Saturday, March 30, 2013

Getting Ready for April

Migration is starting...  Migration is starting.... I say it again because I am so excited.  Migration is coming. All over the state (nation, world, etc) there have been reports of incoming birds and new arrivals.  Waterfowl are moving around with gusto and the arrival of the swallows tells me that we are getting ready for the movement of warblers and other great birds.  At the park I found a great number of Killdeer and Tree Swallows (6~8) and I was excited to see them hunting, eating, and flying about.  Osprey (pics in next post) have also returned.  Their recovery (along with other raptors) have been a great example of how durable nature is, of course, they shouldn't have to dance around us.

My birding at the park was interrupted but I enjoyed the preview of migrants who showed up.  The great number of birds out there has me very excited for the oncoming Warblers and Shorebirds.  Ebird's Occurrence maps mark and display with great drama how birds move across our continent.  New Hampshire's Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has a tracking device attached to an Osprey and you can follow along with Art the Osprey's Migration.  Currently, he's looking at the Caribbean and waiting to move across to get to North America.  Think about these voyages over the next months.  How do birds do and how do they cross our borders and boundaries?  And remember that they do it again and again!  There's so much tying us to our desks and jobs and institutions, yet for the birds, that's no matter.  Well, not much will be tying down in April and May, so I guess the birds got another convert.

Happy Birding!


 Red-Tailed Hawk
 Great Egret
 Red Necked Grebe
 Greater Yellowlegs
Tree Swallow

2013 Year List: 113 (87 to go!)
Red-Necked Grebe (lifer) (Life List total: 263, 37 to go!)
Tree Swallow
Great Egret

Monday, March 25, 2013


This weekend was the annual meeting of the Connecticut Ornithological Association and I very much enjoyed all the talks.  I was stuck thinking about questions of conservation and the future of birding as all three talks addressed different aspects of the birding community.

Marshall Iliff - - Iliff is the project director of ebird and is currently working to expand our own understanding of birds and is building a large army of citizen-scientists to help him to just that.  Some of the questions I was left with was now that we can track birds, how do we reach out to other populations of people out there who can help us protect these birds.

Sharon "The Birdchick" Stiteler - - Stitler's talk focused around her many adventures birding.  Once again, I had several questions about conservation.  Stiteler focused her talked on the different environments where birders are found.  Places like a volcano in Guatemala, Corn Fields in Israel, and downtown Minneapolis.  All the time, Stiteler demonstrated that not only can people, birds, and complex ecosystems co-exist, they can thrive together.  I was left thinking, how do we export/import models of successful human and nature interactions.  How do we protect and enjoy the nature that is around us?

Dr. Steve Kress - National Audubon & Project Puffin - Dr. Kress's talk brought up a myriad of questions and facts.   How do we protect the seabird species and how can humans help the struggling birds on the world?  Kress brought several cases how humans are working to protect and ensure the survival of several threatened birds including the Short-Tailed Albatross and the Bermuda Petrel.  What role do we play in the survival of threatened birds?

Perhaps I am just using a lens of conservation to look at and think about the community and situation we all find ourselves in.  So in the meantime, look at some pictures of birds, the meeting, and a half-eaten bird!  Someone had a bad day for sure!

Blue-Winged Teal

The COA Meeting
A Skeleton of a Bird

2013 Year List:106
New Additions:
Wilson's Snipe
Cooper's Hawk
Blue-Winged Teal

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Woodcock at Dusk

This the season to look for American Woodcock in grassy areas and celebrate the coming of spring.  This isn't as glamorous as it sounds.  The fields are wet, the winds are sharp, and when the sun is going down, the woodcocks come out.  At first, I was frustrated that there were no woodcock preening or displaying.  Then, as if they had all hit some switch, the preening and buzzing and nighttime flights began.

It was simply amazing to see this sign of spring be so active and so master this time and environment.  I was tripping into puddles, walking into bushes, and failed to capture a shot of any woodcock (which is why I've provided a video clip from Eagle Optics and the Birdchick).  Take a look and go out a dusk and look and listen for the American Woodcock!

Finding Mr. Woodcock (C) by Eagle Optics and The BirdChick

2013 Year List: 103
American Woodcock

Monday, March 18, 2013

Birding New York... Sorta

I decided to spend the day birding in New York.  While adding to my New York List was fun.  I was after a very special bird.  A Varied Thrush.  I missed Varied Thrush on my trip out west last summer to the Pacific NW and I was happy for the opportunity to pick up and see the bird.  Sadly my camera battery died before I could better pics but you can see several of the marks on the head in the picture below.

I got a real chance to see the birding culture of New York and I have to say that at least in Brooklyn, its very active and all the people I ran into were great!  They took time to show me around and made sure I didn't get lost.  I recommend saying hi to anyone with bins if you find yourself birding the park.  I hope to go back again soon and enjoy their walks!

2013 Year List: 101 (99 to go)
Notable Additions:
Northern Pintail (lifer)
Varied Thrush (lifer)
Eastern Phoebe
Fox Sparrow
Hermit Thrush

Life List 260 (40 to go!)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Finally a Wood Duck!

I took a walk around my local birding haunt.  Having a regular birding haunt helps you to appreciate the change in seasons and the importance of habitat for birds.  There's a nice loop of fresh water lakes, brush, woods, and trails near my house.  I finally got a Wood Duck.  The Wood Duck is one of my all time favorite birds.  As I began to learn about birds, the Wood Duck seemed to be this mysterious icon of birds.  A local gem that would only reveal itself when one trekked long journeys and scaled great trails.  I saw these wood ducks by the side of a busy well traveled road.

This brings me to my next point.  As birders, sometimes we find ourselves as having insight into a world that is unknown to others.  We travel in odd packs and see things that are truly amazing.  Some see a dump, we see a learning ground and a habitat.  Some people just see a road, we see the brush habitat and edge habitat.  Birds are adaptable and everywhere, at least for now.  There are of course many dangers to birds and their amazing migrations.  Something to think about as the beautiful habitats that help our feathered friends.

 A Male and Female Wood Duck 
 A Flying Common Merganser
A Hidden Brown Creeper

2013 Year List: 89
Only Addition:
Wood Duck

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Winter Storm? No More

A quick update on the birding of the day.  I spent most of the day outside birding various sites and different environments and got a good variety of birds.

Site #1 - A Beach/Marsh - Here I saw my first Green-Winged Teal of the Year and heard many Grackles and RW Blackbirds too.  Marshes are pretty good environments for birds as they supply a lot of hiding space and food.  This marsh was behind a couple of warehouses and has seen some migrants and local rarities.  While we are always hoping to find something new.

Site #2 - A freshwater pond - This pond has been the site of various waterfowl lately and I was hoping to see some before all attention passes to the Warbler Migration.  The benefit of this pond was that it also had a 2nd growth forest meaning that lots of cardinals and chickadees were at play!

Site #3 - Another Beach/Saltmarsh/Sandspits - This site is home to a variety of species and is one of the places where I fell in love with birding.  Here I saw more GW Teals, American Wigeons, crows and one of my all-time favorite birds, A Carolina Wren.

As Spring approaches, I am getting more and more ready for migration season.  Studying, reading, training will help make it as productive as possible.  Of course, I would like to spend sometime with friends and family... but maybe they just need their own migration season.

 Red-Tailed Hawk (c) soaring a few feet above me
Carolina Wren (c) singing its heart out!

2013 Year List: 88
Notable Additions
Carolina Wren
American Coot

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cedar Waxwings

The Cedar Waxwing is one of the most striking birds that I got to see.  While they are much more common that their cousins, the Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwings are fascinating and social birds to watch.  As I approached the grouping that I photographed below.  They were startled by my presence.  To be fair, I was startled by them as well.  They, unlike me, flew up out the cedars.  Where I had seen 3 or 4, 15 popped out of 3 different cedars.  They zoomed around the cedars looking, presumably for another place to hide from me.

I got lucky.  The street where the cedars were was an over populated, overbuilt street leading to the beach and the waxwings landed back in the first cedars.  Lucky for me.  But I thought about the poor waxwings.  They just wanted to be safe.  What if instead of a birder, I was a car?  A cat?  Another predator?  The Waxwings probably would fly off of course but to what end.  I guess what I am talking about is habitat and birds.  This is something that has preoccupied me lately and something I hope to write about in the future with a more detailed idea.  In the mean time, enjoy pictures of waxwings!

Wind so strong it blew the feathers in the face of the waxwing
Two Pictures of Cedar Waxwings (C) me 

2013 Year List
Brown Headed Cowbird

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Book Review - Rare Bird by Maria Ruth

The story of the marbled murrelet is a mysterious one.  With so many people have explored, investigated, and observed the natural world, we struggle when a genuine mystery finds itself on our doorstep.  For a long time the nesting habits and life cycle of the marble murrelet were unknown and discovered almost by accident.  Actually, entirely by accident.  The book traces through several different themes and questions about man's role in the natural world and the future of the natural world.

The struggles of the Marbled Murrelet are almost entirely man-made.  Even the natural predators of the fog lark (what many loggers call the bird) have benefited from contact with the human world.  The Corvid species of the world have managed to adapt and even expand their ranges due to the influence around the continent.  Why are Corvids (Jays, Ravens, etc) flourishing while birds like the Marbled Murrelet struggle for survival?

So I'm not going to answer those questions because Ruth's narration and her own insertion into the story of this bird are more useful engines for that discussion.  I'll wrap up with this with a heavy endorsement of Ruth's book.  Her journey into the fog-laden world of this bird is mixed with humorous anecdotes and reflection. I would encourage anyone who wants to expand beyond listing and think about following the life, evolution, and environment of the birds they see.  Its good reading for your bird book list!

File:Marbled murrelet breeding plumage.jpg
The Marbled Murrelet by the USGS

2013 List: 81
American Oystercatcher

Some Links to learn more: