Saturday, December 22, 2012


The Holidays are coming and going and I am spending my time outside owling of course.  Once again, I am being met with failure, however, I am starting to get closer at identifying owl habitat and evidence of owls.  While the other day, I did manage to hear a Eastern Screech Owl, I am continuing my quest to find owls in the wild.  At the end of the day, I am enjoying the challenge.  Of course, I am stuck between owling and and shorebirding.  But that's a post for another day

Happy holidays to all!

White Wash on a Cedar in Connecticut (C) Mine

2012 List:
251 (eastern screech owl and white ibis)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Role of Failure

Dipping must be my middle name.  This weekend's theme is failure.  I've been trying for some time now to see a Northern Saw-Whet Owl.  I keep track of the emails and ebird postings (which are often hard to find to protect this bird and rightfully so) and I even read up on the biology, habits and tendencies of this bird.  Still nothing.  I've been whacked by so many cedar branches and fallen pine cones, that I ask my self what I am doing looking for one little owl when there are plenty of other birds to see, behold, and enjoy.

This brings me to next topic.  Failure.  What role does failure play in birding?  How does the "dip" as they call it push us to move on or stifle our efforts?  How can we, as birders, naturalists, whatever you want to call it, ensure that we have the ability, capacity and tenacity to continue birding failure after failure?  Well, there are couple of things to keep in mind.  The first that without failure, there would be no success.  The joys of finding the bird you are looking come from, in part, the effort you put in to find it.  Failure isn't an end but rather, a step to being successful.  While I have yet to see a Northern Saw-Whet Owl, I do know what a cedar, pine and hemlock tree look like without a Saw-Whet Owl in them.  Along the way, I've seen Barred Owls, Juvenile Sharpies, Merlins, and all sorts of birds and raptors.  While I've enjoyed the pursuits, I do have a goal to find the Saw-whet and I have to keep that in mind.

Here's my future Target and I will keep trying!
File:Northern saw-whet owl.jpg
Northern Saw-Whet Owl (c) brendan.lally of flickr
original link:

2012 Life List:
248 (Eurasian Wigeon)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: Hawks in Flight

Due to a few work and home projects, I couldn't make it out to see the birds.  So for this week, I want to write a review of the latest birding book I picked up.  Dunne, Sibley and Sutton's book does a great job of outlining the challenges and pitfalls of identifying Hawks in Flight.  From regional differences to the challenges created by color morphs, Hawks in Flight outlines a lot of the forms that you can see out in nature.  One the things that I really an enjoying about this book is the fact that it places photos side by side to help you see how the different forms and the different birds look in the wild.  I've included a photo below so you can see how the pages look yourself.

This book is top quality how serves a very niche utility.  During Hawk Migration in the Fall, this book, cannot be replaced as a helpful guide.  I only real complaint is nullified by the point of this guide.  I love looking and learning about birds in their habitat and seeing multiple pictures of them.  This book is meant to guide the hawk watchers and counters who spend hours looking up at the sky.  While this book caters to them and their needs, it is still worth your while to pick up this book and marvel at the pages, photos and informations that fill its pages!

Hawks in Flight: Second Edition
From and (c) of Houghton Mifflin Publishers

Some Sample Photo Comparions of a Red-Tailed hawk,  (c) to the Authors!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

More Wild Goose Chases

Some stores follow the idea that someone goes looking for X and instead finds Y and Y turns out to be the best thing ever.  When X is a Barnacle Goose, whatever Y is just doesn't cut it.  I've seen all sorts of Geese and Warblers during my search for the goose.  But in some ways, I still wish I could find that darn goose.  I've gotten lucky and seen a Audubon's Warbler and Prairie Warbler along with 4 different kinds of Geese, but I can't stop thinking about that Barnacle Goose.  Here's an picture of my Winter Target and I'll let you know how it goes....

The Barnacle Goose

2012 Life List:
Recently Added:
Snow Goose, Greater White-Fronted Goose, Prairie Warbler

A Eurasian Gull

So after the Pelagic Trip, I headed for the local beach/pine forest state park, which also is one of the state's IBA (Important Bird Areas).  This park has yielded me several life birds, Black-Throated Blue Warblers, Tricolored Herons, King Eider, and even an Lapland Longspur.  And this weekend, Hammonasset gave me 4 great birds.  Red Crossbills, White-Winged Crossbills, Grasshopper Sparrow and a Black-Headed Gull (see pics below)!  The Black-Headed Gull had been scared off by an unleashed dog.  This set back had the potential to make me dip on the bird.  Yet, with some determination, we found the bird again.  I say we because the park was literally full of birders!

It was a great opportunity 


2012 Life List:

Monday, November 12, 2012

Pelagic Birding

I've been on a boat before, I've seen birds before, I've even seen birds on a boat before.  However most of those boat trips have been trips to see something specific, eagles, swallows, whales, and other such things.  This weekend, the wife and I packed up and headed out to Cape Cod to take part in an 8 hour Pelagic Trip.  The Trip had the potential, for me, to bring a lot of life birds as I rarely get out into the open ocean like this.  But it also gave me the chance to see an even rarer breed... The SEABIRDERS!  They were gung ho about everything we saw and we saw some impressive stuff.  Grey Seals, Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and lots of birds!  We saw 2 Humpbacks make a bubble net rise to feast on their catch and then saw gulls and kittewakes going crazy and even darting into the whales' mouths to eat!  all while being no more than 100 ft from this!  I had to admit that while I am a frequent victim of motion sickness, I managed to sit on the front of the boat of most of the ride and had a ball seeing all the birds.  Kittewakes, Shearwaters, Jaegers and all sorts of auks make me very ready to go out again

The main thing that impressed me, after the spectacular show nature gave us, was the energy of the sea birders.  They were thrilled at every bit of nature that we could get our bins on.  Seals, Whales, didn't matter!  I think I've posted before about the encounter with 2 birders who disregarded the harbor seals sunbathing.  I was upset by their lack of interested in non-avian nature.  This time I was pleased to be surrounded by a good group of nature enthusiasts!  I've included a couple of pictures of the trip below.

 Great Shearwater
 Pomarine Jaeger
 Northern Gannet and Grey Seals

2012 Life List Update

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Hurricane and New Feeder

While I may have dipped on the birds that Hurricane Sandy brought in, I did get a new feeder.  It was a squirrel proof Peanut Feeder.  Before Sandy Struck, Birds were going crazy getting food and getting ready to hunker down before the storm.  We were lucky as the storm had only knocked out our power.  The storm, as the news has broadcasted, has caused massive devastation in the neighboring states.  The storm brought in a wide array of birds and walking through my favorite parks made it easy to see the damage the storm did.  I managed to find a couple of Kestrel, A Leucistic Wren and a Laughing Gull.  But the real success lately has been my new feeder.  Its bringing in a great collection of birds.  I've had a Red-Breasted Nuthatch come to my feeder for a few days in a row and I snapped a few pictures of him below.  I've also had Tufted Titmouse, BC Chickadees and all sorts of sparrows and finches.  My suet feeder is getting, starlings and woodpeckers and I hope that I can keep getting good birds.

Reports are that the Tundra had a bad season so lots of winter birds will be hitting areas more southern than usual...  Gonna be a fun winter!

Life List:
Fox Sparrow!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Sparrows, Sparrows and More Sparrows!

This past weekend, I took a Sparrow Class offered by the Connecticut Ornithological Association.  So in the Early Morning, I headed out to Allen's Meadow to try and find some sparrows.  With about 30 other eager birders, we started to walk around the park.  At first it seemed like we'd find everything but sparrows.  We found Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, Winter Wrens, Butterbutts, Cardinals and even some loud and active Pileated Woodpeckers.  We even found some Pine Siskens before we found some sparrows.
Eventually, we started to find some sparrows.  The first few sparrows we saw were White-Throateds and Savannahs.  They were later joined by Juvenile White-Crowned.  We heard of some Vesper Sparrows, but by the time we got over there, a dog had scared away the Vespers.  But we waited patiently and then they returned!  The eye ring is one of the key marks of the Vesper.  As I was looking at a Vesper, there's a call that someone found a Clay-Colored Sparrow!  (picture below)  The Buff Coloring near the eye and the rich coloration on the back help id this bird.  Its also a useful indicator to know where to look.  Both Vespers and Clay-Colored, Like many sparrows, enjoy open grassfields as  places to eat and fly about.  They'll be moving through to their wintering grounds these weeks so I will be on the lookout for more birds to see!

File:Spizella pallida4 edit.jpg
(c) goingslo on Flickr

2012 Life List

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fall Migration!

A visit to Hammonasset was supposed to yield rare and random seabirds.  No seabirds minus the Double Crested Cormorants that are prepping for their migration.  While the seabirds were disappointing, the rest of the day was incredible.  Birds were literally dripping from the sky... or bouncing around on the ground.  The Life Birds I got were: Orange-Crowned Warbler, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Blue-Headed Vireo, Black-Throated Blue Warbler and the Elusive Marsh Wren!  It was a great to be outside and birding!

On another note, it had been a while since I had such a good time meeting and encountering other birders.  Not that other birders are rude, most follow the rules of etiquette and some will just ignore you.  But everyone I encountered was great, friendly and helpful.  It reminded me why I love to bird.  The nature is fantastic but I always enjoy seeing people appreciating it as well.  Next week, I am taking a class on Winter Sparrows and many more exciting Birding events are coming up!

Get Outside!

Blue-headed Vireo Photo
The Blue-Headed Vireo (c) Cornell Lab of Ornithology

2012 Life List Total:
223 Birds

Saturday, September 29, 2012


This week I took a Tree Swallow Cruise along the CT River.  In the late summer, tree swallows start to gather in epic numbers along the river and at dusk.  They descend en masse into reed covered islands along the Connecticut River.  My lovely wife surprised with the announcement that some extra cruises had been added to schedule and so off we went.  Peterson has describe the sight as one of the most spectacular within the avian world and boy was he right.  Swallows engulf the sky and almost darken it.  Then the descend in a most grand fashion into the islands.  They do this in the form of a tornado!  They crash land into the reed islands at over 60 mph looking for a place to sleep.  It is an incredible site to behold and I've attached our photos!

2012 Life List:
217 (Broad-Winged Hawk)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fall Birds and Birding!

I finally broke the cycle of sleeping in and did some early morning birding.  It was fantastic!  Woodpeckers, Phoebes, Warblers galore.  I loved walking around the park and I even managed to find some black bear scat.  No worries though, I did not run into the bear, its a good sign that the park is supporting a diverse array of life!  Back to birds, I saw a Brown Thrasher which was my second in CT and first in this park!  Cardinals and Black-Capped Chickadees were also bouncing around the park and the air.  No hawks that I could see from the air, but I did see both Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers and a noisy Red-Bellied that was chasing away all the birds it could.  A few Blue Jays and White Breasted Nuthatches were also around.  While I missed out on the American Redstarts, I did manage to find a couple of Chipping Sparrows and some very active Common Yellow Throats.  The Highlight of Park was finding a bunch of Bay-Breasted Warblers that were eating away and getting ready for the migration.  At my second site, I got a Blackpoll Warbler, a first for my Connecticut List and a Saltmarsh Sparrow.  2 Life birds in one day.  I also managed to find some Black-Bellied Plovers, Juvenile Yellow-Crown Night-Herons and a Laughing Gull.  All and all, a good day of birding!

Life list Total:

Links to the Birds:

(Copyright is not Mine, Photo from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

A Break too Long

So I've taken a long, long, LONG break.  Well the good news is that I've done some awesome birding in the meantime.  All summer I was making trips and saw some stellar birds throughout my trip.  I'll run through some of the highlights and then the list with some pictures!

Summer 2012 Highlights:
Georgia in June 2012
While I was hunting down a Summer Tanager, I saw my first Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of the Year!  I also found a Dickcissel in a farm in Rutledge, GA.  I never found the Summer Tanager but I did find a Prothontary Warbler!  I was a great time!  I also got married and found a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher at the reception, a life bird for my new wife!

Shenandoah National Park, Early July
The only new bird we got here was a Chestnut-sided Warbler.   However, the birding here was incredible!  Indigo Buntings and Eastern Towhees were ubiquitous!  Ravens and Vultures as well.  While I missed out on finding a Canada Warbler, we did manage to find a flock of Cedar Waxwings, rare for the area, another Dickcissel!  The Find of the Trip though was a Barn Owl, right outside the dining restaurant!  We also found deer, black bears and founda  timber rattlesnake.  A great trip and a great park!

British Columbia and Western Washington, Late July to Early August
A quick list of the birds we saw: Anna's Hummingbird, Rufous Hummingbird, Chestnut-Backed Chickadee, Bewick's Wren, Black-Throated-Gray Warbler, Bushtits, California Gull, California Quail, Common Murre, Oregon-Backed Junco, Glaucous-Winged Gull, Heermann's Gull, Marbled Murrelet, Northwestern Crow, Pacific-Slope Flycatcher, Pigeon Guillemot, Rhinoceros Auklet, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Spotted Towhee, Western Gull, Western Tanager, Western Wood-Pewee and a Wilson's Warbler!  A lot of birds but I am still thinking about the birds we chased but couldn't find!  I was really hoping to find a Varied Thrush and Black Oyster Catcher, but alas, I missed out on both of them.  I did enjoy this amazing environment.  We didn't see any bears, but we did see a Salmon fish Ladder, Harbor Seals (pic below) and a wild Mink1  I definitely want to go back to the Pacific Northwest and bird some more!

Great Blue Heron

 Harbor Seals

Life List Total:
214!  (14 past my goal!)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Memorial Day Birding

A truly Great and 2 weeks weekend of birding!  Many great birds to see. I even made it down to Jamaica Bay and Forsythe NWR along with visits to local parks.  I know this has been a long post since my last one, but I'll just include the list, a few pics and a promise to do more in the next few weeks!

Outing #33
Black-Crowned Night Heron
Blue Grosbeak LB
Common Tern
Gull-Billed Tern LB
Least Tern
Little Blue Heron
Seaside Sparrow LB
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Swainson's Thrush
Willow Flycatcher LB
Wood Thrush LB

2012 Total: 168 (42 Left!)

Life List Total: 187 (13 Left!)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Birds... Are you slowing down??

Another day of great birding day!  While the week had yield few new birds, I did get a migratory short-billed dowitcher and a Ruff!!!  A ruff is a european sandpiper that is not an uncommon visitor to the US.  I was surprised that there weren't more birders after the Ruff, but there were about 4 other people looking for the Ruff.  We found the Ruff being chased by willets every now and then!  A Great Birding day!

Outing #32
Ruff LB
Least Sandpiper LB
Short-Billed Dowitcher LB

2012 Total: 157 (43 left!)

Life List Total: 181 (19 left to go!)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Tricolored Heron!

A great weekend of birding!  Migration season is going well and I am loving the challenged by all the new birds around!  As a new birder, I've really loved seeing my life list and year list grow.  This past weekend was just as exiting as the last.  I got a chance to get some great migrants, a Tricolored Heron in a small pond and a white-crowned sparrow outside my front door hanging out with an eastern Chipmunk!  It was one of those times I wish I had my camera.  It was also spoiled by my dog barking at the Chipmunk and scaring both mammal and bird!  The next few weeks will truly be great.  I am really looking forward to seeing many different nesting birds in all of the local parks!

There will be some great challenges along the way: finding birds through very leafy trees, improving my birding by ear skills and trying to become a bird photographer.  Below is a quick picture I took of the Tricolored Heron!  What do you think?

Outing #31:
Eastern Kingbird
Indigo Bunting LB
Semipalmated Plover
Tricolored Heron LB
White Crowned LB
Willet LB

2012 Total: 154 (46 to go!)

Life List Total: 178 (22 to go!)

The Tricolored Heron!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


The first great weekend of Warbler Migration and boy was it fun!  I took a walk of East Rock, a local city park, with the local bird club and boy were the warblers crazy!  Before I left the parking lot, I got a Blackburnian Warbler and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  The walk itself was quite spectacular!  American Redstarts, Scarlet Tanagers, and Lots and lots of Warblers.  I've put the list below and some of the other sightings from my other stops!  All and all, a great day to be outside and be a birder!  More stories later.

My current plan is by Wednesday to prepare and scan a drawing so that you all can see and look at my drawings and studies.

Outing # 30
Blackburnian Warbler LB
Black-Throated Green Warbler LB
Blue-Winged Warbler LB
Great Crested Flycatcher LB
Green Heron
Lesser Yellowlegs LB
Magnolia Warbler LB
Nashville Warbler LB
Northern Parula LB
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak LB
Scarlet Tanager
Warbling Vireo LB
Worm-Eating Warbler LB
Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
Yellow Warbler LB

2012 Total: 148 (52 to go!)

Life List Total: 174 (26 to go!)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Warbler Wary

As I get ready for a weekend of birding and to be more honest, a weekend of warbler-ing, I am excited about facing such a big challenge of identifying such a diverse group of birds.  I'm currently reading Kaufman's Advanced Guide to Birding (Link: and it stresses the need for developing good field notes.  When I went through Education training, I did a lot of work on observing and what do observation.  Yet in the field, I am drawn between the dynamic of do I stay  and take detailed notes and sketches, or do I move on to try and find more birds.  I think once migration season is over, I'll take some time to do some detailed notes of some well-known birds.

That might make for some great posts.  I'll put on my detailed notes and drawings and I'd love feedback on how my powers of observation could use improving and what can I do.  Until then, go birding!

Outing #29
Black-and-White Warbler LB
Glossy Ibis LB
House Wren LB

2012 Total: 133 (67 left to goal)

Lift List Total: 161 (39 left to goal)

Two images of a Glossy Ibis and a Purple Sandpiper:

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Back to Birding in Connecticut

So I am back to birding in Connecticut!  I made a couple of trips to some great and very different sites.  One was a old second and third Growth Forest and the other was my favorite beach/state park.  The old growth forest was amazing.  Within 5 minutes of getting out of my car, I saw tree swallows and one of my favorite birds, the Pileated Woodpecker.  While I won't say that the Pileated is my all time favorite bird, it is certainly up there.  It is a wonderful majestic bird that was flying from tree to tree that I got to see and enjoy.  At these woods, I also saw some Blue-Grey Gnatcatchers and caught a glimpse of a Louisiana Waterthrush.  I did see a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker too that was getting ready for the breeding season.  I heard many more warblers than I saw.  Its great to hear them, but I wanted to see them as well.  I definitely will be going back to these woods.

My favorite beach park also yielded some great birds.  While I only added one bird to my year list there, I did see several Great birds.  The New Year bird was a Purple Martin, but I found savannah Sparrows there as well.  I also caught a good look at a Palm Warbler.  Lots of Killdeer, Osprey, Tree Swallows, Flickers, Cardinals, Gulls, Brant and even Great Egrets made for a great day outside!  Happy birding!

Outing #28:

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher LB
Louisiana Waterthrush LB
Pileated Woodpecker

Purple Martin

2012 Total: 130 (70 to go!)

Life List Update: 158 (42 to go!)

The photo below is a great sign that spring is on its way!  FIDDLEHEADS!!!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Last Southern Outing and a Warbler Frenzy

A quick note that has been delayed!  Just the notes of the outing!

Outing #27:
Acadian Flycatcher
Northern Rough-winged Swallow LB
Northern Waterthrush LB
Hooded Warbler LB
American Redstart LB
Blackpoll Warbler LB

2012 Total:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Part One of the Southern Trip

So I am done with part 1 on my Southern trip, I've only added 2 Life Bird, but I have managed to add 4 birds (including the 2 LBs) to my 2012 year list.  The Trip puts me at 120 which means that I am 80 birds short of my goal of 200 life birds.  Lots of Shorebirds are waiting for me at home and Warbler migration means that there will be plenty of birds to chase.  I am just not getting up and out early enough to get the birds.  Such is life on vacation.

Tomorrow I am hoping to hit some more parks with some gusto so I can nab some great birds!  But we shall see!  I may sleep in again.

Outing #26
Chimney Swift LB
Prothonotary Warbler LB
Red-Eyed Vireo
Barn Swallow

2012 Total: 120 (80 to go!)

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Arctic Rarity at the Beach

A few weeks ago I commented on some Snow Buntings hanging out in warm beach weather.  Going into Friday, I heard about an Arctic bird, in male breeding plumage hanging out at a local state park near the beach.  One must always keep their eyes open and ready when dealing with birds.  After I got the Lapland, I had a lovely walk around the park.  I saw Chickadees, Killdeer and a flock of over 8 extremely active and loud Greater Yellowlegs!  I had never seen Greater Yellow legs act like that.  Birds are truly amazing!

A Great Video to check out:

Outing #25
Lapland Longspur LB

2012 Total: 116 (84 left to go!)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Birding!

I went to visit several new parks. One of these parks used to be Public Water land and were converted into trails and public space.  I am always a fan of  private land being converted into public spaces.  Parks always improve the quality of the lives of the people who live near them and visit them.  Usage, of course, is key to the success and liveliness of any park.  Not all parks are for people of course, wildlife refuges are great uses of any space and can improve the health of the environment and impact the people who live there.  This park is definitely a place I want to go back and visit again.  I got a Hermit Thrush which was a new Life Bird for me. Woodpeckers were also all over the place and Woodpeckers are some of my favorite birds.  I also got a Pine Warbler at the site.

I also visited the Jamaica Bay NWR this weekend.  A great place to visit!  Barn Owls were nesting on site so they were a great pick up for my year and life list.  The other great pick up at the sight were tons of great shore birds.  Cormorants, Ruddy Ducks, Oystercatchers, Shovelers and Egrets were all over the place.  For a day off, there were also

The Last day of the Birding Extravaganza Weekend was a real doozy.  3 Parks, and many many birds.  I saw some of my favorites and some new ones.  The Larson Sanctuary was full of birds.  I saw my first Brown Creeper for the year and Northern Gannets which I hadn't seen since Whale Watching last year.  Big and powerful birds.  I  got 2 life birds yesterday.  But the Big news for me yesterday were all the Hermit Thrushes I saw.  5 individuals in total!  My kingdom for a telephoto lens!  A great weekend for birding and I can't wait to get out there again and see more birds

Outing #24:
Part 1
Hermit Thrush LB
Pine Warbler
Yellow Bellied Sapsucker
Part 2
Barn Owl LB
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Great Egret
Palm Warbler
Part 3
Brown Creeper
Horned Grebe LB
Northern Gannet
Winter Wren LB

2012 Total: 115!

Friday, March 30, 2012

A Day at the Beach

So full disclosure, today's post has no new birds to talk about.  But I just wanted to post and talk about how ready I am for migration season to begin.  My last visit to the Point let me see a lot of old early migrants.  Teals, Gadwalls, Wigeons and Brants were all around.  A few RB Mergs were also around.  I did see a Northern Harrier fight some serious winds along side some Ring-Billed Gulls.  While I did not get any new birds, I did enjoy being outside and seeing some serious birds in their environments.  An Osprey was nest building, or trying to anyway, since there were a few people around trying to fix an Osprey Cam.  When the link is up and running I will attach!  One thing I did enjoy was seeing how birds organize themselves.  As I posted before, Alvaro Jaramillo had posted that bids often organize themselves by size, a real pecking order!  I saw this for myself as I scanned and examined a sandbar.  At one end, Great Blacked Gulls dominated the bar, then Ring-Billed mixed with Brants and then at the end, tiny little Dunlins were fighting for space at the end of the bar.  Beyond listing and building one's list, it is important to start seeing what the birds are doing around you.  I will definitely be looking out for the birds and their habits.  And I've attached some fun Observations below.  If you have something interesting, please comment below:

WB Nuthatch going up a tree like a Brown Creeper
BH Nuthatch going at a tree like a Woodpecker
RB Gull chasing some tree swallows with a similar flight pattern
RT Hawk buzzing a flock of Mallards for fun
RS Hawk chasing a murder of crows instead of the other way around
Greater Yellowlegs running around a mudflat in circles

Any good ones?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Richard Crossley ID Guide - Eastern Birds Review

So at the COA Meeting, I heard Richard Crossley and picked up a copy of his guide book. A couple of quick comments. The images showcase the greatest feature of the Crossley ID Guide.  The Image layouts really create a great and diverse way to look and learned to look at birds.  While I am still browsing the book, the images do a great job at not only showing you what the bird looks like, it shows you how to for birds.  The Woodpecker and Rail pages do a good job of teaching illustrating how difficult it can be to find the bird in its environs.  I do appreciate this aspect of the book highly.  The images are vivid, realistic and helpful for learning how to look at and for birds.  One Critique is that I want more pages that help birders distinguish between similar species of birds.  A few books do shared image and written comparisons of like birds and I think Crossley's new format could do a great job illustrating how different the birds are.  Another critique is that currently the book is HUGE.  In order to accommodate the various layouts, this was a necessity, but a pocket guide would be helpful.  Crossley ID Guides is promising more innovative guides and improvements and I hope that a portable field guide is on the docket.

Here are a couple of his pages and layouts:

All Images Belong to Crossley ID and Princeton UP (C) are not MINE!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Some Great Birds and A Birding Conference

So a couple of great birding outings this weekend. Friday, I returned to the spot where I saw the Piping Plover to see what I could. I decided to stop by and see the marsh before going to look at the beach. While setting up my scope and looking around at all the Wigeons and Green-Winged Teals, I spotted a small duck moving around. It was a Blue-Wing Teal male and female! A new Life bird for me! There are beautiful birds. I followed them for about half an hour as they swam, dabbled and poked around the mud. While doing that, I saw some Osprey Building a Nest, 2 Snowy Egrets hunting in some tall spartina grass and tons of green-winged teals and American Wigeons. While the last 2 weren't new year or life birds for me, it was a great exercise to study birds and look at the birds around me.

On another note, I went to the Connecticut Ornithological Association Annual Meeting this weekend as well. I saw a couple of great speakers, Alvaro Jaramillo and Richard Crossley and I've added some information below. I got a copy of Crossley's Guide and I will be posting a review later in the week. In the end it was a great week to be a birder and I hope to continue having weeks like this!

Alvaro Jaramillo:

Richard Crossley:

Outing #23
Blue-Winged Teal LB (Life List is at 139)
Snowy Egret

2012 Total: 103

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Weekend of Outings...

So it was been a busy weekend. Trying to keep ahead of the Spring Migration kept me bust and vigilant. Every time I went out this weekend, I kept an eye open for wayward species and new migrants. I did manage to get a lot of birds here that I had gotten down south before. Northern Shovelers, Northern Flickers, Eastern Phoebes, and Killdeer. Great Outings even if I missed the Blue-Winged Teals, Egrets and Ibises that had returned! Nonetheless it was a great time to be about out and about. Missing those birds was a disappointment for my 2012 list and even my life list in a few cases, but I did enjoy seeing, hearing and being outside. The Flicker was hanging out with some RW Blackbirds. A great weekend of birding! The real gem of the weekend was seeing the Piping Plovers. They were displaying and even mounting and mating! Looking forward to a great and active Migration season!

Outing #22
American Oystercatcher
Black-Bellied Plover
Cedar Waxwing
Piping Plover

2012 Total: 100 (half way to goal for the year!)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A Day at the Beach

A great day at the state park today. Great Sun and warm weather meant that it would be a great day for birds. And it certainly was. Birds were everywhere! As well as birders. Pulling into the parking lot gave me the chance to talk to several birders and admire a Greater Yellowlegs making the rounds while avoiding the ring-billed and Herring Gulls that were just sleeping around him. After than, I decided to move on. There were lots of American Black Ducks, Ring-neck Ducks and Red-Breasted Mergansers just sitting in the waves soaking up the sun. Even a few people were joining them! The salt marsh also had a lot of activity. Killdeer were flocking around and were joined by a few snow buntings! A little too warm to imagine that snow buntings were still around, but there they were! Just hanging out and having fun. Harriers and Turkey Vultures filled the sky along with the new arrived Red-Wing Blackbirds. They were fighting over spots in the trees with Grackles! Bonaparte's Gulls, a bird I had been looking for since November, finally caught up with me. I found them just sitting on a sand bar. The sand bar was a popular place to hang out. Even a Harbor seal made an appearance! Rounding out the day I got horned larks, Yellow-Rumped Warblers, Northern Cardinals, Song Sparrows, Red-Throated Loons. My 2012 Total rose to 97 and my life list grew to 139. My goal for 2012 was to get to 200 for both the year and life lists. With Migration season upon us, I hope I can get there!

Outing #21
Bonaparte's Gulls LB

2012 Total: 96

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Wood Ducks, Lots of Wood Ducks

Rumor has it that wood ducks are making their way back to the northeast. Seeing Wood Ducks are one of the chief reasons I got into birding. They are beautiful and when I firs t read about them, they were describe as elusive and tough to find. I decided, arbitrarily, as most good decisions go, that when I found a wood duck, I would then be able to call myself a good birder. I found my first one about 2 years ago, but today showcased a gluttony of wood ducks. Every spot I spotted at yesterday had wood ducks. I got some great views through scopes, binoculars and the plain eye. I was humbled to be at several spots that were supporting such beautiful birds and I hope to be able to see them as the breeding season continues and grows!

Outing #20
Wood Duck

2012 Total:94

Sunday, March 4, 2012


The morning was wet and dark, but the afternoon was sunny and glorious. I decided today was the day to try and sneak a peak at the Northern Shrike that has been hunting in a local nature preserve. The first part of this story begins in Mobile, Alabama. There I had seen a loggerhead shrike and decided that one of my goal birds for 2012 would be the Northern Shrike. Well, after hiking around the preserve for a while, I found the Northern Shrike. The walk was great. I had a 44-acre preserve just me and the birds. I saw a Red-Tailed Hawk buzz a flock of about 50 Mallards. They all flew away while the hawk seemed to have a good time. Saw some Juncos and a big group of chickadees hanging out in trees. I had the day to myself. There are some stressful weeks ahead at work and to have a park all to myself was perfection. Finding the Shrike was the icing on the cake!

Outing #19
Northern Shrike LB

2012 Total: 92

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A long Walk but a short addition...

So I took a long walk and only got one bird for 2012. But the Journey there was great fun. In the middle of winter, to talk over 3 miles and see all sorts of birds fly around reminded me that the migration is almost here. And boy does it look like it will be great. But I am getting ahead of myself. Today. American Robins, House Sparrows, Mute Swans nesting, Common Grackles, Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Northern Cardinals and the only new bird for 2012, the American Coot. Coot's aren't normally described as elusive, but this coot was awkwardly elusive. He was darting in and out of some reeds in a shallow lake. But then again, a couple of Bald Eagles had been spotted around the lake, so the Coot, also known as one of the Bald Eagle's favorite meals, was wise to be hiding. Well, I'll be rooting for you!

Outing #18
American Coot

2012 Total: 91

A Coot in the Fall

Saturday, February 25, 2012

City Parks

I spent the other day birding all around my hometown, I learned a lot about the birds of my hometown. Lots of great birding to be had. In 3 parks I saw some amazing birds. While I only added 2 to my year total and got 0 life birds, I saw a great deal of birds that were new for me in Connecticut and new for me in here. Bald Eagles, Swamp and Field Sparrows, Ring-Necked Ducks, Buffleheads, House Finches and a Mallard drake with a purple head. I noticed the Bald Eagle in the park when every little bird that I had been following flew into brush or in between large rocks. Nothing is scarier to many creatures than the sight of a Bald Eagle. In fact I felt bad for the Red-Tailed Hawk patrolling the same area as he was virtually ignored. Of course, that probably meant he had better hunting opportunities.

Urban Parks provide great insights into the balance of nature and humanity. Once again, its just a matter of seeing. Sometimes you can see the power humans have on nature. Oil tankers, trash and roads cut through parks and make their marks on how animals, plants and all forms of life have to make their way. yet, nature, not just birds, seem to find a way. yet, when a park is cleaned, valued, and enjoyed, nature and humanity can flourish together and enjoy each other.

Outing #17
Common Grackle
Green-Winged Teal

2012 Total: 90

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

One last day of birding

So this is the last day that I could go birding down south. I had to make the most of it. I visited a human-made swamp, 2 reservoirs and a park. It paid off huge dividends. I added about 14 birds to my year list and even got to add the American Kestrel, this year's Bird of the Year (see link to the right) to my life list. It was also nice to see to see a couple of birds I've wanted to see for a while and a couple I didn't expect. The Northern Shoveler was one i'd been hoping to see for a while, tree swallows and eastern bluebirds were nice too. The Sandhill Cranes were a nice pick up since I thought they were all gone by this time. I was thrilled to get the Common Yellowthroat and Eastern Phoebe because it shows me that I am getting really good at looking and identifying small songbirds. It was great to get out there and see some awesome birds. I will be posting pictures later so stay tuned!

Outing #16
American Kestrel LB
Belted Kingfisher
Brown-Headed Nuthatch
Common Yellowthroat LB
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Phoebe LB
Muscovy Duck
Northern Shoveler LB
Pied-Billed Grebe
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Red-Headed Woodpecker
Sandhill Crane LB
Tree Swallow LB

2012 Total: 88

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A Trip South

A quick vacation from work means that I head down South. The advantage of such a trip is that you get a chance to see a whole different group of birds. One of the things that I do enjoy about seeing new birds on my year list is that they remind me how lucky I am to see and notice the world around me. It also gives me a chance to appreciate the skills and effort that Big Year-ers put into their efforts.

I also have a bit of a conundrum on my list. A bird that I thought was a Western Grebe in Rhode Island turns out that it was. I didn't count it or list it because I thought it too improbable that a Western Grebe was on the East Coast. Since then, several briders have confirmed the Western Grebe in the area. Do I count the bird or not? Your thoughts?

Outing #15
American Goldfinch
Brown Thrasher
Carolina Chickadee
Downy Woodpecker
House Finch
Purple Finch
Redwinged Blackbird
Tufted Titmouse
White-Breasted Nuthatch

As the Trip Continues:
Eastern Towhee
Field Sparrow LB
Northern Flicker

2012 Total: 75

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

A New Enemy...

So now that I have gotten my Snowy Owl, I felt invincible. My New Enemy is the Northern Shrike. In short Shrike happens. I thought I found a shrike today and yet, when I examined that it was a Mockingbird. Stupid mistake sure, but part of it was that I really want to see a Northern Shrike. I saw a Loggerhead in Alabama and I'd love to get the Northern and get my North American Shrikes. But also they are amazing and beautiful birds, although they are vicious. Obviously this isn't the last time that I am going to chase the Shrike, but hopefully next time, I will be more successful. I do feel that I am getting better at seeing small birds so I hope that I can continue to hone my skills as I hunt for the shrike

Outing #14
Swamp Sparrow

2012 Total: 63

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Busy Busy Weekend

So this weekend was filled with 2 great and wonderful birding trips. One River Cruise and one trip to Rhode Island. Both Trips yielded some great finds and even a few life birds. I've attached a few photos of the snowy owl. I was thrilled to see it. In fact, I half expected that what I saw was a gull and not a Snowy. But there she was. and she was hanging out with some Harlequin Ducks. What a great day to be outside and a birder. While I am ready for winter to be over, I am excited that there are still great birds to find out there. This is short but I'll be back. There are a few ducks to still get out there and the outings during the week will be spent trying to get them. Good birding to you all!

Outing #12
Bald Eagle
Great Cormorant

Outing #13
Black Scoter
Harlequin Duck LIFE BIRD!
Lesser Scaup
Snowy Owl LIFE BIRD!
Surf Scoter

2012 Total: 61

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February... More like No-Snow-Uary

Today's birding is brought to you by compression shirts. Just kidding. We are enjoying a real odd winter. Last Winter saw a record amount of Snow dumped on us but this winter has seen very little snow. I've been enjoying walking around the warm weather and there are plenty of birds I want to chase but because of school and work requirements, I've had to scale back my birding. I have managed to get a few birds though on short walks. The real gem of the week has been seeing Trumpeter Swans. Not really a common bird on the east coast so a nice grab for me. With the weather warming, Canada geese are starting to show up en masse and I know that soon more and more birds will be migrating through. So the goal for the next few weeks is to keep my eyes open for some new migrants and go chase a new birds... I am planning on a going chases soon and an eagle cruise. Well, back to the grind, good birding!

Outing #11:
American Robin
Black-Capped Chickadee
Trumpeter Swan LB
Wild Turkey

2012 Total: 54

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Snow buntings...

Today was not a good day to bird.  There were lots of hawks and vultures out but that meant most birds were going to be in hiding. Add that to the high winds and huge number of dogs out and that's a recipe for a bad birding day. The High winds also meant that birds would be hard to find and reluctant to come out. So there wasn't much to see. Even though the weather was difficult to see birds, it was great to be outside. The Beach in winter is a great place to see birds and catch some sun. Although it would be insane to be tanning in the middle of January. In any case, I did manage to get a new bird for 2012. In the parking lot, there are always horned larks. Which are a great bird to see. But Today as I check out the horned larks, i saw a flash of white... hmm... odd as horned larks are most definitely not White. Out come the binoculars. Well there's definitely something there but I can't see it through the binoculars so out comes the scope. 2 Snow Buntings in the flock of larks. So that's a new bird for 2012! Great day all and all. Great day to go and see birds. A second spot showcased some Common Mergansers, Gulls, Black Ducks, Gadwalls and Mute Swans, not new birds for 2012 or my life list, but beautiful birds to see and enjoy!

Outing #10
Snow Bunting

2012 Total: 50!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Hairy Friend

So, while Daylight continues to linger and linger, I will continue to take advantage and go birding after work. Today, I stopped by a heavily wooded pond. One of the many things I love about birding is that in one moment there can be pure silence but if you are willing to give up a little time, then you can see a birds and all sorts of life pop up before you. Today was that sort of day. Nothing and then little flutters of birds here and there. The only new bird for 2012 was a Hairy Woodpecker. I did see some Red-Breasted Mergansers too. The biggest development of the day was 2 mystery birds. One was very very small and was alone flying from branch to branch and another was fair large, gray back about the size of a herring gull but also flying branch to branch. Neither were around long enough for me to get a positive ID and both flew into the sunlight. Guess I will have a reason to go back and look around some more! In the meantime, Here are the year totals and a picture I took of a Hairy WP.

Outing #9
Hairy Woodpecker

2012 Total: 49

Sunday, January 22, 2012

I wish I had a feeder

There is of course a difference between birding and bird watching. The key difference is where you are. Are you sitting by a feeder or are you on a trail somewhere canvas a forest or beach looking? The Former generally conjures images of lazy sundays, rocking chairs and crossword puzzles. The later conjures images of binoculars, hordes of people in khaki vests and frayed books. So while both are fun and have their stereotypes, both are great ways to see birds. An established feeder is especially good at attracting different types of birds. At or near feeders I've seen Red-Headed WPs, Yellow Bellied WPs, Cooper's Hawks, White-Breasted and Brown-Backed Nuthatches and Brown Creepers. Which brings to my lack of a bird feeder. My association doesn't like bird feeders so I am out of luck. Whenever I find a good feeder, I find it hard to take my eyes away. You literally never know what will show up. The other day, I found a Dark-eyed Junco outside a local feeder, not a new bird for me, but a new one for 2012 since I don't have a feeder that they like to frequent. I can dream of building a yard perfect for birds. Lots of different kinds of feeders, suet, nectar and oriole feeders along with mulberry trees and lots of bird houses and baths. I hear that there used to be a couple of birders in texas along the gulf coast with such a yard who found all sorts of migrants in the yard. Well, one day, just not today...

Dark-eyed Junco
Song Sparrow

2012 Total: 47

**Added Note**
On the way home from a visit to the local Nature Reserve (pics up later), I saw a about 5 Black Vultures just sitting in some trees along the highway. I guess they were keeping an eye open for roadkill, but a pretty cool bird and Life Bird for me

Outing #8
Black Vulture *LB

2012 Total *updapted*: 48

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Ice on the Pond and Cold in the Air

Birding has been tough the past few days. Cold Weather, Arctic winds, and cloudy have been the latest challenges. Now I didn't say I didn't bird. I went out twice Sunday and once today. Got some great pics of a Great Blue Heron and two mute swans sitting on the ice. When I went to go get pictures. Someone had scared off the Great Blue and he had flow over and was sitting in a nearby Osprey Nest Platform. It made for a great photo-op. I've attached 2 photos from today.

Sunday's birding was a bit more adventurous. Once again, I was on the prowl for the Snowy Owl. I am starting to come to grips with the fact that the snowy owl might just be my new nemesis. After all, I'd have to be at work, in the middle of something to not drop everything and rush out to see it. and I check the listservs and alerts manically. Well, in any case, there was no luck and I could not find a Snowy Owl or any owl for that matter. But I did see a Cooper's Hawk. Not only did I see him, but he ended up being about 15 ft from me when spotted. A small hawk but still very awesome. A quick stop by the harbor was more fruitful. Lots of gulls and ducks. I got some great new life birds and birds for 2012! List is below.

The ruddy ducks were a cool find. I've never seen them before and I love seeing a new duck. There were Greater Scaups out there two. Before I tell you about my last new bird, I want to tell you about a Mystery Bird. There was a Juvenile Brant hanging out with a bunch of Mallards. Never seen or even read about a Brant being alone. But the Brant was happy to just float around with the Mallard. The last new Bird I saw was a Redhead. A fun bird to see and I found a flock of them hanging out by a nice seafood place. I guess I will have to try it sometime. Full list of new birds below.

Outing #7
Cooper's Hawk *LB
Mourning Dove
Ruddy Duck *LB
Redhead *LB
Greater Scaup *LB

2012 Total: 46

Friday, January 13, 2012

Another day of Cold Weather Birding

Another Day of cold weather birding. I may be making an investment in some shell pants soon. Either way, I didn't get to see anything new but saw some great birds in my nearby pond. There were gadwalls, hooded mergansers, mute swans(back to them later), an Acrobatic Hawk of some sort (my guess is a red-tailed as the tail was dark). One fun bird was a female bufflehead that was hanging out with the hooded Mergansers. As we observed and scanned the Gadwalls that were also hanging out, two mute swans started a bit of a fight. They were gesturing, being territorial and actual fighting. Well, to be fair, one was fighting, the other was getting beaten! I'll attach some more photos later. But the 2nd photo is the larger swam gesturing and chasing off the offending swam. The 1st photo is of some of the ducks that found their way to the pond.

Outing #6
Common Merganser

2012 Total: 39

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Long Tailed Duck Image

Here is the image of my loose-end Long-Tailed Duck. I am think my goal for the month is to learn how to successfully digiscope. I am not 100% how the process works, but, that's half the fun. so I will be experimenting in the future with digiscoping. I'll try to post more pictures as part of my 2012 birding!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

An Unfinished Task...

Today was another spent looking for the Snowy Owl by the beach. No such luck though. Although, I did wrap up a loose end on my life list. One day while searching for a picture I had taken of a Northern Gannet on my computer, I found an odd picture. After a bit of examination, I figured out it was a Long-Tailed Duck. Now when I took the picture, didn't know what a long tailed duck was... in fact, I couldn't tell the difference between a mallard and a merganser. So when I started my list, I feel it would be wrong to add Long-Tailed Duck to my life-List. So today, while searching for the Snowy Owl, I found a long-tailed Duck sitting in the water. I beautiful duck. And while I missed the Snowy Owl, I managed to tie up a loose end on my lifelist and get a great bird for my 2012 list!

Outing #5
Long-tailed duck *LB
Gadwall *LB
Laughing Gull *LB
Double breasted cormorant
Great black backed gull
Americn wigeon
Fish crow

2012 Total: 37

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Another Wild Goose Chase

So today saw me undertake another wild goose chase. Today's target bird was a Pink-footed Goose. A goose that is fairly common in Greenland and Great Britain but extremely rare bird in North America. The word on the street (by which I mean blogs, emails and listservs) was that the target bird was hanging out with a huge flock of Canada Geese. So after a few minutes of driving around, we found the flock, a flock that was over 200 Canada Geese large! Well, after standing slack jawed, i picked up my binoculars and got to looking. I must have looked over each goose about 5 times. It getting to know this flock so well that I could tell you who was walking where and who had honked at who. Then, there it was. I figured out that I was with the wrong flock. A couple of birders pointed me to the right flock. When I was with the right flock, I found the pink-footed goose. I'd like to tell there was a moment of revelation or that music and lights shone from the heavens when I found it. No such luck, instead, I found that I could not take my eyes off the bird. I beautiful goose and my first real rarity successfully chased down. A great addition to my life list and to my 2012 Year list! Well, here's to more birding!

Outing #4
Pink Footed Goose *LB
Northern Mockingbird
Mute Swan

2012 Total 30

Friday, January 6, 2012

Another Visit to the Beach

Imagine being on the beach on a sunny day. No one else around. A whole beach to yourself. Now here's the catch, its only 40F outside. But still, this morning I had beach to myself. Saw some great birds and got a couple of new birds for 2012. Saw Ruddy Turnstones again, Sanderlings,and a Northern Harrier. The Harrier was hunting and riding the wind gusts. Red breasted Mergansers and other sea duck-like birds were around. I was hoping that there would be a harbor seal out there. I saw one last time i was out there but this time no luck. As I started to walk home, I realized I was not alone. There were about 10 other birders out and maybe 20 others, walking their dogs, themselves and a couple of park rangers. It was time to go home realizing that the park was in good hands. I was happy to see people out and about on this sunny winter day and I hope more and more people will take advantage of the parks and see the birds!

Outing #3:
Great Blue Heron
Northern Harrier
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Crow
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
Red-Breasted Merganser
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

2012 Today: 26

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cold Weather Birding

So in continuing my effort to see and count birds in 2012, I went out yesterday to see some birds at a local state park. It was a beach state park too. Which would have been fine except we had a swirl of arctic wind yesterday! Birding in 19 Degree weather with 20 mph takes dedication and way more chap stick than I had. In any case, I got a few good looks at some ducks and songbirds. While I didn't add much to my list, being diligent about my 2012 year list reminded me why it was good to see some common birds and get them on the list. Back to the cold though. Piercing cold. So cold that after 5 minutes, my earlobes felt frozen under my hat. But I pressed on and go some good looks and shots at a flying flock of American Black Ducks and A Northern Cardinal at a feeder. List is below. I will attach some of my photos as soon as I can.

Outing #2 of 2012:
Canada Goose
White Throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal

2012 Total: 16

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Year in Review, A New Year's Goal

So as 2011 wrapped up, I went out looking for a Snowy Owl. One has been very active along the coast and I've always wanted to see one. Sadly, I missed the owl but got an pair of American Wigeons sitting in a marsh. I also got to see a bunch of brants. I needed the year at 118 species. Not great, but a good start for a beginning birder. Some of my favorites of the year have been seeing a red-headed woodpecker, pilated woodpeckers, green winged teals, little Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, and horned larks (also my first bird of 2012!). I did also see a few Brown Pelicans this year. The most memorable birding moment of the year was seeing two bald eagles perform their courtship ritual. An amazing feat of nature and life and I can't believe that I got to see it live. Always a treat to see such beautiful and majestic bird...

Which brings me to my new years goal. Besides the typical go to the gym, eat better and walk my dog more, I decided to set a goal of at least 250 birds and to see how many birds I can get in 2012. Now I won't be using any restrictions other than the North America, which will be easy as I have no plans for travel outside that area currently. In any case, should be a fun year and one that I hope to track of... hence the blog...

Year List for 2012:
Common Eider
Common Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
American Black Duck
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Ruddy Turnstone *LB
Purple Sandpiper *LB
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Horned Lark

Total: 13