This year, similar to last year, we will be out of town during most of the CBC action. So, we were only able to attend one CBC in PA this year. So, on Friday night we drove three hours up to Erie to be ready the next morning to attend the Presque Isle CBC.
The next morning, we drove to Presque Isle State Park and pulled into the ranger station. There we met some of the other people attending the count. However, we were early (which never happens with us) so not that many people were there. However, as more and more people began to trickle in, we began to split into groups. Each of these groups would then bird a certain area of the park. I was assigned to a group which was going to go up to gull point, a well known place to watch shorebirds in migration.
We set out shortly and headed to a beach along Lake Erie where the daily water bird count at the park was to take place. Because this count happens every day, it was decided to be included into the count. As we watched the water, we saw huge flocks of red-breasted mergansers moving down the lake.
One of the Larger Flocks of Red-Breasted Mergansers
Also, there were many gulls, a few mallards, some coots, and a red-throated loon flew by but I didn’t see it (god dang it). Then, a flock of small finches flew over. As everyone got their binoculars on them, we realized that they were common redpolls. Not long after that, a flock of Canada geese flew over. However, with closer inspection, we realized that there were five cackling geese mixed in!! This was a life bird for me and a bird I have wanted to see for a long time. About 30 minutes later, we moved on. The place we went to next was an area with a lot of birch trees. Our hope was to find some of the redpolls that have been hanging around there and get better looks at them then we had when they flew over.
As we pulled in, we were greeted by the sight of about 150 redpolls sitting in the birch trees and feeding on the catkins.
Common Redpolls Feeding in a Birch Tree
It was really great to be able to get such good looks at these irruptive birds that we normally wouldn’t be able to see in PA.
We next moved on to the trail leading to Gull Point. There are two ways to go to get to the point. One, you can go over the beach, or two, you can cut through the woods on a trail. We chose beach. Nothing much was seen (besides a few bufflehead) on the one mile walk to the point and the observation tower that is on it. When we got to the point, the first bird we saw was a pair of bufflehead sitting in one of the ponds on the point.
We then split into two groups to search the point for the snow buntings that are often seen there. My group went across the point and then circled around towards the observation tower. Shortly, we heard the high-pitched chittering of snow buntings. We then saw a flock of about 10 birds circling around the point. A look through binoculars proved that they were snow buntings. But wait, one of them had no white on its wings! The original thought was that it was a lapland longspur. However, the conclusion later was that it was a horned lark. Ah well. We then began to head back. After gull point we stopped at a few more spots (and saw a mink that was crossing the road) before heading back to the ranger station from which we headed home.