Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bird Blogger/Twitterer/Chirper Field Trip - update 1

Wow - that is a lot to write. I think for future updates, I am going to abbreviate it to the "BTC MA Birding trip" Yes I know, not very original, but I'm welcome to suggestions if you have any.

So we have decided on a location for our field trip on June 13th. What field trip you ask? Why you obviously don't follow my blog or twitter stream, do you? That's OK, I don't blame you. But to bring you up to speed a little bit, check out this post from last week. It's ok, I'll wait for you, go ahead....

Great, you're back. Sound like fun? Excellent. Here are a few more details.

We've decided that we will take advantage of one of our "local" hotspots, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge - aka "Plum Island." The plan is to start as early as possible/reasonable for all those that will be joining us in order to avoid some of the crowds that will inevitably be working their way across the refuge to reach the state beach at the south end. There are a number of advantages of doing so, least of which is the variety of birds on the refuge, and ample opportunities for photography and sketching. Also, it is only about a half hour from where the Mississippi Kites nested in NH last year (and they have already been spotted again this year).

For those that are traveling from further afield and wanting to make a full weekend out of it, I am thinking that we can also maybe have an "extension" on Sunday morning to go to Mount Auburn Cemetery. Again, we can see what people are interested in.

There has already been some great interest expressed from quite a few bird and nature bloggers, twitterers, and chirptrackers including:
Behind the Bins
Birding Girl
Birding Maine Blog
Brewster's Linnet
The Curious Birder
The Interstitial Spaces
Nature Potpourri
A New England Life
Plover Warden Diaries

And of course, the woman with the idea: Dawn's Bloggy Blog

I'm not sure yet that everybody on the above list can make it (although we certainly hope so) but we do have a few definite "yeses" in there.

Finally, if you are interested, and haven't contacted us yet, please let us know. We'd love to have you join us. You can let either Dawn or myself know via e-mail, blog comment, or on Twitter.

Wordless Wednesday 5/27/09

Jack in the Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend Birding

Well this past holiday weekend was certainly a fun-packed, bird-filled one. So much so that blogging about it is seeming like quite an overwhelming task. (And especially now that it is Tuesday and I will be working until 11pm tonight.) I am going to try something a little different than usual in order to try to mitigate the task, and start this in a word processor, then cut-and-paste the text into the blog and add the photos. This way I can work at it during lunch breaks, etc.

I suppose I should start at the beginning. Friday evening, I managed to get out of work at about 4:30pm and decided to head over to the ‘mountain’ at Horn Pond, (our local patch) to see if I could finally get some photos of Indigo Buntings that I was relatively happy with. The results of these photos can be seen in my previous Bird Photography Weekly post. They breed in this area, along with Prairie Warblers and Field Sparrows.

Also while there, a pair of Orchard Orioles were pretty active as well, and managed a few shots of the male too. (The female tended to stay in the thickets)

Saturday dawned a little overcast and cool, and while some of our friends were out camping or kayaking, Pam and I decided to be a little less ‘one with nature’ and took our time getting out of the house. (By which I mean we left by 8:00am.) Our only solid plans for the day were to meet a group of friends at Wompatuck State Park in Hingham that afternoon where Rob and Corey had reserved a campsite for the weekend. We planned to get a bit of birding in then have a cookout. While we were out and heading north, Rob called to let us know that he had found a Kentucky Warbler right at the entrance to the campsite – unfortunately it was well over an hour away from where we were at that point, so we just crossed our fingers that he’d stick around for the rest of the day. Instead we headed to Marblehead Neck Sanctuary, where there had been some good warbler sightings in the previous few days – including Mourning Warbler. This skulking oporornis warbler is something of a nemesis bird for me. It’s not that I haven’t seen them before, but like many, the few looks I’ve had have been all too brief and left me wanting more. It seems like this year, people had been spotting them in several locations, but like other years – I just couldn’t seem to find one. Unfortunately, Saturday was no different. In fact, the whole area seemed to be pretty quiet, and after about an hour or so, we decided to call it quits with a handful of the more regular warblers like Yellows, Common Yellowthroats, and Magnolias (and not a single photo to show for it.)

We headed next to the Ipswich River Sanctuary, where we thought we might run into Mark & Laura, Paul & Diana who were participating in the annual Essex County Ornithological Club Canoe Trip (which makes a stop at the canoe launch at the sanctuary) and to hopefully find the Prothonotary Warbler that had been seen there regularly for the last few weeks. As on our previous trips – we gave it quite a bit of time (almost two hours), and heard the bird, but were never able to lay eyes or bins on it. (Very frustrating after reading so many reports from those who’d had the bird 10-15 ft away) Feeling like we were striking out on the target birds, we threw in the towel, and decided top get lunch then to get ready to head to Wompatuck.

We arrived at the park, and quickly found Rob and Corey, and tried for the Kentucky Warbler. Once again, a heard bird, but never seen by us. Also tried for Worm-eating Warbler, which had been vocal there earlier in the day, but couldn’t buy one in the middle of the afternoon, and finally tried for the Cerulean Warbler – which AGAIN, we heard but never really saw. (Rob got on it just as it flew away) Ever have one of those days when it seems like you just can’t see a bird to save your life? (Don’t get me wrong, we saw a lot of birds throughout the day – just none of the ones I really wanted to see – much less photograph!) Grumble, grumble, grumble.

The constant “dipping” on birds was made up entirely by a great evening with friends – Rob & Corey hosted us at their campsite, where we grilled hamburgers and hot dogs, had plenty of chips and snacks, but most importantly were joined by our friends Mark & Laura, Eddie & Maura with Jason, Denise, Paul & Diana. We were only missing was our buddy Mike, who couldn’t make it that evening – and there were plenty of comments about how much we wished he’d made it. Next time we will not take ‘no’ for an answer. A cookout and campfire with good friends – life doesn’t get much better than that.

Sunday started again cool and overcast, but quickly developed into a beautiful day. We picked up Paul & Diana at about 7:30am, and headed north again. We first went to Nahant Thicket, where Mourning Warbler had been reported on Saturday, but couldn’t seem to find one. (Seeing a pattern developing here?) The trees in New England have pretty much all leafed out, making bird-photography a little more difficult – notice the lack of photos in this narrative? We saw a good number of species, including Canada Warbler (which isn’t very common nor particularly rare around here) and a quite a few Blackpoll Warblers, which tend to be among the last wave of our spring migrants as they are moving through to their boreal breeding areas. We also made a quick stop at the ‘stump dump’ where we found the Golden-winged Warbler last fall (nothing overly exciting), and at the shore, where there were quite a few Black-bellied Plovers in various stages of molt. Upon leaving Nahant, we decided to continue a little further north and visited Marblehead Neck again, where activity levels were up a little bit from Saturday, and we were able to add Wilson’s, Blackburnian, and Black-throated Blue warblers to the list. Afterwards, we stopped in at the Barnacle in Marblehead – a local haunt that serves a good lunch at a decent price and is right on the water. The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing before heading in to work the second job.

On Memorial Day Monday, we slept in again (until about 7:30 – I didn’t get in until after 11:15pm after all) but it was simply too beautiful out to stay in for long. As soon as we were able, we headed out and were at Plum Island by about 9am. I wasn’t sure what would be left in terms of migrants, but the weather made it a perfect day to be there. Soon after arriving, we saw Laura & Mark, and jumped out of the car to bird the ‘s-curves’ near the wardens, which turned out to be pretty productive – Canada, Blackpoll, Blackburnian, Magnolia, Yellow, Common Yellowthroat, Black-throated Green all were spied within a few minutes. (Slightly dulled by the fact that I received a call from Paul & Diana who had managed to see the Mourning Warbler with Marj that morning not far from where we live). While there, we also heard Black-billed Cuckoo calling, and moved up to the next stop to see if we could spot it. No luck there, but Bobolinks and a Savannah Sparrow put on quite a show.
(I believe this is the same SASP that I posted pics and a movie of a few weeks ago, as it was in the same exact location!) We then proceeded slowly down the refuge to Hellcat Swamp, where Least Bitterns had been seen a bit earlier. In the parking lot, we also ran into our friend Linda, who is always wonderful to see and who is also very linked in to what is around. (On several occasions, Linda has let me know about some great birds – including the Ivory Gull earlier this year with enough time to get to it from NH before dark) The five of us, spotting scopes in hand moved up to the North Pool Overlook dike to look for the bittern and within a few minutes we spotted one, that proceeded to put on quite a show for us – certainly one of the highlights of the weekend thus far. I tried my hand at digiscoping a bit – something I don’t do nearly as often as I don’t have a camera that allows as much control as I need for it, but I did get a couple of 'ok' shots off:
We did a little more birding on the refuge with them all, then Linda headed off in her own direction, as did Laura & Mark a little later. We grabbed a bite to eat at one of our favorite Thai restaurants in Newburyport (Andaman Thai) then decided to check out a tip we’d heard about at Crooked Pond in Boxford. We weren’t there long before we saw what I think was truly the avian highlight of the weekend:

I’ve heard but not seen Barred Owl for a while now, and really had hoped to lay ones on one – but really this takes the cake. I’m guessing this little guy had only recently stepped out of the nest box, and was sunning itself. We snapped a couple of quick pics and left him to enjoy the warm sunlight. I wasn’t able to spot either parent, although I am quite sure they couldn’t have been far, and they were probably watching us every moment of the few minutes we were there. While I was in the neighborhood, I figured I’d make one last stab at trying to get the Prothonotary Warbler in Ipswich, but once again, no joy. I did hear another bird I’d been looking for all spring, but it unfortunately stayed out of sight – Yellow-billed Cuckoo. As we were hading back towards Woburn, I received another call from Paul letting me know that a Y-B Cuckoo was calling not to far from the “Phoebe Bridge” (so called by birders because guess what nests below it) , so we headed there for a nice late afternoon walk. Although we heard the cuckoo, we never did lay eyes or bins on them. A Great-horned Owl’s location was disclosed by a loud group of crows, Blue Jays, and a few oriole, and I watched and listed to a pair of Hairy Woodpeckers “peek” at each other through mouthfuls of bright green food (for expectant young mouths I presume), and we saw several dragonflies, which I’ll post pics of in another post later (once I have them safely identified).

I think that about does it. A fun-filled, bird-packed weekend. As far as I am concerned – this is what holiday weekends were made for! What did you do with yours?

Monday, May 25, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #39

Indigo Bunting - Passerine cyanea

A few weeks ago for the Bird Photography Weekly post, I put up photos of some of the Prairie Warblers, that we are lucky enough to have breeding at Horn Pond just around the corner from us. At the same location we also have Field Sparrows and Indigo Buntings. This past week, I was able to get a few photos that I was pretty happy with. As well as one or two that I think expressed how the bird felt about the pics...

To see some great bird photos from around the world, check out:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Save the date

This is the first of what I expect will be a few posts about this event.

Saturday, June 13th.

Why you ask? Well, Dawn and Jeff from Dawn's Bloggy Blog will be rolling into Massachusetts in June, and we had started talking about going birding while they are here. Dawn then proposed that we open this up and make it a bird/nature blogger/twitterer event. You see, a lot of bloggers and twitterers know each other from following blogs, chirptracker, twitter-feeds, etc, but may not actually meet face-to-face. Oh sure, it certainly does happen - big events like the World Series of Birding, RGV Birding Festival, and the like will draw people from the same social networking sites.
And this will be another opportunity to do so.

We have't settled on a location yet - I think that will depend upon where people are coming from and what they'd like to see. My first thoughts naturally lean towards Mount Auburn Cemetery or Plum Island.

Wherever we decide, I like to think that we'll be keeping an eye towards the fact that we're all bloggers/twitterers/chirpers - nobody will be rushing you if you wish to take your time to take notes, sketch, digiscope or otherwise take photos.

So please consider joining us on June 13th for a day of birding, social networking, and maybe meeting a few cyberspace friends.

Stay tuned for more details.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 5/20/09

American Copper - Lycaena phlaeas

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Birdathon Wrap-up

This past weekend, I participated again in Mass Audubon's annual Birdathon - a competition/fundraiser that lasts for 24 hours. I was on a team with my friends Paul & Diana, and we covered areas in Woburn, Burlington, Concord, Arlington, and Cambridge. We tallied a total of 106 species. Being in a slightly more competitive mode than regular birding, I didn't take as many pics of birds as I usually would, but I did manage a few (see below).

We started out Friday night at Horn Pond right around the corner in Woburn - a pretty productive and birdy location. By the time the sun had set, we had already seen over 40 species, including the only Indigo Buntings, Field Sparrows, and Prairie Warblers we'd encounter.

Saturday morning found us on location at a marsh in Burlington by dawn for rails and other marsh birds. (A turkey in somebody's yard on the drive over made things a bit easier too) If was cool, breezy and overcast, but the marsh birds didn't disappoint. Next stop was Mt. Auburn Cemetery, where things started out a bit slow, but once the sun came out, things started hopping, and we managed to get a number of our warblers, including Cape May, Blackburnian, and Blackpolls. The rest of the day found us hopping from one location to the next to pick up anywhere between 2 and 5 species at each spot. Some of the highlight species of the day included a Virginia Rail that quickly crossed the path in front of us in the morning, a Common Moorhen at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, and all the warblers. The biggest misses of the day were Eastern Bluebirds and Nashville Warbler. Funny how species that you can usually see without looking too hard can elude you when you need to find them.

A few images from the 24 hour period...

Lady Slippers

Field Sparrow

Virginia Rail

Harlequin Darner

Harlequin Darner

Common Moorhen


List of birds seen:

Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Wood Duck, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Wild Turkey, Ring-necked Pheasant, Virginia Rail, Sora, Common Moorhen, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, Ring-billed Gull, American Herring Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Black-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Screech-Owl, Great Horned Owl, Chimney Swift, Belted Kingfisher, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Alder Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great Crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Cedar Waxwing, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Marsh Wren, Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, Veery, Swainson's Thrush, Wood Thrush, American Robin, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, European Starling, House Sparrow, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Blue-winged Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln's Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, Orchard Oriole

Bird Photography Weekly #38

Blackburnian Warbler - Dendroica fusca

Every year, I take May 15th off from work to go birding as a little birthday present to myself. Usually my goal is to try and find a Cape May warbler, and I have been successful for 4 out of the last 6 years. This year was not one of those "success" years, but instead, I was able to witness something I had not ever seen in my comparatively short birding career, that made up for the miss. Plum Island seemed to be crawling with Blackburnian Warblers! I manage to see a few each year, usually only one at a time, but this day, I saw more Blackburnian Warblers than any other except Yellow Warblers - at times seeing as many as 3-4 in one tree. It was really quite a treat!

To see some great bird photos from around the world, check out:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 5/13/09

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sunday Birdin'

So as I said in an earlier post, I love spring migration. Saturday was a great day, and we continued birding on Sunday, this time heading north to Plum Island. It was a pretty windy day so migrants were laying low, but in areas where there were wind-breaks, there were pockets of activity. Warblers included the expected suspects: Black-throated Blues, Black-throated Greens, Black-and-whites, Yellows, Palms, Yellow-rumps, Common Yellowthroats, Northern Parulas, as well as a Chestnut-sided and an early Blackpoll.

A few birds seen on the island recently, but that we were not able to locate were Bay-breasted, Cape May and Blackburnian Warblers. Hopefully next time around, as these are always exciting birds to see.
We got pretty good looks at a Northern Shoveler while there, but easily the most common duck on the refuge (or at least the most visible) were Gadwalls:
After being wind-blown on the island for a few hours, we decided to head inland a bit and went over to Mass Audubon's Ipswich River Sanctuary, where a Prothonotary Warbler had been putting in an appearance for the last several days. When we arrived, we were told the bird had been singing and was pretty active, to just head a little bit further up the path, ad look for people on the left. Well, we found them, and they were all talking, and had seen the bird just a few minutes ago, but lost track of it while they were talking. We spent another hour listening and searching for the bird, but he didn't show again. I tried a bit of pishing to see if I could convince him to check us out, and was buzzed by a very inquisitive White-breasted Nuthatch:

Just as we were getting ready to leave, Pileated Woodpecker called from quite close, and a few moments later flew past us, and landed at the base of a tree where we had been standing and worked at gleaning insects from a knot on the trunk for about 5 minutes before moving on.

For a woodpecker nut like myself, this was a very nice consolation prize for missing the Prothonotary Warbler!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #37

This week, allow me to present: "Portrait of a Prairie Warbler":

Prairie Warbler - Dendrioca discolor

I have the great fortune of having these 'discolored' (!?!) little warblers breeding each year just a few blocks from my home, and I simply cannot resist going and trying to photograph them occasionally after work. This one decided to show off just about every side in a few short moments, so how could I resist sharing them with you?

To see some great bird photos from around the world, check out: