Sunday, February 19, 2017

Summer in February

While Diane and Barbara are sunning and funning in Puerto Rico to escape the cold weather . . . we were  also sunning and funning back home today with a high temperature of 70 degrees. Time to get out and bird! Peanut and I picked Marty up at 6:15 AM and headed to the bayshore to meet Harvey and Steve to look for some winter birds.

We didn't manage to find many birds despite being out all day. But being out all day was terrific. I only photographed a few birds including this Fox Sparrow - one of many that we saw.

Marty wanted to see the Pink-footed Goose that has been hanging around Cape May near the zoo. After a few circles around the pond, we spotted it hanging around with a bunch of Canada Geese. This is a bird of the far north. Only a few come as far south as New Jersey and even then, not every year.

Here it is swimming with his Canadian friend. Notice the size difference.

My friend Steve posted on his blog that they had a Woodcock calling in their front yard this week. Woodcocks are very early breeders and start their mating rituals in early March. I guess they can't wait to get a jump on it this year. Reading that, I decided to go to the dog park tonight to see if any Woodcocks were there. After about 40 minutes of waiting at dusk, I found one bird in the road that flew off and gave the classic "peent" call. Yay! Check out Steve's post to read about their bird and see photos.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

There's Rare, And Then There's Mega Rare

I have spent the past two weeks lamenting. You see, there is a rare gull in upstate New York. A juvenile Ross' Gull was found on Tupper Lake hanging around the ice fisherman waiting to feast on fish guts. This is a gull that is usually found in extreme arctic. People travel to the arctic and still don't see the bird. And here is one only 7 hours north. 7 hours seems easy until you can't find anyone to drive up there with you. The gull hung around for about a week and then couldn't be found. Needless to say, I didn't go to see the gull and I'm still regretting it.

Flash forward a few days. The Internet lit up on Friday with news of a Mega Rare bird being seen at bird feeders near Reading PA. Black-backed Orioles are only found in the mountains of Mexico which is nowhere close to Pennsylvania. This bird doesn't migrate. How did it get here? Who cares. I wasn't about to miss out on this one only an hour and a half away. Lori went with me. We arrived to masses of birders lining the sidewalk in this residential neighborhood. It was like a carnival atmosphere. The bird was easily seen but not close to the road. You can see it here hanging out with 2 Cardinals.

This bird is so famous that the neighbors have a guest book for people to sign. We met people from New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia. People are coming from all over to see the first recorded Black-backed Oriole in the United States. By the end of the day, 197 people saw AND recorded their visit in eBird.

The jury is still out as to whether the bird will be "countable" in official records. In order to be legitimate, the records committee must be sure about the species - no doubt about that, and the provenance of the bird - big doubt about that. How did the bird get to Pennsylvania from Mexico? If the committee suspects that the bird got here by human hands - smuggled, accidentally transported by boat, plane or truck, or escaped from a cage - then the bird will not count as a wild bird and therefore will not be accepted on anyone's life list.

So why then would 200+ birders go to see the bird? 2 reasons. First, it's a pretty, orange bird in the middle of a gray winter. Second and more important, we all have the bird "in the bank" just in case the record committee accepts the bird as a wild vagrant. Check! Only time will tell.