Sunday, February 27, 2011

Birding along the New Jersey Coast

Had a business trip down to Philly at the end of last week so I decided to take a trip down to Cape May and Brigantine NWR on Saturday.  Great trip with a few lifers.  Took the trip with my friend Mike of Mandrake Birding.  Long day, but great birding.  Cape May was unusually quiet, but Brigantine was absolutely amazing.  I could spend a week there.  The black-headed gull and the Ross' Goose were lifers.  The Ross' were mixed in with 30+/- Canada Geese on a soccer field.  They were a surprised.  Mike called me on Friday night to report that they were seen real close to where I was staying.  Yahoo!  I was intrigued by the Black headed as I wasn't even familiar with it.  Until this year I hadn't paid much attention to gulls, but now I'm hooked. 

Made a stop on the way home to look for a few white-winged crossbills, but was not successful.  I'm planning a trip up to northern Maine and Canada during the summer so I'm sure I'll see them then.  Hope you enjoy!

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull

Bonaparte's Gull

Northern Pintail

Peregrine Falcon (female)

Ross' Goose

Snow Goose

Short-eared Owl
(not a great shot, but such a neat bird)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Seabirds and More

I decided to join the Massachusetts Audubon North River Sanctuary regular Friday morning bird walk.  I don't typically attend these events as I'm really more interested in quality vs quantity.  I don't really keep track of the number of birds I see.  I'm more interested in watching birds in their element and have been known to hang out for a couple hours to the chagrin of anyone who birds with me.  Not to say I didn't enjoy myself.  The trip guides are excellent.  One of the guides has an ongoing record of 100 birds per month for 63 straight months.  Huge count!  When we started out I asked, John Gallazzo, one of the guides to find me a Common Redpoll.  He said, we shall see!

Our first stop was Duxbury beach.  With a full moon, the tides were due to be very high so we moved down the breakway to Gannett Point to look for a Nelson's Sparrow.  Apparently they are common in Nebraska, but are rarely seen here. The individual bird had been hanging out since November, but not seen over the last week or so.  On our way, we ran into a small flock of Common Redpolls...Yahoo!  Success right off the bat.  One of the challenges with birding with a group is that you really don't get enough time to photograph so this photo is really from later in the afternoon when I went back to find the Redpolls.  No luck with the Nelson's and the Atlantic was calm and quiet. 

Common Redpoll (Duxbury Beach, MA)

Common Redpoll (Duxbury Beach, MA)

Common Loon (beginning to show its true colors)

Following our trip to Duxbury Beach, we moved over to the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary.  Could not get real close, but we saw at least 5 red-tails, 6 rough legged (RL) and 6 norther harriers.  The male harrier is an amazingly beautiful bird.  I haven't photographed a male yet.  Stay tuned for that.  This picture, although of poor quality, definitely shows the dark stage of the RL.  The RL is slightly larger then the red-tail.  Both are large hawks though.  Seeing them both together was a good show. 

Rough Legged Hawk

Eastern Blue Bird

Rock Doves
(if they weren't pigeons they'd be a really beautiful bird)

I moved on to Plymouth Harbor to find a Lesser Black Backed Gull that apparently hangs around at Jenny Pond in Plymouth Center.  I had not luck with the lesser so I decided to do the waterfront. 

Iceland Gull (Plymouth boat ramp)

Iceland Gull

Ruddy Duck

Ruddy Ducks ( there were about 10 in this group). 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Along the New England Coast

Last weekend I drove up to Gloucester to look for gulls and other assorted seabirds along the coast.  Gloucester is a beautiful fishing village with great restaurants and an incredible access to great bird sites.  Unfortunately it was really windy and cold so birding was a bit difficult.  Seems like we're having a run on red breasted mergansers.  They are everywhere and today was no different.  There were many poking around the rocks. 

Red-breasted Merganser (female)

I visited Jodgrey State Fishing peer.  Its a great place to see gulls, and other sea ducks.  I got a really good viewing in my scope of an adult Glaucous and Iceland gull.  Unfortunately, they were to far for a good photo.  I need to look into digiscoping.  I was also fortunate to see a black billed murre and a black guillimot, but they were really to far away for a good photo shot.

Black-billed Murre

I went down to the beach to search for wading birds and found a flock of sanderlings, but the real prize was a Harp Seal. It was sitting in the snow getting a sun tan. It should have thought about a manicure too.  Take a look at those nails.  

It was unfortunate that people let their dogs approach the seal. I love dogs, but people really need to be more responsible.

Harp Seal

This weekend I took a quick trip to Tiverton, Rhode Island to visit a few open pastures along the water front.  I have a few birds that are on my target list so I was on the hunt.  I was photographing and there were 5 hunters in the opposite field.  I thought hunting season was over.  I heard a few shots and their dogs were yipping so I think they got something. 

Back to my adventure....seems like everyone has been seeing my target species all over New England, but I've been coming up short.  However, as soon as I approached the fields a flock of 25 birds jumped up with a characteristic white flash.  Yup I finally got a Snow bunting.  Yes I know alot of you see them all the time, but this is only the second time for me and the first photo.  Yippee!!

 Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting

There were raptors all over the fields.  I saw Rough legged, Red-tailed and a Sharpie, but the only one close enough for a photo was Cooper's Hawk. 

Cooper's Hawk
chasing a rather large flock of Starlings. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Shorebirds and Sea Ducks

My first local birding on Saturday since my trip to Minnesota.  I had a good time with my sister Jane of the Backyard Explorer.   First stop was at Sachuest Point NWR.  I usually have great luck there for sea ducks, but it was the short-eared owls that had been reported all week that I was most excited about.  Unfortunately I arrived about 10 minutes late.  I met a nice gent in the parking lot and he said that I had just missed three buzzing around.   There were tons of common eider, bufflehead and harlequins. A few horned grebes, common goldeneye, scoters and common loons scattered here and there.  No great photos though.  The snow was too deep along the rocky shore so I didn't dare walk on the rocks. 

We left Sachuest for Third Beach.  Jane immediately lost interest in birding cause she found some shell thing.  She called it a tiddly wink or a smeddleebop...who knows.  She left the beach with pockets full before remembering she had a bag so after filling her pockets, she filled a bag too.  I hope her enthusiasm for all things nature never changes. 

Meanwhile I wandered down the beach to check out a small flock of sanderlings.  I also found dunlins and purple sandpipers skulking around the rocks.  Farther off shore there were brants, and a surf scoter or two.  I parked my butt on a snow bank for some close-up photos.


Ruddy Turnstone

We moved on from Third Beach to Fort Getty in Jamestown and I got a fairly decent shot of a white-winged scoter.  A photograph lifer for me.  I've never had one that close to shore 

White-winged Scoter

We left Jamestown and stopped at her house to look for a Yellow-bellied sap sucker that had been poking at the trees, but unfortunately no go.  I did get a nice shot of an Eastern Towhee.

Eastern Towhee (or whatever they are calling it this week)

We moved on to Trustum Pond and Charlestown Breachway, but with no good opportunities for birding photography.  The beach was amazing though.  Waves were huge and the current in the breachway was something else.  A quiet day for the birds.  Not alot of action, but some good photos nonetheless. 
Still looking for the snow bunting, redpoll, hoary redpoll, and a pine siskin.