Posted by: gattobirders | February 7, 2017

New York Weekend Trip!

It has been a really really long time since I posted anything, but I am going to try to get better about posting more often about our crazy birding adventures! I am also going to try to go back and recount some trips we have taken, so keep a lookout for those posts too! Here’s the story of our latest weekend adventure to New York:

A Ross’s Gull had been reported for several days at Tupper Lake, NY, and the weekend was fast approaching, should we chase the bird or not? Nathan had been asking me this question for days, finally we decided, if the bird is seen on Thursday we are leaving first thing Friday morning! On Thursday afternoon we see the reports, or several reports, of a Ross’s Gull at Tupper Lake Boat Launch, guess we are going to New York! 

Tupper Lake is, according to Google Maps, a close to a 13 hour drive. Reasonable for a weekend trip right?! HA! We decided the best plan was to leave our house in Winston-Salem, NC Friday morning and drive to Lake George, NY and spend the night there. Lake George is only an 11 hour drive, according to Google Maps, so we felt that was a reasonable drive for one day.

When we were over halfway there Friday afternoon we got an email that no one had seen the bird yet that day, but it was snowing really hard and the birders could barely see anything much less a small white bird, so we decided to keep driving and hope for better weather and visibility Saturday morning!

Unfortunately we hit some traffic, and maybe stopped too many times, but the Lake George drive took us right at 13 hours! We made it to the grocery store, of what appeared to be a ghost town, 10 minutes before closing! We stocked up on snacks and water as the store was shutting off the lights, while we were still in there!! We went to our hotel and crashed!

Saturday morning we woke up around 4 a.m. so we could leave no later than 4:45 a.m. to make the drive to Tupper Lake before sunrise. I decided to shower first thing in the morning to help me wake up, but I didn’t dry my hair. We loaded up the car and while Nathan was checking out of the hotel and I was trying to warm up the car, my hair was frozen and crunchy! I realized, I did not bring enough clothes for this weather!! The drive should’ve taken about an hour and 45 minutes, but of course it was snowing and we were in my Prius so it took us almost 2 and a half hours. There was one hill we weren’t sure we would make it up, but luckily the Prius made it up the hill and we were safe!

We were the first birders there in the morning, but after about 30-40 minutes tons of birders drove up, mostly people from New York and one person from Canada. We searched the lake for hours in the freezing cold and bitter wind, and unfortunately we never saw the Ross’s Gull. We had nice weather, other than the cold and wind, but the visibility was perfect. The Ross’s Gull has not been reported since Thursday, February 2, so he has most likely moved on to a new location! While we were at Tupper Lake we did get to see a Northern Shrike and Evening Grosbeaks, which are birds we had only seen in Minnesota last February, so that was nice to see those birds again! 

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-1-41-08-pmEvening Grosbeaks Tupper Lake, NY 2/4/17

We were pretty disappointed we came all the way to miss the bird, but that’s birding! Birds are not on a schedule, and they don’t care that you drove through 7 states just to see him! Surprisingly we did not feel completely defeated, because at least we knew we tried and it was beautiful up there with the frozen lake with mountains in the background. 

After spending the whole morning and better part of the afternoon in Tupper Lake, we decided it was time to cut our losses and head South! We decided to check out some other birding spots on our way home to break up the drive a little. I have never seen a Ring-necked Pheasant and some had been reported South of Lake George, so we checked out those spots, but no pheasants. Oh well, I will eventually see one in NC. After striking out on the pheasant we started heading South again.

In Pennsylvania a Black-backed Oriole had been coming to a person’s feeder for about week, this was a first ABA Provisional Record (American Birding Area, which includes the U.S. and Canada) so we decided to drive to Wyomissing, PA to get a hotel and go look for the Oriole first thing Sunday morning, then head home. The home owners have restricted viewing the bird from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. so we didn’t have to wake up super early to go see the bird. When we arrived, a little early, there were already close to 10-15 birders already setting up their spotting scopes and cameras. We waited out in the cold for about 45 minutes before the bird popped up in a low bush. The striking orange and black really made the bird stand out, even though he was tucked back in the bush.

Once we saw the bird, we attempted to take some photos of it, but with it being far back in the bush it was pretty hard, but we did get identifiable photos. The one bad thing about having so many birders out on this small neighborhood sidewalk was it made it harder to see the bird. We were set up closer to the front of the house, and of course the bird was in the backyard, so we could only see it well when it was in the bush and not when it was out in the open on the bird feeder. But we were able to see it and get a terrible photo of it, but that was enough for us! We later found out, over 200 birders went to see that bird on Sunday!

screen-shot-2017-02-07-at-1-41-19-pmBlack-backed Oriole Sinking Spring, PA 2/5/17

We left the Black-backed Oriole spot around 8 a.m. and started heading to NC. Our friend called to let us know there was a Long-eared Owl reported about 10 minutes off the highway in Virginia, and who isn’t going to take a 20 minute detour to look for a Long-eared Owl?! We have only see one Long-eared Owl before in Canada and when we saw it, he was sitting on the side of the road then flew up through our headlights and into a tree. So we thought we might get better looks at this one.

When we arrived at the Botanical Gardens we started looking for the tree the person described the bird to be in, but of course there were tons of hemlocks and white pine trees. We had to be home by 4 p.m. so we didn’t have a lot of time to look for this bird, and when we were about to give up on him, we ran into a birder. She asked us if we had seen the bird, and we told her we had not, and she asked if we checked his normal roost? We explained to her that we were from NC and had never been to this location before so we were completely clueless, and she said, “Oh let me take you to the spot!” So we walked back through this old building and on the side of the building there was a tree and she said he’s usually here, and right when she said that Nathan exclaimed, “He’s looking right at us!” He was really hard to see through the tree, but I was able to find him in the binoculars, and got amazing looks at him!! We watched him for a few minutes, and Nathan took some great photos of him, then we had to head home!

1s6a5751-1Long-eared Owl Clarke County, VA 2/5/17

As we were driving the last 5 hours home, we were a little disappointed we missed the Ross’s Gull, but we did get to see some really amazing birds during the trip, and had a great time exploring new areas. So even though we missed our target bird, we still enjoyed ourselves, and whenever we do finally see a Ross’s Gull, we will appreciate it even more! Plus, what fun would birding be if you saw every bird you chased anyway?! HAHA!

When we got home, I figured out just driving from the different spots, not including driving around each place looking for the birds, we drove around 30.5 hours in less than 3 days!

Posted by: gattobirders | April 4, 2013

Our First Chase!

Our first rare bird chase was to try to find a Greater White-fronted Goose and Rough-legged Hawk in Hendersonville, NC.

We saw the reports on eBird and decided on Sunday morning to go chase the birds. eBird is a great website that allows people to enter in their sightings and let people know where they saw the bird so others can go look for it too.

We were so excited to drive somewhere in search of a specific bird. Before when we would bird watch we would just go hiking or walk around our neighborhood and record what we saw, but this time, we had a mission.

Luckily we only lived about an hour from Hendersonville, so we were able to get there right before sunrise.

We started our adventure at the Mill River Waste Treatment plant.

When we arrived at the waste treatment plant we saw a wide variety of birds, American Robins, Killdeer, Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, Canada Geese, 3 gorgeous male Buffleheads, but no Greater White-fronted Goose. We waited around for a half hour, and were about to pack up and head to another spot, when, right over our heads came in a flock of 10 Greater White-fronted Geese! We were so excited that we almost didn’t see to the 2 Ross’s Geese sitting on the other side of the pond.

After our success at the waste treatment plant, we drove to another spot nearby to check for the Rough-legged Hawk, unfortunately we were unable to relocate the hawk.

We were still very satisfied with the birds we did see, both of the geese were “life” birds for us (a life bird is a bird that you have never seen before, once you see it, you can add it to your “life list”)

We decided to bird around the area and check out some other birding “hotspots” (an eBird term for a place that is frequently birded and a good place to find birds). As we were wandering around the Hendersonville area we ran into another birder, Wayne. We talked with Wayne for a few minutes, then out of no where 14 Sandhill Cranes flew over our heads, another life bird!

We had such a great day chasing birds, and ended up picking up 3 lifers!

From that day on, we have chased as many life birds as we can!



Great White-Fronted Geese


8 of the 14 Sandhill Cranes flying over our heads


Ross’s Goose next to a Canada Goose