Monday, August 31, 2009

Plum Island Shorebird Sunday

Sunday morning was shaping up to be another gray & rainy day (like Saturday)and Pamela and I were trying to figure out what we'd do with our day when Paul and Diana called. They were interested in seeing whether the Buff-breasted Sandpiper that had been reported at Sandy Point (at the south end of Plum Island) was still around. It sounded like a good idea and soon we were off and running to P.I. We made a couple of short stops on the way south including one where we encountered a few Whimbrels (photos below) and an Eastern Meadowlark. When we reached Sandy Point we ran into another birder that assured us that the Buff-breasted Sandpiper was being seen well at the beach. There was also an immature Peregrine Falcon perched in a nearby bare branch in the parking lot.
As we approached the beach, the sun broke through the clouds and we saw that there were quite a few birders already there (including several friends) and more assurances that the Buff-breasted was just "right there... wait, where did it go?" Thankfully, while the bird wasn't only a couple of feet away anymore, we were able to relocate it relatively quickly - and over the next half-hour or so we got stunning looks at the bird, and a few photos that I was pretty happy with...
Other shorebirds in the area included a single Baird's Sandpiper (which I could not get photos of), a single Red Knot, White-rumped, Semi-palmated, and Least Sandpipers, Sanderlings, Piping, Semi-palmated, and Black-bellied Plovers:
If you click on the image to enlarge it, you can see the webbing between the toes - i.e. "semi-palmated"

In addition to the Peregrine Falcon that we saw in the parking lot, there were another TWO immature birds (At one point,we actually saw all three at once!)which periodically strafed the shorebirds, but we never saw a single one caught.
I have to admit, that last shot involved quite a bit of luck, but boy am I happy with it!
Oh and while we were there, apparently so was Kim of the Curious Birder blog. I thought I recognized her, but wasn't sure and so I didn't say anything - should've know better. You can read her account of what she saw here.

A photo that I took that was less luck, and simply patience was this pretty little American Lady:
And it's just as pretty on the bottom of the wings...

Driving back north on the island, we once again saw the Whimbrels that we saw earlier in the morning, and I took some time getting some photos:

Throughout the entire time we were on the island, there were always thousands of Tree Swallows in sight, and even though I expected to see them, it is still amazing. Every year before migrating they "stage" on Plum Island - it's really quite the spectacle! (I posted a few photos and a video that I took last August here - but you'll need to scroll down a bit.)
What was rather unexpected though was a large bird in the "salt pans." We really didn't know what to make of it at first - seemed pretty large with a lot of gray and white, and was holding it bill up in the air. My first thought was a loon, but it was riding too high on the water . Getting the scope out clinched the id - it was an immature Northern Gannet - definitely not a bird you expect to see in the shallow pans of the salt marsh. It didn't seem too dazed, and was active and occasionally preening, but certainly not where it should be. It even stretched it wings, and looked like it might take off once or twice before settling it's wings back in again. It was pretty cool seeing it rather close (it closed the distance by half while we were there) but at the same time a little sad, because I'm not sure it it will "make it."

The birding was topped off with lunch at one of our favorite Thai restaurants - Andaman Thai in Newburyport. Another great day out birding capped by a good meal - seems to be a common theme these days... and I'm not complaining!

Bird Photography Weekly #53

Whimbrel (Numenius phaeopus)

A few photos from the group of seven that we saw on Plum Island on Sunday. More photos of these, as well as other birds from Sunday's trip to follow in later post.

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

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Twelve-spotted Skimmer

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know. This is supposed to be a birding blog, but frankly the birding has been a bit slow (well, expect for a few outings for shorebirds) but it continues to be good times for looking at dragonflies. Today I'm posting some photos I took yesterday. I've been trying to get photos of Twelve-spotted Skimmers for a while, but the ones I've encountered have been a lot more skittish than many of the others I've tried to photograph. A lot more patience, and moving at a much, much slower pace, (anybody watching me would've thought I was doing some sort of glacial-paced Tai-chi) got me close enough to get a few pics that I like...

Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella)

* As always, click on the photos to see them larger

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 8/26/09

Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday

Monday, August 24, 2009

Saturday Birding at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

This past weekend was a great one. On Friday, I took a half-day off from work in order to head out to the New Jersey highlands to crash at our friend Bev's house. She had taken it upon herself to organize another bird blogger event (you might have read my past posts about BwBTC meetups) at Jamaica Bay for autumn shorebird migrants. I'd heard tale of the shore-birding there and had been wanting to check it out for a few years, so when she mentioned it, I jumped at the chance. And boy am I glad that I did. The birding, which I will get to shortly, was great, but what makes these events are the people I've had the pleasure to meet. (In fact, I first met Bev face-to-face at the first BwBTC event earlier this year.) We had quite a who's who list of birders to join us too, although the morning's inclement weather and less-than-sunny prediction for the day (80% chance of thunderstorms!) kept a few from joining, about 9 die-hard birders showed up and we enjoyed a warm sunny day with occasional breezes, and good shorebirds. (Oh, and the deep soul-sucking muck that defines Jamaica Bay.)

Corey from 10000 Birds and Carrie from Great Auk or Greatest Auk were waiting for us when we arrived at the visitors center at 8ish. And after that birders just kept arriving - Anne Marie (@iheartwarblers on twitter) Scott from Peace, Caffeine, Linux, Laura from Somewhere in New Jersey, Jay of BirdJam fame, Catherine from Birdspot, and Cindy from Living in Brooklyn, Longing for Maine. (Many of these folks are also on Twitter as well)
Once all the expected birders had arrived, we headed into the north end of the East Pond (I don't think we could've held Corey back a moment longer!) As soon as we stepped onto the mud-flats, we spotted one of our first targets for the day - Wilson's Phalaropes. Unfortunately, they flew to the far side of the pond before I could get a photo.
As we caught up with another group, (which also contained Andrew of BirdingDude) we heard that they'd spotted a Sora near the edge of the marsh. A few moments later we'd got our group on the bird.
The mud-flats were full of the expected shorebirds - including Semi-palmated and Black-bellied Plovers, Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Willets, Red Knots, Ruddy Turnstones, Glossy Ibis...

Mixed flock of shorebirds
Semi-palmated Sandpipers
Least Sandpiper
Lesser Yellowlegs

One of the highlights for me though was an American Avocet that was pretty cooperative:

Unfortunately, we were unable to find the American Golden Plover, so we headed back to the visitor center before checking out the West Pond. While there, I noticed this guy on the nets in front of the large plate glass windows (to prevent bird collisions):

Although we saw quite a few more birds, many were of the same species that we'd seen already, and the photography didn't improve over the morning's shots. I did keep seeing cicadas though -A face only a mother could love!

After wandering around the West Pond, it was definitely time to cool off and have some lunch. After lunch a few decided that they were done for the day, and the rest of us headed back to the East Pond but starting from the South end this time, as well as a few other paths. At one blind we found this youngster relaxing just a few feet from us.
It might be hard to believe from this short description, but this day lasted from 8am until 5pm - and every minute of it was wonderful.
Many thanks to everybody that attended that made it such a fun day, and especially to Beverley who was the driving force behind the day and for being such a fantastic hostess!

Bird Photography Weekly #52

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana)

A very cooperative bird photographed at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens, NY this past Saturday. A regular post with more images to follow later. (As always, you can click the images to see them enlarged.)

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