Sunday, January 31, 2016

A Broken Ankle, Holidays, Snow, Funerals, Hockey

What do all of these things have in common? They are all deterrents to birding and thus hindering your reading list. The good news is that I think we are back on track. Connie's ankle is healing which means that she can drive herself. The holidays are over. The snow is melting. The funerals are past. Hockey continues. Birding can commence for 2016.

The first real birding that I did in 2016 was to participate in the Philadelphia Mid-winter Bird Census. This year, I had a lot of territory to cover alone. Looking for birds while keeping notes prevented photos.

Photography resumed last week in the form of shooting pictures through my open office window. The birds were very cooperative due to the 16 inches of snow which makes them rely on our bird feeders for a living. Here are a few shots from the day. First is an iconic male Cardinal in the snow.

Next is this little piggy of a Chickadee. This guy has a sunflower seed AND peanut in his mouth.

Speaking of seeds, here are some more photos of birds with seeds. All shot from the open window looking out onto the patio. A Junco in classic gray and white.

 A Song Sparrow.

Song Sparrow
 And of of many White-throated Sparrow with the diagnostic white throat and yellow eye lores.

White-throated Sparrow

As you can see, I shoveled the patio for the birds. Peanut also liked the shoveled paths since the snow was deeper than she is!

Monday, January 4, 2016

Varied Week But Not Today

This week:

  • Our location was varied - started in Florida, spent the night in Virginia, arrived home in Pennsylvania and spent the day today in New Jersey.
  • Our weather was varied - 86 degrees in Florida but only 33 degrees today. 
  • Our TV watching was even varied - we watched shows that we never heard of before in Florida like "2 Broke Girls" and "Pitbulls and Perolees" (not kidding), then football and our soap opera at home.

The only thing that wasn't varied was my luck chasing the Varied Thrush that showed up right in the Villas about a month ago and has been seen sporadically ever since. The Varied Thrush is a bird from the north and west. Of course, with everything that is going on at home (Connie's broken ankle etc) I haven't been able to go after the bird until today. And of course, with my luck you know how the chase was going to end up.

I met Harvey at 7:30 AM and headed out to Cox Hall Creek to look for the bird. Harvey has seen the bird a few times and agreed to help me find it today.  The last report of the bird stated that it was in the Holly Woods near a Bluebird box. The report said that the bird was seen hanging out with another rare bird - the Red-headed Woodpecker. We spent 2 hours freezing our hands and feet off looking. We finally found a Red-headed Woodpecker but the Thrush could not be found.

Red-headed Woodpecker
By 9:30 we needed warmth and breakfast. Harvey went home to do chores and I headed back to the park to look again. I started to feel better when I found another Red-headed Woodpecker. Again, no Varied Thrush but to my surprise, I stumbled on 4 Bobwhites scurrying up the path in front of me. I managed to snap a few shots before they scattered into the grass. They are so small and so cute. I noticed that some of the quail have white faces and some have tan/beige faces. Turns out that the birds with white faces are male and the beige faces are females. 2 of each in this covey.

I re-found one of the male birds huddled under a bush just off the path.

Still no Thrush so I went to Wawa for a Diet Coke and much needed bathroom break. Back to the park for third try. The wind was really howling all day. So much so that even this Merlin was sitting in the woods instead of on top of a snag like he usually does. Merlins are falcons and should be used to the wind, but today was too much for this guy. He really liked watching Peanut running around below him. Good thing Merlins eat birds and not mammals.

I'll cut to the chase - no Thrush. A few other birders were looking for the bird throughout the day without luck either. One guy dipped for the 7th time today. Another missed the bird for the 5th time. I don't feel that bad about not seeing this elusive bird. I hope it hangs around so that I can try to vary my luck.

Friday, January 1, 2016

What Paulie Missed

I'm down in Florida visiting the old folks this week. I dragged Connie down here with promises of mending her broken ankle poolside rather than home. 2 days drive with Peanut in the back seat and 3 days of visiting.

My mother was very anxious to take Peanut to the new dog park that Dave found near their house. The park has a "nature park" attached to it too. Dave borrowed a golf cart for me, Connie and Peanut to bomb around in. Here is Peanut on her first ride.

Golf Cart Ride
We went. Peanut was just OK with the dog park but the nature park was a hit. Late afternoon was a good time to visit. Close up views of Grackles - you can see the purple iridescence when the Florida sun hits them just right.

This female Merganser was showing off her 'doo in the pond. No males were there, so I'm not sure why she was so interested in showing off.

Female Hooded Merganser
The star of the show had to be 2 Meadowlarks in the grass at the park. They let me get really close while they hunted for bugs. This one cranked out the famous musical song right in front of me. Wow.
The pond was full of birds including American White Pelicans, Wood Storks, Egrets and Cormorants. The Pelican is in flight.
American White Pelican with Storks
Paul and Linda are my mother's neighbors. A very nice couple from New Jersey who we see each time we visit. Paulie (as we call him) sent me a newspaper article from the local Villages paper about New Year's Day birding. He wanted to go along. We never made a plan so I knocked on their door New Year's Eve - no answer. I went by the house New Year's Day - no answer. Oh well, I went birding alone (frankly, it was a joy to be by myself for an hour). Here is what Paulie missed:
First bird of 2016 - Eurasian Collared Dove
Eurasian Collared Dove
 Loggerhead Shrike calling from a tree along one of the many golf courses near the house.

Loggerhead Shrike
 A gang of Ibis (or is that Ibi ? ) hunting the golf course edge.

White Ibis
Best bird of the day - this American Bittern in the marsh.

American Bittern
Blue-gray Gnatcatchers love Florida. They are in every other tree along with Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
This Osprey was poised to fish in the mist of the morning. Connie saw him/her catch a fish later in the day.

The Villages are known for having very tame Sandhill Cranes that walk around the golf courses. They are so tame that the golfers have to shoo them off of the putting greens. They don't even move when a ball plops down near them. As tame as they are, they didn't like Peanut. Here are 3 of them squawking in unison as we walked past them.

Sandhill Cranes - upset with Peanut
Once Peanut was in the car, the alert was over and the Cranes allowed more photos. Clam as cucumbers.

Sandhill Cranes
All in all, day one of 2016 was a hit. Easy birding racked up 38 species plus I got to swim and a home made pork and sauerkraut dinner.  Too bad for Paulie. I hope he gets out birding soon.