Thursday, October 30, 2014

More from Cape May

Cape May is known as a premier spot for Fall hawk migration. The viewing platform was crowded with observers. The great thing was, one did not have to visit the platform for many and regular hawk sightings, as for example ...

Cooper's Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk
A few more photographic samples of the day ...

American Goldfinch

American Coot

Double-crested Cormorant

Herring Gill

Boat-tailed Grackle

Boat-tailed Grackle
There were also butterflies flying - monarch, sulphurs, whites, Red Admiral, but only the Common Buckeye paused ...

Common Buckeye
Good Birding!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Cape May Autumn Weekend

Cape May Bird Observatory had a stunning weekend for their annual event. I went to Cape May on Sunday, not for CMBO events, but just to enjoy the great weather, location, and birds. There were lots of birders, birding groups, and bird hikes, but also plenty of room to roam away from people and enjoy the opportunities the birds presented to the camera.

New for my photographic archives was a Eurasian Widgeon among a flock of American Widgeons in the state park ...

Eurasian Widgeon with its American cousins
In a year when photography has been frustrated by other demands and an inability to get out where the birds are, the day was refreshing and rejuvenating. A few examples of the wonderful colors and light in which the birds posed ...

Ruby-crowned Kinglet

Song Sparrow

Eastern Phoebe

Brown Thrasher

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Northern Cardinal

Dark-eyed Junco ("Slate-colored" with some "Oregon" hints)
Swamp Sparrow
More soon. Good birding!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Autumn in Vermont

Many activities have prevented regular blog updates, but those are past and I have retreated to the quiet of our Philadelphia retreat.

Here's a catch-up on the last month.

Autumn in Vermont was the best in many years. Last winter was a throw back to pre-climate change conditions, aligning all the elements needed for a brilliant foliage season. The first half of October was one awed gasp after another.

along the Augur Hole Road
The Autumn of Spark's Barn
Most of the drive up Putney Mountain one early morning was through valley fog. Near the crest of the ridge, the fog was thinning as the autumn sun slowly warmed the air, creating a fantasy of light.

Dawn's Early Light
The mid-September Broad-winged Hawk season on Putney Mountain was dismal.Weak weather seasons did nothing to concentrate the flight along the ridge. The count was the lowest in years. The "second season" in early October when the accipters, falcons, and other buteos finally get themselves going, has been much better.

Birds often move quickly over the ridge without giving clear ID indicators. That was the case for this accipiter. The Cooper's Hawk seemed to have a "small" head. The photo shows a very full crop, disguising the size of its head.

Cooper's Hawk with full crop
 Hawk watchers on Putney Mountain also count Monarch Butterflies. In 2012, the count was about 1500 for the season. Last year, the crash in Monarch numbers noted by so many was reflected in the count: 19. This year the Monarch numbers are rebounding, with the count by mid-October being around 250. The photo below was taken in my yard on October 14; the Monarch Butterfly is sharing the marigold with a bumblebee ...

Monarch Butterly - mid-October, South Newfane
On Columbus Weekend, the Newfane Common is transformed for the Newfane Heritage Festival. 90+ artists and craftpersons create a tent city to display the creations. As chair of the Exhibitor's Committee, the organization and smooth set-up and clean-up occupies much time and energy. But the people are fun and friendly, and the event highlights the best of the Vermont life.

Newfane Heritage Festival
20 minutes from my Philadelphia retreat is the Heinz NWR. Made my first Autumn trip to the refuge yesterday.

The "wader gathering" I saw in mid-September was still going on, with dozens of egrets and Great Blues in attendance ...

Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets
Active flocks of Yellow-rumped Warblers were everywhere, joined by what seemed like an unusually large number of Palm Warblers ...

Palm Warbler
Waterfowl were congregating all about the impoundment, including dozens of Wood Ducks. In the vicinity of these three woodies were another three dozen ...

Wood Ducks
Now it is time to go watch a grandson play soccer!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wetland and the Shore

I am in the midst of a short stay in Philly and have squeezed in some walks at Heinz NWR and at Cape May. Here are a few images.

The waders at Heinz were stand-out, including as many Great Egrets as I have seen in one place in a long time ...

Great Egrets

Great Egrets
Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Green Heron
Along the shore, terns were the stand-out (alas, :( no Whiskered Tern)

Common Tern

Forster's Tern

Royal Tern
Royal tern
Good Birding!!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hawk Watching - Putney Mountain

The cadre of hawk watchers who keep Putney Mountain the only full time hawk watch site in Vermont have maintained their dedication and passion in spite of a dismal (to date) hawk season. The lack of any strong weather patterns has kept the hawks from concentrating along the ridge. Normally during mid-September there are days when Broad-winged Hawks are counted in the tens, and even hundreds of birds, this year they have been counted by one here - one there - one way up there. On rare occasion there have been a few more birds at a time, but not often.

That said, there have been a few moments when an individual bird has provided excitement.

Bald Eagles always stir the blood of the watchers. This first year bird did that when it circled low over the watch site. A few minutes after this bird appeared, four adult eagles passed by, close, but not camera close ...

Bald Eagle (1st year)

The owl decoy has attracted the attention, and enmity of an occasional young Merlin, Cooper's Hawk, and Sharp-shinned Hawk ...


Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk
 This American Kestrel hovered briefly over the owl decoy, then thought better, and flew on ...

American Kestrel
While hawk numbers have been slow to accumulate, there is always plenty to been seen, and good naturalists to see it with. Just a sampling ...

Tiger Moth Caterpillar

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-eyed Vireo

Great Spangled Fritillary

American Lady
Good Birding - or whatever else you may be doing!!

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Damselflies are a challenge! There is almost nothing to them. They are virtually wisps of the imagination. And oh my! what identification mysteries they can.

Jon Lamm's wonderful little volume, Damselflies of the Northeast, uses three different symbols on the page of each species to indicate whether the species can be identified with (1) binoculars, (2) in the hand, or (3) under a microscope.

These damselflies are all identifiable with binoculars so I am reasonably confident I have gotten them correct.

Eastern Forktail ...

Eastern Forktail 
 Fragile Forktail ...

 Fragile Forktail
 Orange Bluet ...

Orange Bluet
 Rampur's Forktail ...

Rampur's Fortail
 Vesper Bluet ...

 Vesper Bluet
Hopefully I will have Hawk Watch adventures to report soon.


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