Trip Reports
Braddock Bay, Monroe County (near Rochester) — October 11, 2009
posted 1/12/10

Note: This field trip was sponsored by two NYSYBC Partner Clubs: Burroughs Audubon Nature Club and Rochester Birding Association. Many thanks especially to Bob Mauceli of BANC and Ferne Merrill of RBA, plus NYSYBC Youth Member Greg Lawrence for leading the trip.

Braddock Bay Hawk Watch, photo by Bob Mauceli
Braddock Bay Hawk Watch
photo by Bob Mauceli

After a 4-hour trip to Rochester from Albany (over 7 hours total for me), Hope, Erich, and I arrived at Greg's house on Saturday evening. After being treated to a delicious pizza dinner, we decided to try for some Eastern Screech-Owls at a nearby woodlot. After going back and forth twice (I had neglected to bring speakers the first time), we played the recording several times, and even tried our own rendition of the whinny and tremelo calls. A couple people heard a far-off owl respond, but I was not among them. After trying for several more minutes, we decided to call it a night.

We awoke bright and early on Sunday, and after bagels for breakfast and some quick yard birding in the 43-degree morning (yielding Yellow-rumped Warbler and both kinglets), we left for the Braddock Bay hawk watch, arriving around 7:40. On the way in we passed a poor Ring-billed Gull with a fishing lure stuck in its beak and headed for the hawk watching platform, not for hawks, but to get a better view of nearby waterfowl. Several species were present, including Redheads, Lesser Scaup, Green-winged Teal, some Pied-billed Grebes and many American Coots. Unfortunately, Red-winged Blackbirds, House Finches, and Goldfinches were our only songbirds.

Braddock Bay Bird Observatory, taking measurements, photo by Bob Mauceli
Braddock Bay Bird Observatory, taking measurements
photo by Bob Mauceli


The next stop was the Braddock Bay Bird Observatory (BBBO), home to a large bird banding station with many, many nets. On the way there, Greg and I spotted a gleaming Ring-necked Pheasant on the side of the road. We spent almost two hours there, watching the banders and going on net checks to retrieve captured birds. Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, and White-throated Sparrows were the majority of the birds we found. I even got to release the BBBO's first-of-season Fox Sparrow.

After the banding station, we drove to Hamlin Beach, located right on Lake Ontario. The stiff winds didn't make the low temperatures any more comfortable, so we didn't spend a large amount of time scanning the lake. However, we did see some White-winged Scoters, Red-breasted Mergansers, many Common Loons, and two Horned Grebes, among the many other seabirds and waterfowl. Greg then led us to the wooded section of Hamlin, where, with some encouragement from a recording, we ran into many passerines, including a few Red-breasted Nuthatches.

Fox Sparrow removed from the mist net, photo by Benjamin Van Doren
Fox Sparrow removed from the mist net
photo by Benjamin Van Doren

Instead of taking the highway back to Greg's house, we elected to travel the back roads, in the hopes that it would be the birdier option. Besides a Peregrine Falcon, two Kestrels, and some common sparrows, however, the route was devoid of birds. After 20 minutes or so, we arrived at our last stop for the day, a large field perfect for sparrows. All four of us made our way through the tall grass, with unseen holes, small channels of water, and most annoying, lots and lots of prickly thistle. As I write this, a thistle splinter is lodged in my left hand...

We did have some nice sparrows, though. The first bird we spotted was a Swamp Sparrow, and after that Greg spotted a Nelson's (Sharp-tailed) Sparrow, but unfortunately he was the only one who was treated to a good look. In addition to those, we saw several White-crowned, Lincoln's, Savannah, and Song Sparrows. Overall a very successful stop.   

As it was becoming late (2 pm), everyone figured we should end the trip with a stop for lunch. After enjoying our food and compiling the trip list, we went our separate ways.

                                       — Benjamin Van Doren, age 15

Fox Sparrow, photo by Hope Batcheller
Fox Sparrow
photo by Hope Batcheller

Here is an article that was submitted by Holly and Fred Lawrence to the Rochester Birding Association:

Over Columbus Day week-end, our family entertained members of the NYS Young Birder’s Club.  In addition to Greg, three other young birders joined the RBA and Burroughs Audubon-sponsored trip.  Erich Lehner and Hope Batcheller are from the Albany area; Ben Van Doren resides in White Plains, so he had an even greater distance to travel for the exciting week-end.  Erich Lehner’s mother, Annette, is the adult coordinator for the group and acted as “taxi driver” for the three bird enthusiasts!  We invited the group to our house on Saturday night for dinner, conversation, and nighttime birding.  In addition to quizzing each other on bird facts, the teens were outside listening for night calls and attempting to bring in an Eastern Screech-Owl over at Lake Plains Waterfowl (Island Cottage Woods), to no avail!  Two of the birders stayed at the Lawrence “Bed and Breakfast.”  After a bagel breakfast in the morning, it was off to Braddock Bay Park for some scoping of waterfowl.  Bob Mauceli joined the group and took quite a few photos of the birders in action!  Next stop was BBBO and a tour of the facility.  Greg led the group on a tour of BBBO and took them into the field for two net runs.  The “bird of the day” was a beautiful Fox Sparrow!  In addition to observing the banding process, the birders watched a professor perform blood tests on certain species.  We also observed a college student who was testing for the effects of ultra-violet lights on birds.  Ferne Merrill joined our enthusiastic group and we headed west to Hamlin Beach State Park.  At Hamlin Beach, we encountered Bill Symonds, the “resident” expert on Lake Ontario’s waterfowl.  He willingly shared his expertise with the young birders, providing tips for identifying water birds in flight.  Although the day was sunny, the air was crisp, and the wind was brisk.  Some of us (the less hardy souls) escaped into the picnic shelter for a respite from the cold!  Birder Ben amazed us with his birdcalls on his iPhone.  This recorded “spishing” brought in quite a variety of birds in the western woods of the park.  Nuthatches and Ruby-crowned Kinglets were the two most numerous species of the day!  After leaving Hamlin Beach, the two car caravan drove the back roads through Hamlin and Parma, locating two American Kestrels perched on the wires.  The Dalheim property near Burger Park was alive with sparrows, so the four birders were hiking through the fields, flushing out six species to add to their count of the day.  Seven hungry birders “flew” into Char-Broil Restaurant for lunch, warmth, and a chance to tally their sightings. A total count of sixty-nine species made for an exciting Upstate New York trip for these downstate birders.

We are thankful to the Rochester Birding Association for supporting the NYS Young Birder’s Club.  All of you have been very kind and encouraging to Greg through his years in the RBA.  Because of RBA and the young birder’s club, he has met fascinating people who share a passion for birding and conservation.  It has been wonderful to witness the friendships that have developed among these teens in the one year since the NYSYBC has been in existence.

             View photo gallery 

List of Birds Seen on this Trip
by Greg Lawrence

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Lesser Scaup
Greater Scaup
White-winged Scoter
Red-breasted Merganser
Ring-necked Pheasant
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Peregrine Falcon
American Coot
Greater Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
American Wigeon
Bonaparte’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Winter Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Hermit Thrush
American Robin
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Northern Cardinal
Savannah Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Species Total: 69