Cayuga Bird Club Newsletter -  October 2016
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October 2016

In This Issue:

Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, October 10
Speaker:  Bob McGuire
Matinicus Rocks!

From the President, Jody Enck


Cayuga Basin First Records

CLO Monday Night Seminar, October 3

Treasurer's Report

Brown Booby- First Record

Sparrow Identification Walks, October 8,9

Salt Point Informational Kiosk Nearly Done

Saw-whet Owl Banding Opportunity

Montezuma Muckrace - Arrogant Bustards Report

NYSOA Meeting Report

Officer Nominations for 2016 Elections

Dues are Due!

It is time to renew your membership in the Cayuga Bird Club. Dues are $15 per family or $10 per student. 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 renewal to keep your newsletter subscription current.


Oct. 8, 9  Sparrow Identification Walks, 8:30 am - 10 am
Leader: Mark Chao
Cornell Community Garden

Oct. 10  Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, 7:30 pm
Speaker:  Bob McGuire, Matinicus Rocks!
Cornell Lab of Ornithology
Oct. 16  Salt Point Kiosk Inaugural Celebration, 2-4 pm
Salt Point, Lansing

Nov. 13  Loon Watch, Taughannock Falls State Park
Leader:  Wes Blauvelt

Nov. 14  Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, 7:30 pm
Speaker:  Vanya Rohwer,  
Of Mansions and Shacks: Understanding Divergent Nest Building Behaviors Between Two Populations of Yellow Warblers
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

See our Web Calendar for more events and field trips.
Listed below are Cayuga Lake Basin first arrivals reported during the last month.

Aug.  28   Brown Booby
Sept. 10   Connecticut Warbler
Sept. 22   Long-eared Owl
Sept. 24   Red Phalarope
2016 count to date:   269 species
Thanks to Dave Nutter for compiling these records for the club.  Details are available on the CBC website
September Cayuga Bird Club Meeting Minutes recorded by Becky Hansen are available at the CBC website
Coffee, Communities, and Conservation: How your cup can make a difference
This coming Monday, October 3, Cornell Professor Amanda Rodewald will discuss how shade-grown coffee and other agroforestry practices can support bird conservation, healthy ecosystems, and human communities in Latin America.
October 3, 7:30 pm,  Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Free and open to the public.
The talk will also be live-streamed at

Treasurer's Report
2015-2016 and corrected 2014-2015

Brown Booby on Cayuga Lake!

photo by Jay McGowan

A Brown Booby has been spending days at the north end of Cayuga Lake - a first record for the Cayuga Lake Basin and the Fingerlakes region!  First photographed by Michele Merrit on August 28, the booby was spotted again September 17, just off Harris Park in Cayuga, by Sarah Toner and the Basin Chasin' Jays team during the Montezuma Muckrace. The bird has been seen frequently perched on one of several buoys at the north end of the lake and recently flew south as far as Lansing. This bird has ventured far out from its normal range of tropical coastal habitats. Brown Booby is usually found in Mexico and Central America and up into the Gulf of California, although in 2013 one was observed in the Erie Basin near Buffalo and in 2014 one was spotted at Lake Champlain.

Cayuga Bird Club Meeting, October 10
Speaker:  Bob McGuire

Matinicus Rocks!

Bob McGuire will share his week on Matinicus Rock, 20 miles off the coast of Maine, home of a large variety of seabirds, including puffins, razorbills, guillemots, common and arctic terns, Leach’s storm-petrels and some surprises. Photos, videos, and sound files from a trip that he will never forget!

Bob McGuire is a former president of the Cayuga Bird Club and Editor of Birding The Cayuga Lake Basin. An avid birder and sound recordist, Bob has contributed over 2000 recordings to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Macaulay Library. 

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 Bird Club Members,

That swirling noise you hear outside is more than the colorful leaves of fall being moved about by the wind. It’s also the restlessness of migratory birds feeding voraciously as they pack in energy for the next leg of migration toward their non-breeding areas. Unlike birders, birds can’t grab a handful of granola bars to take with them while they go about their important activities of the day. The only place they can carry fuel is internally as stored fat. If you get a chance, go out and check the back corners of your yard or apartment complex grounds to see if you can spot some of these migrants fueling up.  

My sister who lives in northern Virginia sent me a picture this week of an immature male Rose-breasted Grosbeak that came to her feeder. To her, it looked like an oddball because it had molted partway towards adult plumage. None of her field guides showed this transition, and it confused her a bit. I sent her back a picture of a bird I found at my feeders in early September that looked nearly identical to the picture of the bird that visited her. I told her that it was possible that it was the exact same bird. Bird migration is a special thing that can connect birders, habitats, and communities all along the migratory pathways.

If that was the same bird, I could see it again soon in its non-breeding area in Central America. I will be traveling to Honduras from mid-October to mid-November as part of our new Club effort to establish sister birding clubs in North and Central America. Many populations of Neotropical migratory birds, our “Birds of Summer,” are declining. One of the main causes of the declines is habitat loss in both the breeding areas in North America and the non-breeding grounds in Central and South America. Linking sister birding clubs along the migratory pathways can help us all understand better what is happening to the birds we all love so much. See my blog for more details of the trip, and for updates while I am meeting with some of the six birding clubs that exist in Honduras.

Please be sure to come to our October Club meeting on the 10th. Our very own Bob Maguire will explain why “Matinicus Rocks!” as he shares some of his experiences with sound recording on Matinicus Rock in the Gulf of Maine. This meeting also is our annual meeting of the corporation at which we will vote on the slate of officer candidates who have been nominated this year. The slate of candidates are as follows:  President – Jody Enck, Vice President – Wes Blauvelt, Treasurer – Susan Danskin, Recording Secretary – Becky Hansen, Corresponding Secretary – Colleen Richards, and Board Member – Kevin McGowan. In addition to having a chance to express your right to vote as a Club member, you’ll also have a chance to hear about all the other wonderful things people in your Club are doing. Remember, the Club does not do anything – it’s the people who provide the community, stimulate and encourage great ideas, and engage in fun and important birding activities. Won’t you please join us?

Good birding!

Sparrow Identification Walks at Cornell Community Garden 
Mark Chao will lead two walks with a focus on Sparrow Identification on October 8 and 9, from 8:30 am to 10 am. Meet at the parking lot for the Cornell Community Garden on Freese Road.  Be prepared to walk on uneven ground among tall, possibly wet weeds. We may also visit other nearby sites as birding conditions warrant.

Salt Point Kiosk Nearly Done
Donna Scott

After much writing and editing work by volunteers of the Friends of Salt Point Committee this summer, the kiosk at the northern side of Salt Point by Salmon Creek and Cayuga Lake in Lansing is almost done! A successful fund raising campaign was conducted last winter, allowing the kiosk to be constructed by a local contractor in late spring 2016. As you may remember, Cayuga Bird Club donated $1000 towards the layout and printing of the Bird Panel for the kiosk. Other grant money and several donations from community members paid for the other panels, as well as the two-sided kiosk itself. The five panels that will be installed include information on the history, geology, birds, nature and plants of Salt Point. Photographs for the Bird, Nature and Plant panels were generously donated by Marie Read, as well as Sarah Blodgett, Candace Cornell, Bill Hecht, Merlin Tuttle, and Suan Hsi Yong. Photos about the history of the former table salt company site came from the Lansing Historical Association through Historian, Louise Bement. Karen Edelstein created a great map of present-day Salt Point.

The kiosk panels are being printed and will be installed before a gala celebration to be held at Salt Point on Sunday, October 16, 2-4 pm. Please stop by that day or later to see another great project funded in part by your bird club! 
If you are planning to attend the celebration, please RSVP to Donna,, so we can plan for enough food.

Saw-whet Owl Banding

John Confer

Don’t get me wrong, I love warblers. But, tired of trying to see if the bottom of the foot of a warbler in the top of a fully-leafed tree is flesh colored or dark? Shorebirds, too, are really great. But, tired of trying to see if the beak is straight or slightly down-curved when the bird itself is so far away you can barely see it?

How would you like to see a bird so close that you have to use your reading glasses? Consider assisting a banding project for migratory Northern Saw-whet Owls. Banding will extend from 2 October to 13 November on nights with suitable weather. This spans 8 weeks, but suitable weather occurs on about 6 out of 8 nights. Participants might come out on the same night of the week, or about 6 nights out of the 8 weeks.  If you'd like to help with this project, please contact John Confer at for further information.

Hoot, hoot

2016 Muckrace Report - The Arrogant Bustards
Bob McGuire

One of the things I love about the Muckrace is the ability to share experiences and information with the other teams as we rush about trying to locate as many species as possible. Several years ago we shifted from “competitive” to “recreational” with the idea that we would ease up on the pressure and consider the event as another good day of birding. And what a good day it was! In a little over 12 hours we found a total of 104 species, good enough for second place in the recreational category, and at least ten more than last year.

We gathered at Stewart Park at 5 am Saturday morning, packed ourselves into two cars, and drove straight up the lake. Our first stop was Mud Lock where, still in the dark, we wandered around the parking lot listening for overhead flight calls (none) and hoping for an early Carolina Wren or EasternTowhee (no luck). Susan’s Eastern Screech-Owl imitation was much improved from last year, and she was able to call one in - our first bird of the day. The rules require that we not use electronic playback, but I was able to reproduce the call of a Northern Saw-whet Owl on my penny whistle and, much to everyone’s surprise, a Saw-whet answered!

As it began to get light, we backtracked to Harris Park to scope the northern end of the lake, picking up our three common gulls, Mallards, and an Osprey. A quick stop behind Beacon Marine produced a Belted Kingfisher and the first of many Great Blue Herons. Driving back through Mud Lock, we found a Bald Eagle in a snag across the water, and then along the road up to routes 5 and 20 and the Montezuma Refuge we added American Robin, Nothern Cardinal, Black-Capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Mourning Dove, Gray Catbird, and White-breasted Nuthatch.

Our next stop was the south end of the Montezuma visitor’s center pool and, side-by-side with another Muckrace team, we quickly got on Long- and Short-billed Dowitchers, both Yellowlegs, several Killdeer, and three gorgeous, crisply-plumaged juvenile Black-bellied Plovers. Then from the deck of the visitor’s center we picked out the loafing Trumpeter Swan and a couple of Northern Shovelers along with more Mallards, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, and a skulking American Bittern.

We then headed around the wildlife drive. In past years the various pools and impoundments have harbored a variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. But this year, given the drought and new construction, and in spite of the refuge’s best efforts at habitat management, the variety of new birds was low. We picked up American Coot, Common Gallinule, and Pied-billed Grebe in the Main Pool; Diane got us on a Wilson's Snipe at Benning’s Marsh; and we noted fly-over Double-crested Cormorants, a Great Egret, and the first of several Peregrine Falcons for the day.

Esker Brook trail was our next stop, the first of several where the main target was woodland birds. In the past Esker Brook has been either really productive or a total bust. Today we hit gold! Diane spotted a cooperative Swainson’s Thrush, and we all got good looks at it. We then hit a large feeding flock and spend some frantic minutes trying to follow and identify all of the birds: Black-and-White, Wilson’s, Tennessee, Magnolia, and Orange-crowned Warblers, Red-eyed and Philadelphia Vireos, and Cedar Waxwings. Throughout the day we kept reminding ourselves to “look up”, and here it really paid off. Gary first spotted, then got the rest of us on, a pair of Sandhill Cranes overhead.

We turned in Mays Point Road, bypassed the pool having scouted it a few days earlier and found nothing but Mallards, Great Blue Herons, and Yellowlegs, and stopped at the snag forest. The Red-headed Woodpeckers that had nested there this spring were not to be found (in fact, none of the Muckrace teams found them), but we did add Rock Pigeon and House Sparrow to our list. They are far from rare birds but, believe it or not, can be hard to find when you need them.

Our next stop was Towpath Road, again for woodland birds. For most birders it is simply the way to go to get a better look at one end of Knox/Marsellus and Puddlers Marshes. But by walking it you pass slowly through a corridor of low trees and dense shrubs which can be surprisingly birdy. We found a couple of American Redstarts, a Magnolia Warbler, and a House Wren. At least two of us saw the distinctive tail pattern of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo - enough for a positive ID, and Gary heard the call of a distant Barred Owl. As we were walking out, the entire team was treated to a mini-kettle of two Broad-winged Hawks.

From there we continued north, checking a couple of locations identified earlier for birds that we would need: Cowbird and Red-breasted Nuthatch. Both locations were a bust so we continued into Savannah, stopping at Dave’s convenience store for a quick lunch. Amazingly enough, we were half way through the day and still right on the schedule we had laid out for ourselves. I don’t have a tally for the number of species we had seen by then but do know that we were missing only a few of the anticipated birds and that we were way ahead with the unexpected ones (like Saw-whet Owl, Broad-winged Hawk, and Yellow-billed Cuckoo).

After lunch we checked in at the MAC (Montezuma Audubon Center) headquarters for the Muckrace and picked up our t-shirts and a couple of doughnuts. We walked out to the south pond which did have plenty of mudflat habitat but was totally devoid of shorebirds. Back in the cars, we drove the short distance north to the South Butler cemetery, parked at the entrance, and walked a couple of the lanes. Eventually we came across the resident sparrow flock and got good looks at our target, Chipping Sparrow, and many more House Sparrows.

In the weeks leading up to the Muckrace the muddy edges of the pools at the end of Morgan Road had been the most prolific shorebird habitat in the entire Montezuma Complex. Today, however, they were nearly empty, probably due to the pair of Peregrine Falcons that periodically strafed the area. We did manage to find a small group of Pectoral Sandpipers and a few Least Sandpipers but quickly moved on, now well ahead of schedule.

Howland Island is opened to vehicle traffic once a year, during the Muckrace, and I was looking forward to driving the dirt roads and exploring woods, marshes, and ponds, places some of us have never been to. At the bridge on Carncross Road we encountered a large number of swallows, picking out Tree, Barn, Rough-winged, and Bank. We then let ourselves through the gate and had just started down one of the roads when we got a call about several good birds at back at Mays and the visitor center. Since our main targets on Howland Island were woodland birds and we had done well with them so far, we decided to head south and chase the new birds. Fortunately, the only rain of the day hit us just as we were driving and, just as fortunately, stopped as we got to Mays.

At Mays Point Pool (remember, we had bypassed it earlier in the day) we quickly picked out the reported Eurasian Wigeon. Then, at the south end of the visitor center pool, and along with a growing group of other birders, we found the Dunlin, White-rumped Sandpiper, and Semipalmated Plover that had been reported. And just as we were getting back in the cars a Merlin flew past.

Before we could even talk about what to do next, we got another call that a Brown Booby had been spotted from Harris Park at the north end of the lake. This was an extremely rare bird for our area and counted as a life bird for most of us. We were able to scope it from the railroad tracks (the southern-most boundary of the Muckrace) and watched it for at least a half hour as it sat bobbing on the water and making occasional short flights.

At that point it was just after 5 pm, with nearly two hours to go before the close of the Muckrace. We made a quick stop at the visitor center to walk the beginning of the Seneca Trail where we picked up Green Heron. Then a stop at the Nice ’n Easy for refreshments and on up Rt 90 to Kipp Island South. We noted a small flock of Wild Turkeys along the road and then picked out the distant lingering Snow Goose at Kipp Island. Moving our scopes a bit to the north we picked through a large flock of blackbirds perched in a skeletal tree to find several Brown-headed Cowbirds and at least one Common Grackle.

Our last stop of the day was Van Dyne Spoor Road.The idea was to sit overlooking the vast cattail marsh as birds came in to roost for the night. We were hoping for night-herons or nighthawks, but none appeared. We were, however, treated to a continuous stream of at least 10,000 (probably many more) Red-winged Blackbirds as they flew in from the north and disappeared into the reeds. Again, our hope was for a single Yellow-headed Blackbird. We never did see any, but the entire show was spectacular nevertheless.

That was how we ended the day. We were back at the MAC right around 7 pm, handed in our checklist, downed a couple of slices of cold pizza, and sat through the short awards ceremony. As I recall, some 183 different species were reported for the entire 24-hour period. Species seen for the first time this year were Little Gull, Pine Siskin, and of course the Booby. The highest total, 125, was reported by the Cornell student team, the Basin Chasin’ Jays.

Our team of Susan Danskin, Ann Mitchell, Diane Morton, Gary Kohlenberg, and Bob McGuire worked really well. We are able to split the group into two cars (for comfort) and yet keep close enough together to get everyone on most of the birds. It helped to have an open phone line on “speaker” for some of the longer drives. We would like to thank everyone who has sponsored us and made a donation to the Friends of Montezuma Wetlands Complex - and are already looking forward to next year.
(Donations are still being accepted -
Eurasion Wigeon photo by Gary Kohlenberg
Report: 2016 NYSOA Meeting 
John Confer

The 69th Annual Meeting of the New York State Ornithological Association (NYSOA) was sponsored by the Chemung Valley Audubon Society on 9-11 September, 2016 in Elmira New York. Our club members will recall the very successful meeting we sponsored in 2014.  NYSOA has several functions of major importance to birds and birders in New York ( To name just a few, NYSOA organized the two breeding bird atlases conducted for New York, organized a very active young birders club, is the agent responsible for the state journal The Kingbird, publishes a newsletter New York Birders, and acts as a conduit for avian environmental concerns to the NY Department of Environmental Conservation during seasonal meetings with the DEC Director. The annual event provides a showcase for commercial displays of optics, as well as avian art works, and, especially, birding chit-chat about birds, birding and birding hot spots with fellow birders from across the state. Individual memberships are welcomed.
The most recent meeting included a program by the gifted impersonator of John James Audubon, Brian “Fox” Ellis, which was very successful. The major feature of the meeting was the banquet with Dr. Rob Bierregaard as guest speaker. Rob described his novel research on the migration of Osprey based on satellite transmitters placed on 52 juvenile and 43 adult Osprey. This work has provided original data on juvenile survival of about 25% through one year, and on the variety of pathways taken by Osprey down our Atlantic coast, often through the Caribbean, and continuing to Central and South America.
Included in the paper session was a presentation about studies of Merlin that have nested in Ithaca, co-authored by John Confer, Anne Clark, Debbie Mahoney and Maddie Ulinski. The first confirmed nest for a Merlin in New York was found in 1992. Merlin arrived in Ithaca about 10 years ago. Our paper described that nesting success in the last two years, which has been 50% with an average of about 2.1 young fledged per nest. The prey most often brought to the nest by adult males was the House Sparrow. Prey included swallows, orioles, one Yellow Warbler, and several Downy Woodpeckers. Help in locating nests was provided by many, which is greatly appreciated.
Officer Nominations for 2016 Elections

At the Cayuga Bird Club Meeting on October 10 we will be voting for Club Officers and one Director, who are all up for re-election. The officers are listed below. Nominations will also be accepted from the floor, but if you’d like to nominate someone, please make sure that person wishes to be nominated!

President: Jody Enck

Jody Enck started birding about 50 years ago as a wee lad growing up on a farm in Pennsylvania.  Since then, he's been learning more and more about birds and birders.  Jody especially loves watching birds in his back yard and learning what the local residents are up to.  He also has been known to be a closet lister with more than 500 species seen in the U.S. He has a background in both wildlife biology and social science and enjoys meeting birders of all types. He hopes to continue the great Club tradition of welcoming all birders no matter what their interests and helping them feel like they really belong in the Cayuga Bird Club.

Vice President: Wes Blauvelt

Wes has been a member of the Cayuga Bird Club for about 15 years and has actively participated in the Christmas Bird Count. Wes's interests in birding began as a boy and he has been fortunate to travel around the world chasing birds. In retirement, Wes hopes to become a more active and productive member of the bird club.

Treasurer: Susan Danskin

Susan has been club treasurer since October 2009, after stepping down from her position as club president. She is looking forward to continuing her work. She has been a club member for a number of years, working on various committees and leading many field trips.

Recording  Secretary: Becky Hansen

Becky moved to Ithaca fairly recently, after nearly 40 years in the NYC area,hoping to take advantage of the opportunities here to learn more about birds. She enjoys participating in the bird club meetings, field trips, the Christmas bird count, and going to Monday Night Seminars. She leads some of the weekend bird walks at the Lab of Ornithology. She also loves traveling all over the world to get to see wonderful birds and places. Becky is happy to have the chance to serve as recording secretary for the Cayuga Bird Club.

Corresponding Secretary: Colleen Richards

Colleen has been corresponding secretary since 2008.  She organizes the monthly club dinner which honors the speaker and encourages member interaction as well as corresponding with our program speakers each month to assure they have all they need for their engagement.

Director: Kevin McGowan

Kevin is a professional ornithologist and avid birder.  He has been a member of the Cayuga Bird Club since 1988, and has served as Director (1993-2001), Vice-President (2002-2003), and President (2003-2005). He is currently in the Education program at the Cornell Lab of where he creates and runs online courses about bird identification and biology. Kevin has been studying the biology of a population of crows in Ithaca since 1988, and has followed the life stories of over 2,500 banded individuals. He has seen 324 bird species in the Cayuga Lake Basin.

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