Sunday, December 26, 2010

Lifer

The Scene: Scanning the waves across the street from my beach house, looking at scoters and hoping for alcids.

The Bird: A pale cream gull, soaring by on the wind.

The ID: First cycle gull, with an all dark bill. Glaucous would have more pink on the bill, and be bulkier, as per my new Birds of Europe guide.

The Lifer: Iceland Gull

Merry Christmas and good birding!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

More Rare Birds- Varied Thrush in Central Park

Today Benjamin Van Doren and I decided to chase the Varied Thrush that was found earlier this week in Central Park. It had been hanging around the area in the ramble known as "maintenance meadow," so we headed there after arriving in the park. The first bird we saw at the spot, however, was a young Cooper's Hawk, which was keeping the thrush in hiding. After a bit of searching in the thicket were it had been last seen, I happened to glance across the road and saw a distant bird high in a tree. Figuring it was a robin, I raised my binoculars, and was surprised to realize that it was the Varied Thrush! It then flew down and closer, foraging in its usual spot for a few minutes before disappearing again.

Next we wandered (or rambled, I guess) around the ramble, seeing a Fox Sparrow along with the usual suspects. There was a Bufflehead on Turtle Pond, but despite the good winds it was too late in the season for us to see any hawks. A stop back at the thrush spot yielded no more views, so we went to the Boathouse, where a Yellow-breasted Chat had been seen yesterday. No one had seen it yet today, so we were happy to find that it was still there, and it gave very good looks, especially for a normally skulking bird. The chat, belying its reputation, then flew into a dumpster, before joining a flock of House Sparrows foraging on the sidewalk right next to the entrance to the boathouse. So much for secretive and hard-to-see.

I got 2 lifers, the chat and the thrush, and extended my streak of both lifers and rarities to 3 weekends. Now about that Hermit Warbler...

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Anatomy of a Chase (or, Dipping on a Lapwing)

A 10-step summary of a typical "twitch," from the perspective of my failed attempt at the Northern Lapwing in Connecticut on Sunday. A sort of how-to guide on missing incredible rarities. 

Step 1- Learn about where the bird is. This is generally done through a local Rare Bird Alert or state birding listserv. Example: "Wow, Lapwing in Connecticut! Awesome."

Step 2- Find out where the bird is. Google maps is your best friend in this step. Example: Doing a google search on Storrs, CT shows that it is nowhere near anything. That is a setback.

Step 3- Scheme. If you own a car and have a lot of free time, this step is unnecessary, but for young birders like myself, it is critical. Where will you be nearest to the bird? Would your parents be willing to make a detour? What is there that is close to where the bird is? Think shopping centers, museums, whatever. Example: "We have to drive back on Route 84 anyway, and the lapwing is just 24 minutes out of the way..."


Step 4- Hype up the bird. A lot. If it's an empid, good luck. Example: "It's a really rare plover from Ireland. Striking plumage. Very cool. And its the first one ever seen in Connecticut"


Step 5- Overcome the vast number of obstacles in your path. Examples: The thanksgiving traffic on the Mass Pike, the impending darkness, and the UCONN basketball game.

Step 6- Arrive at the rarity location, after getting lost a few times. There are now three options. Either the bird is there (go to Step 7), it's temporarily out of sight (go to Step 8), or just flew halfway across the continent five minutes before you arrived (go to Step 9)

Step 7- Rejoice, brag, and add the bird to your life list. Blog about how awesome it was, and how great it was to have seen it.

Step 8- Desperately search for the bird and pray your trip will not prove to be futile. Depending on the outcome, go to step 7 or 10.

Step 9- "Oh, you just missed it. Yeah, it flew that way, and kept going. It's probably back in Ireland by now. Nope, absolutely no chance it's coming back." Go to step 10.

Step 10- Despair. Having now wasted a fair amount of time for a great bird that you are not going to see, the Barnacle and White-fronted Geese nearby are small consolation. Yes, the Barnacle Goose is a Code 4 bird too, and the White-front is a lifer, but neither of them are lapwings. Go home, and instead of posting photos of lapwings on your blog, bore your readers to death with a long-winded tale of your failed search.

Can you guess what route I took? And seriously, the geese were good to see. That's not to say they make up for missing the lapwing, but it was not as bad as I portrayed it above. I'll have another chance to see a Lapwing in North America. Maybe. If I move to Newfoundland. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Taste of Winter Birding

I went to my beach house in Massachusetts this weekend, which allow me to freeze my fingers off looking for cold-weather birds that would be tricky to find closer to home. Typing on a blackberry, as I am doing now, precludes a full report, but some of the highlights included Great Cormerant, Long-tailed Duck, eiders, Surf Scoters, Bonaparte's Gulls, and great looks at gannets. From a non-birding perspective, 4 seals were fun to see. It's not winter yet, and birding from the same spot at Christmas will be more productive, but an early start and a pair of year birds (GRCO and LTDU) were both good.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Excellent Birds with the Connecticut Young Birders' Club

Where can you see a South American Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a Mexican Cave Swallow, and Canadian  Common Eiders and Lapland Longspurs, all on the same day? Why, Connecticut, of course!

The first field trip of the recently created CT Young Birders' Club was on Sunday, to Hammonasset State Park in Madison, with possibly a few other stops thrown in, time permitting.

Our first stop was the parking lot of Hammonasset, which held a large flock of Horned Larks (including some with very white eyebrows- lark subspecies id, anyone?), a slightly smaller flock of Snow Buntings, and 2 Lapland Longspurs, all birds that are easy to see at Hammo, but, especially in the case of the Longspur, tricky to see at most places. The yellow-and-black faces and odd running gait of the larks, the huge white wing patches of the buntings, and the bold striped pattern of the longspurs make this trifecta fun to watch.

At the water, we scoped out many Common and Red-throated Loons, a Surf Scoter, two White-winged Scoters, 8 Common Eiders. Shorebirds were common on the rocks and jetties, with one Purple Sandpiper along with the more common Dunlin, Sanderlings, Black-bellied Plover, and Ruddy Turnstones.

Land birds in the thickets and brush were somewhat scarce, but included Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, and Hermit Thrush.

Leaving Hammonasset, we headed to a Sewage Treatment Plant (sewage = good birds) in New Haven, at East Shore Park. There are more insects there than anywhere else at this time of year (the warmth from the plant, I think), and as a result there are often late warblers and swallows, insectivores that would not usually be around this late in the year.

Our targets were Cave Swallows, a bird that breeds in Texas, Arizona, and Mexico, and winters in  Central America. That is, most winter in Central America. Some end up on the east coast, where they find food at places like East Shore Park. And sure enough, there were two Cave Swallows swirling overhead not long after we arrived- a life bird for me. There were also a lot of warblers around for the time of year. In addition to the expected Yellow-rumped, there were an American Redstart, Blackpoll Warbler, and 2 Pine Warblers. Others had seen Blue-headed Vireo, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a couple more warblers earlier in the day.

Everyone would have been satisfied with the Cave Swallows and the other good birds, but we made one last stop on the way back to Greenwich- Cove Island Park, new home of the Fork-tailed Flycatcher, a South American bird 3000 miles from where it should be.

I had seen the forktail Saturday, but it was nice to see it again, and I actually got better looks this time. An excellent bird, and a great way to end an extremely successful first field trip.

I didn't really take many photos,(Alex Burdo and Benjamin Van Doren did though- check out their blogs here and here)but here is a very bad photo of both of the Cave Swallows overhead:


I'm weighing whether that can even be considered a record shot - if I hadn't labeled it, would you be able to id the birds? I'm not a photographer, and the good bird, awful photo tradeoff is fine with me.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

A usually South American Fork-tailed Flycatcher was found a couple of days ago at Cove Island Park in Stamford, just a half hour from my house. I was hopeful it would stay around until the weekend, and it did, so I went today to see it. A great bird. I got very good looks at it. Photos were less good. Two digiscoped shots-

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cape May, Part 2

I guess I really have to write about my second day in Cape May, even if it was practically a month ago. Waiting weeks to write a post is lazy, but never writing it is worse. 

Even though the weather was not a good for migration as the previous night, I still had high expectations for Sunday, if only because I would be able to actually do some birding in the morning, instead of midday to evening. First stop was the dike at Higbee, for the morning flight. Because of the wind direction, there were not too many birds in the morning flight, but I still saw Yellow-rumped, Blackpoll,  and Black-throated Blue Warblers, and a few Parulas. Birding Higbee afterwards was fairly quiet, but there were still plenty of raptors overhead, including an eagle, a few harriers, and tons of Accipiters. Swamp Sparrows made of the majority of songbirds, with one Lincoln's Sparrow as well.

I left Higbee and biked south to the Cape May Meadows, a marsh and wetland birding hotspot on the bay. By this time, storm clouds were quickly rolling in and rain seemed imminant. However, it stayed clear long enough for me to see some more Sharpies, a group of 20 migrating Great Blue Herons overhead, and a few Northern Pintail, which were my first of the year.

A stop at the hawkwatch was cut short by the rain, but I still saw all of the expected raptors, including a peregrine, and more migrating herons.

The final stop was to the CMBO Center, where I bought a CMBO Cape May Warbler hat, walked out of the store, and immediately saw a real Cape May Warbler. Along with a few Blackpoll Warblers, it was an excellent end to a great trip. Or so I thought.

It turned out that that was not the end of the birding. We ate lunch on the water, and I decided to walk on the beach (in the rain) to try to relocate a Royal Tern I had seen driving there. That turned out to be a very good move. I was soaked, but saw Royal and Forster's Terns, Black Scoter, and, best of all, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, all of which were nice birds and good additions to the trip list.

Royal Terns:

Lesser Black-backed Gull:

The final birds of the trip, however, were a huge flock of Black Skimmers loafing on the beach in the main part of town. Skimmers are great birds, with their striking black-and-white coloration and clownish bill, so it was great to see so many of them in one flock. There were at least 300, probably more.

From the front, Skimmers look like cartoon penguins:

95 Species, 1 Lifer, lots of cool birds- a very successful trip!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Yard Birds

Birdwise, we are on the margin of two seasons- fall migration is trailing off, but there are still plenty of late migrants around, and winter birds are starting to arrive. The combination made for some pretty good birding in my yard yesterday. 

I put up my bird feeders on Saturday, hoping for Purple Finches or siskins. No sign of them yet, but when I was filling one of the feeders I spotted a Hermit Thrush on our neighbors' fence- a yard bird. Two Fish Crows flying over were also nice. 

By Sunday, the feeders were hopping with bird activity, and I counted 13 species there, including Red-bellied Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Cardinal, and Carolina Wren. The majority of the birds were chickadees, with a fair number of titmice and juncos as well. They were quite tame, with one chickadee briefly landing on my finger, and were unconcerned by me taking photos of them. 

Chickadees:
 
Titmice:
 
 

At one point, I looked up, and was very surprised to see a group of hawks- 2 Turkey Vultures, 3 Buteos, and an Accipiter. I ran inside to get binoculars, and for the next couple hours did a hawkwatch, tallying 84 raptors. The species counts were:

Turkey Vulture- 20
Red-tailed Hawk- 21
Red-shouldered Hawk- 5
Cooper's Hawk- 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk- 18
Osprey- 3
American Kestrel- 1
Unidentified Raptor- 10
Unidentified Buteo- 2
Unidentified Accipiter- 1

Non-raptor migrants were also present, with a few flocks of Canada Geese, a flock of Brant, and a few dozen Double-crested Cormorants all flying over. 

When a small bird with a forked tail fly by, I thought I might have found a siskin, but when I refound it, I realized it was actually a Golden-crowned Kinglet, another yard bird. 

I saw 34 species of birds from my yard, which proves that to find plenty of birds, all you need to do it fill up a feeder, or just look up!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saw-whet Owl Banding!

Most birds, and most people, are diurnal (or crepuscular, if you want to be precise). Therefore, most birding takes place during the day. So if I am birding in the middle of the night, chances are there has to be some pretty good birding to drag me out of bed, and many of my best birding experiences (like watching migration from the Empire State Building) have been at night. Last night was one such time.

I went to the campus of Westchester Community College to watch researchers there band Northern Saw-whet Owls, the smallest (and, probably as a result, the cutest) owl in the Eastern US.

Benjamin Van Doren and I arrived at the nets at 7, and after helping Drew and Trudy (the people doing the banding) untangling the leaves that the strong wind had blown into the nets, we headed back to the Owl House, a small building on campus used as a warm location to band the owls and to wait.

With Drew and two other visitors, we located an owl that they had put a radio transmitter on the previous night. Following the beeps, we figured out generally where it was, but since it was on private property, we did not actually see it.

The nets are checked every hour, so at 8:30 we went out for the first time. The high winds were a concern, but otherwise the weather seemed fairly good for owl banding. In the first net we checked, there was an owl! That was easy. The other three nets were empty, so they carefully removed the owl from the net and we headed back to the Owl House to band it. On the way back, we ran into the people who live near the banding site, who seemed a bit annoyed at the audio that was played all night, but were very impressed with the owl.

To be able to see such an amazing bird at such close range was awesome. Trudy measured the owl, which was female, like the majority of the birds they band. It was also born this past spring- a hatch year bird. Though to me it looked identical to an adult, the key is that the flight feathers on the wing are all the same color, and therefore the same age. An older bird would have a mix of old and new feathers.


Another similar way to age the bird was to put its wing under an ultraviolet light. The feathers all glowed pink. Older feathers do not have as much pink, and other birds do not have a uniform pink glow. Instead, it is only on some feathers, or, in very old birds, virtually nonexistent. Check out Trudy's website for photos that show this much better than I am describing it: http://www.battaly.com/banding/

After all the data was collected, everyone there got to hold the owl:

(Me and the Owl)

After the photo ops, we released the owl, and it flew off, almost ghostly, into the night.

It would seem like catching an owl on the first try would be a prequel to a great night of banding, but there were no birds for the next two hours, and we had to leave at 11, saying., "Well, we got one!" And that one made it all extremely worthwhile.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Prothonotary Warbler in Manhattan!

About a week ago, a NYC birder found a brilliant and rare Prothonotary Warbler in a very improbable location- the front of the New York Public Library, in the middle of Manhattan. The bird was eating with the usual White-throated and House Sparrows, and Pigeons, but its bright golden hue made it very clear that it did not belong there. Most Prothonatory Warblers are in Florida or Central America now, far from the streets of New York City.

On Sunday, my family and I were already in the city to see a play, so I convinced my parents to stop quickly at the library. Within 10 minutes, I found the bird, and watched it briefly before it flew off.

The photos did not come out great, but a very fun bird to watch.
For context, the bird was just to the left of the lion:
Good Birding!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cape May! --Day 1

Cape May in early October after a cold front is probably the fall birding in the United States, and I was lucky enough to be there in that situation 2 weeks ago. The famed location certainly did not disappoint.

We didn't get to Cape May until 11, but there were still tons of birds around. Our first stop was the CMBO Center and Bird Store, on the shores of Lily Lake. It is supposed to a good spot for warblers, vireos, and other small migrants, and it certainly upheld that reputation. As soon as we got out of the car, there were birds flitting everywhere, and I quickly saw Yellow-rumped Warblers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blackpoll Warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Carolina Chickadees, Northern Parulas, Redstarts, Black-throated Green Warblers, and, best of all, a single Cape May Warbler- a life and a cool bird to see. Plus, as we were in Cape May, it was a fitting spot to see my first one.

There were quite a few hawks flying over as well, mostly Sharp-shins, but with some broadwings, a few harriers, a merlin or two, and an eagle thrown in. I decided to head to the hawkwatch. There was a steady flight of birds there, with many accipiters, all falcons- including good looks at peregrines, some harriers and broadwings, and 5-6 eagles, a pretty good total for a fairly short time spent there. After that, I started on a loop around the Cape May Point State Park, which is adjacent to the hawkwatch. There were not as many birds as at CMBO, but there were still Yellow-rumps, Palms, Parulas, a single Pine Warbler, a Kinglet, and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, as well as many flyover raptors. A single Killdeer on Bunker Pond was the only one of the weekend.
(Bunker Pond, the Hawkwatch Platform, and Cape May Lighthouse)

Butterflies were in abundance. Most common were Monarchs, but there were some others, mostly Common Buckeyes, which I had never seen before. Cape May seems to concentrate migrating monarchs the same way it does birds, and they were everywhere. 

I biked back to the center, stopping on the way for a pond full of wigeons, gadwall, teal, and a single drake Wood Duck. The birding, which had been good before, became great. I spotted 12 warblers, all great looks, including Blackburnian, Bay-breasted, Black-throated Blue and Green, Magnolia, and Black-and-White. Yellow-rumped Warblers were abundant, but Parulas were even more common, sometimes with up to 4 or 5 per small tree.
 The really incredible thing about the birds was how close they were. I probably got within 3 feet of a parula, 4-5 of a Black-throated Blue, and even Blackburnian, normally a treetop bird, came down to eye level at close range. Another quite good bird was a Philadelphia Vireo, which also gave great looks, and there was always a couple raptors overhead, including Sharpies, Merlins, and a Peregrine that all dove at smaller birds, though none were successful.

I was planning to only stop briefly at the center before heading to The Meadows, another famous birding spot nearby, but there were so many birds, and so close, that I spent all afternoon in front of the CMBO store watching them, and new ones kept turning up- another Philly Vireo, another Blackburnian, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, a couple of kingfishers, and a Bay-breasted Warbler.

By the end of the day, I had seen one lifer, Cape May Warbler, one ABA bird, Philadelphia Vireo, and 14 different warblers. Even better, I got really great looks at all of the birds, which is always good. Great birds, at arm's length, at eye level- birding at its best!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Black (and White) Skimmer

Black Skimmer from Cape May- using "lithograph" special effects. More photos and a post from Cape May to come.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Great Manhattan Birding- Central Park and the Empire State Building at Night

New York City at night.

Last night and this morning I went on the New York State Young Birders' Club (NYSYBC) trip to New York City- first to check out the nocturnal migration from the top of the Empire State Building, and then birding Central Park in the morning.

On a fall night, the 86th floor of the Empire State Building is a great spot to witness the spectacle of nocturnal songbird migration. There are spotlights at the top of the building, which illuminate the birds as they fly by- last night the lights were yellow, making all of the birds look unmarked gold in color. The experience was almost surreal- watching glowing gold warblers fly by while 1,200 feet over downtown New York City- and incredible. In the hour and a half that we were there, we counted 815 migrant birds. Unfortunately, identification is virtually impossible for most of the birds, but we did I.D. a few flickers and Downy Woodpeckers, a Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, a flock of geese,  a couple of catbirds and grosbeaks, and 5-7 cuckoos. The rest were vireo-type, warbler-type, thrush-type, and the very vague "bird sp."

As if that wasn't enough, a Peregrine Falcon added to the excitement by diving at many of the birds flying by, catching 3-5 of them, including an unlucky Black-and-White Warbler.

Here is a (very) brief, and really bad clip of a dendroica warbler flying by. I would recommend viewing full screen and pausing it so as to actually see the bird:
video

I highly recommend an Empire State Building trip. Go on a night with Northwest winds, go to the northwest corner of the building, get there early, and, perhaps most importantly, buy your ticket online ahead of time.

This morning we went to Central Park for more migrants. We did not see as many birds as the previous night might have suggested, but there were a lot of species, and the birding was quite good. Highlights were Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Gray-cheeked Thrush, 13 Warbler species,  Common Nighthawk, Winter Wren, and Purple Finch. Other migrants included lots of sapsuckers, both kinglets, creepers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, tanagers, thrashers, all three falcons, osprey, and Wood and Swainson's Thrushes. The species total for the day was 71, which is one of the best totals for a NYSYBC trip.

Overall it was an extremely fun weekend of birding, with the unorthodox skyscraper birding, as well as the always rewarding central park.

Next weekend I'm off to Cape May- Migration is awesome!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More Warblers and Some Hawks

I birded at the Greenwich Audubon Sanctuary this morning, seeing 12 warblers, including many in morning flight, Blue-headed Vireo, Scarlet Tanager, Bobolink, and Lincoln's Sparrow. The hawk flight was also quite good, and the total was around 800 when I left. 12 eagles, 2 merlins, a few harriers and coops, and lots of kestrels and sharpies joined the 600 or so Broadwings.

Warblers:

Yellow Warbler- 3
Chestnut-sided Warbler- 5-8
Magnolia Warbler- 7+, with some during morning flight
Black-throated Green Warbler- 7-10, with probably many more unidentified at morning flight
Blackburnian Warbler- 1
Prairie Warbler- 1, at morning flight- landed briefly
Palm Warbler- 1
Blackpoll Warbler- 10
Black-and-White Warbler- 3-5
American Redstart- 15+, with probably dozens unidentified at morning flight.
Ovenbird- 1
Common Yellowthroat- 6-7

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Mini-Warblerfest at Marshlands


I had a very good morning of birding at Marshlands this morning, with 11 warblers, a Kestrel, and other migrants, such as Red-eyed Vireo, Baltimore Oriole, Veery, and Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher all making appearences. The undisputed highlight was an adult male GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLER (!!) that popped out of a thicket for a few seconds of great looks, a few hours of joyful birding, and what will presumably be a few weeks of bragging about it. It was apparently the first fall record for Marshlands, a life bird for me, and immediately became one of my favorite warblers,  behind the "tricolored triumverate" (it was the best I could think of on the spot) of Blackburnian, Prothonotary, and Cerulean. 

Warblers were:

Magnolia Warbler- 5-8
Chestnut-sided Warbler- 2
Black-and-White Warbler- 6
American Redstart- 12-15
Golden-winged Warbler- 1
Tennesssee Warbler- 1
Northern Parula- 4
Ovenbird- 4
Northern Waterthrush- 1
Canada Warbler- 3
Common Yellowthroat- 10-15

Happy Migration!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fall Warbler Counts 8/28-9/1


Fall warbler migration is well underway! My counts from four days over the past week:

Saturday, August 28th- Jamaica Bay, Queens

Yellow Warbler- 2-4
Magnolia Warbler- 5-6
Black-and-White Warbler- 3
American Redstart- 8-12
Ovenbird- 1
Northern Waterthrush- 1
Common Yellowthroat- 2-3

Sunday, August 29th- Marshlands Conservancy, Rye

Magnolia Warbler- 2
American Redstart- 5-7
Canada Warbler- 1
Common Yellowthroat- 7-9

Tuesday, August 31st- Marshlands Conservancy, Rye

Magnolia Warbler 4-5
Black-and-White Warbler- 3-4
American Redstart- 7-10
Northern Parula- 1
Ovenbird- 1
Canada Warbler- 1
Common Yellowthroat- 20-30

Wednesday, September 1st- Nature Study Woods, New Rochelle

Chestnut-sided Warbler- 2-4
Black-and-White Warbler- 4
American Redstart- 4-6
Blue-winged Warbler 1-3
Northern Waterthrush- 2
Canada Warbler- 1
Common Yellowthroat- 1-2

Monday, August 30, 2010

Good Birding at Jamaica Bay

On Saturday I headed to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, an excellent birding spot, particularly for shorebirds, which were my main target. The plan was to walk to trail by Big John's Pond first, then head to the North End of the East Pond for shorebirds on the mudflats at high tide.

Walking out to the East Pond revealed that warbler migration is getting pretty good, as I saw 7 warbler species. Redstarts were everywhere, sometimes accompanied by yellowthroats or magnolia warblers. Yellow warblers were present at Big John's Pond, as was a Black-and-White Warbler. One Black-and-White landed on a branch just three feet above my head. At around the same time, I looked ahead at the trail just in time to see an Ovenbird and a Northern Waterthrush walk past each other- the ovenbird going right, the waterthrush, bobbing, going left.

I also found a "life butterfly"- a White Admiral

There were a lot of birds at the end of the trail on the East Pond, but they were mostly waterfowl (including Gadwall and Blue-winged Teal) and gulls, with a few cormorants and a kingfisher mixed in- no shorebirds. Looking north, I could see that all of the mudflats were covered, and the North end was flooded. So much for the plan.

On the way back to the car, though, I had a stroke of good luck. An empid with a large eye-ring appeared, and turned out to be a lifer, if a long overdue one- a Least Flycatcher. Good looks at a Great-crested Flycatcher, plus kingbird and phoebe, quickly brought the flycatcher total to four.

Instead of going to the North end as I had planned, I decided to go to the South End, which was apparently not as flooded, though the water level was still high.

The thing about the East Pond that makes it so good for shorebirds is that it is muddy. Very muddy. The mud at the East Pond has been elevated to almost mythical status in the birding world (most recently by Corey Finger in his excellent "Ode to Mud" on 10000birds.) Therefore, I guess I should post a few mud photos, with a warning to those who haven't birded there that it should not be attempted without boots, or bad things could happen. (Of course, boots don't help if you sink up to your waist, which, according to legend, has actually happened before)

Overall, shorebird numbers were quite low, but there was decent, if not great, variety. Both yellowlegs were present, as were Short-billed Dowitchers, White-rumped, Least, and Semipalmated Sandpipers, a couple cool Stilt Sandpipers, and a single Semipalmated Plover. 

The South End (note high water level)- 

The two most common peeps- Least and Semipalmated

Least-

Stilt Sandpiper-


Lesser (I think) Yellowlegs-

Mute Swan-

I walked along the eastern edge of the pond to the raunt, a group of posts and pilings that apparently used to be a railway station and community, and is now a good landmark and birding spot on the pond. I found more of the same shorebirds there, plus some Northern Shovelers. 

The best bird of the trip were two brownish, long-winged shorebirds in a flock of peeps. If you've been reading this blog, you already know that they were Baird's Sandpipers, not a common bird in New York, and a lifer for me. Since I've posted lots of the photos I took of them, I just put up one more to end this post. The others are in the previous two posts. 

Baird's Sandpiper-

Sunday, August 29, 2010

More Baird's Photos

I overlooked these two photos yesterday, but they might actually be clearer shots of the Baird's (Which were apparently relocated today)

(right)

(top left and maybe center-facing right)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Baird's Sandpiper at Jamaica Bay

I found a pair of Baird's Sandpipers at Jamaica Bay this morning. This photos aren't very good, but they are enough (I believe) to identify the birds. A full report of the trip will be up at some point.

(center)

(second from bottom left and flying)
(back right)

(center)

Good Birding!

Monday, August 23, 2010

A Rained-out Beach Day...

...is still a good day if you can see gannets, my favorite bird, while lying down in bed.

And tomorrow could be even better, since I'm headed to Manomet Point for some more stormbirding.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Triskaidekaphobia

Triskaidekaphobia-the fear of the number 13

On Friday, August 13th (8/13), at 8:13, 13 birders set out from the North River Audubon in Marshfield, MA, for a morning of birding. Superstious anyone?

Our first stop was Third cliff beach in Scituate. Shorebirds numbers were low, hightlighted by a White-rumped Sandpiper and a few Piping Plovers. Other good birds were a pair of Bonaparte's Gulls, a gannet, 2 coopers hawks, and a peregrine.

Even better was the next stop, Scituate reservoir. There we found a Stilt Sandpiper and a Pectoral Sandpiper in the same field of view, with a snipe and a few more white rumps nearby.

I finished the morning with 63 species, 3 year birds, and 3 state birds. Who says Friday the Thirteenth is unlucky?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One Good Tern...


(Arctic Terns, Plymouth Beach, MA, 7/8)

... Deserves another.  However, in this case, there was not just one other good tern, but 4. On a trip to Cupsogue, a great birding location on Long Island, I saw Gull-billed, Roseate, Sandwich, and Royal Terns. A lengthy trip report will be posted as soon as I write it, which might, unfortunately, be a while.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Young Northern Rough-Winged Swallows

There were quite a few of these juvenile swallows perched on snags over the marsh at the marshlands conservancy last week:


Monday, June 14, 2010

Memorial Day Sedge Wren

Sorry I haven't posted in a while- I've had finals, and been away for the past 3 weekends. The first of those three, Memorial Day, I went to my beach house in Massachusetts. I was lucky, and there had been a Sedge Wren, rare in MA and difficult to see anywhere, at the local wildlife sanctuary, Daniel Webster Audubon.

So as soon as we arrived, I went to the sanctuary to see if I could find it. There were Bobolinks and Purple Martins everywhere- Daniel Webster is primarily a grassland (good for bobolinks) and there is a large martin colony there. A Willow Flycatcher, Great Egret, and Osprey were also notable.

I made my way to the Fox Hill observation platform, where the wren had been seen. There were two people there. Thee wren had not been seen or heard in 30 minutes, they said. After 15 minutes of waiting and listening, the wren sang, then flew directly towards us, landing in a clump of grass, then perching near the top to sing- great looks. It dove back into the grass, and emerged a ways to the right, and slightly closer. It moved around a bit more, then flew even closer, giving great looks from 10-15 feet away, before sinking into the brush again, and falling silent. Great looks at a life bird, and one the is apparently not prone to giving great looks, ever.

No shots of the Sedge Wren, but some miscellaneous photos from the short trip:

Flicker-
Bobolink-

Bobolink Paradise (I know there is one in this photo, but I can't find it. Can you?)-



And finally, a difficult (I think) if not impossible quiz. I think the bloggers at 10000birds have the "diabolical quiz" thing trademarked, but this is one. Post your guess as a comment-



Good Birding!