Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Urban Exotics

While wandering the concrete streets of Center City Philadelphia, I encountered the three most common Northern American exotic birds:
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
House Sparrow

I do not understate when I say that most birders in North America regard these birds with disdain, at best.

But ... they are remarkable survivors. These birds make their living where almost no other creatures can (other than the invasive, environmentally destructive, biped).

They make their living, in part, by cleaning up the garbage of that wasteful biped. I'm not too happy when these birds raid my feeders in Vermont (though for voraciousness they pale before the Evening Grosbeaks). In the urban environment, these birds are a welcome sign of resilience.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Late November at Heinz

Winter is beginning to settle onto Heinz NWR. A skim of ice covered the impoundment, providing roosting for gulls, but there were enough open patches to provide forage for at least two dozen herons. Waterfowl moved to protected pools and the tidal Darby Creek. A few images from the brisk day ...

Heinz NWR continues to be the most dependable place in my birding circuit to tick off Rusty Blackbird on my year list (in November and March)

Rusty Blackbird

Green-winged Teal along Darby Creek

Downy Woodpecker

Center city skyline from Heinz

Northern Shoveler

Hooded Merganser
A drake Hoodie in pursuit of his harem??

Hooded Mergansers
Good Birding!!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Most Wanted - Part 2

Here's the rest of my experience with the "10 Most Wanted Birds" which  Birding Watching Magazine (August, 2013) compiled from a readers' survey.

No. 6 Spotted Owl

Another species that Audubon missed, so I'm in good company not having the bird on my life list.

No. 7 Kirkland's Warbler

Audubon missed this one too. As a native Michiganer, I should hang my head. This rare species nests in the jack pines in north central Michigan, an area where I spent many summers working at a camp. But I was not a birder then, and I have not been back to the area in many years. Perhaps its time to change that.

No. 8 Ferruginous Pygmy Owl - King Ranch, Texas, November 12, 2009.

A field trip with the Rio Grande Birding Festival successfully targeted this species (and then went for Sprague's Pipit). Big birding groups do not provide a photographer with his hoped for opportunities, so my photos of this owl are from Belize in March, 2011.

Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl
Ferruginous Pygmy-Owl

No. 9 Green Jay - Southern Texas and Rio Grande Valley - February, 2002; November, 2009

I have birded southeastern Texas and the Rio Grande area twice. This most colorful bird is common year-round, with the same delightfully roguish personality of the Corvids.

Green Jay
Green Jay

No. 10 Blue-footed Booby

This bird rarely strays north of the U.S.-Mexico border, and rarely appears at the Salton Sea. Since I have never birded anywhere near this area, my odds of having seen it are far greater than exceptionally rare. Maybe I'll change that someday.

I hope you get to see the birds you really want to see, but whatever happens, have fun doing it.

Good Birding!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Ten Most Wanted - Part 1

Birding Watching Magazine (August, 2013) included the article, "Most Wanted." The magazine asked its readers to list the 10 species they wanted to see more than any others.

When I added the No.1 "Most Wanted" to my list this summer, I dug out the old issue to see how I was doing with the other nine on the list. Not too badly, as it turned out.

Here's the list, and how I have fared. Some sightings were pre-photography, so I have turned to John James Audubon for illustrations when possible.

1. California Condor - Navaho Bridge, US 89A, Marble Canyon, AZ - July 13, 2014

From the middle of the bridge, we looked down into the canyon of the Colorado River where two of this birds were resting and preening. On this day, the largest flying bird in North America chose not to fly, but provided a leisurely opportunity to view them. A naturalist provided biographical information on the two ladies. Unattached males take note: the lovely lady sporting the #28 is available and open to a proposition.

California Condor - 7 year old female, mated

California Condor - 5 year old female - unattached and available

Whooping Crane
2. Whooping Crane - Aransas NWR, Texas, February 9, 2002

The view was a distant one, so while this species is checked on my list, a much better look is still desired.

(Painting by J.J. Audubon)

3. Elf Owl

I have never crossed paths with the world's smallest owl. Apparently, neither did Audubon. He did a painting with five owls, one of which was called "Little Owl," but there is no agreement as to the species he intended.

4. Gyrfalcon - Parker River NWR, Plum Island, MA, December 6, 2000

The Gyrfalcon spent most of the winter on Plum Island and attracted chasers from all over North America. For at least one additional year, a Gyrfalcon (probably the same one) hung out on a building in Boston, likewise drawing much attention. I went with a neighbor. Our sightings on Plum Island were through a scope, but close enough to view the  powerful flight that makes the bird such an effective predator.

(Painting by J.J.Audubon)

5. Atlantic Puffin - Machias Seal Island, Canada - June, 1988 from Grand Manan Island; June, 2009 from Jonesport, ME; June, 2013 from Cutler, ME.

Plans to visit Grand Manan Island have to be made in advance, and if the weather takes a turn, they can be canceled on short notice. Access to the island is limited and carefully controlled, but in no way does that impede a marvelous, up-close experience with these charming birds.

Atlantic Puffin
Atlantic Puffin
Atlantic Puffin
More soon. Good Birding!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Refuge Images

A few images from relaxed birding trips to nearby refuges last week.

John Heinz NWR at Tinicum (Philadelphia, PA) ...

Ring-billed Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Bombay Hook NWR (Smyrna, DE) ...

Carolina Wren
American Avocet
Semipalmated Sandpipers
Semipalmated Sandpipers
Good Birding!!

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Hunting the Marsh

On my return from Cape May, I detoured to the refuge road at Forsyth NWR. A Northern Harrier (adult female) treated my to a hunting display over the marsh.

Good Birding!!

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!


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