Monday, May 24, 2010

Just Remember It

Sorry I haven't had my camera out lately. It is difficult to manage the camera, binoculars, and two dogs on daily walks.  I really miss having the camera along.  Especially in this new era of eBird when any rare sighting is questioned and photographic proof is the best way to confirm the sighting. 

Take this week for instance.  Thursday morning was the best birding morning that I've had this season.  It was a beautiful morning after 2 days of dreary rain.  Birds were sure to be moving through.  Plus, I had an appointment in Mt. Airy at 10 AM which meant that I could take my time on the morning walk at Pennypack Trust.  There was alot of bird action at the beginning of the trail - Baltimore Oriole, Blackpolls (again), Kingbirds, a Parula singing and flitting about.  Then, a bird popped into a small tree just in front of me.  Kind of vireo shaped but smaller and browner.  I knew it was something different, so I sketched it and made notes of color and field marks on my notepad.  I even had time to look up possibilities while it bounced around the tree.  Through the process of elimination, I came up with Swainson's Warbler.  Rare in our region but it couldn't have been anything else.  No camera.

Next bird outing was Saturday with Lori at Peace Valley park.  We really worked for the birds that morning.  Hiking almost all of the trails around the nature center only getting a bird here and a bird there.  Still no mobs of warblers.  But then, at the end of our walk we heard a mob of crows going ape shit.  I knew they were trying to get rid of a hawk or owl, so we dashed up the trail for a look.  There sat a Great Horned Owl in a mess of vines being tormented and dive bombed by a bunch of crows and Blue Jays.  No camera.

On our way back to the car we finally saw the Yellow-billed Cuckoo that everyone else said was flying back and forth across the bridge.  Also had very close up looks at those beautiful Cedar Waxwings sitting in a Sequoia tree. Yes, you read that right. There are 2 Sequoia trees growing at the edge of Lake Galena in Pennsylvania.  Another guy was getting great photos of that scene but not me.  I'll just have to commit it to memory (or blog about it and read it to myself later).

Next up - Potter County trip for Memorial Day weekend.  I'll pack the camera for sure.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It's Madame Foreperson to you

Why am I posting my jury duty memoir to a birding blog?  Because this can only happen to me.  I was picked to serve on a civil case in Montgomery County this week.  The case was typical of what you would assume - a car accident that resulted in the plaintiff alleging back injury.  The part that can only happen to me?  The cause of the car accident was that the defendant was distracted from driving because she saw a woman running across the road chasing an injured Turkey. I am not kidding. I can't make this stuff up. 

I was juror #4 yesterday listening to testimony about back injury, herniated disks, injections, pre-existing conditions, loss of sex drive, you name it.  All I could think about was, what happened to the turkey?  Did the woman catch it and take it to the rehab?  Did it recover?

Today, I was promoted from juror #4 to foreperson when we went into deliberations.  I seemed to be the only person on the jury who had served before and wasn't afraid of the foreperson responsibility. Not guilty and no monetary award was our verdict.

Oh, and I had a Baltimore Oriole and Cedar Waxwing in the yard this morning. Cool.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

We Weren't Last

But we were damned close to last place in the World Series of Birding.  The Seniors beat us.  The teams that did only the county beat us. The team that did only Ocean City beat us.  All of the school kids beat us. But we didn't come in last place.  A few teams actually had fewer birds than we had.

First, let's say that the winning teams (yes, there was a tie for first place) had 228 species which is off from other years when they had over 230.  Now, let's tell you that one of the winning teams failed to see White-breasted Nuthatch - a common bird that we have at our feeders.  They also failed to get Cattle Egret which you can normally get at 80 MPH while driving down the Parkway.  (click here to see the results)

Just like the winners, we failed to see the Nuthatch and the Cattle Egret.  We also missed 110 other birds that they got.  We ended up with 116 for the day.  We started our day at 4:30 AM and ended at 8:30 PM when we turned our list in at the firehouse.  We had alot of fun and saw some great birds including a life bird for me - Gull-billed Tern.  Everyone contributed in spotting birds and keeping the day fun.

Next year, we have agreed to do it again but stay in Cape May County. There will be less driving, and we will still have a shot at 140ish birds.  I think we can get 130.  We are also going to get T-shirts and sponsors.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Here They Come!

To quote Tom Petty - "The way-ay-ting is the hardest part".  Well, the waiting seems to be over.  Warblers are finally moving through our little part of the world.  This morning, I saw 7 Blackpoll Warblers at Lemon Hill.  That is more than I have seen in total all of my years of birding.  Plus, Connie and I had a singing Blackpoll at Pennypack Trust last night. And that needs to be added to the Blackpoll warbler from Higbee beach on Saturday. 

We met several birders who said that this is unusual.  One guy told us that he lives in Allentown area and they call the Blackpoll warbler "the kiss of death" because they are the last warblers to migrate. When you see Blackpolls, then migration is over.  Well, not this year.  It seems that they are coming through earlier than usual.

Along with the Blackpolls, Barbara and I had the first Black-throated Blue warblers, Parulas, plenty of Yellow-rumps, a lingering Palm, and a beautiful male Cape May warbler this morning.

Get your binoculars and get out there!

Did I mention that we entered the World Series of Birding?  Seems like we should have entered a regional competition and won it in order to be eligible for the "big day".  But, no.  We just signed up.  Any schmuck can enter apparently.  We decided to limit our day's effort to just Cape May, Cumberland and Atlantic counties in order to cut down the driving.  We made an initial site survey last Saturday to test the driving and I now think that it is possible for us to get 100+ species in one day effort by concentrating on the following Hotspots:
  • Turkey Point - Glades
  • Heislerville WMA
  • Stimpson's Beach
  • Jake's Landing Road
  • Reed's Beach
  • Belleplain State Park
  • Villas WMA
  • Cape May Point State Park - Hawk Watch and trails
  • The Meadows - Nature Conservancy
  • Concrete Ship
  • Higbee Beach
  • Rhea Farm (Beanery)
  • Nummy Island

It seems like alot, but some of these sites are concentrated in Cape May and do not require alot of driving.  Stay tuned.