Am I in Nebraska?

I had a great morning of birding today. The plan was to head to Montezuma NWR and try to relocate the Yellow-headed Blackbird that had been spotted by several people a couple days ago. This would be a great bird to add to my still quickly growing NY state list. I actually didn’t have high hopes of finding it as the marshes around Van Dyne Spoor Rd are extensive and it could be anywhere out in the marsh hidden low in the cattails.

We spent maybe 45 minutes scanning the marsh and picking up species like Black-crowned Night-Heron, Northern Harrier and thousands of Tree Swallows as we scanned back and forth through the flocks of Red-winged Blackbirds hiding in the vegetation, until all of a sudden I saw a flash of white. Yellow-headed Blackbird! As a bonus, it was an adult male and it spent the next 30 minutes or so perching in plain sight and flying around us. This was a much more satisfactory experience than the distant Yellow-headed Blackbirds I have seen in Pennsylvania where they are moving through farm fields in mixed species flocks of hundreds of thousands of blackbirds.

Next we went over to Marten’s Tract where we had seen several Nelson’s Sparrows last week. After a lot of walking around the cattails we were able to get decent looks at a single bird, and brief looks at two more. We also found a lot of Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows as we walked around which always got us excited when they first flushed.

To the end morning of birding we drove the Wildlife Drive at Montezuma NWR. It was overall pretty quiet, almost devoid of waterfowl except for Canada Geese, a couple shovelers, and a handful of teal. We started our drive back to Syracuse when we got a call from Jim Tarolli that he was looking at a Western Kingbird back on Van Dyne Spoor Rd!

This was only a couple miles from us so we got there as quick as we could and found it still sitting on the telephone wire. As we watched it, the Western Kingbird would fly off of the powerline each time a car passed and then return, unfortunately always at a fair distance from us. The heat shimmer and the fact that I was compensating for the distance by cranking my zoom up to 60x meant that the bird isn’t sharp in my video and photos but it is definitely identifiable. The white sides of the tail helped to eliminate the other yellow bellied kingbird species.

Seeing these two rarities in one day was quite exciting with Yellow-headed Blackbird being #200 in New York this year and Western Kingbird #201. I think this may be a bit of karma for missing out on a Northern Wheatear that showed up yesterday near my childhood home. Make sure you watch the video below at 1080p and I want to apologize for the shaking.  The video was really only salvageable thanks to the Meopta Meopix iScoping adapter I received from the folks at Meopta to test out. It holds my iPhone steady on the scopes eyepiece for better digiscoping and I will be reviewing it more fully in a future post.