The swarms of birds are simply breath-taking to one who takes the chance to visit the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge at the head of Cayuga Lake. And if you've driven Interstate 90 through New York, then you've driven through Montezuma.
And it's not just the smaller birds. Sure, the tree swallows form their own clouds, sometimes joined by the purple martins. On the nearby mud, shorebirds group tightly in the air, reading off each other's twists and turns. Who's leading? No one knows.
But it's the vast clouds of ducks that take to the sky that truly make the show. For the most part, the ducks of Montezuma do what ducks do everywhere, dabble, dive and dawdle on the water's surface. But just add one bald eagle to the mix - today there were a total of five - and the ducks take to the air in huge numbers.
We had a stunning view of just a small portion of the 7,000-acre wetland complex from a watchtower at the head of the Montezuma auto road. Although the overcast skies kept species identifications on the tougher side, as colors could not be easily determined, we pulled out several birds that our traveling gang had not seen in the previous three days, bringing us to a total of 109 for the trip. After four days in the Finger Lakes region, we were ready for home.
Time: 36 minutes.
New species: (Birds) Canvasback, lesser yellowlegs, spotted sandpiper, pectoral sandpiper (166); (Mammals) Red fox, black squirrel - not a new species, but a different morph of the gray squirrel (16); (Amphibians) pickerel frog (12).
Stranger hellos: None.
What else is happening: The long drive home.