The Core Team has been on holiday, visiting with family throughout the upper reaches of Pennsylvania and New York and celebrating Christmas over and over. Now that the yule festivities are over, we can get down to toasting in the New Year. But first, we had to take a stab at adding some final birds to the list in 2004.
On the last day of 2003, we visited Montauk Point in search of birds of the icy Atlantic. This year, since we’re currently in Rochester, we were in position to seek out new winter waterfowl. With only a couple of hours to spare, we checked out Irondequoit Bay. Irondequoit Bay, a large bay on the southern shore of Lake Ontario, is a focal point for winter birding in this area. It is particularly known for its diversity of gulls and sea ducks. Although we were in no mood to try to identify any of the former, we were quite keen on the latter. Our target bird was the Long-tailed Duck.
The long-tailed duck, formerly known as the Oldsquaw, is a striking study in light and dark plumage. The male is particularly handsome, with patches of black and white, set off by an orange and black bill. This diving duck’s tail is, of course, noteworthy, with slender central feathers curved elegantly upwards like a waxed mustachio.
Like Picasso, we do not seek, we find. Almost immediately upon arrival at the seasonal bridge at the bay outlet, we spotted the distinctive ducks. We also noted American Coot, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, and loads of Mallard, including some ragged hybrids. Domesticated geese and Mute Swan also worked the bay, along with the expected flocks of gulls. I assume most of them were the usual Herring, Ring-billed, and Great Black-backed Gull, but we just weren’t psychologically prepared to confront the subtleties of seasonal plumage. I’m sure we’re not the only ones to ever take a pass on gulls.
Our excursion was extremely brief. Despite the unseasonable warmth, rain and wind take some of the fun out of birding. In addition, though Rochester is a great locale for winter rarities, we’ve got champagne chilling and friends arriving. There’s always next year!
Happy New Year!