Thursday, August 29, 2013

Birding in Dixie: Georgia's Coast

Birding in Dixie: Georgia Coast

The Colonial Coast Birding Trail (LINK) is an amazing array of habitats and ecosystems.  From Okefenokee Swamp to the Barrier Islands, there is a diverse array of birds to see in strikingly different ecosystems.  I visited 3 of the sights on the trail and I can't wait to get out there and see more.  This place is along a migration superhighway, but it provides hot and humid for some birds that are hard to get outside of Florida.  There are some real gems on this trail and I recommend doing your research before you head down so you can get the most out any trip down here.

St. Simons Island -  I visited a couple sights here and I was impressed each time.  I dipped out on a lot of birds including a Gray Kingbird and Black Terns, but I got Caspian Terns, Reddish Egret and saw some spectacular seabirds, egrets and ibis.  I wish I had more time here during migration to really enjoy the birds that are coming through and for that matter in winter when the shorebirds and peeps are resting and feeding in preparation for breeding season.

Jekyll Island - This spot was a natural gem along the coast.  Originally the island was a beach and vacation club for the elite of late 19th and early 20th century.  Now the Club is debating its future between heavy development and preservation.  Whatever the island's fate (please PLEASE preserve), it holds a vast amount of natural beauty.  For this trip, Jekyll was a birding dream, Painted Buntings, Roseate Spoonbills, Yellow-Throated Warblers, Wood Storks, Bald Eagles, Terns, Plovers, Peeps, Herons, and many many more.  The Campgrounds, the beaches, and parks of this island will re-connect you with a history and a natural history rich with wildlife.  Jekyll is worth a visit any time of the year!

Okefenokee Swamp - Sadly, my photos from this visit were lost in a card error.  While the birds were not bouncing around like they were on Jekyll and St. Simons, (dipped out on a Red-Cockaded WP) we saw plenty of Red-Headed Woodpeckers and a Gopher Tortoise.  I am mildly upset about losing those photos because the Gopher Tortoise is listed as a Vulnerable Species in the US.   We found it on the road into the swamp and it definitely made the trip worth while!  I can't wait to go back to this swamp, see some gators, sandhill cranes, and the 2 birding gems are Red-Cockaded Woodpeckers and Bachman's Sparrows.

A Brown Pelican

Carolina Chickadee and Painted Bunting (Male)

Yellow-Throated Warbler

Roseate Spoonbill

American White Pelican

All Photos (C) Me

2013 Year Total: 256
Notable Additions:
Reddish Egret
Wood Stork
Roseate Spoonbill
Summer Tanager
Yellow-Throated Warbler
Caspian Tern

Monday, August 26, 2013

Birding in Dixie: Alabama and Florida

Birding in Dixie: Alabama and Florida

A Disclaimer.  Most of my time in these 2 locales was spent with family.  This means little time for birding, lots of dips, but still a lot of fun.  I did get to see some spectacular things even if I missed out on lots of birds. I did spend some time visiting Civil Rights sites.  As a history teacher, I truly enjoyed this trip even though I struggled as a birder.  I've attached some photos from my visit.  Not great as a birder.

Can you find the Hummingbird Moth? (A Clearwing Moth)

A Grasshopper in Talladega, Alabama

White Ibis in a Florida Rest Stop

A not uncommon sign in Florida

A Anole in Florida

An Anhinga in Florida

2013 Year Birds: 247
Florida Additions:
White Ibis
Anhinga Life Bird

Next Stop: Coastal Georgia!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Birding in Dixie: Atlanta

Birding in Dixie: Atlanta Clayton County International Park, Clayton County Water Authority Wetlands and Huie Ponds, Atlanta Botanical Gardens

Birding in Dixie took me to the Great City of Atlanta.  Atlanta is well situated amongst different environments in Georgia.  To the south you can reach the coast plains and the Coast.  To the North you have the Blue Ridge Mountains, and Atlanta is well situated in the Piedmont Region so it holds a tremendous amount of geographic diversity.  There are several great spots you can visit in Atlanta.

A Blue Bird in Clayton County International Park (LINK)

A Muscovy Duck (Domestic Type)

A Grey Catbird at Atlanta Botanical Gardens (LINK)

A Chimney Swift over the ABG

A Quail in the Greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens *not countable*

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Birding in Dixie: Virginia

First Stop down south was the Commonwealth of Virginia.  We stopped at Grayson Highlands State Park (Link).  A real interesting park to be sure, it borders the Jefferson National Forest is a 30-minute drive from the Smoky Mountains NP.  It is part of the Appalachian Mountains and borders the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The Park was simply amazing.  We did the Cabin Creek Trail.  While we weren't there for birding necessarily (it was a road stop hike) we quickly found some amazing nature in this park.  We started with an encounter with the feral ponies in the park and ate some trail side blueberries that were literally ripe for the picking.  Next we encountered the creek.

The Creek was probably the most fun part of the trail and what made the park spectacular.  The life near the water was amazing.  We spent most of our time looking at different plants, fungi, fish, and listening for birds.  I've posted some pictures of the park looked like and the nature we got to enjoy.

 A View of the Park
 A Fungus
 A Destroying Angel Fungus probably
 The Waterfall
Blooming Wintergreen

The next two pictures were the birds we got.  Neither picture is mine.
File:Black-throated-green-warbler-100.jpgFile:Dendroica striata MN.jpg
Black-Throated Green Warbler (C) by William Majoros and Blackpoll Warbler (C) by Cephas

The only birds of note were a Black-Throated Warbler and a Blackpoll Warbler.  They were surprises as we got to the park very late in the day.  The Blackpoll was a particular surprise!  We heard the call, saw the legs and the cap and beak.  The Break was a good one as driving for hours can be particularly monotonous.  We even drove through Damascus, VA which was a welcome change from the typical roadside rest stops. Birding in Dixie will continue soon!

2013 Birds:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Review: The Warbler Guide

During a quick trip to my local birding store, the Warbler Guide by Stephenson and Whittle caught my eye.  The temptation was great and as I wavered, the store owner said, "Trust me" and so I did.  Let me say first off that this book is truly an excellent guide to the world of warblers.  As a beginning birder, warblers to me were prized jewels of the sky.  They were small, colorful, and musical.  A stark contrast from the waterfall I had grown used to seeing in the fall and winter.  There is also this also mystical/ephemeral quality to them given there strategy of migration.  These make the warblers a special family of birds for me.

The Warbler Guide meets the need of several different kinds of birders.  While being a good introduction and resource on Warblers, this Book is also pushes you to be a better birder.  The myriad of photos, comparisons with other like birds, and the song vocalizations make this book an good one.  I've hardly put the book down since I've picked it up.  Stephenson and Whittle should be proud of the book they've created and certainly have done a great job in helping beginning birders get a better handle on Warblers.

I've included a picture of the cover, their quick guide to faces, a sample song vocalization page, and a link to their webpage.  Princeton UP also has a good page for the book up and running.  Any birder, Warbler-lover, or Nature enthusiast would do well to add this book to their collection!

The Song Vocalization of a Blackburian Warbler

A Sample of the Quick Finder Guides produced by The Warbler Guide

All images are (C) of Princeton UP, Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle

For more information about The Warbler Guide - Click Here

Coming Soon: Birding in Dixie!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Hydrographer Canyon: Pelagic Report

Being a pelagic birder is kinda like being part of a frat in college.  There are lots of weird rituals, the place is crazy the whole time, and there are times you question your sanity for showing up.  My wife and I did an "extreme" Pelagic out to Hydrographer Canyon in the Atlantic Ocean.  It was a 90 mile journey out there.  While I don't often do well with seasickness, this was a particularly tough sea.  Despite that, we saw some awesome birds and marine Life

An Audubon's Shearwater
Atlantic White Sided Dolphins
Cory's Shearwater
More Atlantic White Sided Dolphins with Wilson's Storm-Petrels
A Great Shearwater
Leach's Storm-Petrel
 Wilson's Storm-Petrel Feeding
A raft of Wilson's Storm-Petrels

We saw a ton of Great Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm-Petrels.  As a birder, there are certain skills that come in handy.  Many books talk about the skill of identifying birds by a couple of quick measures.  Birding on land can teach how this is a useful skill.  Pelagic birding teaches you this might be the only skill that matters.  I've taken the liberty of cropping and editing a lot of these photos for you, but that's not necessary how we experienced these birds.  They move fast while you are on a rocking fast moving boat.  So you need to try and pick up a few more quick skills like behavior and attention to detail.  The differences between some of these birds can be as simple a wing angle/length, or beak color and rump color.  Once again, add the fact that you are moving and this becomes a wonderful mental challenge.

If you can handle the sea (even if you, like me, will need medicinal assistance), Pelagic birding can be an awesome experience.  One that I will definitely do again!

A link to Pelagic Trips:

Cetaceans Seen:
Atlantic White Sided Dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin
Common Dolphin
Risso's Dolphin
Minke Whale
Fin Whale

2013 Year Birds: 243
Red-Necked Phalarope
Audubon's Shearwater
Cory's Shearwater
Leach's Storm-Petrel
Band-Rumped Storm-Petrel

Coming Soon: A review of The Warbler Guide and Birding in Dixie (a multipart series)

Friday, August 2, 2013

Birding by Eye

I want to be an altruistic birder.  I want to see the birds for the sake of seeing the birds themselves.  That doesn't seem to be working out.  While I am definitely not some crazy lister than only cares about what they see next.  I want to see all the birds I can and now I want to have photos of them and what I am seeing to be able to share them.  So I guess that makes me a selfish birder...

That's ok to.  I can use my selfish birder to make things better for the birds and people everywhere.  I've noticed recently that when I am out with non-birders, I go full on into teacher-mode.  Let's look at this, What do you see here, What do you think... start about 90% of my sentences.  Connecting with nature is key these days and I feel a need to help people do just that.  Maybe birding just isn't about the birds after all.  Its about all of us on this planet and sharing one large super-complex ecosystem. That's a heavy thought for the weekend, maybe it is just about the lists....

I had to take a step back after chasing after a picture of a little Marsh Wren.  I struggled with just enjoying is song and admiring how well suited he was for his environment.  I had to have a photo of him.  I needed the photo.  So I decided to settle for just a slight picture of him.  Can you spot him in the last photo?

Semipalmated Plover and Least Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs 
Some Herring Gulls just hanging out
Can you spot the Marsh Wren?

Coming Soon:
Photos from a pelagic and A review of the Warbler Guide