January is waterfowl month in upstate New York! From rafts of Long-tailed Duck on Lake Ontario to platoons of Redhead on Conesus Lake, ducks are the star of the show. In addition, it is the perfect time to scope out gulls and to drive farm fields looking for winter field birds. On average, 126 species are tallied in January.
Braddock Bay and Irondequoit Bay are perhaps the two most popular places for waterfowl and gulls, but there are a number of other interesting and productive spots in the area as well, such as Hamlin Beach State Park, the overlook at the end of East Manitou Road, and Charlotte Pier. Sodus Bay and Conesus Lake usually have good numbers of waterfowl as long as there is open water and not too many hunters.
In addition to many common winter ducks, Lake Ontario can also produce a King Eider or Harlequin Duck, and if you find some goldeneye, look closely for a Barrow’s Goldeneye.
Lake Ontario across from the Van Lare Treatment Plant in Irondequoit is a good spot to look for Little Gull. Both Braddock Bay and Irondequoit Bay regularly feature Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, and Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Those who love eagles might try Irondequoit Bay once it has frozen over; as many as 60 Bald Eagles have been seen at one time sitting on the ice and in the surrounding trees.
Combing the fields outside of town can yield both Snowy Owl and Short-eared Owl, the occasional Northern Shrike, and flocks of Snow Bunting and Horned Lark.