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Monday, March 25, 2013

Trip Report: Champlain Valley Birding

A small group of hardy birders with the North Branch Nature Center traversed the Champlain Valley on Saturday searching for waterfowl and other avian delights.  A harsh wind made viewing on the lake difficult, yet an impressive 12 species of ducks (and many other birds) were still seen throughout the day!  Some pictorial highlights are shown here, but our full bird list is also included below (with rare/uncommon birds in bold).

Highlight 1: Hybrid Goose!

This presumed Snow X Canada Goose hybrid was spotted by a participant at the Champlain Bridge.  At first, a dark-morph Snow Goose seemed like a reasonable ID, but after looking more closely, we concluded this bird was a hybrid.  If this were a dark-morph Snow Goose, the pattern wouldn’t be a perfect match for Canada Goose in both color and pattern (and white-edged secondaries would be visible).  If it were a Canada Goose with a pigment abnormality, the beak would not show the “grin patch” that is so characteristic of Snow Goose.  These, and other more subtle field marks, were used to support our identification.  None of us had ever even heard of this hybrid before and so we were more than thrilled to have discovered it!

Highlight 2: Raptors!

More than once, we were treated to the most spectacular views of raptors that any of us ever had.  As Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Harriers flapped in the strong wind, they hovered motionless at eye-level giving us extended close-up views.  All told, we saw eight species of raptors throughout the day.  

Highlight 3: “Ground Birds”

For the past week leading up to our trip, a huge influx of “ground birds” had been noted in the Champlain Valley.  This eclectic group of birds includes Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, and Lapland Longspur.  All three species were seen, with spectacular views of Horned Lark feeding on a roadside just feet from our group.  Lapland Longspurs were seen only on Gage Road in Addison, with a number of individuals transforming into their spectacular breeding plumage!

Despite the wind, we managed to see all this and more.  Here is our full bird list from the day:


Canada Goose Glaucous Gull * rare
Snow X Canada Goose hybrid Great Black-backed Gull
Gadwall Rock Pigeon
American Wigeon Mourning Dove
American Black Duck Downy Woodpecker
Mallard American Kestrel
Northern Pintail Peregrine Falcon
Green-winged Teal Blue Jay
Ring-necked Duck American Crow
Lesser Scaup Common Raven
Scaup sp. Horned Lark
Bufflehead Black-capped Chickadee
Common Goldeneye White-breasted Nuthatch
Hooded Merganser Eastern Bluebird
Common Merganser American Robin
Turkey Vulture European Starling
Northern Harrier Bohemian Waxwing
Cooper's Hawk Snow Bunting
Bald Eagle Lapland Longspur
Red-tailed Hawk American Tree Sparrow
Rough-legged Hawk Dark-eyed Junco
Ring-billed Gull Northern Cardinal
Herring Gull Red-winged Blackbird
Iceland Gull * rare Common Grackle

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