Birding in July: New York (state), Canada, and nearby
My birding adventures in July began with a four-day weekend road trip in which Jacqueline and I drove up to Canada and back; see my travel blog post. Early Friday morning, July 8, we went for a casual walk through the Tifft Nature Preserve on the south side of Buffalo, New York. The highlights there were Yellow Warblers, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Swamp Sparrow, Marsh Wren, Belted Kingfisher, and Barn Swallows. I also saw a tern about 100 yards away, probably a Common Tern. Then we explored the city and went to Niagara Falls, where the usual Double-crested Cormorants and Ring-billed Gulls abounded, but unlike my previous visit I didn't see any Peregrine Falcons. Warbling Vireos were heard at both locations, but not seen.
My second bird outing [on that trip] was in the town of Port Hope, Ontario, on the north shore of Lake Ontario. I found two local hot spots using online sources, but the first one was swarming with mosquitoes, so I gave up quickly and headed to Sculthorpe Marsh, on the east side of town. There I saw two Mute Swans at a nest, as well as a Lesser Yellowlegs. They are supposed to breed much farther north, so I'm not sure if this one was a stray or what. I also saw on the pond a Great Blue Heron, Canada Geese, and later a Green Heron. The best part came in a semi-open bushy area east of the pond, where I heard or saw Warbling Vireos, a Yellow Warbler, an American Redstart, a Common Yellowthroat, House Wrens, and Eastern Kingbirds. Also, I heard (but alas did not see) a Least Flycatcher!
On the final day of our trip, Sunday, July 11, I spent a short while looking for birds around our rental cabin at Otsego Lake, north of Cooperstown, NY. I spotted a Bald Eagle fighting with an Osprey, as often happens when fish are around. There was a family of Eastern Kingbirds up in the trees, with young ones being fed by the parents. I was lucky to get one of my best-ever photos of a House Wren. There aren't any Carolina Wrens that far north! By a parking lot on the north side of town I also had a nice view of a Common Yellowthroat, but couldn't get a good photo.
My first visit to Bell's Lane in July was on the afternoon of the 15th, but it was mostly the usual suspects, with multiple Eastern Kingbirds and American Goldfinches, as well as a sinister Red-tailed Hawk hiding in the foliage.
On July 16 I went to Augusta Springs for the first time in quite a while, and had a few good bird views here and there. [A] Ruby-throated Hummingbird was at the top of a dead tree at least 30 yards away, hence the poor photo quality. I saw a ragged-looking young bird which I'm pretty sure was a Worm-eating Warbler, due to the thick pink bill, pink feet, and short tail. Besides [an] American Redstart (J or F?), I also saw Ovenbirds and a Black-and-white Warbler. Two birds were conspicuous by their absence: Scarlet Tanagers and [Eastern] Wood Pewees. Blue-gray Gnatcatchers were seen or heard at multiple locations, and there were multiple Louisiana Waterthrushes by a stream along Rt. 42 about a half mile east of the Falls Hollow trail on the way home.
On the morning of July 19 I made it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway for only the second time this year, I believe. It was slow going for a while, but things got busier as I went farther south along Rt. 610, which parallels the BRP. I heard the harsh "cooo-cooo" song of [a] Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and seeing it was the highlight of the day for me. Cerulean Warblers were singing in several places, and I think I saw a family of them by the communication tower. Scarlet Tanagers and a Cedar Waxwing added color saturation, while a Black-and-white Warbler added contrast. I also heard but never saw an American Redstart or two, and likewise a White-breasted Nuthatch, an Eastern Wood Pewee, and an Acadian Flycatcher. Finally, an Eastern Towhee and an Indigo Bunting rounded out the list of notable birds.
On the morning of July 22 I went for a walk to the top of Mary Gray Hill, and saw a few Turkey and Black Vultures at the top of the cell phone tower there. There weren't many birds otherwise, just an Eastern Wood Pewee, a couple Red-bellied Woodpeckers, and the usual Tufted Titmice, etc. Later I went to Bell's Lane and saw a couple Indigo Buntings, Eastern Kingbirds, Gray Catbirds, and a Red-tailed Hawk.
My main objective on Saturday July 23 was to get some much-needed exercise, so I hiked up the Dowells Draft trail, gaining about 700 feet in elevation over two miles, and then returning. Early on, I heard a Red-breasted Nuthatch and saw a families of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Scarlet Tanagers. After a while I heard and eventually saw an Acadian Flycatcher, but otherwise it was pretty quiet. Not surprising, given the 92-degree temperature! Near the top I heard and then saw some Blue-headed Vireos, and on the way back down I saw an olive-colored bird scurrying along the trail, and it turned out to be an Ovenbird! Otherwise, zero warblers for the day.
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, on July 30 I hiked upstream from Braley Pond in the direction of Bald Ridge, farther than I had ever gone before. As I was passing the Izaak Walton preserve, just west of Lone Fountain along Rt. 250, I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk on a wire, so I stopped to take a photo. As soon as I got out of my car at Braley Pond I heard Red-breasted Nuthatches, and I estimate there were at least a dozen of them at various places along the way. (In my eBird report I made sure to describe clearly how and where I observed such a large number of them.) Unfortunately, the only one I had a good look at (bottom left) lacked any orange in front; perhaps it was a juvenile? Other highlights included a Red-shouldered Hawk flying high, two Indigo Bunting families, a Great Crested Flycatcher, an Acadian Flycatcher, a Scarlet Tanager, Blue-headed Vireos, Red-eyed Vireos, at least three Ovenbirds (which were silent), two singing Louisiana Waterthrushes, and some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers. Not a bad day!
As usual, the above photo montages, including some closeup images and additional photos, can be seen on the Wild Birds chronological photo gallery page.