Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Leucistic Red-tailed Hawk Redux

Back in May, I posted about this bird, as well as a few pics.   I've gone back to the same spot many times since then in hopes of seeing (and photographing) this individual again.  Finally this past weekend, I was lucky enough to see her again...

Now I am getting ready to head off to the Midwest Birding Symposium - hope to have some great pics and stories to share when I get back!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

American Avocet(s)

When we last left our dynamic birding duo (aka my wife and I) we had left Massachusetts's north shore about an hour before some really cool bids had been reported in in two different places.  There were reports of an American Avocet at BOTH the boat ramp in Salisbury Beach State Park (a spot we regularly visit in the winter when there is no fee) AND at in Hampton NH, just north of Salisbury, MA - and it didn't take long for folks to work out that these were two different birds.  First - they were being reported from the two different locations at the same time, and if that wasn't enough, the Massachusetts bird had some rusty color on the head, while the NH bird was clean white.  Having seen this species before, we felt that the responsible thing to do was to NOT drain a half tank of gas to head back north in hopes that the birds might stay put on the rising tide.  Instead we decided that since we'd probably be heading north to go birding again on Sunday that we would try the next day.

Thankfully, the birding gods looked upon us with benevolence - something that many a birder will tell you doesn't necessarily happen often!  We were even forgiven for getting a bit of a late start, as when we arrived in Hampton NH (where I decided to go first as the light would be better for pics if the bird was there) one of the first birds i put my bins on was the Avocet.  I grabbed my bins and camera and headed down to the beach to fire off a few shots in case the bird decided to fly.  But it didn't - in fact, the bird really didn't seem to care about birders or photographers or beach goers, or boats.  I plopped down in the wet mucky sand and the bird worked it's way towards me - love it when that happens.  I continued to enjoy crippling looks and take pics until it was well past me, then drove to the other end of the beach and enjoyed the show again.

Eventually the bird flew to some more distant sandbars to try it's feeding luck there, so we packed up and decided to try for the bird with a little more color in Salisbury, and while certainly nowhere near as close/cooperative as the Hampton bird, we enjoyed some great looks at this one too!

With 'shorebirds' that look like this, I can get into shorebirding!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Stepping out for my 'peeps'

I took the opportunity of the holiday weekend to get out a bit for some birding and photography.  I am working with a new piece of equipment - the Canon 500mm f/4L lens and I am absolutely loving it for bird photography.  With the 1dMkiii body I can throw a teleconverter into the mix and get 700mm or even 1000mm of reach while keeping autofocus. (The quality seems to drop off a bit with the 2x teleconverter and 1000mm but it's not too bad.)

But this post (and for that matter, this blog) is not about equipment, it is about the birds.  Not much happened with birding on Saturday (that day we enjoyed a cookout and some kayaking with friends) but started out early on Sunday and were rewarded with what I can only assume was a still storm-strewn bird from Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene a few weekends ago - a juvenile White Ibis!

We spotted this from the road at the Stage Island Pool at the south end of Plum Island - not a bad little find for MA. After trying to get the word out so that others who wanted to add this bird to their state and/or Plum Island lists would have the chance to do so, we continued on towards Sand Point - the beach that is at the very southern tip of Plum Island - a great place for a variety of shorebirds, and especially so for migrants at this time of the year.  Earlier in the season, this is also a good spot for studying Least Terns (see my previous post) and Piping Plovers.  We arrived about an hour or so after high tide and were able to spot the common/expected species pretty easily (I'm not particularly good at parsing out 'peeps' so there could have been some more interesting species that I missed) - Semi-palmated Sandpipers, few Semi-palmated Plovers, many Black-bellied Plovers in all stages of plumage, Sanderlings, a few dowitchers (mainly Short-billed), as well as gulls and terns (Common, Forster's, and Least).  I tried to keep an eye out for Buff-breasted Sandpipers which we've seen here pretty regularly in the past as well as for Black Skimmers which had been seen in the area, with no luck with either species.  I settled in to take photos of some of the Black-bellied Plovers and after shooting for a while (and having all the shorebirds moved by an immature Peregrine fly-by) was told my another photographer that there had been a Hudsonian Godwit there just before I had arrived.  I scanned for the bird but did not see it so wandered on to check out a spit where there were several terns, gulls and cormorants resting.  Best bird of the spit was a Great Cormorant mixed in with the Double-cresteds.  Wandering back up the beach, the godwit had returned, so I chose a spot distant enough to not bother the bird (and that wouldn't interfere with another photographer that was already taking pics) and dropped myself down to kneeling in a few inches of water to try and get some pics.  The bird was quite content to feed, preen, and rest and after getting a some photos I was happy with, I backed away, leaving the bird resting in the same spot as when I'd arrived.  OK, that's a big wall of text for me - here's a few pics to break it up...

Black-bellied Plover


Hudsonian Godwit

As we headed back north on the island, we stopped in to check on the crown that had gathered at the Stage Island Pool to learn that only a few others had managed to see the ibis before it flew off in an unknown direction.  Thankfully, is was re-found soon later at the north end of the island, and many birders enjoyed good scope-views of the bird.  Stopping a the famed Newburyport boat ramp, I was able to pick out a Baird's Sandpiper among the 3 or 4 White-rumped SPs that were there, but when I went to grab the camera, somebody drove down the ramp to put in some kayaks, scattering all the shorebirds that were there and they did not return while we waited.  With errands calling, we headed back home for the day with a great morning of birding (and not a few photos).  Of course, (and as many birders will tell you this can often be the case) as we were approaching home, we checked the MA and NH bird reports (and got a call from a friend) to discover that an American Avocet had been spotted  in Salisbury, MA.  A cracker of a bird for New England with some rust on the head still, AND that another American Avocet that had been seen periodically along the NH coast was foraging very close to shore at an inlet in Hampton - both locations close to where we had been just a hour or so earlier.  We decided to take the chance, not drive back, and hope that at least one bird would stay until the next day.
I'll let you know how we fared in the next post...