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!