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!