Monday, March 31, 2014

Finding a Red-Necked Grebe

The COA Meeting was this past weekend.  And while I do love hearing intellectual discussions and the latest research on birds and birding, I had to leave to catch a flight.  But I didn't want to leave without doing some birding first.  It was a hard call to make because the lineup at COA is always so good.  I highly recommend going to COA or any local bird club meeting if you have the opportunity.  I've attached a link to COA at the end of this post.  So I left and drove not to far away to try for Wilson's Snipe and Red-necked Grebe.  

While I dipped out on the Wilson's Snipe, I finally got a Red-Necked Grebe.  This view was much more satisfying that my last.  The RNGR then was on a huge reservoir, in non-breeding plumage, and difficult to see because of the weather.  This one was still a little far off, but not that far, the weather was a little overcast, but that made colors easy to see, and this RNGR was in breeding plumage.  A little spot of flashy red and white colors that went well along side Common Mergansers.

Hopefully the next few outings will provide some more sightings for me and better pictures.  Until the next time!  Get out and go birding!

Close up of the Red-Necked Grebe and a Common Merganser

The Connecticut River!

Connecticut Ornithological Association - Link here

Red-Necked Grebe on All About Birds - Link here

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Look! Many Seagulls!

More gulls you say?  These aren't just any gulls.  They are Bonaparte's gulls.  Bonnie's are one of the smallest gulls around and are often described as the most tern like gull in most guides.  This certainly makes them interesting bird to observe in the wild.  They appear off in Long Island Sound to eat the eggs and larvae of various invertebrates.  Bonnies, as they are lovingly called, come and feed off of these blooms and larvae.  While small, they are durable and can bring with them great European Rarities like Little Gulls and Black-Headed Gulls.  While I got the BHGU (no pictures sadly) I have yet to see a Little Gull.

Gulls are great animals to see and witness in the wild.  Bonnies and other gulls are great reminders that there are endless adaptations to simple forms.  Can't wait to go and see more gulls and other birds as migration comes closer and closer.  Bonnies are great gulls to see and enjoy.  Hopefully you'll find some soon.  Until next time, Go outside and bird!

Couple of Bonnies

Herring Gull with Great Views of the top wings

Yep, More Gulls!

Sorry for the short hiatus.  I was away birding in Texas.  Photos up Later!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Feeding Frenzy of Gulls

During the past couple of outings, I have noticed an odd number of gulls congregating off shore.  As Spring nears, invertebrates are getting ready to release their eggs and with that comes birds and migration.  To migrate, a bird needs flight (duh), a place to go (nesting spot), and food along the way.  The food often presents the most troubling step for birds.  While I can go on and on, I want to talk about the struggle of food.

On a visit to Hammonasset, I witness a real dogfight between some gulls.  They were fighting over food that people had left behind.  This will of course cause problems when the other breeding shore birds start to show up.  But these gulls were really going at it over this food.  There was dynamic flying, calling, and a real sense that this food was absolutely vital to their survival.  As the fight went on, I was impressed with the determination of the gulls and how they had adapted.  All the birds made opportunity cost calculations.  The one with the food was attempting to fly away with as little effort as possible.  As the dog fight continued, fewer and few gulls remained.  They figured that their probability of getting food was low enough that staying wasn't worth their time.  Eventually, the gull who found the food was able to hold off the other gulls...

A Dark Juvenile Herring Gull

The Distant raft of gulls

Herring Gulls fighting, yelling, and flying over food

It was a real dogfight!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Book Review: Faith of Cranes

I recently finished Hank Lentfer's Faith of Cranes after the recommendation of a good friend of mine.  The book was a great look at the environmental, usage issues, changing communities, and life across multiple generations and moments.  Lentfer's idea of justice is deeply entrenched in how his mentors and his child see the land and space they inhabit.  These themes carry great importance and insights for everyone today.

The idea of transgenerations view is important to Lentfer's writing.  His stories about being on islands, hunting, hearing cranes, and sharing vension across time while sharing space and memories with the past and future of his family.  It is truly something akin to magic realism except that I might call it something like living memory writing.  Spaces and stories loop back and forth and together weave a vivid story about the Alaskan Wilderness.  This trans-generational element to Lentfer's writing allows for the reader to see the value the land has and can return to if we value it.

Lentfer's writing is easy on the eyes and deeper than it looks.  It is worth the read and will provide great food for thought for hours and days after you read it.  If you can't get outside, then pick up this great book!

Faith of Cranes
(C) Hank Lentfer and Montaineer Books

Hank Lentfer Link's - Click Here

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Orchestra Section? This way to the Horns

This weekend at Hammonasset State Park was quite the place to be.  A continuing Snowy Owl was easily seen from the trail but my wife and I were able to see some of the harder to see visitors as well.  We found a a Hermit Thrush while investigating the remains of an owl attack amongst some cedars along with robins thrashing about in the leaf litter and cover.  

There was a fairly huge flock of Horned Larks in an open grass parking lot and usually, one can find Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs mixed in there as well.  So in an open grass parking lot, we began the exciting tasking of sorting through dozens and dozens of Horned Larks.  The Snow Buntings were easy to find but the Longspurs took a bit more effort.  This became harder as we noticed that some larks enjoyed taking dirt baths, making them look more sparrow-like.  Eventually, we found a Longspur and a Lapland at that!  We found it by looking for the rufous/red cap that distinguishes it from the Horned Larks but also does not necessarily distinguish it from the ground, but if it wasn't hard, birding wouldn't be half as fun!

The other amazing experience we had at Hammo was with a Horned Grebe that was really fighting the tough waves of against the rocky spit.  Eventually, it couldn't take it anymore and jumped onto the spit.  Right in front of us too!  We got some great shots of the Horned Grebe who was enjoying the opportunity to rest and relax from the stress of the breaking waves.  The Grebe was so tired that it didn't flinch as people walked around it!  Of course, I flinched.  People should be more considerate of our wildlife and environment but that's a whole other post.  In the Meantime, there are many birds who are arriving every day and hopefully we can all get out and enjoy the birds!  Until the next time, get out and go birding!

Can you find the Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and a Lapland Longspur?
(click for bigger image)

Active Waves pushing around a Horned Grebe

Said Horned Grebe taking a break...

2014 Year Birds: 129
CT: 123
Notable Additions:
King Eider
Lapland Longspur

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Not Quite Migration

Everyday Spring migration draws nearer and nearer.  Or so they tell me.  While the last storm missed Connecticut, we got a good burst of cold wind and weather nonetheless.  Of course, that doesn't keep the New England Birder at bay.  Well, actually, it takes the New England Birder right to the Bay.  I visited several parks that were near open water this past weekend with great success.  I found an Eared Grebe that had been a winter resident near Greenwich Point Park.  While I had seen the EAGB in Texas, it was nice to add this rare bird to my Connecticut List.

The 2 most exciting birds that I got this last outing were the Long Eared Owl and a Glaucous Gull!  Both were great finds in the state of Connecticut.  It was hard to snap photos of the better birds due to distance and folliage, but all 3 were great birds to find for different reasons.  The Owl was just a great find.  Its silence and almost magical flight around me made me truly feel special to share space with that bird.  The Glaucous Gull was a bit more of a workhouse find.  Visiting Southbury where hundreds of Gulls have been visiting and to find the Glaucous, I had to sort through the Gulls.  Sitting out, against the wind, I had to sort through hundreds of Gulls and when I found the Glaucous, I felt like all those hours of reading and work finally paid off!  

I can't wait til the next weekend comes.  Until the next time, get outside and go birding!

A House Finch

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Juvenile Eastern Bluebird

Downy Woodpecker

Long-Eared Owl

2014 Year Birds: 127
CT Year Birds: 120
Notable Additions:
Long-Eared Owl *Life and Goal Bird*
Eared Grebe
Glaucous Gull *Life Bird*