Friday, June 26, 2015

Nesting in Center City

In the last week I have done a lot of walking in the Museum District and Center City, Philadelphia. While birding was not my intent, I picked up a lot of incidental evidence of nesting birds, even among the high rise buildings and concrete/asphalt streets.

In addition to the three expected exotics - Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, and European Starling - there was Northern Mockingbird, Canada Goose, House Wren, Gray Catbird, Mallard, Red-tailed Hawk, Downy Woodpecker, House Finch, Barn, Tree, and Northern Rough-winged Swallow, American Robin, Northern Cardinal, Blue Jay. (This does not include the long list in our Roxborough neighborhood and Wissahickon Valley.)

Returning from dinner on Main Street in Manayunk, young Peregrine Falcons were making a racket overhead. Parents nest in a church steeple next to Pretzel Park, one of several pairs in the city.

Again, I was not birding, but could not resist the opportunity to photograph when it came. Here are a few ...

European Starling

American Robin

American Robin

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Northern Rough-winged Swallow

Friday, June 19, 2015

Butterfly Magic

I was aAt Victory Bog in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom last week in the mid to late afternoon. The birds were generally quiet, but the butterflies were magnificent.

Tiger Swallowtails are so common that they almost ignored as just an expected part of the landscape. But on this day, the Tiger Swallowtails (probably Canadian) were flying in profuse numbers, and congregating around damp spots in roads and along roadsides. The fluttering presence, the sudden burst of dozens into flight, and the resettling on the ground again, was breathtaking ... beautiful, magical, inducing wonder.

(Canadian) Tiger Swallowtail

(Canadian) Tiger Swallowtail

A similar phenomenon occurred with Northern Crescents. They are much smaller than the swallowtails. They could almost have been overlooked, until we stood still. Then we saw them gathering, like so many sprites ...

Northern Crescent

Northern Crescent

Northern Crescent

Yet another tiny piece of imagination are the Spring Azures, tiny pieces of blue sky sprinkled here and there ...

Spring Azure

From previous meanderings in the last couple weeks is the Green Comma (Somerset Town, Green Mountain NF) and Mourning Cloak (Rutland Marsh) ...

Green Comma

Mourning Cloak

... and in my own backyard, Clouded Sulphur ...

Clouded Sulphur

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Delta-spotted Spiketail

I grew up in Detroit and now live part-time in Philadelphia. In a big city, you may have lots of people around you, but know no one. Not so in tiny Vermont. In my last post, I mentioned meeting fellow birders from a neighboring town. (In Vermont, the "neighborhood" is geographically large.)

When I returned home, I worked on identifying several butterflies and dragonflies which I saw in Victory Bog, Essex County. I identified the Delta-spotted Spiketail with the help of "Dragonflies and Damselflies of the East" (Paulson).

Then I noticed that the photograph in this guide was taken in Essex Co., VT, June 2007, by Bryan Pfeiffer, in Vermont a well-known naturalist, author, photographer, and birding leader. I had followed directions to Victory Bog provided by "Birding Watching in Vermont" co-authored by Bryan. I have crossed paths with Bryan on many occasions as I have birded in the Northeast, passing along, and receiving, sightings.

So thanks to Bryan for his assistance in IDing this brightly patterned dragonfly ...

Delta-spotted Spiketail
Both Bryan and I photographed this dragonfly in the same county, and I would not be surprised to learn that we were both in, or near, Victory Bog.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Moose Bog

Moose Bog in Vermont's "Northeast Kingdom" is the go-to spot for four boreal species. This past week I finally got-to the bog.

Of the target species, I did not see, or even hear, anything that might have been the Boreal Chickadee. Another time, perhaps.

On the trail, we met neighbors from nearby Putney. (Vermont is a small state - not uncommon to travel across the state and see someone you know.) They directed us to where they had just seen the Spruce Grouse. We looked ... and looked ... looked. Could not find it.

So we continued our walk, following a trail into the bog. On the return, we met a small group who told us they had just seen the Spruce Grouse. Same area as the previous report. Again we looked ... and looked ... and looked. And again could not find it. (I think the Brits refer to it as "dipping.") Alas and alack.

But we did not dip on everything. A Gray Jay greeted us soon after beginning our walk, and a Black-backed Woodpecker worked a tree along the trail. So we scored two out of four, plus good looks at the Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (which also inhabits many mountain-top spruce forests in southern Vermont)

The photos are documentary, but sometimes you just have to take what you can get ...

Gray Jay

Black-backed Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
The Moose Bog Trail is a delightful (though buggy) walk with much more than just target birds. Among the birds we tallied were 11 warbler species and 3 thrush species. Along the trail, Pink Lady Slippers were in bloom, as well as the occasional White Lady Slipper ...

White Lady Slipper
In the bog, there were Carnivorous Picture Plants ...

Carnivorous Picture Plant
... and working some of the low bushes was this Ebony Jewelwing ...

Ebony Jewelwing
A good day for a walk in the woods.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

and Things with Wings

About the time that the birds stop singing, the dragonflies start flying. These fascinating little creatures are a relatively new pursuit for me, so it often takes time to figure out what I have seen and photographed. Which is okay by my, because at heart I am a researcher ... a pager of books and puzzle solver.

An added benefit of this sometimes perplexing quest for a name and ID, is the opportunity to study the photographs and pause to appreciate the beauty and variety of the creatures.

On two different visits to the Wilson Wetlands in Putney, the Beaverpond Clubtail was flying. The second visit yielded these photos ...

Beaverpond Clubtail

Beaverpond Clubtail
Chalk-fronted Corporal was flying at beaverponds in large numbers in Somerset in the Green Mountain NF and at Wilson's Wetlands in Putney. The first 2 photos are from Somerset, the 3rd from Putney ...

Chalk-fronted Corporal - female

Chalk-fronted Corporal - male (on guard duty)

Chalk-fronted Corporal
On a sunny afternoon in the backyard, this Common Baskettail landed on my pant leg. Panic ! ... no camera. But not to worry, the iPad has a reasonably good camera. The photo even shows the male appendage, which I was later able to examine with a magnifying glass. The 2nd photo was taken at the Rutland Marsh ...

Common Baskettail

Common Baskettail
Photographing dragonflies with a 400mm lens can present challenges, but when the photos are sharp, they reveal a beauty which can't be seen with the naked eye. That was experience with the next 3 photos. The first is a Dot-tailed Whiteface at Wilson's Wetlands ...

Dot-tailed Whiteface
Along the forest service road in Somerset (near the big beaver pond/wetlands, for SE Vermont folk who may be looking at this), was this Frosted Whiteface female ...

Frosted Whiteface female

Frosted Whiteface female
Damselflies are so small as to be almost a figment of the imagination. Nevertheless, at the same location where I saw the Frosted Whiteface was a virtual swarm of Northern Bluets, including this one which paused briefly ...

Northern Bluet
And finally, a disclaimer. I am quite confident about the IDs on these insects, but I am new to this. If you think I may have mis-IDed, don't hesitate to raise the question.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Mountain Top to Valley Marsh

Started yesterday very early with a drive to the top of Okemo and the mountain top boreal forest. Target for the camera was the Bicknell's Thrush. Gorgeous morning, especially after the several days of rain we've had, but chilly - in the upper 30s. Few birds were singing in the cool morning, except for the Winter Wren.

I never did hear the Bicknell's sing, but one did flash across the trail with all the characteristics of a thrush.

Once it warmed into the upper 40s, other birds began singing, including Swainson's Thrush. One even paused for the camera ...
Swainson's Thrush
Magnolia Warblers were common along the roadway, providing me with my first good opportunity to capture a breeding male after several seasons of trying.

Magnolia Warbler

Magnolia Warbler
 The chick-a-dee-dee end to a buzzy song alerted me to Golden-crowned Kinglet. When I see these little guys post breeding in October or November, they are quiet and sweet little things. But not now. This guy was revved up, and his orange crown was not a barely visible stripe, but an excitedly raised crown. He was a bundle of excitement.

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Golden-crowned Kinglet
  From Okemo, we drove to the Rutland marsh, near West Rutland. After picking tips from a group of birders, our first stop produced a clear view of this Virginia Rail, as he raced among the reeds and across a mud flat before flying off in pursuit of a lady love.

Virginia Rail
Virginia Rail

And then, while creeping along the road, this Least Bittern flew into the reeds and stayed still, watching us watching him.

Least Bittern
Least Bittern

Not a bad day ! ! Good Birding ! !

Tuesday, June 02, 2015

The Black-masked Rogue

The Common Yellowthroat is an entertaining little rogue. The series of photos below captures some of the activity and energy which a male expends in establishing territory and inviting a mate to join him. The large plot of shrubs and berry bushes hosted many of these birds, so each male had a lot of competition.

I did not provoke this guy with phishing or recorded sound. He had all the provocation he could handle just from the others guys around him. He provided me with wonderful entertainment ...

Common Yellowthroat

Good Birding ! !


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