A Travellerspoint blog

July 2019

Sailing Day!

Chautauqua, NY

semi-overcast 78 °F

Today was my first completely-free day here since I arrived, and I took advantage of it by going sailing with a local sailor & airplane pilot, Mr. Wolfe! Two of my friends, Shan & Mathieu joined me and we had an absolute blast learning the basics of sailing. I did not bring my camera in fear of getting it wet, so iphone photos will once again have to suffice for the day. It was a beautiful day to be sailing:

Right by the boat launch, there is a huge structure built for PURPLE MARTINS. Every cavity seemed to have an active nest!

RING-BILLED GULLS such as these are a common sight here at Lake Chautauqua. While sailing further out onto the lake, I also spotted a few of their relatives, CASPIAN TERNS, flying about and hunting around.

And before we went for a brief swim & ice cream stop, we stopped to play with this joyful 5-year old Golden Retriever.

Bird-of-the-day to the Purple Martins with runner-up to the Caspian Terns. Not a whole lot to choose from bird-wise, but it was still a wonderful day out with friends!

Good birding,
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 15:13 Archived in USA Comments (0)

The Summer Doldrums & life update

Chautauqua, NY

sunny 75 °F

Between the part of early June where interesting breeding birds are most active and territorial & the real start of southbound shorebird migration in late July lies an awkward period for most American birders known as the “summer doldrums.” This period, for many birders, can be considered a time of recuperation from the madness of observing spring migration in May. For me, though, this time is anything but relaxing as it coincides with the preparation of multiple opera performances at the Chautauqua Institution, including my first operatic role as the humorous character “Snug” in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, composed by Benjamin Britten.

The best birding I can get here comes in the form of walking around campus; two purple birds, PURPLE MARTIN & PURPLE FINCH, have been my best sightings here, but have all been sighted sans-camera. A faithful male SONG SPARROW always sings from the exact same tree I pass by every morning too! Additionally, I believe I caught a glimpse of an EASTERN SCREECH-OWL the other evening before it disappeared into the woods, but I wasn’t 100% sure — too fast & too dark to tell.

Today, while waiting outside of the theater during a quiet part of Midsummer Night’s Dream, this CHIPPING SPARROW graced us singers with its presence just about a foot away, allowing for one crappy iPad shot before it spooked and flew off:

Sometimes, we just gotta make lemonade out of lemons! I will give Chipping Sparrows full credit as they are a native species and in my opinion much preferable any day to the aggressive, invasive House Sparrows that take over everywhere.

Although I don’t think I will get around to much birding here at Chautauqua, I fly out to Idaho for my family’s annual trip there on August 10. I am hoping to do some hiking, bird with my wonderful friends Kathleen C & Poo WP, and hopefully “clean up” a few lifers I still need out there such as Spruce Grouse & Virginia's Warbler! That segment of the summer (Aug 10-23) will be packed full with birding so expect to hear much more from me then. After that, it is back to NYC for the school year August 28! Fun times ahead.

Good birding,
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:47 Archived in USA Comments (2)

Independence Day Birding

Chautauqua County, NY

semi-overcast 83 °F

Today, I didn’t have any camp events until afternoon so my mom and dad took me birding at two nearby natural areas that are known to have a wonderful diversity of breeding bird species: Hill Higher State Forest & Watts Wildlife Management Area.

When we arrived at the State Forest around 7am, I immediately noticed a proliferation of OVENBIRDS, including this individual, singing throughout the vast woodland areas. I probably heard upwards of three dozen of these guys piping away this morning.

Then, I heard a thicker “churry churry churry” song and I knew the only thing it could be was MOURING WARBLER! This was my first warbler species of the day that doesn’t typically breed in the Chicago area; the nearest places to Chicago where this species breeds are western Michigan & central Wisconsin. It was great to see a difference in the breeding bird species here at a higher elevation in western New York.

Then, the sore-throated robin song alerted me to the presence of this male SCARLET TANAGER, an appropriately crimson nod to Independence Day.

The female MOURNING WARBLER also gave a brief appearance! Very nice to see this which means they must be breeding in this preserve.

BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER, male. Again, the closest typical breeding locations for this bird to Chicago are in central Wisconsin, so it was wonderful to see this bird on its breeding ground instead of just passing through.

One of the most stunning birds of the day made itself evident through its wheezy, high-pitched song from a large stand of conifer trees: male BLACKBURNIAN WARBLER! A bird strongly tied to northern conifer forests, I was really hoping to find this species today so it was a great relief to see this tangerine-throated beauty pose for photos.

And a typical winter bird in Chicago, the DARK-EYED JUNCO, also appeared to be on summer territory in this patch of conifer forest. Very cool!

VEERY thrushes such as this one were numerous throughout the day:

I believe this to be an ACADIAN FLYCATCHER, though I was only allowed a quick glance before it flew away. I did hear others calling throughout the morning and they are known to breed in the area.


A family favorite was CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLER, which allowed for great looks multiple times this morning. Although it is a scarce breeder in northern Illinois, these guys are also much more common further north in the summertime.

At Watts Wildlife Management Area, there were more openlands so a slightly different mix of bird species. EASTERN KINGBIRD:

American Bullfrog, one of many:

My favorite sighting there was a family of CANADA WARBLERS. Here is the brilliantly-colored male posing oh so nicely:

A recently-fledged bird was also present, and would occasionally be fed by the male. Too cool! Another migrant through Chicago that was wonderful to see on its breeding ground.


On the way out, I spotted this SAVANNAH SPARROW along the road:

And finally right before we got back to my parent’s cabin they’re renting for the week, I had my dad stop the car when I heard a HOODED WARBLER! Hooded Warbler, indeed — score! One of my favorite birds.

When we got back to the house, my dad spotted a big American Groundhog and I was able to snap a picture before it scurried underneath the neighbor’s house.

An immature BALD EAGLE also flew over:

What a great morning of birding! Songbirds have to be my favorite group of birds and warblers are especially eye-candy. Bird-of-the-day to the Blackburnian & Canada Warblers with runners-up to the Mourning & Hooded Warblers! Great species to choose from.

Good birding,
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 10:29 Archived in USA Comments (1)

Finally...some birding at camp!

Ashville, NY

semi-overcast 83 °F

Tuesday, I birded around the vicinity of the property on which my family is staying for the week in Ashville, NY which is close to my summer camp in Chautauqua, NY. I’m staying on campus in the dorms but it is nice to visit with my family this week.

Great looks at BALTIMORE ORIOLES prevailed this afternoon — all my family got to watch this beautiful creature. Here is the male:

And here the female:


BALTIMORE ORIOLE terrorizing an AMERICAN CROW which came too close to its nest:

A singing male RED-EYED VIREO gave great looks right above the cabin:




Then, my sister Pearl and I walked down the lane to look for birds and we found a pair of YELLOW-BREASTED SAPSUCKERS! So cool — I have never before observed these birds on their breeding grounds.

An insquisitive male NORTHERN CARDINAL:


Bird-of-the-day to the Yellow-breasted Sapsuckers along the lane, with runner-up to the Purple Martin. So nice to see my family again!

Good birding,
World Life List: 971 Species

Posted by skwclar 08:00 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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