If you are driving across New York state on the Thruway as I was this week, a nice diversion to break up the drive is the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge near Syracuse, which is bisected by I-90. In an easy hour or so, you can stop in at the accessible visitor center, take a road tour of the refuge with a few stops to view the expansive wetlands, and use the accessible viewing scope at May's Point before getting back on the road.
My timing couldn't have been more perfect in mid-April to hit a nice wave of ducks in migration. It was a glorious sunny afternoon. Tree swallows were cavorting on the wind around the visitor center and checking out the bird boxes. These and the osprey soaring over the center were the first sightings of these two species of the year for me. After a quick pitstop, I took the road tour and stopped at the first open wetland I came upon.
At first glance, there appeared to be zero waterfowl amidst the emerging grasses on a breezy day. With optics, a wide array ducks became apparent. For 20 minutes I oogled over blue-winged and green-winged teal, northern shovelers, northern pintails, and redhead ducks. The redheads were the bird of the day for me. They rarely if ever show up in New England. The males were glossy with water from dunking their heads underwater, so much so that they looked glazed in clear lacquer. Their gold eyes gleamed metallic against their coppery heads. It was a visual feast to take in a selection of ducks in great lighting.
By the end of my diversion, back on the highway, I had added wood ducks, lesser yellowlegs, Wilson's snipe, an American Kestrel, great egrets, ring-necked ducks, mute swans, a bald eagle nest and osprey on the nest to my lengthening bird list. Spring has sprung!
Redhead photo courtesy of photographer Tom Reichner and Ducks Unlimited.