Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

10 days, 20 eBird reports, 3 states. I'm exhausted. My month has been a whirlwind beginning with Cocoa's tragedy followed by a house full of visitors, a one day trip to New York City, then a week in Arizona and a conference in San Francisco. This post will be short!

My list grew from 502 to 549 in a 10 day span. It's almost too much to take in. I'm used to savoring each new species and discussing it with my companions. This trip saw 18 new species in our first day in Arizona. How can you savor that? Instead of savoring each species, we really discussed how amazed we were with the day as a whole. We each had our favorites.

For me it's the multitude of Wilson's Warblers. They were literally everywhere we went. At the stream side, on the top of the mountain, in the canyon. Just everywhere. We probably saw hundreds of them all tallied together and yet not one good photograph. They flit around so fast and in such bad lighting that neither Lori or I got one good shot. All blurry.

We also did alot of driving during our stay in Arizona. Our birding destinations covered a big area. So much interesting country to see. We didn't even get to all of the destinations described in our books but the locations we got to were just as described. We rented a mini van for the week and it was a great choice. Dodge Caravan. The new style with fold flat 3rd row seats and power doors which made stowing our gear and getting in and out easy. Kudos to Tara for coordinating the rental.

Some more pics from the trip:

Yellow-rumped Warbler - male breeding plumage:

Summer Tanager - male breeding plumage:

Gray Hawk - very rare in the U.S. but not in Southeast Arizona:

Broad-billed Hummingbird sitting on her nest:

Monday, April 27, 2009

Too Many Titles to Choose From

Try these titles:

Car Rental Fiasco
So I left the girls at the Phoenix airport and headed to the NTEN Conference in San Francisco. I arrive a day early so that I could extend my birdwatching by going to Point Reyes National Seashore on Sunday. I called the hotel to ask if there was a car rental nearby. They said yes, so I proceeded to the hotel only to find that all of the rental car agencies were already closed. Oy. Long story even longer . . . I had to take a shuttle back to the airport at 4:40 AM Sunday to rent the car.

I Don't Remember US1 Being the Windy (that's windy as in not straight)
Connie and I made the trip to Point Reyes about 10 years ago which is why I decided to go again yesterday. I just don't remember the road being soooo windy. It's a good thing that Enterprise gave me a free upgrade to a Nissan something or other. It was quite fun to drive that road without a passenger so that I could go as fast as I wanted.

Is it Always So Windy? (that's windy as in blowin' a gale)
I started the birding at the Beaver Valley Ranger Station which was really quiet at 7:00 AM. I saw a colony of Acorn Woodpeckers and got to watch a White-tailed Hawk hover hunting in the field. Here are a few photos - 1)hovering 2)flying away with it's catch 3) the pocket gopher

That Loon Wants to Poke My Eye Out
After a great day of birding, I was making my way back down US1 and saw 2 cars pulled off of the road and a Loon sitting on the road. That is NOT good. It was a Red-Throated Loon just coming into breeding plumage with a little red patch under his neck. Loons can bearly walk well due to the placement of their legs at the back of their body and cannot take flight unless they get a runnning start on the water.

The guy in the other car wanted to know if I had a "plan" when I got out of the car with my sweatshirt. Of course I had a plan. I was trained for such an occasion by the Tri-State Bird Rescue in Delaware during the big oil spill a few years ago. Diane and I volunteered to bathe the affected geese in Dawn dishwashing detergent and have the Coast Guard Citation to prove it. So, I put my past bird rescue training into action! I threw my sweatshirt over the bird's head, grabbed it by the neck, threw it under my arm and walked it over to the water.

That bird got it's head out of the sweatshirt and looked at me with it's red eyes. He really did want to poke my eyes out and would have if I let go of his neck for a second. I plopped him in the water and away he swam. He looked fine in the water and didn't even thank me. Some nerve. And they guy in the other car took off before knowing if the bird was OK. Oh well, what a day.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Scary, Scary Road to the Sky

We made the trip to the San Pedro river valley because it has several really good places to see really good birds. It's in all of the guides (Lori bought the Tuscon Audubon Society's "Finding Birds in Southeast Arizona" and I bought the ABA's "A Birder's Guide to Southeastern Arizona") so we went. We knew it would take 2 hours just to get to our first stop, so we were up and out of the house 5:00 AM.

Our first stop was the San Pedro River House which is run by a local non profit. It has trails through open country down to the river. We saw tons of sparrows which we couldn't identify. I took photos so we could cheat with the Sibley Guide later. I never saw so many warblers in my life. I bet we saw 100 Wilson's Warblers flitting around - at eye level, on the ground, in the trees, practically on our heads. No kidding.

Then we drove to Carr Canyon. To say it's a "road" would be stretching it a little. More like a gravel mule path up the side of a really steep canyon. Really steep. Lori drove, Connie sat shotgun, I drove from the backseat, and Tara closed her eyes the whole time. It really was the scariest road any of us have ever been on. Vehicles of more than 20 feet length are prohibited. I think the Suburban would not have made it - definitely not the Bounder (although there is a wonderful campground at the top). All I could think about was Lucy and Desi in the Long, Long Trailer. HA.

We drove 3,000 feet up that road to see high elevation birds such as Olive Warbler (didn't see it), Greater Pewee (didn't see it), Band-tailed Pigeon (saw it), and Grace's Warbler (saw it). We also saw an older couple from New Zealand who were really lovely, a great picnic area at the campground, and restrooms along with Spotted Towhee.

The New Zealanders told us that we should really stop at "The Beatty's" which is also mentioned in all of the guides as THE place to see hummingbirds in the U.S., so down, down, down we went. I drove this time and was forbidden from looking at anything other than the road in front of me. It was treacherous and I had to pass by 3 cars going up. Luckily 2 of them pulled over for me. The other jerk is another story.

The Beatty's run a bed and breakfast for birders up in Miller Canyon. Not a bad drive. We met Mrs. Beatty and paid the $5 each entrance fee to sit at the hummingbird feeders. It was really great to be sitting in the shade with 7 different species of hummers buzzing all around us. The Beatty's is one of the few places in the U.S. to see White-eared Hummingbird and we saw it. We also saw Blue-throated, Anna's, Black-chinned, Broad-billed, Broad-tailed, and Magnificent hummingbirds. Connie saw a Calliope's Hummingbird while the rest of us chased a report of a Spotted Owl. That's another blog in itself.

Anyway, it was a really long day but it was one that we will definitely remember for a loooong time to come.

Monday, April 20, 2009

meep meep

I found myself looking for an Acme anvil this afternoon. That's what I think of when I see a Roadrunner anyway. We were leaving Madera Canyon after a long day of hiking and birding when I spotted a Roadrunner in the pasture. "STOP!" "BACKUP! BACKUP! BACKUP!" "ROADRUNNER!" And there he was with a lizard in his beak scurrying through the field, hiding under scrub bushes. Lori kept pace with him for 1/4 mile in the van. Then he stopped, hopped up on a stump, and crossed the road. - Irony here - a Roadrunner running on the road. . .

Madera Canyon was great. We spent over 2 hours at the picnic area alone seeing Mexican Jays, Acorn Woodpeckers, Black-throated Gray Warblers, tons of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and lots of Flycatchers. Boy, those Flycatchers are tough to identify. It's a good thing I have the BirdPod now. Flycatchers are best identified by sound. I was really proud when I identified the Dusky-capped Flycatcher by it's hweeew, hweeew call.

We also got to see the Arizona Woodpecker which is cool because it's brown rather than black.

Everyone we met had only one thing to talk about - the Elegant Trogon. Did we see it, were we going to try to see it, would we be disappointed if we didn't see it. What a pain. Here we are seeing amazing life birds and quantities of some other birds that we would not be able to see in our area and all they want to talk about is that damned Trogon. Truth be told, we did want to see the Trogon too. And we took the people's advise and went to the spots where the Trogon was said to be seen recently. We parked up at the upper canyon and hiked the Carrie Nation Trail where everyone else was going. We hiked and hiked. We even heard the Trogon "bark" in the distance. Then, Connie quit. Tara quit. Lori and I trudged on. We lost the trail for awhile but found it again and found a photographer. We asked him about the Trogon. He showed us photos on his camera's LCD screen and told us that we had another 20 minutes of steep hiking ahead of us. We quit.

Let's just say that we heard the Trogon and had a pleasant lunch of PBJ sandwiches at the picnic area. Did I mention that we saw a Roadrunner? Meep, meep.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Arizona - 1st day, 40 birds, 12 lifers, all in our resort

That's the benefit of having the Juan Bautista de Anza Trail in your backyard. Arizona is 3 hours behind Eastern Daylight Time, so we were all up at 3:30 AM trying to stay in bed. By 5:20 we were all up and so was the sun. Connie and I took a quick walk around the neighborhood of Tubac where we are staying with Lori and Tara. We saw Lark Sparrow, Black-chinned Sparrow, Phainopepla, Lucy's Warbler, and Anna's Hummingbird just like that. 3 of those are life birds for us.

After a quick breakfast, we headed to the Anza Trail which has an entrance just up the road from our house within Tubac market place. We got another 10 species between the parking lot and the trail head including Verdin, Broad-billed Hummingbirds - lots of them, Red-Shafted Flicker (ours has yellow shaft), Say's Phoebe, and Vermillion Flycatcher. Please look these birds up in your book to understand how stunning they are.

On the trail we got Bullock's Oriole, Wilson's, MacGillevray's, Yellow-rumped and Yellow Warblers, Plumbeous Vireo, male and female Summer Tanagers, Abert's Towhee, and Bridled Titmouse.

We saw 2 Gray Hawks fly over pretty low. They are pretty rare, but said to nest in the area. We saw 2 of them flying together. A Cooper's Hawk almost took my head off too.

The point of this post is Holy Crap! We haven't even left the resort and we had an overwhelming morning of birdwatching. We were back at the house at 11:00 with our heads spinning. More to come, I'm sure.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Central Park - Those New Yorkers are Pretty Nice

It's not enough that I have a house full of company (Mom and Dave from Florida and Nathalie from Norfolk) and my Dad is in the hospital, and I need to pack for 11 days away. No, that's not enough. I also had to go to New York for a meeting today. You know me. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to go birding in Central Park.

I took the 6:00 AM train from Trenton - side bar here: there must be 200 Crows that roost at the Trenton Train Station, what a racket - and arrived in Penn Station at 7:15. Took the C subway to 81st St and into Central Park by 7:45. Of course, I had no idea where I was going.

Thankfully, I ran into a guy with binoculars almost immediately but not before spotting my first Eastern Towhee of the season. The nice man showed me into the "Ramble" and to the feeders. We saw Ruby Crowned Kinglet, lots of White-throated Sparrows, other birds that like feeders and my first Swamp Sparrow ever.

I left that man and ran into another man with binoculars who told me about a Yellow-throated Warbler at the "Boat Pond" and Hermit Thrushes in "Strawberry Fields" and pointed me in the general direction. Wow, Central Park is a big place when you are in it and don't know where you are going.

Luckily, I ran into a nice woman with binoculars who escorted me to the boat pond. Apparently they race little model boats on this pond in warmer weather. The nice lady also pointed out Pale Male's nest on a building ledge. (For those of you who don't know Pale Male, he is a pale Red-tailed Hawk that is really famous. Read "Red-Tails in Love" for more of the story).

We ran into a bunch of people with binoculars who were also hoping for the Yellow-throated Warbler. They were being followed by a film crew. And there was a photographer with a giant lens hanging around too. How New York is that? My new friend and I (Di, is that grammatically correct) decided to move along when the first nice man in this story said "here it is" and pointed to a bird on the concrete the edge of the pond. The bird flitted right along the ledge, 2 inches over my lady friend's head and into the tree 5 feet away from us! Naked eye birding at it's best.

The film crew and the photographer were nowhere to be found. Honestly. What a morning in the big city.

Monday, April 13, 2009

All living things moving North now!

So far, we have seen Chipping Sparrows, Gnatcatchers, Louisiana Waterthrush, now Palm Warblers and "The Johnsons". My mother and Dave arrived safely today just after the Palm Warblers!

Those little Palm Warblers are so cute. All yellow with that chestnut cap - ala Chipping Sparrows - with their tail pumping furiously. I saw 8 at Pennypack Trust last evening and another 2 at Lemon Hill this morning. All with my new Leica Ultravid BRs that were purchased at CMBO on Saturday. I got the refurbs for $400 less than new. They come with lifetime warranty now, so I thought it would be best to save the money.

Speaking of Saturday. . . thanks to Di, Lori and Tara for driving all the way to Cape May in the rain. Our birding was close to a bust thanks to driving wind and rain but we did manage Gannets and Loons at the concrete ship again. We also had the best looks ever at 2 Louisiana Waterthrushes at Sunset Bridge in Belleplain. They really hung around and gave us a good show.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sparrows and Kinglets and Falcons oh my

Today I saw my first Chipping Sparrows of the season at Lemon Hill so look for them at your feeders soon. They are probably my favorite sparrows. So cute, so approachable and what a great voice.

Also got a great look at Ruby Crowned Kinglet singing low in a bush with his ruby crown flared up. He was really singing hard too.

Topped the morning off with a Peregrine Falcon flying low overhead. Looked like he/she was on a mission to get north quick.

For those of you not familiar with Lemon Hill, it's across Kelly Drive from the boat houses in beautiful Fairmount Park. Here is the Google map link. This location has proved better than some "parks" for warblers and certainly did well for us with ducks this winter in front of the boat houses. I got 13 species in one tree last year right on Poplar Drive leaning on my car.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Impromptu Cape May

My day started at 6:45 AM. My ice hockey team made the playoffs for the first time in 10 years which meant that we played at 8:15 AM in Aston. Since this is a birding blog, I'll cut to the chase - we won 4 - 0 and I scored the 4th goal which is VERY unusual. And, it was a good goal, not a fluke.

OK, now to the birding. I was home by 11:00, showered and bored by noon so I proposed a trip to Cape May to Connie. She accepted and off we went. We were at Turkey Point by 2:00 even after getting lost. Good stuff in the mud flats including Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs - which were good to study side by side. And a thousand Dunlin swirling in flight, some coming into breeding plumage with the dark belly blotch. Also ducks, gulls, and actual turkeys at Turkey Point.

Off to Cape May and the Concrete Ship. We got really close looks at Gannets which I assume was due to the monster wind blowing due North directly onto the point. Red-throated and Common Loons still not in breeding plumage (which I was kind of hoping for).

At the lighthouse we saw our first warbler of the year - Yellow-rumped - flitting around the bushes. And we actually got to use my new BirdPod to identify Fish Crows by call. We didn't walk the trails because it was getting late and we were tired of the wind. The ponds behind the dunes held some good ducks including Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Ducks, Shovelers, and Widgeons. Also Rough-winged Swallows.

We had time to walk the Nature Conservancy's Migratory Bird Sanctuary which everyone calls "The Meadows"(you can see why) before we had to meet Biggie and Janette for dinner. They tore it all up last year and pulled the phragamites out, reconstructed the ponds for better water levels, improved the paths etc. It was brutally windy but we saw Osprey, Blue-winged Teal and others. I was surprised that Blue-winged Teal was my 501th bird in eBird. I guess I never entered it before although I have seen them several times in the past.

That's all for now. Wish me luck in the championship game on Sunday!