Tuesday, December 28, 2010

40 Mourning Doves and What Do You Get

Sharp-shinned Hawk
The post-blizzard birds at the feeder this morning was pretty consistent species-wise.  The numbers were slightly higher than normal however with a total of 40 Mourning Doves (usually only 12 are feeding) making an appearance.  Those pesky House Sparrow had brought some friends as well totalling another 50 birds.  After scaring away most of the birds while I did some additional shovelling the first birds to come back were a group of 5 Dark-eyed Juncos.  All the action brought a curious Red-bellied Woodpecker in to the suet, a visitor who hasn't been here in a couple of weeks, along with the one White-breasted Nuthatch who has been missing for about a week. 

Sharp-shinned Hawk- close up
I came back in to the house to warm up and peaking out into the backyard the neighborhood Northern Mockingbird stopped in to eat some sad looking Pokeweed berries that are still hanging on.  A peak back out the front window had me stopping quickly in my tracks and grabbing the camera.  This little visitor had come in looking for those Mourning Doves.  The hawk appeared to have been unsuccessful as it flew back toward the feeder and then off across the street a few minutes later.  The feeder are now silent.

Stratford/Milford CBC 2010 aka. the blizzard

I headed out with Chris L. to tackle the north part of Stratford on Sunday morning for the Straford Milford Christmas Bird Count.  We had a very quiet day, not even able to break 40 species.  We started the day with decent weather with a few random snow showers before the weather totally degraded into solid snowfall with poor visibility. 

The highlight of the day for me was a Common Redpoll feeding on catkins of a few birch trees at Wooster Park.  The bird (a lifer for me) was giving some great views as it even flew down to the water to grab a drink with some Am Goldfinch.  I tried stopping by for a picture on my way home in the snow but couldn't relocate the bird. 

A stop at the community gardens didn't produce the Monk Parakeets we were looking for but we did find an odd looking Canada Goose.  Sibley mentions in his Guide to Birds that variation in the white cheek pattern is normal, although this one goose few found also had short neck in comparison to the others around it. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Half Way Point

It's not even officially Christmas yet and I'm half way through my Christmas Bird Counts.  As I've been doing for the past 12 or 13 years, I spent this past weekend out in the woods, fields, and roadsides with my friends fellow birders.  Frank Gallo, from the Milford Point Connecticut Audubon Center was once again leading our usual suspects in search of those elusive and not so elusive birds.  The New Haven circle took place on Saturday, Dec 18th and the Oxford circle was the next day on the 19th. 

Saturday morning my alarm went off at 2:30am to grab my gear, find the warmest clothes I own, and hit the road.  I know it looks like that's probably a typo.... maybe she meant 6:30 you might say to yourself.  But no, we did in fact meet up at 3:30 am to make a circuit of our search area looking for owls.  Crazy?  Maybe.  Fulfilling?  Absolutely.  How can getting out of the car at the first stop, playing the tape for two seconds, and having TWO Eastern Screech Owls fly at Frank's head not be fulfilling?  They even sat up to give us great looks at them and as a bonus one was the gray phase and the other the red phase.  In total, we rounded up 10 Eastern Screech Owls and 1 Great Horned Owl who responded to the Long Eared Owl calls Frank was generating.

With frozen hands and toes, Frank, Vanessa, and myself headed over to DnD's to meet up for the dump run.  5 of us went up on the dump and 6 of us came back down.  It's amazing what people will throw away.  We had already gotten the Horned Larks and Snow Buntings that we were aiming for and Julian came up with the American Pipit too.  An added bonus was a Green-winged Teal tucked into one of the streams in the marshy areas. 

The rest of the day was running around town with birders coming and going throughout the day just like the birds we were trying to find.  Mike Carpenter was again our diligent records keeper allowing the rest of us time to run around wherever we wanted without that extra burden.  Highlights of the day included a 2nd year Bald Eagle, Hermit Thrush, and a decent group of Bluebirds. 

Sunday dawned at a later hour, and we leisurely met at 8 am to begin the Oxford Count.  Our search area is right along the Housatonic River and we finish off at Schreibers Farm.  It's amazing habitats and we go through them all.  Our total for the day ended up at 52 species, which is pretty consistent with most years.  One stop along mature Oaks that line the river yielded a nice group of Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, Dark-eyed Juncos, White-breasted Nuthatch, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and making a special appearance, a Brown Creeper. 

The farm, as usual, found something to keep us occupied.  Large groups of sparrows, White-throated, Tree, Song, Juncos and Cardinals, and Blue Jays kept us searching for the one rare species.  Only to be outdone by a flock of approximately 500 blackbirds that kept moving to different spots.  Our final numbers for the group were 481 Common Grackles, 10 Red-winged Blackbirds, 8 Brown-headed Cowbirds, and one separate Rusty Blackbird.  If they would have let us any closer to them, who knows.... maybe there was a Brewer's in the mix....

Anyway, An amazing day spent outside without a hint of a snow flake!  A great day sharing laughs with the  boys (Frank, Jeff, and Trevor).  Almost too much fun for one weekend.... nah.

Stratford-Milford CBC is coming up next Sunday, where two of us will tackle half of Stratford.  Then, our unofficial CBC at Yale's West Campus during the week after that.  I'm available Jan 1st or 2nd if anyone needs a spare body on a count that weekend.  LOL.  Great Birding!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Around Town

While running some errands today around town I stopped at Booth Park and also the community gardens.  I quickly walked to some of the prime sparrow habitat at clearings along the perimeter of the open areas.  While diversity wasn't outstanding, the Northern Juncos were flying everywhere making some of the amazing noises only they can.  To me these 'cute' little birds have calls that sounds like they were made by a synthesizer.  Two immature hawks were looking for meals, a Red-tailed Hawk and beautiful Coopers Hawk.  Many more birds were present that one would expect to see, although the one standout species was Yellow-bellied Sapsucker working in a cherry tree. 

Yellow-rumped Warbler
The community gardens have been the source of a few good species in the past couple of months.  Today was nothing too unusual but it afforded me the chance to take a couple of nice photos.  More practice for when I get a better lens.

Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow can be superficially misidentified as Song Sparrows but you can quickly learn the differences.  The best way is to get out there and look!  Savannah Sparrow lack the spot in the chest, reddish colors are restricted to the wing, and heads and face are whiter vs. gray in Song Sparrows and that's only needed when you can't see the yellow lores.

House Finch
This bird took me a few extra minutes to identify because of its strange appearance.  It appears to have swollen eyes and possibly some missing feathers around the eye.  This female house finch is probably infected with an eye disease they are commonly known to contract.  Although, fewer and fewer birds are being found infected, it obviously still around.  Hopefully, this bird will be able to make it through the winter with this problem.  For more information on this disease and recognizing it, check out this link.  http://www.birdsource.org/gbbc/science-stories/past-stories/house-finch-disease/
Palm Warbler
Any time you can find a warbler at this time of the year is a pleasure.  At the gardens this afternoon were two Palm Warblers working around the small plots.  Altogether it was a nice little stop and I was lucky enough to find a gardener who could answer some questions about renting space for next year!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bridges to Lakes

The last two days have been a hurried run up the coast to get to Crater Lake in Oregon.  After the quick stop at Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and dinner with a former college friend, we hurriedly called the hotel to let them know we would be checking in late, only to find out that our reservation was somehow lost.  So, after two hours of frantic calls with the hotel and with hotels.com we finally got a room in Sausalito at an amazing spot all for the price of a crap hotel.  Thank you Americas Best Inns for the mess up.  We had an amazing view of the Golden Gate Bridge from our hotel room and had breakfast next to a celebrity!

Golden Gate Bridge fromthe hotel room

Also, the hotel had an amazing little field in the behind our room where an early morning hike yielded some great birds.  Western Scrub Jay, Steller’s Jay and Song Sparrows were all noisily watching an American Kestrel perched on a fence post.  White-crowned Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, California Towhee, and a new life bird, Spotted Towhee all fed in and around the shrubs.  Amazing way to start the morning.  A quick drive to the GG Bridge overlook and we found a hawkwatch in progress.  The girls manning the station didn’t seem too knowledgeable but while there, Red-tailed Hawk and Sharp-shinned Hawk flew by. 
Spotted Towhee
Gray Jay
We made the long trek up toward Crater Lake and by 10:30 we were in the park and I was birding.  I know I should go through and list everything that I saw but I’ll keep it to the minimum (aka. Good stuff).  The first stop at an overlook I took off toward a picnic area and if as on queue two Gray Jays flitted around the little clearing I was in looking to see if I had anything interesting.
Mountain Chickadee
Another stop at a higher elevation was almost over run with Red-breasted Nuthatches and another life bird, the Mountain Chickadee.  These birds were both perching in a stand of trees and flying out flycatching above the road.  It was really a fantastic sight.  Once we got rolling almost every overlook we stopped at had at least one Clarks Nutcracker looking to see what the tourists might have dropped.  The Clark’s Nutcracker isn’t a legitimate life bird but these were the first I’d seen since I started to actually bird.

Clark's Nutcracker

Golden-crowned Sparrow
Other spectacular views included Peregrine Falcons flying over the lake, two immature Northern Harriers performing some areal skirmishes, and my first Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler.  While sitting on a bench on a path down to the lakes shore I saw a sparrow pop out of a low shrub real quick and my quick glance was backed up by the photos of a Golden-crowned Sparrow.  Not a bad way to round out the day. 
Winter Wren
Crater Lake

Sunday, September 26, 2010

simple equation

golden gate park equals pygmy nuthatches.  maybe i should count lifers one of these days.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Long Drive off a Tall Cliff

Today was Pacific Coast Highway Day, maybe not a national holiday but I think that this drive up route 1 along California's coastline could garner such a recognition.  The idea was to drive close to San Francisco from Santa Barbara and we made it even with taking a few longer stops along the way.

Julia Pfeiffer State Park

While the views can speak for themselves the birds can not and neither can my pictures.  I didn't have a great bird day but I did manage to add a few species to my life list.

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

Steller's Jay- Pacific variety

Western Bluebird- female
Black Turnstone

And of course there was a mammal or two around as well.  Besides the crazy ground squirrels eating out of peoples laps, litterally.  We also saw harbor seal, elephant seal, california sea lion, and sea otter!

Juvenile Elephant Seals

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Santa Barbara

My trip out west has really barely begun and with very little effort I has added a bunch of birds I have never 'seen' before.  Of course the quotes are there to clarify that while I may have glanced at these birds in trip gone by I haven't actually been birding and tried to identify them.  The plane touched down in LA in a hazy Saturday afternoon, and we quickly headed to the water to get our first glimpse of the Pacific Ocean.  Grabbing a bite to eat on the shore  I added two life birds while munching on my first California hamburger, both Western Gull and California Gull were sitting on the beach.  But our first few days weren't for birding they were for having fun with a mouse so off to Disneyland we went.

The next day meanderingly dropped us into Santa Barbara, where I pulled up a chair in the fading afternoon sun to see what types of birds were frequenting the yard.  Amazingly, a good group of birds pushed through the yard adding to my lists (* are lifers).  Mourning Dove, House Finch, Eurasian Collared Dove, Banded-tail Pigeon*, Anna's Hummingbird*, Western Scrub Jay*, Oak Titmouse*, American Crow, European Starling, Black Phoebe*, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow Warbler, Bushtit*, Townsend's Warbler*. 


Acorn Woodpecker

The now infamous marine layer was proving an impenetrable sight along the coast and the next day encouraged us to head to the hills.  We took a quick 3 mile ride up a mountain and bumped our way to Oak Flat for a quick stop and an impressive view.  Although, the birds didn't end up panning out like I had hoped the trip was still worth it and luckily some Acorn Woodpeckers were willing to pose for the camera.

Clear skies pushed through the next morning as I met up with a local birder who was nice enough to show me some of the hotspots in the area.  Not only was the company great but the birds were pretty amazing tallying up a nice amount of life birds.  The first stop of the morning was Lake Los Carneros in Goleta.  We had a great group of birds, most likely because I left the camera in the car!  A quick loop around the park resulted in this list (*lifers): California Towhee*, California Thrasher*, Hutton's Vireo (only heard doesn't count), Bewick's Wren*, Bushtit, Orange-crowned Warbler*, Townsend's Warbler, White-tailed Kite, Red-tailed Hawk, Coopers Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, American Kestrel, Wrentit*, Oak Titmouse, American Crow, Red-winged Balckbird, Turkey Vulture, Black-crowned Night Heron, Nutmeg Mannakin*, Acorn Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Nuttall's Woodpecker*, Black Phoebe, Western Wood-Peewee*, Western Tanager*, Western Scrub Jay, Clapper Rail and Sora Rail (amazing views of both!), American Coot, Mallard Duck, Pied-billed Grebe, Double-crested Cormorant, Anna's Hummingbird, Ruddy Duck, White-faced Ibis* (flyover), and Pacific-slope Flycatcher*.  I'm sure I forgot something but I'll let the list stands for now.

Black-necked Stilt

Anna's Hummingbird

We made another couple of stops closer to the water and added a few more species.  One stop was at a salt marsh which looked NOTHING like those back home.  This area isn't tidally influenced but instead is a low area that becomes damned by sand and has a backup of brackish water.  Then when the water becomes too high the damn breaks and only the river is left.  This specific salt marsh had broken through a couple of years before and was mostly dry.  The wet areas however did hold some gems.  Black-necked Stilt*, Western Sandpiper, Long-billed Dowitcher, Killdeer, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Canada Goose, White-fronted Goose, Brant, Belted Kingfisher, Say's Phoebe*, Cassin's Kingbird*, Semi-palmated Plover, and Forster's Tern*.

Forster's Tern

Red-tailed Hawk

Other miscellaneous species I've seen while travelling to the beach or going out for a drive include; Heermann's Gull*, Northern Mockingbird, Willet, Brown Pelican, Whimbrel, Black Skimmer, Ring-billed Gull, Mute Swan (imm.), Turkey Vulture, Blue-winged Teal, and Brewer's Blackbird*.

Heermann's Gull

Ground Squirrel hanging at the beach

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Be Prepared- California Here I Come!

In just two days time I will be off on another adventure for both fun and birding. I will be heading out to the West Coast to enjoy the man-made attractions of Disneyland, the Golden Gate Bridge, and VooDoo Donuts, while making some stops at places in Santa Barbara and Crater Lake, Or. With two weeks of off time ahead I am hoping to really be able to relax and spend some quality time learning some of the birds out west.

I've already made a connection with a local birder in Santa Barbara to spend a morning with and hopefully give me a couple of other sites to visit before heading North. I've also been checking out eBird and using their maps and data section to scope out some places to maximize my time. I've hopped onto one of the local birding listservs to see what rarities are in town right now.

Although, I have been out West before it wasn't while I was interested in birding so I'm practically starting from scratch! If you have any advice for a must see stop along the way (Los Angeles to Seattle) please share it! I was originally planning on leaving the laptop at home but going through my pictures and blogging about the birds I've seen along the way really heightens the experience so look out over the next couple of weeks to see what I come across! All in all I think I'm prepared to find some great new birds for my list and you should be prepared to see them too!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Heating up and cooling down

The fact is clear, it is hot. The birds are not. I've spent more time trying to stay cool in the last few weeks than in spent out and about. I did make a stop at the Birdseye Boat Launch in Stratford, CT a couple of weeks ago, a few days after the tornado touched down in Bridgeport. Everything was calm and beautiful when I went to enjoy a few minutes in the sun reading a book. I had my binoculars and camera in tow as well and managed to catch a few images and birds bewteen chapters.

Scenic views, no twisters in sight.
The birds were few and far between with most of the species I saw shown in photos below. The few that were not caught in pixels, were the Herring Gulls hanging out in the parking lot, Mallards in the water treatment plant outflow area, and a Night Heron that flew by too far away to ID.

This male Red-wing Blackbird was feeding in the reeds.

An Osprey pretty far away.

Female House Sparrow looking for hand outs.

Double-crested Cormorant flying by.

One stop on campus of note was a casualty in the middle of the road. In my last post I had a picture of one of our fledgling Northern Flickers hopping around in a white pine. This one, possibly a nest mate, didn't have such a good time. It's amazing how oblivious people are. This little bird was run over in a 15 mph zone although no one follows that.

Northern Flicker fledling in the drive

On a more positive note, while setting up a volleyball net at work, I caught site of a fledgling robin on the ground. I scooped him up and did a quick examination. The birds seemed to have been sick, possibly poisoned, and I brought it to the Ansonia Nature Center in hopes they could rehabilitate it. I'll have to give them a call and see how it fared. Luckily, I found the bird before it could starve to death and before the heat was really upon us.

My new bird at home in the yard was a Carolina Wren that showed up for a few days to sing perched on the weather vane on a neighbors garage. He may still be around, although with the AC on, I haven't been able to hear anything. The House Wren and American Robins have all quieted down and Baltimore Orioles have flown through in the evening singing and feeding in a neighbors tree.

I'm taking the camera into work tomorrow and will hopefully have less distractions and less blaring heat. Keep tuned.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

An Odd Assortment

Ok So, I have been slacking, Oh well. Here are a few pictures from the last... month or so. Birding and such from work and beyond.

The new Purple Martin gourd houses at Milford Point Connecticut Audubon Coastal Center... House Sparrow resistant, maybe for nesting but they still like to hang out on them, even with fake martins.

Ring-billed Gull flying by at Milford Point, just a picture I like.

Green darner dragonfly. Hey I'm an entomologist, these things catch my eye.

Great Egret who flew away to hang out with the Oyster Catchers.

We have Wild Turkey every where at work. This one is in our new meadow.

Eastern Kingbirds have recently shown up at work too. I guess the meadow is bringing in insects too.

Some of the early nesters are done, here is a fledgling Northern Flicker who was hanging out with some fledgling Black-capped Chickadees next to the parking lot.

Our nesting Red-tailed Hawks are still being harassed by the Common Grackles.

So I FINALLY went to a mushroom foray with my club, the first in about 3 years. This little slug came in on a branch with some Mycena mushrooms.

A beautiful specimen of Tremella foliacea. I wish they all looked like this.

Here are the 2 tables of finds from the last Sunday foray, Frank was checking out the diversity.
So a good little mix of recent activities. I'll probably go out mushrooming again Sunday.

Woops a couple more birds. Cedar Waxwings have also shown up to feed on the fruiting trees at work. There were at least 5 at one point.

And our most recent addition to the bird list at work. Willow Flycatcher. Sue heard one the other day and so at lunch I sat outside and finally go this shot. A week later we hadn't heard it again but today, I sat by the meadow and there was one in a tree a few feet away. Of course I didn't have a camera. Oh yeah, and this was a life bird for me!