Thursday, February 28, 2013

Visiting the Junkyard

I accomplished a birding first this past weekend.  I went and visited a landfill to see some gulls.  While I had heard of a couple rare gulls at the landfill, I was really going to learn more about gulls as a whole.  In the end, I was confronted with a lot of smells and similarity.  I can't tell you that I was hit with a moment of transient and profound wisdom.  But I did gain a better appreciation of gulls.  I know how that I am getting ready to look at more gulls and really embrace that challenge.

I've never asked for comments but I'd like 2 things if you read this.  #1 what's the best book on gulls out there and #2 what are good sites to get close to some gulls?

Thanks and hope to hear from you all soon!

2013 Year List: 80 (120 to Go!)
Common Goldeneye
Long Tailed Duck

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Birding: The Central Park Effect - Review

I had the pleasure this weekend of watching Birders: The Central Park Effect and listening to a panel discussion by filmmaker Jeffrey Kimball, Yale Professor Richard Prum (Bio and an article on his work), and David Lindo aka the Urbanbirder (@Urbanbirder and his site).  The film is an intimate and in-depth look at the world of birding.  While it specifically focused on Birders in Central Park, the film could have been made anywhere.  One of the truly special aspects of this film is that you are constantly getting lost in the scenery and you forget that you are watching nature and birds inside of New York City.  The cinematography and dialogue let you get lost in the birds and passions of the birders, but will remind you that you are in the middle of an urban metropolis.

In fact, that was one of the main questions or challenges of this film.  There was a great sense that birds and nature are highly adaptable creatures and that the this story might wrap up with birds not only visiting Central Park, but flourishing despite the challenges of urbanization.  Yet, there is a dark shadow of what is occurring to birds and nature due to human civilization.  The film does discuss the decline of birds that has  been occurring for the past 40 years and references the Christmas Bird Counts that have provided lots of data collected by Citizen Scientists for just about 100 years at this point.  The panel discussion also helped shed light on the birds struggles and their upcoming trials.  While the future of many birds is uncertain, the future of birding is also a little uncertain.  While the film does showcase a few young birders, they point to the fact that birding still has the stigma of being something old ladies do after church on Sundays.  There are couple of cool monologues across different people and figures who are mentioning and defending birding as a worthwhile activity.

In the end, Birds and Birding have a questionable future.  Yet where a questions remain, opportunity lies.  There is a next generation of birders out there like a next generation of birding.  Professor Prum outline the chances of success for many of our birds and how they are being threatened.  While we are uncertain as to the specific threats, we know that we cannot allow catastrophic outcomes or the demise of birds and birders.   This film goes a long way to helping non-birders see the beauty of birds in a space that they thought they knew well.  I know I'll be heading off to bird there sometime soon...

Links to the Movie:
Documentary website

2013 List: 76 (still!)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Joys of Gulls

Gulls still remain a mystery to me.  And several other people in fact.  Due to the recovery efforts from the recent Blizzard, I am missing out on a Gull Class.  While the glamours of migration bring in different Warblers and raptors is quite alluring, Gulls don't offer any flashy colors or amazing habitats like some warblers and other birds do.  Lush forests to find warblers versus landfills to find Gulls.  In any case, I am excited about going gulling this weekend.  I wish that I was going to be attending the class as well but alas, such is life.

I am going to keep this post short since I've have so many pictures!

 2 Gulls hanging out in a local pond (C)
Western Gulls roosting above the Seattle Aquarium (C)
 A Black Headed Gull (C)
A Laughing Gull (C) Me
Bonaparte Gull hanging near the rocks (c) me

A Northern Cardinal (c) Me

2013 Year List: 76 (123 to go!)
Notable Additions:
Chipping Sparrow
American Goldfinch

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Barnacle Goose - Found!!

With Saturday free and my dog relaxed and in bed sleeping, I decided to spend the day out chasing rarities and even ventured to New Jersey to chase a couple of very rare birds.  As the readers of this blog will know, the Barnacle Goose has been a bird that I've spent many hours looking for the Barnacle Goose.  I am now happy to say that after days of staring at hordes of Canada Geese, I can now say that I've finally seen my first Barnacle Goose!  I showed up at a dam pond in New Rochelle, NY where there were rumors of one.  By rumors I mean eBird reports.  The Park where I found the Barnacle Goose was full of birds, 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, Red-Bellied WPs, Gulls, Chickadees, and Cardinals.  When I finally got to the pond, I was confronted by a Great Black Backed Gull eating the remains of a Canada Goose, a couple of Hooded Mergansers, and

The other rarity I chased was a Northern Lapwing in New Jersey.  While the Birders were out in force, finding the Lapwings was no easy task.  Before we found them, we found Blue Jays, Sandhill Cranes, and some aggressive Turkey Vultures.  It was the aggressive Turkey Vultures that rustled up the Lapwings.  There were about 3 of them far in the back of the field hanging out with some killdeer.  It was a great day to be out and about and to catch all those rarities was quite a treat!  Anyway, go outside and see some birds!

A Great Black Back Gull eating the leftovers of a Canada Goose (C) Me

A Pileated Woodpecker (C) Me

The Found Barnacle Goose (C) Me

2013 List: 73 (127 to go!)
Notable Additions:
Northern Lapwing (Lifer)
Barnacle Goose (Lifer)
Bonaparte's Gull
Sandhill Crane

Life List: 258 (42 to go!)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nemo and the Junco

Winter Storm Nemo landed and left.  In between that over 40 inches of snow ended up on our region.  So needless to say that birding, once again, has been limited.  Despite the frustration at not being able to get to some of my favorite hotspots and bird, I have enjoyed my time with my feeder again.  Namely because at the diversity of birds that visit my feeder and the chance to really observe bird behavior has been enjoyable.  I'll go through the different birds that have been at my feeders and list their behaviors.

Black-Capped Chickadee - This has proven to be a real bully.  We haven't had any House Sparrows on the feeders in the a while and its because the Chickadees are bullying them off.  An impressive sight to see for sure.  The Chickadees like to hop and jump to push away their food rivals.  They do stand a little taller and they get squeaky-er.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch - I've got 3 visiting my feeder and while I've written about these birds before, I never commented on how committed to the feeder the nuthatches are.  Yesterday, a Red-Breasted Nuthatch flashed it wings and squeaked at a Chickadee on the peanut feeder.  I've never seen a nuthatch do that and it was quite the sight.

Dark-Eyed Junco - A flock of these have found my feeders and my viburnum.  Some have even found hiding spots in my porch and planters. I've taken lots of photos and even some sketches of the birds.  I'll post them if you want.

Dark Eyed Junco (c) Me

2013 Year List
65 (Turkey Vulture)
While the Turkey didn't visit my feeder, it was a yard visible bird and one that I somehow missed so far for the year.  That's where we stand for 2013!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

February, More Feeder and The Brown Creeper

So once again, home improvement thwarted any adventurous birding outings.  I did however managed to take a walk around my local neighborhood.  There were a ton of birds out despite the late hour and the biggest surprise was a Yellow-Rumped Warbler.  They had disappeared for a few weeks and I was excited to see them again.  I was happy to walk around despite the cold.  Ducks and swans were hard to ID as the ice-free part of the local lake was too far and the sparrows were all too happy to stay beneath the brush cover.  But I managed a few Nuthatches of both local kinds and a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  My favorite sighting of the day was a Brown Creeper though.  I love these birds.  Their camouflage is unique and their presence is always fun.  While they lack an elegant flight pattern, I do love the way the seem to glop on to any tree in search of food.  Always makes for a good time!  So I post a picture of a Brown Creeper for your weekly Blog post!  Home Renovations are taking a break so birding is back on!  WHoo hoo!

File:Brown creeper (Certhia americana).jpg
Brown Creeper (C) Alan Vernon

2013 Year List: 64
Newest Addition: Yellow-Rumped Warbler (Myrtle's)