Sunday, November 30, 2008

A pronunciation question

How do you say my name?

Mike over at 10000 Birds, posted a poll recently regarding the pronunciation of Pauraque - that master of nightjar disguise, which recently has been the subject of several blog posts from those that were lucky enough to go to the Rio Grande Birding Festival this year.
And it got me thinking about another pronunciation that I have now heard a few different ways and thought I'd ask readers for their feedback on how they pronounce pileated. You know, that woodpecker that is emblazoned all over this blog. (Depending upon feedback I may make this a long-running poll in the sidebar, but I'm just going to start with this for now.)

The two most common that I hear are:
1- with the stress on the first syllable and a long I (like pie) with the l joining a hard E and hard A: PIE-lee-ate-ed
2- with the l joining a short i at the beginning, a stronger stress on the second syllable, then the same long A: pill-EE-ate-ed
(I apologize to all those out there that are groaning from my poor attempt at providing pronounciation instruction)

Certainly not the variety of pronounciations as some other birds out ther, but I'm curious as to how you say "Pileated"?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Birdin'

It was a beautiful brisk late autumn/early winter day here in New England. After missing the King Eider yesterday, I wanted to take another stab at it in better weather. Today we were successful, albeit the bird was too far away for any photos. The Buffleheads though, were a bit closer so I took a few pics of them...

I love the irridescence on their heads in bright sunlight. There were also large numbers of White-winged Scoters. I kept trying to get a good pic showing the detail of the bills, but they kept turning away from the light. Best one is:

I've also been trying for a while to get a good pic of a Harlequin Duck. Still not great, but my best one so far is:

After a few hours on Cape Ann, we decided to head over to Plum Island. It was a slow day on the island so we headed into town for lunch (Thai food - yummy!)

Afterwards we headed back to Plum Island. The only highlight there for us was an American Bittern - possibly the same individual we saw in October as it was in the same spot. It was beautiful in the late afternoon light.

I even got to spend some time digiscoping it. Here he is after just catching a fish.
(We saw him catch 5 fish in about 20 minutes)

Friday, November 28, 2008

7 Gull Day

I started the day up at Plum Island looking for a dark Gyrfalcon that had been reported yesterday. Unfortunatley, it seems like it might have been a one-day wonder. I stuck around a few hours, saw a few Snowy Owls (yep - got to make sure I keep tabs on them for Patrick, Corey, Quintus, and Nathan), all three scoters & several Long-tailed Ducks, but when it started raining, I decided to head over to Cape Ann and see what I could find out there. I tried a few shots at the spot where a drake King Eider has been spotted in the last week (same place as the last few years) in Gloucester but dipped on that too. The rain continued so I decided that I would head to the fish pier and force myself to study gulls a bit. I was rewarded with 7 species of gull with the highlight being a first winter Black-headed Gull.

Flying around in the same area as the Black-headed Gull was a smaller Bonaparts Gull which was nice for comparison. Also nice for comparison were a few Iceland Gulls and a single Glaucous Gull. There is a size difference between the two, but I find that I have a hard time seeing that difference in the field, unless they are side-by-side. The Glaucous does look heavier, and maybe it's just me, but it seems like the larger Glaucous has it's center of gravity closer to the front of it's body. I find the best field mark for distinguishing the two is the shape of the head. The heads on the Iceland Gulls really are rounder looking compared to the sloping head of the Glaucous Gulls.

Now, can you tell which is which?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Skywatch Friday 11/28/08

This is the Boston Skyline as seen from the tower in Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.

For more, go to SkyWatch Friday

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just a few memorable turkey moments...

This photo was taken the first time I went to Arizona. My friend Mark and I were birding in Madera Canyon. We'd been watching Acorn & Arizona Woodpeckers, Painted Redstarts, Mexican Jays, etc and were near Madera Kubo looking for the "owl post" when suddenly we heard something we didn't expect. We looked at each other quizzically and said to each other "turkey???" Nah, what would a turkey be doing in one of the sky islands of Arizona? But sure enough, a very brave and aggressive turkey came out of nowhere and started chasing us around the car. Very unexpected and very very amusing!

This little one visited us at work in our office park this past May for about a week or so. We've had turkeys pretty regularly, but I never had noticed one this small. It would wander around out back, pecking at the pavement. The first time I went out with any seed in my hand, it ran right for me - the last thing I expected!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 11/26/08

Horse Lubber Grasshopper

Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday

Monday, November 24, 2008

Weekend birding wrap-up

It's time for my weekly weekend birding notes. As I mentioned in an earlier post, Saturday was a bit of a bust. We stopped at the famous Mt. Auburn Cemetery (which is beautiful, birds or no) in hopes of finding some photogenic sapsuckers or screech owl that has been seen periodically. Dipped on both. Fail.
Sunday morning Pamela and I headed to Plum Island. Yes, yes, I know - if you read this blog with any regularity, that's somewhat predictable. But there is always something good to see.
On this occassion, it happened to be White-winged Crossbills. It seems like this is going to be a good irruption year for these beautiful finches - reports of small flocks of them have been lighting-up the list-servs all over New England. It took a little patience, but we did locate a flock of about 12-15 birds. (About 5 minutes after a Merlin tore through the area, the birds piped up a bit). Not quite the pics I had hoped for, but with the high winds, they spent very little time on the outer fringes of branches:

We did spend a little time checking for Snowy Owls, but I believe the winds drove them toward the shelter of the dunes. They are certainly still around (they continue to be reported today). While at the south end of the island there were some of the usual suspects - Snow Buntings and Horned Larks.

And I always try, but I have yet to get a photo that I am happy with of a Northern Harrier. I see them pretty much every time we go to PI, and they do come very close,but I never seem to have the camera ready. Sunday I got my best photo so far- and still am not happy with it. Someday...

Bird Photography Weekly #13

Little Blue Heron

For this week's photo, I'm going into the "way-back" of my bird photography. This images is actually from a slide that I took some years back, which I scanned (which is what gave it the really vibrant colors) and which I've used as my desktop "wallpaper" through my last three computers.

To see more bird photos, check out:

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Slow Birding Saturday

Today we had some errands to run, and with the wind chill bringing the temp down into the 20's, birding wasn't so great today. We were in the neighborhood of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, and spent some time looking around for sapsuckers and a screech owl, neither of which showed themselves for us today. A few sapsuckers were seen earlier in the day, but when we checked in the spot where they had been, the only bird I could find was an immature Red-tailed Hawk.

In the evening we went to see the new James Bond film. All I'll say is that I was less than impressed.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Skywatch Friday 11/21/08

I really thought that I had posted this one before, but I guess I just never got to it - which is good, as I didn't get anything "Skywatch-able" during the past week. I'll have to see what other photos I've got 'banked' for future Skywatches.

Anyway, this is a photo of Black Skimmers in late evening, settling in to roost for the night on Bunche Beach in Ft. Myers, FL.

For more, go to SkyWatch Friday

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 11/19/08

Sandhill Cranes

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Red-letter Day

Well, really a Red-headed Woodpecker day - which is always a red-letter day for me.
RHWO's might just be my favorite species in my favorite family of birds, and whenever one is reported near my area I get pretty excited. They have become more difficult to find in the last several years - as opposed to Red-bellied Woodpeckers which seem to be increasing at an almost alarming rate. I have a hypothesis that as the Red-bellied Woodpeckers are increasing their range northward, they are displacing the Red-headed Woodpeckers.
Anyway, a RHWO was reported yesterday visiting the feeders in somebody's yard two towns over from where I work, so I checked into it at lunch. They owners have done a very nice job in making their yard vbery bird-freindly and it has obvioulsy paid off, and they are welcoming birders to see the bird. As you can see from the photos below, it is a juvenile bird with a mostly brownish hood, but with the beginnings of red to come in. While I was there, I also saw or heard Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and Pileated woodpeckers. The owner also mentioned that they saw yellow-bellied Sapsucker there as recently as this morning. The lure of a 6 woodpecker day almost had me calling in to work saying that I wouldn't be back today. sigh Another time. In the meantime, I am thrilled to have seen seen one of my favorite birds today.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Cool Sunday Ducks

And now for my weekly weekend birding report. Much of Saturday was a wash - it was raining intermittently, so I decided that I would finally try to get back into my Cornell Lab of Ornithology Home study course in Bird Biology. I bought this a few years back with every intention of blowing through it in record time. My intentions were good, but reality intervened. Soon after I bought the course and received the textbook and associated test materials, my girlfriend at the time and I broke up and I needed to find a new place to live. The book was packed up (along with over 50 other boxes of books) and for the next two years remained untouched while I was working multiple jobs and building a new relationship with a lovely woman who recently agreed to be my wife. Last year, after some minor surgery, I was going stir crazy while stuck in the house, and not allowed to go out (although we did chase a Barnacle Goose that wasn't far away - didn't tell my doc about that though) I remembered the course and tore through 5 chapters in two weeks. I've barely found any time to work on it again, and the book has been taking up space on the dining room table even since. Saturday morning I decided to take it up again. I really do enjoy the class - it is incredibly informative and extremely well written. Without a doubt it has increased my birding skills, as well as my appreciation for the birds themselves. I just usually would rather be out birding than home reading about it. (If you haven't seen it, it is a pretty heavy textbook, and not something you can take to bed with you to read before going to sleep, which is when I get a majority of my reading done.)
I did manage to get out briefly between showers on Saturday to Horn Pond in Woburn, MA and finally saw my 'year' Orange-crowned Warbler - something I missed last year and was afraid I'd miss again this year.
Sunday was still overcast and the winds which had picked up overnight seemed to continue. In New England, after a very windy night, one typically heads to the coast to see if anything has been blown in from the ocean, or for migrants that might be hugging (or making their way back to) the shore, depending upon which way the winds were a-blowin'. We weren't in the mood to be sand-blasted, and had heard that the annual Canvasbacks had started to show up at Fresh Pond Reservoir in Cambridge. (Right down the street from the famous hot-spot, Mt Auburn Cemetery)
I've been trying to get photos of these handsome ducks for a few years, but it seems like every time I go, they are in very choppy water and I'm trying to shoot through a lot of vegetation.
The first birds we spotted were on a very small pond at the edge of a golf course that is along on side of the reservoir - a group of over 20 Hooded Mergansers with many males displaying their impressive hoods.

Other ducks that are regular here are Ring-necked Ducks. Don't try looking for the ring on the neck of these good-looking ducks. These birds were named by ornithologists that had a bird in the hand. On a live bird, it's pretty much impossible to see. A better name would probably have been "Ring-billed Duck" but there's little to do about it now.

After a bit more of a walk around the reservoir, I finally found a nice flotilla of Canvasbacks. Honestly, these handsome ducks are one of my favorites, with their cinnamon colored head, bright red eye, and textured white body feathers. Every year I look forward to seeing them. And this year I finally got a few good pics too!

Bird Photography Weekly #12

Boreal Owl

It's getting to be that time of the year when tooting for Boreal Owls becomes one more aspect of the birding craziness. I cannot say I've had success yet in tooting for Boreals, some someday....

To see more bird photos, check out:

Friday, November 14, 2008

Skywatch Friday 11/14/08

I've been so busy with other things, I completely forgot it's Skywatch Friday!!!
This one was taken last weekend after photographing the Snowy Owls on Plum Island. It's looking northwest from Stage Island Pool over the area known as Cross Hill Farm.

For more, go to SkyWatch Friday

Thursday, November 13, 2008

An old "life bird"

I love those days when I get home from a 10 hour day at work, tired and down, and there is a new issue of "Birding" or "Living Bird" in my mailbox. The articles are always entertaining and informative, and the photogrpahy is often nothing less than stunning. It always sets me dreaming of birding in exotic far off (and some not so far off) places. Today was one of those days. The Nov/Dec 2008 issue of the American Birding Association's magazine "Birding" was waiting for me. And lo and behold, the latest additions to the ABA checklist are included, and I have just gained another tick on my ABA list. It seems that the Common Myna has finally been added to the list, a bird which I "banked" a few years ago when I joined one of Larry Manfredi's Ultimate South Florida birding tours. I feel a little better now since they took away my Yellow-chevroned Parakeet almost two years ago. Now I have to go and figure out how to change the status in AviSys...

I and the Birds #88 is up!

Chances are, if you are reading this blog, you already know it...

But just in case you didn't, the latest edition of "I and the Bird" has been posted, and is being hosted by Rick Wright at his Aimophila Adventures blog.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wordless Wednesday 11/12/08

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

More Snowy Owls pics from Sunday

Throughout the day on Monday, I tried to find time to review some more pics from Sunday, and here are a few more of the Snowy Owls currently on Plum Island...