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Saturday, July 23, 2011

April 18, 2011 cloudy Cape May, NJ

I would like to say that I have not had the time to write this blog post but I would be lying. I was in fact just being plain out lazy. Though I loath to admit it a lot of the trip I have forgotten details of and am sadly unable to write a good long blog post on the trip. I will, however, write about some of my most memorable walks.

The Meadows

Day number 1 The Meadows
We were taking a tour led by Pete Dunne who was going to guide us through The Meadows and hopefully point out some good birds. Instantly Pete and the other tour leaders started pointing out great birds. Brown Thrasher, year bird! American Coots, nice birds! Wilson's Snipe, nice bird! Swamp Sparrow, year bird! Blue-winged Teal, nice bird (Yesterday it was a life bird but last night we had visited this location and had seen these stunning ducks)! Green-winged Teal, nice bird! Northern Shoveler, nice bird! It went on and on.

Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal

"Cliff Swallow" called Pete Dunne. Over head flew a swallow, personally I couldn't see how he identified it but he told us that it had a "rubbery flight". I still haven't figured out how birds can have a "rubbery flight" but who cares it's a life bird either way.

Red-winged Blackbird, one of the commonest residents of The Meadows

On the beach we had Piping Plover, American Oystercatchers and Northern Gannets; all three species year birds. An immature gull flew by which Pete quickly identified as a Lesser Black-backed Gull which is a scarce gull in the area and a life bird. I couldn't figure out how he identified this one either. I think it had something to do with the wing length but I couldn't see that field mark.

Forsters Tern

As we walked back over the dunes watching agile Forsters Terns diving in the marsh, a handsome Bald Eagle soared over. We found a Prairie Warbler singing in the bushes being accompanied by a life bird Yellow-throated Vireo! (I spotted the vireo I was while looking through another birder's scope at the warbler and the vireo popped up into view).

After seeing the vireo we didn't see much else and a little while later the walk ended.

Later that day we went to another tour led by the same group of people. We arrived early and had enough time to bird the pine woods before the rest of group arrived. The woods had quite a few nice species highlighted by the discovery of a handsome Yellow-throated Warbler which was a year bird.

Around then the rest of the group arrived and we drove over to the other parking lot to meet them. Before going to the mudflats (which is the best bit to see birds at Heislerville) we went to check out the heron rookery, which is located on an island on a lake. across from the mud flats. On the island we had Black-crowned Night Heron (year bird), Snowy Egret, Great Egret and best of all a Cattle Egret! I spotted the Cattle Egret lazing about in the trees with the other herons. It was a small white egret with an orange bill and an salmon colored tufts of feathers on chest, back and head, They apparently came to the USA from Africa. Flying across the Atlantic to South America and from there they spread upwards to the States. This all happened in the late 1800s. But recently their numbers in New Jersey and most of the Northeast have greatly diminished and they are now very uncommon in Cape May.

All the egrets were in full breeding plumage their freshly grown fan of feathers (which are used in their displays) sticking gracefully out in every direction imaginable.

We moved on to the mudflats. There were thousands upon thousands of Dunlin, along with Short-billed Dowitcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willet and Black-bellied Plovers. At one point while we were watching them a Peregrine Falcon flew by sending the Dunlin into a panic. They flew up into the air and started spinning in a ball-like formation to make it harder for the falcon to chose one as its target. The falcon flew around the area for a little while longer before departing still hungry.

We then got back into the car and drove to another nearby birding hotspot. There we had birds such as: Glossy Ibis, Northern Shoveler and Blue-winged Teal. Getting back into the car we drove down to a salt marsh (passing a very picturesque Osprey stationed on its nest) were we found all the usual shore birds. We heard a bird cackling out in the marsh which the tour leaders told us was a Clapper Rail! It was a life bird!


It was a really good day!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The other type of birding!

Here is a hilarious link to a hilarious video (yes, as you may have noticed both the link and the video are very funny). The funny link given takes you to a clip from the TV show "Flight of the Conchords", an extremely funny comedy.

In this clip they discuss, teach and learn the art of birding (the other type of birding). Here is the link to the clip.

PS Although I find this clip very funny some people may not and, be warned, it is blunt.

Monday, July 11, 2011

June 27, 2011 Sunny 80` Mount Greylock, North Adams MA

Later that day we went for a hike up Mt. Greylock - at least we tried to hike up Mt Greylock-but ended up taking the longest route starting at the base of Mt Williams one mountain over. When we reached the summit of Williams we decided to walk back to the car and drive up Mt Greylock instead.

As we started our hike I easily found all the commonest species of the area: Veeries, Ovenbirds, Wood Thrushes and the like. On a tree a little way up we discovered bear claw marks stretching all the way up the trunk. It was a thrilling find.

About half way up we discovered probably the most exciting species of the hike. A stunning male Blackburnian Warbler which we found singing its high pitched song at the top of an oak tree. It was kindly, every 30 (or so) seconds, hopping out onto randomly selected exposed branches, showing off it's stunning flame colored throat. The throat was so flame colored that I bet that if you got close enough you could smell smoke wafting from its throat! We watched it for a little while longer before continuing up the mountain.

When we reached the summit of Williams we were disappointed to find the stunning lack of a stunning vista. We ate our lunch then started hiking back down the mountain.

We were almost at the very bottom when we scared up a flock of small bobwhite-like birds. My mother said she saw one with the tail pattern of a Ruffed Grouse though the ones I saw didn't seem too have any field marks on the tail. My father said that they were Forest Pigeons. If they were they would be both a year bird and a new species to science! They were perfectly hidden among the leaves, only showing themselves once they took flight because one of us got too close. Their alarm calls were high pitched whinnies. Their size was that of bobwhites, but I think the birds we saw were fledgelings which could explain that. Due to range and habitat I expect that they were Ruffed Grouse though I cannot positively rule out the much smaller Northern Bobwhite (incidentally, a flock of bobwhites is called a "name-dropping") or the Forest Pigeon.

When we got back to the car we drove up Mt Greylock. At the top we had an amazing view. A ranger told us that this was the only place in Massachusetts with a sub-alpine ecosystem that has nesting Bicknell's and Swainson's Thrush along with another species which I can't think of at the present moment. He was wrong about the Swainson's Thrush which nests all along the western most edge of Massachusetts.

We climbed to the top of the rickety-staired lookout tower towering a good fifty feet above the ground. After we climbed the extremely scary and shaking, rusty, spiral tower stairs we had a fantastic view stretching away for countless miles. The map they gave to name the hulking mountains off in the distance was completely screwed up putting mountains in New Hampshire next to the mountains in Connecticut!

To end the hike I was treated with a lovely view of a stunning male Yellow-rumped Warbler.

A nice finishing touch to the lovely hike!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

June 26-27, 2011 Savoy Mountain State Forest, Savoy Massachusetts

Sunrise at Savoy

Least Flycatcher

The leach lake

A view from Savoy Mountain State Forest

Female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker reemerging from nest

We arrived at the campground in the late afternoon and in ten minutes had seen and heard: Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (found the nest of this pair ten feet up a dead tree - the nestlings gave themselves away with there constant squeaking), Red-eyed Vireos, Wood Thrushes, Swainson's Thrush, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Veeries, American Redstarts (I also found the nest of this pair), Chestnut-sided Warblers and a Common Yellowthroat. It was going to be a good weekend.

I awoke the next day to the sound of countless Veeries with a few warblers and vireo mixed in. When it was light enough to see I arose and went for a walk. Western Massachusetts at sunrise is dazzling, the pink clouds stretched away for countless miles lighting the towering mountains in a rosey glow - it was a stunning sight.

I got lucky with the find of a life bird Least Flycatcher. I easily identified by the call, a quick "Che-Beck che-beck". This species is usually a fairly challenging bird to identify, it being in the genus empidonax, but because we heard the call it was a piece of cake.

After that we went down to the nearby swimming pond, only to find that it was swarming with overly large and extra hungry leaches!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Steve Martin "Rare Bird Alert"

Here's a link to an animated music video of "Jubilation Day" recently made by banjo player Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers on their new album titled "Rare Bird Alert".

In the video I saw Tufted Titmouse, Gray-crowned and Black Rosy Finches, American and European Robins and a species of juvenile finch (?) which I was unable to identify. It is a fun video and worth checking out.

Steve Martin along with Jack Black and many other famous actors are currently working on a comedy version of "The Big Year", the great book that relates the details of the famed 1998 birding competition. This is one of the few birding movies which is not a documentary. I can't wait for it to come out. October 14th... only a few months more to wait...

Sorry for not posting recently, I have a few posts I am currently working on.