Trip Reports
Tomhannock Reservoir, Rensselaer County — November 12, 2011
BONUS: Behind-the-Scenes Tour at the New York State Museum in Albany!
posted 12/13/11   

Note: This field trip was sponsored by the Hudson-Mohawk Bird Club, a NYSYBC Partner Club. Many thanks especially to Larry Alden of HMBC and Jeremy Kirchman, Curator of Birds at the New York State Museum, for planning and leading a wonderful trip!

First look at the reservoir
photo by Carena Pooth

On a cool, crisp morning up at Tomhannock Reservoir before 8:00, birds were calling in the parking lot. Excitement and frost were in the air, as people waited to start the birding. We all told what we wanted to see this morning, and some were pretty crazy, like warblers and tanagers.

In the parking lot, our guide Larry located a Ring-billed Gull in his scope. Suddenly, the rattling call of 2 Belted Kingfishers was heard as they flew over us. Several flocks of Canada Geese flew over us, and in the end, there probably was a couple hundred of them. We then assembled in the parking lot and when everybody was there, we daringly crossed the road to the other side of the reservoir to scan for birds. Once when we arrived there, 4 Common Mergansers, almost on the shore, swam away quickly from our group. Then we spotted some Hooded Mergansers (Hoodies), Ruddy Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Double-crested Cormorants, and a Great Blue Heron. We then walked along the path a little further and set the scopes up and spotted some American Black Ducks and a pair of Mallards. We bravely crossed the road again to the other side of the reservoir to scan for birds and saw a large flock of Canada Geese on the water. Someone said they thought they saw a loon and we started to play "Spot the Loon". We eventually spotted them and there were actually 2 Common Loons.

It was cold here, but the Horned Grebes were great!
photo by Carena Pooth

Larry decided that it was time to start the "drive & bird" part of the trip, and as we left the parking lot, we saw 2 Mute Swans on the reservoir. At our first stop, we saw a Common Loon up close. The second stop we saw some Hoodies, American Black Ducks, and best of all, we saw an immature Bald Eagle soaring above us. We saw a mature Bald Eagle next to an immature one on a sandbar in the creek. We also heard & saw an American Goldfinch. At our third stop, we saw 2 Horned Grebes in the water. At the 4th stop, there was a large flock of Canada Geese with a Red-necked Grebe floating with them and a flock of Buffleheads, male and female. We then started to look for birds other than waterfowl at this stop (woodpeckers) and Larry revealed his secret weapon!!!! It was a Hasbro sound and tape recorder with a Screech-Owl tape on it to attract the birds! We tried and nothing occurred. We tried it by another creek and only got a White-breasted Nuthatch. We decided to try it again, and we were almost being mobbed by the birds! White-throated Sparrows, both of the kinglet species, Black-capped Chickadees, Cardinals, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, and Tufted Titmouse were flying over us crazily. We drove around a little more but nothing productive came out of it so, we went to the diner for lunch (most people had breakfast) and discussed the trip. Larry told us that he saw otters in a large pond next to the diner so, after brunch, we checked it out and saw a couple of otters playing! It was hard to get them because they kept diving.

Jeremy shows us a Brandt's Cormorant from Oregon, photo by Mary Batcheller
That malodorous Oregonian Brandt's Cormorant
photo by Mary Batcheller

Next we went to the NYS Museum to go on a behind the scenes tour led by the Curator of Birds, Jeremy Kirchman. We first went to the skins and skeletons room where he showed us an Eastern Screech-Owl, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, and a Red-headed Woodpecker skeleton. Those were VERY cool. Then he showed us a Great-horned Owl skin (stuffed) along with a Snowy Owl one that he prepared. Some of the skeletons and skins were over a hundred years old! Next we saw extinct or rare bird skins. Some of the most notable were a male AND female Labrador Duck, Carolina Parakeets, Eskimo Curlew, Passenger Pigeon, Dusky Seaside Sparrow, and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers. Some of the rare ones were the Tufted Puffin, and Audubon's Crested Caracara. We also saw warbler, tanager, oriole, and finch skins, which were very pretty. Too bad they were dead! Then he showed us a Snow Bunting skin which Hope Batcheller found and gave to him. Hope Batcheller is the person who asked NYSOA to set up & sponsor the young birders club (NYSYBC) – thank you Hope! Jeremy showed us the room where he prepares the birds for them to be made into skins or skeletons. He had a Brandt's Cormorant from Oregon (it smelled!) and some Yellow-rumped Warblers. Finally, he showed us the DNA lab where he analyzes the DNA. In all, it was a great day of birding and a good time at the museum, with many new life species for people on the trip.

                              — Eamon Freiburger age 12

             View photo gallery 

List of Birds Seen on this Trip
by Andrew Consler

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
American Black Duck
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe*

* First time seen on a NYSYBC trip

Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Belted Kingfisher
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Eastern Bluebird
American Robin
White-throated Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Species Total: 34