Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Finches have Arrived!

Over the last few weeks just about all of the northern finches have started to push south and they have already reached northern Virginia.  Last weekend I saw a flyover Evening Grosbeak and White-winged Crossbill at Kiptopeke State Park at the southern tip of the Delmarva peninsula and this weekend the finches have moved into northern VA in full force.  On friday I found a male and female White-winged Crossbill feeding in the Hemlocks at Blandy to go with the flock of Siskins that has been there for a month or so already.
The birders who have come out to look for them this weekend have continued to turn up more finches with several Redpolls and a Red Crossbill reported today.  I was able to see one of the Redpolls thanks to Josh Taylor but I haven't been able to find any Red Crossbills yet. 
Hopefully this is a sign of many more winter finches to come.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March Butterflies

This morning I decided to head out to Shenandoah River State Park in the hopes of finding a drumming Ruffed Grouse. While this search was unsuccessful I still had a very good morning. There was a flock of Golden-crowned and singing Ruby-crowned Kinglets at the picnic area and I saw this Louisiana Waterthrush along a nearby creek.

As I was walking along the Cottonwood Trail I was surprised to see this Black Rat Snake coming out of a hole in a juniper!
The real highlights of the day, however, were the butterflies. Zebra Swallowtails were everywhere, along with one Spicebush Swallowtail, a Falcate Orangetip, a Question Mark, and several duskywings which I think were Juvenal's.
As I was walking down by the river, I was stunned to see several Little Brown Myotis in between the plastic panel protecting a sign! I have never seen a bat perched before so I was pretty excited.
I finished off a great morning with my first Northern Rough-winged Swallows of the year near the RV Campground.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Indiana Monk Parakeets

I've been busy with midterms and other stuff lately so I haven't been able to update the blog much lately. During spring break in early March I had to be in Gary Indiana so I worked in a side trip to a nearby Monk Parakeet colony. Monk Parakeets have been established in the Chicago area for many years now and they are now expanding into Indiana. Like many Monk Parakeet colonies in the Chicago area, this one was at a power station, where the wires help keep the birds' bulky stick nest warm so they can survive the winter. As I was walking around the power station I noticed a group of sticks on the structure and soon I saw two Monk Parakeets looking back at me! They got excited and started calling and soon 8 birds flew off and landed in a tree across the street. I ran back to my car to go after them but then four more birds flew in from the opposite direction! I was able to get a few good shots of them here.
After this, I decided to see if I could relocate the birds that had flown across the street to photograph them in a more natural setting. I was able to find all eight birds perched in a small tree where I was able to get several photos I was very happy with.

This was definitely a very worthwhile detour and raised my life list up to 393.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pink-footed Goose!!!!

I couldn't believe it when I checked the MDOsprey Listserv on Monday night and saw that a Pink-footed Goose had been seen less than two hours away. I almost chased it on Tuesday morning but decided against it when I saw it was not seen later in the day. It was refound on Tuesday and since my only afternoon class was cancelled today I was able to chase it. I found it easily as there were several birders looking at it when I arrived. I got great scope views but it was rather far off so good photos would be difficult. Another birder was generous enough to let me use his 800mm lens, however, so I got some nice photos.
This Merlin was also a surprise.
I cant believe what a great February I have had for birds! Normally I see very little this time of year. Two first state records in less than a week is incredible!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Virginia's Warbler in MD!

Today Jacob Barkett and I chased Maryland's first state record Virginia's Warbler at the Pickering Creek Audubon Center. We arrived at 7:30 and the small parking lot was already nearly full. Despite the forty or so birders searching, the warbler had not been found yet and we spent the next hour an a half searching without success. Just after we had returned to the spot where most the people were searching after we had tried some other spots I heard a strange chip note in the bushes. When I saw a small grayish bird fly out of the bush a little bit later I knew this was probably the bird. I quickly called everyone over and we soon saw the bright yellow undertail coverts and confirmed that it was indeed the Virginia's Warbler! It quickly flitted from bush to bush for the next fifteen or so minutes before disappearing. I was not able to get any photos but Rob Ostrowski has generously allowed me to use one of his.
Virginia's Warbler 2012 Feb 18 Pickering Creek

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Greater White-fronted Goose & Trumpeter Swans

This morning I drove up to Sky Meadows State Park to see the Trumpeter Swans and I saw them on the fishing pond.
I checked for the Goldeneye on the other pond but didn't see it. When I drove past the fishing pond again on my way out I noticed the Mute Swan had joined the Trumpeters, it was not there when I first checked the pond. After about an hour at Blandy, where I didn't see much of note except for a Tree Sparrow, I decided to drive down to Stone Bridge Rd. so see if I could see the Shrike again. Before I left I took this photo of a Carolina Chickadee since I realized I didn't have any yet. As I was driving along Borden's Spring Rd. I noticed a large flock of 200 or so Canada Geese at the farm pond on the west side of the road so I stopped to look for Cackling Geese. As I was sorting through the geese all of a sudden I noticed a Greater White-fronted Goose right in the middle of the flock!This was definitely not a bird I was expecting and it is the first record for Clarke County on ebird.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lark Sparrow

Last Sunday I drove down to Augusta county to do some birding with Gabriel Mapel. In spite of the cold mist for much of the morning we came up with several good birds. The highlight for me was the Lark Sparrow that has been near Stuart's Draft since it was found on a CBC last December.
This Savannah Sparrow was rather cooperative for a photo as well.After the Lark Sparrow we were able to refind a Rough-legged Hawk nearby and checked several local farm ponds for ducks and saw Shovelers, Gadwall, and a Coot. I also saw my first Red-headed Woodpeckers for the year along Badger Rd. We finished the day off with two Black-crowned Night-herons and an early Brown Thrasher flying across the road. My Virginia list continues to improve, I added seven more birds on this trip and am now at 156. This Loggerhead Shrike I saw on Saturday was also a great bird. It was only a few miles away from Christendom but it took me six tries to see it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Townsend's Warbler

Today I drove up to Pennsylvania to see a Townsend's Warbler (lifer #391) that has been visiting a feeder for the past week or so. I arrived at 8:45 and within 15 minutes the warbler visited the feeder. I had to wait almost an hour, however, before I was finally able to get some decent photos.

The male Pine Warbler in the yard was also a great bird for January.
Afterwards I drove over to where a Snowy Owl and Prairie Falcon had been seen. As I was driving along the road I saw several cars pulled over and sure enough, when I stopped I saw the Snowy Owl. This one was almost pure white.
As we were watching the owl another man drove up and told us the Prairie Falcon was just down the road. It was in a snag far off the road but I was able to get great views through another birder's scope. The distance meant a very poor photo, however.
Before I started to head back home, I checked for a Palm Warbler that had been reported a week ago from about a mile away. I did not find it but I did see my year Savannah and White-crowned Sparrows. A Merlin that landed briefly in a tree by the road gave me a three falcon day.
At this point I wanted to look for a Peregrine but a quick check of Birdseye didn't show any on my way home.
I tried for the Hagerstown Loggerhead Shrike without success but I did see my first Green-winged Teal of the year in a small pond. Two Wild Turkeys that ran across the road near Christendom were also year birds and new for Virginia. It was a very enjoyable day; great weather and some great birds.

Deleware Birding

Last Sunday, Jakob Barkett and I drove out to Deleware to do some birding along the Atlantic coast. Initially we were hoping to chase the Barnacle Goose in Maryland but since that hadn't been seen in three days we decided to start off at Prime Hook NWR to look for the Eurasian Wigeon. On the way in we saw an enormous flock of Snow and Canada Geese in a field. Despite scanning the flock several times, we did not find anything else.
After a little bit of scanning the flock of American Wigeons, Pintails, and Black Ducks we were able to pick out at least one male Eurasian Wigeon (lifer #387) with his bright reddish head.
Our next stop was Cape Henlopen State Park where we saw several Brown-headed Nuthatches (lifer #388) come to the feeders after waiting for several minutes.
A quick scan of the ocean here did not find much so we moved on to the Indian River Inlet. Here there was a beautiful Boat-tailed Grackle (lifer#389) bathing in a puddle by the parking lot.
There were several Red-throated loons in the river and a flock of Ruddy Turnstones on the rocks.
At the end of the jetty there were several Great Cormorants (lifer #390),
as well as Surf Scoters and Long-tailed ducks in the water. There were lots of sanderlings on the beach.
We finished off at Ocean city where we saw a large flock of Brant but missed the Common Eiders.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

West Michigan Birding

Karl Overman and I had a great day birding the west side of the state yesterday. We started off at the hummingbird feeder in Lowell to see the Rufous Hummingbird. After fifteen or so minutes it flew into a pine tree and shortly afterwards visited the feeder.

The Muskegon Wastewater and Pere Marquette Park turned up little of note but after this the birding began to pick up. At Grand Haven State Park there was a very cooperative Red-throated Loon off the pier.

This Red-breasted Merganser was also very cooperative.

The next stop at Douglas Beach was probably my favorite stop on the day. As soon as I stepped out of the van I heard Crossbills calling in a hemlock, eventually we were able to count ten.

On the lake we were able to see all three species of Scoters. One of the bigger surprises of the day came a little while late when we saw at least 180 Sandhill Cranes in several fields!
It was a beautiful day for birding and one that I enjoyed a lot.

Colorado Trip

I went skiing in Colorado last week and while I missed Rosy Finches and Ptarmigans in the mountains I had several nice birds at Red-rocks Park in the foothills. The highlight was a Canyon Wren along the rocks.
The Townsend's Solitaire was a lifer as well.
I saw all five subspecies of Junco at the feeders and the Scrub Jays and Spotted Towhee were also cooperative for photos.
Gray-headed Junco
White-winged Junco
Oregon, Pink-sided Junco, and White-crowned Sparrow
Western Scrub Jay
Spotted Towhee

The next day I tried for a Three-toed Woodpecker without success south of Denver. I did see several Red Crossbills though.

I went back to Red Rocks after the snowstorm Saturday night hoping some Rosy Finches would show up. I didn't see any of those but I did see the Golden-crowned Sparrow I had missed a few days before.
I also saw a Northern Shrike as I was driving in.