Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Recent Sightings

I'm doing a project on whether birds can predict storms for a science research class. The 79 birds that were seen the other day immediatly before the storm would seem show that . There were 12 species, which tied the record- species seen at my feeders in a day.

The goldfinches showed up in force (These are 7 of the total 13):

But the best bird was a single Fox Sparrow, a year bird and a yard bird (#49) for me. It was huge in comparison to the house sparrows and white throats.

Tuesday I rode my bike to shore park and glen island, with the idea that there was a very remote possibility of a storm-blown Dovekie, but that obviously didn't happen. The best birds were a Greater Scaup and a buoy that looked exactly like an Ivory Gull from a certain angle.
Okay, maybe that isn't the angle. But trust me, it did. I hope the real one gets this far west. It's near Newport, RI now. (plus one in Georgia)

Also, Ever since seeing this video: I have been really psyched about my impending costa rica trip. I am going to be where that video was taken in about 3 weeks!

Good Birding,


Saturday, January 23, 2010


I found this Saw-whet Owl at in the Hunter Island pine Grove in Pelham Bay Park today. I am having good luck with owls lately!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Birding Stratford, Connecticut

A couple weekends ago I went on a Greenwich Audubon field trip to Stratford, Connecticut with Benjamin (Blog) and Ryan, lead by Brian O'Toole. Our first stop was the Great Meadows area of the Important Bird Area there.

We found a couple harriers, including a "gray ghost" male, and a buteo that we thought at first was a rough-legged hawk but turned out to be a wintering Red-shouldered Hawk. A little ways down the trail, we came across a large group of American Tree Sparrows, and I spotted a bald eagle flying over.

A shot of one of the harriers:
Of course its an eagle, can't you tell?:
We went out onto an overlook over the marsh to look for snowy owls, but all we found were black ducks.

Moving onward to Long Beach, we made a quick stop that netted a Gadwall but was otherwise unproductive. Benjamin was hoping for some Lapland Longspurs that had been reported. I was hoping for an Orange-crowned Warbler.

We scanned the sound for a little. A small group of Common Goldeneye were spotted, but that was it. My horned grebe curse continues. The wind picked up, and on a narrow strip of land with water on both sides, we were fairly exposed to it. Then we heard some call notes or something, and quickly spotted the Lapland Longspurs, 3 of them. An Ipswich (Savannah) Sparrow joined them. I had left my camera in the van, so no photos, but Benjamin got some:

The orange-crowned warbler was not in its usual spot, and some people coming back told us it had been reported a ways out but they hadn't seen it. We figured that either it would take more time than we had to find it or it was dead, so that search was called off. On the way back to the car, I spotted a fly-by Killdeer.

The last stop in Stratford was a boat ramp where a Black-crowned Night-Heron had been seen. On the way there, we stopped at a pond where there were quite a few ducks, including Hooded Mergansers and Canvasback:

At the boat ramp, we first saw American Coots and Pied-billed Grebes, then walked over to the ditch where the night heron was sleeping. At least, we think it was sleeping. I never actually saw it move.
It just stayed in the same position for the whole time we were there. Still, I think it would have toppled over if it were dead.
We departed, but made a stop on the way back at Sherwood Island State Park to try to see a staked-out Saw-whet Owl. As soon as we entered the pine grove, a Great Horned Owl was on a branch right in front of us. It stared down for a second, then flew off. We searched unsuccessfully for the owl, but did see a couple Red-breasted Nuthatch.
Below: The tail-end of a Red-breasted Nuthatch.

Brian and Ryan went to check out a nearby pine grove, and they called us within 5 minutes- they had the bird. It happened to be in the exact same tree that Ryan had seen his life saw-whet a few years ago. It was a little hard to see, but we all ended up getting great views (And for me, some subpar photos).

See it?
Here's a very cropped photo:
It was a great trip, like any trip with an owl (let alone two) is. Also, given how early in the year it was, I saw 25 year birds. My year list is now up to 68.

Good Birding!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Top 10 Birds of 2009

And some bad pictures to go with them:

#1- Snowy Owl- A really really really cool bird. I got a better look than the photo would suggest. A great way to end a 6-lifer day at Jones Beach.

#2- Painted Bunting- Green back, Indigo head, Scarlet chest. Nothing else needs to be said. Seen in February in Corkscrew Swamp, FL.

#3- White-winged Crossbill- A rare winter finch with a weird bill that came south in large numbers in the winter. The irruption was the largest in a while. I didn't get any photos, but I did see the individuals in the photo:

#4- Ruff- The rarest bird I saw all year, one was found by Tom Burke at my favorite local birding spot, the Marshlands Conservancy. It was a male in breeding plumage:

#5- Blackburnian Warbler- A stunning bird at eye level was the highlight of a 5 lifer trip to Central Park.

#6- Swallow-tailed Kite- Another really cool bird, my favorite raptor and possibly my favorite overall bird. A pair flew over Corkscrew Swamp in February.

#7-Parasitic Jaeger- A really awesome bird. Great looks a Race Point, Provincetown, in August.

#8- Cerulean Warbler- A severely declining bird, it was the target and highlight of a trip to Doodletown. Plus, it's cerulean.

#9-Barred Owl- I saw two this year. The first, in Corkscrew Swamp in Florida, was asleep. The photo of it is one post down. On the other hand, One flushed during the Greenwich CBC, giving great looks.

#10- Prothonotary Warbler- I found one at Greenwich Audubon in May. In addition to being a spectacular bird, it was somewhat rare for the area, my first self-found semi-rarity.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Birding 2009- Part One- Summary

2009 was easily the best year of birding I have had so far. My year list, with one trip to Florida, came to 233 species, with 56 life birds, beating my total of 191 in 2008 by a lot. My life list jumped to 272, with my milestone 250th bird a Worm-eating Warbler in June. My birding highlights, by month:

January- My first life bird of the year was an American Tree Sparrow on the 4th. I joined the New York State Young Birders Club, and went to the meeting and field trip in Duchess County, where we found Bald Eagles and a Red-headed Woodpecker.

February- Definitely the best month of the year for me, birdwise. I started off with the rare and irruptive White-winged Crossbill as a life bird on the first. A six lifer trip to Jones Beach, the best of the year, included Snowy Owl. And my florida trip netted another 4 lifers, including painted bunting, plus cool Florida specialties like Swallow-tailed Kite, Wood Stork, and Spoonbill. I ended the month having seen 4 owls- snow and saw-whet at Jones beach, barred in Florida, and great horned at the marshlands conservancy

March- The highlight was again crossbills on a NYSYBC trip to Sullivan county, but I saw three life birds on three different days- Snow Goose, displaying Woodcocks, and Snipe.

April- The start of spring migration was highlighted by a three-lifer day at the Marshlands Conservancy with a Ruff!, probably the rarest bird of the year.

May- The warbler section of my life list had some huge holes that were filled with a trip to central park on the third. I saw five life birds, highlighted by a stunning male Blackburnian Warbler at close range and eye level. At a David Sibley lecture in Greenwich, I found my own semi-rarity, a Prothonotary Warbler in CT. A NYSYBC trip to Long Island rounded out the month with two more warbler lifers- Chestnut-sided and Blue-winged, plus my first woodcock I had seen in day.

June- Most of the month was slow, but I had a great weekend at the very end of the month. Friday got me the first Clapper Rails I had actually seen at the Marshlands Conservancy. A NYSYBC trip to Doodletown on Saturday got 5 lifers, including Hooded and Cerulean Warblers and my 250th bird, a Worm-eating Warbler. On Sunday I went with Benjamin and Ryan to Hammonasset, where we saw King Eider (25oth ABA bird- lifer), Seaside Sparrow (200th year bird), and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

July- I spent much of July at my beach house in Massachusetts. My first pelagic birds came on a whale watch of of Plymouth, where I saw greater, sooty, and Cory's Shearwaters, all lifers, plus northern gannets and Wilson's storm-petrels. The other 3-lifer day was on a weekly "Friday Morning Birders" walk on the last of the month, when we found Black Terns, Whimbrels, and White-rumped Sandpipers, as well as a horned lark, least terns, and piping plovers.

August- Not a very birdy month, but I did have what was probably my second rarest bird of the year, a White-winged Dove chased by the Friday Morning Birders in Manomet, MA. A trip to Race Point, Provincetown, on the tip of cape cod netted a really cool bird, Parasitic Jaeger, as well as some Greater Shearwaters, my first from land.

September- My last Friday Morning Birding of the summer found a Marbled Godwit, a good bird and a lifer, along with another Parasitic Jaeger and some signs of impending winter, or at least fall- loons. A long postponed and overdue fall trip to Jamaica Bay WR in Queens for shorebirds was highly successful. Among 4 life birds were a pair of Avocets, rare in this region.
My life Lincoln's Sparrow was the only life bird of a fall migration that I almost entirely missed.

October- No lifers, and only one year bird (a GC Kinglet), but I spend some time at the hawkwatch in Greenwich, which was fun.

November- The only birds of note were a rare pair of sandhill cranes that flew by the hawkwatch.

December- I ended the two month streak of not seeing a life bird with two at the Edith Read Sanctuary nearby- Lesser Scaup and Purple Sandpiper. My first Christmas Bird Count with Ted in Greenwich was highlighted by finally finding Rusty Blackbirds, 48 Vultures, and a Barred Owl. Christmas at my beach house ended the year, with the usual winter loons and sea ducks, plus my life Great Cormerant and some Snow Buntings.

2009 was great- 2010 could be just as good or better- who knows? That's part of the fun of birding.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

First Lifer of the New Year

I was going to my grandparents house in Pennsylvania on new years day, so of course I was regularly checking the PA Birds listserv to see if I could sneak in a birding trip somewhere. The most promising was an Allen's Hummingbird, a first state record, 30 minutes from where I was staying. Seemed perfect, but the bird left 2 days before I got there.

I needed an alternative. I found two major possibilities- Spotted Towhee at Palymra NJ or Gulls (Lesser BB, Iceland, Glaucous) in Tullytown, PA.

On sunday, the third, after building up my yearlist in my grandparent's backyard and getting one bird I missed all of 2009- carolina chickadee, we had to make a decision. One that was made easier by 2 things- the towhee was only normally seen at dawn and we would be there at 3, and that it was freezing. Really freezing. 25 with 40mph winds. We weren't going to be standing in one spot waiting for the towhee, so the gulls it was.

Getting to the spot 2 hrs later after missing a turn, getting stuck in traffic, and almost giving up, we found the gulls. 1000 of them. As soon as we pulled up, I spotted one darker one- Lesser Black-backed. Life bird! Scanning the flock, I found that there were more. We found 15 in total. And yes, it was cold- to take photos I had to take my glove off, and it was felt like it had frozen solid for the next 15-20 minutes. The photos:

Lots of Gulls (plus my shadow):

A fierce-looking LBBG. One actually grabbed the wingtip of a ring-billed gull and was yanking on it so the other bird would move.
Like I said, a lot of gulls. The number that took off did not even make the flock on the ground look any smaller.
Find the Lesser Black-backed Gulls. How many are there in this photo?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Some Nuthatch Photos

With my new camera, I was able to get a couple of shots of a white-breasted nuthatch in my yard. Not incredible, but way better than anything I had taken before.
I was about 4 feet from it. I'm not sure why it didn't fly sooner.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Christmas Weekend Birds, Bird Gifts, and some Fog

Sunrise at my beach house. ^

My supplies of birding equipment and bird stuff get a huge boost every christmas. This year I got Kingbird Highway, which I already wrote about, the Sibley Guide to Trees, two bird calenders, and, best of all, a new camera. With 12x zoom and 10 megapixels, it is a lot better than my other camera. As a result, most of the photos here are going to be my own, including all here (except for the camera below.)
I spent Christmas weekend at my beach house in Massachusetts, so I spend a fair amount of time birding, especially seawatching, even though the weather was bad.
Observations by day:

Friday- Looked at the ocean for a little across the road from my house. Very cold. Got Scoter, Eiders. That's about it.

Saturday- More Seawatching, same spot. Added White-winged scoter and confirmed surf scoter. Still bad weather.

Sunday- We braved driving rain to go birding. At one spot, I saw red-breasted mergansers, my year common goldeneye, more scoters, eiders, some purple sandpipers, and a possible black guillemot. On the way back, I saw my life Great Cormorant on a dock. Later in the day, I went to duxbury beach. We were buried in fog, but I still found Snow Buntings, "Ispwich" Sparrows, Tree Sparrows, and more eiders.

Snow Buntings- The answer to the quiz below- five in each photo.
The rest are some fog shots: