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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Eden Valley and Tifft Nature Preserve

Two nights ago we had a decent snow storm, waking up to about six inches of fresh snow. It was perfect weather for a hike over to the creek that runs through Eden Valley. The walk starts by winding between some farm fields, then goes through the woods and down into the valley. It was still snowing pretty heavily on the way there, but right when we reached the creek the sun started to peak through the clouds.

On the cliffs across the creek were rows of icicles, which was cool to see:

The whole area was so scenic with the running water, the ice along the edges, and the fresh snow:

I thought I might see some birds on the creek hike, but all I manged to turn up was a handful of crows and a single bald eagle (15). Today, I gave it another shot at the Tifft Nature Preserve just south of Buffalo. While pulling into the preserve I spotted an American kestrel (16), which I thought might be a good omen. At first things were quiet, but then I found the stocked feeders near the visitor center. Finally, there were birds everywhere! Right away I spotted a couple of sparrows that I knew were something different from what I normally see. The first one I was able to identify was a white-throated sparrow (17):

We occasionally see white-throated sparrows on the west coast in the winter, but not often and they're usually just single birds, so it was cool to see several of them all together. Most of the sparrows, however, were American tree sparrows (18), a species I've only seen once before in 2004 in North Dakota:

I haven't seen many other species yet this year, but many of them were in the trees around the feeders at Tifft including mourning doves, lots of downy woodpeckers, black-capped chickadees, and a couple of pairs of northern cardinals. I did also add the red-breasted nuthatch (19) to the list. Here's on the of the chickadees, who wasn't shy at all:

I also finally got my chance to photograph the cardinal, who I had been patiently waiting for at the feeders where I'm staying without any luck:

There was one another sparrow-like bird that I kept getting glimpses of, but couldn't quite see well enough to identify. Then, while looking for a cardinal to photograph, I found myself face-to-face with the mystery bird - a common redpoll (year bird 20, NA life bird 340)!!!

This was a species that I had hoped to see while here in the winter, but I thought it was mostly wishful thinking. After checking with the rare bird alert report from the Buffalo Ornithological Society I knew a few had been seen in the area for the last week, but I really didn't think I would be lucky enough to see one! 

The common redpoll is actually a finch, not a sparrow, and they breed in the northern-most parts of the continent. They are known for being extremely resistant to cold temperatures, so their winter movements are driven mostly by a search for food. While their winter range spans much of southern Canada, they don't always reach the continental United States, reaching further south during irruption years, which are typically every other year for the redpoll.

The only thing that succeeded in drawing my attention away from the redpoll was the sudden close approach of a white-tailed deer. She seemed as curious about me as I was of her, which resulted in a nice pose for the camera:

After the deer continued on I suddenly realized how cold I was! It was time to head back to the car to warm up those fingers and toes.

Next up: Niagara Falls! I'll certainly have some photos of the Falls to share, but I also hope to spot a new-to-me gull species, several of which have been reported along the Niagara River in the last week or so.


Vera said...

Beautiful photos once again. Wow!

Lancashire and Lakeland Outback Adventure Wildlife Safaris said...

Cookin up a storm there Monika, sounds like it was great day! Life bird and a crackin pic of it, stonkin deer pic and a Cardinal, musta deleted 2-300 shots of them when we were in Florida but never did get a good one - well done!



Warren Baker said...

Well done with the Redpoll Monika. How nice you can see 6inch of snow so positively :-) Over here half that amount shuts, down roads, schools and airports!!!

Monika said...

Dave - I was thrilled with the deer photo, and the cardinal photo too though of course my goal is to get one with snow in the shot. I've still got a few more days to try!

Warren - Back home in the Pacific Northwest half an inch of snow is enough to shut everything down, but they're far better equipped to keep the roads plowed, etc. out here in New York. Plus it's a much drier snow - not very slick or icy. Still, I was mostly able to enjoy six inches because I didn't have to drive anywhere that day!

Andy said...

Wonderful winter scenes

eileeninmd said...

Wonderful photo. The nature preserve looks very pretty. I love all the birds, especially the Common Redpoll. I would love to see one myself. I enjoyed this post and your photos.