On New Year’s Day OCAS began a what we hope will be a long-running annual event for us. New Year’s Day birding trips are a tradition held by many bird watchers as they begin to fill their year lists. This year we decided to combine that tradition with the fairly new tradition of First Day Hikes that have started to be held at State Parks across the country. Eighteen people  came together at Button Bay State Park in Ferrisburgh on the New Year’s morning to walk the trails and search for overwintering birds.

We had a great beginning right at the gate of the park when a flock of Snow Buntings flew past us and and large flock of Snow Geese flew by overhead not long after. We also got a good look at a Red-Bellied Woodpecker as it flew between trees.


Down the trails to the first camping area, we found a flock of Cedar Waxwings that was taking advantage a full Berry bush. A single female Purple Finch was seen in the same area, as were three Hairy Woodpeckers.

Nearby we took advantage of an overlook and to view waterfowl which filled the unfrozen bay. There we saw the bulk of the over one thousand Canada Geese we observed during our walk, both on the water and flying over in skeins in the air. Horned Grebes were present in good numbers too, with twenty-eight of them spotted by us. Also on the water were Mallards, Black Ducks and a distant Common Loon. From another vantage point further along the trail we got another look at the water west of Ship Point where we found a flock of Bufflehead and Common Goldeneye.

Near the end of the trail there is a stand of Hemlocks at which we tried “spishing” to attract Kinglets. Though we didn’t find any, we did draw in a flock of Black-capped Chickadees which immediately went into a mobbing response out of proportion with any threat we may have posed. Examining the Oak tree their attention was centered on, we discovered a large hole high up in the trunk which led us to speculate that this might be the home of an Owl, which might explain the Chickadees response, but we couldn’t be sure if this was true.

At the end of the point across from Button Island we enjoyed great views of glassy water, and spotted closer Horned Grebes and distant Common Mergansers and a Great Black-backed Gull. On our walk back, we came upon a flock of Juncos, and a pair of walkers ahead of the group found a Brown Creeper.

We considered this hike a great success and hope that more people will join us when we hold it again next year.

A full list of the birds we saw can be seen here.

– Ron Payne