Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Well, the merganser didn't make it. I returned to the bay last night around 9pm armed with more bread and a flashlight. I threw the remainder of the loaf out to her in pieces, although most of the pieces didn't make it anywhere near her. The fact that I couldn't see very well didn't do too much for my already terrible aim. I did my best to keep my flashlight use to a minimum to avoid upsetting her (as well as the other waterfowl in the vicinity). I left around 9:30pm, after silently (okay, out loud a little, too) pleading with the merganser to just make it through the night, that help would come in the morning.

At around 12:30 pm today the woman the Vet's office had directed me to (the same woman who called several people/places to try to get help reaching the merganser, and who had advised me on what I could do for the bird) called me to say that she was at the bay. I described where the merganser was once she had the lighthouse in sight, and she said she would call me back. I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, during break of my 4-6pm class, I left a voicemail on her cell phone, asking about what had happened. When class finished, I had a voicemail from her.

This woman acted with so much selflessness. All the hours I was anxiously waiting for her call, she was out there trying everything she could to find some way out to the merganser. It is my understanding that she eventually found some folks who were willing to help and who had access to a boat. Apparently, they almost had the boat in the water when the merganser finally passed away.

I really can't thank this woman enough, and though I've told her that over the phone a couple of times, well, I just can't say "I can't thank you enough" enough. So, thank you, sincerely and deeply for your dedication, kindness, and hard work.

Earlier tonight I went out to the bay to sort of say goodbye to the brave little merganser. When I first heard that she had passed away, I have to admit I kind of lost it. No, I wasn't sobbing uncontrollably, but there were definitely tears and some rantings. I just wish that she had passed away more peacefully, instead of hanging on through the night, for more than 24 hours, only to end up dying. Instead, she spent hours stuck to the ice, bleeding, helpless, and scared. It sounds funny to say this, but I was so proud of her for making it through the night. What a strong, magnificent creature.

I can't help wondering if the Bufflehead stayed by her side today.

Or how many other birds hunters will non-fatally shoot and leave for dead.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Injured Merganser

Went out to Irondequoit Bay today, and as I made my way down the pier I realized that there was a bird on the ice, just laying there. It struck me as odd, and as I got closer I saw that the ice around the bird was stained orange.

A female Common Merganser had apparently been shot (currently there is legal duck hunting at the end of the pier) and got up on the ice to rest. I'm not exactly sure how, but part of her is frozen to the ice she is resting on, I believe. Perhaps some of the blood from her wound froze to the ice. Or, this might not be the case at all, and her injury may be inhibiting her movement so severely that she can't budge an inch.
I called a vet in the area, and they gave me a few phone numbers of a rehabilitation center, veterinary offices closer to Irondequoit Bay, and specialists to try. The vet offices and the rehabilitation center were closed, since it's Sunday. However, I did reach one of the specialists (I don't really know what to refer to her as, but she was/is someone who can help and who knows what to do) on her cell.

Long story short, this lovely woman advised me on what to do, and contacted anyone who might be able to help her get to the bird. No one can help either one of us reach the bird until tomorrow morning, and that's not definite. As advised, I got some cracked corn and bread and tried to toss some out to the Merganser. The woman helping me figure out how-in-the-heck to help this bird did say that neither one was really the best thing to feed it, but that it was better than nothing.

The wind and my poor aim made tossing the bread out difficult, and throwing the cracked corn just outright failed. The merganser kept waking up, fainting, waking up, and fainting again. I tried not to upset her, because when she first saw me, she started to struggle to get away. It was painful to watch, since she honestly can't budge from where she's lying, despite all her wing-flailing. I gave up after the third piece of bread (wasn't throwing whole slices, I broke it up into smaller bits) because I felt like I was doing more harm than good. I didn't want to upset her any more.

So, essentially, I'm going to head back out there around 8 or 8:30 to try to toss out some more food. All I can really do is pray for the sweet little thing to make it through the night, to survive until someone can get out to her. Either that, or for her suffering to end soon. Who knows how long she's been out there.....

In any case, she's not alone. This female Bufflehead stayed by her side the entire time I was there. She continued to dive and feed, but she was always nearby, seeming to watch over the merganser.

Maybe I've seen too many Disney movies, and in reality there was some other motivation for the Bufflehead's presence. But, in support of my theory of interspecies sympathy, if you will, there weren't any other ducks in the immediate area, making me think that there wasn't any insane abundance of food under the surface in that location. Maybe there's some sinister motive behind the Bufflehead's constant bedside presence (not sure what I even mean by that) and I'm off in La-La land where all the animals live together peacefully and there are lots of meadows, rainbows, and tulips. Whatever.

Here I go again, out into the cold. Not sure what I'll find. Either a still-suffering Merganser, or one that's finally succumbed to the loss of blood, lack of food, and the cold.

Expletive hunters.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

3 Life Birds @ Irondequoit Bay

Finally got out birding again. It's been quite a while. Drove to Irondequoit Bay after class today, and was very pleased to see a multitude of ducks gathered there. Unfortunately, there were also about 70-80 Mute Swans. When I pulled in to park, one standing nearby in a group of Mallards stared me down, as if daring me to come closer. If it came down to it, I think I could take him.

I merrily snapped a ton of photos with my new camera, and enjoyed having a decent pair of binoculars, too. My grandmother gave me a pair of hers for Christmas. There were dozens of Mallards, Long-Tailed Ducks, Scaup, White-Winged Scoters, and Redheads--a new life bird for me! I have to admit I had forgotten about Redheads and assumed I was looking at Canvasbacks. But, now I know better. My guidebook has pictures of Redheads with a dull red-brown color to them. The ones I saw? Ummm, not quite.
Rich, vibrant shades of maroon/burgundy. Gorgeous. I was thrilled to get such a good look at them. Not only did I wind up with three life birds today, but I also got great views and good pictures of Anatidae that I've seen in the past, but only from a distance, like this Hooded Merganser:
Lovely creature. Just absolutely lovely. It was quite cold out, and my fingers were almost devoid of any feeling, but who cares?!? BIRDS!!! I think these images will convey an accurate representation of the temperature:
The other life birds I saw today:
Common Goldeneye
Common Merganser (on the edge of the far side of the group)
Male Red-breasted Merganser (okay, not a lifer, I've seen several females before, but this was the first male Red-breasted I've ever seen. half a lifer?)
All in all, a wonderful little trip. I say "little" because I really wasn't there for too long. Just long enough for my fingers to start to hurt. I then retreated to the car. *contented sigh* I missed birding.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Wren on the Porch

I completely forgot to mention the wren I discovered trapped in our porch on the morning I was getting ready to drive back to school. I was making trips back and forth to my car, loading it up with my stuff, when something darted from one corner of the porch to the other. I froze, watched the corner where the bird had gone (it was hidden from view) until it flew up and landed on one of the rafters (is that the word I want?). The only variety of wren I've ever seen before was a Marsh Wren, but the gestalt impression of a wren is pretty distinct, and I knew I was looking at a member of the Troglodytidae family.

Okay, no, I didn't know the Latin name for the Wren family at the time, I looked it up just now.....but I intend to remember it from now on!

I ran for my new camera (already in the car buried under a bunch of my stuff) and back to the porch. I managed to get a few good pictures before making an effort to guide the wren out of my porch. Our screen door is currently off the hinges, so there's an exit and entrance that remains unblocked, but once the bird accidentally gets in there, it's hard to find that gap in the screening again.
So after selfishly getting a few pictures, I turned my attention to trying to guide the wren back outside. I grabbed some birdseed and scattered it in a little path towards the door (well, towards the empty doorframe where the door would normally be). I waited a few minutes, tried some intermittent pishing, but I really had no idea how to help the little fellow out. I decided that leaving him alone was the best thing to do, since my presence was no doubt only adding to his anxiety and agitation. I went inside and told my parents and my brother that there was a wren on the porch, and that they should stay away from it until it found it's way out.

At that point, I had to get going. I was heading up to my boyfriend's house first, and then we were going to caravan back to school together. I am ALWAYS late, so the night before when I had told him I would try to be there around 11 am he responded with "So I'll expect you here around 1, right?". I was determined to be on time to spite him (hehe) so I left with the wren still stuck on our porch.

I texted my parents later on that day to ask if the wren had gotten out, but didn't get any response. And, I have to be honest, I've more or less forgotten about the incident since then, so I'm actually not sure what ended up happening. I'll find out.

Other than the Porch Wren I forgot to report, I've got a very exciting nothing else to say. Still haven't seen any visitors to the feeders. I'm hoping to go birding on Thursday, this lack of bird watching is making me grouchy.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Midterms and CBC Pics

Not much to report I'm afraid. Midterms today and tomorrow. Actually, one next week on Wednesday, too. Haven't had any opportunities to go out birding (well, none that I've taken advantage of). If I push myself a little more I'm sure I can get better at going out in the morning to bird, because really the only reason I don't is that I'm too lazy. If I want to get up earlier to go birding, I'll have to get to bed earlier, so I'll have to procrastinate less on my homework. This could end up being beneficial for my schoolwork, actually. We'll see. The two times I have gone out birding at dawn it was definitely more than worth it. I'll try to keep that in mind.

The only thing I have to say is that I've finally set up my feeders in our teeny tiny backyard. The apartment complex itself has an extensive area that serves as a community backyard, and our townhouses have little privacy fences, so we also sort of have our own little space. Just waiting for the first visitors to arrive. While I was putting them up, I was pleased to see 2 Downy Woodpeckers, 2 Robins, and a male and a female cardinal. There aren't any evergreens in the community backyard, which I imagine must contribute to the presence of birds here, which strikes me as relatively low.

Next I need to put up the three birdhouses I've been working on. I've had them painted and waiting for a while now, the other week I started stenciling leaves on them [because clearly the birds will choose a birdhouse based on its aesthetic appeal ;) ]. I know that a bird would probably prefer a dark green or a brown house to a bright pink or a white one, but apart from that I'm not sure it makes much difference.

There is one thing I would really like to do--combine my hobby with my major. I want to go out birding with members of the Deaf community. What could be better than combining two of my biggest interests? I would love to get a feel for describing the physical characteristics of a bird in ASL. Sometimes I wonder if I should make a little poster or something to put in the RRCD clubhouse (Rochester Recreation Club for the Deaf), asking if any of the members are interested in birding with me. Then I wonder what I would actually write on the darned thing, and what the chances are of anyone taking me up on it, and I think "nevermind."

Oh! I've finally got some pictures from the Newburyport CBC! Take a look :)

First up, my lifer Northern Shrike. I know you can barely see it (yes, the photo's already been cropped) but I did get to see this guy through the scope.
more lifers, a male and female Bufflehead with some American Black Ducks
Horned Larks. Talk about camouflage......
I believe this is a Razorbill (which would be yet another lifer) but I'm not positive. I know squat about alcids.
Here my lifer Red-throated loon is hanging out near the Razorbill
This Harrier treated me to a close fly-by. Too bad I didn't have my shutter speed set any higher.
I should go study for my voicing midterm. I just wanted to post something, because I notice that the site hits seem to increase when I post ;)

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Newburyport CBC

I got my usually-lazy self out of bed at 3:30 am on Sunday, December 28th to go birding. At first I was planning on heading down to Fairhaven and exploring that area, but that just didn't quite fit my mood somehow. I craved a more familiar background that morning. So I decided to go to Plum Island and Parker River NWR, a fantastic place.
I hit the road and the closer I got to Plum Island, the brighter the sky became. I felt like we were in sync at some moments, and at others I felt like we were racing one another. I pulled in to the first parking area at dawn, and immediately noticed a group of birders gathered there. (They were clearly birders, everyone had a pair of binoculars around their necks, there were a few scopes around, and anytime something soared overhead, they'd watch it, and raise the binoculars if it looked interesting.) I just kind of got my things together, reorganizing them into the proper places in my backpack and what-not, stalling just a bit and waiting for the group to disperse so I could ask one of them if they were here for a CBC.
The group dispersed, and one man walked toward the car parked next to mine, I asked if they were doing a CBC, and he cheerfully replied "Yup! This is the Newburyport CBC!" I was delighted, told him I was an amateur birder, and excitedly accepted the invitation to join in and tag along. The man (Tim, I'm almost positive. I'm awful with names.) introduced me to the CBC coordinator, and said I could tag along with his section. I followed Tim in our respective cars to lot 5, where we met up with another birder (I'm embarrassed to say I can't remember his name!).

We set off down the road towards the end of the island (the road was closed to cars). After a little while the guys spotted a red-breasted nuthatch (we'd seen and recorded several other birds before the nuthatch, it's just that it was the first really exciting bird for me) and I confessed that I'd only seen white-breasted nuthatches before. Upon hearing this, they both made an effort to help me get a good look at the bird (they could both identify it by it's call quite easily, it seemed). I ended up spazzing out (autofocus is not very useful when a bird is hidden in a thicket, and I took forever to switch the camera to manual focus) and not getting a picture of the nuthatch, but I did get a good look at it. I prefer to get a picture of new birds (well, really of most birds I see when I go birding) but I was alright with missing it. Hadn't even been birding for an hour and I had a new lifer!

Now, I've read and heard before that one really great thing you can do to improve your birding skills overall is to go birding with advanced birders. It's not that I didn't believe this, I just never really had the opportunity to do it before that day. And let me tell you--definitely true. That first couple of hours I just kind of admired the skills both Tim and (gosh! I hate that I can't remember his name! If he was a jerk I might not care as much, but they were both such nice guys!) had. Any little speck that appeared on the horizon, they seemed to see it instantly, as if they had extended-peripheral vision. Two seconds later they had it identified, or at the very least narrowed down to two or three possibilities.

I learned a lot from birding with those two that morning, and I'm proud to say I even sort of contributed to the count. I saw about 7 or 8 lifers that day (honestly, I started losing track). They were pointing out some Buffleheads to me a ways away (since I said it would be a new bird for me), and then (as I remember it, anyway) they looked back to something else. When the buffleheads were initially pointed out, the guys recorded it as 4 on the list, but I kept watching them, and a couple more appeared (I assume those 2 had been diving when we first saw the group). I spoke up, the guys looked, and chalked up another two buffleheads on our list. Not big, I know, but I'm a silly little amateur birder, and I contributed, dammit!

A little later I spotted something soaring over a hilltop while the guys had their binoculars pointed in another direction. I wasn't sure if it was a gull or a raptor, couldn't quite see the wing shape, but it was soaring, so I spoke up. "Is that a gull or.....?" The guys looked in it's direction and decided it was a rough-legged hawk. I believe I got a "nice job" from them, and definitely felt a twinge of pride.

I guess it's a like the beginning of a relationship with someone, when the first time you cuddle, or kiss, is just so mind-blowingly exciting (for me and the other ladies I've talked to, anyway. Maybe I'm still just very young, and maybe guys don't feel the same way at all, I don't know). Any progress I make with my birding is thrilling, even when it might not be a big deal to an advanced birder. For me at this point, there's just so much that's still new for me.

I feel like I've blabbered on enough about this now, and I don't even know if anybody's actually reading my silly blog, so I'll wrap it up. That day I saw several lifers, including:
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Rough-legged Hawk
Hooded Merganser
Red-throated Loon
Northern Shrike
Horned Lark

And, of course, I forgot to transfer my pictures from my brother's laptop to my new harddrive (got my lappy back from the shop on new year's eve). So now my pictures are 7 hours away, until he sends them to me. Oh well.