Thursday, October 31, 2013

It's Halloween and I'm Scared

I'm scared.  I haven't had any new birds for the stupid contest in over 2 weeks. I still need Northern Goshawk. All I have been doing is chasing birds that might turn into something rare but they never seem to.  I drove all the way to the shore to see a hummingbird that turned out to be a species that I already have. Then Patty and I hustled down to Delaware to see a Godwit that was reported to be a rarity but turned out to be a runt Marbled Godwit which we have plenty of. 

And, I am going to the west coast for a week.  Normally that would make me really happy but what if a good bird shows up here and I'm out there?  Ugh.  I'll really be crying Boo (hoo hoo). The good news for you is that I will be posting something different next week instead of stupid contest updates. 

Carve What You Know . . .
I really am looking forward to our west coast trip. We are already booked on a boat trip out of LA to see some pretty cool birds. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Sparrows and Such

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Kentucky watching Game 1 of the World Series thinking that I should probably post some photos that didn't make the last few blog posts. Sparrows are another lot of birds that I usually don't pay too much attention to except for this stupid contest.  This year has made me realize how any sparrows there are and how some of them are difficult to see.  The problem is that they only show up in our area for a short period of time so you have to see them or else you won't have them for the stupid contest.

The difficult sparrows are Lark, Clay-colored, Vesper and Lincoln's.  They aren't really difficult.  They are just required for the stupid contest.  Good news. I have all of them.  The last one that I needed was Vesper. I was getting worried but we saw 2 of them this weekend.  It has become apparent that they are difficult to photograph.  I do not have a photo to share with you.  I do have photos of some of the other sparrows.

WARNING - they all look alike. Don't be shocked when you can't tell the difference between any of these.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Savannah Sparrow

Swamp Sparrow
We also had a fun Hummingbird visitor in Cape May this weekend.  My friend Harvey has a beautiful garden that has many flowers planted to attract hummingbirds. He also has about 5 sugar water feeders.  The garden hosts many Ruby-throated Hummingbirds during the summer but this week a new hummer showed up. Rufous Humminbirds are western birds. They occasionally show up here in fall as this bird did. Notice the gold/beige on the breast.  It is a female. Harvey was thrilled to have her in the garden for a few days but also happy to see her go. Nobody wants one of these gems to hang around the shore for the winter since chances are that the bird will not survive. 

Rufous Hummingbird

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Swainson's Hawk - Bonus Bird!

Di and I went to Higbee first thing on Saturday morning. Good winds brought a ton of birds to Cape May - mostly Yellow-rumped warblers.  We started at the canal and were rewarded with a Vesper Sparrow which I needed for the stupid contest - CHECK!  We spent some time in the fields just being overwhelmed by the number of birds. Then, a text message came in - Swainson's Hawk was seen at Nummy Island toll bridge sitting on a wire.  This is a western hawk that only rarely shows up in the east.

Needless to say, Di and I sped over there.  We saw another young woman who was also looking for the bird. No luck. No bird.  We looked and looked and decided to drive further up the road.  I found the bird with a fortunate turn of my head.  What a beauty. The bird was perched on a dead branch about 30 yards off of the road.  We couldn't have asked for a better view.

Swainson's Hawk
 After about 10 minutes, a Red-tailed Hawk flew in and scared the Swainson's Hawk away.  "This is my turf - beat it!"

Red-tailed Hawk
 Thankfully, I was able to get a few photos of the Swainson's Hawk in flight before it went out of sight. It is pretty unmistakable - very dark underneath.

Swainson's Hawk
Poor Patty.  She was there but didn't see the bird so she left. She came back but couldn't find it after the Red-tail chased it away. 

Deb, Jay and Brendan are at the shore with us this weekend. Brendan was signed up for a birding class with one of the premier birders and ID experts in the country - Richard Crossley.  He had a good day with his mentor. We had a good day with alot of birds and a bonus hawk!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It's Not Just Birds You Know

I haven't been posting as much as usual but that doesn't mean that I'm not out birding almost every day in every way.  When you are out in the fields and woods and marshes and beaches as much as I am, you see more than just birds. 

Take last week for instance.  I saw more snakes than I really want to.  The first one showed up in our yard and then showed up again on the porch! Here he is in the mop bucket on his way back outside. It turns out to be a Pine Snake which is pretty rare and not poisonous (which I didn't find out until after I picked it up).

Pine Snake (baby)
Here is another tiny snake that I ran into last week. This one is a Brown Snake. He was having trouble crossing the paved path at Pennypack park so I gave him a helping hand, well finger.  I had to help 3 more across the path that same day.
Brown Snake (baby)
I also saw a Mink this week at Turkey Point.  I wasn't fast enough to get a photo but suffice it to say they look better alive than on an old lady's shoulders.

My friend Harvey was brave enough to pick up this Fiddler Crab for a photo. Check out that claw!

Fiddler Crab
Wild animals aren't they only beasts that we encounter on our outings.  Here are some adorable farm animals that we made friends with last weekend.  Come on! How cute is this guy?  It's a baby Alpaca that's wearing a little orange safety vest. When do you ever see anything that cute?

Here is Roxy meeting a new friend.  They really hit it off. I wonder if it's because the pig smells like bacon? 

Roxy and Pot-bellied Pig
It was old home day for Roxy when she saw a Goat. Roxy spent time with goats before we adopted her.

Roxy and her Homie
I'm starting to think I should call this post - Roxy and Friends.  Here she is after we went blazing a trail through a wet field in search of Lincoln's Sparrow - which we did finally see.

Wet Dog
 I'll leave you with this photo of 2 tired dogs driving home from yet another day of birding.

Sammy and Roxy - Tired Dogs

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Government Back to Work Equals Another Bird For Me!

What are the chances that the year that I am doing this contest, the government shuts down during fall migration and all of the National Wildlife Refuges are also shut down?  Just my luck. I swear.  I have probably missed all kinds of birds because of it.  Anyway, the stupid politicians struck a deal last night which means that the NWRs reopened today and viola - a rare bird was spotted.  The bird is Gray Kingbird.  Not very sexy but still rare in our part of the country and still adds another tick to the contest list.  My friends Chris and Gerry spotted the bird and were still there babysitting it when I arrived.  I have some decent photos below.

You may be able to notice the pale yellow under wings on this shot.  Kingbirds like to sit on top of trees and shrubs then swoop out to catch a bug in the air, then land back on top of the tree to eat it (or wait for another one).

Gray Kingbird
 Here it is perched and ready to snag another bug from the air.
Gray Kingbird
I won't tell you my total but suffice to say it's pretty high.  My competition is right on my heels though. 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

This is a message that I sent out to the PA Birders List Serve today:

PA Birders - I birded at a new location this morning along Southampton Rd near the old Byberry State Hospital.  I met Marty there which was really good since he knew where to go. The habitat is perfect for Connecticut and Mourning warblers, sparrows and other edge species.  We heard a chip note that I have not heard before which was deeper and richer than Common Yellowthroat.  Marty pretty much knew what it was, and then viola - a Connecticut popped into a low tree branch.  Awesome.  But wait, there was another chip note and tada - a second Connecticut warbler popped into the same tree. 2, count them, 2 CONWs in the same tree at the same time.  I never thought it possible and I'm glad that Marty was with me to witness it.

Oh, did I mention the photos? Yup.  I have photos of both birds (separately, not together).   

Connecticut Warbler #1

Connecticut Warbler #2