Thursday, December 29, 2011

Elusive Birds

Take a look to the right of this post. You should be able to see that I am 1 bird shy of 700.  I would really like to get #700 in 2011.  The only way that will happen is if I can see Saw Whet Owl or Long-eared Owl this week.  I don't think that will happen but you never know.  Another possibility would be for some interesting gull to show up in Cape May. 

Birds can sometimes be very elusive.  Even large birds like Sandhill Cranes which stand 4 feet tall and have red feathers on the tops of their heads can be difficult to spot even though you know that they are around.  So says my friend Mark anyway.  He has a farm out in Somerset County which I blogged about here (click to re-read the post).  He has 2 Sandhill Cranes that have taken up residence there and even had a baby last year.  Mark and his wife have a dicken's of a time finding those birds when they visit the farm.

Apparently, Barbara has a difficult time spotting Sandhill Cranes too as shown in this photograph from our recent trip to Florida:

Apparently, it only takes a sprig of ornamental grass to completely camouflage the Cranes.  Look at how skittish these birds are!  (NOT!)  Here is another photo of the birds stumping both Barbara and Diane:

Diane has even tried to elevate herself on the back of the golf cart for a better view, but from the looks of this photo, she still can't spot the bird. I think Barbara is looking at the field guide to lend assistance in the search . . .  Its a good think I was on the other side of the grass huh?

More photos of the elusive Sandhill Crane.  Mark should study these photos so that he knows what to look for the next time he is on the farm.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Naughty or Nice?  Who cares.  Santa brought me this new camera AND this Pileated Woodpecker to photograph:

Enjoy your day.  More Florida follow ups to come.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Florida Follow Up

I am really amazed with the new camera.  We went up to The Villages to see my Mom on Sunday and got some REALLY good photos of ducks floating around on the golf course ponds.  Here is a great shot of a Canvasback duck stretching his leg with a coot and another sleeping duck

Here is the same shot cropped a little bit so that you can see that the coot is in mid-quack:

And cropped again so that you can see the details of the Canvasback's webbed foot and his red eye:

My point here is that the new camera captures so many pixels that I can crop this photo this much and the resolution is still this good.  Click on the photo to see it enlarged.  The resolution is still really good.

Here are some other shots of ducks that came out pretty good too.

This is a male Ring-necked Duck. They should really be called Ring-billed if you ask me.  Here is the female:

And finally, a portrait of a coot:

After not having many posts last month, I have tons of fodder from this trip to post a few more in the coming days.  Stay tuned. . .

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Biggest Nerd Alive!

Follow up to my previous post.  I was really exhausted last night while typing that last post.  Exhausted from being out on the new boat all day and throwing a few rounds of darts at the pub.  I can barely lift my arm today which is a good indication of being a nerd or being really out of shape (or both).

Another indication of being a big nerd is the fact that I yelled "TUBENOSE!  I think that bird is a Tubenose." when I first spotted the Greater Shearwater in the harbor yesterday.  Even the nerds turned around and went "What?  Did you just say Tubenose?" and then laughed at me.  My own people laughed at me so you know that's nerdy.  I knew that the bird wasn't a gull or tern.  I knew it was something like a petrel or shearwater or something.  Those birds are grouped together in the Sibley Guide as "Tubenoses" starting on page 32.  Their nostrils are bumped up above the bill unlike other birds. This feature is visible in the photograph below.  Look at the top of the bill just where it meets the head.  The tube reminds me of a scoop on the hood of a hot rod car.

If you need photographic proof that I am the biggest nerd that you know - here it is.  This is me excitedly snapping away with my new camera.

I've also included this video for your entertainment.  CAUTION:  It might make you seasick!

Click here if you can't see the video above.  Also, post a comment and let me know if you can view it or not.  This is the first time I have used Windows Movie Maker.

So, let's recap: 
  1. Darts exhausted me.
  2. I yelled "Tubenose!"
  3. I was as giggly as a schoolgirl when the bird was that close to the boat.

You decide.  Biggest nerd you ever knew?  Probably. 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Maiden Voyage

Ahoy Mate!  The Nerds are cruising in style this week in Florida in the new boat.  We took it out on it's very first voyage today into Charlotte Harbor and had a great time.  Oh, and we all got a life bird too.  Greater Shearwater!

Here is the boat.  A gorgeous 23' Sea Fox:

Here is me driving the boat for about 1 second in the Gulf of Mexico.  You can see the Charlotte Harbor Inlet channel marker and Cayo Costa in the background:

Here is the Greater Shearwater which we photographed in the same location as the photo above.  Speaking of maiden voyages - these photos of the bird are taken with my brand new Canon 7D camera.  This trip is the camera's maiden voyage too.

Notice Barbara's Corona bottle?  That is how close this bird was to our boat. This photo is not cropped at all.  The bird didn't mind having it's photo taken or our talking or anything. 

Here it is flying.  The photo isn't in the sharpest focus due to me being on a moving boat trying to photograph a moving bird with a new camera but it shows the underside of the wings which is a good field mark for Greater Shearwater. 

I'm exhausted so this is a quick post.  More details about how big of a nerd I am later.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Perserverence Wins

Remember how we did the World Series of Birding back in May?  Well, there are 2 women that coordinate that event and do a great job at it - Marleen and Sheila.  They are really nice ladies. The kind that always give you a big hug and seem happy to see you even when they are busy.  They are birders and work for NJ Audubon in various capacities at the store in Cape May etc.  They don't send text messages or alerts about bird sightings from their personal accounts often but they did today.  About 8:00 AM, they sent out a text about a Painted Bunting flying over a field in West Cape May.  I didn't pay it much attention since it was flying over a field and probably headed south somewhere.  Then another text came in stating that the bird, an adult male, was seen at a feeder at Hidden Valley Ranch so I succumbed and headed over. 

Well, it turns out that the bird was at Marleen and Sheila's feeder!  Of course, it was gone by the time that I got there.  A NJ Audubon volunteer was there keeping watch for the bird.  We stood there for 45 minutes.  No bird.  I finally gave up because I had to go to the bathroom so I went to the pizza place to get a slice, the mandatory Diet Coke and the restroom.  I went back and was told those words that you never want to hear - "you just missed it. He was just here a minute ago".  Of course.  So I stood there for another 45 minutes.  No bird.  I finally gave up again and went back to the house to pack up.  Then I got another text message - 'PABU still at Marleen and Sheila's feeder'.  Crap.  So I went back.

This time, I was rewarded by the most colorful bird in America.  The male Painted Bunting. 

Now, I know that this isn't the best photo of a Painted Bunting, but the bird was backlit by bright afternoon sun and didn't pose like this for long.  But you should be able to see how colorful this bird is.  He has a bright green back, red breast and bright blue head.  It's like a kid's coloring book bonanza.  Here is another photo of the bird after he flew under Marleen and Sheila's butterfly bush. You can see how blue the head is here.

You would think that a bird that is this gaudily colored would be EASY to find.  Not so.  Just to give you an idea of what I was looking at when I took the photo above, here is the scene zoomed out. 

Look really hard, the bird is in there. Click on the image to enlarge it, then zoom some more, then look really hard again.  The bird is dead center of the photo.
Anyway, that is a long-winded way of saying that it wasn't easy but definitely rewarding.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

All Work and No (OK, a little) Play

I thought I had this all planned out.  I got a contract to support 10 arts organizations in South Jersey this fall.  So naturally, I thought it would give me ample time to go birdwatching before and after meetings, and keep an eye on the Green House construction project.  As you can see by my lack of posts - that isn't happening. 

Yes, I have been birdwatching. But not like I thought I would.  It's more like walking the dog with binoculars then rushing off to meetings all day.  I have been walking the dog at Cox Hall Creek WMA which was formerly called Villas WMA, and before that it was a golf course.  It is a good place for birds and regularly has Red-headed Woodpeckers.  This youngster has been seen for a few weeks now and it looks like he/she will be staying at CHC for awhile since I watched the bird caching acorns in tree trunks.  This habit reminds me alot of the Acorn Woodpecker from out west. Notice that this bird doesn't really have a red head but there are a few red feathers coming through.

Roxy and I also had a laugh while watching this Sharp-shinned Hawk dive bomb and harass a murder of crows.  The hawk is about half the size of the crow but that didn't stop him.  "Are you a chicken?  'cause I'm a chicken hawk."

Finally, CHC is chock full of sparrows and bluebirds.  Here are a couple of sparrow photos.  The first shows a Field Sparrow which are really pretty little birds.  The second photo shows what I think is a Lincoln's sparrow in the foreground and the Field Sparrow in the background.

Happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully I will have time to do some birdwatching this weekend (before or after sanding the floors)

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Youngster is Trying

Barbara got this amazing video of a Sharp-shinned hawk running around Penn's campus trying to catch a squirrel. 

Poor guy never got the squirrel.  On top of that, he endured the indignity of having the squirrel mock him by sitting on the same branch in the tree!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

End of the Season

Well, its looking more like the end of the summer considering that we had SNOW on Saturday and the Brown Booby finally left Wildwood yesterday.  Yes, SNOW and yes, the Brown Booby left.  The great thing about the snow is that it melted by the next day. 

The great thing about the Booby is that she really left - not just disappeared.  And not only did she leave on her own accord (I guess the channel marker got slippery with all of that snow and frost on it), but she flew past the tour boat that has been taking hundreds of people out to see her for the past few months on her way out of the sound and gave everyone one last view on her way to open ocean.  A fitting ending to a terrific few months.  Check out the post on NJBirds for more details about the departure written by Sam Galick. 

As a recap, here is my best photo of the bird taken from our whale watching trip in August and the link to my blog post from that day cleverly entitled "Now, About that Booby . . . "

Our Southern Friend for the Summer - Female Brown Booby

Now onto winter birds and hopefully a replacement rarity.  Maybe another Ivory Gull?  Who knows, but that is what keeps us interested until spring!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Photo on Another Blog

One of my photos made the Cape May Bird Observatory blog this week.  Scroll down to Tuesday Oct 25th:

OK, so it’s not a bird, but it’s still one of my photos!

Oh, did I mention that the weathermen predict 5 - 7 inches of SNOW tomorrow?  Oy vay.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It Looks Just Like the Stuffed One!

If I heard that once, I heard that a hundred times today.  What a difference binoculars make.  Today, Deb, Jay and Brendan joined us at Higbee beach for an incredible day of birding.  We loaned Deb and Jay some good binoculars and viola, we couldn't stop them from looking at birds.  Exclamations such as "wow, look how RED they are regarding Robins, and "it looks just like Brendan's stuffed one" regarding Downy Woodpecker and other birds just kept pouring out of Deb's mouth - really loudly.  So loud that she had the rest of the birders were quite amused.

There were thousands (yes, thousands) of Yellow-rumped Warblers today.  They were literally everywhere.  In the sky. In the trees. On the ground.  In the bushes.  Everywhere.  Along with Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets.

The newly hooked birders also saw birds that were completely new to them such as this very tame Yellow-billed Cuckoo:

He even landed on the path in front of us which I have never seen a cuckoo do:

And this Blackpoll Warbler that made a meal out of the Porcelainberry to the enjoyment of the new birders:

We saw 2 immature Bald Eagles over the fields today but still no good photo:

Lastly, there were Brown Creepers today (alive):

I wish that Deb's photos were ready for the blog post. They are really great!  Maybe next time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Joy Turns to Sadness

Just moments after the last posting, I took Roxy outside for a walk around the building and found this Brown Creeper lying on the sidewalk.  I could have cried.  Another victim of collision with building or car during migration.  The Brown Creeper is a great little bird to see in fall and winter around our area as they creep up the tree trunks picking the bark for bugs.  Their tails are stiff like woodpeckers to hold them upright on the tree trunk.  Now his whole body is stiff :-(   Here is a link to to learn more about these birds.

This little guy just didn't make it. . . Sorry for the downer.  A proper burial will be held tonight in my yard with wake tomorrow night at Cherry Street Tavern.


For the first time in awhile, I am really excited to be sitting in my office in Center City Philadelphia.  Don't get me wrong, I would rather be out birding somewhere, but I have to pay the bills somehow!  The reason that I am excited is because I stumbled upon an idea to add wall art to my office using big artwork.  I then stumbled upon after a quick Google search.  The result is that I now look up from my desk and see this:

It's 6 foot wide by 3 foot high which is what I needed to fill that awful, blank, white wall.  What makes this vinyl banner so great for me is that I took the photo!  Every time I look up from my desk, I am reminded of the day that I got to spend with the Black Skimmers on Cape May's beach (read the post here) and it makes me smile. 

I should tell you that the sales support at Megaprint was great.  I emailed Alex back and forth a few times asking about wallpaper, which was my original idea.  He suggested the vinyl which is a better option for my office.  He also reviewed the quality of the photo and suggested the 6' x 3' size to fit the resolution of the photo.

Gotta go take a phone call from another client but don't worry - I have something nice to look at until I can get outside again.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Yellow-rumps Abound

The winds and weather were not that great for migration this weekend. Kind of a bust for the hawk watchers and the Big Sit birders at Cape May Point. Sunday morning at Higbee proved to be really quiet. We did manage to see our first Towhees of the season and a nice Nashville warbler, but really nothing else. We were home by 9 AM.

Monday morning was a bit different. I started out at the canal and immediately noticed dozens of birds flying north overhead - chipping all the while. Some landed briefly before taking off northbound again. Ruby and Golden Crowned Kinglets were mixed in with the Yellow-rumped Warblers. It soon became apparent that the dozens were turning into hundreds as they never stopped flowing overhead. Yellow-rumps were all over the place but mostly in the air. Tom Johnson is the official counter for the Morning Flight. He recorded 2000+ Yellow-rumps before 10 AM so you can imagine how many flew north, past Higbee throughout the day. Coincidentally, the Villas is north of the Morning Flight location . . .

I was in Cape May on Monday for work, not pleasure (wink, wink). I finally left the house at 4 PM after meeting with a client and doing some more work on the computer.  I was all set to do a quick walk on the beach with the dog and then head home but I never made it to the beach.  I was inundated with warblers and kinglets as soon as I stepped into the yard.  Yellow-rumps were literally everywhere flitting from every tree and bush in our yard and our neighbors' yards. They used any and every perch they could find to launch themselves into the air to catch bugs.  Here are some photos which don't even include the Black-throated Green Warbler and the Kinglets.

Yellow-rumped Warber sitting in our yard

Different Yellow-rump, same yard

Yellow-rump sitting on our dilapidated fence

Yellow-rump sitting on the driver's door of the Subaru!

Yellow-rump chowing down on a bug

These are all presumably different birds.  There were at least 20 at any given moment in our yard.  How is that for Yellow-rump overkill?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Our favorite AZ Birds

I'll bore you with pics of our favorite Arizona Birds. We were golfing at Gold Canyon Golf Resort today, and we're on the tee box, which is elevated. As were standing there, this guy peeks his head over.

You gotta love the roadrunner.

and here is Gambel's Quail.

and last but not least, the cactus wren.
That was today, yesterday we went to the Riparian Preserve at Gilbert Water Ranch. A fantastic park, lots of birds, nice trails, restrooms, water fountains. and some warblers. Taking pictures of warblers is probably the hardest shot to get. They're in constant motion, jumping from branch to branch so quick, you immediately lose your focus, lose the bird, you get the point. So I took almost 30 pictures of wilson's warbler and black-throated gray. We get home that night and it's like playing "Where's Waldo.". Tara is leaning over my shoulder, asking where the bird is in 99.9% of the pictures. As follows:

Where's Wilson? Finally, after slogging thru all my pics, one decent one, not great, but decent.

So that's the report from Scottsdale.

Lori and Tara

Monday, October 3, 2011

Arizona, the land of no rain

Tara and I are out in Scottsdale this week for golf and birding. Sunday we visited We-Ko-Pa Golf Club. Saw some typical AZ birds, cactus wren, roadrunner (tara's fav), Verdin. Best spot was a bobcat on one of the par 3 holes. We've never seen one in the wild, very cool. Back at the hotel after dinner, we're walking out of the lobby and hear parrots. What? Yes, parrots. Rosy-faced Lovebirds evidently are colonizing the Phoenix area. There were about 4 of them, I'll try and get some pics, was too dark at 6:30pm.

Monday we went to Granite Reef Recreation Area, saw about 34 species. Tons of yellow-rumps, the "audubon" variety. Believe it or not, I actually got a picture, and I think it's somewhat in focus, which is a minor miracle(click it.) Other highlights: Says Phoebe, Lincoln Sparrow, White-crowned sparrow. I'm gonna publish this now cause Tara is gonna kill me, I keep previewing this post and can't find my way back .


The Philadelphia E-A-G-L-E-S blew a 17 point lead and lost to the 49ers yesterday in really bad form but the real Eagles - the Bald type really put on a show over the weekend. I personally had a "touchdown" (6 eagles at Higbee beach) and "extra point" (1 more eagle soaring over RT 55 on my way home) on Sunday.  I saw 4 eagles in the sky at the same time which I have not seen since I was in Seattle 5 years ago.  Here are some photos - not as good as the warbler photos from the last post.

Juvenile Bald Eagle
(click to enlarge)
Notice that this bird does not have the white head and tail but it has that giant beak!  Also notice how the wings are held straight across when soaring which is a good way to tell that it is an eagle and not a vulture.  Vultures hold their wings up in the air forming a "V" which makes it easy to remember - V is for Vulture (not Vodka!)

Here is a series of photos showing an adult Bald Eagle harassing an Osprey to drop it's fish.  The Osprey eventually dropped the fish but the Eagle never got it.  The fish is laying somewhere in the marsh. The photos are really far away but I think you get the gist of it.

Check out CMBO's View from the Cape to read another account of eagles this weekend and see Tony Leukering's photo of an adult Bald Eagle that passed close to the lighthouse.