Saturday, October 30, 2010

One of Those Winters?

Possibly.  We already have a Red-breasted Nuthatch at our feeder.  That little sucker isn't afraid of anything either.  He hangs on the peanut feeder and will not leave even when I walk by a few feet away.  Not even when Roxy comes barreling out the door after the squirrels just below the feeder.  Roxy runs back and forth under that feeder and the Nuthatch just keeps pecking the peanuts.  Lori has a Red one too.  She also has Pine Siskins already.  It might be one of those winters after all.

It sure got cold here all of a sudden.  As you can see from the last post, we were in short sleeves on Sunday.  Today, I was in a hoodie and jacket, and my hands were freezing.  But the birding is worth it.  I was inundated with juncos (50), White-throated Sparrows (40), and Golden-crowned Kinglets (38) in the woods at Pennypack.

I look back at some old posts and think - what a dope I am.  Last year, I went on and on about seeing 11 Kinglets.  Big deal compared to this year.  I have seen more Kinglets - both Ruby and Golden crowned - than I thought was possible.  (Mark this post.  I'll probably eat these words in the future too.  Hopefully.)  I could watch these little go-getters all day long.  They are tiny little birds who are focused on picking little things from the undersides of leaves. They are determined.  Just like the Nuthatch in my yard, they don't seem to even notice people passing by on bikes or jogging, or even with Roxy.  They just keep going.  I wish them well on their southbound trip.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday Birding with Brendan

Brendan got binoculars as a birthday present last week.  We took them on their maiden voyage today to Tinicum to see some ducks. We saw some ducks, for sure.  How about over a hundred Ruddy Ducks?  How about Northern Shovelers and Pintails and Teal and Ring-neck Ducks and Bufflehead?  Oh, and a Bald Eagle stirring things up a bit.

Here is the crew from today:

The Great Blue Heron cooperated for a photo:

This is the Pintail, Shovelers, Teal and Coot all in one photo:

Here are the same ducks scattering to get away from the Eagle that was cruising overhead:
Click on any photo to enlarge
We ended up with 40 species today.  Pretty good for the new binoculars. Oh, and we had Friendly's for lunch!  Yum

Bahamas Birding, who knew?

So, Tara and I went to the Bahamas after leaving the rest of the bird nerds in Florida. Got there Wednesday morning. We went birding with a guide friday and had nice success. We picked up 12 life birds, most in the shadow of the Atlantis Resort. Two other people we in our group, they came from one of the cruise ships, and they were from.........Lansdale. How freaky. Anyway, the list included 44 species, highlights: Bahama mocking bird (rare for Nassau), Bahama woodstar, the only humming bird on the island ( caught a female sitting on her nest), red legged thrush, thick billed vireo, Greater Antillean bullfinch, cuban grassquit, la sagra's flycatcher, mangrove cuckoo, gray kingbird, caribbean dove, and some warblers, praire, cape may, black/white, black-throated blue, yellow throated, palm, redstarts, oven bird, northern waterthrush. I was really pleasantly surprised. Bought me a tee shirt from the guide "Birds of the Bahamas", gonna wear it when i feel all birdy and nerdy.


Thursday, October 21, 2010

2 Posts in 1 Day

Read the last post too.  I was rushed out the door here in The Villages to make the early bird special for dinner.  Early bird, get it?  My mother thinks that just because we are birders, we need the early bird special.  Anyway, the last post was rushed because we were on our way to dinner. 

Speaking of dinner:  here are some photos of birds with their own dinners.  Early birds all on their own:

Tern with a fish

Kingfisher with a fish

Osprey with fish

Sucks to be a fish in Florida . . .

More Florida

We didn't just go to the same old birding locations on this trip. In fact, we went to 2 or 3 new or new-ish spots this time.  First, we went to Sanibel Lighthouse beach and got up close and personal with Willets, Black-bellied Plover, Sandwich Tern and others. 

The next "newish" spot was Babcock Webb WMR right off of I-75.  I was there last year, but it was a first for the other girls.  I got a life bird - King Rail - walking across the dirt road.  Connie spotted it while I was looking up at the many Pine Warblers in the pine tree above.  We took Di and Barbara the next day and saw Red Cockaded Woodpeckers which are on the endangered list.

Finally, we went to Emeralda Marsh up near The Villages this morning.  We thought we could drive on the "wildlife drive" but apparently, you can only walk or bike it.  Go figure.  We still got great looks at Sedge Wren, Swamp Sparrow, Moorhens and even a Purple Gallinule which is rare.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pretty in Pink

Guess where we went?Ding Darling NWR on Sanibel Island. If you haven't been there, I highly recommend it.  Highly.  We've been making this a destination on almost every Florida trip for the last 20 years but just recently discovered that we should time the visit to coincide with low or rising tide.  Duh.  That only makes perfect sense since all of the target birds here are waders that depend on low water levels to feed.  We had a double hit on this visit because low tide coincided with gorgeous morning light for photos.

We were thrilled to see a Roseate Spoonbill:

Then he was joined by a friend or two:

 And more:

Then there were more:

Then, there was the parade:

Then, there was the crowd:

 It was a pretty awesome morning for sure.  Black, white and pink.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Big Birds - Up Close

I think that's the best thing about Florida - Big Birds, Up Close.  Pretty easy to photograph if, and I mean IF, you aren't in a boat rocking back and forth.  Here are some shots that we got today at Alligator Creek Preserve:

 Black Vulture

 Red-shouldered Hawk - I think this is a pretty good photo

Broad-winged Hawk - check out his leg coming out of his belly.  He dove down and got a frog but those photos didn't come out.

Here are some from the boat in Charlotte Bay this afternoon:

 It seemed like there was an Osprey on every channel marker (especially the red ones)

Double-crested Cormorant - we like his green/blue eye
Royal Tern shuffling his feathers

Friday, October 15, 2010


We are packing up the SUV and the boat and heading down to Punta Gorda tomorrow.  Well, half of us anyway.  The other half of us are taking Southwest Airlines.  I hope to catch up to those warblers, shorebirds and hawks that have been passing us by over the last few weeks.  I also hope for good weather.  And Internet connectivity. . . There is only spotty Internet connection at the house in Punta Gorda, so you may not get an update until we hit The Villages later in the week where we have really good Internet connections.

Stay tuned. . .

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fob and Poop

Three of us went to Palmyra Cove again on Saturday since we had good luck last week and its close.  This place always has a decent amount of birders and we usually see a group from a local bird club.  We've been here enough that we are starting to recognize people.

There's "grumpy woman" who NEVER says hello or asks what is being seen or nothing.  I swear she wouldn't crack a smile even if a _______ (enter very rare and beautiful bird name here) perched on her head.  And she certainly wouldn't tell us about it either. We can pass her on the trail several times and she still won't even nod a hello.  Her mother was right - her face froze that way.

There's "camera guy" who is friendlier and very laid back.  One of those guys that wears a button-up shirt loosely over a teeshirt and you would imagine wears flip flops alot.  He would crack a smile if the ______ bird showed up.  AND, he would tell us about it and even give us directions to the place where he saw it.

Then, there's "Fob" who is very friendly.  We've seen him with whatever group is going through that week and assumed that he was actually with the group. It turns out that he just tags along but is so friendly that the group leader calls him by name.  "Hey Bob, didjya see the Nuthatch?" "Hey everybody, Bob has a Towhee over here"  "Everybody look at the Tennessee Warbler! Good spot Bob" (Bob graciously gave me the credit for spotting the Tennessee Warbler)  And so on. He wears a baseball cap with an "F" on it which us dummies couldn't figure out. We finally had to ask him. F is for Fordham which he wears just because its blue.  So now we call him Fob.  Fob would jump up and down if he saw a ______ and would wave us down from a distance to show it to us.  Fob's ______ bird wouldn't need to be rare and beautiful either.  He made sure to tell us where to find a Palm Warbler which is pretty common this time of year.  Good ol' Fob.

It was also a good photo day.  Here are some shots:

 Northern Parula - this bird hung around right over our heads for quite awhile

Red-breasted Nuthatch - I think we'll see these hang around our area this winter

Scarlet Tanager - the bird with the most drastic color change from summer (red) to winter (greenish yellow)

Today, it was just me, Barbara, and the dogs at Tinicum (John Heinz WR).  Last week, Connie and I sat in the car at the gate with 2 other cars until 7:30.  We asked the men in the 1st car what was going on. They both sighed and told us that "she usually doesn't get here til 7:30 on Sundays even though it's supposed to open at sunrise".  So today, I planned to arrive at 7:30.  We were 8 minutes late and the parking lot was already packed.  We had no idea that today was the "Big Sit" which is a day where hundreds of bird clubs from all over the country record all of the birds that they see in a 24 hour period - from the same 30 foot circle.  The park opened at 6 AM today to accommodate.  We were told by the Tinicum Big Sit team that it wasn't a competition but . . .

We had beautiful weather.  And hundred of birds of the same species.  100+ Yellow-rumped warblers and a thousand swallows, 33 Wood Ducks - Barbara didn't think there were 33 Wood Ducks on the planet let alone in the same view.  Geese are definitely on the move.  A few flew over us while we were on the boardwalk.  I wasn't paying attention to them but Barbara grabbed my arm and yelled "POOP!".  I looked up just in time to see a poop bomb falling towards us.  Luckily, it landed in the water a few feet away from us.  Close call.

Up on the observation tower with the Big Sit team, we were getting good views of Tree Swallows perched on a dead tree.  Then it happened - SPLAT - right on the back of my neck.  Tree Swallow poop on my hat, in my hair, on my jacket collar.  Luckily, the Big Sit team had a roll of paper towels with their lunches.  Yuck.

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Had to Drag Myself Away

I left Pennypack Trust tonight ONLY because the Phillies were playing Game 2 of the NL Playoffs (which they just won).  It has been quite the 24 hours around here.  I have been to 3 different woods and each one was dripping with Kinglets and Warblers. I counted 100+ Golden-crowned Kinglets and probably 75 Ruby-crowned Kinglets.  Over a dozen Black-throated Blue Warblers, 50 Yellow-rumped Warblers, and a Nashville Warbler.  See photos below.  Get out to your local woods if you can.  We'll be going to Palmyra Cove bright and early in case you can join us.

Kinglets are difficult to photograph because the never stop moving and they are often under leaves picking for bugs.  This is the best photo that I got all day of the Golden-crowned.  You can see where it got it's name.  Remember, you can click on any photo to enlarge it for a better view.

Here is the best photo I got of the Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  They rarely show the ruby crown.  These birds crack me up because they look like their head is too big for their bodies.

Yellow-rumped Warbler below.  They are pretty drab this time of year, but they usually show some yellow on their "shoulders" and always show the yellow rump (although, not seen in this photo)

This is the "find" of the day - Nashville Warbler. It was mixing it up with the Kinglets right in front of me.  These are the best photos.  Beautiful little bird.

 He's looking right at me here.

I hope to get some more shots tomorrow. 

Monday, October 4, 2010

"the other side"

Two bird nerds split off and visited Rehoboth over the weekend. Tara and I went down with friends friday night after hockey practice, which meant we didn't get down there until 1:30am. Somehow we were both awake around 650am. So I dragged Tara with me to Cape Henlopen, Gordon Pond. We parked at a condo complex because the gate doesn't open until 8am. We didn't see a ton, but we got our first look, a very good look, at golden crowned kinglet, which surprisingly was a lifer. Good looking bird, of course no camera. 2 bald eagles flew by then later sat way off in some distant trees, I don't know how tara spotted them sitting out there, they were tiny specks to me. hardly any warblers, yellow-rumped and common yellow throat, a creeper, a flock of snowy egrets, osprey w/fish. There was a lot out in the pond that was not really visible with our binocs, could have used barb's scope!
Later we went to Cape Henlopen State Park, I was scouting locations for a sunday morning warbler hunt. We were at the nature center, so I asked the older gentleman behind the counter where they were seeing warblers, and he said, "oh, right here you can see birds, they all come to our feeders." hm, feeders and warblers. Later tara came over and told me that someone asked him what particular birds used a bird house that she wanted to purchase, to which the same gentleman replied, "small birds." ok, not the best source. So we went to the Cape Henlopen Hawk Watch platform for more info. Smaller platform than cape may, only a few people up there counting. I told them we usually go to Cape May, and they said, "oh, the other side....." They said they had the 2nd best day of the watch ever. We didn't stay long, but it seemed the birds they would see were way off in the distance, not flying over the platform like Cape May. The suggested birding spot was Thompson Island Preserve.
So, Sunday morning we got up and went there, right between Rehoboth and Dewey. Great trail, very scenic. Wasn't a great day for birds, windy and cloudy (yellow-rumps, black&white, creeper again, blue birds, black-throated blue). But the walk was fantastic, thru woods, then out to the marshes in Rehoboth Bay. We couldn't go very far, because the trail was very wet, needed boots, but it looked like it went far out. Someday we'll do it again, but will need better walking gear. Anyone looking for this place, good luck. There are no signs except when you start walking the trail. It's behind the Spring Lake Condo complex off of RT 1. Then you go around to the back side, and have to look for the trial head. We had to ask a local. But worth the walk if you have waterproof foot gear.
Anyway, that's the report from "the other side."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Not What I Expected

I snuck in a a quick stop at John Heinz Wildlife Refuge (also known as Tinicum) on Thursday.  I only had 30 minutes, so I only made it to the boardwalk.  It was "blowin' a gale" as they say.  The wind was blowing so hard it blew my trademark pen (Bic roundstick, medium, blue) out of my ear.  The water was very low.  So low that the Snapping Turtle was making snow plow paths through the mud.  Not good for the turtle, but good for the shorebirds.  There were 25 Lesser Yellow Legs, 10 Greater YL, and 20 Pectoral Sandpipers within 20 yards of the boardwalk.  I didn't have the camera with me because it was an unplanned trip.  Besides, it was threatening to rain hard.

Which it did late on Thursday.  Rain, that is.  It rained alot.  There was flooding all over the area.  Highways were shut down on Friday, rivers overflowed their banks.  Etc.

So, why did I think that Tinicum's water level wouldn't be affected.  We went this morning with camera, scope, 2 dogs and 4 birdnerds.  It was cold - and still blowin' a gale.  I promised the girls breakfast at Nifty-Fifty's after the trip which is the only thing that kept them going.  Anyway, we certainly didn't see any shorebirds.  The water was so high that part of the boardwalk was inaccessible.

We walked around the other way and got to see our first Yellow-rumped Warblers of the fall season and a few terns whirling over the water.  We noticed that one tern was much smaller and darker than the others.  It was a Black Tern, which we really didn't expect to see at Tinicum.  Here are photos - not very good, but we can certainly use them for ID purposes.
 Black Tern - notice the gray wings, dark spot on shoulder, and no fork in the tail

 Forster's Tern - overall white, black spot around eye, forked tail.  It is also much larger than Black Tern