Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Bird Count - OR - I Need Warmer Boots

Each Christmas week for 111 consecutive years, the Audubon Society has sponsored the Christmas Bird Count in order to get data on birds that winter in the United States. This is my first year doing the count and I didn't really know how to get involved. The Audubon website makes you pick a "circle" closest to your zip code and then sign up. A circle is literally a circle on a map where Audubon has determined a count can take place. No circles showed up around 19046 (Rydal, not Jenkintown) which were "open". An open circle means that any individual can sign up on the website, download the forms, pick a date between Dec 11 and Jan 4, and count. So, I was at a loss about how to sign up.

I emailed the local chapter of Audubon Society and asked if the BirdNerds could join a circle. Andy emailed me to say that he could use help at Gwynned Preserve. I thought "great, we can help the leader". Um, no. I was the leader. No problem. The nerds plus Renee and another woman named Judy went to Gwynned on Dec 18th. None of the nerds have ever been there before but Andy told us to look for the Harrier - which we saw. Did I mention that it is December in Pennsylvania? F-ing freezing. I decided to break out the deal of the century from Cabelas as a joke:

No joke. I wore it the whole day - along with the funny elf hat that my mother sent me for Christmas. I got the one piece women's camoflage hunting suit (with hood) for $49. I couldn't pass it up.

Then, Patty sends my name into another Audubon guy and tells him that I am interested in helping out. This guy hooks me up with the CBC at Norristown Farm Park on Dec 26th (today). Of course, I didn't learn my lesson about the freezing cold so I went along. This time, I wasn't the leader thank goodness. This time, Barbara (not the nerd, but another good birder) already scouted the area and told us that we would probably see a Great Horned Owl - which we did at 0'dark:30. We also saw another 42 species. Did I mention that it is December in Pennsylvania? F-ing freezing AND F-ing snowing. The camo didn't come out today since it was my first time meeting these nice people:

Believe me, there are long underwear under those jeans. This is taken at Valley Forge National Park. You might as well be able to see General Washington commanding the troops in the background.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hockey Update

What kind of title is that for a bird blog, you ask? Good question. It seems like my 2 pastimes (obsessions) continue to merge - women's ice hockey and birding. Most of the 6 current BirdNerds are hockey players who play for the FREEZE or the Predators. In fact, only Connie is not an ice hockey player, preferring field hockey instead.

We are doing the Christmas Bird Count this year with Renee, from the Phoenix. We have been to hawk mountain with Amy, a new birder from the FREEZE. I have also had requests from Loreen of the Predators to join an outing.

And now Patty who is an avid birder has re-joined the FREEZE. On top of that, Patty is even sending awesome photos from her outings. Here is a great shot of Harlequin Duck at Barnegat Lighthouse taken the weekend after we were there. Why doesn't this happen to me? Every time I see Harlequins, they are bobbing on waves on rainy days. For Patty, they get up onto the rocks and pose in bright sunlight showing off their incredible markings. Gee whiz.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

They are Really Blue

First question - why do Bluebirds look REALLY blue in winter? Second question - how come they never look as blue in photos as they do in real life? Here is a photo of a very cooperative Bluebird at Lake Galena on Saturday - the same day as the fashion statement. This bird sat on that stick for a minute or so before getting a drink from the creek. Connie was about 10 feet away but the bird didn't care.

You can kind of see a hint of the "electric blue" at the edge of the wing, but it looked really bright in real life.

Third question - how come every time I enter sightings for Lake Galena, the "official" questions it? This time, he questioned Herring Gulls of all things. This time I sent him photographic proof. This is Great Black-backed Gulls (GBBG), Lesser Black-backed Gulls (LBBG), Herring Gulls (HEGU), and one Ring-billed Bull (RBGU) at the bottom left near the duck and goose. GBBGs are the largest gulls in the photo with black backs and flesh legs. LBBGs are the smaller gulls with black backs and yellow legs (hard to see in the photo). HEGUs are the gulls with the gray backs. RBGU is the one at the bottom left.

Click on photos to enlarge. By the way, that is ice that they are standing on. . .

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Santa - Please Bring Us Some Style

Nerd Alert! If you are queazy, don't look at the photo. It may be unbearable to the fashionably sensable:








Check out the hats. Even the dog has a fashion faux-pas going on there. And what exactly could I be looking at?

Well, we had good looks at Lesser Black-backed Gulls today. There were 25 of them mixed in with Great Black-backed Gulls and Herring Gulls for comparison.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Always something to see in Florida

Tara and I were down in Punta Gorda these past few days. On sunday we went up to Orlando to see the LPGA, set up shop at the 12th green, hoping we'd make it on tv. Did see bald eagle overhead, which was cool. We checked the broadcast later that night, and we were always just out of the shot. So, driving home on 17 south, another bald eagle crossed over our heads, and further south, near Arcadia, crested caracara, sitting on a fence post right next to the road, we were doing 60 MPH at the time, so we couldn't stop in traffic, but he was unmistakeable, with his black toupe. Love that bird.
We packed the cold weather and brought it down with us, went down to the low 30's at night and only 40's and low 50's during the day, so no golf, no boat. I did manage to check out 2 future sights for the bird nerds, right in Port Charlotte. Audubon Pennington State Park and Ollie's Pond. AP state park was nice, about a mile long, lots of yellow-rumps, got a great look at a Limpkin, saw what i thought was least grebe, but ebirder was quick to question me, so I think it was pie billed grebe. I can see where this park might be very warbler-y during migration. Driving home from the park, i look over and see........... a bald eagle, in someone's back yard. on the ground, picking up sticks. a bald eagle in a backyard, amazing!
Next up was Ollie's Pond. Lots of ducks: coots, moorhens, pie billed grebe, (yes pie billed), hoodies, blue wing teal, ruddy duck ( i think, needed captain linda there and barb's scope.) oh, and 2 bald eagles. and more yellow rumps. this is where they all are apparently.
That's it from florida, leaving tomorrow, and of course it's going back up to 78 on friday.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Splish Splash

Snow Geese swirled by the hundreds in the distance. Lots of ducks swam very close to the drive. Harriers and Eagles soared overhead. The day started off sunny and bright at Forsythe but very windy. So windy that we (me, Di, Barbara and 3 dogs) made excuses about why we didn't need to get out of the truck while going around the Wildlife Drive. We even saw an American Bittern! But that wasn't the story of the day.

When we were through at Forsythe, we drove to Barnegat Light to check for sea ducks. What we found was overcast skies and wind - lots of wind. Even more wind than earlier in the day. We saw hundreds of Common Eider and dozens of Northern Gannets up close and personal, Black Scoters, Brant and Harlequin Ducks too. Even with overcast skies, I got a few good shots of Purple Sandpipers, Ruddy Turnstones, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plovers that were all working along the jetty right at our feet. It is a pretty rough existence working the jetty at Barnegat Inlet any day, but with the wind it gets even rougher. Here are some photos of the day:

Purple Sandpiper - not cropped
This is how close they were

Purple Sandpiper working the rocks for a meal
He was so close that I could get this shot without cropping too much

Ruddy Turnstone in non-breeding plumage

Dunlin on the rocks being overcome by waves

Sleepy Dunlin - you'd be sleepy too
if you made your living in freezing water

Black-bellied Plover on the Jetty

Fishing boat returning to port - lit up by a brief window of sunlight

Roxy wouldn't go up on the jetty. She was too scared. All three of the dogs had fun running in the sand along the jetty. But even they got cold out at the end waiting for me to take photos of Gannets diving for fish. They were actually shivering - although surprisingly Di wasn't. What's up with that?

Friday, November 26, 2010

A Couple of Hummers

California has 2 hummingbirds that hang around through fall and even winter - Allen's and Anna's. I got to see both of these little beauties up close and personal on my trip last week. They are both pretty fearless. They flew right past me many times squeaking all the time. They perched close on the ends of dead branches either in trees or bushes. They hovered around flowers. They chased each other around fiercely.

Anna's hummingbirds are abundant. They have brilliant magenta heads and throats. Really brilliant:

Ok, so you can't always see the brilliant magenta. How about this backlit photo. Do you believe me now?

Sometimes the bird lands and you can't see it you get this sudden blast of magenta which gives the bird's location away.

None of the photos above show the full brilliance of the head and throat. I couldn't get the bugger to face the sun!

Allen's hummingbirds do not have flashy colors but they are subtly handsome with their rust tones.

The photos are not good quality but you can see how adorable these birds are anyway. I hope you enjoy them.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More West Coast Birding Briefs

I finally figured out how to work around the photo upload glitch so here are some more photos from my fabulous west coast trip starting with water birds. I got 4 different grebes on this trip including many Pie-billed and Western grebes, a few Horned grebes, plus a Clarke's grebe. Here are some photos. Its hard to see the difference between Western and Clarke's grebe. You have to get a really good look at the eyes.

Western Grebe - notice how the black cap comes down to the eye

Clarke's Grebe - notice how the white surrounds the eye, no black

Horned Grebe - notice the point on the back of the head

Pie-billed Grebe - notice how darned cute it is

I also had good luck with Spotted Sandpiper on this trip. I practically tripped over this one several times. It just wouldn't run away from me. It finally popped out into the sunlight for this shot.
Spotted Sandpiper - notice the stout legs

And finally, this Kestral eating some sort of mouse on the top of a telephone pole. There was a guy flying a 'tethered airplane' about 50 feet away from the Kestral. The plane whirling by again and again. The Kestral was completely unphased.

American Kestral - notice the poor little mouse

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Scoters Anyone?

I dragged poor Sam out birding with me yesterday.  Sam is a young man that works at NPower and made the mistake of telling me that he would go along.  So, I dragged him along.  He was very polite and acted interested in the birds.  The first bird we encountered was a Turkey Vulture perched on a fence post that did not move even when we approached within 20 yards or so.  We were birding MLK park which is also known as Arrowhead Marsh (again with the arrows) which is a salwater harbor.  We saw alot of birds.  I'll do another post on it tomorrow. 

The bird that was really incredible to see up close was the Surf Scoter.  It is the most interesting of all the scoters.  Here are some photos (pretty good if I do say so myself).

Blogger is being a real pain in my ass lately. The images will not load properly so I have to edit the HTML code myself. The photos may be a little disproportionate. I'll repost them when Blogger is fixed.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Birds, Arrows and V16s

A quick jaunt to Pasadena to visit my uncle netted me some great little birds at the local park called Lower Arroyo Seco. The park is part of the Rose Bowl complex and runs along the Arroyo Seco which is a "river".  River is in quotes because all rivers in the Los Angeles area are basically trickles of water that run through an ugly concrete conduit with chain link fence on either side to keep people from drowning when it actually has water in it during flash floods.  You expect a car chase from a cheesy 70's cop show or movie at any moment.

This particular section of the Arroyo Seco is set up for archery.  There are targets set up on big bails of hay with distance markers etc all along one side of the "river".  It is pretty cool.  People show up with their bows and quivers full of arrows.  Blunt point only.  Signs posted everywhere state "NO BROADHEADS".  There are also people with dogs and kids running all over too.  Nobody gets shot.  Oh yes, and birds are all over too.  Typical California birds such as this Bushtit which swarm around in flocks of 10 - 40 at a time flitting from tree to tree all the way down the river, then back again.  It is pretty neat. 

More on that later.  More about arrows and V16s.  I only had the day to spend with my uncle.  We hung around the house, then went to brunch.  All the time, he is calling his friend Aaron asking about "the collection".  When would he be at the warehouse?  Although this went on all day, I really didn't even ask about it but at 4:30, Aaron called to say that he was at the warehouse and to come over.  So off we went.  I thought we were in for some artsy craftsy type stuff.  This is what we found:

This is only part of his private collection in his suped up garage warehouse called The Flying A Garage.  He is a collector of rare/classic/amazing cars.  He shows them and also uses them for charity events.  I thought this bird photography was an expensive hobby.  HA.  I'm ashamed that I ever thought that.  It was truly an awesome experience to meet this man and see this collection of cars.  More to come.  I'm in Oakland now.  Sam just showed up and we are off to explore the bay for birds before our conference begins.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Answer My Friend

Was blowin' in the wind today.  Boy, was it windy at the shore.  Di and I almost got blown off of Higbee beach.  It was blowing in from the bay and pushed the water so high that there wasn't any beach to walk on.  I dragged Di down the shore in hopes of seeing a Redhead (which is a duck, not a woman with red hair). We didn't see the duck but we did see some other good birds.

We did have a sparrow smorgasbord in the field.  I took alot of photos of sparrows for identification purposes. And, I am still unsure of this one ( I think Swamp Sparrow).

We also saw a good number of hawks.  Sharp-shinned hawks were everywhere along with Red-shouldered and Red-tailed.  We even saw a Red-tailed Hawk that was getting banded at the hawk watch platform.  Here is the bander holding the hawk.  It was soon released but I couldn't get a good shot of it.

I also got these shots of Norther Shovelers. Male:
 Typical Pose with butts in the air:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Those Damned Jones

You know the feeling.  You've experienced this a number of times in your life - both personally and professionally:  You do something that makes you feel good - like buying a new Subaru, or having a good birding day - only to have someone else buy something better - like buying a BMW, or having an unprecedented birding day.

Take this weekend for example.  On Saturday, Connie and I had to buy a new Subaru. Our Forrester was just giving up the ghost.  After a long day at the dealer, we chose an Outback over the Forrester and chose Azurite Blue Pearl with Warm Ivory interior.  Pretty car and nice to drive.  Exhausted from the experience, we went home and collapsed.  Lori and I had plans to go to Lake Galena on Sunday morning, so I needed the sleep and never checked the Internet birding reports. . .

Of course we drove the new Outback to the Lake.  Tara joined us for a nice surprise and so did Roxy.  We can take Roxy with us on some trails, but not on others so we leave her in the car (don't call the Humane Society, it was 50 degrees and overcast).  We had a pretty good day and got a Purple Finch, Hermit Thrush, Kinglets, Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Flickers and various Sparrows.  I even got this good photo of the Purple Finch:

Now for the deflated feeling.  Although I didn't speak to anyone who bought a BMW or got a better deal on their Outback, Roxy did manage to get into Lori's PBJ sandwiches and proceed to eat them, drop the PB and Jelly on the Warm Ivory passenger seat of the new car, step in it and parade all over the backseat too.  We were horrified upon our return to the vehicle.  (Humane Society folks are now mumbling something about divine intervention).  Once we got home and cleaned up that mess, I settled onto the sofa to log our sightings in eBird and check the birding reports.  What a mistake.  You have to read this to believe what we missed by not going to Cape May this weekend.  Please read it View from the Cape and tell remind me that we got Purple Finch and a new car . . . .

Saturday, October 30, 2010

One of Those Winters?

Possibly.  We already have a Red-breasted Nuthatch at our feeder.  That little sucker isn't afraid of anything either.  He hangs on the peanut feeder and will not leave even when I walk by a few feet away.  Not even when Roxy comes barreling out the door after the squirrels just below the feeder.  Roxy runs back and forth under that feeder and the Nuthatch just keeps pecking the peanuts.  Lori has a Red one too.  She also has Pine Siskins already.  It might be one of those winters after all.

It sure got cold here all of a sudden.  As you can see from the last post, we were in short sleeves on Sunday.  Today, I was in a hoodie and jacket, and my hands were freezing.  But the birding is worth it.  I was inundated with juncos (50), White-throated Sparrows (40), and Golden-crowned Kinglets (38) in the woods at Pennypack.

I look back at some old posts and think - what a dope I am.  Last year, I went on and on about seeing 11 Kinglets.  Big deal compared to this year.  I have seen more Kinglets - both Ruby and Golden crowned - than I thought was possible.  (Mark this post.  I'll probably eat these words in the future too.  Hopefully.)  I could watch these little go-getters all day long.  They are tiny little birds who are focused on picking little things from the undersides of leaves. They are determined.  Just like the Nuthatch in my yard, they don't seem to even notice people passing by on bikes or jogging, or even with Roxy.  They just keep going.  I wish them well on their southbound trip.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday Birding with Brendan

Brendan got binoculars as a birthday present last week.  We took them on their maiden voyage today to Tinicum to see some ducks. We saw some ducks, for sure.  How about over a hundred Ruddy Ducks?  How about Northern Shovelers and Pintails and Teal and Ring-neck Ducks and Bufflehead?  Oh, and a Bald Eagle stirring things up a bit.

Here is the crew from today:

The Great Blue Heron cooperated for a photo:

This is the Pintail, Shovelers, Teal and Coot all in one photo:

Here are the same ducks scattering to get away from the Eagle that was cruising overhead:
Click on any photo to enlarge
We ended up with 40 species today.  Pretty good for the new binoculars. Oh, and we had Friendly's for lunch!  Yum

Bahamas Birding, who knew?

So, Tara and I went to the Bahamas after leaving the rest of the bird nerds in Florida. Got there Wednesday morning. We went birding with a guide friday and had nice success. We picked up 12 life birds, most in the shadow of the Atlantis Resort. Two other people we in our group, they came from one of the cruise ships, and they were from.........Lansdale. How freaky. Anyway, the list included 44 species, highlights: Bahama mocking bird (rare for Nassau), Bahama woodstar, the only humming bird on the island ( caught a female sitting on her nest), red legged thrush, thick billed vireo, Greater Antillean bullfinch, cuban grassquit, la sagra's flycatcher, mangrove cuckoo, gray kingbird, caribbean dove, and some warblers, praire, cape may, black/white, black-throated blue, yellow throated, palm, redstarts, oven bird, northern waterthrush. I was really pleasantly surprised. Bought me a tee shirt from the guide "Birds of the Bahamas", gonna wear it when i feel all birdy and nerdy.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

2 Posts in 1 Day

Read the last post too.  I was rushed out the door here in The Villages to make the early bird special for dinner.  Early bird, get it?  My mother thinks that just because we are birders, we need the early bird special.  Anyway, the last post was rushed because we were on our way to dinner. 

Speaking of dinner:  here are some photos of birds with their own dinners.  Early birds all on their own:

Tern with a fish

Kingfisher with a fish

Osprey with fish

Sucks to be a fish in Florida . . .

More Florida

We didn't just go to the same old birding locations on this trip. In fact, we went to 2 or 3 new or new-ish spots this time.  First, we went to Sanibel Lighthouse beach and got up close and personal with Willets, Black-bellied Plover, Sandwich Tern and others. 

The next "newish" spot was Babcock Webb WMR right off of I-75.  I was there last year, but it was a first for the other girls.  I got a life bird - King Rail - walking across the dirt road.  Connie spotted it while I was looking up at the many Pine Warblers in the pine tree above.  We took Di and Barbara the next day and saw Red Cockaded Woodpeckers which are on the endangered list.

Finally, we went to Emeralda Marsh up near The Villages this morning.  We thought we could drive on the "wildlife drive" but apparently, you can only walk or bike it.  Go figure.  We still got great looks at Sedge Wren, Swamp Sparrow, Moorhens and even a Purple Gallinule which is rare.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Guess where we went?Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island. If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it.  Highly.  We've been making this a destination on almost every Florida trip for the last 20 years but just recently discovered that we should time the visit to coincide with low or rising tide.  Duh.  That only makes perfect sense since all of the target birds here are waders that depend on low water levels to feed.  We had a double hit on this visit because low tide coincided with gorgeous morning light for photos.

We were thrilled to see a Roseate Spoonbill:

Then he was joined by a friend or two:

 And more:

Then there were more:

Then, there was the parade:

Then, there was the crowd:

 It was a pretty awesome morning for sure.  Black, white and pink.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Birds - Up Close

I think that's the best thing about Florida - Big Birds, Up Close.  Pretty easy to photograph if, and I mean IF, you aren't in a boat rocking back and forth.  Here are some shots that we got today at Alligator Creek Preserve:

 Black Vulture

 Red-shouldered Hawk - I think this is a pretty good photo

Broad-winged Hawk - check out his leg coming out of his belly.  He dove down and got a frog but those photos didn't come out.

Here are some from the boat in Charlotte Bay this afternoon:

 It seemed like there was an Osprey on every channel marker (especially the red ones)

Double-crested Cormorant - we like his green/blue eye
Royal Tern shuffling his feathers