Monday, January 3, 2011

Let the Big January Begin

American Coot
When the temperature drops a little extra motivation is often required to get outside and the Big January is just the ticket.  You can compete against others or just focus on your own list and try to find as many species within the state during the month of January.  It had actually slipped my mind until I saw a post from the 'organizer' on the local bird listserv.  So, on Sunday I made it a point to get outside and start my list for real.  I remembered a few birds I had seen while out doing errands on the first and put those down and then headed to the shore in Stratford.

My first stops were at Frash Pond and then the warehouse pond near part of the national wildlife refuge.  A few ducks were in the water (low tide so there wasn't a lot of water at the warehouse).  Once at the warehouse pond, I walked toward the edge habitat and found a couple little passerines.  Then I turned to walk back toward my car and had a hawk flying right over me, we seemed to see each other at the same time and as it veered around me, it turned out to be a juvenile Northern Harrier!

Next stop was Long Beach, the ducks that were present were far out but a couple of nice birders let me take a peek through their scope at the Common Goldeneye through the fog.  As I turned to look at the Song Sparrows across the parking lot a couple of birds in the air caught my eye, nope not a gull, TWO male Northern Harriers!!  Seeing a single gray ghost is exciting but two together is amazing.  I watched them fly over the Great Marsh, where one landed, possibly on lunch!

Long-tailed Duck
Long-tailed Duck
Without a scope stopping at Cove Place with the huge raft of ducks seemed like a waste of time so instead I headed over to Stratford Point.  Battling rain and fog I looked at the ducks near the point, and quickly saw a HUGE group of American Wigeons.  I would estimate there was over 100 birds, although with binoculars, I had to say they were only Americans.  Also, A few Long-tailed Ducks floated by farther out.  When I had driven into the lot I noticed this group of birds sitting on the wire, I assumed they were House Sparrows and didn't check them out.  I did take a look on the way out and watched as they flew to the ground....
Snow Buntings!!!

Short Beach was next on the list and I was rewarded with a small group of Horned Larks, that I followed out onto the beach.  A decent number of Gadwall were hanging out and one Coopers Hawk flew over as well.  Activity wasn't too great, the sun was dropping and I decided to head over to the Birdseye Boat Launch and look for the American Coot.  I found a group of around ten all walking around the boat launch itself.  Stopping to update my list on the way out I pulled over on the side of the road and a group of birds drew me out of the car again, a Hairy Woodpecker and a Downy Woodpecker working on one tree!  Altogether a two-day total of 43 species!!  Well on my way to beating the 71 I had last year (first real year of birding) and the 90 species minimum to submit my birds to the 'official' competition.  Wish me luck!
How many Horned Larks can you see?

Above picture zoomed in on a few.