Monday, May 27, 2013

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

We got to see a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher in Cape May a few weeks ago, but didn't have our binoculars or camera with us.  A really nice guy lent us his binoculars so that we could see the bird - which I needed for the stupid contest so I could at least count it.  That was a few weeks ago.  As luck would have it - another (or the same) bird was spotted yesterday at Higbee beach so we went down to see it - this time with our gear.  What a show!  This bird flitted around the field as if he was all alone.  Here are some photos. It's a pretty handsome bird.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
 You can really see the scissor tail when the birds flies. 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
 Here is a shot showing how close the birders were to the bird and it didn't seem to care at all.

Another pretty good photo showing the beautiful salmon belly and scissor tail. The bird was gone this morning. I hope it gets back to Texas safely.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

Friday, May 24, 2013

Bad Weather, Mediocre Birding Skill, Good Birds

Lori and I spent the day up north seeking out a few birds that I need for the Big Year contest.  We drove up to Milford PA last night and spent the night at the Myer Motel cabin.  Milford PA is just across the river from New Jersey and just across the state line from New York.  It's up there.  It's a cute little town which I highly recommend for a weekend.  We didn't stay long - arrived at 9::30 PM and left at 4:45 AM.

We started the day at Old Mine Road on the Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap.  This road is "legendary" for birding in NJ.  It runs about 20 miles along the river through state and and national park which is really terrific. We started at the southern end and drove very slowly with the windows rolled down listening for warblers.  Our target bird was Cerulean Warbler which is pretty rare and only found in woods along rivers. I need this bird for the stupid contest and Lori has never seen one which means that it would be a "Life Bird" for her.

We stopped along the road every few hundred yards and listened for the call. We heard all types of birds including Wood Thrushes and Veeries, and many types of warblers including Louisiana Waterthrush and Redstarts, but no Cerulean.  I heard a really weird song while driving slowly along the road which we stopped to investigate.  Being the awesome birder that I am - I couldn't figure out the song and finally saw the bird which I chalked up to a Blackpoll warbler. Then Lori said "Um . . . Lin . . . this bird is blue. Blackpolls aren't blue are they?"  Of course not. Blackpolls are BLACK - hence the name. Ceruleans are blue - hence the name.  Bingo, we got the bird.  Here is a terrible photo. I also have a video which does not show the bird since I can't figure out how to aim the camera while taking video.  

Cerulean Warbler - singing
You can't really see the beautiful color of this bird in the photo.  That's because of the weather which time traveled from late October or November - cold (45 degrees), drizzly and foggy.  The fog only got better after the 25 mile per hour winds kicked up around noon. Good grief.  I can't catch a break this year. It's May 24th for christsake and I'm wearing a winter coat.  But I am looking at a Cerulean warbler which makes everything a little better

We saw a ton of birds including some other Life Birds for Lori.  I'll post the rest of the day later.

Monday, May 20, 2013


I have a backlog of stories and photos to share with you.  Just been too busy to process them all and post. Here are a few photos that I managed to capture despite the weather lately.  The first is a Prothonotary warbler - a bird that loves to be near wet woods.  A beautiful deep yellow warbler with black wings.  This one happened to perch directly over my head and look down at me.

Prothonotary Warbler
 This next one is a Chestnut-sided Warbler - as if that was the only distinguishing mark on the bird.  How about yellow-capped?  Again, this bird flitted around really close to me.

Chestnut-sided Warbler
 This one is Prairie Warbler - a bird with a terrific song that you can hear from long distances. It also happens to be really handsome too.

Prairie Warbler
 Here is a female Summer Tanager. Not stunning but a treat nonetheless.

Summer Tanager
Lastly, male Rose-breasted Grosbeak - with an actual rose breast.  This poor guy only has one eye. I hope he gets by with only one eye.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
I wish I had more photos to share with you but some of the birds that we've encountered this spring have not been willing to pose for me.  Some of them have only been identified by sound - like Hooded warbler and Kentucky warbler.  Next post will be shorebirds.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


I know that I have used the word "FINALLY" in a few posts this year, but really - FINALLY!  This week has been pretty birdy.  Here is my list from this morning. No photos yet, but I wanted to get this posted in case you didn't realize that you should be out birding this week :-)  Get thee out of doors.

John Heinz NWR--impoundment (Philadelphia Co.), Philadelphia, US-PA May 16, 2013 7:00 AM - 8:15 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 mile(s)
Comments:     warblermania
37 species

Wood Duck  2
Cooper's Hawk  1
Chimney Swift  3
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Eastern Wood-Pewee  1
Acadian Flycatcher  1
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  2
Warbling Vireo  2
Barn Swallow  2
Carolina Chickadee  1
House Wren  1
Carolina Wren  2
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3
Veery  1
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  5
Gray Catbird  8
Ovenbird  3
Blue-winged Warbler  1
Black-and-white Warbler  4
Nashville Warbler  1
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  9
Northern Parula  3
Magnolia Warbler  4
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  7
Chestnut-sided Warbler  2
Blackpoll Warbler  8
Black-throated Blue Warbler  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  6
Canada Warbler  2     2 birds seen chasing each other and then perched in separate trees.  amazing
Scarlet Tanager  1
Northern Cardinal  1
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Baltimore Oriole  2

Sunday, May 12, 2013

World Series of Birding - 2013

This is our 3rd year doing the World Series of Birding (WSB) - the one day contest to see as many bird species as possible in New Jersey in order to raise money for conservation charity. 

I spent a few days scouting for the Big Day with my team plus with the DVOC Loons. Friday was awesome! We saw a ton of birds including 5 "life birds" like Red Phalarope and Gray-cheeked Thrush plus a dozen warblers and other "First of Year" birds too. We also helped the Loons stake out a Barn Owl. 

Scouting at Higbee

We were all set to top last year's total of 144 birds. We went to bed early in anticipation of starting our big day at 2:30 AM.  Imagine how disappointed we were when it started to rain just as we left.

Early morning
You would assume that we would improve our total each year. You know, learn something new that would help us see more birds or improve our route through Cape May county or pin down locations of some of the birds that we should "get".  Unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn't care about the preparation and knowledge that we have accumulated over the past 3 years.  The one thing that we didn't really have a plan for was rain.  We planned for mosquitoes by taping screens to the car windows.  We didn't plan on having to drive through knee deep puddles to retrieve the screen after it was pulled off the car by an attack sticker bush.

Screen retrieval
 We planned to use our iPhones to look up info on birds and directions to locations.  We didn't plan to use them to look up Doppler.  We didn't plan on wearing rain gear and having to find birds through downpours.  This is one shot of our day.  The blue dot is us, the green is rain. The yellow is heavy rain. The red is severe rain. . .

There were a few breaks in the weather.

Nerds and dogs birding Cox Hall Creek
 But then the rain started again and chased us back to the car for cover. We even had to wait for the rain to slow down to dash to the bathroom at the Visitor Center.

Binoculars are no use in torrential rain
 If it seems like I'm complaining - it's because I am. We do this for our personal fun and also to help raise money for conservation charities.  Having higher total birds theoretically means more funds raised, but also means that we are getting better at this stuff. 

We ended the day as it began - in the dark with threatening skies and rain.  We ended with 3 new birds at the Meadows - Woodcock, Virginia Rail and Green-winged Teal which brought the total for the day to 136 which is 6 fewer than last year but 36 more that I thought we would get while sitting in the car waiting out the rain. 

Clouds over the Meadows at dusk
We should have had more birds this year.  We should have done better.  We did have a lot of laughs despite the rain. We will do better next year.  I hope you pledge something.  Let me know if you want to contribute something to NJ Audubon or DVOC youth.

Friday, May 10, 2013


We FINALLY had a great spring migration day today. I have been in Cape May all week scouting for World Series - which is tomorrow - and seeing a big fat nothing.  Today, we spent almost 4 hours at Higbee beach ooohing and aaahing over warblers and other migrating birds. Here are a few photos for you.  We are off to scout other birds now.  I hope you will pledge to contribute to our fundraiser.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Indigo Bunting

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Scarlet Tanager

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Holding Pattern

I am struggling to find something new to tell you since my last post but migration has been eerily quiet.  I've been to several birding "hotspots" over the past week and have not seen many new birds arriving from the south.  Warblers, vireos, thrushes and flycatchers should be dribbling in and gaining in numbers, shorebirds should be arriving daily by now.  It's May for pete sake. We are having gorgeously beautiful days with bright blue skies and light winds - but no birds. All of the other birders that post on email and blogs are complaining of the same thing so at least I know that I'm not just missing them somehow.

Here are 2 photos to hold you over until they start showing up. 

Barn Swallow

Orchard Oriole
I hope they arrive next week while Connie and I are at the shore all week.