Missing school for anything is usually fun, missing school in a hurricane is awesome, missing school in a hurricane to go birding is very awesome. However, missing school in a hurricane to go birding in a place where 29 jeargars were seen the day before is a dream come true.
That’s what happened to me on Wednesday. I was able to miss the first class of school (its fine we didn’t do anything important and I don’t normally miss school) and was able to go to Green Lick Reservoir in Fayette County south of Pittsburgh. The day before, a report had come in over the PABirds listserv of 29 pomerine jeargars at this location. Also, there were reports of brant. So, I went down with my Dad.
On the way down, we saw something that looked very much like snow that was hitting the windshield. As light outside increased we realized that it was snow. A few minutes later, we saw a snowplow go by salting the road as it went. Normally when we get snow in November, it is very light and ends quickly. However, this was a good amount of snow. It looked more like the kind of snow we get in December instead of November.
Soon, we arrived at Green Lick. It was still dark and we could barely see anything so we did a quick driving tour around the lake to look for spots that would be good when the sun came up.
However, the sun soon came up and we saw that there was a group of something out in the middle of the lake. We parked and got the scope on them. We found them to be a group of common loons and double-crested cormorants. We then moved on to the other side of the lake. There we saw a great spectacle. Laid out before us were hundreds of ruddy ducks and coots.
Another shot of the ruddies
Awed by this sight, we continued back down the lake to park along the shore and wait to see what turned up. The first thing we noticed as we got out of the car, was a raft of about three Bufflehead on the opposite side of the lake. However, we thought they might be blue morph snow geese with their heads tucked under their wings. It was very dark and snowy and therefore hard to see and operate a scope.
While we tried to figure out the Bufflehead, we saw a flock of about fifteen geese swim past us on the shore. I got my binoculars on them and they turned out to be brant!
Brant on lake shore
I must say, brant are one of my favorite water birds. They have also been a bird which I have wanted to see for a while. This group of brant was my 388th life bird, putting me only 12 birds away from my goal for this year of putting my life list above the 400 mark (more on that later).
After watching the brant, we saw that a large raft of ducks had moved out of an inlet on the other side of the lake. Mixed in with them were two black scoters. Also above the lake, were a flock of gulls. We scanned all the gulls carefully but there were no jeargars mixed in.
I then had to return to school. However, it was a great morning birding and I was pleased with our success.