Tomhannock Reservoir (and Vicinity) - 11/11/2022

Larry & Penny Alden

I did my annual Veteran’s Day Tomhannock Reservoir circumnavigation doing the customary counter-clockwise route with two traditional departures (sorties, if you will) out from the western shore of the reservoir for the sole purpose of padding our list. This year I was accompanied by Steve Chorvas, whose superior hearing I rely on to find things I would never hear otherwise.


With rain in the forecast from the remnants of Hurricane Nicole, we started a little earlier (8:15) and spent less time at many stops so we would be sure to complete the route early. We hit all the usual spots and finished at 1:50, as the first light sprinkles started to fall. The temperature hit a very pleasant high of 69F and it was mostly calm until a noticeable wind started at around 10:00 a.m.  Sheltered areas of the reservoir weren’t a problem, but it was a bit choppy where there were large expanses of open water.


We found 51 species, adding Winter Wren to my official cumulative list. Unlike last year, my companion this year insisted we count the Ring-necked Pheasant in the species total. I have reservations doing so, knowing that these are released birds, but I held my nose and counted it.  I put a mental asterisk by that species any time they’re reported here in the HMBC area. I have species records for 25 of the last 26 years (trip totals for all of them) and I know I’ve done this count for at least five years before that.  The cumulative list of species now stands at 108. 


The number and diversity of waterfowl was low this year. I attribute that to the mild fall we have been having thus far. With no harsh weather to the north, ducks are making their way southward at a leisurely pace. We had only three Ruddy Ducks, and no scoters, scaup, or dabblers other than the usual Mallards, American Black Ducks, and Green-winged Teal.  The “duckiest” spot was, as usual, the southern part of the reservoir south of the Route 7 causeway. The reservoir north of there had only a few widely scattered groups of ducks, with higher concentrations at the feeder creeks (Sunkauissia Creek at Nortonville Road and Otter Creek near the hamlet of Tomhannock).


We found no grebes, shorebirds, accipiters or falcons, but managed to get the fabled “woodpecker sixpack.” Sparrows were scarce, with the exception of juncos, which seemed to be everywhere. We had four Fox Sparrows (three in one location), yet only three Song Sparrows and a single American Tree Sparrow! Unlike most years, American Robins were quite abundant, feeding on bittersweet, grape, and multiflora rose berries. We only found Mourning Doves in the last ten minutes of the day, at a feeder!


Going by my 25-year cumulative list, our best birds were: Ring-necked Pheasant (mental asterisk - 3rd occurrence), Turkey Vulture (2nd), Northern Harrier (9th), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (7th), Winter Wren (1st), and Carolina Wren (8th), Significant misses were: Ring-necked Duck (found in 20 of the past 25 years), Red-breasted Nuthatch (12/25), and Golden-crowned Kinglet (17/25)


Here’s my list of 51 species:


Canada Goose


American Black Duck

American Green-winged Teal


Common Goldeneye

Hooded Merganser

Common Merganser

Ruddy Duck

Ring-necked Pheasant

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove

Ring-billed Gull

Common Loon

Double-crested Cormorant

Great Blue Heron

Turkey Vulture

Northern Harrier

Bald Eagle

Red-tailed Hawk

Belted Kingfisher

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)

Pileated Woodpecker

Blue Jay

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch

Winter Wren

Carolina Wren

Eastern Bluebird

American Robin

Northern Mockingbird

European Starling

Cedar Waxwing

House Sparrow

House Finch

American Goldfinch

Fox Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)

White-throated Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Red-winged Blackbird

Brown-headed Cowbird

Northern Cardinal


Totals for the past 21 year’s 11/11 counts are as follows:

2021 - 50

2020 - 46

2019 - 49

2018 - 50

2017 - 51

2016 - 43

2015 - 49

2014 - 44

2013 - 51

2012 - 51

2011 - 50

2010 - 51

2009 - 57

2008 - 57

2007 - 47

2006 - 51

2005 - 57

2004 - 58

2003 - 48

2002 - 52

2001 - 48


Thanks to Steve for being good company and a good set of eyes and, especially, ears.


Larry Alden