hearing, to be able to get songs and calls of nearly every species. I guess I have a knack for it, in spite of my physical impairment that you would think would keep me from doing this kind of work. 

Amazingly, I ended up with enough material to do a comprehensive guide to Eastern bird songs, which I initially produced with the help of the Stokes’s: Stokes’ Field Guide to Bird Songs - Eastern. That original collection, which has been expanded to include recordings by numerous of my friends (such as Ithaca-residents Bob McGuire, Bill Evans and Beth Bannister) lives on and is now featured on the Audubon website and in various mobile apps, such as BirdTunes (, which I co-produced with local computer programmer Harold Mills. Our collection currently includes about 2700 recordings featuring the songs and calls of nearly 700 species… quite an involved project, getting close and clean recordings of so many species!

But now my interest has shifted to emphasize aesthetics, soundscapes, the totality of sound, and not trying necessarily to home-in on particular songs or calls. Recordings made with parabolic reflector microphones represent the extreme of pulling a sound event out of the surroundings… isolating it from everything else so that you just hear one particular bird and nothing else. But that’s different from our actual listening experience. So my work has drifted in the complete opposite direction, toward embracing the totality of sound as we humans experience it, toward capturing dimensional, immersive soundscapes.

I spent a lot of time last summer down at Shindagin Hollow. I am always on this quest to get the best Hermit Thrush recording I can get. And it’s not a parabolic recording-- it’s the Hermit Thrush recorded in context, in the hemlock woods, or wherever. I desire a strong element of spaciousness, and a nice balance of, say, a main singer and various subordinate singers. The special mic I use doesn’t focus like a parabola does, it doesn’t distort the actual sound experience. It “hears” everything, so I have to place the mic with care, in order to capture a pleasing and unified soundscape.

So I’m attempting to capture what’s beautiful for humans. It’s more art than science. There’s some science to it, but that isn’t where my interest is-- I’m not recording for analysis. You could say, this is a document of a sound event, a soundscape event, and sure, it would have some scientific significance. But I’m not performing a controlled experiment. I’m picking and choosing based on what I am attracted to, on what sounds good to my ear.

And you are going on a big sound recording trip.

Beginning in late February, I’m heading out to spend five to six months exploring wild places, mostly out West. I’ll be gathering soundscape recordings, long recordings, interesting sound events or mixtures that I am excited to share with others. Like I would love to get a beautiful desert soundscape with Cactus Wren, Gambel’s Quail, and other common desert species… a pleasing representation of what it’s like to be among the Saguaro cacti. 

I use a special soundscape mic; it is like the human head... with omnidirectional mikes placed 7” apart— it’s like your ears— with a baffle in between. Recording this way, you are simulating the human head.  So if you play this back, especially over headphones your brain receives natural binaural cues and is tricked into thinking what you’re hearing is real, with sounds appearing to come from “out there in nature,” as opposed to from inside your head.

It sounds sort of like you’ve gone from being a portrait photographer to a landscape photographer.

Yes, I often use that example as I explain it. I’m like a photographer focusing on landscapes rather than closeups of birds or flowers or whatever. Rather than capturing a particular sound object, I am now more interested in capturing the totality of sound. That said, I readily admit that closeup recordings of species are also useful, so I’ll no doubt spend some time wandering around with a parabola. 

So on this journey I will be going to a lot of places I haven’t been before. My trip will be rooted in aesthetics, in communion and celebration of place, and will be more artistic than scientific. I am interested in the immersive experience itself - in what it’s actually like to be there. At least that’s what I’m hoping to achieve. I want my trip to be a poetic journey. My personal challenge, of course, will be getting myself into the right frame of mind to accomplish this goal.

Also, I was recently treated for throat cancer. So I’m coming off that and happy to get back on the road. My voice has suffered somewhat from the treatment… I sound a little croaky these days, but at least my voice is workable. I actually plan to produce podcasts during my trip, most of which will be on-location chats where I share my impressions of places and feature one or more soundscape recordings. 

What’s really exciting is my new nature SoundMap which will allow folks to track my journey. Each marker on the map will feature a soundscape recording, along with a description and a habitat photo. Location markers will start appearing on the map in early March… allowing you to see exactly where I’ve been and listen to the fruits of my labor. If you sign on to my mailing list, you’ll be automatically notified by email each time I add a new location on the map.

Where are you going first?

I plan to arrive in coastal Louisiana by the end of February. There should be plenty of things going on in the marshes by then. I’m hoping to get rails, like King and Virginia Rails— this will mostly be in freshwater marshes— especially Sabine, Laccasine, and Rockefeller National Wildlife Refuges. After that I’ll visit the Hill Country and Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Then on to New Mexico and Arizona. As the months roll by, I’ll visit numerous wild areas in the Great Basin and all the western mountain ranges, perhaps even taking a short trip to the northern prairie states. 

I will be hugely excited to see dozens of recording locations appearing on my SoundMap as my journey progresses. And when I finally return home, given that the map has caught on, I will spend the winter adding gobs of additional soundscape recordings I’ve made previously in the East. Altogether, I plan to post at least several hundred recordings on my SoundMap by the beginning of 2018, with markers spread all the way from Newfoundland to California and even Alaska!

How can people support your trip and soundscape project?

Come to Check out what I do. I do need money to help pay for my expedition. My donation page includes several choices for supporting my work. Why donate? Well, these days I’m mostly just giving away content. It’s the new model … give freely and be supported by those who enjoy the content. I rather like that concept, which is related to crowdfunding. My life is only going to last so long and I would like to have given as much as possible before it ends. That’s the first and foremost thing I believe I should do. Give now, before time runs out.

Around the Lake - Field Trip Report

Bob McGuire

Ten folks joined me for our first field trip of the new year, an all-day jaunt around the lake to see what we could find. Target birds were all of the over-wintering waterfowl, Snowy Owls, and the recently-reported Gyrfalcon. Thanks to some really good eyes, numerous scopes, and a little luck we were able to locate most of our targets, though we missed the really big one - the Gyrfalcon.

We started off with a scan of the loafing geese and gulls at Stewart Park. Ann Mitchell quickly picked out a distant glaucous gull, and we were able to watch it both swimming and then in flight. The large Aythya flock was just off the ice edge, and we could pick out a Ring-necked Duck, Canvasback, and several Scaup amidst the hundreds of milling Redheads.

Myers had hunters off Ladoga (we did get coots), and there was nothing of note on the water off the point in the town park. However, we were greeted by a small flock of pipits, calling as we got out of the cars. We then drove north through farm country hoping for a flock of field birds but were able to find only a few Horned Larks along Center Road. 

From the Aurora bluffs we found our first red-breasted mergansers and a distant raft of Snow Geese. Seen from the Wells College boathouse, the bay was nearly empty, with a few Horned Grebes, a small flock of Common Goldeneye, Canada Geese, and the usual Mallards.

We stopped at both ponds in Union Springs and were afforded great, close looks at Gadwall, American Wigeons, and Buffleheads. From Mud Lock at the north end of the lake we had distant looks at dozens of inert white mounds - presumed to be Tundra Swans. But there were no Bald Eagles around the nest and, surprisingly, few ducks on the water.

After a brief lunch stop at the Nice ’n Easy, we headed over to Van Cleef Lake to look for gulls - nothing out of the ordinary even though two Iceland Gulls had been seen there the day before. We did pick up Hooded Merganser, and Larry Hymes came close to adopting a friendly kitten!

We had been hoping all day to get an alert that the Gyrfalcon had been re-sighted near the Finger Lakes airport. We stopped to chat with several people in the area, but no one had seen it that day. So we concentrated on the Snowy Owls. The first one we found was perched atop one of the grain elevators at the Lott farm. It immediately became the best bird of the day. It got even better when Gladys Birdsall spotted a second snowy on the ground!  From there we made several passes along Seybolt Road looking for the continuing Northern Shrike - without success - until getting an alert from Ken Rosenberg that it was perched in a hedgerow a bit further south. Once we knew where to look it was easily picked out, and everyone got great scope looks.

On the way back down the lake we stopped at Dean’s Cove - no Lesser Black-backed Gull. We drove along Elm Beach Road - no loons. And we stopped at Taughannock - Pied-billed Grebe but no Wood Duck! All in all, it was a typical winter birding trip. We got some; we missed some. For me, it was just great to be outdoors and in pleasant company. 

Field Trip Report - Along the Lake to Union Springs 
Diane Morton and Ken Kemphues

Eight people joined us on Saturday, January 28, for a half-day field trip. We started at Stewart Parl and looked through the Canada Geese, Mallards and Common Mergansers, and noted two immature Tundra Swans and a few Double-crested Cormorants. Great Black-backed Gulls had separated themselves into their own large assembly at the southeast edge of the water.

Elaina McCartney had given us permission to view the south end of Cayuga Lake from her property on route 89, and there we found Ruddy Ducks, a few Redheads, a Horned Grebe, a female Bufflehead, and a group of Pied-billed Grebes near a larger group of Coots. We also spotted Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and one Black Duck. An immature Bald Eagle soared above, and Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers foraged in a nearby tree.

At our next stop, Ladoga Park, Ring-necked Ducks and a pair of Greater Scaup were diving with about 300 Redheads. The male scaup was stunning with its bright white sides, but diving so frequently it was difficult to keep him in view.  At Myers Point, we had only the usual gulls, Mallards and Canada Geese.

We hoped to find wintering field birds in some of the plowed fields north of Lansing, and drove slowly along Center Road. A flock of several hundred Snow Geese flew overhead, then we spotted a small group of Horned Larks that flew up from the side of the road and landed in the clumps of tilled mud in the field. Most people were able to see one or two of the well-camouflaged larks before they flew off with their twittering calls.

At Kathy Strickland's suggestion, we stopped by the new King Ferry Corner Store; they had a nice selection of baked goods, coffee, and drinks for hungry birders! (They have good hours for birders too, opening at 6 am). From there, we went on to the the Aurora boathouse, where we found a lone Red-breasted Merganser, eight Horned Grebes, better views of Common Goldeneye, and distant Bufflehead.

We still had time to get up to Union Springs, and there we were delighted to find six Green-winged Teal at Factory St. Pond— unusual to find them so early in the season. We went on to scope the ducks on the larger North Mill Pond; new birds for the day included American Wigeon and Gadwall. 

It was nice to be out enjoying all of these birds in the company of the folks who came on the trip.  The falling snow was light and the wind not too strong-- a good day for a January outing!
Group photo by Jody Enck, Horned Lark photo by Diane Morton

Cayuga Bird Club

Educating and inspiring the birding community of the Cayuga Lake Basin and Central New York since 1914

The Cayuga Bird Club meets on the second Monday of each month, September through June, beginning with refreshments at 7:15 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Johnson Center on Sapsucker Woods Road. All meetings and most field trips are free and open to the public. Membership costs $15 annually per household, $10 for students, payable in September. Payment may be made via Paypal at or by mailing a check to
Cayuga Bird Club, c/o Cornell Lab of Ornithology,
159 Sapsucker Woods Road, Ithaca NY 14850.
Please include your email address (or addresses for family memberships) with your membership application to receive the club newsletter.

Members receive via email the monthly Cayuga Bird Club Newsletter, from September through June. Newsletter submissions may be sent to Diane Morton, Of particular interest are articles about local bird sightings, bird behavior, birding hot spots, book reviews, and original poetry, art, and photos.  

Cayuga Bird Club Officer Contact Information is available on the Cayuga Bird Club website.  

Chickadee illustration in masthead by Karen Allaben-Confer
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Cayuga Bird Club
159 Sapsucker Woods Road
Ithaca NY 14850