Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Wordless Wednesday 2/17/10

Harbor Seal

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

Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday

Monday, February 15, 2010

Forgotten Post

Bloggers - did you ever have something that you meant to post about, only to realize months later that you never did?  This is one of those posts.  You see, back in November of last year, I received an e-mail from a guy named Dan Kirk in California that was interested in using one of my photos for a CD he was putting together.  The CD was a recoding that he made one spring morning of the birdsong when he had lived in Massachusetts.  I was quite flattered that he found one of my photos good enough use for something like this, and of course granted him permission to use the photo he wanted.  He sent me a copy of the CD some time ago, and I often have it playing in the background when at work, as it is a nice reminder of a Massachusetts Dawn Chorus - especially in the colder darker days of a New England winter.

By all means check it out - the quality is pretty good, it's pretty inexpensive ($10 incl shipping) and it makes for nice 'environmental' sound.

Oh, and in case you are wondering about the title... (and I should admit that this took me a while to figure out) the recording was done in Bedford, MA. And as any Massachusetts native will tell you - the locals pronounce it "Beffa." Even at 13 years in New England - I still can't get this MA accent down!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bird Photography Weekly #77

Usually a look like this through bins will mean a stunning look though the scope - but not much in the way of photos!
That's a little better..
Long-tailed Duck (Clangula hyemalis)

Continuing with the 'duck' theme again for this week's Bird Photogrpahy Weekly, I have a few photos of a bird I have long wanted to get photos of.  I am still not satisfied with these, but they are certainly the best I've managed so far.  Even in their "eclipse" plumage these dapper sea ducks are a favorite among many.  Formerly called 'oldsquaw' (something to do with how talkative these ducks are) the name was changed some years back to one that was more politically correct - though when one is spotted at any seawatch, inevitably you'll still hear the old moniker mentioned (and especially if there's someone who's been birding a while that refuses to call it by it's new name.)
Male and female together

PS - as always click on the photos to see larger versions!

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

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Gull unclear on the concept

Yup... not much more to say about it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Random Photo

just for the heck of it.

Ring-billed Gull

Monday, February 8, 2010

Bird Photography Weekly #76

Common Teal (Anas crecca)

The Common Teal, also often referred to as the Eurasian Teal, is the Old World counterpart of the Green-winged Teal (Anas carolinensis) that we see here in North America.  (And in fact, it seems that the Green-winged Teal is often considered a sub-species of the Common Teal, and it is not considered a separate species - which means that seeing one does not add to your ABA list if you are keeping track) It seems that each year, we get one or two Common (Eurasian) Teal in New England.
I find that the easiest way to distinguish between the Old World and New World species, is to look for the location of the white on the wing.  In the photos above, note that there is a horizontal white bar (bordered by black at the bottom).  This doesn't exist on the North American Green-winged Teal (see photo, right) but instead they have a small vertical white bar at the front edge of the wing.

PS - as always click on the photos to see larger versions!

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

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bloggerhead Kingbird - wrap up post

This post has been a long time coming, after all, everybody went home last Sunday. If you've been following along, you've likely read all about the weekend from Corey, Nate, John,Andrew, and Mike (that is, if you haven't been too overwhelmed by posts from 6 team members about the same weekend.)  Each one of these great bloggers has put their own spin on the weekend, each writing in their own distinctive style, and reading their posts has been a great way to remember the weekend - and hopefully to give you all a sense of what fun we all had.
But, as all good things must come to an end, alas, so did our competitive birding and bird-blogger weekend.  Sunday morning we got up early again to head out and try for some of the species we missed and for better looks at some of the species we just "ticked" and moved on.  Also, (as some of the posts show) there was precious little time for photography on competition day.  We decided to head back up to Cape Ann, as that would give us the most opportunity to try for a few lifers for the team and good photo ops.  (As Corey would say "Har-le-quin, HAR-le-quin, HAR-LE-quin, HAR-LE-QUIN!" - or something like that.) I somehow intuited that he wanted to get a few photos of the dapper little sea ducks that seem to constantly get dashed upon the rocky coast, only to pop-up like corks again a few feet from where they had seemed to meet certain doom.  Dovekie was another bird that were hoping for better looks at - we had got the requisite 4 people on one during the competition, but not those for whom it would be a lifer, and certainly not satisfying looks for any.

We started at the Jodrey Fish Pier in Gloucester, where photo opportunities for Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Eider were excellent, then continued on to Eastern Point, and Niles Pond in hopes of seeing some of the cool gulls that had been spotted in the area lately (Thayer's, Slatey-backed, etc).  No luck with the gulls, so we continued on to Atlantic Avenue and then Good Harbor Beach in hopes of finally spotting the drake King Eider that seems to hang around this area in the winter, but it once again escaped our intense scanning, and there remains an open box next to this species on the Bloggerhead Kingbird checklist. (Sometimes he's there, and sometimes he just on the other side of Salt Island -which can really be frustrating to visiting birders hoping for this cool looking Eider)

We continued on to Rockport, with several fingers frozen into crossed position for luck (They would manage to thaw in a few hours) in hopes of Dovekie, but the calmer seas today seemed to send the alcids well beyond the reach of our scopes.  The Harlequins and Purple Sandpipers were pretty cooperative though - and I even pulled out my camera for a bit to get some pics of a sizable flock of these 'rockpipers' that spend their winters with us along the coast:

As morning was approaching afternoon, and everyone needed to start thinking about their plans for getting home at a reasonable hour to get some rest before returning to the work-a-day world on Monday, we headed back up to Newburyport so that they team could cash-in their winnings. As the recipients of the Essex-County-Excels award, we each received a gift certificate to Bird Watcher's Supply and Gift or the nature shop at the Mass Audubon at Joppa Flats center. Since this is a local store and not a chain, if they wanted to enjoy their winnings soon, they'd have to do it now. I think everybody was pretty happy with the turnout of the weekend. We saw some good birds, dipped on some (just another reason to come back), and - if I may speak for everyone - had a great time doing it.

I was planning on doing this, but since John has already done all the hard work, be sure to check out his link round-up post, which summarizes all of the team-members' posts AND links a few blog posts from others that participated this year too!

Now it's time to start thinking and planning for next year!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Bloggerhead Kingbirds at the Superbowl of Birding - Game Day

I wish I could say that Saturday morning broke bright and warm... but if you haven't picked up on it yet - it was cold... and dark.  Oh, and did I mention that it was cold?

The day started with the alarm going off a little before 4am, where I managed to grogilly brush my teeth and pull on several layers of clothes in preparation for pre-dawn owling with the team.  (Remember Ralphie's little brother in "A Christmas Story" where he was so bundled up he couldn't put down his arms - yeah it was a bit like that.)  I met the guys at 4:30 am and we headed out so that we could start at 5am sharp at our first location - a small corner of a pond in Lynnfield that doesn't freeze over for some reason, even in that morning's 4° f temps.  On that little bit of open water we started out with a number of species of ducks, and a 4-pointer American Coot.  (Catch that temp there?  And that was before taking into account any wind chill!)  Following the good start, the next two hours were a bit more difficult as we struggled to find owls.  Even with Nate's superb calling (not to mention Corey's ability to make sure that owls in other counties could hear him calling them) they were not terribly cooperative, until at last a Eastern Screech-Owl responded.  We continued on to start our daylight birding in the coves and thickets of Nahant, feeling good about picking up species that the team dipped on last year.  (Although there were a few critical species that we missed this year that teams behind us picked up.)  We then headed up to Cape Ann to bird Gloucester and Rockport in search of gulls, alcids, sea ducks, and well, frankly anything else we could spot - this is a competition after all and we were out to find everything we could - and as fast as we could.  And that last point is an important one.  We couldn't spend too much time at each spot.  There is a lot of territory to cover and we had a schedule to keep - and everybody was great about being conscious of time.  It would be easy to spend a lot of time looking for a stunner like a drake King Eider, or to spend plenty of time photographing Harlequin Ducks - but not on this day.  This day we needed to spot the birds and move on.  (You'll notice that this post is not accompanied by any photos)
While traveling from one location to the next, we constantly reviewed what we'd already identified, what we could potentially see at the next stop, what we'd missed, and where we might be able to pick-up the missed ones.
After leaving Cape Ann, we headed across Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, and Newbury, with a few quick stops here and there, not to mention picking a 5-point Turkey Vulture along the way.  Our next stops were in areas around Salisbury then finish the day on the famous Plum Island, for the can't miss Snowy Owls there - not to mention an 11th hour (and 45 minute) Iceland Gull spotted on an ice floe by Nate.   Throughout the day each and every member of the team - Corey, Nate, John, Andrew, and Mike were critical in spotting birds, and making suggestions to keep us on the proverbial ball.  (Never mind unflagging senses of humor which make a long day like this that much easier.)

We would up the day with a respectable 70 species worth a total 127 points - not enough to take the big prize this year, but that won't deter us from returning to compete again next year!  I've said this before, and I'll say it again and again - as much as I enjoy the competition - the camaraderie is really what makes this day so enjoyable each year.

It might seem like this is a pretty abbreviated summary of a 12 hour day of birding - and you are absolutely correct. You might ask why, with this gem of an opportunity, I am ot writing more?  Well, I'll be honest - the other members of this crack team of birders and bloggers are doing an amazing job of blogging the day, and I would be completely remiss if I didn't refer you to them for other (and maybe more expansive) takes on the day:
Corey of 10000 Birds
Nate of the Drinking Bird
John from DC Birding Blog
Andrew, the Birding Dude
Mike from the Feather and the Flower

The posts these guys have put up about the weekend have been great - check 'em out!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bloggerhead Kingbirds at the Superbowl of Birding - The Pre-game show

No doubt you are now aware that this past weekend, the Bloggerhead Kingbirds competed again in Massachusetts Audubon's annual Superbowl of Birding. As I mentioned in my previous post, we came away with one of the awards this year, which was pretty darn cool!  I said it before and I'll say it again -as cool as it was to get the award, the best part was birding with these guys for the weekend.  It was great catching up with Corey and Nate who returned to the team for their 2nd year on the Kingbirds, getting to know Andrew better who I'd only briefly met earlier this year, and to finally meet John and Mike.  Everybody got along great right from the start (as you would expect with a group of talented birders and bloggers like this group)

The weekend began in earnest (from my point of view - each of the other members had their own start at different times - see their blog posts for their POVs) when I picked up Nate at the airport at about 10am on Friday.  We still had several hours before the rest of the guys showed up so we drove up to Plum Island and then Salisbury to do a little bit of birding/scouting.  The day was bright but very, very, cold, and although the birds were scarce, we did manage some nice species - including several Common Mergansers... which I only mention because we actually missed them on competition day.   On the way back towards the Staybridge Suites in Burlington, where the visiting teammates would be spending the next two evenings, we got a call from Corey to let us know that the NYC area contingent had arrived.  We checked in (getting the same exact room that the team had last year) and Mike arrived a few minutes later.  Within 10 minutes of checking in, we did exactly what you would expect - grabbed binoculars, scopes, and cameras, and started birding right away.  Our first bird as a team?  Conveniently, there is a cooperative Saw-whet Owl that roosts nearby, and since it was a lifer for a few of the guys, it was a no-brainer that we'd check it out.  (My pic is from when I saw this bird earlier - but the other guys managed a few pics before we let it be.)  We then went to check out a pretty cool little bird that we'll need to keep under wraps for now as it is on private property, and out of respect for the homeowners we promised that we'd not say what and where it is for now.
We spent the rest of the evening grabbing an early dinner then reviewing our strategy for the next day, which was going to start at about 4am in order to be at our first location at 5 o'clock sharp the next morning.

Next up - game on!

Hey Ma! I'm famous!

OK, perhaps not famous - but I was selected to be a featured blog over at the Nature Blog Network Blog, so if you haven't had enough of my babbling over here - be sure to click over and show them some love too.

For those of you hoping for a Superbowl of Birding update, well... stay tuned!  I hope to have a summary up later this evening after work.  I will say that we walked away with an award this year - the "Essex County Excels" award for the most number of points in Essex County only, and I am pretty sure that we made it through the weekend without losing any souls.  (Though I am hesitant to do a count of fingers and toes....)

ALSO, (and I cannot emphasize this enough) be sure to check out my teammates blogs for their takes on the weekend too.  There is a lot of great birding and writing talent again on this year's team, so you definitely will want to see what these guys are going to post!
And just in case you don't remember who they are:
Corey of 10000 Birds
Nate of the Drinking Bird (and the Nature Blog Network)
John from DC Birding Blog
Andrew, the Birding Dude
Mike from the Feather and the Flower