Monday, December 21, 2015

Christmas Bird Count 2015

It's that time of year again - Audubon's Christmas Bird Counts are happening all over the world. CBCs as they are called, take place each year between Dec 14 and Jan 5. Birders concentrate on counting all of the birds of any species in a particular area. I have been assigned to Pennypack Environmental Center area for the past 5 or 6 years now. 

Barbara Granger, a fellow DVOC member has joined me for the past few years since she is familiar with the area. I am glad for the help. In past years, its just been me and Roxy alone in the woods for hours.  This year of course, Roxy didn't join us :-( but Peanut sure had fun on her first CBC! I'm an idiot and forgot to snap photos of my 2 companions this year so sorry about that. 

The area isn't "sexy" as far as the cool birds that other areas have which is probably why it gets left to me. The better birders already claim the good spots. We get the expected Chickadees and Nuthatches, some common sparrows and a few Mallard ducks. We walk over 2 miles up and down the Pennypack creek searching for and recording each bird that we see or hear. Our big win this year was that we saw all of the woodpeckers possible. We started with Downies at the Environmental Center feeders, Red-bellied near the center, added Flicker in the woods and heard the unmistakable call of the Pileated along the path. A few minutes later, we heard and saw Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. That left only Hairy to complete the set. Barbara found one late in our day! Yay.

The only other interesting birds for the day were Great Blue Heron which is not always on our part of the creek.

Great Blue Heron
And Crows. We counted 25 of them at the police horse stables. This one was perched on the coral. 

American Crow
We noticed this unusual wing pattern on another Crow. The primaries shouldn't be white like that. Weird.

Weird Crow
I know that you are probably disappointed with the lack of photos from the day but it is difficult to photograph and count at the same time. I hate to miss a few birds while concentrating on the photos. 

I hope to have something more exciting to report soon. 

Monday, December 14, 2015

Soggy, Sparse West Coast Trip

Another week, another work trip. I'm starting to get a feel for what my cousin Susan goes through with her job. Not always fun even when you plan a day for sightseeing and birding. The latest trip was out to Seattle and San Francisco.

I planned to go to Seattle early to meet with a client and then take of to go birding. I need a few species that I missed on earlier trips. The weather did not cooperate. I didn't even take my big camera once I learned of the 100% chance of rain each day. I went out to the park near our hotel anyway to see what was around. You can see how dreary it was. What you can't see is how soaked I was. So soaked that I had to use the hotel laundry to dry my coat and pants.

Here is a close-up of Juncos that flocked around me on my walk. They didn't seem to mind the rain.

These trips are sponsored by Microsoft so that we can talk about some of their donations. We work closely with a small group of people there including James. Here he is showing me his photo of the Resplendant Quetzal from his trip to Costa Rica. I could just scream. The RQ is our nemesis bird - the bird that we most want to see in Central America but haven't been able to locate on multiple trips. Look at that shot! Amazing.

Resplendent James
We headed to San Francisco on Thursday and decided to stay in the city due to the forecast of rain. It didn't rain so Sam and I headed out to Coit Tower to see if we could find some birds. I call this photo "Red-tailed Hawk". Can you see the bird high above the tower? That was the only bird around. We climbed the tower and had awesome views of the San Francisco bay and city.

We took a boat ride out to Alcatraz to tour the old prison. Fun trip. Here is a shot of the island with Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. No birds to mention here either.

 The funniest thing about going out west is their obsession with crossing the street. Honestly, I've never seen anything like it. If the signal is red, nobody crosses the street. Even if there isn't a car in sight. They all just stand there until the light turns green. What is wrong with these people. I tell them all the same thing - I've been crossing the street by myself since I was 4 years old. My mother taught me how to look both ways before crossing. It's a successful strategy. I haven't been run over yet. Sam and I went to a little town called Kirkland which is near Seattle to have dinner. Now these people take street crossing safety to a whole new level. They make you carry a flag with an image of a person carrying a flag when crossing the street. I swear, I can't make this up. Here is Sam safely crossing the street.

Street crossing flag
Glad to be home where I can cross the street like a grown up.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Famous Birders Can Be Nice Guys Too

This week, the guest speaker at the DVOC meeting was a world famous birder and author - Alvaro Jaramillo. He has written field guides, has a tour company, runs pelagic trips in California and has many other accomplishments. The club announced that he would be giving a talk about gulls this Thursday. It drew a crowd. His talk was informative and fun even though the topic of gulls can be daunting for most normal birders.

As always, the club members headed to Cherry Street Tavern after the meeting. Alvaro joined us to continue the discussion and get to know some of the members better.

Fun Times at Cherry Street Tavern
Alvaro was also enlisted to give a talk at the Wyncote Audubon's annual dinner on Saturday night so he was gracious enough to co-lead a field trip with George Armistead and Martin Selzer to Heinz NWR this morning. Once again, he drew a crowd of over 40 participants.

There weren't many interesting birds - mainly basic ducks and a few songbirds.

White-breasted Nuthatch

White-throated Sparrow

Best bird for of the day for me was Fox Sparrow.

Fox Sparrow
Anyway, Alvaro is a super nice guy that gave the Delaware Valley alot of his time and knowledge.