Thursday, December 29, 2016

Christmas Bird Count(s) 2016

The annual Christmas Bird Count is a time honored tradition. I've been doing it one for the past few years. My territory is Pennypack park near the Environmental Center. I dutifully cover this territory year after year come rain or shine, warm or freezing cold. This year was of the rainy and cold variety. Needless to say, the day was pretty shitty. No birds. Cold  and wet. Peanut didn't even really have a good time. She was happy to call it quits by 1 PM. That was Saturday Dec 17th. The only photo that I managed was this miserable Cooper's Hawk.

Cooper's Hawk
Sunday was a totally different day. I offered to help Paul Guris cover his CBC area in Cape May and we had a much better day. Not only did we have better weather, but you can imagine that we had better birds too due to the habitat. We cover an area called Two Mile which is north of the Cape May inlet. It has beach and sea viewing, the inlet, marshes and also extends into Wildwood Crest. Peanut has a great day running the beach.

Here are a few Ruddy Turnstones that Peanut ran right past.

Ruddy Turnstones
We also found a these Conch shells washed up on the beach. I think they are really called Welks but whatever.

Welk Shells
Over in the marsh behind the Two Mile Restaurant, we found this very confiding Western Sandpiper. This bird sat still while we all took photographs. It didn't even fly away when Peanut ran past. I kind of felt bad for the bird - all alone on the marsh. It seemed out of sorts. I took a bajillion photos. This is the best one given the overcast lighting and rubble where the bird seemed most comfortable.

Western Sandpiper
We cruised through Wildwood Crest counting neighborhood birds along the way. Pigeons, Starlings, Mourning Doves and House Sparrows. Wait. Did that House Sparrow have yellow on it? Turn around. Let's give it another look. Sure enough, Andy and Paul had spotted a Dickcissel among the flock of House Sparrows at a feeder while driving 30 MPH down New Jersey Ave. Wow. These guys are good. Look at the subtle difference between the House Sparrow in the foreground and the Dickcissel sitting up on the bush.

Dickcissel and House Sparrow
The Dickcissel was the only one of it's species to be seen on the Cape May CBC. Sunday was like payback for my effort on Saturday. Yay.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Harvey's Hummer

Sometimes, hard work pays off. Harvey has spent a few years making his garden hospitable for butterflies and hummingbirds. He has Ruby-throated hummingbirds in his yard all summer. Sometimes a dozen or more are flying around until the end of September. Then, they all leave for the winter not to return until April. The yard seems empty after all of that activity. Until November 1st when a hummer flew around the yard. Harvey was elated to have a procrastinator for a few more days.

Hummers that show up on the east coast in November are generally not Ruby-throated. They are often western species that made a wrong turn and headed east rather than south. This is the case with Harvey's hummer. Problem is, nobody knows what species it is. Harvey has his ideas. He has invited experts to the house for their opinion. He has sent photos to expert hummingbird banders. Nobody can ID the bird. I finally had time to visit the yard on November 27th. Here is the hummer sitting in the butterfly bush.

It is now Christmas Eve and the little hummer is still in the yard. Harvey has a whole feeder thing erected on the porch. The feeders are hung on a ladder with a light bulb shining to keep the sugar water from freezing.

The hummer is having a ball. He/she sits on the ladder and has it's own food, shelter and adoring fans right there. We hope that he/she survives the winter so that we can see if the bird gets shiny feathers that may give us a clue to the identity.  He/she is in good hands.