Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Nerd Squared

Taking the nerd part of our name to new heights here lately.
We are birdwatchers - nerd strike one
We submit our sightings electronically - nerd strike two

Two of our submissions from Belize are under scrutiny by eBird.  We are emailing descriptions and photos to the guy almost daily.  The 2 submissions under question are Sparrow which we saw with our guide Eric and identified as Botteri's Sparrow and a hawk that we saw on Ambergris Caye that sat on a telephone pole and baffled us for more than 15 minutes.  Luckily, I have photos of both birds which I sent to the "auditor".  The sparrow came back as Lincoln's Sparrow which the guy says hasn't been seen in that pahe rt of Belize since 2003 and he was pretty excited about the sighting.

Barbara and I spent a long time staring and photographing and trying to identify the hawk on the telephone pole.  Diane and I spent even longer staring at the computer screen and the field guide trying to identify the hawk from the photos.  We used 2 field guides.  Birds of Belize by Lee Jones which is rated the best guide for the country, and another guide that covers all of Central America.  We finally settled on Great Black Hawk (immature) due to field marks and process of elimination of all other species.  The auditor didn't like that submission stating that only one Great Black Hawk had been recorded on Ambergris Caye and could it possibly have been a Common Black Hawk which, by the its very name, is common in the area.  Once again, I sent photos.  His response was really, really nerdy and fascinating and exciting.  He said that his second review of the photos lead him to believe it was Broad-winged Hawk - which is b-o-r-i-n-g EXCEPT that only one of those have ever been seen on Ambergris.  Then, he asked if he could send my photos to Lee Jones - that's right, the guy who wrote the field guide. 

Oh, and if that is all not nerdy enough for you.  Here is nerd strike three - the PhillyBirdNerds are entering the World Series of Birding this year.  Yup. The biggest gathering of nerdiness outside of the computer expo.  To make matters worse, the PBNs are using technology including eBird reports, mapping tools, and "apps" on our iPhones and iPads (yup, we have iPads but no iTampons). 

Overwhelmingly nerdy.  More about the World Series of Birding in coming days.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

First Time Sightings

I was so overwhelmed with the number of new birds that we saw in Belize last week, that I started to think about how I would remember them.  I started to think about some first time sighting that I remember often or when I see the same bird again. 

To that end, I have added a new "page" to the blog called "Total Life List" so that you can see my total list.  The interesting thing is that it lists the bird and location of the first sighting.  You will need to actually look at the blog to see this list, not just read the email alert for this posting.

For instance, I have seen hundreds of Northern Gannets (#6 on the list), but the first time that I recorded that species was in Witless Bay Newfoundland.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  Connie and I drove out to a remote little park, walked through the sheep paddy to the edge of a high cliff overlooking the North Atlantic ocean.  There were hundreds of Northern Gannets flying over our heads and around a see stack island that had broken away from the main cliff.  The birds were nesting on that sea stack.  It was like being in an episode of Planet Earth on Discovery Channel.  Awesome.  Now, when I see a Northern Gannet off of the Jersey shore, I conjure up that wonderful day in my mind.

Whip-poor-will #115 seen and photographed at Fackahatchee Park along the Tami Ami Trail in Florida.  The bird sat motionless and camouflaged on a fallen branch just off of the boardwalk path.  Our friends Cee and Sarah were with us on that trip and pointed out the bird to me.  I set up the camera and tripod to get a photo.  Snap, snap, snap of the shutter just when the bird yawned with wide pink mouth.  Awesome.  It was so long ago that the photos are not in digital form but they are mounted and displayed at our house. 

I'll definitely remember the Fork-tailed Flycatcher #579 from this recent trip.  We were waiting in line to cross the river in the tour van.  The river is crossed by loading 3-4 cars onto a barge which is hand cranked across the river by 2 guys. Passengers must exit the vehicles and stand along the rail of the barge during the crossing for "safety".  Barbara and I got out of the van to look around when all of a sudden the bird with outrageously long tail flew across the road right in front of us.  I immediately banged on the windsheild of the van yelling something about "scissor tail, scissor tail".  2 Fork-tail Flycatcher, not Scissor-tails flitted and sat in the field for us all to gawk at.  Here is a photo, not mine to show you why I would remember this encounter.

You get the point.  All of this to say that there were so many new birds on this trip that I will probably not be able to remember the events surrounding each one.  I do fondly remember my first Violicious Trogon (photo in last post) seen near Playa Del Carmen Mexico while being chased around the woods by Iguanas - ask Connie, she'll back me up on that.

If you have a fond memory of a bird sighting, please post a comment below.  I'll share those with other readers of the blog.  It will be fun for a change to read a story from someone else.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Dare I Say

We arrived home Sunday night - late.  Eight days in Belize.  178 species of birds.  52 life birds. That's 52 types of birds that I have never seen before plus the other 126 that I already knew but saw more of.  It was almost too much. There, I said it.  Almost too much.  It was really terrific.

I am only posting a few photos of birds that might interest you. Other pretty and interesting birds escaped my camera but not the list. 

How would you like to see this guy at your breakfast table?  Well, we saw him every morning eating the leftover Papaya that Victor put out on the fence. Collared Aracari:

Oh, and his breakfast companion too.

Then there was this bird that made us feel like we might be his breakfast.  Plumbeous Kite:

I managed to get a decent photo of Violicious Trogon that hung around the resort.  One of my favorite birds:

Some other birds that I did manage to get photos of are not the kind that people say "ooh" or "wow" about.  Dull or ordinary birds, but I photograph them when I can so that I can study the photos later for better identification and to learn more about them.

More later.  Lots of funny stories from the trip that I will try to post in coming days. 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Ambergris Caye

We planned to snorkel, dive and relax on the beach here in Ambergris Caye.  We couldn't find anything on the Inter-web about birding the island and our Belize field guides are not clear about describing occurrences of birds on the Cayes.. Well, we were pleasantly surprised!

First, there were the 13 Magnificent Frigatebirds soaring over the beach waiting for fish scraps. Then there are the Pelicans and Caspian Terns.  All birds that you would assume on a Caye (caye is what they call island or key down here).  But then, we went bombing around on our golf cart and saw warblers, vireos, orioles, woodpeckers and all kinds of birds that we didn't expect to see on the caye.  Here are some quick photos:

First is Mangrove Warbler.  It is listed as a subspecies of Yellow Warbler in some books.

This is a White-collared Seedeater.  Tiny little bird with a grosbeak beak.

More later.  I'm just happy to have Internet access.  Now back to drinking and laying about.  Suckers . . .

Friday, April 9, 2010

Getting Ready

This may be the last post for a week unless we have Internet access in Belize so I wanted to just check in with a few tidbits.

First, I forgot to tell you about the woodpeckers.  In 2 consecutive days this week, I saw all of the common woodpeckers possible in our area:  Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Pileated, Flicker and Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

Second, the frost bitten Pelicans are ready to be released back to Chesapeake Bay this week according to Heidi at Tri-State Bird Rescue.  She told me that the water is warming up enough for the fish to come to the surface.  This is important for Pelicans as you know if you have ever seen them diving for food.  The Pelicans will be transported from Newark DE to the Chesapeake in a van, then transferred to a boat and taken out to some little island.  Pretty cool.

Third, we are off to Belize for a week. We will start in Ambergris Caye for snorkel/scuba/beach then off to Crystal Paradise Resort near San Ignacio.  We have been to Crystal Paradise a few years ago and loved it.

Anyway, I'll post if I get Internet access.  Stay tuned.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Lebanon - That's No Bologna

The eBird Needs Alerts are driving me a little bit crazy.  I set up the alert to send emails to me every hour for both PA and NJ for birds that I do not have listed in that state and other eBirders are seeing.  So, now I get alerts for birds that I am sure I have seen but probably didn't enter in eBird such as Killdeer.  It shows up every hour on the PA alert.  I've seen plenty of Killdeer in Pennsylvania.

The alert has also been showing Tundra Swan and other ducks and birds at a place called Middle Creek WMA in Lebanon county.  It's kind of on the way to Connie's Mother's house in York.  I decided to detour on Saturday on my way out to York to see what it was all about.  I was pleasantly surprised.  The park is comprised of a loop driving tour around a reservoir lake that spans Lebanon county on the north and Lancaster county on the south.  I entered from the north and drove through grasslands dotted with ponds and about a hundred Bluebird boxes. Most of the boxes had Tree Swallows sitting on top but a few actually had Bluebirds.  I also came across the Tundra Swan (checked that off my alert list), and Savannah Sparrow.  Here is a pretty good photo of the Savannah Sparrow sitting on the fence post:

I drove the entire loop and saw a good smattering of birds.  Got the dogs out of the truck at one trail for a quick walk and ran into a gaggle of Snow Geese, which surprised me. I thought they would have headed north by now.  I took this photo of a dark bird which I thought was a juvenile but it turns out to be what they call a "Dark Adult" goose:

I also saw the resident Bald Eagle.  No Killdeer.  I'll suffer through the alerts a little longer.