Saturday, December 24, 2011

Owling or Howling

So, to celebrate Winter Solstice, I decided to go owling.  I felt it was an appropriate celebration of the day.  Well, needles to say, if you are going to go owling, then make sure to go with someone who knows what they are doing or at least make sure that you are familiar with the area... or at least bring a flashlight.  I did none of the three and I have the scars to prove it.  I feel down... face first... into a pricker bush.  while it was wasn't the most fun I had birding.  One point I want to bring up.  During my falling, slipping and being attacked by the wood, I did hear a Great Horned Owl.  Now, I know that hearing a bird counts as seeing the bird and being witness to it.  However, I do feel a certain obligation to see the bird.  Birding by ear is definitely a skill, but I do feel as though, for your first viewing of the bird, you ought to be able to see it instead of just hear it.  Otherwise, how sure can you be?  Not to say that sight isn't perfect, in fact, I am currently mulling over a view pictures of warblers that I need to sort out.  Back to the owl and my ear, while I am not ready to count the owl on my list.  What do you think a true birder should do?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Two Crazy Goose Chases

This past weekend, I went on 2 wild goose chases.  Literal Goose chases of course, I was trying to find a Barnacle Goose that has been hanging around Northern Connecticut.  This of course meant lots of driving around an area and then, lots of looking in a area that I am not all that familiar with.  It was actually a ton of fun.  There was a great excited to going someplace new and seeing new things.  Sadly, I did not see the goose.  Both times the goose evaded me.  I did see a ton of Canada Geese though.  Not that that was anything new for me, but I hadn't seen that before, but I did enjoy seeing such a big flock of them.  The rest of the birding I did that weekend was another trip to a local state park.  Beaches in the winter are great.  Tons of Sunlight, lots of nature and few people.  During the summer only one of those statements is true.  Although you can easily find the nature by taking the trail away from the beach and looking into the marsh.  In any case, my weekend jaunt to the beach only yielded one new bird for my list, but it really gave me a chance to see and enjoy the park without many people around.
Anyone out there aver bird with their dog?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A Yellow-breasted Chat

As I've noted before, small birds have always eluded me. There are my enemy in the birding. I can hear them, I see them but they seem to wait just up to the point before my binoculars are in focus before flying away. Then they chirp or whatever just to rub it in that they are still around... well today seemed to be a similar story. I went birding specifically to look at and for small birds. My first round through the park made me feel worried. Instead of a park, I had happened upon a bird ghost town. I could hear the wind rustling the leaves and dry grass along with far off ships ringing their bells. The sun was out and a light breeze was about. It was perfect walk for anyone but a birder. But I decided to press on and do a walkabout. I walk along the beach, found a couple of herring gulls and a bunch of black ducks.
With the sun setting and the prospect of the park locking me in looming. I walked back and made one more swing by the trees that had housed some small song birds. The wind was there. I didn't even hear a chirp. I was beaten. Then I heard it. A little sound and some grass rustling against the wind. A squirrel my gut told me. But I waited. And waited. And waited. The joggers were looking at me funny. I didn't care because that's when I saw them. 4 small birds flying around. One was definitely a yellow-breasted chat. The others included a marsh wren and some kinglets... beautiful birds. But most of all beautiful AND small birds. A great find for me personally even if it wasn't the most amazing thing. It felt good to find and id a small bird. One more step to becoming a better birder

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Week's Mission

So I drove almost 300 miles this weekend to try and see a harlequin duck. Crazy right? Well maybe not. But to summarize, I missed the duck at every turn. Partly because I am still learning to bird, I probably did see the bird but just didn't know it. I guess that's the fact of life. Some birds I can id by call and some far away with no sight, but most of the time, I just have to chalk up my misses and mistakes to just plain novice-hood. That's ok honestly. Part of the learning process is making mistakes and I've made some big ones. And ended up scaring some birds away. So I guess that's just something to work on. I do have a plan though. I am talking to some of my more experienced birder friends and hoping that I can shadow them and at least start to ape their skills until I can master them on my own. Practice will make permanent so I am at least hoping that my positive attitude will remain positive. Well, tomorrow my goal is to try and see some warblers and chats hanging out for the winter it seems. Wish me luck!

Friday, December 2, 2011

Goals and Birds

Today, I decided to take a break from my work and go and bird. So here are the options. One: Drive to Rhode Island to see some razorbills and sea ducks, Two: Go to South Windsor to see a Shrike and some woodpeckers or Three: Head to Stratford and try to see more ducks and some other birds. Of course there's no guarantee that I'll see anything. But I find that setting goals, even if unmet is an important step in the whole process. Partially for me, the goal setting means looking through my Peterson's and knowing more about the trees and forests around me. So in the end, birding is really just a start, just a window into a larger world.
I went out today to look for the bald eagles around Hamden. No luck. But I saw a few other birds. Coots, some Mergansers and a couple of Grebes. The challenging isn't about the birds you miss, its about enjoying the birds you see. The Pied-Billed Grebe reminded me of that. The first time I saw one, I was tired, and not really expecting to see anything. Now, I hadn't seen anything like that before so it really helped me practice my skills and I will always know the Pied-Billed Grebe for that reason. I've always got to try to remember to look for the lesson in front of me. Perhaps the birds will help me see lessons elsewhere...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

It is never just a seagull!

I often find myself looking at seagulls. One of my earliest memories in travelling was seeing hundreds of seagulls in Chicago and wondering what were they doing. I also wondered how they could survive so far from the sea! But those are the thoughts of an young child.
I still wonder what gulls do. I see them flying around and soaring all the time and I catch myself looking at them instead of doing whatever I am supposed to be doing. I am doing that now. Looking at them calls me down and makes me wonder what they doing and where they are going. I think that because mainly when I am looking at them I am stuck doing something. Seagulls...its never just a seagull... its a million other things and place
Tomorrow, a talk about goals

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Origin Story

So, a beginning, a very good place to start. For me, this journey began as a quaint fascination a few years ago. But I want to stick to the topic, what is birding and how did I get involved. I've always noticed the birds around me but rarely took the time to think about them and beyond basic recognition. So how did I go from that to someone who's interested in looking for specific birds and going on hikes to look for birds. As with most things, there are no simple beginnings and several things came together to really peak my interest in birds.

Well, since I have no easy answers, I will tell you what I saw today. 3 bald eagles over my house. And while pursuing them, i saw the most amazing thing, the courtship behavior. For those unfamiliar with this behavior, take a moment and google it or look in for a good video of the behavior. Nonetheless, seeing this behavior, while sitting stuck between a busy road and a lake, i was struck with how beautiful birds and nature can be. Often, when I've gone out, I've felt conscious of the people wondering what I've been doing, but today, I felt like stopping all of them and asking them to look and see the eagles soaring and flying. Maybe next time...