Given temperatures in the minus teens at our start time, it’s unsurprising that only eight people came to this years First Day Hike at Button Bay State Park, but it was a hardy, group well dressed for the weather, ready too look for birds.
Things started off slow on that front with only House Sparrows and Crows sighted until we reached our first overlook of the lake which revealed that the bay was frozen over. But out on the ice there was a mixed flock of gulls including both Ring-billed and Herring Gulls. The real action started when we got to the stands of red cedar trees in and around the campsites. In them feeding on juniper berries was a large group of American Robins looking like roufous Christmas ornaments. Also with them were a few Cedar Waxwings and White-throated Sparrows. One of the best sightings of the day was a very active Golden-crowned Kinglet that was very actively browsing among cedar branches for whatever dormant insect life it could find. Also making good use of the cedar berries was one of two Yellow-rumped Warblers, who are often enticed into staying farther north than normal in years when these trees have big fruit crops. There were also good woodpecker sightings to be had in the same are with Downy, Red-breasted and a briefly seen Northern Flicker spotted.
Since no one was completely frozen yet, we decided to forge ahead along the trail out to the point across from Button Island where we could see some open water. Along the trail we found another mixed flock of birds with Robins, Goldfinches, Juncos and our second Yellow-rumped Warbler of the day. In the mature woods stand further along we found a Piliated Woodpecker tapping away at a broken tree trunk.
Our trek to the point turned out to have paid off well, with us finding a flock of at least 67 Common Goldeneye, which were initially spooked by our presence, taking off with whistling wings. But they soon resettled on the lake where they constantly appeared and dissipated from view in the rising mist.
With our mission accomplished we hiked back to gate with no one worse for the wear from the cold. Thanks to everyone who came out for a very enjoyable New Year’s Day adventure.