Saturday, February 27, 2010

I'm back...

...And it was awesome. 141 lifers, 13+ hummingbird species, 5 toucan species, 3 monkey species, Resplendent Quetzal, Scarlet Macaw, Common Potoo, Golden-browed Chlorophonia, and a lot more. Photos and reports will begin to go up soon.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

I leave Tomorrow!

My plane for Costa Rica leaves tomorrow morning. As you can probably tell/guess, I'm pretty happy. Why? Here's one reason (out of ~850):
This excellent photo of a Long-tailed Silky-Flycatcher, a tropical relative of the waxwings,  is from

Monday, February 15, 2010

Museum of Natural History Trip

I had a pretty good day of birding on Sunday, with the highlights being Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Harpy Eagle, Eskimo Curlew, Great Auk, Giant Hummingbird, Blue Bird-of-Paradise, Bishop's O'o, Nocturnal Curassow, Labrador Duck, Imperial Woodpecker, Spoon-billed Sandpiper, and, of course, Ivory-billed Woodpecker.

Unfortunately, all of them were dead.

The New York State Young Birder's Club (NYSYBC) had an amazing trip to the American Museum of Natural History's bird collection, a behind-the-scenes tour of the world's largest collection of bird specimens- over 1 million, and representing nearly all of the world's bird species.

Two of the museum's scientists gave an excellent presentation on specimen preparation and importance, as well as the history of the museum's bird collection.

A life-mount of an albino cormerant:

The critically endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper:

Harpy Eagle:
And Great Gray Owl:

A full life-mount of a Great Argus Pheseant in display was cool:
Three more amazing birds we saw specimens of were Lyre-tailed Nightjar, Toucan Barbet, and Flame Bowerbird.

This parrot is no more. It has ceased to be. It's expired and gone to meet it's maker. This is an ex-parrot!:

After that, we went upstairs in the cramped elevator to the rare and extinct birds section, where we saw Heath Hen, Eskimo Curlew, Pink-headed Duck, Great Auk, Labrador Duck, Bishop's O'o, Imperial Woodpecker, and Ivory-billed Woodpeckers, all of which are extinct or probably extinct. 

The auk:

The O'o:

The Labrador Duck:

And last but not least, the Woodpeckers:

And Imperial:

We were also able to see the type specimen of some species of South Pacific kingfisher:

In all it was a very interesting trip, and it was cool to see birds that you probably could never see in life. 

Good Birding!

Costa Rica Countdown: 2.5 Days

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snow Day Sightings

Snow storms always bring lots of birds to feeders, and this one was not an exception. I finally broke my record of birds at my feeders in a day, and by a lot. There were 16 species today, compared to 12, the previous high. The Red-winged Blackbird and European Starling that showed up with a grackle flock boosted the number, but the best bird was my 50th yard bird, an Eastern Towhee. It dug around in the snow for seeds all day, similar to what it would normally do, albeit with snow instead of leaves. My first attempt at uploading a video onto my blog is below.

Good Birding!

Costa Rica Countdown:8 days

Oh, and I made a slight change to my blog- you can now view my 2009 year list and soon my life list in the sidebar on the right.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


Today I went to the Teatown Lake Reservation Eaglefest, held at Croton Point Park on the Hudson River. As you can tell from the presence of the ice and the penguins in the photo above, it was cold. That seems to be sort of a theme lately.

Almost as soon as we got to the river, an adult eagle flew directly overhead. A good start. After about 10 or fifteen minutes more of scanning, we had added Common Goldeneye and Bufflehead, and went inside to warm up and see some captive/rehab raptors and owls. The presentation was interesting, and the birds obviously more cooperative for photos than their wild counterparts
We went back outside, where I photographed goldeneye and bufflehead. 

We had heard that there was another spot nearby that was good for eagles, so we headed over. We arrived, and I saw a trio of Redheads (the ducks, not the humans) diving at little ways out in the inlet. Life bird! A Ruddy Duck, which I could not find for all of 2009, was also there. And sure enough, there were a couple of eagles, first a distant one and then a young bird flying near around the treeline.    

Just after leaving the spot, an adult eagle flew right over our car. 

The next stop was the Yellow-headed Blackbird, normally a bird of the western and central U.S., that had been hanging around the Pruyn Sanctuary, the headquarters of Saw Mill River Audubon, for a few weeks. The bird hadn't been seen for 6 days until it was relocated yesterday afternoon. 

We got lost getting there, but eventually found the place. There were 5 people already watching. The bird had been in a large flock of primarily Red-winged Blackbirds with scattered cowbirds since 2:30, but it was not in view now. After ten minutes or so of scanning the flock, I spotted the bird in a tree overlooking the center/office. Yes!!! Lifer #2 for the day.

Can you tell which one it is?

Over the next 15-30 minutes the bird stayed still for a while, then moved to a couple of different spots, including on the ground near to us once very briefly. I got great looks and pathetically bad photos. 
More photos and info about this bird are here:

You can tell what it is from the photos, at least:

Digiscoping is not fun. Even with someone else's really nice scope:

Still, National Geographic-worthy shots or not, it was a great bird and a fun trip. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

The First Pileated Woodpecker ever

Scientists have used some sort of pigment analysis to determine the actual coloring of dinosaurs. They studied a feather species called Anchiornis huxleyi, and came up with a black-and-white dinosaur with a feathered red crest. It looks exactly like a prehistory Pileated (or Ivory-billed) Woodpecker. 
The story, along with a rotating graphic showing it from every angle, is here and here.

Just shows how much like dinosaurs modern birds are.