Chirps and Cheeps

A Photo Journal of My Birding Experiences & Observations

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  Two Nice Surprises

Published: March 14, 2019
Tags: General Observations, snow goose, black vulture, eastern meadowlark, killdeer, american robin, eastern bluebird, song sparrow, red-winged blackbird, hooded merganser, ring-necked duck, wild turkey, beaver

Today was a gorgeous, sunny, warm day - the best so far this year.  Work and babysitting kept me indoors until the afternoon, when I was free to enjoy a walk through a nearby park.

As I came up to the large athletic field, I noticed a small bird-like lump in the grass.  Last year, a similar lump turned out to be an Eastern Meadowlark, so I grabbed a couple of quick photos just to be on the safe side in case it flew off, with hopes of getting a little closer to ID it.  As I glanced from the lump to my left, I saw a white-headed goose mixed in with a group of Canada Geese over near a waterway.  Forgetting all about the lump, I realized the white head belonged to a blue (or dark) morph Snow Goose!  What a fun find!  I watched as a couple of dogs and their walkers passed by the geese and none flushed.  Slowly, I approached and took some photos of this beautiful goose.

Apart from a few sightings here and there, we don't often see Snow Geese in Western New York - and when we do, it's usually in Spring Migration.  This was a very luck encounter, especially to see a "blue" up close.  These darker morphs aren't as common as the light / white morphs and I always get a thrill out of seeing one.  Note the white head, pink bill and legs, and the almost white wing coverts.  These field marks all point to a dark, adult Snow Goose.  There is a complete range of intermediate birds that can be found between the light and dark morphs - but those field marks separate this species from any of the other goose species.

Leaving the geese to their goosely things, I continued on across the athletic field - the lump now completely forgotten.

I am constantly scanning the sky, always on the lookout for raptors, and a fairly high vulture caught my attention.  It was circling above the field with what looked to be a shorter than normal tail and wider than normal wings (as compared to Turkey Vultures).  Closer inspection showed silvery wing tips - yes, a Black Vulture!  I took some documentation shots of this wonderful sighting right away and then watched it in my bins as it slowly circled its way beyond view.  This is another bird we rarely see in Western New York - at least in Erie County.  There is a small population of Black Vultures that breed and live year-round up near Lewiston, NY, but only once in a great while do we get to see them here in Erie County.

As I left the park, a pretty, little Eastern Bluebird sang from its perch, giving me a nice finish to a busy but good day!

Oh, and when I finally got around to my photos, I found the lump to, indeed, be an Eastern Meadowlark!  I wish I could have enjoyed it more but that Snow Goose was worth the diversion!

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Snow Goose giving a really nice pose!

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Two Canada Geese on the left with the "blue" Snow Goose

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Black Vulture - a nice rare sighting

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Black Vulture catching some thermals

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A handsome male Eastern Bluebird softly singing

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It's so great to see and hear the Red-winged Blackbirds that are back in force at the marsh.

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I saw and heard many Song Sparrows - they must have all come in overnight!

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The "lump" - which turned out to be an Eastern Meadowlark hunkered down low in the grassy field.

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This American Robin was also out on the athletic field but it much easier to see!

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Three amigos / Killdeer making a LOT of noise during their conference!

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Wild Turkeys that I saw near my son's house earlier in the day. The neighbor puts out strawberries for them!

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Wild Turkeys - what elaborate creatures!

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Hooded Mergansers seen the next morning

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Ring-necked Duck seen the next morning

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A beaver in the pond hard at work



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