Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Birding in Vacationland

For Memorial Day, I birded one of my favorite states in the Union.  Maine.  I always refer to the Union when I talk about Maine because of its history.  Maine became its own state as part of the Compromise of 1820 to create a balance between the Slave-Holding States and the Free States.  Its motto, Dirigo, means 'I Lead' and lead it did!  But that's the topic of a different blog.  Maine is called Vacationland and there are times that the name fits.  For me, there's always a tension between being on vacation and being a birder on vacation.  I want to get out and see the sights and birds, but then, after a stressful school year, all I want to do is sleep.  Sleeping of course takes time from birding.  The rainy, drizzly weather helped make some decisions for me because it allowed me to wait for better light to see the birds.

Birding Maine was great.  Lots of sounds and old forests to look for birds.  The two best spots I'd recommend include Morse Mountain and the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  These two sites offer great insights and examples of Maine's Ecology and Environments.  Morse Mountain has a rich diversity of habitats for birds from swampy/marsh wetlands to beach/shoreline to dense forest/conifer forest.  The Botanical Gardens also offered a variety of habitats.  Warblers aplenty at the Botanical Gardens as well!  The only thing I'd recommend is more time in Maine!

Morse Mountain - Link
Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens - Link

Glossy Ibis
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
A Classic Maine Scene

2013 Year List: 225
Olive-Sided Flycatcher (Lifer)
Blackburian Warbler
Willow Flycatcher
Common Eider

Life List: 308

Friday, May 24, 2013

Learning to Teach

This past weekend marked the first time I lead people on a bird walk.  I hadn't really done it before and I was quite nervous.  What if there were no birds?  What if it rained?  What if no one showed?  Well, all those fears aside, I caught a couple of lucky breaks.  Weather was good, people showed, and even better, the birds showed!  It was a quick one hour walk around a local state park but we got some impressive birds.  Wood Thrush, Prairie Warbler, Black-and-White Warblers were all out and calling.  It was great to see.  But the thing I appreciated the most was that throughout the walk, the other people on the walk were excited and enthralled by every bird we saw.  Cardinals, Downy Woodpeckers, Tufted Titmice were enchanting to them and helped me appreciate how much birding can connect us to nature.  I know that I'd like to lead more walks and I hope I get the opportunity soon!  In the mean time, enjoy some of my recent photos!

Lovely Shorebirds
A Tern
Terns and Turnstones
Fighting Orioles

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Room to Spare

So this post has been a long time coming.  I've been working for a long time at becoming a better birder, naturalist, and outdoor enthusiast.  For this year, I set the goal of getting my life list up to 300 Birds and my Year list up to 200.  Its been slow going with my list and ebird has been a tremendous help.  Its helped me keep an excellent record of my birds and where I've seen them.  So I am pleased to announced that I've met both Goals.  My Life List stands at 307 and my Year List Stands at 216.

So here's an update of the Birds that got me over the hump:
Cerulean Warbler
White-Eyed Vireo
And all the Texas Birds I got last weekend

A Cerulean Warbler (C) Mdf
Veery (C) All about Birds - Cornell Lab of Ornithology
File:White-eyed Vireo by Alastair Rae.jpg
White-Eyed Vireo (C) Alastair Rae

Sunday, May 19, 2013

San Antonio Review

So I just returned from a trip to lovely San Antonio Texas.  I visited 3 sites dedicated to birding.  I've already written about the good work being done at the Botanical Gardens.  So I want to focus on 2 other sites.  Warbler Woods ( and Mitchell Lakes Audubon Center (  Both offer an incredible habitat for birds and all sorts of animals.  I had a blast exploring the different habitats around San Antonio and could have gone back for more.  There were countless sites that I want to go back to and see.

Warbler Woods - This site is incredible.  Painted Buntings, Greater Roadrunners, Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, and Canada Warblers were the biggest highlights of the site.  For the followers of my blog, You will note that both Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher and Canada Warbler were 2 of my Goal Birds for the year.  It was a marvelous site and one that I hope to return to in the future!

Mitchell Lake Audubon Center - This site has a plethora of habitat and is great for shorebirds.  The pictures below are from this site.  My highlight of this spot were getting great shots of the Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher, a Spotted Sandpiper, and an American Golden-Plover.  This was super awesome for me!  A goal Bird, a nemesis bird, and just a beautiful bird!  Time spent at Mitchell  Lake won't be a waste.

This post is short so I can get back outside.  Why don't we all do the same!

 Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher
 Yellow-Headed Blackbird
 Wilson's Phalarope
 American Golden-Plover *Goal Bird*
Hudsonian Godwit

2013 Year List: 199 (1 to go)
Life List: 297 (3 to go!)
Eared Grebe LIFER
American White Pelican LIFER
American Golden-Plover LIFER and GOAL BIRD
Hudsonian Godwit LIFER
Western Sandpiper LIFER
Baird's Sandpiper LIFER
Stilt Sandpiper LIFER
Long-billed Dowitcher LIFER
Wilson's Phalarope LIFER
Franklin's Gull LIFER
Black-chinned Hummingbird LIFER
Curve-billed Thrasher LIFER
Yellow-headed Blackbird LIFER
Inca Dove LIFER
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck LIFER
Western Kingbird LIFER
Common Ground-Dove LIFER
Greater Roadrunner LIFER
Common Nighthawk LIFER and ABA Bird of the Year
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher LIFER and GOAL BIRD
Canada Warbler LIFER and GOAL BIRD
Painted Bunting LIFER
Lesser Goldfinch LIFER
Neotropic Cormorant LIFER
Cave Swallow LIFER
White-winged Dove LIFER

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Nests, Eggs, and Hatch-lings!

While I write up my report on my recent visit to San Antonio and sites there, I'd like to dedicate a special page to the work going on at the San Antonio Botanical Garden (  While visit the San Antonio region, I paid a visit to the gardens to learn more about local flora but also about the local environment and birds.  To start, it was a fantastic place to visit.  Good Signage (not always the case at botanical gardens) and the exhibits were clearly designed with care and thought.  I was a big fan of the section dedicated to conversing water.  Being in a most arid environment, water conservation is key and the botanical gardens illustrated with great information, creativity, and ecological value, how the use of native plants doesn't mean your landscape will be an ugly mess of oddly shape cacti and succulents, but how the diversity of native plants can help you create a comfortable environment and help the local ecology, wildlife, and lower your water usage.

One of the highlights of the visit though was running into a volunteer who worked the purple martin nests.  I didn't know much about Purple Martins to be sure, other than they were North America's largest swallow.  I learned that almost all of Purple Martin Nests, east of the Mississippi River, are man-made and that Martins began to live near people for protection.  Interestingly enough, People wanted martins close for protection as well.  Martins would eat dangerous bugs, chase away crows and ravens, and their "chatter" was believed to be a sacred part of nature by Native Americans.  The leader of the program showed how the nests were made and Martins tolerate human behavior.  He showed us some nests and we got some great views of the birds.  It was a marvelous program and the San Antonio Botanical Garden are being great stewards of their environment and local ecology and history!

The Purple Martin Houses
The nest!
Young Hatch-lings!
Martin-lets with pin Feathers
An Adult happy the nests were returned and cleaned out

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Wood Thrush

Got my first wood thrush of the year.  It took a while because migration has been slow and I haven't had the chance to check out the spots where I got them in years before.  But while riding my bike the other day, i got one.  I recorded this sound of the Wood Thrush's call and once I put the camera, the wood Thrush actually flew out and was out in the open.  It is almost as if the bird knew I was filming him.  Almost. I don't have time for much more, but enjoy the video!

2013 Year List: 155 (45 to go!)
Wood Thrush

Monday, May 6, 2013

Birding in Central Park

Today we birded New York's Central Park.  Migration, in the Northeast, has been slow with just a few migrants here and there.  While the Day was slow it was a fun day in the park.  Lots of people were out and about.  Many people know that the Park is a completely artificial and manufactured environment.  It was designed to bring oxygen and natural life into New York City with hopes that oxygen and nature might civilize New York.  Many have written about the different parts of Central Park and the role it plays it for migrating birds, including me!

We entered the park with a goal of 20 birds.  I set a low bar because I was unfamiliar with the park and migration has been slow.  Long Story short, We were short 2 birds.  Part of the problem was that we only got 1 species of Warbler, a Yellow Warbler.  We did however manage to see Pale Male, a famous Red-Tailed Hawk Central Park Resident, and several nesting birds.  BC Chickadees, Blue Jays, and Robins were all in full swing with their nests.  It was a lovely day in the park and great to see tons of birders out!  I hope to get outside soon!

 Turtle Pond North of Belvedere Castle
 Pair of Mallards
A bit of the skyline feature the home of Pale Male, can you see it?

2013 Year List: 154
Bank Swallow

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Glossy Ibis

The Glossy Ibis.  Besides Birding, my other love is history and the Ibis is a historic bird.The Egyptians loved the Ibis and it formed part of their mythology.  Egrets and Hawks also did, but the Ibis has been found mummified and made into statues.  Many of the Ancient Peoples believed that Ibis and many birds held secrets as important as the origins of Civilization and life itself!  Ancient Egyptians believed that hawks were the first forms of life on the earth and believed that they held the secrets to the notions of Justice, Truth, and  Creation.  Pretty impressive and understandable.  Birds have mastered the sky, ground, and water and with such grace.

When I see the Glossy Ibis, I feel a part of that early Human tradition of appreciating and wondering about the birds before me.  What I need technology to do, move around the planet efficiently and quickly, find food/directions, and protect myself from the elements, birds seem to conquer on a daily basis.  The Hummers that show up the next few days will have braved a cross continental flight that we couldn't match in terms of speed and challenge.  The Glossy Ibis shape, color, and habits all have a mystery that we haven't mastered yet.  Perhaps one day, we'll know a little more!

Glossy Ibises
Glossy Ibises
Glossy Ibises
Great Egrets
A Nearby Killdeer

2013 Year List: 153
American Redstart
Black-Throated Green Warbler
Blue-Winged Warbler