Saturday, December 19, 2009

Aspiring Ornithologist sees a MacGillivray's

Oh my--not a single post in November!

First things first--guess what? Changed my major.
Yup, after more than 3 years struggling along in RIT-NTID's American Sign Language--English Interpreting program, I finally threw in the towel. Had to admit that it's just not the career path for me. I love signing, but it comes a little slow to me--the other day I signed "year" instead of "hour" which, take my word for it, shouldn't be happening at this point. Pretty spazzy. Interpreting just isn't what I'm passionate about. Now, birds on the other hand.....

It may seem reckless and brash to base my new academic ambitions on something I've only been doing for about a year and a half, and maybe it is. But you know when you just.....know? Gotta go with the gut on this one. I can be down in the dumps like nobody's business, and if I happen to hear a nuthatch laughing a little way off, instant huge smile. Everything else fades into unimportance, momentarily falls to the bottom of the priority list. As some of my birding friends say--I've got the bug.

So, no more ASL major. Pending approval of my proposal, I'll be a Multidisciplinary Studies major. A committee has to look over the academic plan I've proposed for myself and give me the go ahead. I've never had to have anything approved by a committee before, has a very intimidating tone to it. I chose Multidisciplinary in an effort to salvage the credits I've already earned--don't want 3 years of college to go to waste! Essentially though, from here on out, I'll be focusing on Environmental Science and Biology.

It begins, folks. I'm goin' for it.

.....but none of that is really about birds, is it? At least not directly. Wouldn't you rather read about the MacGillivray's Warbler that graced Boston with its presence? Towards the end of my Thanksgiving break I finally realized that I should take a look at the rare bird sightings for MA--I haven't gotten into a good habit of checking regularly. Apparently there was a Barred Owl hanging out in town, as well as a MacGillivray's Warbler! So off into Boston I went. Drive to a T station, subway into town, foot from there. And what did I realize 5 minutes after I arrived on the Common? My camera battery was back home in the charger. D'OH! Briefly chatted with a couple of birders, easily identified by the binoculars around their necks. Apparently the Barred Owl hadn't been seen so far that day, so some of my frustration melted away. Long story short, I went back home and gave the trip a second try the next morning--making sure that my camera battery was in the camera this time.

I checked the Common again for the Barred Owl--no luck. However, it was a simply gorgeous day outside. Lots of adorable families--young couples with cute little tykes dressed in bulky red-and-green sweaters, trying to get the boys to stop chasing each other with willow branches so they can take the family photo for the Holiday card. Little babies in strollers all bundled up in puffy down-filled coats everywhere. It was just plain lovely. Great people watching time--a November day graced with blue skies on the Boston Common.

After a brief loop around the Common I set off for the Public Gardens, where the MacGillivray's Warbler was reported to be hanging out. Once there I simply looked for folks with binoculars. Found them pretty quickly. :P
gorgeous day at the Public Gardens

There was an Orange-Crowned Warbler keeping the MacGillivray's company, so I got 2 lifers that day! Got good pictures of both birds, too.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to stay around long because I had to drive back to school in Rochester that same day! (It's a 6-8 hour drive depending on weather, traffic, etc.)

Other than that birding expedition, I really haven't been out too much I'm afraid. Saw my first Long-tailed Ducks for this Winter the other day at Irondequoit Bay, but didn't stay long. I did miss those beauties, though. Really good to see them again. Can't wait for all the other Winter Anatidae favorites to arrive in greater numbers.

My brother convinced Mom to let us open a gift each early, so I already have two fantastic Christmas bird-related presents to spend time reading through: A Supremely Bad Idea: Three Mad Birders and Their Quest to See it All by Luke Dempsey and the National Geographic Complete Birds of the World. I have a bunch of reading to catch up on for my Intro to Environmental Studies class, so I'm trying not to get too sucked in to A Supremely Bad Idea. I'm only a few pages in, and I like it quite a bit so far. Already made me laugh out loud. It's written by a Brit, so it's potential awesomeness is increased 10-fold. The National Geographic Birds of the World goes through every bird family on earth, and even just flipping through looking at the photos was mind-blowing. Curious about some of our more um, er, "interesting-looking" feathered friends? Try looking up some members of the Cotingidae family, like the Bare-necked Umbrellabird or the male Andean Cock-of-the-Rock. Also take a peek at the Wreathed Hornbill; it's very.....distinctive.

That seems to be quite enough for now, I'll just briefly mention that I did ask Santa to bring me a scope for Christmas, and I'll be participating in the Newburyport CBC again this year on December 27th! Visit to check out your local CBC's and to either join a field team or become a feederwatcher. Happy Holidays to everyone! And as I like to say.....

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Pacific Loon and Feeder Visitors

I finally got my act together and signed up for the Genesee Birds List, which allows birders in the area to communicate with one another about rare sightings and various other hot topics. On the 25th the Genesee Birds List update in my email inbox informed me that there was a Pacific Loon at Hamlin Beach State Park. Unfortunately, I discovered this around 3 or 4 pm, but I immediately got my stuff in the car and headed out anyway.

I scanned the water near lots 3 and 4, where the loon had been reported to be earlier in the day. Now, I have a camera (18x optical zoom + 1.7x more zoom with my lens, so 30.6 x optical zoom overall?) and hand-me-down binoculars (10 x 25)--no scope. Trying to get a look at the loon that day, I made up my mind--definitely asking for a scope for Christmas this year. I had also been considering asking for snowshoes, but I think I'll get a lot more use out of a scope. Being a college student, I won't be able to get anything super-fancy. Some people have told me that if a scope is less than $1,000, don't even bother with it. In my case, I'm going to dismiss that advice.

Given my equipment, I didn't have much luck, but I did see another birder on the beach--with a scope--scanning the water. I approached him and asked if he was looking for the Pacific Loon. he was, and said that I couldn't be having much luck looking for it with a pair of binoculars. I wasn't, we chatted for a minute, I wished him luck, and started heading back towards my car. I hadn't gone very far when I heard some shouting, and turned around to see my fellow birder waving his arms at me and yelling "I've got it!"

I awkwardly fast-walked/ran back, holding my camera in one hand and my binoculars in the other so they wouldn't bounce all around. I got a peek through the scope at the bird, and it's now checked off my list. Always grateful to fellow birders who let me steal a peek through their scopes!!

I haven't heard any more complaints from my roommate about the birds waking her up in the morning, but she did say that in the springtime the noise can get "pretty intense." So, hopefully, I can keep my feeders up for the Winter. In the Spring I'll be getting plenty of birding and banding in, so I won't need the feeders so much to get my daily bird quota :-P

Yesterday there were 6 MODOs in the backyard (Mourning Doves). Also had a brief visit from a goldfinch. A female Downy is making regular visits, and a male Hairy even stopped by a few days ago! Below are pictures to compare the Downy woodpecker with the Hairy woodpecker. There are 3 characteristics that are generally used to distinguish the 2 species--overall size, bill length, and the presence of 2 black bars on the outer rectrices. (Alright, I guess it's really 4 characteristics: voice is also helpful in identification of these birds, but I'm still struggling with that, they sound almost exactly the same to me.) The black suet feeder in both pictures is the same, so the pictures make for good size comparison. The HAWO is pictured first, and the second, lower image is of the DOWO. The bars on the rectrices of the Downy aren't very clear from the picture, I'll try to get a better shot of them in the next few days.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

.....and Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Another BBBO video online!

Just wanted to let everyone know that there is now a second video on NPR's Science Friday website about BBBO! Enjoy!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Feeders--What to do?

Set up my feeders yesterday: one clear one that suctions to the window above the sink, two suet feeders, one tube feeder, and one hanging platform feeder. Unfortunately, this morning one of my roommates told me that the birds woke her up with all their chirping, even with her window closed. Obviously, I can't keep my feeders up if the birds are waking my roommate up every morning, so I need to figure out what to do. At this point, I have no clue. I could move them farther back from the apartment, I'd have to check with the complex office first, but the problem then becomes deterring the squirrels. I already have a problem with squirrels, and if I moved the feeders back farther, they could simply drop down from the trees on top of them. Oh, what to do, what to do.

Despite the dilemma, there's already been a decent turn out. 2 Black-capped Chickadees, 2 Mourning Doves, a delightful visit from a Blue Jay, and at least a dozen of the pesky neighborhood House Sparrows. At first I thought I'd have to wait a few days to see some activity, so I'm pleased.

I'll post pics of my set-up later on, let me know if you have any tips on protecting feeders from squirrels from above! I'll be doing some research on it on my own, too.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Friday, October 9, 2009

BBBO on SciFri!

Braddock Bay Bird Observatory is being featured this week on Science Friday! Click the link to watch a brief video that will give an overview of the process of songbird banding at BBBO. :) You can all see where I proudly volunteer!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Parker River with Mom

Whoops! Looks like I let a whole month pass by without a single posting. What can I say? I've been busy, busy, busy. I've been meaning to post for a couple of weeks now, and since the cold-to-end-all-colds has me sitting at home on a Saturday night, I suppose there's no time like the present to catch up. Plenty of birds, not a whole lot of going out to bird watch. But, I should start from where I left off.

I took Mom bird watching at Parker River on August 26th. We didn't make it out for dawn, but we were there by 9 am. I got some nice shots of the swallow migration, and was giddy watching them all. Mom was a bit nervous about them, said she kept thinking of Hitchcock's The Birds, but she wasn't so anxious that she didn't appreciate the spectacle.
a harrier joins the frenzy

I brought Mom to North Pool Overlook and Hellcat, and we did the Marsh Loop and the Dunes Trail. Mom spotted a vireo that was right above our heads as we were on our way back on the Dunes Trail, about to cross the road. Unfortunately, the bird was too close for my camera to focus on it while the big ole lens was on, so I didn't get a shot.

Regrettably, by the time we made it down to Sandy Point there was no more parking. But, we were both starting to get hungry, so we made our way out of the refuge and grabbed lunch at Bob Lobster. After lunch we went for a little shopping in downtown Newburyport. I made sure to tell Mom that "bird watching isn't usually like this." :-P

Alright, that'll have to do for now, time for bed. Hopefully soon I'll get caught up with my blog, and then begins the daunting task of trying to catch up with everyone else's! (Hope everyone is well!)

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bonnet Shores, RI

Not a whole lot going on in terms of birding lately, at least not for me. Vacationed with the family for a week in Bonnet Shores, RI. Got some nice looks at several osprey and kayaked around Chafee NWR, which was just down the road. Explored Beavertail State Park, too. Really not too eventful, I must say. The entire time I was at Beavertail I kept thinking, "Okay, so Rhode Island in August is not the best birding ever, note to self....." Maybe it was just a bad luck day, after all, I was out in the afternoon instead of dawn and early morning.

A week at the beach meant lots of gulls- ring-billed, laughing, great black-backed, and herring- as well as sun burns. Some kids wandered the shores all day searching for any and all interesting sea life, like kids (and I) like to do. They found a couple of clams, and when it was time to go home, they tossed them to the gulls. I enjoyed watching the process of getting past the tough exterior to the clam itself.
Nom nom nom

The only other notable bit of bird watching came when a ring-billed gull was foraging through the belongings of a couple of women who were taking a dip. Their blanket wasn't too far from us, so I had a good view of the gull as it sauntered up. I debated getting up to scare it off, but then just started thinking about the fact that it's just another species adapting to the human take-over of the planet. As I was musing over this, the bird discovered the bag of Fritos. It used its beak to make one quick jab through the bag, breaking it open. It seemed to me as if the gull was quite familiar with the packaging and had learned how best to get past the protective exterior. Plastic, clam shell, there's a technique to get past each of these food-source barriers. I couldn't help but laugh as the gull swallowed a few fritos whole, as if they were minnows or some other small fish . Then, just as I began to get up to shoo away the gull, it grabbed an entire zip-lock of Cheez-its and flew off with it. I must admit I found this all very amusing, although I'm not so sure that Fritos and Cheez-its provide a gull with the best nutrition. For all I know, it's very harmful. I was mostly giggling at the silly women in the water who had left their snacks so unprotected.

I got up and moved a couple of their towels over the bag holding the remainder of their food, hoping to deter future foragers. When they returned we updated them, and they decided to feed the remaining Fritos in the bag to the gulls. They were poured out onto the sand, and I'm sure you can imagine the result. *facepalm* Once the Fritos were gone, the women expected the gulls to leave them alone. Sigh, and another facepalm.

So, all in all, not the most exciting week of birding. But hey, without uneventful birding, the eventful stuff wouldn't be so thrilling.

Can't wait for Fall's birding extravaganza. :)

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two Osprey, a Squid, and a Snow Goose

Before I get into the birding I did today, I have to say that I'm starting to get really excited for two different things. The first--family vacation to Rhode Island; right on the beach, directly next to a bird refuge. That's going to be in August, which seems to be zooming around the corner, wheels squealing. The second thing I'm excited about is the start of the school year. Wait, I can explain!!

Although the start of the school year means starting to retake classes (have I explained that part, yet? oh well, I will later if I haven't) it also means starting to take the Bird Banding course AND Fall Banding Season with BBBO. My schedule allows me two volunteer days a week instead of the one I could manage in the Spring (that was rained out about 5 weeks in a row). I. am. so. #*@$!^&. excited.

Unfortunately I'm missing the net set-up with BBBO, as well as BBRR's August Red-Tail Days. But, if you're in the Rochester, NY area at all August 21st and 22nd, you should definitely check it out! There's lots of stuff for kids this year, too.

Okay, on to today's birding.
Alarm off at 3 am.
Snooze for 30 minutes.
Alarm off at 3:30 am.
Out the door at 4:40 am.
Arrive at PRNWR at 5:50 am.
As is becoming my habit, I head for the live parking area next to the saltmarsh to watch the terns fish. I love watching terns fish. Didn't see any killdeer while I was there, which I thought was kind of odd, but dismissed it. When I left 4 hours later, I still hadn't seen any.

A Snow goose was munching on the grasses by North Pool Overlook. Lifer for me.
Then it was down to Sandy Point. I got to watch a pair of Osprey fishing for a while.
I didn't end up staying too much longer, by 10 am I was already feeling tired. Not sure why, just no pep, as my grandmother would say.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Whale + Bird Watching

At work on the 12th I all of a sudden decided that I was going to treat myself to a whale watch the next day. So, I did. I went with the same company I went with last summer, Seven Seas Whale Watch out of Gloucester. Last summer I was brand new to birding, this summer I have at least a year under my belt, so I had a better idea of what I was looking for. I realize that a year isn't a terrific amount of time, especially if you've been birding for most of your life, but I learned a tremendous amount in that 12 months!
The day brought 4 lifers:
  • Wilson's Storm-petrel
  • Leach's Storm-petrel
  • Greater Shearwater
  • Sooty Shearwater
I couldn't manage a picture of the Wilson's, but I definitely saw the straight-across tail with the legs projecting beyond it. As for the whales, we saw three Humpbacks known as Cajun, Pinpoint, and Crown. We also got two brief looks at a Minke Whale, but when I say "brief", I mean brief. If you've never been on a whale watch before, I highly recommend it. Also for those of you who have never been, you may not be familiar with the way naturalists catalog and identify the whales they come across.

Humpback whales : fluke patterns :: humans : fingerprints
Every individual humpback whale has a unique pattern on it's fluke, and naturalists photograph and catalog the patterns. Then they can record sightings of individual whales and track their movements to some extent. After years of studying the whales, naturalists and marine biologists can easily recognize a whale's distinct fluke pattern--that's how we knew which whales we were seeing, thanks to our on-board naturalist, that is. Apparently the dorsal fin of a humpback whale is also a good identification tool for individuals.

Here are some more pictures from the day's trip:

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Mount Auburn Trip

On Friday I decided to go birding at Mount Auburn Cemetery. It's been on my list of places to go birding for quite some time, since it's so popular. Just took me until now to get around to it. I suppose it was a decent first visit, didn't see too much, though. On the other hand, I was feeling really tired on Friday--no pep--and I only stayed for a couple of hours. I imagine things are completely different say, during the height of warbler migration.

This was the first birding outing I twittered about while I was out there (gosh that's an awkward sentence). I kind of liked it, pretending that people are following my movements and just dying to know what will happen next. ;-P

This was my favorite picture of the day (mother and son?):
Followed by this photo of a bee on Wild Bergamot:
other pictures from the day

Maybe by the end of the day I'll catch up and post about my whale watching trip yesterday. Until then.....

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Backyard Barn Swallows

There have been Barn Swallows zooming around our backyard and doing figure eights around the houses in my neighborhood for the past week or so at least. Yesterday after coming home from doing some errands I finally got the chance to photograph them.
Unfortunately I couldn't get pictures much better than these since those swallows are fast and it was cloudy and rainy out. I had fun standing in the middle of my backyard watching them swoop by me, several times within a few feet. When that happened, I didn't try to photograph them (after the first couple of failed attempts, anyway), just enjoyed observing them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to go see the Henslow's Sparrow in Montague with my "new" red '98 Honda Civic! (lovingly named Moe)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Taking a Break

Won't be birding for a while since I got into a car accident on the 19th and totaled my car. (Granted, it doesn't take much to total a '96 Tercel.) I suppose it's sort of a blessing in disguise, since these days I've got plenty I need to think about and figure out. Academically, I need to make a major decision- do I repeat a year of classes in a major I'm not sure about or switch to something new? Hope it won't be too long until I bird again.

At least I have our family's week-long vacation in August to look forward to: renting a house in RI that's right next to a Wildlife Refuge :)

So, I'm relying on all of you to have fantastic birding adventures so that I can vicariously bird through you! :-P

Thursday, June 18, 2009

BwBTC and Mississippi Kite

Saturday morning saw me climbing into bed at midnight after getting home from work, and setting the alarm for 3 am again. In the car by 4, at the refuge by 5. I watched the terns fishing for a while, trying in vain to get decent pictures: I knew there wasn't enough light to capture the speeding birds without plenty of blur, but I couldn't keep myself from trying anyway. Watching terns, swallows, and swifts and their aerial acrobatics always makes me smile (and feel a little jealous).

I meandered my way down the refuge road, and bumped into Tom again. I met Tom on Monday-- he's an experienced, knowledgeable birder who is lucky enough to live just 10 minutes from the refuge. At the North Pool Overlook he helped me finally see an Eastern Meadowlark, a bird I've been anxious to see for months. Without Tom picking out the Meadowlark's song for me and pointing it out, I doubt very much that I would have seen it at all that day. Then we were pleased to see both a male Green-winged Teal and a male Blue-winged Teal in the pool. Both gave us good looks as they cruised by.
By then it was about quarter to 7, and I had to swing by the Visitor Center to see if the Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp (BwBTC) were meeting there: I wasn't sure if the meeting time was at 7 or 8 am. I pulled in to the parking lot with another car, and not 10 seconds after I had parked, saw the other car's driver pull over, get out, examine a wheel, and exclaim his frustration. As it turned out, the driver was one of the BwBTC group-Andy. He had hit the curb and gotten a flat. Since Andy had purposefully given himself extra time in case of traffic, getting lost, etc. I sort of thought things would still work out okay. Unfortunately, Andy didn't end up coming along with us to Parker River.

The meeting time was at 8 am, but around 7:40 or so folks started pulling in. Introductions were made, and I tried to remember at least a few names--a feat even more difficult for me than trying to photograph terns in flight without sufficient light. Luckily, Dawn had brought name tags. She even made buttons for us all for the event! Thanks, Dawn! :-)

I felt a little silly since Christopher's Blog was the only one I was actually familiar with, but now I've added several more birding blogs to the list of ones I follow! It was really nice to get to know some New England birders, since before now I've only gotten to know birders in New York around the Finger Lakes.

We figured out carpools and set off. First was Lot 1 to see the Purple Martins around their nest boxes and to try our luck seeing a Manx Shearwater or a Roseate Tern out over the ocean. No such luck. Christopher chatted with Plover Warden Janet and we decided to head straight for Sandy Point since it was Kids Go Fish! Day and the parking lots were sure to fill up quickly. Unfortunately, we weren't quite fast enough (kept getting distracted by those pesky things with feathers along the way), and there wasn't room for our little caravan when we arrived. We turned around and headed for the Hellcat Trails.

On the Marsh Loop we looked for the Virginia Rail, which wound up being a no-show, although we did hear a few calls from time to time. There were a few pairs of Gadwall and a few Marsh Wrens in the area, however.

Next we hung out near the Hellcat observation tower for a little bit while Chris went to meet Janet at the end of her shift. Then we would all reunite for a group photo. While there we enjoyed watching the industrious muskrats swim back and forth with cattails to use as construction supplies. Then we caught a brief look at a Least Bittern as it flew in front of our group. At this point I was starting to feel those 3 hours of sleep, and was more or less in autopilot mode. After the group picture I needed to head home to get ready for work.

Despite not getting to Sandy Point and the Virginia Rail being a no-show it really was a fantastic day of birding and socializing! I'm so glad Christopher invited me along and that I had the chance to meet so many other birders who, well, blog, tweet, and chirp! Now I just need to start using Twitter.....although I hear it's addicting!

Here's the list of everyone who attended the BwBTC event on Saturday:
Dawn & Jeff from Dawn's Bloggy Blog
Bev from Behind the Bins
John from Birding Maine
Sharon from A New England Life
Catie from Birding Girl
Janet from The Plover Warden Diaries
Steve from Shooting My Universe
Lauren (Lowie) from Worn Field Guide Blog
Laura from The Interstitial Spaces
Mark from Strack16 Blog
Dan from Nature Observances by Forestal

Yesterday I ventured out to Newmarket, NH to see the Mississippi Kite that is nesting there. The BwBTC group went out to see it after Plum Island, but I couldn't follow since I had work that evening. First I had a doctor's appointment in Newton, so believe it or not, I voluntarily used my dad's GPS. The world may be coming to an end, just FYI.

I haven't mentioned it before because I've never had a reason to, but I really don't trust technology too much. Yes, I'm blogging right now and using the internet, I do use technology to some extent. It's when machines start talking to me that I freak out (I've seen 2001 wayyyy too many times). So yea....give me a good old paper map over a GPS any day.....except, apparently, yesterday. *shrug*

ANYWAY: the folks in Newmarket I spoke with were all very friendly and helpful. I bumped into a couple of other birders who were there to see the Kite as well, and was treated to a peek through a scope at the bird sitting on its nest. I love when other birders let me peek through their scopes, it is much appreciated!! Several residents driving, biking, jogging, and walking by us inquired "Are the birds back again?!" upon seeing the three of us standing there with bins. This is the second year the Kite's been in Newmarket, and last year it was BIG news, understandably. I hung around for about an hour hoping to see the parents switch places sitting on the nest, hoping to see a Kite in flight, but no such luck.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Getting Up at 3 a.m. is Always Worth It

Hit the hay around 7:30 pm Sunday night with the alarm set to go off at 3 am. Out the door by 4 am. Arrived promptly in Lot 1 for dawn at 5:08 am. I was greeted by the Purple Martins and Tree Swallows as they darted around the nest boxes. A short stroll down the boardwalk brought me to the beach where a fisherman stood at the shoreline managing the three poles he had set-up. The clouds stayed close to the horizon, perhaps somewhat diminishing the beauty of sunrise over the Atlantic, but only ever so slightly.

I love waking up when it's still dark out to go birding, timing things so I'll arrive just at dawn, then racing the sun to my destination.

It was a great day of birding. I checked the listings of recent bird sightings at Plum Island before heading out, so I knew what to keep an eye out for. A Virginia Rail was apparently hanging around near the Hellcat Marsh Loop. When I talked to another birder I met up with, he told me it was most likely nesting near there, and that it was being quite boisterous and even walking around in plain sight in an effort to distract "predators" (birders, in this case) from the nesting site. When I walked the Hellcat Marsh Loop, that's exactly what I found. I took a couple brief videos with my camera and have posted them on YouTube. I was also delighted to come across a Marsh Wren building its nest, and have posted an additional video of this on YouTube. Unfortunately, all of the videos from yesterday are somewhat shaky, and for that I apologize.

Here are the totals for the species I counted yesterday:
13 adult Canada Geese and 17 fledglings
14 Mute Swans
12 Mallard drakes and 1 female
21 Double-crested Cormorants
6 Snowy Egrets
5 Great Egrets
(4 unidentified Egrets)
3 Turkey Vultures
2 Piping Plovers
8 Killdeer
12 Mourning Doves
18 Eastern Kingbirds
1 Blue Jay
6 American Crows
3 Black-capped Chickadees
8 Robins
29 Gray Catbirds
5 Northern Mockingbirds
14 Brown Thrashers
16 Cedar Waxwings
12 Yellow Warblers
2 Common Yellowthroats
3 male and 1 female Eastern Towhee
16 Song Sparrows
1 male Cardinal
12 male Bobolinks
21 male and 6 female Red-winged Blackbirds
3 male and 1 female Brown-Headed Cowbird
3 male American Goldfinches

Please note that this list only reflects the particular species that I made an effort to count. I'll be honest and say that I made no effort to count the gulls, terns, sandpipers, martins, swallows, House Sparrows, or grackles.

Lifers for yesterday include:
  • Virginia Rail
  • Least Tern
There are more to add to the lifer list for yesterday, I just need some ID help. I'll post an update when I know, maybe even be wild and do it via cell phone.

I've again decided to post my pictures on my shutterfly site instead of uploading them here: it just me, or do I sound very stuffy lately? I seem like such a stick-in-the-mud dope when I reread this stuff. I swear my usual antics are exceedingly entertaining.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Parker River NWR May 30+31

May 30th and 31st I had off from work, so I treated myself to a trip to Plum Island both days. I've decided to post the pictures on my shutterfly site for better viewing:

May 30th I added at least 4.5 lifers to my list. I know, I know: .5?? Let me explain: I have seen a Woodcock before, but the encounter reflected this bird's reputation in that it was very brief and I didn't wind up getting a particularly good view or a picture. Although the woodcock is known for being elusive, it is very distinct in its appearance, and that allowed me to identify it at the time despite the circumstances. May 30th, however, was entirely different. Within 5 minutes of pulling into the refuge, I almost drove right past one that was just hanging out by the side of the road! It wasn't even just after dawn--I had gotten a late start that day, and the time was 8:42 am! I pulled over and was treated to several great pictures of this spectacular bird, it was a wonderful way to start the day, and I admit I took it as a good omen. Later on, talking to some other birders, I found out that apparently woodcocks often perform their courting ritual in the parking lot to the Hellcat trails at dusk.

My other lifers for the day:
Savannah Sparrow
Least Bittern
Purple Martin

I believe there are some others, as well. I just need to process the photos I took and identify the shorebirds I'm not sure about [one of them is picture 32 in the shutterfly album, I'd appreciate any help :) ].

I should mention that the last 3 photos in the album were actually taken in Gloucester, not at Parker River. You'll also notice a turtle portrait in the album--I discovered this Eastern Painted Turtle just chillin' smack dab in the middle of the refuge road. It struck me as a poor choice of hang outs, so I somewhat timidly picked the fella up and set him down about a foot off from the side of the road in some low grasses.

My May 31st visit saw "only" one lifer--a very special bird indeed--the precious Piping Plover. I was beyond thrilled to watch an adult foraging along the sand at Sandy Point, and couldn't get over the fact that most people just simply walked right on by the bird. There are signs all over the refuge and barriers set up to protect nesting areas, so I assume most people must be aware of their presence. A large stretch of the beach at Plum Island is blocked off every year for the Piping Plovers. I couldn't (and still can't) decide if all of this uninterested people simply didn't know it was a Piping Plover and took it to be "just another shorebird" or if they were locals who see them each year. In any case, I managed to get several shots before getting chased out by the rain.

Take nothing but pictures (and maybe the trash of jerks who came before you), leave nothing but footprints.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

What I've Been Up to this Month

Okay--get ready for a big ol' game of catch-up. Although I haven't been posting, I have indeed been birding this month, and I've added several lifers to my list. I'd also like to share some of my better photos, like this one of a very well camouflaged female mallard in Island Cottage Woods on May 5th:
Oh, great news! I'll be taking the banding course offered by RIT/BBBO this coming Fall. I'm really looking forward to it.

Three weeks in a row I was robbed of my volunteer time on Thursdays at BBBO- twice because of rain, then because of finals last week. I was especially disappointed since I had just started getting instruction on how to take birds out of the nets. I hadn't actually made an attempt yet, but that was the obvious next step, and really exciting for me.

YWAR-May 7, 2009-Mendon Ponds Park
My birding records are a mess. I used to have a decent system-after each trip I'd write down everything I saw and where on an index card. Later, this would be compared with my photos and I'd neatly copy the data down into a notebook. An example of my entries would be:

December 11, 2008
Irondequoit Bay State Marine Park, 4:53-5:56 pm

  • rock pigeons
  • 7 long-tailed ducks (juv. + female) etc.

Lifers are indicated with red asteriks. I record the sex of as many individuals as I can and the number of each species seen that day if I can. I also record any other wildlife I see (apart from chipmunks and squirrels, that is): dragonflies, butterflies and moths, mammals, wildflowers, etc. I've gotten into the bad habit of just uploading my pictures to my computer and not writing down notes the same day of my trip. Ideally, I should take notes while I'm actually out birding, not later when I get home.

Alright, this catch-up game is going to be summarized instead of gone over in detail. Recent lifers include:

Island Cottage Woods in Greece, NY--May 12
  • Wood Thrush

Island Cottage Woods in Greece, NY--May 18
  • Northern Waterthrush
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Black and White Warbler
Oxbow NWR in Harvard, Massachusetts--May 26
  • Veery
I also added Blue-Headed Vireo and Red-Eyed Vireo to my life list at some point in May, I just need to "process" my photos and figure out when and where.

REVI-May 18, 2009-Island Cottage Woods