Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Starting to Gain Momentum

I started the day with the normal dog walk around Lemon Hill. I brought the camera along just in case a bird or two posed for me which they did.  The first was a Goldfinch - a very common bird but this one was lit up by the morning sun so I had to take a photo.Notice how gold he is now. Some of the Goldfinches at my house are still dull and mottled, not quite gold like this guy.

The next bird that posed was a Pine Warbler - in a pine tree, how convenient for identification.

Pine Warbler
As I was headed back to the car, I ran into this Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - almost literally. This bird was bouncing around in the bushes pretty low and right next to the path.  I shot about 100 photos and none came out very good. These tiny birds never stop moving which makes them difficult to get in focus (no excuse, a good photographer can get great shots of a bird that comes this close).

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
I headed down to the shore after work to chase after a Swallow-tailed Kite which I didn't see but I did get to see a few First of Year birds including Blue Grosbeak and Blue-headed Vireo which was nice.  Here is Blue Grosbeak showing his, well, big beak.

Blue Grosbeak
This is one of 4 Blue-headed Vireos that I saw feeding in the trees at Cox Hall Creek. I have never seen this kind of bird in a flock before.  I love the spectacles on these birds.

Blue-headed Vireo
Headed down to Higbee at the crack of dawn tomorrow morning to see if the wind blows anything else in.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Magic of Dusk

Di, Barbara and I met our new birding friend Harvey to check out a new trail in Del Haven this morning.  We didn't see much, but we did hear and see our first Ovenbird of the year and then did some chores all afternoon.  Nothing special really until we went to the Cape May State Park after dinner.  What an unexpected treat. Di asked me to look at a bush to see a warbler, but when I looked at the bush, I immediately noticed something much more interesting.

Common Nighthawk - roosting
This is a Common Nighthawk which I have never seen roosting. I have only ever seen them flying. They are nocturnal birds that roost like this during the day and then fly around beginning at dusk catching insects in flight. They have extraordinarily long wings with white patches on the wrists which make the ID unmistakable in flight.  Click on the photo to enlarge to see the tiny beak on this bird. 

I was so excited that I send out a text message about it.  Within a few minutes, Richard Crossley showed up with his camera to see the bird.  Richard is a famous birder and author of Crossley ID Guide series.  We have 2 of them at the house.  They are really good guides that have alot of photos of each bird in various "normal" positions and habitats.  We stood there and watched the bird until sunset when the bird took flight, circled the pond and flew off into the night. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Quick Post

Great-horned Owl babies are really funny looking. I can't resist taking photos of them on the rare occasion that I actually get to see them. Now is the time of year to see the white fur balls in the nest with Mom.  I had a great opportunity to photograph this scene last week in Palmyra NJ.

Great-horned Owls
Some amateur guy with a little camera got too close to the tree trying to photograph the raccoon that you saw a few days ago in my other post and scared Mom out of the nest.  Here are the babies looking for Mom.  Take a close look and you can see the "horns" already trying to poke out of their fluffy heads.

On my quest to be competitive in this stupid contest, there are some common birds that seem to be avoiding me.  One of them is the White-crowned Sparrow, a bird that is not "common" by any means, but I thought I would have run across one given the fact that I have been out birding like a nut.  I finally got the bird at Bombay Hook last weekend.  Whew.

White-crowned Sparrow

Monday, April 15, 2013

We're Flying Now!

Figuratively speaking - we are really starting to add birds to our total for the contest.  I've added over a dozen new birds to the list over the weekend with new birds coming along at a rapid rate.  Spring migration is heating up now and will continue to go at a dizzying speed until June. 

Literally speaking - here are some photos of birds in flight that I snapped over the past week or so.  Enjoy!

Here are Bald Eagles at Bombay Hook.  The first shows a full adult (right) and sub adult (left) soaring together.  The next photo shows another immature bird that joined the show and started to swoop on the adult.  The adult is flying upside down facing the attacker!

Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles
 Here are American Avocets flying past.  They now have that cinnamon head.  Check out the up curved bills.

American Avocets
Next up are a few terns seen at Forsythe NWR yesterday.  The first is the largest tern that we see in our area - Caspian Tern.  This bird has a big red bill which can be seen if you zoom in on the photo. 

Caspian Tern
 Here is a pretty cool shot of a Common Tern hovering over the channel at Forsythe right next to my car.

Common Tern
 The last 2 photos are of large birds - Great Egret and Great Blue Heron in flight.

Great Egret

Great Blue Heron
I'll post more from last weekend soon.  Honestly, I have more photos . . .

Friday, April 12, 2013

Non Bird Post

While running around looking for birds this week, I have seen alot of other animals so I thought I would share some photos.  You already saw the Harbor Seal from the beach. Here are some others. Let's start with cute and work our way toward the you-might-not-wanna-look. This cute Raccoon stuck his head out of the tree as a few of us were looking at Great-horned Owl babies in a nest above.  What a surprise.

Here is a Red Bat that I happened upon at John Heinz Refuge. I just happened to see a Robin fly out of a little Oak tree and noticed something still swinging.  This bat is hanging just 2 feet above the ground. Red Bats migrate south in winter, so I guess this guy is heading back north.  Cute little fellow.

Red Bat
 Here is a Snapping Turtle looking for love at Heinz. This is just one of about 2 dozen Snapping Turtles that I saw in the park either in the water or crossing the path.  I guess it's that time of year where even the ugly creatures find a mate.

Snapping Turtle
Snakes, I never saw so many Garter Snakes as over the past few days. Patty and I walked up on 2 snakes fighting over the same tasty frog. Here they are playing tug of war. Poor frog.

2 Garter Snakes

One of the snakes finally let go and the victor finished off the frog. Here is a close up of the gory meal.

Garter Snake with Frog
One final photo for the post today. Yes, it's a bird. In fact, it's 2 birds - one eating the other.  The predator is a Peregrine Falcon and the prey is a poor Northern Flicker. This scene was captured at Pennypack Trust. The Peregrine flew over my head carrying the hapless woodpecker and perched across the creek to eat.  The photo isn't great due to the distance and lighting but it is good enough to see that the falcon is banded.

Peregrine Falcon with Flicker
Well, there you have it. Next post is back to birds.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Saturday's Post - Late

Sorry that I haven't gotten to post this until now.  There were alot of photos to process.  Here they are with quick stories.  These are all from Saturday. Di, Barbara and I ran around Cape May county looking for spring arrivals and other birds that I need for the contest.  We got some good ones including Black-headed gull (yay) and also got some good photos of "common" birds.  First is Snowy Egret.  This is the classic mirror effect that you can get when the bird is standing in still water. Notice the breeding plumage starting to show on the tail feathers.

Snowy Egret
 This is Pine Warbler - one of the earliest migrants. They bring a smile to birders' faces when they arrive because we know that the masses are coming soon.

Pine Warbler
 The next is White-throated Sparrow.  These are really common birds in winter but say "goodbye".  They will start heading north very soon.  You know they are getting ready to go when you start hearing their song - "old sam peabody, peabody, peabody".

White-throated Sparrow
The whole shore area is still pretty wet and flooded.  Barbara didn't wear the proper shoes, so here is Di carrying her across the flooded path at Cox Hall Creek. Zoom in to see them both laughing like kids. It was probably the funniest part of the day.

Piggy back ride
We also went out to Stone Harbor Point to see Western Sandpiper which is a reliable spot for this bird.  Birding Stone Harbor Point can be a rigorous trip if the birds are way out at the point.  Luckily for us, the birds were pretty close to the parking lot.  Check out the how similar the Western Sandpiper is to the Dunlin (it's the smaller one in the photo)

Western Sandpiper (bottom), Dunlin
This Oystercatcher has bands on both legs.

Oystercatcher L L
Imagine our surprise when we arrived at Stone Harbor Point and saw this guy on the jetty. 

Harbor Seal
 I cropped this one so that you can see that his fur is molting.

Harbor Seal

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Little Gull

Patty and I headed to north Jersey yesterday after work in search of a Black-headed Gull which has been seen at the Raritan Bay for the past 2 weeks. In order to get to the mud flats, we had to cross railroad tracks and walk through a dumping ground out to the beach. We arrived to find 2 other birders looking through a scope at the gulls, so we knew we were in the right place.  As soon as we approached, I was reprimanded by one of the birders for bringing the dog with me - "If you want to make friends with birders, don't bring a dog with you" - nice way to meet someone.  Anyway, I explained that Roxy has never scared a bird away, blah, blah, blah. He warmed up after a few minutes and viola - showed us an adult Little Gull which is a life bird for me.

I know that it isn't much to look at for non-birders, but I think it's adorable.  It is so short that it waddles when it walks along the mud flat.

Little Gull
ID for this gull is relatively easy for good birders like the guy who pointed it out to us. The first indicator is that it is well, little - not as tall as the Bonaparte's gull which is shown in the photo below.  Other obvious field marks are that the wing tips are not black like Bonaparte's and the wing is dark underneath - both of which you can see in the photo below.  When the wing is folded, the wing tips appear to be serrated which can be seen in the photo above.
Little Gull (left) and  Bonaparte's gull (right)
The same guy who scolded me about bringing a dog to the beach is shown in the photo below walking right up to the gull. For the most part, the gulls didn't seem to mind him mozying up to them (they didn't mind the dog at all either). The gull eventually flew but not before I snapped this photo of Patty freezing her hands off on the beach.  I never got a very good photo of the gull since I was standing back up on the beach so as not to scare off the gulls with the dog.

Looking for Little Gull
We never did get to see our target bird which was Black-headed Gull, but hopefully I'll get to see one this weekend at a closer location. 

While we were up in north Jersey, we decided to go to Carteret to see a Monk Parakeet.  The Monk Parakeets have colonized in this town and build big bushy nests on the telephone poles right in the center of town. Here is one sitting on the wire looking at the crazy ladies on the sidewalk.

Monk Parakeet

Monday, April 1, 2013

Don't Know How That Stumped Me

Northern Mockingbird - one of the most common birds in our area is the bird that stumped me.  How did it happen?  First, I forgot that I took those photos. Second, I was fixated on looking for a photo of the Phoebe to share on the blog as my "FOY" Phoebe. So when I looked at the Mockingbird photo, I just figured that it was something different and my brain just froze up.  Third, the bill on this Mockingbird is much shorter than normal.  All of which combined to really stump me. Thanks to all who emailed and commented with the ID and held back on the snarky remarks :-)

Other birds seen this weekend on the beach in the Villas while dipping (that means not seeing) on the Little Gull include Dunlin, banded Sanderling, and Fish Crows. 

Dunlin and Sanderling - 1NH in the group
Sanderling - UEM

Fish Crows causing a ruckus on the beach
While on the beach failing to see the Little Gull, I received an email about a Ruff (which is a rare shorebird) being seen at Bombay Hook in Delaware.  Despite the distance, I decided to go after it. I arrived at the refuge at 4:15 just as the sun was going into the worst possible position to view the birds in the impoundment. I did get to see a bird that I am going to count as the Ruff for these reasons - "identified by size - tall as Lesser Yellowlegs (LEYE), hump back, shorter bill than LEYE, legs brighter in color, feeding style more deliberate than LEYEs nearby which were swinging their bills through the water. unfortunately, no photos - only seen in scope".  I hope to see another one later in the year that has breeding plumage since the male is really gorgeous and ornate.  Fingers crossed.