Monday, June 29, 2009

A Sufficiently Awesome Weekend- Part 1- Marsh Hen Tide

(From 10000 birds- a great birding site/blog)

I have gone birding 3 times in the past three days, and was going to post them all in one post, by now am breaking it up into 3 parts.

Part I- Marsh Hen Tide

On Friday I headed over to the marshlands conservancy. It had rained so much over the past few days, plus it was a new moon 3 days before, so the tide was very high. That was exactly why I was there. I had sort of seen clapper rail before. (See my post, Ruffing It) But that had been a calling bird, and then I had seen a moving shape that could have been anything. It was not the kind of look I wanted for a lifer, but I counted it anyway. I don't know why, and I probably shouldn't have. This time I wanted a good look. So I went at a very high tide, hoping for the phenomenon known as a "marsh hen tide," when the highest tides of the year would drive the rails out of the center of the marsh and make them visable for once.

It worked. After checking out some other spots and getting indigo bunting, yellowthroat, willet, common tern, and marsh wren, I headed to the rail spot. I sat on a bench overlooking the marsh, and began scanning. Egret, Mallard, Egret. Then, by a clump of higher reeds, a head popped up, with a long bill and red eye. I had my rail. I then slunk across the marsh, but because the tide was so high, it was visable the whole time. Then it got to a spot with more water, and swam out of sight. Very, very cool bird. Looking back to where the first rail had been spotted, I saw another one poke its head up, then disappear. No marsh sparrows, but after seeing the rails, I can't complain. Plus, there will be another time for marsh sparrows (foreshadowing alert!- see later posts in this series)

Good Birding,


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Greenish Siskin

Today I had another unusual visitor to my bird feeders: a Pine Siskin. I had not seen any since early may, and they are unusual this far south in summer. Even more unusual, this bird was a green-morph siskin, a rare color variation occuring in only ~1% of male siskins.

In addition, we also had 2 house wrens in our backyard.

To see a good photo of a green-morph siskin, click here and here.

Good Birding,


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Marshlands Marsh Wrens and More

(From Great site with good photos.)

Today I took trip over to the Marshlands Conservancy, a nature center not far from my house. When I got there I learned that it was the day of the Summer Bird Counts for the area, so I ended up tallying species and individuals I saw on the walk. The Marshlands Conservancy, as I have probably said before, has a variety of habitats. I started off at the field, and quickly found a female orchard oriole, sharp-shinned hawk, and an indigo bunting. By the time I got to the water, I had seen ~10 buntings.

At the marsh, my target birds were marsh wrens and sharp-tailed sparrows. I missed on the sparrows, but as soon as I got near the reeds, I heard the unique song of the marsh wrens. I had never seen them before, only heard them, but this time I found them. There were a few, and they were right on the side of the trail, giving close, if reed-obscured, views. I counted 5 total, most or all singing. Also, a ruby throated hummingbird buzzed by over the marsh.

On the way back, I found more buntings and a nesting red-eyed vireo. It was a pretty good collection of birds for a short walk, with 31 species. This brought my marshlands list up to 77 and my year list to 189. 2 NYS birds (marsh wren, hummer), and one year bird (marsh wren) were seen.

The list:

Gray Catbird
Hairy Woodpecker
American Goldfinch
American Robin
Orchard Oriole
Tree Swallow
Indigo Bunting
Common Gracke
Mourning Dove
Barn Swallow
Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Wild Turkey
Blue Jay
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Cardinal
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Marsh Wren
Northern Flicker
Mute Swan
Song Sparrow
Canada Goose
Red-Winged Blackbird
European Starling
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Red-Eyed Vireo
Turkey Vulture
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Good Birding,


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Interesting Sighting

I had an unusual bird at my feeders just now with the ususal house sparrows and finches- a partially albino (Leucistic) house sparrow. It was not as extreme as many cases of leucism, but it still had 2 or 3 tail feathers that were bright white, rather than the drab brown. At a distance, it looked like those were the only feathers in its tail, because they were so bright.

Good Birding

Sunday, June 7, 2009

NYSYBC Muttontown Preserve Trip

Photo From

I went on the New York State Young Birders Club trip to th Muttontown Preserve on Long Island. Since I wrote the trip report, and I don't want to write the same thing twice, here is my report. I had 2 lifers: Chestnut-Sided and Blue-Winged Warblers. That brings me to 2 birds away from 250.

We arrived and met in the parking lot of the Muttontown Preserve, in Nassau County, at 7:45. Already it was warm, and the weather would prove to be great for the whole morning. There were seven young birders there, including three that had joined recently, making this one of the best young birder turnouts yet. Our leaders were Brent Bomkamp and Stella Miller. A few catbirds were in the bushes bordering the parking lot, and a group of Chimney Swifts swooped overhead, twittering constantly. After visiting the center (or more accurately, the bathrooms), we set off. A Wood Thrush was quickly heard, though it did not show itself. That would be the case with many of the birds we located, and a significant amount of the birding was done only be ear. A Blackpoll Warbler was heard, but it, frustratingly, kept hidden as well.
Our first hotspot came only about 15 minutes into the walk. We were hearing the blackpoll, and also saw multiple yellow warblers, a redstart, a red-eyed vireo, and, the best bird, a chestnut-sided warbler. Both the redstart and chestnut-sided gave good looks to some. A veery was also singing its beautiful song. It was a great start to the day, and still barely 8:00.
Much of the sightings of the day would be around a number of fields on the preserve. We came to the first one hearing Blue-Winged Warblers, and eventually found them, as well as an Eastern Towhee and a few yellowthroats. Soon after a grosbeak was spotted and stayed in the open, giving all birders a chance to see it. At another field we saw a House Wren in a nest box and a brown thrasher.
Many good birds were found in the trees adjoining another large field. There we found Baltimore Orioles, Blue-Winged Warblers, Indigo Buntings, waxwings, yellowthroats, and a flyover Red-Tailed Hawk. One of the rarest, but most annoying birds of the day was found here too. Someone heard a White-eyed Vireo, and we all looked up into the large tree that it was in. And we looked, and looked, and did not find it. We even spent a couple minutes looking at the field itself after a bird, which turned out to be a yellowthroat, flew from the target tree down into the grass. We then went to the other side of the tree, and there a few people got mediocre looks, and one or two got good looks. While accomplishing this we realized that Vireo-neck can be just as bad as warbler-neck, and this time your quarry doesn’t move, so you don’t know where it is. When we were satisfied that enough people had seen it, we moved on.
Another surprise came at a different field, when an American Woodcock flushed from the meadow into the woods. At another wooded spot, we found a grosbeak that stayed right in the open very close to us, giving us great looks. We also heard a Magnolia Warbler and a Scarlet Tanager. Other heard-only birds included a kingbird and wood-pewee at different times.
At one point, Brent, being the great leader that he was, taught us a very important lesson about birding- Be careful when looking up into a tree. At one point, we were walking along a wooded section of the trail, and heard a loud rustling sound directly above us. Brent looked up… and, well, you can probably tell where this is going. As to the species, (the first thing we inquired about) it was a robin. We decided that it was supposed to be good luck, though unfortunately that luck did not manifest itself in the form of a cuckoo sighting. (We decided that the luck could have be that nothing got on his new jacket.)
After this we began to head back to the visitor center, seeing a Veery, Mallards, and bizarre bathtub-like things filled with charcoal. That was somewhat puzzling. Before we reached the center, we also found a pair of towhees that were almost certainly nesting, and a red-eyed vireo. A brief stop to try to locate a cuckoo failed. At the center again, we found a Red-Tailed Hawk and another hawk that might have been red-shouldered, swifts, and a nesting Carolina Wren in a vent in the side of the center. After the wren left, we also saw a female cowbird visit the same nest. A few Double-Crested Cormorants flew over as well. After talking for a bit, we departed after a great trip. The total for the day was 47 species, even without House Sparrow, Starling, and Rock Pigeon.
Thank you to Stella Millar and Brent Bomkamp for leading the trip, and the Huntingdon Audubon Society, our partner organization that sponsored it.