Sunday, December 30, 2012

Hangin' on the Corner

I don't now if you had this experience as a teenager, but when I was one (many many years ago), we "hung on the corner" in Philly.  That is what we did. We left the house and went to the corner to hang out with friends and get in trouble doing stupid teenaged things like smoking cigarettes or trying to get someone's older brother to get us some beer.  Dumb waste of time when I think about it now - I could have been birding!

This weekend, I reminisced about hangin' on the corner and actually did it again.  This time, I wasn't in Philly. On Saturday, it was just me and Roxy trying to be cool standing on the corner in the rain. Sunday, I was joined by a guy from up north looking for his 300th bird of the year and Kate, another Philly birder that I know, (check out her blog -, and 30+ MPH wind. We all hung on the corner today - no smokes and no beer. Just a "gang" with binoculars.  We stood there and stood there. Truth be told, it was so windy that I spent alot of time sitting in the car staring at the corner.

The bird that we were waiting for finally showed up about 10:30 today and gave us a nice show.  This bird is a Western Tanager which is a bird of western North America. It rarely comes east of the Rocky Mountains. This bird has been hanging on the same corner in Cape May Court House for a few weeks now but I haven't been down to see it yet.  Boy, I'm glad I made time for it this weekend. The Western Tanager is a ray of sunshine in the middle of gray winter.  Look at this guy.

Male Western Tanager
I also reminisced this weekend about the first time I saw a Western Tanager. We were hiking along a ridge in Yellowstone National Park 20 years ago. Connie and Di forged ahead. I was lagging slightly behind. Nonna, was lagging even further behind. Suddenly, Nonna starts yelling - "Lin, Lin, Lin, come look at this, come look at this, come look at this bird!" I went back and saw one of those.  My jaw dropped. Awesome.

Thanks Nonna for making me turn back 20 years ago. And Thanks to Kate and Alan for hangin' on the corner with me today.

Male Western Tanager
P.S. - notice how the bird's feathers are blowing in both photos? That is how windy it was today.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Company, Christmas and Flu oh my

Three reasons for the absence of the blog posts:
  1. My Mom and Dave came up from Florida for Christmas
  2. They stayed with us and we hosted Christmas
  3. The rest of the company left at 9 PM and I promptly went to bed at 10 PM with the flu. Never got back out of bed until 6 PM the next night.

I'm at the shore this weekend weathering the rain and wind closing up the Green House for the winter.  I spent some time looking for rarities but didn't get any. I did manage to get a show from these Long Tailed Ducks.  All photos were taken from the Tuna packing plant along Ocean Drive in light to moderate rain so they are not as bright as they could be on a sunny day.  That doesn't matter as much with these ducks since their color is really stunning in black, white and taupe in any lighting condition. 

Male Long-tailed Duck - coming in for a landing
They used to be known as Old Squaws, but Long-tail makes more sense.  This next photo shows why.

Male Long-tailed Duck
 Here is the female.  Drab little gal huh?

Female Long-tailed Duck
 Here are 2 males that are courting her. The one with the shorter tail on the right is actually her man.  The other guy is trying to woo her away from him.

Long-tailed Ducks

He will have none of it! He chased that longer tailed dude right out of there. You can see him squawking through the splash if you zoom in. 

Long--tailed Ducks

I also got to here them quacking at each other in the bay today. They have a weird quack.  Here is a link to the Macauley Library sound.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Christmas Bird Count 2012

I participated in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for Philadelphia on Saturday morning. The guy who runs it for Pennypack Park asked me to cover a section that I know pretty well between Veree and Pine Rds.  We met at the Environmental Center at 7 AM for coffee and donuts (and a few Milkbones for Roxy too).  Brian asked if I would take a new birder along with me which was fine with me.  The new birder showed up with new binoculars and was raring to go - but not with me.  She wanted to go all day and go to a section that had more ground to cover and more birds and . . . well, she wanted to go with people she knew.  Oh well, Roxy and I had a great time anyway.  By ourselves.  Sigh.

The new birder probably saw alot of birds with her friends and new binoculars.  Roxy and I saw a good number but nothing out of the ordinary except the Winter Wren that sat up and chattered at us by the bird blind on Bloomfield Rd.  I thought it was strange that this very secretive birds was so upset by me and Roxy. Then I found out why this little guy was so upset - a Cooper's Hawk came screaming by us in hot pursuit of another little bird.  The two of them weaved in and out of tree branches.  The little bird flying for it's life and the Cooper's Hawk hoping to get a meal.  I didn't see the ending. I have no idea which bird was successful.  The Winter Wren disappeared back into the bushes without another sound.  And without being photographed.

I wandered over to the creek by the Pine Road parking area to count Mallards which was quite boring until I noticed a Wood Duck hanging around too.  Here is the female:

Female Wood Duck

Here is the male.  This is arguably one of the most stunning ducks anywhere.  These guys are flamboyant to say the least.

Male Wood Duck

These ducks figured out what the Mallards have known for years - hanging out at the parking lot gets you free handouts. I got this shot of the male and female Wood Ducks by pretending to throw food into the creek (cheating, I know).

Here is the happy couple swimming together.  There was another Wood Duck hanging around but this guy would not let it close to his gal.

Wood Ducks
There is a really great Nature program on TV right now called "An Original Duckumentary" which features the Wood Ducks as the stars of the show. I highly recommend finding it on PBS or On Demand and watching it.  The videos are stunning and story is well done.  You'll laugh and ooh and ahh for an hour.

I was treated to a nice view of a Fox Sparrow at the bird blind near the Environmental Center.  This is the best photo that I have of a Fox Sparrow ever. You can tell why they are called Fox sparrows by the color.

Fox Sparrow

There were no shortage of woodpeckers on this year's count.  I had a total of 7 Downy and 4 Hairy Woodpeckers. Here are a few shots of female Hairy Woodecker that sat on that branch for awhile sunning herself. You can tell it's a female since she has no red on the back of her head.

Female Hairy Woodpecker
I snapped this next photo just as a second Hairy Woodpecker flew through the frame.  Not in focus, but still neat. 
Hairy Woodpeckers

We also got a great look at everyone's favorite, this Pileated Woodpecker that flew in to the Environmental Center area just before I was ready to leave. Click on the photo to enlarge it. Check out the hole he is chiseling in that tree! You can tell that this is a male by the red "mustache".

Pileated Woodpecker

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Greetings from Punta Gorda, FL

Down here in PG for a few days. Glad to see the great horned owls are back on their nest in town, the eagles are on their nest at the end of Alligator Creek, and our pileated woodies seem to be hanging around a lot near that dead tree across the street from the house. There were 2 there yesterday. Tara and I went to Charotte's Preserve old datsun trail this morning for a little walk, had 19 species, not bad for this time of year. Highlights: yellow-throated warbler, sandhill cranes, blue-headed vireo, and lots of robins. And it wouldn't be florida without a load of yellow rumped warblers. That's it for now, will let you know if anything else exciting happens.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Osprey Nests

This week, I stole a few hours away from work to help erect Osprey nesting platforms in the marshes in Cape May Harbor.  There were 7 volunteers, 2 boats, 3 new nesting platforms, and 1 coordinator.  Check out the photos.  Here I am doing all of the work (NOT!) Thankfully, it wasn't that cold out for December. And thankfully, Connie and I bought these stylish clam boots many years ago in Maine.  They kept my feet nice and dry all day.

Here is the whole hard-working group.  I hardly did anything. The others dug the holes and hammered the support stakes into the ground. I mainly carried the gear back and forth to the boat while everyone else did the real work!

Here is a shot of one of the platforms.  Hopefully, a pair of Ospreys will use it next summer to raise some babies.  The platforms are all pretty visible from Ocean Drive around the Harbor View marina so I will be watching for any signs of a nest.