Friday, January 29, 2010

Babcock-Webb Management Area

4 of us Bird Nerds took a spur-of-the-moment trip to Florida for the weekend and finally made it to Babcock-Webb Wildlife Management Area near Punta Gorda.  We drove into the park and followed the sound of gunshots that got louder and louder.  Yikes, maybe we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Not at all.  In fact, the WMA has a shooting range for target shooting.  Whew.

The ranger told us to look for trees with white rings.  Those trees are nesting trees for Red-cockaded Woodpeckers which is a species none of us had seen before.  Before we got to that area, we ran into flocks of Yellow-rump and Pine Warblers in the open pine savanna, and gators and lots of Ibis and Herons in the flooded grass area.  We met a couple of advanced birders from Gettysburg who told us about some sparrows and to listen for the Red-cockaded Woodpecker in order to see it.  Their tips helped us see the Red-cockaded Woodpecker but we missed the sparrows. Although it wasn't a very long look at the woodpeckers, we definitely identified them by sound and saw one bird up close and another that flew into pine trees further away.  Enough to "list" it anyway.  Thanks Ann and Charles.

We also had a great look at Brown-headed Nuthatch which was a life bird for Lori and Tara.  I listed it as a life bird on the blog because I have never entered it into eBird before.  Truth is that Connie and I saw these birds in Atlanta during the 1996 Olympics while staying at Aunt Cathy's house.

I'll post the Ibis photo tomorrow.  And Kate, I'll fill out the forms next week!  Thanks for the call.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Learn Something New Everyday

That's what I was always told.  Learn something new everyday.  Well we learned something new both Saturday and Sunday this week.

Lesson 1 - You can only see owls at night.  That's what the volunteer at Peace Valley Nature Center told Connie yesterday. We had some extra time after we did our chores and decided to take a quick trip to Lake Galena to see some ducks and gulls.  Upon arrival at the visitor center, I made the mistake of telling Connie that there were restrooms inside.  It's as if those words are somehow an ancient cue buried deep within our DNA that triggers our bladders to suddenly want to explode.  Upon hearing those words, Connie headed toward the visitor center.  I told her to ask the staff if they knew where to find owls since a Long Eared Owl and a Saw-whet Owl were seen last week.  10 minutes later, Connie emerged from the visitor center giggling. 

She asked the woman about owls.  The woman kindly replied that you can only see owls at night but you can see Blue Jays and Cardinals during the day.  Mind you, Connie had a $1000 pair of Leica binoculars around her neck when she asked the question.  She even went so far as to tell the woman that she has seen owls during the day "high up in the tree".  The woman responded by telling Connie that she didn't know any more because she only works at the center during the day.  What a riot.  Needless to say we didn't see any owls.

Lesson 2 - Gulls are tasty.  Not that I have tried it myself but Lori and I saw 2 other creatures chowing down on some tasty gull today at Tullytown.  The real lesson for today is that we found another new place to bird around Tullytown landfill.  We drove up this morning with a map from eBird in hopes of finding some gulls and ducks.  What we found were 3 juvenile Bald Eagles standing out on the ice on Van Sciver Lake eating a gull!  Just like that we were within a football field of 3 huge birds.  A few other guys were already there and very helpful.  One guy even told us to follow him to a few other spots including Pennsbury Manor which was right up the road.  Really nice guy. 

We saw another eagle and a few Red-tailed Hawks, 30 or so American Coots, some Common Mergansers and tons and tons of gulls.  Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed gulls everywhere.  Most of Van Sciver Lake was  mostly frozen but any open water was packed with gulls.  You can see how easy it would be for an Eagle to pick one off and why they hang around in winter. We also saw a Red-tailed Hawk trying to fly with a gull in it's talons.  He tried and tried to get altitude but finally settled in a low bush with it. 

There you go.  2 lessons:  owls can only be seen at night and gulls are tasty.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Exploring Delaware Bayshore

If you read this blog regularly, you know that we go to Cape May and other shore points often.  You may also think that we know all of the good birding spots.  Well, that's not really the case.  Sure, we know about the "Hawk Watch" aka Lighthouse and the "Meadows" aka Nature Conservancy, and Higbee Beach and some others.  But we certainly don't know about all of the hot spots. And we are investigating more each year.  For instance, we made our first trip to Stimpson's Island last year and found our first Marsh Wrens. 

Yesterday, Barbara and I signed up for CMBO's Winter Raptors of the Delaware Bayshore field trip.  About 14 participants and 4-5 trip leaders spent 4 hours touring several birding spots south of Maurice River and north of Goshen.  It was great to go with the group to be introduced to new locations and learn more about raptors that we may find at each site. This is the way that we learned when to visit Belleplain State Forest and where to look for migrating birds in spring a few years ago.  It paid off again by introducing us to several new locations such as: 
  • Beaver Swamp WMA - about a stone's throw from the CMBO office and yet we have never been there.  We started here and saw Bald Eagle as our first bird of the day - sitting on the nest, switching with it's mate, sitting together on the same tree so that we could gauge the size difference between male and much larger female. 
  • Glade Road - a small pull-off on Glade Road just before the bridge that we would have never thought to stop at. We saw 4 Bald Eagles here. Not close, but we watched as the soared around and "danced".  We also saw a dark morph Rough-legged Hawk.  Karen, the trip leader, did a great job of having everyone see the hawk through the scope and explaining how to tell it was a Rough-legged Hawk by the way it held it's wings in flight and hovered.  Oh, did I mention the Peregrine Falcon?  
  • Thompson's Beach - another new location for us.  It has a platform for viewing the marsh as do some of the other sites.  I dragged Barbara to the Wawa for a bathroom break before going to this site so we missed some of the Eagles and other birds that the rest of the group saw.  We did get to see Marsh Wrens.
  • East Point Lighthouse - never knew this was here.  This site is right on the bay.  We saw lots of ducks here including Bufflehead (still didn't get a good photo) and Common Goldeneyes.
  • Heislerville WMA - has a dirt road around several ponds.  Again, we would never have found this site and even if we did, we wouldn't have driven on the dirt road to get close to the ponds.  
 A map to all of these sites plus the more is available at CMBO website.

A highlight of the trip for me was seeing a Gray Ghost sitting in a field on the way out to Stimpon's Island.  When the other cars in the caravan stopped, we stopped too and were 50 feet away from it.  A Gray Ghost is what they call a male Northern Harrier because he is all gray while the females are brown.  What a beauty!  We saw lots of Harriers on the marshes at each location but only one Gray Ghost . . . ooooh. 

The group dispersed from here but Barbara and I went to Maple Road and Turkey Point on our way home. I never realized that they were 2 separate sites until Chuck, the other trip leader explained it. We also found out that the whole area surrounding Turkey Point is actually a Natural Lands Trust area called "The Glades". It is Natural Lands Trust's largest preserve.  We saw Yellow-rump Warblers and our first ever Seaside Sparrow.

Monday, January 11, 2010

New Address for the BirdNerd Blog

You wouldn't know that I work for a tech company by my low-tech approach to the Phillybirdnerd blog.  But that all changed this morning.  I finally registered domain and pointed it to the blog.  Notice the address bar?  It should say rather than as it did in the past. You can continue to use the old link but using the new link will give me better statistics.

I'm trying to get more readers and more interaction so please pass the word and get people to follow the blog and post comments.  Also, let me know if you have trouble posting comments by emailing me directly at

Now, on to the bird post:  not much happening this weekend except that the Schulkyll River is icing up.  That will be good news this week for ducks at the Boathouses.  Stay tuned.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Difference Between Florida and Pennsylvania

Note card from my mother - in lovely cursive handwriting:
Linda - well here's our flock - not starlings like up north but they still poop on my neighbors roof!!
Was so glad that you & Di decided to surprise me! Made my holiday. Love Mom & Dave
Here are the accompanying photos that were taken with a point and shoot film camera. I had to scan them and turn them into jpegs for the post.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready for My Close-up

Just got back from a week in Florida. After leaving The Villages, I dropped Di at Tampa airport and scooted on down to Punta Gorda to meet up with the rest of the nerds. We took the boat down the Alligator River (it's really called that) into Charlotte Harbor and across to Cayo Costa State Park which is an island just north of Captiva. Lot's of fun and lot's of great birds along the way including Brown Booby and several Common Loons! Boobies! It's always great to see Boobies. . .

We also had Hooded Mergansers on the canal right at the house. I got good photos of this hen while she snoozed on a palm tree log. Poor thing has a droopy wing but she was getting along just fine fishing etc. We spoke to the volunteer at the Peace River Wildlife Rehabilitation Center about it. He said that they wouldn't be able to catch her if she was moving around that well. That's good news. You can see her droopy wing in this photo:

Here are another couple of Hooded Mergansers on the canal:

The variety of birds was low but the birds that we saw were very approachable. Take these birds for instance. Gorgeous! This Snow Egret was only a few feet away looking for a handout:

And this beauty (well, his mother thinks so anyway). A Black Vulture that was released from the rehabilitation center but still hangs around:

This Wood Stork takes the beauty crown though. Don't you agree?

More later.