Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Phoenix/Tempe Wintering Birds

The second leg of our trip brought us to Phoenix for a few nights.  Temps were cold in the morning, but quickly warmed up.  I watched the Arizona/New Mexico bird list for reports of good sightings.   I also wanted to take my mom to the Phoenix Botanical Garden (PBG) so I hit the Tempe Reservoir at sun up with the intent of spending a few hours before hitting the PBG.  I wasn't disappointed.  I wanted grebe's and I got them (pied-billed, eared, horned, western and potentially Clark's).   The Clark's is still up for debate.  The Sibley's explanation for difference between Western and Clark'sis that the black cap doesn't come below the eye.  Unfortunately the black cap doesn't come below the eye in the juvenile western either.  So another bird challenge for me.  My photos of the Clark's isn't good enough to post so I'll be reviewing other Clark's photos.  If you have a good Clark's photo I'd be interested to see it. 

Eared Grebe

Western Grebe (see the distinct black line below the eye)

Proud Ruddy Duck strutting its junk!

Crazy as a Coot!

After spending just a short period of time at the Tempe Reservoir, we cruised over to PBG to check out the gardens and look for some cool birds.  We weren't disappointed by either.  The gardens were being prepared for a luminary show so they were primping the walkways for a huge tadoo!  Most birds I saw were lifers and fortunately it was Saturday morning so we ran in to a Bird group on their weekly bird walk.  I was fortunate as they pointed out several birds that I would have misidentified.  Take the blue-gray gnatcatcher and the black tailed gnatcatcher.  Winter black tailed sure looks like a BGG to me.  New bird, yay!

Abert's Towhee

Anna's hummingbird

Black tailed gnatcatcher

Cactus Wren

Costa's Hummingbird

Curve-billed Thrasher

Gambrel's Quail (tons of these birds) 
I remember Northern Bobwhites in these numbers
on Cape Cod when I was growing up.  Days gone by. 

I was excited to get my first Verdin, but man by the end I was sick of this excited little bird.
Clearly a very abundant species. 

Lesser Goldfinch (female)

I'm all ears!

Rosy cheeked Luv Birds
I had to stand on my head in the brush for this pic hence the angle. 

Great time in Phoenix with some great birders. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sedona Arizona

My mom turns 80 in January and I thought it would be nice for a mother son trip to a warmer climate.  Fortunately she finds birding tolerable so...birding I did.  Yes it was nice to hang with my mom, but no it wasn't warmer.   Our trip began in Sedona....gods country!  Although my last post mentioned that I needed to live near the ocean, I could live in Sedona for at least a portion of the year.  Amazing beauty, tranquility and birding!!!  Sedona is at 4000+/- elevation so the temp first thing in the morning was below 30.  But the sky was blue and our hotel looked out on amazing scenery. 

Red Rock State Park

I wish I had a wide angle lens.  Might try to post a few pics together to give a sense of the valley.   So cool!  A picture can not tell the full story. 

Anna's Hummingbird

Bewick's Wren

Canyon Towhee  (kind of a drab looking bird..not far off from the Abert's or California)

Cooper's Hawk

Ladderback Woodpecker

Road Runner, the coyote's after you.
Road Runner, if he catches you you're through.
Road Runner, the coyote's after you. Road Runner, if he catches you you're ...
Beep Beep

Not afraid of people clearly....this dude ran between me and a docent at the park while we were discussing birding in the region. 
Ruby Crowned Kinglet (luv the red spot on the head)


Western Bluebird

The species is still out with friends to ID.  The smaller empids are very difficult.  This bird was small. 
Hammond's or a Cordilleran. Anybody?

Western Meadowlark

From Sedona, we stayed two days in Phoenix and 3 days in Tucson.  Still working on the photos.  100 species and 30 lifers.  Yay!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Alcids on Cape Cod

Had all kinds of plans to get a few projects done this weekend so I had no plans to bird....what a bad idea!  I read the e-bird list for Massachusetts and there were so many great birds I threw out all my plans today and went to the Cape.  It was sooo worth it.  For some reason Razorbills are migrating in huge numbers into the area.  Most of the other alcids were also reported along the coast.   So my first stop was Sacuset Beach in Plymouth.  Sacuset is located at the end of the Cape Cod Canel where it enters Cape Cod Bay.  The current is amazingly quick so diving birds were having a feeding frenzy.  There were 20 common loons, 10 razorbills, a horned grebe and a black guillimont.  There was a report of a Lapland Longspur, but I didn't see it.  Temps were a bit chilly at sun up, but it quickly warmed up.  No wind and blue sky.   I realize my post isn't all alcids, but the alcids stole the show on this trip.

Black Guillemot
Scusett Beach

Horned Grebe,
Scusett Beach

From Plymouth I drove right down to P-town harbor.  I figured I could start there and visit locations on the way back.  Conditions were much different in P-town.  It was overcast with a steady breeze and raw, but the birding was fabulous. 

Common Eider,
MacMillan Wharf,
P-town Cape Cod

MacMillan Wharf,
P-town Cape Cod

Thick-billed Murre,
MacMillan Wharf,
P-town Cape Cod

In addition to the birds photographed I also saw a Brown booby (lifer), 10 harlequins, a long-tailed duck, great cormerants, and a slew of common loons.  I left P-town for Race Point to view the ocean side.  There must of been 5000 red breasted mergansers, but nothing close to shore.  Standard gulls and a few northern gannets were buzzing around.  I spent a bit of time on the beach listening to the waves. 

Sorry to my mid-western friends, but I really could never live away from the ocean.  It is truly amazing. 

I departed P-town for Wellfleet Harbor.  Heard a report of a dovekie hanging out along the dock.  It was low tide when I arrived so the birds were right along the dock.   Tons of Boneparte's Gulls diving for minnows.  I was standing on a boat ramp and up came a Red throated loon.  He didn't care that I was there.  I spent so much time gawking at the loon that I almost didn't see the Dovekie pop up next to me.   

Red-throated loon
Wellfleet Harbor

Wellfleet Harbor

An amazing birding day!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Snowy Owl and other Sea Birds

I got up before sun up to look for a Red-necked Grebe, but had no luck.  Started out as a very slow day which was disappointing because there have been so many reports of great birding.  I decided to search for a snowy owl that had been repeatedly seen at Duxbury Beach in Duxbury, MA.  I've seen a few snowy's before, but they were usually 100s of yards away. I didn't expect anything less at the beach, but I usually have pretty good luck along the shore. 

Saturday was no different,  fantastic birding.  Access with a vehicle is by permit only so I packed up my gear and off I went on foot.  I didn't expect to walk as far as I did, but when a great photo op exists I think I'd walk to the moon. One of three snowies was most recently spotted at the base of Plum Hills on Saquish Island.  Clearly I wasn't paying attention because I walked right up on what I thought was plastic bag, but when I got within 15 feet, it immediated teed right up for me on a branch.   I took over 100 photos thinking I may never get another opportinity like this one.   I spent 30 minutes on my belly in the sand. 

Snowy Owl (female) Duxbury Beach

On my way back, I realized that I'd really walked a long distance and was exhausted.   I looked it up today and it was appxomately 4 miles out.  8 miles for a snowy.  Jeesh!  You better really like it.  I tell ya!  I was also pretty lucky on the way back I saw some great birds.  Black scoters, White winged scoters, long-tailed ducks, northern gannets, red breasted mergansers, snow buntings, northern harrier, sharp-shinned, and many different gulls species.  I didn't spend alot of time as the wind was amazing.  It was sustained at 25 mpg.   I did take a few more photos though.

Juvenile Bonaparte's Gull

Horned Grebe

Red-Throated Loon

I also got a juvenile brant which threw me for a loop as it was missing the typical white line.  All in all a great day.  Beautiful sunshine, blue sky, ocean waves, and plenty of birds.

Brant, juvenile

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Birds of Texas (September)

On my recent trip to Austin to attend the Alliance of Hazardous Materials Professionals (AHMP) conference, my friend Mike and I took a few days following to bird and had a great trip. We introduced a few others to birding and met another AHMP member out on the range, who I'd run into before, but had no idea he was in to birding.  We met him a Pernales State Park where his family was camping for the labor day weekend.  Excellent variety, but due to the drought many of the unusual species had already departed or not arrived yet.  The drought was awful.  Entire rivers 100 feet across were but a trickle.  Temps were daily in the 110 range so we took our time and shelter where we could find it.  Nothing can really stop a birding from enjoying the past time though.  Next year the AHMP conference is in Anchorage, Alaska, I'll be spending a week before the conference birding.  Took some pretty good photos during the trip.  I'll need a few posts to get them all in though.  Enjoy!   

Summer Tanager

Northern Cardinal

Lesser Goldfinch (female)

Lesser Goldfinch (male)

Great Crested Flycatcher

Bewick's Wren

Black-chinned Hummingbird

Black crested Titmouse

Inca Dove

Friday, October 21, 2011

Yellow Throated Warbler and a few shore birds

I was on the way out the door to work and got an email that a Yellow Throated Warbler had been seen at Sachuest Point in Middletown, Rhode Island.  Soooo work..lifer?  Work....lifer?  I picked the lifer search at least for a few hours.  So off I went to Sachuest.  It was a bit windy so I wasn't that confident of seeing the warbler.  Yellow throats are not real common in the northeast.  Their territory is New Jersey south.  So when I arrived I got another email that the YTW was no longer being seen at Sachuest.  Major bummer!  I decided to look around anyway and fortunately as soon as I got out of my truck.  Bam!  There it was jumping along the edge of the building. 

Amazingly tame bird.  I set up my camera about 20 feet away and stood still and it flew within 3 feet.  I got alittle crazy and took over 200 photos.  Umm oops! 

Yellow-throated warbler

Yellow throated warbler

Yellow throated warbler
After my short, but successful trip to Sachuest Point, I visited the beaches and had some pretty good luck with shore birds.  Hopefully I've identified them correctly.  Shore bird identification is my nemisis. 

White rumped sandpiper

American Avocet

American Golden Plover

Ruddy Turnstone

Semipalmated sandpiper

Spotted Sandpiper

Semipalmated Plover