Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Weekend Birding

As I've mentioned in recent posts, I've not had as much to time to devote to my blog as I would like, and wish I could post a bit more. It's been a combination of less birding, even less bird photography, and even less yet personal time at a computer.
Well, this weekend I got out for a bit, and even got a few photos, and here I am typing at my computer BUT... pBase, where I have reliably kept my on-line galleries for several years now is down, and has been so for several days. I know I could use other free services like picassa online or flickr, but I really like the pBase set-up and have grown so accustomed to it, that I'm really reluctant to use anything else. So, any photos will have to wait until they are back up again.

A quick note about the birding...
Yesterday morning, Pam and I joined Paul & Diana(and about 10-11 other birders, for a Brookline Bird Club(BBC)/Menotomy Bird Club(MBC)/Woburn Residents Environmental Network(WREN) walk to Horn Pond right around the corner from where we live. The day started cool, but warmed up relatively quickly - both temperatures and birding. We had some fall warblers to puzzle out, including Blackpolls, Black&White, Palm, Black-throated Green, and Common Yellowthroat - some nice sparrows including Lincoln's, Field, Chipping, Song, and Towhees - as well as a vocal Eastern Screech Owl that responded to Paul's, excellent imitation.
After a fantastic breakfast at Masa (excellent Saturday brunch menu at a price you can't beat!) we decided to head north (as we almost always do when we can't decide what else to do) to Plum Island. Birds there had been pretty active too, with lots of warblers and some interesting sparrows being reported (including two Lark Sparrows and a Clay-colored reported on Friday but not relocated Saturday). White-throated Sparrows have really arrived on the refuge - there was barely a spot on the refuge where you couldn't hear them scratching around in the leaf litter! It's an interesting time on the refuge, where we still have some of our "summer birds" like Great and Snowy Egrets, there are some Autumnal migrants around like the warblers that are coming through, some of the shorebirds that haven't quite left yet and the Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, as well as some of the vanguard "winter birds" (for this area) including White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos. Other indicators of change are the conspicuously absent Tree Swallows, which staged here and left since the last time we were here. One of the highlights of our time there on Saturday were several Merlins that we saw.

Hopefully, pBase will be back soon, so that I'll have some photos to post, rather than hoping that you'll keep coming back for my writing (!?!)

OH - and lately I've been completely pre-occupied with the idea of going birding in Costa Rica. Not that I haven't been daydreaming about it since I started birding (and actually even before then) but it's become an all-encompassing desire lately. Pamela and I are starting to look at our options for early 2010. If you have gone there birding, and have any suggestions, I'd love to hear 'em!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Birding on the weekend...

...because weekday birding has become all but impossible these days.

Heck, it's taken me until now to actually even post about last weekend!
(note: I actually wanted to post this Wed night, but was waiting for pBase to be back on-line to post some photos. As of 9:45pm EST on Friday, it's still not available!)

On Saturday morning, we went birding with a little bit of a twist. Mark Lynch and Sheila Carroll led a birding trip at the Decordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, MA - birding AND contemporary art combined. Oh, and we also had a docent from the museum join us as well to talk about the art (in between the birds, of course).
Birds were a bit slow to start, as it was a pretty cool morning, but things started to look up when we heard a nearby Common Loon calling in flight. Over the next few hours we spent an enjoyable time discussing birds and art, culminating with a nice little mixed flock of warblers in the trees in the parking lot.

Sheila put together a great post with photos about the trip on here blog here.

Sunday morning we decided to bird locally, hitting spots like Dunback Meadows, where we had a nice "kettle" of migrating hawks which included Sharp-shinned, Broad-winged, and one Red-tailed Hawk, as well as a following Osprey. We then headed over to Belmont to explore Massachusetts Audubon's "Habitat" Sanctuary, which we amazingly had never visited before. It really is a very pretty sanctuary, and we only saw a small section of it. I look forward to visiting it again sometime soon - seems like a good place for migrants, dragonflies, etc. (See previous two posts for some photos I took there.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 9/23/09

As always, click on the photo to see a larger, more detailed image.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Bird Photography Weekly #56

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)

A common enough bird here in the US (especially in New England), I had just been commenting to my wife on the fact that I'd never managed to get a photo of a Blue Jay that I liked. Moments later, she says, "Well, there's one on the ground right there" and sure enough, there was a beautiful adult Blue Jay on the ground not 20 feet from us. The moment I grabbed my camera, and turned the lens in it's direction, it did something I didn't quite expect. It spread out it's right wing and nestled down in the grass. Odd! My first thought was that this was a "broken-wing" display that I've seen Killdeer use to distract predators away from a nest, but I'd never seen a Blue Jay do it. I shot a few photos, took a step closer, took another few, took another step, knelt down, and still the bird did not move - just looked at me with it's beak wide open. Now I was starting to get nervous that perhaps the bird really was injured and I started to think about where I could bring it, and as I straightened up from my crouching photographer position - it stood up as well - I swear it winked at me, then turned and flew off - with two other jays that had been above our heads the entire time. This bird had totally played me and I fell for it!

Before I left, I did check to make sure they didn't take my wallet. Sneaky little corvids - I wouldn't put it past them!

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Weekend trip the the aquarium

In the last several weeks, I've not been blogging much. In fact, I've been rather scarce in all forms of social media that I participate in - blogging, Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. The main reason for this is that a few weeks ago, I was assigned a new position at my workplace, and it's really been pulling my focus away from other things. After 10-12 hours sitting at my computer at work, I've really not been up to turning on the computer home. Also, birding for me has been slow lately, (and usually that's what I blog about) in that I've not been able to go on lunches or weekdays at all, and we've not gone chasing after confusing fall warblers. We did spend a little time on Sunday at Mt. Wachusett to check out a local hawk-watch, but after a few Broad-wings, Sharpies, and local Turkey Vultures and Red-tails, we headed back home so that I could get ready for work that evening.

This past rainy Saturday, we decided to head over to the New England Aquarium, which I finf fun every few years. The first thing you encounter upon entering the aquarium, are the penguin exhibits. The aquarium has some beautiful space set aside for the penguins, which surround the base of the four story ocean tank. The first penguins you see are African Penguins (also known as jackass penguins). The next ones (if you circle to the right) are the Little Blue Penguins, and the Rockhopper Penguins.
On the north and south sides of the aquarium are reserved for exhibits - different tanks that hold the most beautiful variety of coral and fish:
This last photo is one of my favorites - with the wide-eyed look of the young girl in the corner checking out the squid.

In the center of the aquarium is the 4-story ocean tank, filled with lots of cool things like eels, rays, sharks, turtles and a variety of fish.
This is the view from the top of the tank - and even with the likes of the above in the tank, I still want to go swimming in it...

Check out the eyes on the ray in this video!

Definitely worth a stop if you find yourself in Boston!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 9/16/09

Electric Green Jay

Dreaming about heading back to Texas in November for the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 9/9/09

Female Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis)

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Saturday, September 5, 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day

Frankly, I had not planned much for posting on this day - things have been a little overwhelming at work of late, and I've not had much opportunity for giving though to my on-line social networks.

Nevertheless, International Vulture Awareness Day is something that I felt like I ought to at least mention, if for no other reason than to perhaps encourage at least one reader to look a little more deeply at the fact that several species of vultures worldwide are threatened with extinction. Here in the United States, our 'new world' vultures - the Turkey Vulture and the Black Vulture do seem to be doing quite well, although the California Condor is only hanging on through some excellent conservation efforts. The new world vultures are more closely related to storks, whereas the old world vultures are more closely related to Hawks, Kites and eagles. Their similarities are the result of convergent evolution. (For some interesting reading about new world vultures, check out this post by Birdchick.)

The old world vultures are what International vulture Awareness Day is really all about. They are faced with threats including "poisoning, persecution, electrocution on and collision with power lines, drowning in farm reservoirs, a shortage of safe food sources and loss of suitable habitat." This quote is from a Birdlife South Africa press release (read the PDF here), and discusses the SEVEN (out of 9) critically endangered vultures in South Africa alone. There are several more species throughout the world facing the same pressure and threats.

SO, get out there, do some research and reading, become more aware of the world around you - and especially the vultures of the world on this day. A few good places to start:
The International Vulture Awareness Day Blog Festival
(and check here for links to some of the blog posts)
The International Vulture Awareness Day flicker gallery for some great photos.

***A special mention here for Gwendolen Tee who has done an excellent job of promoting this day through social media like her blog and on Twitter.

(Oh, and because I really have a hard time putting up a post that is text only, here are a few images of our new world vultures that I've taken)

Black Vultures on an alligator carcass in Florida
Frolicking Turkey Vultures in Texas

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Wordless Wednesday 9/2/09

Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta)

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