Monday, May 31, 2010

Birding in SE Massachusetts

Went out birding yesterday morning to two spots in SE Mass that I've never been to before: Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary and Turkey Hill. Both spots were gorgeous and I saw a good variety of species.I went to Daniel Webster in search of the Sedge Wren that's been hanging around there for the past few days. The wren sang quite a bit, and wasn't all that shy. It came relatively close to the platform on top of Fox Hill and gave me several quick peeks as it flit around in the field. It flapped its wings so rapidly and almost seemed to hover at times, making it appear very much like a hummingbird. Here are a couple shots of the platform on Fox Hill and one of my better photos of the Sedge Wren:
I enjoyed the large numbers of Tree Swallows and Purple Martins zooming around in the sky above me. There's an impressive Purple Martin colony at Daniel Webster:
There were also lots of Common Yellowthroats and Bobolinks in the fields. The whole morning was a lovely symphony of birdsong, I love listening to Bobolinks. I'm still going through my photos and trying to ID a flycatcher, but right now my species count for the day at Daniel Webster is 30, not counting the flycatcher. If anyone has any skill identifying flycatchers, I made sure to record it singing in addition to taking its picture. I know that Empidonax Flycatchers cannot always be identified without hearing their voices, even when we get them in the mist nets at the banding station and can take several measurements, we often have to write down "Unknown Empidonax Flycatcher". Here's the youtube link:

Couple more shots of Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary:There's a cardinal singing over the flycatcher, I had to turn up my laptop volume all the way to hear it at all, but I'm still hoping it will be enough for someone to ID it for me. I already posted on Birdforum hoping for some help. If you've never visited before, take a peek. It's a nice community of birders. You can get ID help, look at photos, and chat about anything and everything related to birding. Okay, enough of the plug, now for some pics from Turkey Hill:
I added 7 more species to the day's total at Turkey Hill: Eastern Kingbird, Chimney Swift, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, House Wren, and a Cormorant flew by overhead. I likely would have seen quite a bit more if it had been earlier in the day, and I intend to go there again right at dawn when I get the chance. Overall, I had a lovely day, despite the fact that I was silly enough to try to go to Parker River NWR at 3 in the afternoon on Memorial Day Weekend. I grabbed a bite to eat, with some difficulty. [Just wanted something simple, Bob Lobster was packed to the gills. Discovered that they will not make you a grilled cheese sandwich at the Plum Island GRILLE. Was annoyed. Apart from that and my unenthusiastic waitress, it seemed like a nice place, though. ] The refuge lots were full (of course) by the time I got there and finished eating, and I was satisfied with the birding I'd done that day, so I just went home. Too bad that I wasted my time, energy, and gas because I didn't think my plan through, but hopefully it's a mistake I won't make again soon. Until next time, folks:

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

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

How You Know a Birder's "Got It Bad"

I showed up at the hawkwatch last Saturday around 1:30 pm. We had all been expecting it to be a good flight day with SW winds between 10-15 mph, ideal conditions for raptor migration as I understand it. When I approached the top of the ramp with my scope and tripod over my shoulder and bins and camera around my neck, our* hawk counter looked at me and tapped his watch with a teasing look of disapproval. I protested with a hint of a whine, "I know, I know!" I squeezed in on the platform's long bench between the regulars, and they asked why I was so late.

-"Well, it's hard getting out of bed when there's a sweet boy and a nice cat to cuddle with..."
-"You should know better- birds first! Birds before boys!"

And that, folks, is how you know if a birder's got it bad--they opt for more time with that special someone instead of going birding.

*I use the word "our" loosely. BBRR hires someone each Spring to count the raptors that migrate over the Braddock Bay hawkwatch. I volunteer with BBRR a little, and I noticed myself using "us/we/our" recently without realizing it.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Spring So Far

Whew! What a Spring it's been so far. No time to go into much detail, but I've had a blast doing a little work educating the public. Led a girl scout troup on a tour to the Raptor Banding Station and helped out with an event at the Seneca Park Zoo teaching middle schoolers about Raptors. Was rather unsure of myself during the girl scout tour, but don't think I did too terribly for a first time on my own. I know I'll get better at it with more time and experience.

A stop by one of BBRR's Raptor banding stations brought about amazing sights, wide eyes, smiles, and great pictures. I was lucky enough to go out on a day with a pretty steady flow of birds. The BIC (bander in charge) and another BBRR volunteer who's currently a bander in training (how exciting!) were even joking, "Okay, 12 minutes until the next bird." because they were catching something every half hour. BBRR has something called Adopt-a-Hawk; many not-for-profits have similar programs. After banding a Sharpie, we all went outside to take its picture so someone could adopt it later on. After taking it's portrait, the BIC said, "Okay Amanda, now take off your camera..."

Now, I was plenty happy just being there and getting to witness the process of catching a raptor and banding it.

Me-"Are you serious?!!"
BIC-"Well, yeah. Now c'mon, put your camera down and come over here. You're going to grab the legs first, up close to the body just like you would do with a songbird....."

Next thing I knew:A half-hour later (on the dot):
Did I mention that I had spent the morning at BBBO mending mist-nets and banding songbirds? Amazing day. I want to do this stuff everyday, all the time. <3 Birds. :)

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