Monday, December 28, 2009

Old Coots

Now the cat is out of the bag. Di and I surprised our mother by flying down to The Villages (Florida) yesterday. We really surprised them too. We've been to The Villages twice before but never during the winter. It gets crowded. Lots of old people and lots of grand kids.

We got to see some pretty cool birds in our 24 hour stay. Here are some photos of the Sandhill Cranes that make their home at The Villages. These two were unphased by all of the people riding by in golf carts. They strolled right across the golf cart path as if they were alone.

We also found Buffleheads, Ring-neck Ducks, Pie-billed Grebes, several Herons and Egrets, Ibis, Woodstorks, Killdeer, Cormorants, and tons of Coots. Di took a great photo of Palm Warbler that landed several yards away from us while we were trying (unsuccessfully) to take photos of the Bufflehead. Here is it. What a great photo!

I don't know why Bufflehead are so hard to photograph, but I never seem to be able to get a good shot. It must be the iridescent coloring against the bright white of the head. I'll keep trying.

On to Punta Gorda with friends. Hopefully, we'll get some more good birding. Stay tuned. . .

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Duck + Hawk + Gull = 3 Lifebirds

Yes, we chased the Ivory Gull that has been reported at BreezeeLee Marina this week. Yes, we saw it! It flew all around the marina, sat on pilings, and generally didn't care about all of the people gawking at it. This is the first Ivory Gull ever reported in New Jersey and has been hanging around all week. The Sibley Field Guide states: "Rare. Found in extreme far north among pack ice; rarely ventures farther south." In fact, they make their living following polar bears around and picking the leftovers of seal meat. The gull is so rare, that famous birders have not seen it even though they travel to the arctic specifically to see it. We saw it. snicker, snicker.

The adults are completely white. The bird in NJ is an immature which has some "smudging" of dark feathers on it's face and some brown/black feather tips on some wing feathers and black tips on the tail. Here is my best photo which shows these markings and the marina. From pack ice to packed boat yard:

The next photo shows 1) the gull backlit by the morning sun and 2) the top of Tara's head just before she was blinded by looking into the sun - with binoculars. "Don't look into the sun, don't look into the sun" I said because I could see her following the gull's flight path directly into the sun. She didn't listen, but she did regain her sight within minutes. snicker, snicker.

The gull was NOT our first life bird of the day however. We noticed some cars and people with scopes pulled over on Ocean Drive on our way to the marina. A nice couple pointed out the Norther Goshawk sitting in the cedars along the marsh and let us look through his scope. Very nice. He also told us that he just left the Ivory Gull, so our nerves were calmed somewhat.

After staying with the Ivory Gull for awhile, we drove down to the concrete ship and the lighthouse to see if anything was up. Only about a hundred Widgeons on the pond, that's what was up. We then headed up the Parkway to get Lori and Tara their Harlequin Duck - which was the whole reason for the trip in the first place. I thought we would have a chance at the Avalon Sea Watch so we went there first. No Harlequins, but we did get Long-tailed Ducks and Common Loon up close and some Common Eiders out by the jetty.

Then, off to Forsythe NWR with our Wawa sandwiches for ducks and geese. Here is a Hooded Merganser photo which I thought would turn out better than this but at least you can see his cool "hood":

After an hour or so at Forsythe, we made a last push for Harlequins and drove farther north on the Parkway to Barnegat Lighthouse. It was now 3:30PM. We left the house at 7:30 AM. We were tired. We were running out of daylight. The wind was howling down the beach. We persevered and walked to the end of the jetty. We got the Harlequins! 1 male and 2 females right next to the jetty. Unfortunately, the light was not good enough for a good photo. Sorry Tara, this is the best one:

We made it back to my house by 7:00 PM. Almost 12 hours. Lori and Tara had more than that because they had another 20 minutes on each end of the day.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Hurricane Ida - Pros and Cons

Hurricane Ida put a big damper on our trip to Florida. Small craft advisories and 45 mile per hour winds kept us off of the boat for days. Upon arrival back in Philly, Ida stalled off of the New Jersey coast for another 4 days. Total Ida days for me, Di and Babs: 7. Seven days of gray skies, off and on rain, and nasty wind. Ida eroded beaches all along the coast and kept us all miserable for a week. That's the con.

Now the pro. Ida's northeast winds pushed 100's of Common Eiders onto the Jersey coast. Over 100 have been reported off of Cape May at St. Mary's by the Sea vacation convent and another 80 have been seen at Barnaget Inlet. Today I took the chance and drove to Barnaget Inlet. The weather was still overcast but no wind. I walked out to the end of the jetty and PAY DIRT! A raft of 100 Common Eiders, plus a few Harlequin Ducks. See below for photos:

Herring Gulls on the beach, Eiders in the surf

Different plumages of Eiders: immature male, female, and 2 males

Herring Gulls, Eider, Harlequin Duck - all in the same frame

Here are some of the other birds seen at the inlet:


Herring Gull with a Starfish

Semi-palmated Plover

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Grumpy Old Men

I hope you notice the new blog layout and especially the new title bar which includes 2 of my best photos. Burrowing Owl on the left is my latest life bird and baby Laysan Albatross on the right. Oddly enough, both photos were taken in residential areas. Laysan Albatross baby was sitting in the middle of a lawn in Kauai, Hawaii. I rested my camera on the sign stating to stay behind the sign. The Burrowing Owl was sitting on a similar sign in a neighborhood in Punta Gorda Florida.

Two of the birdnerds bought a vacation home in Punta Gorda on a canal with a boat dock but no boat. Another 2 birdnerds have a boat, but no boat dock. See where this is going? That's right, we towed the boat to Punta Gorda so that the girls could use it for the winter. What a trip that was. Of course, we blew a tire on the trailer and had trouble getting the boat started, but it all worked out and we had a blast birding by boat through the canals into Charlotte Harbor. More about that later in the week.

Now, about that owl. Who knew that such cute little owls could cause old men to be so grumpy? Lori read a report on the Internet about Burrowing Owls in Punta Gorda, so we had to track them down. The Internet report was all about the property owner (read grumpy old man here) wanting to collapse the burrows so that the owls would move and stop pooping on his door step. The owls are protected species. Bothering them is strictly prohibited so we figured that they would still be there.

Well, they weren't on the street named in the Internet article. We drove slowly through the neighborhood scouting probable burrowing spots. Scanning each yard carefully. Nothing. No owls. I finally asked an old man riding a bicycle if he knew about the owls. He told us that he was also looking for them and that they are usually on one of the streets in the neighborhood. He peddled one way and we drove the other way. Slowly. We stopped at a vacant lot with a patch of overgrown weeds. We were sure that this would be a good burrow location. Well, we were really sure once we read the sign that stated "Important Bird Site - KEEP OUT". That's a pretty good clue that the owls are around.

Enter the grumpy old man: A car pulled into the driveway on the lot next to the KEEP OUT sign. A man got out and yelled to me "that lot's not for sale" to which I replied "we're looking for owls" to which he replied "they're not there and I don't want people in my backyard" to which I replied "oh, I didn't know this was your yard since it's not mowed". He got back into his car and drove away.

Enter the nice old man on the bike: He rode up to us, chuckled about the grump and proclaimed "I found them, follow me". We proceeded to follow him over to the next block and here is what we saw:
Pretty cool huh? Right next to another grumpy old man's house. He stuck his head out of the door and asked if he could help us when we were sitting in the car outside of his house gawking at the owl. What did he think we were doing? Why else would a car be stopped in front of that sign and that owl? To talk to him? Not bloody likely.

Here is another photo of the owl:

Thursday, November 5, 2009

She Took the Book

Funny story. We took Mimi (our old cat) and Roxy (our itchy dog) to the vet last night. Dr. Kirkhoffer (Jane) has been our vet since we moved to Rydal. We used to see her often when Cocoa was alive since she needed a shot every month to control her Addison's disease (the dog, not the vet). You know that you are at the vet too often when you start to know her vacation plans and she knows yours. Jane was very excited to hear about our trip to Costa Rica in 2008 because that is where her daughter planned to do her "semester abroad" - all I got to see was the subway and the local beer joint when I was in college. Anyway, we lent her our Costa Rica field guide last November for her trip.

Last night (one year later), Jane greeted us by saying that she was thinking about us because she just gave the book to another vet at the practice since she was going to see her niece who is in the Peace Corps down there. She hoped we didn’t mind. It's fine with us.

That book is well traveled. . .

Monday, October 26, 2009

Potter County Trip

Here's the update from Potter County: beautiful leaves, not many birds. Connie and I went up to the camp to winterize since none of the men-folk mentioned anything about going up for hunting season this year. It snowed 6 inches last week and we got nervous about the pipes freezing. Luckily, everything was fine.

We saw and heard alot of Ruffed Grouse this weekend. Saturday was the start of small game hunting season so I don't know if that made the Grouse more mobile since there were men with shotguns and dogs in the woods spooking them out. We even saw one crossing the road (insert chicken joke here) near the lake.

Juncos all over the place now. I wonder if they will head down south or stay in Potter County over the winter. I know that we have been seeing them in Philly for the last 2 weeks or so. I expect them at the feeder any day now. Here are some foliage photos from the weekend:

The field in front of Frank, Frank, Frank's cabin

Me, Connie and Roxy at George Stevens Dam (Sinnemahoning State Park)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Royal Court

I didn't realize that a dog like Roxy would be such a princess until this week. We've had 4 days of that Nor'easter which started on Thursday and finally ended Sunday just before the Phillies game (this reference becomes more relevant at the end of the post). Roxy weighs 48 pounds but it was more like a ton of bricks trying to get her out of the house in the rain. She just would NOT go outside. There I was in my rain slicker standing outside while she looked at me from the garage like "I'm not going out there, you fool." Holding her paws up off the wet ground and everything. What a wuss.

We finally went on a real walk on Sunday. It was really cold and still kind of drizzling but I couldn't stand it anymore and dragged the princess out to Lorimer Park. We were greeted by a slew of White-throated Sparrows. They are really the dominant bird now along with the Kinglets. I was amazed by how many little Ruby-crowned Kinglets were in the park. I counted 11 at one time in the trees and could have touched 2 of them. One lone Golden-crowned Kinglet was just outside of the pack. You really get to see the Ruby crowns when they are together since they raise it when another Kinglet comes too close.

Oh, and the Phillies whipped the Dodgers in game 3 of the NCLS. We were at the game courtesy of Lori, sitting in section 106 right next to the first base foul pole. Barbara's finger nail is bent backwards from Shane Victorino's 8th inning homer that came directly to us. AWESOME! We didn't get the ball. It bounced around under the seats and some other guy came up with it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Those Handsome Birds

I have seen lots of Black -throated Blue Warblers this fall at Lorimer Park. They seem to love the berries on the Tree of Heaven. The Tree of Heaven is considered a junk tree but it has a pretty pink flower in fall and lots of purple berries. The Black-throated Blue Warblers are drawn to the berries. I have see 10+ almost every time that I have been to Lorimer Park where there is a grove of these trees. I finally got some photos the other evening. Here are the only 2 that really turned out.

Handsome male

Eating the berry

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Grand Ole Opry

I should definitely go see the Grand Ole Opry this week. All of the signs are pointing toward it. Well, not all signs but enough. Here they are:
  1. Kanye West makes headlines all over the world for interrupting Taylor Swift's acceptance speech at the Video Music Awards (which nobody really watches until something like that happens)
  2. I was greeted by a Nashville Warbler at Palmyra Cove on Sunday. That little bird landed right in front of me almost eye level and hung around for a few minutes. It has a great white eye ring on it's gray head, and a yellow body.
  3. Then I saw not one, not two, not three, but four Tennessee Warblers on the same tree stem. Plus 2 others on the branch next to them. These were the first Tennessee Warblers that I have seen in the U.S. The only others that I have seen were at La Paz Waterfall Gardens in Costa Rica.
Three signs that I should visit the Grand Ole Opry soon. Bounder trip anyone?

Sunday was a really good day at Palmyra Cove. I also saw my first Grasshopper Sparrow, lots of Palm Warblers -Mom, they are coming your way for winter - and tons of Yellow-rumped Warblers. I mean tons. And 3 separate groups of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. I also met many really nice people. One man helped me identify the Grasshopper Sparrow and another group of people helped confirm the Tennessee Warblers. Both of which I spotted alone and would have needed time with the field guide to confirm. Another couple showed me some trails. Really nice.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And Then the Fog Lifted

We started at Higbee beach around 7:30. It was overcast and foggy but good enough visibility for close up birding. Tons of birders were there. We had to park way down the road past the "Morning Flight" platform. We walked through the birders and picked through the trees for a few birds including Baltimore Orioles, 2 (not so) Scarlet Tanagers, and lots of Brown Thrashers.

We stopped by the CMBO store close to the Cape May Lighthouse to buy a new Sibley Guide because mine ended up in Tohicken Creek at Lake Galena and the pages are all stuck together. We couldn't even see Lily Lake or the top of the Lighthouse. A guy there said that it would clear up soon. We'll see.

The parking lot at the Lighthouse was packed. I never saw so many people there. They even had pony rides going on. Pony rides. Nobody at the Hawk Watch platform seemed happy when we passed by. There were alot of people on the platform with there heads hanging down. Not looking up like they wanted to. They should have at least looked at the ponies to kill time. We headed out behind the dunes and into the trails around Cape May State Park (the Lighthouse).

We were stalking some unknown birds sounds (that might have really been frogs because we never saw any birds even though the sounds were coming from right beside the trail) when all of a sudden, the fog lifted and we saw blue sky. And then a Bald Eagle, and a Peregrine Falcon, and a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and another Peregrine, and another Eagle that was flying even lower than the first one, and 2 Ospreys, and then a kettle of Sharpies, and Red-tailed Hawks, and Peregrines, and, and, and. And wow that's what. 2 kettles formed with at least 20 birds each in a matter of 10 minutes. Pretty impressive flight. The best hawk flight? Probably not but it was really great to see all of a sudden. Here is a photo of a Peregrine Falcon from last year:

Then it was off to Biggie's 50th surprise party in Cape May Courthouse for a really great party! Happy Birthday Biggie

Monday, September 21, 2009

Not Without the Hubble

I did alot on Saturday birding-wise. We started at Palmyra Cove which was the subject of the last post. I didn't want to overwhelm you all with the entire day, so here is the afternoon/evening post from Saturday.

After a late breakfast at Nifty Fifty's, we all went our separate ways. Lori had a funeral to attend and I had yard work. At about 1:30, I got a call from Lori with that tone in her voice. "What are doooin'?" with that long doooo that suggests that she regrets saying no to hawk watching at Fort Washington State Park. Needless to say, we met 30 minutes later at the hawk watch platform. This is a picture of what we saw:

Nothing but blue sky. Gorgeous, blue sky. The official hawk counters were calling off hawks with statements like - "Does that dot in the sky have a white head?" and "No, the big dot above the 3 little dots". We failed to bring the Hubble Telescope with us, so we saw nothing. What a bust. We didn't even see anything in the woods on our little walk. One Peregrine Falcon screamed by and 2 resident Red-tailed Hawks soared around for a little bit, but nothing else.

Then my sister wanted to go for a motorcycle ride. Off we went with binoculars under our motorcycle jackets. I decided to go to Lorimer Park rather than Pennypack Trust since we didn't have the dogs along. Lorimer Park does not allow dogs - or so we thought. They recently completed a rails to trails project that we wanted to explore and I noticed a poop bag dispenser on the trail. Hmmm. Then we met a couple walking dogs and asked about it. Yes, dogs are allowed in the park now. Yeah!

Also, we saw great birds along the path. Black-throated blue warblers (2 males/1 female), 2 Chestnut-sided warblers, and a Catbird all chowing down on berries in the Tree of Heaven. What a great photo op. Beautiful blue birds against a pink flower background. No camera :-(

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Flush that Thrush Redux

4 of us decided to try Palmyra Cove Park based on the recommendation from Delaware Valley Ornithology Club's website. They have a monthly recommendation page which lists Palmyra Cove as good for September. The park is just over the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge and stretches along the Delaware River for a mile. The park is a former dredge waste site that is now woods and ponds with trails.

We arrived at 7 AM and started walking the trail (with no map). We came across a nice mixed flock of warblers and vireos in an open field with some small trees. It was one of those situations where you go into overload because there is too much to look at all at once. "Look here" "What's that" "Up there" "Top of the tree". Right in the midst of all of that, a man with binoculars and one of those really dorky vests stomped past us, paused, and grumbled "Black-throated blue". Then stomped off. We all just dropped our binoculars and cracked up.

We came across other birds including a couple of Palm Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Black-throated Green, and Nashville warbler. We met a young guy who told us how to get to the "warbler hole" so we decided to walk past on our way out of the park. There was a group of birders at the hole when we arrived being led by the stomper. What are the chances? Lo and behold, it's the same guy from the port-o-pot in Cape May last week! Of course, I mozied over and asked him if he flushed any thrushes today. We both had a good laugh.

Anyway, Palmyra Cove turned out to be a good new local birding spot. Unfortunately, no dogs allowed.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Slow Start, Mack & Manco's, Spoonbill

Two of our Phillybirdnerds are in Florida this week. Constantly texting us their latest Bald Eagle report. Bald Eagle this and Bald Eagle that. The weather report made it seem like we would see good birds in Cape May today. Rain ending on Saturday and clearing on Sunday. I was itching to go. Connie said that she would go under one condition - Mack and Manco's pizza for lunch. It was a deal!

We picked up Di and Barbara and got out of Philly by 6:30 AM. At Higbee Beach by 8:00. It was overcast and damp. The parking lot was full. More professional bird guides than unpaid birders. More birders than birds for sure.

Di and I came across a group looking at a Black Rat Snake in the tree just behind the port-o-john. We got great looks at a Brown Thrasher and 2 Northern Waterthrushes who were all upset by the snake. We met a man who coined the phrase "Flush the thrush" after a lady came out of the portapotty and let the door slam thus scaring the waterthrushes away. We really struggled for almost 2 hours walking the fields to get a few warblers. Di and Barbara got to see a Philadelphia Vireo for the first time.

We went to the Cape May Hawk Watch aka The Lighthouse around 10:30. We learned our lesson at Higbee and didn't spend too much time looking for anything that wasn't obvious. A Merlin almost took our heads off and so did a Sharpie.

Off to Ocean City boardwalk for pizza. YUM! Just like the old days. Plain cheese Mack and Manco's pizza followed up by Kohr Bros. ice cream cones. The diet starts tomorrow.

There have been reports of a Roseate Spoonbill at Forsythe NWR for a month. We went, we saw it. Bald Eagle huh? How about flipping Spoonbill? Here is the photographic proof:

It's the big pink bird with the spoon shaped bill upper right part of the photo.
What in the world? How does a Roseate Spoonbill that lives in mangroves end up in NJ?

We also got to see some of our favorite birds: Black Skimmers and American Oystercatchers. Here is a photo of the Skimmers with some gulls:

Monday, August 31, 2009

He Wrote the Book

I am jonesing to get some good birding. Especially after reading CMBO's blog "View from the Cape" about the good birding last weekend in Cape May which included the expected shorebirds but also some warblers. Connie agreed to let me go on Sunday so Lori and Tara picked me up at 5:30 AM and off we went. Got to Higbee by 7:45 and immediately saw birds in the parking lot. I was trying to point out the Eastern Kingbirds while Lori and Tara were shouting "Black & White!", "Redstart!" "Prothonotory" - referring to warblers. I kept saying "Girls, here are 2 Kingbirds" What a jerk I turned out to be. There were 200+ Kingbirds flying around the parking lot in flocks! We didn't see much once we made our way into the fields but we did get a few good looks at Northern Watershrush ( buff eyebrow, pumping tail).

We were on our way to the Lighthouse when we saw a car pulled over along Rea's farm fields. 2 women from Seattle were looking at a Solitary Sandpiper and some plovers in the field along with another smaller peep. 3 of us were pretty convinced that the peep was Pectoral Sandpiper due to the brown color and head markings. It's funny how a car on the side of the road in Cape May attracts other birders. Another couple joined us and asked what we were looking at. We said that we thought we saw a Pectoral Sandpiper. The man took one look and immediately said it was a Least Sandpiper. He was confident. I wasn't convinced because of the brown color. Then his companion asked me if I knew who Bill Boyle was. I said no and then she told me that "He wrote the book on Bird Finding in New Jersey". Oh, and that was him who identified the Least Sandpiper. Needless to say, we all wrote Least Sandpiper on our list. I have his book at home.

Another helpful man pointed out a few Black Terns in amongst 50+ Forster's Terns on the beach at the lighthouse. Lori found a Royal Tern in that same mix too. Good spot. Another highlight of the lighthouse trail was a Bald Eagle flying over and a falcon which was almost certainly a Peregrine Falcon, but I was having a hard time keeping it view between the trees.

Speaking of Bald Eagles, we stopped at Turkey Point along Maple Ave and saw another Bald Eagle. This one swooped down and got something to eat and then took it back to it's nest. Yes, it's nest that is completely visible from the road. Awesome. We'll definitely need to check that out next year.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Down on the Farm

My friend and co-worker, Mark, has a family farm in Berlin, Somerset county which has been in his family for generations. Each year he invites friends and family out for a weekend of fun and food. This was my 3rd year at the farm and I am now officially listed in the activity section of the invitation twice. First as leader of the bird walk and second as the astronomer. I don't know which is funnier. I brought extra binoculars and a telescope, so I guess that made me the expert.

The farm has spectacular views of surrounding countryside. The property slopes gently down to the Buffalo creek and has some woods along a run between pasture and corn rows. Here is a photo of the windmills across the valley in the morning mist. (The silos in the foreground are not Mark's)

We generally start our walk at the barn and meander through the woods looking at mostly flora and the occasional woodland bird. Pewees are really great birds for the non-birding group since they are easily recognized by their song (a loud "Peeeee Weee" - hence the name) and they sit on lower branches in the woods. Once we get to the Buffalo, we can count on ducks and a heron which are also easy for non-birders to see through binoculars and identify. We also had a great look at a Belted Kingfisher. He sat on the same perch twice so we all got a look.

I have noticed an interesting pattern with non-birders (women mostly). They are afraid of using binoculars and claim that they can't see anything and/or don't want to break them. But once they use mine (or Connie's or Di's), they are converted. This pattern held true again with Emilia and Sue. I had 3 binoculars - my old Bausch and Lomb Elite 7x42, Connie's Leica BN 8x32, and my new Leica Ultravid 8x32. Emilia reluctantly used the Leica BNs and it only took a few tries for her to get the hang of finding the bird through the lens and focusing for the "WOW" factor to set it. She proceeded to look at everything through the binoculars including caterpillars and flowers. I sense a new nature lover has been born. Sue used the Bausch and Lombs like an old pro and now wants to go birding with me in Cape May this fall. I am sure that her husband will be buying her a used pair on e-Bay (he is the e-Bay king) soon.

We usually see a Red-tailed Hawk and some Turkey Vultures soaring over the fields. This year we were also treated to a close encounter with a Sharp-shinned Hawk which flew low over our heads and landed in a shrub 50 yards away.

Our birding adventure did not end with the walk. We were also treated to calling Screech Owls during the movie. We paused Blazing Saddles which was being projected on a make shift outdoor movie screen (PVC pipes and an old sheet) to hear the pair whinney to each other for about 10 minutes. Pretty cool.

The astronomy was hampered a bit by partial cloud cover but we did get a good view of Jupiter and 2 moons.

Monday, August 3, 2009

How Di got started as a BirdNerd

In my last post "Mid-Summer Duldrums", I mentioned that June and July are traditionally slow birding months. That has held true so far. The only thing to report is the Eastern Screech Owl that has been vocalizing in our yard this week. Really cool.

In order to keep the blog fresh, my mother suggested that I talk about how Di got her start in birdwatching. This came about while my mother was visiting in June but I haven't gotten around to getting the post written and especially getting the photograph below scanned so that you all would understand why my mother insisted that I write this.

Di didn't come to birding naturally. She definitely needed some coaxing after this episode on Ocean City's boardwalk:
Apparently, we thought it would be fun to feed the pigeons. And we didn't know then what we know now about how photos like this could end up being seen by millions on the Internet.

Sorry Di. Mommy made me post this. I bet this isn't going on your Facebook page!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Mid-Summer Duldrums

Hi there. If you are a true birdwatcher, you know that June/July are the duldrums. Spring migration is over, nesting is just about wrapped up, and fall migration hasn't begun yet. Most of the professional birdwatchers actually take this time for their vacations since nothing interesting is happening.

Life is not dull for me and Connie. We go to the cabin in Potter County every year over July 4th holiday. We had a good list of birds seen around the cabin again this year including 2 Pileated Woodpeckers that put on a show for us, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers sunning themselves, and plenty of warblers that included our 2nd-ever Mourning Warbler. Here is a pretty cool photo of the Sapsucker:

Oh, did I mention the bear? Yes, we saw a bear right on the property. The neighbors told us that they have seen a bear in our field, but we haven't seen it. Connie and I were on our way up to the slate quarry and happened to turn around - and there was the bear coming up behind us. He went up the road toward Frank, Frank, Frank's cabin but we got a great look at him on the trail before he headed off. WOW.

Oh, did I mention the bees? Yes, I got stung by a swarm of honey bees while trying to get Roxy's leash untangled from some branches. I didn't know that I could still run that fast! I got stung 4 times and Connie's poor sister got stung once trying to get the bees off of me. That will teach her!

This year was the first time that Connie's dad did not accompany us on the trip. He was in hospice, and passed away on Wednesday while we were at the cabin. The place will never be the same without him. He was a true outdoors man and hunter. I guess he sent us that bear.

Next post will hopefully include some shorebird sightings as I am headed to the Delaware shore later this week.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A New Birding Location for the PhillyBirdNerds

I don't know how I came across the Delaware Valley Ornithological Club website, but it has a really handy section called "monthly recommendations" which describes local birding opportunities by month. June lists a few places that I have never heard of. Never. One is a horse farm in New Jersey which has field birds and another is Hawkins Road which lists nesting warblers. The site says that Hawkins Road is best in the first part of June - but if you read my last post then you'll know that the weather has not cooperated with that. So, June 21st was the day that we decided to go explore the new place.

One of the attractions to Hawkins Road is that it's pretty close to Philly just in Medford Lakes. It only took 45 minutes from my house but of course it took us longer on the first trip. We only had vague directions from the web so we went to far North on Rt 70 and had to turn around. But we finally found the pull out for the preserve at the high tension line cut. Here is the Google map link

Don't get me wrong, we did this in the rain but at least it was light and intermittent rain. The power lines were buzzing and smelled like burnt electric. We walked along the service road under the power lines so that we could see some birds and maybe get some big tumors. The sand road and clearing turned out to be good for seeing birds like Blue-winged Warbler, Common Yellow Throat, Prairie Warbler, Indigo Buntings and lots of Catbirds. With all of the rain lately, the road had giant puddles and running water in many places. We did our best not to get too wet.

We finally found a true trail at the third power line tower and took the opportunity to get out of the rain and into the woods. We were immediately greeted by Ovenbird and Pine Warblers mixed in with Chickadees and Gnatcatchers. Then we came across an old Chevy Vega on the trail. Then we tried to track down a Black-throated Green Warbler that we could hear very close but we could just not see it. Then more Chickadees came in and another bird that sounded different. And there it was, Prothonotory Warbler for a fleeting second and then gone. It was mentioned on the DVOC website as a nesting bird in the area and we were walking along a very very small creek at the time. Unfortunately, I was the only one that got a look at the bird. Lori never got to see it although we heard it calling for 5 minutes before it went silent.

Anyway, it was great to explore a new place that turned out to be a good birding location. We got 30 birds in all which is good for us. We even got very close looks at a Broad-winged Hawk in the woods.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Oy. It's been over 2 weeks with no post. That is due to the $*#!% rain. No birding opportunities before or after work or on the weekends.

Di, Barbara and I went to Delaware Water Gap on Sunday. Di and I took the canoe for about 5 miles downstream ending at Kittatinny Ranger Station. It was literally the only nice day that we've had in weeks. We saw some things along the river including a few female Common Mergansers (where are all of the males?), Cedar Waxwings, Baltimore Orioles and the like. Nothing to write home about.

Lori and I plan to go to Beaver Swamp this weekend - depending on the weather - to see if we can find nesting warblers as listed on the Delaware Valley Ornithology Club website:

Wish us good weather. . .

Monday, June 8, 2009

Cuckoos, Flies, Caterpillars, Pies and the Club

Connie and I went up to the camp in Potter County this weekend to do some work in preparation for the July 4th trip. We needed to cut down some limbs and prepare a spot for the Bounder since we'll be taking it up for the first time over the 4th. What good timing too, because the Potter County Bird Club - of which we are members - was having their first summer picnic at Lyman Run Lake on Sunday. We would finally be able to make a meeting after being members since Sept.

We arrived Saturday afternoon and decided to just stay around the cabin. All of the usual birds were there plus we heard 2 Pileated Woodpeckers calling in the woods behind the camp and found a Green Heron in the pine trees out front. The Bluebird baby was fledged so I took the old nest out of the box. They were building again by Sunday afternoon. I'll bet we see another baby on the 4th.

The trip turned out to be a good one for Cuckoos. We spotted a Black-billed Cuckoo along the stream path on Sunday morning. He (or she) accommodated us by hanging around for awhile. We saw a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Lyman Lake later in the day with the bird club. This bird also hung around so that we could get good looks. And then another Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Nelson Run Rd today.

The trip was also full of black flies. We couldn't sit outside for more than 30 seconds without being swarmed. No amount of deet seemed to keep them away. They didn't bite but they were maddening just the same.

And tent caterpillars. Everywhere. It sounded like it was raining in the woods but it was just caterpillar poop falling from the trees. I'm not kidding. The ground was covered with little black dots of caterpillar poop and half chewed leaves. There were caterpillars all over the place including on us. What a shame. Bringing the story back around - someone from the bird club told us that Cuckoos are one type of bird that actually eats tent caterpillars. Maybe that's why we saw so many Cuckoos on this trip and have never seen one in Potter before.

The Bird Club picnic was great. We arrived late and found only one person at the picnic pavillion. He told us that the group was up the road looking at a Pied-billed Grebe nest. We went to join the group and found them with scopes trained on the nest. It is very unusual for Pied-billed Grebes to nest so far south. We made our introductions to the group and lingered to see the female leave the nest and get some fish, several babies try to swim and the male diving, swimming and calling on the lake. There was also a male Common Loon on the lake. Another unusual sighting. The club members think that he is either a young male that isn't interested in nesting yet or an injured bird that couldn't make it further north.

More Pies and The Club
Mary coordinated the picnic. Larry manned the grill and cooked the hotdogs and hamburgers. All of the club members brought a dish and each was delicious. What a nice group of people. Everyone introduced themselves and made us feel welcome. Connie made baked beans (so did 2 other people). We all ate very well including desert which included a Lemon Chiffon Pie. David led the meeting with unusual sightings in the county and a recap of the Austin Bio-blitz that was sponsored by the high school. Scientists from all over descended upon the area around the ruins of the Austin dam (the dam that could not break but did in 1911 after only 2 years) to count and document anything living.

The day was capped off with a Bald Eagle catching and eating a fish at the lake! A pretty good trip over all.

Friday, June 5, 2009


The theme of this post is nests. My Grandmother's house in Cinnaminson has been for sale since last September. It is finally under contract. My Grandmother hasn't lived there in over 2 years since she has been living in long term care facilities - first in Moorestown and now in Florida. My mother and I went through the house today for the last time. It's sad to go through a house that you have known for 35 years to take things that mean something and leave others behind knowing that they will be discarded by the new owners.

Take Peter for instance. Peter is a life size boy doll that my Grandmother has dressed in his Christmas best and only brings out of the closet (no comment) at Christmas time. Peter has been with us for 50 years but now he's sitting in the basement and probably doomed for the trash (which is where my Grandmother found him in the first place).

Our house is starting to look a lot like my Grandmother's house. We now have an entertainment center, sleeper sofa, dry bar, kitchen table and chairs, and other knick-knacks that belonged to her all over our house. I just can't bear leaving them behind. In addition, our dining room set and spare bedroom set belonged to my mother. We have them for the same reason. The only room that is completely void of hand-me-downs from other nests is our living room.

On to the birding part of the bird blog. While my mother and I were at my Grandmother's house today, we noticed another new resident that had a nest - a Robin had build a nest on the kitchen windowsill. I guess it's been so quiet with nobody living in the house. Here are some photos of the nest with eggs and chick:

Not much happening bird-wise here. I go out with Binoculars but don't see anything to report. Lots of Cedar Waxwings and such. I hope we see more at the cabin this weekend. We also plan to attend the Potter County Bird Club picnic on Sunday. Stay tuned . . .

Monday, May 25, 2009

Getting Attached to the Dog(s)

Memorial Day Weekend is spent up at the cabin with Connie's family. We have been doing it for a few years now so that we can spend the weekend with her Mom, Dad and sister. This year we brought the new dog, Roxy with us. She is really getting attached to me. She follows me everywhere. In and out of the cabin, around the property, and along the trail. She has proven to be a great birding dog already. She stops when we stop and stays around while we listen and look at birds along the trail. This trip really awakened Roxy's nose. It is obvious that this was her first trip to the country. Here is a photo of our new girl:

I got attached to another dog this weekend too. Roxy and I were walking along the new clear cut in the pines on the property when she suddenly disappeared. She was right behind me one minute, and gone the next minute. I thought she might be down at the camps along the dirt road, so I went down to look for her. A woman in one of the camps yelled out of her screen porch that she saw Roxy running in the woods. So I started walking down the dirt road in that direction when all of a sudden a boxer came charging out of the camp and ran down the road after me. He bit me on the hand, then bit me again in the back of the calf:

Blood really ran out of the bottom puncture wound. It gave me Curt Schilling sock and sneaker (you need to be a Phillies fan to get that). It hurt, but I'm fine.

Anyway, back to the birding report. We put up a Bluebird box last summer and viola, we have nesting Bluebirds in the field - with a baby inside. Part of the roof was blown off when we arrived, so I pushed it back into place and got to see the baby. We watched the parents bringing big bugs all weekend. Here is pop on top and mom at the entrance hole.

We also had a singing male Blackburnian Warbler hanging around in the pines next to the cabin all weekend. He is obviously setting up his territory. Really pretty orange throat which is shown in the photo:

We had at least 6 separate Chestnut-sided Warblers singing at the stream this weekend. Connie and I discovered a few last year and managed to remember their song this year. We also saw real Purple Finches. The male is really purple all over. Not like the House Finches that we used to call Purple Finches as kids. This is a really bad photo but it shows the purple coloring all over:

More later.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Boom or Bust?

Bust. Trust me. We took the Bounder to Cape May on Friday - supposedly the best weekend of spring for migrants. Cape May Observatory even scheduled their "Spring Weekend" for the same weekend. I feel bad for them. Hundreds of people at our usual spots wearing weekend tags, following leaders, seeing basically nothing but mosquitos.

Diane and I drove the Bounder, Barbara drove her truck, Lori and Tara drove the "Schmellow". We all departed from separate points and ended up 3 in a row at the end of Route 55. What a coincidence. We stopped at Belleplain State Forest on our way down.

Oh, did I tell you about our new dog Roxy? She's a half pint Cocoa look-alike - but we didn't really plan it that way. We got her from a horse rescue in Quakertown called Last Chance Ranch. They got her from the Philadelphia Animal Control Shelter (PACS) where she was scheduled to be euthanized in 2 days because they didn't have space for all of the dogs. Sad. But, this isn't a dog blog. She did pretty good on her first birding trip.

Belleplain was not very good but we did get Ovenbird "teacher, teacher, TEACHER, TEACHER!" And Least Flycatcher "chePEEK". And Acadian Flycatcher "pyew". And a water snake.

After we parked the Bounder at the Depot Travel Park, we headed out to Higbee Beach. Tons of mosquitos, Prairie Warblers and Spring Weekend people. Tons of people. We walked the fields without much luck then we hit a little hotspot of Northern Parulas, a Black-throated Blue Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler and Red and White-eyed Vireos. Then it was over. We also saw the most evil looking orange turtle with evil red eyes along the path.

We also went to Cape May Point State Park (we call it the lighthouse) and the Villas WMA. Also busts except for Red-headed Woodpecker which was a life bird for Lori and Tara, and Blue Grosbeaks (M & F) which were lifebirds for Di.

And then it started to rain! It rained all day on Sunday so we packed up and came home early again.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Cold Ride into Work This Morning

I took the Yamaha TW200 into work this morning. Boy, it was colder than I thought. I froze my you-know-whats off. Arrived at Lemon Hill by 7:00 and was treated to amazing warblers:

Bay-breasted Warbler - my 550th bird. Up close and personal singing his little heart out. At one point, he was looking directly into my binocs.
Canada Warbler - really pretty slate color back, yellow belly and black "necklace" visible.
Blackburnian Warbler - brilliant orange/yellow throat. Also singing his little heart out.
Magnolia Warbler - very debonair. He stayed in the cedar tree for a long time.

Be sure to view this post on the real blog page and click on the names of the birds above to see more about each bird.

Thank goodness Barbara arrived and got to see the Bay-breasted and the Magnolia warblers.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We Won't See Anything at Lake Galena

This is what Lori told me Saturday morning when I arrived at her house. I was already up and out at PennyPack when she called me. I texted her at 6:30 AM and didn't get a reply, so I went to PennyPack by myself. It didn't look promising. Overcast and no birds to speak of at the parking area. Then I got the call that they were up and ready to go somewhere.

I thought we could go somewhere close so I suggested PennyPack, Tyler Park, Carpenter's Woods and Lake Galena. Lori didn't like the Lake Galena idea because she has been there a few times before and didn't really see anything. Hmmm. Didn't really see anything. We decided to try it anyway. This is what we saw:

Bald Eagle - yes a Bald Eagle soaring over the lake. Oh, and an Osprey, and 0ver 30 Cormorants, and Gnatcatchers making a nest, and a Northern Waterthrush - with a pretty buff breast, and a Yellow-billed Cuckoo - yes an actual Cuckoo - cooing, and Prairie Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, a Chat and 40 other species of birds. It took us over 4 hours to get through the walk. It was incredible. Oh, and freaky spawning Carp. Huge swirling carp half out of the water thrashing around to top it all off. Total of 51 species.

Yeah, we'll never see anything at Lake Galena - and Lori will never live that down.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Well, it finally cleared up last night after 9 straight days of rain. We might as well be in Seattle. It cleared up around 5:00 PM and I took the opportunity to dash out to PennyPack Trust for a quick walk. Wow. The trees at the parking area were dripping with Yellow-rump Warblers. I also got a long look at a Magnolia Warbler low in a tree. What a pretty bird. Very distinguished looking (click the link to see a photo). I also got a look at a Swainson's Thrush. I knew it was different and another man helped me identify it. Heard Wood Thrushes and Veeries too. Beautiful sounds of spring. Other birds included the resident gobbling Turkeys, male Scarlet Tanager, and Bluebirds.

I didn't make it far on my walk this morning since I hit another hot spot at Lemon Hill. I saw at least 6 Baltimore Orioles - some chasing each other around. I heard and saw a Norther Parula and American Redstarts too, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, female Scarlet Tanager, 2 Eastern Kingbirds and my first Black and White Warbler of the season.

That's all for now. More to come this weekend. Remember, it's the World Series of Birding this weekend, so follow Cornell Lab's team on Twitter if you want to keep posted on what they see and when. It should be exciting.

Oh yeah, it's Mother's Day too. Happy Mother's Day Mom.

Sunday, May 3, 2009


I'm wondering if it can get any worse. My last post was Wed April 29th about how crazy the last few weeks have been. I thought that it would calm down a little - then my Dad passed away on Friday. He has been suffering for a long time with MS and recently needed long term care and was in and out of the hospital with respiratory issues. This time he just didn't make it. I'm not one for the "he's in a better place" but at least he's not suffering in the nursing home anymore.

On to the birding part of the blog. That's right. My sister and I had pre-arranged my father's cremation and services a few weeks ago, so there were only a few things to take care of on Friday. We (the PhillyBirdNerd gang) had already planned to go to Cape May for the weekend. So we went. It was better than sitting around the house wondering what to do. We took the Bounder (our new RV) on it's maiden voyage to check out the systems and see what we would need to fix it up for our comfort. Connie couldn't go, so it was just me, Di and Barbara.

We arrived at the campground at midnight after leaving the Phillies game in the 7th inning. Don't think we have ice in our vains - it was against the Mets - how could we not go to that game. We were up at 7:00 AM and off to Higbee Beach in overcast 100% humidity weather. Boy, do the mosquitos thrive in those conditions!

You go to Higbee Beach in May for the warblers and other migrant songbirds. This is the place to see them in the early morning because they migrate at night and usually dive into the first land that they see after crossing the Delaware Bay - which is Higbee beach. Hardly any birds were around on Sat morning. I guess the overnight rain kept them from crossing the bay.

We did get great looks at Prairie Warblers right on the path and our first Northern Parula of the year. Also got vireos, kinglets and gnatcatchers along with an oriole and Eastern Kingbird. But the mosquitos became unbearable so we headed back to camp and worked for the rest of the day.

Sunday morning was worse at Higbee. Not a bird in sight and more mosquitos than Central America (I mean all countries combined) so we ran away quick and decided to try the Villas Wildlife Management Area. We have never been there before, but Karl Lukens and other Cape May Bird Observatory bloggers post about it often. We found it easily off of Bayshore Rd. It's nice because it allows dogs on leash (as does Higbee) and has an open landscape. Something seemed weird about the landscape and then we realized that we were walking through a defunct golf course. In fact, the "paths" were actually golf cart paths. What a great idea for an old golf course. Keep the trees and open space rather than turning it into another housing development.

My sister and I didn't really spend the weekend dwelling on my father's death that much. It's really not like us. We had spent the past few months taking care of him and we didn't really talk about that. But we did talk about things that our Dad did with and for us when we were kids. One of those things was to take us to Hawk Mountain in the fall. The memory of those trips is what really launched our passion for birding. In fact, we decided to direct any "in leiu of flowers" donations to Hawk Mountain in his memory. We didn't feel guilty today when we were listening to the Great Horned Owl hooting in the middle of the day, or yesterday when we spooked a really big raptor out of the woods, or when we were at the Phillies game making fun of the cartoon clapping hands on the jumbo-tron. It's what Daddy would have wanted. . .

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!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring Gloom

I haven't been out much over the last few weeks because I've been taking care of Cocoa. Back and forth the to vet. After 2 weeks of trying to figure out what's wrong with her, she had open heart surgery. I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say Cocoa has less parts now than she did a few weeks ago. Furthermore, she isn't better. In fact, she is back in the hospital in critical condition as I type this post.

When she's home, I'm home with her. We can't go on walks. When she's in the hospital, I can't bear to walk without her. I forced myself to go to Pennypack on Friday. It was really tough to use binoculars. They just magnify the tears so I couldn't see anything at all. Boo hoo hoo.

Anyway, the Phoebe is back under the train bridge. A sign of spring. Robins were everywhere chasing and singing. Another sign of spring. Red-wing Blackbirds are taking up territories in the field. And Bluebirds are sitting on the nest boxes. Spring will come whether I'm there to see it or not.

I just hope Cocoa can go with me soon. She really is a good bird dog. By that I mean she prances along with me when we walk and she sits or lays next to me while I find something interesting to look at. Birds don't seem to be spooked by her (except Turkeys that are spooked by everything). Other birders don't mind her on the trail because they see that she is a very good bird dog. I promise that my next post will be more upbeat.

Monday, March 23, 2009

My Garden Buddy - or - Pheasant Anyone?

As most of you know by now, Cocoa had major heart surgery last week. I am home from work today looking after her and working in the garden. I decided to raise the beds in the vegetable garden, so I went to Primex and bought bags and bags of mushroom compost, humus, etc and some 4"x4" rails yesterday in anticipation of making the most of my "sick day" today.

I was back and forth with the wheel barrow and supplies including the power saw to trim the rails and kept hearing something walking around in the leaves. I assumed it was a robin or junco or something. As I was trimming the rails, I saw something moving around outside the garden.
Well, there he was - a male Pheasant only a few feet outside the vegetable garden walking around. I froze in place and watched him walking up and down the hill for awhile, but then I had to move and keep working. So I got the power saw going, banging the rails into place, raking out the leaves etc, and he didn't seem to mind at all.

On my next trip to the garage to get supplies, I grabbed a handful of mixed bird seed and put it on the ground where he was poking around. Yep, he came right out from under my arborvite to eat it.

He isn't really afraid of me. He casually walks into the cover when I pass with the wheel barrow. But he is definitely afraid of the landscape crew next door with their leaf blowers. He really took off and hid when they showed up.

But then he was back. This time at the pond for a quick drink. Right on the patio.

I haven't seen one of these in 20 years. I hope he stays around. And I hope Cocoa doesn't catch him.