Monday, February 25, 2008

Indoor Birding at the MOS

Didn't get out birding this weekend - well, not in the traditional sense at least.

On Saturday, Pamela's sister and nieces came up for a visit. Our original plan was to grab some lunch, then go to the NE Aquarium (I was prepared to spend a lot of time watching the penguins) but the line was so incredibly long that we decided to skip it and go instead to the Museum of Science. I managed to get my bird 'fix' at the "A Bird's World" exhibit that they have there.
I've been before, but always enjoy seeing the display. (Especially because some years ago I worked on printing the backgrounds for the display cases of the exhibit.) They also have specimens of some extinct birds, including an Ivory-billed Woodpecker which I've spent a good deal of time examining through the glass, and Heath Hen & Labrador Duck. Of course, I enjoyed the rest of the museum too. This is the first time I have been there since our friend Paul started working there, and I am even more jealous than I was before.

The rest of the weekend was spent cleaning up around the homestead and preparing to head out to California later this week for Nuttall's Woodpecker, Yellow-billed Magpie, and much more...

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Short-eared Owl

So we finally caught the Short-eared Owl 'show' on Plum Island this evening. (We have seen them before but not since the beginning of the year.) I'm glad that I got a few photos to share and pretty happy with the way they came out, but I definitely felt a bit of "lens envy" when I saw the size of some of the cameras that were lined up when we got there. Too bad I didn't have my digiscoping set-up. Of course, with the technique I use for digiscoping, I can't get flight shots like:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Well, this is the PICUS blog...

so I thought I ought to occassionally write something about woodpeckers.

You may already know (either by knowing me or from an earlier post) that I am a woodpecker fanatic. I am certainly no expert on them, but I really enjoy and appreciate them, and must admit to having read several books, species accounts, etc. about various members of the family. Also, in the last few years I have travelled to see all the US species except the Nuttall's, which I will be doing in two weeks, and the Ivory-billed, which is nothing more than a dream right now. Pamela can tell you, it's hard to pull me away from Red-bellied or even a Hairy Woodpecker, never mind something like a Red-headed or Pileated Woodpecker. (And I joke about Downy Woodpeckers being the runt, or songbird, or dickie-bird of the family, but I still have a few feeders at work that are there just for them and I look out that window every chance I get.)

I am anxiously awaiting the publication of the Peterson Guide to the Woodpeckers of North America, which is being written/edited by Stephen Shunk of Paradise Birding in Oregon. (No publication date yet as far as I know) The man knows his woodpeckers, and is a great guide. I went on one of his "Woodpecker Wonderland Weekend" trips a few years ago, and I've wanted to do it again ever since. Unfortunatley, this year won't be the year, with trips in the works for Big Bend in April and our Alaska Cruise honeymoon in September. Maybe next year...

And now, your woodpecker moment of zen...


Please pardon the "shakiness" of the video - the camera was hand-held to the eyepiece of my spotting scope so that I could keep a comfortable distance from them.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


On Saturday morning, we had an appointment to meet with our potential dj for the wedding reception down in Pembroke, and I figured that since we were half-way to Cape Cod, that we should just go the rest of the way in hopes of seeing the flock of White-winged Crossbills that had been reported from Marconi Beach on Friday. After meeting the dj (and hiring him - one more thing off the wedding prep checklist!) we headed out the cape and first made a stop at Mass Audubon's Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary. We'd not been here before, but will definitely be making the effort to get here again. They've done a fantastic job with the visitors center, with lots of windows facing feeders, as well as a number of trails thatI look forward to exploring. They've had redpolls coming to the feeders this winter, and have had a few Hoary with the Commons. We got great looks at a Hoary that allowed a few quick pics before they all scattered...

Unfortunately, we dipped on the White-winged Crossbills. (But were consoled by unexpectedly running into our friend Mike who was also looking for them.)

Monday, February 4, 2008

And now, back to the birds...

On Saturday, Pamela and I joined our friends Laura & Mark on a BBC trip they were leading that started in Gloucester, and continued all day including locations in Rockport, Merrimac, and eventually Plum Island - with just six of us winding up the day for a nice meal at a local Mexican restaurant in Newburyport. Although we dipped on the Slaty-backed Gull (not too big a deal for us as we had seen it in December, but I wouldn't mind making it a year bird and maybe snapping a picture or two...) we got great looks at a few other rarities that have been in the area of late, as well as some of the more expected, but nevertheless wonderful birds that visit the north shore in the winter. There were two real highlights of the day for me:

The Townsend's Solitaire that has been somewhat regular at the Rockport Country Club. I did get to see this individual last weekend, but this week he came down to a bird bath in spectacular light.


A Westen Tananger that has been visiting a feeder in Merrimac for the last several weeks.

There are additional pictures in my pBase Gallery, in the "New England - Uncommon to Rare Birds" gallery

In the interest of full disclosure, the other "more expected, but nevertheless wonderful birds" that I mentioned above include Glaucous & Iceland Gulls, King Eider, Common Murre, all three scoters, Long-Tailed Ducks, and Harlequin Ducks. I am also relatively confident that I picked out a first-cycle Thayer's Gull at one point, but inexpereince with this bird make me hesitant to add it to my list yet. Hopefully I'll have a hundred or so to study when in California later this month.

I also spent a couple of hours on my own Sunday moring at Parker River to try to add a few species to my 2008 Plum Island Competition list. Unfortunatley, I don't think I picked up anything new for the list, but I did manage the 'regulars' - Snowy Owl, Northern Shrike, and Rough-legged Hawk, so I can't really complain...