Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 7/30/08

Monday, July 28, 2008

Maine, July 26th & 27th

This weekend Pamela and I drove north to join a Maine Audubon trip to Matinicus Rock in hopes of seeing the Red-billed Tropicbird that has been seen hanging around there since May. (And has been showing up for the last few years.)
We drove up to Maine on Saturday morning and realized that we were going to be in the same neighborhood as when we took a day trip up a few years ago to see the puffins with the Hardy Boat Cruises in New Harbor. Since the weather was nice and Sunday was rather unpredictable (70% thunderstorms) we decided to do their evening Puffin cruise to Eastern Egg Rock again. (No sense in going all the way to Muscongus Bay and not seeing puffins!) We spent the afternoon exploring Damariscotta, a quaint little New England town and had lunch at the King Eider Pub, before heading back to board the boat at 5:30. It's nice to go to Eastern Egg Rock to see the puffins as they had been wiped out from this location in the late 1800's, and through the efforts of Audubon and especially Dr. Stephen Kress, a breeding population been brought back there. You can read all about it at While waiting to steam out, I spotted our first of many Black Guillemots in the harbor. Breeding plumaged Laughing Gulls were also abundant.
On the ride out, there were plenty more guillemots, as well as about a dozen immature gannets.
And of course, there were plenty of puffins.
We spent the night at the Wiscasset Motor Lodge, about a half hour from the Todd Audubon Sanctuary in Bremen, ME, which was where we were boarding for the all day trip on Sunday.
(And also where the famous Hog Island is.) The motor lodge was a wonderful place to stay and I would highly recommend it if you are planning any trips to the Muscongus Bay area. We woke up early, packed some lunches and headed to the sanctuary with high hopes for good weather and seeing the tropicbird. The trip was billed as follows:

Matinicus Rock Trip III
A 32-acre island ledge 25 miles off the mouth of Penobscot Bay , Matinicus Rock is one of Maine 's most important seabird nesting colonies. Atlantic puffins, razorbills, common murres, black guillemots, arctic and common terns, and laughing gulls all gather here to breed and nest. Motoring out of Bremen aboard the Puffin V, we'll meander through the islands of Muscongus Bay , seeing many osprey and bald eagles along the way. With plenty of open-water habitat along our route, we could also see a nice array of pelagic species, including Wilson 's storm-petrels; northern gannets; red-necked phalaropes; greater, manx, and sooty shearwaters; and jaegers. There is a possibility that the red-billed tropicbird that spent part of the past two summers on the island will return. On our re-turn to Bremen we will visit the seabird colony at Eastern Egg Rock, hopefully adding roseate tern to our trip list.

It was a pretty safe assumption that almost everybody on the boat was there to see the tropicbird. The gentleman sitting next to me as we motored out of the bay admitted that this would be his 743rd ABA bird if we got it. He's at that point where he's chasing reports now to get new ABA birds and they get very expensive. (He traveled here from Michigan!) After a few hours we reached Matinicus Rock. There were plenty of puffins, as wells as Arctic Terns, and a few Razorbills. Again, the Black Guillemots were quite numerous, especially on the island.
A large group of "murre-looking" birds grouped at the top of some rocks turned out to be a group of decoys. Just like the puffins, they are colonial nesters and Audubon is trying to lure the murres back to the island to breed as well by placing decoys like these in visible prospective nesting areas. This method was used to help bring back the nesting colonies of puffins as well.
Unfortunately, they were the only murres we saw.
After circling the island a few times the announcement was made that we'd be heading back in a few minutes. The tropicbird was never spotted. And that was it. We simply gave up after less than an hour and headed back, with no attempts at checking any other areas. (It had been noted that the tropicbird was also being seen regularly near another rocky outcropping/island but we didn't make any attempts at it.) I have to admit to being a little irritated by this. Quite a few people traveled a great distance for a chance of seeing this bird, and it didn't seem like much of an attempt was made. We were back to the dock by 4:15 (not 5:30 as advertised) and we spent a solid hour or so traveling back along the shore. It seems to me that we could have spent more time at Matinicus looking for the target (and I don't think that people would've minded watching the puffins, terns, etc longer while looking) OR trying another location. I almost would've preferred having the trip cancelled because of weather (and never knowing whether it was there or not) to only going for a short time and giving up. Oh well, can't do anything about it - birds are never guaranteed and we see them at their pleasure.
Oh, and on the way back we did see a few American Bald Eagles. Pam spotted this nice adult on the shore.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 7/23/08

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


So as I was finally entering my sightings into Avisys last night, I realized that the Long-tailed Jaeger I posted photos of in my previous post was a life bird for me! It didn't register at the time, since trips I've been on have had brief sightings before, but I never recorded it on my own list as I've never had a good enough look to feel comfortable "ticking" it off.

And to celebrate, one more photo of #593:

BTW, I've posted a few more photos from the trip at:

Monday, July 21, 2008

July 19th BBC Pelagic Trip

This past Saturday I attended my second "Extreme Pelagic" trip of the year. One of the reasons these are billed as "extreme pelagics" is that they are all day trips. And I don't mean "all day" in that we go out at dawn and are home by dinner. We board at 3:30am in Hyannis, and get in about 10:30pm. It is a long, but usually satisfying day. We headed out again to Atlantis Canyon, which is where the warmest waters were, and had a bit of a rough time of it going out, but the seas settled down one we made it past the contintal shelf. On the last trip (three weeks ago) we had an embarrassment of riches in that we saw thousands of Greater, hundreds of Cory's, as well as a few Manx and Sooty Shearwaters, large numbers of Wilson's Storm Petrels with a few Leach's, and amazing numbers of sea mammals. This time, it seemed quality was the word instead of quantity. Numbers were low, but we had Band-Rumped Storm Petrels mixed with the the Wilson's, (and a Leach's or two again), two immature Long-tailed Jaegers that provided excellent looks (which even an neophyte pelagic birder like myself was able to see the field marks), and the highlight was a young Bridled Tern that stayed with the boat for a while. Even with the lower than expected numbers, we had a boat full of very happy birders.

And now, a few photos...
The Wilson's Storm Petrels were as common. One of the two immature Long-tailed Jaegers that were so accomodating.

The Greater Shearwaters were certainly fewer in number than expected.

And the highlight of the day for pretty much everybody on the boat was this young Bridled Tern, that flew over the bow (and I was very luck to get this almost in-focus shot) then stayed with us for a short time, making sure that everybody got good looks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

OK, so I can be clueless about some things

For instance, I was not aware that "Wordless Wednesday" is some big carnival blogging thing. I ran across it on another blog I check out occassionally, and thought it was a neat idea. Turns out that there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of blogs that do it, and they link to a main site somewhere.

I'll probably keep up the concept, but not join the carnival... the tilt-a-whirl always makes me sick to my stomach anyway.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 7/16/08

Concept courtesy of Birding Bev from the Behind the Bins blog.

Gives me a reason to post something, anything at least once a week...

Friday, July 11, 2008

Photo Friday - at the Feeders

Just some snapshots of who is visiting the feeders these days. Nothing terribly exciting, just your average everyday feeder birds in an office park. (There are also the ubiquitous House Sparrows, and I do have a few pics, but haven't bothered to upload them.)

Mourning Dove are always on the ground below the feeders.
Black-capped chickadees stop in pretty regularly.
The goldfinches know that the thistle sock is there for them.
The Red-winged Blackbirds were a bit of a surprise. There are three that stop in every day.
The nuthatches are also regular at the peanut feeder.

Of course, the Downy Woodpeckers are the main reason I have feeders up at all. I've only once seen a Hairy here in the years that I've had the suet and peanut feeders out there, but I keep hoping that someday they'll come. (Or maybe even a Red-bellied...)
I know most of my Downies by their head pattern, but I've also been able to distinguish patterns of behavior for most that allows me know recognize them even if I can't see the head pattern. This particular fellow likes to hang out and eat from the bottom of the peanut feeder. I think I've noticed him at the suet only once or twice.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I wasn't planning on getting too political here but...

Tell Congress to Support Legislation to Conserve
Our Rapidly Disappearing Migratory Birds!

The American Bird Conservancy does a lot of great work in getting involved with our government, speaking on behalf of the birds and birders at congressional hearings, etc.

They also make it very easy for you to get involved, creating letters that you can send to your representatives to make sure that your voice is heard.

I have been a member of the ABC in the past (and must admit that my membeship has lapsed and I need to renew which I will do now that I have put it in print!) but have continued to get their on-line newsletter and supported them with letters to local politicians. I just received the following in my e-mail:

Dear Christopher,

On July 10 at 10am EST, I will testify on behalf of American Bird Conservancy at a Congressional hearing on the state of America's birds.

My testimony will outline the many threats to migratory and resident birds, and ways these threats can be mitigated. I will call special attention to the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act and its proven track record in funding conservation efforts that have benefited hundreds of migratory species throughout the hemisphere. ABC and a coalition of members of the Bird Conservation Alliance are asking for an increase in funding for this key program to better serve the needs of declining bird populations.

My testimony will resonate better with members of the Committee because you and many other ABC supporters sent letters to their Representatives asking that they cosponsor a bill put forward by Representatives Kind and Gilchrest (HR 5756) that will reauthorize the Act at significantly higher funding levels.I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for taking part in this campaign through our on-line action center. To date, more than 31,000 emails have been sent to Congress requesting that the Act be reauthorized and fully funded. This will make a significant difference in our ongoing efforts to better protect our declining migratory birds.

If you would like to listen to the hearing online, please visit

And please don't forget to tell your friends that it is not too late for them to take action on this campaign too. They can visit our online action site at and send a letter to their Representative asking them to cosponsor HR 5756.

Thank you once more for your efforts to help protect our declining migratory birds,

Dr. George Wallace
American Bird Conservancy

Monday, July 7, 2008

No birding this weekend & random thoughts...

Pamela's birthday was this (holiday) weekend, and we spent time visiting my parents in NY. No real effort at birding was done, other than the constant awareness of the birds around me. I notice that I still pepper my conversations with IDs as I make them in my head...

ME: "So, the wedding plans are coming along well.(cardinal) We're meeting with the (chipping sparrow)DJ again next weekend to talk about the processional (killdeer) music, and we need to decide this week about (crow) which flavor we are going to make the cake. Hey, I just heard a Chimney Swift - there it goes!"

Whoever I am speaking to (assuming they are not a birder): "Wait... what? You being married by a cardinal, DJ Sparrow is providing the music, you plan on sacrificing a deer, and eating crow-flavored cake?!??"

I expect that many birders do this, which probably helps to spread the perception that we are just a little bit 'off'. And, let's face it, some of us, really are. I can't speak for all birders, but I have to admit to being a bit more than fanatical about it. That's one nice thing about birding as a hobby -you can enjoy it at any level you please, from watching the birds in your backyard and never really knowing much about them other than the joy the bring you , to the big-listers who try to see as many species as possible in their life, the year, the month, a certain location, etc.

I do like the fact that my excitement and enjoyment of birds seems to be contagious - family, friends, and co-workers are always telling me about something they saw in their yard, or on the golf course, or on vacation, or a program on TV, or an article in the newspaper. People that I know that don't have any great interest in nature are stopping me to share some experience that they've had. "Hey, I thought of you this weekend - I saw this big bird, I mean it was huge!"
So hey, I have no problem being the "Bird nut", "Birdman", or whatever else you can come up with - if it continues to spark an interest in others, it can only be for good.

I'm going to go and have a slice of that crow cake. Mmm-mmm!