Monday, May 6, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #16

How crazy is a breeding plumaged Smith's Longspur showing up in April? I had things to do on Tuesday, even though theoretically I could have gone up to try for it id decided to wait til Thursday. The bird found Sunday was relocated Monday and Tuesday [ groan ] but not Wednesday. Nor Thursday for that matter. Thankfully I made the right decision not to chase it on Thursday. Oh Thor, why hast thou forsaken me? Tiw, you have my attention.

Thursday I went to Southards Pond where the sum total of migrants was two Yellow Warblers, a Myrtle Warbler, and a Red-eyed Vireo, the last of which at least, was a year bird for YB 205.

I returned home to do some chores and car maintenance, when I was alerted by Derek Rogers that a Prothonotary had been found by re-beginning birder Pat Palladino. { He used to bird, and has recently gotten back into it, apparently with a vengeance! }

I cleaned up, and made my way over there, trying to interpret the directions given. Derek phoned that he had to depart and that it had not been relocated. I walked around and came upon Bobby Kurtz and John Gluth, who did not have favorable news, so I walked towards one of te kettle ponds to see if i could get lucky.

With time passing, I had to head into Uniondale for a pre-conference visit of the hotel where the New York Birders Conference will be held in November 1-3.

While there I got a call from Bobby that the bird had been relocated, and afterthe meeting Pat Aitken and I went to find it. We walked in and I headed back to the same spot I was before and there in a fallen tree was the Protho! YB 206

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Weekend 'Prospects' Were Great! on 4-27 & 28

Jean LeConte Sparrow had the good fortune of having Saturday off for a change, and yes, we decided to spend it birding. Plans were not solidified, but when an email arrived just proximal to when I leave my office on Saturday it was quickly decided that Prospect park was the place to be.

"A likely Say’s Phoebe" had been found, and chances were good that the ID was correct. This bird had shown up twice in recent memory in New York state, but I was unable to find it either time.

We made our way to the park, and to the area in question. A group of birders was found lounging around, but their lack of focus had me a bit uneasy. I inquired and one of them offered me photos via his camera panel, as well as confidence in the ID. All I could determine was that it looked like a Phoebe of sorts - ie I could not say for certain that it was a Say’s or that it was not an Eastern Phoebe.

With info that the bird had been seen about 45 minutes prior, { YSHBH Constant } and that it had headed off towards the peninsula. Jean and I headed that way, and she spotted the first bird of the day: Eastern Kingbird. YB 197. We also crossed paths with fellow birder Isaac Grant aka the Loan Arranger. We spotted a few migrants, and finally a Blue-headed Vireo for YB 198. The Loan Arranger then noted that a lot of Warbling Vires were around as well, to which I replied I had not had one yet.

This elicited one of the most extreme YGTBFKM looks I have ever seen, followed by “They are all around you!” I sheepishly replied that my hearing is not so good, and that’s why I bird with Earic and Jean. He pointed up towards the canopy and I was able to see one; my preferred method of birding. YB 199.

With diminishing returns we headed back towards the Sumac stand and the Loan Arranger was the first of us to find and point out the now present Say’s Phoebe! Nice! YB 200 and NYS bird 389! A new bird for my New York State list and a vindication of my prior two misses.

Say, isn't that a Say's Phoebe?
To see this bird perched did not recall the many seen out west in multiple states. The red coloration of the lower belly was so sparse that one almost had to imagine it there. In certain poses with the light hitting it correctly, it was more visible, but I would not say 'obvious'.

It IS a Say's Phoebe!
Fortunately it posed graciously and allowed many photos. The photos highlighted the red much better than direct views. In flight it was also obvious that the tail was black and long; notably longer than expected for an Eastern Phoebe, and the wings were pale and allowed the light to pass through. Any doubt about the ID vanished.

A Say's Phoebe in Spring? You don't say!
Sadly, Jeff Critter had been there the day before and even noted an ‘off looking’ phoebe. He never made the jump to Says, though it crossed his mind. He couldn’t make it back until Sunday, but the bird was a no show for him and many others. They all had ample consolation with Hooded, Kentucky and many other good warblers. Jean and I did not go back that Sunday and missed the warbler bonanza.

We birded some more, noting Kestrels and a Merlin enjoying what I hope was a House Sparrow.

Have any house wine to go with the House Sparrow?
Jeez. Do I stare at you when you're eating?

Sunday Jean and I caught up to AvIan and stayed local perusing the pathetically dry water-hole {waterless-hole?} in Forest Park where Jean got a Scarlet Teenager. I did not get so lucky, but as the season progresses I hope to catch up on these misses.

We stopped for lunch and then tried Alley Pond a bit, but it was similarly dry and quiet. The Rusty Blackbirds were evident though, not always the case with these skulky birds. In the birdlessness, we did manage to see as many as four warbler species, with Black-throated Blue added for YB 201.

Its pronounced Paroola, NOT Parilla.

Palm Warbler
Jean eventually had to head into work, and I made my way home with a detour at Jones beach. Stopping at the West End boat basin, I saw Black-bellied Plovers and my first Piping Plovers for YB 202. {An interesting tidbit about Piping Plovers, is that recently it has been discovered that they have a faint musical song that they use to charm sandworms from the surf, just as if they were miniature cobras.

The reported Gullible Terns also put in an appearance, and returned to the exposed sand for a rest and YB 203. Finally, I tried for the Red-headed Woodpecker which was a no show when I was there, but my consolation was Brown Thrasher ending the day with YB 204

Friday, April 26, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #15

Nothing gets the adrenaline squirting out of my ears more than news of a potential life bird. Donna Lynn Schulman {aka Dunlin } first alerted me to the discovery of this bird after she read the news about what was initially thought to be another dreaded hybrid Hummingbird, was actually a bird that required thinking outside of the box. It was a Bahama Woodstar!

Dunlin is fond of alerting me about such birds, sometimes doing so in the presence of complete strangers after alerting them of my peculiar affliction. They can be heard to say such things as “Gosh, it really does squirt out his ears!” or “Do it again, Do it again!” and finally, “Eeooouuuuh, it got on me”

Bahama Woodstar is a small hummer, that the careless observation could mistake for a Ruby-throated which is the same size, roughly the same coloration pattern, and much more expected in our region. Even in the hand the ID escaped those who banded it and ultimately ID’d it.

So with the exciting news and a conveniently placed Thursday I sought out a posse and chased this bird with Eric Miller {aka Earic}. We left early and got to the home in Denver PA before 10 am. A large white wood-cut of a Hummingbird alerted us we were in the right place.

Unfortunately, this is the best look I got...
The man of the house, a Mennonite,  had roped off an area for viewing as well as procured a port-a-potty for the crowd! The woman of the house { a Womennite?} greeted us with a warm smile, photos of the bird, a sign in register, and pretzels! Wow, what hospitality!!

Of the assembled crowd, and there were a lot on station. None was possessed of a smile - never a good sign. We all traded war stories while hoping the bird would show up again. Several Purple Finches and Carolina Chickadees partook of the feeders amongst the other birds, and Broad-winged Hawks FOY flew overhead.

A nice feeder that would have been a LOT nice with a Woodstar...
By the time 1:30pm rolled around, we had concluded that the bird had departed for good. Some postulated that it was the result of being trapped and banded, while others came up with other reasons. But we all missed the bird, whatever the reason. There was talk that it had bee seen elsewhere as well, but at the home of persons who did not want visitors. Maybe the bird is still around and exploring other options. When we stopped for lunch I checked to see if by some miracle it might have shown up after our departure, but no...

So we dipped on this bird. It would have been quite a coup though, as the last reports had been in 1981 or there about, and all from Florida for this bird limited to the Bahamas.

All was not lost though, as Earic and I stopped at Oakland Lake where we saw Black-and-white Warbler, Northern Parula, and Chimney Swift. These birds brought me to YB 196.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

I Still Don't Like Mondays, But Tuesdays Aint so Bad...

Sunday night Jean said that we should go out early before work to try for the RN Phalarope again. I gave it some thought and as much as I would have like to, there really was not enough time and it would appear that eh tide was wrong too.

So it pained me to get a report that the bird was relocated on Monday, well in so far as I was in my office...

But spirit renewed, I decided to go early Tuesday morning. It was windy, overcast, and cold. But I figured nothing ventured nothing gained.

I arrived at 'the spot' and it was devoid of bird life. So I ventured further on checking some other likely locations. I headed back to Road L { marked as road K incorrectly on google maps }  and there she was! A beautiful breeding plumage  female Red-necked Phalarope!  Remarkably, it was about the same time as had been reported Monday. YB 193

A Gloriouser Spring Weekend 4-20 & 21

Gosh, this sure sounds like a repeat of my last post. I didn't get to any birding on Thursday, but got stuff done at home, and made up for it on the weekend!

So the plan was to meet AvIan at Oakland Lake, a place oft neglected but of rising notoriety of late. Capt'n Bob was supposed to meet us as well but I caught him contemplating the inner surface of his eyelids. He decided to catch up to us later on.

AvIan and I walked down the north side path having Palm and Pine Warblers along the way. In the lake was a raft of ducks comprised of both Scaup. Always nice to compare them. They were being strafed by Barn and Rough-winged Swallows.

Both Scaup

In the vicinity of the first staircase, I found the obliging Redstart YB 182 in a picturesque Cherry tree. There I found the first of many Blue-grey Gannet-catchers, YB 183, the presumed reason why there were no Gannets on the lake. Also present were many Yellow-rumps of various plumages.

Further on we came to the second staircase that descends from Springfield blvd. Earic had just had the Hasidic Warbler, YB 184 and walked back with us to find it. In short order there were chip notes and movement.

Hasidic Warbler

This bird was such a pleasure. While it spent some time skulking in the tangled mess of fallen tree limbs and multiflora rose, it also vogued quite nicely, and for extended periods of time allowing most if not all who wanted a photo to get several.

Yellow Warblers YB 185 were busy chasing each other around, no doubt motivated by spring fever. This one posed nicely in a Weeping Willow

Yellow Warbler; though not afraid of us

AvIan and I got some lunch, waited for Capt'n Bob to show up, and upon his arrival reprised our tour and got all the same birds for him as well. Quite accommodating!

Afterwards we went to Alley Pond Park where joined by Earic we searched for more goodies. One of the first nice things we found was a Northern Waterthrush YB 186. Nice because so far all the reports had been of Louisiana Waterthrush. A report from Alley about a Louisiana had us thinking that the finder might have gaffed, but later on we found a LA Waterthrush, so we retracted our disparaging remarks. Well most of them anyway...

Northern Waterthrush Note lack of legs.
LA Waterthrush. Note bright pink legs.

Venturing about more, Earic heard a House Wren YB 187 sing in the distance and with a bit of spishatorial encouragement it took center stage and performed for us.

House Wren

As we walked around, up in a tree and in the shadows we found { finally, for me! } a Great Horned Owl.  YB 188. Sadly, it appears that they did not breed this year. Perhaps they do not do so every year? Or maybe all the mayhem from super-storm Sandy discouraged them. Either way it was nice to see they were still resident.

Great Horned Owl

We also walked into one of the other sections where Blue-winged Warbler had been spotted earlier that day and while looking around this beauty moved into my field of view. YB 189 What is nice about this time of year and the low amount of rain we have had thus far, is the warblers are so beautifully composed in the flora. Too often they are obscured  by the leaves.

Blue-winged Warbler, er, blocked by leaves.

We ended the day by heading to Little Neck Bay where Gannets are still around. Remarkable! Years ago I spotted some in Long Island Sound and authoritative individual told me ' that they are not found in the sound'. Hmmm.  I wonder what he would say upon seeing them in this appropriately named 'Little' neck bay!

Boat Shmoat. Thar be Gannets here.

One final check was made of the restored marsh grass by APEC which had Egrets, Greater, and Lesser Yellowlegs for YB 190. A nice way to end the day.

The next day Jean LeConte Sparrow and I tried out Forest Park, but it was dreadfully quiet. We did have some nice sparrows such as Swamp and Chipping, as well as a lone Hermit Thrush.

Chipping Sparrow

We then reprised the visit to Oakland lake for Jean. She had to work Saturday and missed all the fun. Fortunately the celebrities stuck around for her, and to the delight of many a birder and photographer.

Nice Hat!   It's made of Risotto?

On the stairs we found a birder named Justin who was photographing the bird and happens to be a sous chef. What are the chances of me now knowing two sous chefs, when for all my life I knew none? And both are birders - go figure.

Go ahead, take my picture. I dare you.

This Hasidic Warbler has to be one of the most easily photographed in memory. The Redstart cooperated too. Sort of...

I like this shot...

Some other noteworthy birds posed, such as this handsome if not dastardly Brown-headed Cowbird, and this young transitionally plumed Red-winged Blackbird. The latter particularly caught my eye as this was probably what caused somebody in PA to report a 'Redwing' on Ebird. That bird is a Thrush though and not a Blackbird, and if only... - as that would have been a potential lifer for me.

Don't hate me because I'm too lazy to raise my own kids...

It's a Blackbird, stupid
With much further ado, we discussed whether Warbler is best in a bearnaise or hollandaise sauce, before breaking away due to a phone call from Derek. He was alerting me to a Red-necked Phalarope out by Shinnecock. I looked at Jean. She said "lets go". Yay!

We did our best to get out there as quickly as possible. But traffic, a gas stop, and a bathroom / get my scope stop critically delayed us. We arrived and found Tom Moran who uttered one on the 'universal laws of birding': "You should have been here five minutes ago" Groan.

We searched and searched but could not relocate the bird. I did meet M. Hahn though, reporter of a secret male Painted Bunting whose location she could not disclose. Apparently, even at knife-point she would not tell where that bird was, much to the dismay of birders everywhere.

While searching for the RN Phalarope, all was not lost as I scored Laughing Gull YB 191, and Willet YB 192. Out in the ocean I caught sight of something most unexpected: thousands of all three Scoters moving about!  So this is where they are, they sure weren't out in Montauk all winter.

Scoters off shore by Shinnecock, and this is just one frame!

The light was also excellent and quite picturesque in that end of the day way. A Boatle and a Greater Yellowlegs gave me excellent subjects.


Is this Yellowlegsism or narcissism?

In making various stops, we came across many nice things. One unusual thing though was the following. It is flat, and missing it's head. But can you tell what it is?

We ended the day without the final target; a pervasive theme lately, but a most excellent weekend of birding without a doubt.

Monday, April 15, 2013

A Glorious Spring Weekend 4-13 & 14

The past Thursday was spent on catching up on things necessary for home, and I got a lot done in my yard. The weather was less than optimal, and no agonizing bird reports came in so that was good too.

Saturday I set about playing catch-up with a number of reported birds. I contacted Capt’n Bob with a plan. Phase one we would seek out the Louisiana Waterthrush at Oakland Lake that only Steve Walnut is amazed that interest continues upon. In fact I arrived to find quite a crowd about this bird. It turns out that there may be as many a three there, but I was shown the closer one by Capt’n Bob, getting YB 175 and then YB 176 in Barn Swallow, before all heck breaking loose.

Okay, so its a bad shot of an LA Waterthrush..
First I got a call from Dave Klauber, and then Derek Rogers alerting me to a Ruff at Timber Point Golf Course. Wow! Phase two, in which Bob and I would go after the Purple Finch {discovered by Dr. Pinky at Hoyt Farm in Commack, because he wanted to kill time on the way to the dentist!} was put on hold.

So a lot of calls flew about to Garouse and Earic and a bunch of others. After a lot of seeming confusion, Bob and Garouse headed out to meet me at my house, and Earic and Steve Schellenger hopped in my car for the trip. We car pooled from there on, heading to the Ruff.

We arrived and went to the wrong marina, but back-tracked and found a phalanx of birders on the dock looking at the bird. It was walking in the grass, therefore difficult to see. I did score Glossy Ibis and Snowy Egret while waiting for a view though, for Ybs 177 and 178. The Ruff was at first secretive, only popping out its head for brief looks, but in short order it capitulated by changing locations and giving better looks. YB 179. The Yellow-legs must be real camera-sluts because they pretty much stayed out in unobscured view most of the time.

A Nice Male Ruff in the ruff

Satisfied, we took off for Hoyt Farm. We arrived to find a sign posted in the parking lot that town resident stickers were required. But an inquiry to a park employee and I was told that they ‘welcome’ birders, and that we were invited to go find the birds.

A short walk up the trail had a set of feeders. A few birds were around, but more were in the trees waiting for the people visiting the pigs in their enclosure, to leave. We perused the birds and found a nice variety including both Nuthatches, Junco, and the more common stuff. Several House Finches were in the trees, and we picked through them. I short order I found the bird! It was gorgeous in the bright sunlight. YB 180!

Purple Finch
Three out of three birds! We stopped for lunch at Friendly’s which seems to be an unusually available place recently. Garouse generously picked up the tab for all of us, and we then headed back...

Earic and I had to be back in Queens for a party that evening, and as we were headed down the Sagtikos pkwy, I got a call from Derek Rogers that Yellow-throated Warblers { Two! } were found singing right by the Connetquot River STPK. Parking lot. Having missed the one earlier in the week at Hempstead Lake STPK., I was psyched!

We detoured and headed there, and did our best to hear or see the bird. No dice. And it was getting late. We gave it a good shot but could not locate the bird apparently seen not more than 15min prior. Oh well.

We beat a hasty retreat to my place so I could get ready, and Bob gave the others a ride back to Queens. Both Earic and I arrived late to the party, neither of our girlfriends too happy { a euphemism...} about it. For my part Jean forgave me rationalizing that I had to be cut some slack as I am doing a big year. Phew. Laura had more of a “if looks could kill” greeting for me....

The party was very nice, and the next morning Jean and I took it slow, planning to do a bit of local Queens birding. We were set to meet AvIan at Kissena park, when on the way an email came through that the Ruffs had been relocated!

We all decided to meet out there instead, and the Ruffs did not disappoint! Now there were two! We got great looks and then walked around trying to locate the Black Brant. we found an impressive flock, but none of us could pick out the Black Brant if it was with the others.

The Second Ruff Theory
Ruffs in Flight

Afterwards we went to Connetquot River STPK. and again had much better luck. Other birders were present and looking, and Jean heard the bird call. While everyone else stayed back ca. 100 feet from the wooded edge, I walked closer as I thought the bird was further in.

I was correct, and I waved the others on to get their looks. Yes! YB 181. 

Yellow-throated Warbler

If that is not enough, while we are at Connetquot, we get a call from Danny Melore reporting he has just found a YT Warbler at Alley Pond Park! I posted the sighting to the list and a lot of folks who missed the Hempstead Lake bird were able to get this one.

But wait, there's more! Today I was told that a third YT Warbler was found at Connetquot! Holy Cow! what a year for YT Warblers and Ruffs and... !!!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

I Don't Like Mondays

So I'm sitting in the office and an email comes through that a Yellow-throated Warbler had been found at Hempstead Lake stpk.I called Earic, who went and got the bird.

As I understand it a lot of folks saw it and enjoyed it. And then I left the office and made tracks to get there before the sun went down. Well the sun went down w/o my finding the bird. I did find my year Pine Warbler though.

The next day I went there nice and early and looked around for quite some time. and then some people showed up. And then some more. Despite all the eyes and ears no Yellow-throated. Groan.

Time passed without the object of my affliction, and I had to prepare to go to work so I departed. The day was not a total loss though, as I added Rublet to my year list for # 174.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dang Those Cookies are Good!

I was most upset at having missed those Evening Grosbeaks. Sunday 4-7 was available to make it right. Capt'n Bob was away and Garouse was still 'recovering' from our last trip. So Earic and I made the journey.

We left good and early for the trip up to Deruyter. Though overcast the weather cooperated, as did the traffic! We took 17 to Binghamton, though all the routing software I queried wanted to take me through I-80 in Pennsylvania. 17 still has a few 'primitive' sections with intersections, but more and more has been replaced with completely new roadways and overpasses to make way for its conversion to I-86.

It is a beautiful road! Especially in the sections starting west of Sullivan county. It winds through river valleys and has some spectacular vistas. And its curvy. I seem to be in the minority with my circle of friends but I like curvy roads. Curvy women ain't to bad either.  ;)

We arrived as scheduled, though the sky darkened and the winds picked up a lot.
I pulled into Linda's yard and parked next to her truck facing her feeders. A few different species were availing themselves of her lavish banquet, and in short order a flock of Redpolls came wheeling in. The paused in a tree before flying down, and then proceeded to consume mass quantities. Beldar would have been proud.

 Looking up, we found a few Evening Grosbeaks reluctant to come down and feed, though one eventually did. A large flock of them flew by and flew to the other side of the house and decided to dine in privacy. Earic and I decided to venture out into the blustery conditions and view the other feeders. There were lots of them, and they are gorgeous! Yes, we scored a year bird.

The Common Redpolls  were none too shabby either. And add to the mix a few Carduelis flammea rostrata AKA “Greater” Common Redpolls and this was a nice place to be. While this was not a year bird, it was a life subspecies! And word has it that DNA work is being done on the Redpoll complex. So who knows, maybe we'll lose Hoary Redpoll, or gain Greater Redpoll?

Linda came outside to great us with a nice hug. We chatted for a while and then joined her inside. She made us hot chocolate and gave us more of her fabulous cookies. It was very nice spending time with a new 'old friend', and after a while we bid adieu and continued our quest.

We went to Montezuma NWR and searched many vantage points. No Sandhill Cranes were about. There was a nice variety of ducks as well as continuing Trumpeter Swans. We even ran into David Keihm, from the no-show GG Owl again. But despite a nice day of birding and our earlier success we added no new year birds. Perhaps it should be 'Montezuma's obstinance', rather than revenge...

Saturday, In The Park

While still at the office I got a report of 5 swallow species at Hempstead Lake STPK. on Saturday 4-6. When I finally made my way down there I ws overwhelmed by the number of swallows, but did my best to try to pick through them.

In between I amassed a nice list of birds capped by Eastern Phoebe. Later, ws able to get a Northern Rough-winged Swallow, but none of the other species reported.

Some more birding and I added Eastern Towhee for 3 year birds.

Next an attempt was made to locate the secret Painted Bunting which was not successful, but fun nevertheless. And a final stop at Calverton added Bald Eagle to the day's list of 47 species, as well as an amazing flock of ca. 500 Fish Crows.

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #14

Sometimes it seems that if I didn't have bad luck....

Trying to get some elusive year birds and a Great Grey Owl was on the agenda. Garouse and Earic and I made plans to go upstate on Thursday 4-4, so I came up with an agenda.

I thought it best that we swing by the Evening Grosbeaks then shoot up to the 'Dacks for the Owl. If successful, we could take a short jog off the highway for Sandhill Crane by Albany.

Earic and Garouse both thought that The Owl was more important, especially since the Owl would be a lifer for Garouse. So I altered the plans a bit and we went up the thruway.

Our first stop was a mere mile off the road but we were waylaid by slow drivers. Despite an early start, we got there an hour or so after anticipated an the cranes must have departed for the day. We did see a nice variety of ducks though.

Back on the road, we made haste up to Tupper Lake. This time the GPS in my supposed 'smart phone' "Lorretta" worked a bit better, but still tends to loose the GPS satellites every so often. How the F*@& do you loose 18 satellites without an obstruction of the sky?  The Samsung Galaxy S3 is a top of the line device? I  would have to beg to differ. The S4 better have been improved...

Arriving at the location of the previous sightings, we scouted around a bit, and then Earic and I did some walking around while Garouse drove. While Earic scanned down by where the river crosses under the 30-3, I walked around scanning the fields on 30-3 by Dugal Road.

Garouse saw a car down that road and thought it might be another birder, so he drove off to investigate. While he drove on, I investigated more, until he came back to get me - he said he saw the Owl but could reach neither of us on our phones due to poor reception up there. I hopped in, and we went back to the field where Garouse saw his bird. While I scanned, he drove off to get Earic.

I saw no Owl, and started to walk into the fields when they returned. Earic and I walked about some more, but no dice. We eventually headed back out on to Dugal Road and were approached by the home owners across the street. With recent newspaper article in hand, they inquired if we were there looking for the Owl too.

The family continued to relay that they have been seeing it for some time! More interesting, they stated sometimes it would perch behind their house and they had gotten pictures. Unfortunately neither the mom or dad could locate the pictures in their phones or cameras, and with more description we began to question if they would know the difference between a Barred Owl, Great Horned or Great Grey. 

For one thing they said the Owl had small tufts... Well we may never know and certainly the possibility exists that they did have the Great Grey in or about their property.

Having exhausted this area, and ourselves, we headed into town where we once again had pizza at Guido's. I didn't even recall that we had been there a shourt time ago on a previous quest.

Heading back for more searching, we passed a couple with North Carolina plates, and who were also looking for this bird. They reported no luck, and that they were ' just passing through'... and I thought to myself man, they must really be lost!

And so we did this for some time, driving slowly from one location to another and spending time there ever so hopefully. We eventually crossed paths with Ellie George and David Keihm, and exchanged info with them. They had not been successful either, but reported a mink at the water crossing.

Ellie greeted us with quite the chuckle, adding you must be the guys from Queens! "Guilty" I said, and sheepishly inquired what they had heard about us to make her laugh so. It was merely that we had traveled so far for this bird. Ah, the perils of being a powerbirder, especially one doing a big year. David I later discovered is quite the artist!

Having little success ,and it being a generally non birdy day, Garouse suggested that we had to try something different. that being that I should drive to see if that improved our luck. It did! At one of the fields I spied a bird way out in the distance and scored a year Northern shrike for Earic and Myself!

We continued cruising up and down the area, but no Owls. We stopped at the river crossing again and Earic spotted the Mink! I jumped out to get a look, and then ran back to get my camera inconveniently still in the car. By the time of my return it was gone.

Earic and I then heard a Pileated Woodpecker call. He said he was not going to count it on his year list if it was heard only, and I asked him what else could it be?
He agreed but a short time thereafter it flew over head and we all got good looks at it making the dilemma moot.

The light eventually faded away, and we started the long trip home. At the river an owl flew over head! I pulled over as fast as possible and we tried valiantly to locate the bird. We could not. What Type of owl was it? Hard to say. I'm certain it was a large owl, but feel it was most probably a Barred.

So after a long day's birding I wined that we should have stuck to my plan and would therefore have gotten the Evening Grosbeaks at least. Garouse began to question his sighting: a distant owl that was flying away and a brief look. But on the bright side we scored two year birds!

Friday, March 29, 2013

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #13

Either I am overly ambitious, the '13' in the title of this post is responsible, or doing a 'big year' is far far more challenging than I had ever imagined.

Spring is upon us and the chance to get winter finches is  slipping away. With reports far afield and a convenient Thursday, I did some logistical planning in order to make the shlep worthwhile.

What started with a post mentioning Bohemian Waxwings in Queensbury, morphed into a much more extensive trip. Queensbury is the same distance as Carlisle, MA., but obviously it is better if more than one bird can be gotten on the same quest.

I discovered that the Bowax were also being seen near Utica, and the reports there about also indicated Sandhill Crane, Tundra Swan, and Evening Grosbeak. So I came up with  a plan...

Plotting the bird locations on a map and travel time I came up with this.

What - its only 640 miles round trip
Earic, Capt'n Bob, and I met at Mickey Deez at 7 am, because Bob had to drop his wife off at the airport. Otherwise, we would have left earlier. Making our way through morning traffic though, the traffic demons did their best to delay us.

The 'early morning' demons had their way with me though too, making me think less clearly than needed. I was going to go out I-80 and up I-81 to the Evening Grosbeaks first, but Bob inquired if I was going to stop at the station on the Palisades. This threw me off and after I realized it decided to do it the other way around. 

Once we made our way through the teeming masses, it was smooth sailing at "very good" highway speed. We arrived at our first destination an hour earlier than planned despite the initial displays. This is due to Bob's well developed foot flexor muscles when his foot is externally rotated.

So we arrive in the area of New Hartford, being guided by GPS coordinates. Nearing our destination, we passed an open field, where Earic spots a bunch of birds he says might be Starlings. Bob misses the cue that he is supposed to pull over immediately. Unfortunately, his foot does not seem to work equally well internally rotated: as he has not grasped the concept that 'STOP!' yelled by a birder means leave a skid mark. Way too far down the road to see the tree in question, I suggest we continue on to our destination instead of trying to u-turn.

We found the location easily enough, but the trees were devoid of birds. It became evident that there was a lot of fruiting trees and habitat for these birds to be in, and after walking around a while, we spotted a very large flock flying by and it was the Bowax!

We tried to drive around and see where they went, and eventually stopped at the field where the 'Starlings' were. They were still there, or the birds we saw fly by landed there. We set up scopes and got better looks. Had they been there all that while? And then as if on cue they departed!

We drove around some more and relocated the flock sitting high up in another tree near a small cemetery. We got scope looks, and then walked through the grounds to get a better look. All appeared to be Bowax, a lifer for Bob and year birds for me and Earic, but I was hoping for some Cedars as well as I needed that for the year too.

We drove around some more and stopped again at the field where Earic had first spotted the 'Starlings'. We pulled over and scanned, and while sitting there we suddenly discovered that we were just 15' away from a Barred Owl. He was sleeping sitting on a pole, just feet from the busy road!

Barred Owl on a Stick
Having done well, but mindful of the clock, we took off for our next destination in Montezuma NWR. The Knox-Marsellus Marsh had held Sandhill Cranes the day before, and we were told our best bet, as in most often seen here.

Scan we did, but no cranes did we find. We drove over some dirt roads for alternate vantages, while Bob boasted of his 4 wheel drive. What we did find was unexpected. Our next target bird was Tundra Swan, and several swans were out in the water, but these were actually Trumpeter Swans. A lifer for Bob, but Earic and I had had them already in Yaphank.

Trumpeter Swan
We tried some alternate locations, where we found rangers and were told the cranes were out in the marsh, or at least they were yesterday. We walked around, then drove to some other vantages, but no dice. Dang.

So we moved on to our next stop in Cayuga Lake. Lots of ducks, and I mean LOTS of ducks, but no Tundra Swans. Double Dang.

Time was slipping away, and we had a distance to go. We headed off and Bob was not amused by my prodding for haste, making excuses like: "I cannot pass that car" or "It's a red light" and "stop looking at the speedometer". 

We were vexed by small local roads and traffic with folks in a distinct lack of purpose in getting somewhere. But we finally arrived pretty close to where we were supposed to be on Carpenter Road in Georgetown.

The instructions given me were to look for a house before the first intersection with a lot of feeders in the yard. We only passed one house with feeders, and they were lonely and besides, filled with the wrong seed for Evening Grosbeaks. 

We tried surveying up and down the road and finally I decided that it was not the correct house. I was also told that the homeowner, Linda Salter was very birder friendly, so I tried googling her - its what a powerbirder does.

Lo and behold - I found a snippet with her name and a telephone number. Could I be so lucky? I tried it - figuring if it was the wrong number I would simply apologize. A man answered, and i asked if I had reached Linda's residence. He said yes, but one could palpate the curiosity in his voice.  I explained our predicament, and he told us where the house actually was.

We arrived to find Linda outside to greet us, welcome us, and share the news of the Evening Grosbeaks. That is to say that they were seen about an hour and a half ago and that typically they would not be returning again this late in the evening. Groan. 

But she welcomed us to park in her driveway and keep vigil should they prove her wrong. They did not. But she returned some time later offering us the use of a restroom if need be, and several very tasty homemade cookies. What a nice lady. 

Nearing 8pm, it was time to head home. 1 year bird for me of the 4 potential. I have to do better...

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Trying to Take Care of Some Loose Ends

Last weekend I tried unsuccessfully for Blue-winged Teal at Hempstead Lake STPK. Armed with new intel that they had been found in not one but TWO different locations on long Island, as well as a Pipit, I made plans to try before work on  Tuesday the 26th.

Capt'n Bob met me and we went looking at the first location, a nothing of a pond in Brookhaven. It was devoid of any quackitude, but picturesque nonetheless. We beat a hasty retreat to East Hampton where we located a construction pit adjacent to the Nature Conservancy HQ. There as promised were 4 Blue-winged Teal.

Blue-winged Teal

From here we next tried the farm stand a short distance off where a Pipit had been reported. these birds sure have been hard to pin down this year; I have looked for them specifically on no less than 8 occasions. And this made the 9th without success.

But Bob nevertheless, is out standing in the field.

Where the heck are the pipits?
PS. the next morning on the way to the office I got a call from Steve Schellenger, that the Blue-winged Teal previously reported at Hempstead had been relocated. Sheesh!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Take t-Hoo, Hoo

Capt'n Bob decided that he needed to go to Florida for some reason, but he had returned and was desirous of a Fieldfare. I was desirous of a decent photo. The reports from Saturday had many success stories, so we decided to meet Sunday March 24 at 6 am. 

Earic had inquired about planning, but he decided to go with Jeff Critter, and they would be departing at 3 am. Having seen the bird already, that was way too early for me. So he and Jeff went up, while me and Bob left later. 

That night I got a text from Jean LeConte Sparrow that Karlo Mirth had discovered a Long-eared Owl in Forest park! I called Bob to let him know and of the possible altering of plans.

With a dreadfully long wait before either Jean or Karlo got back to me, I eventually was given the exact location and called Bob to meet at Forest instead of Mickey Deez. But at 6 am it is still dark, and we had to wait 45 min before there was ample light. 

Once that was present I started gingerly looking in the trees, and just as Karlo promised, there was the bird.

Bad phone picture of Long-eared Owl
Having seen the bird and not wanting to disturb it with more photos, we made haste to head up to Massachusetts. En route I called Derek to let him know, and later on called Earic as well. But Earic reported that as of 9:30 the Fieldfare had not shown. 

We arrived to a throng of birders, and the local constabulary placing traffic cones out to prevent parking where forbidden. A beautiful day 
was had, though sadly devoid of birds. The flocks of Robins and Blackbirds that were all about the other day had seemed to have moved on. 

At lunch time, Earic and Jeff decided to call it a day and try for the LEO, while Bob and I stayed a bit longer. No dice, the bird never showed as far as anyone can tell...

If Its Thursday I Must Be Birding #12

I was monitoring the lists because a Fieldfare, a ABA Code 4 bird had been discovered in Carlisle Massachusetts. Not only is this a great discovery and bird, but it was looking like it was sticking around, I could actually get a life bird out of seeing it, and Thursday was approaching!

But despite looking good, and having made tentative plans with Earic and Gary, the few reports posted were negative. That night we all gathered for the monthly QCBC meeting, and Avian informed me that the bird ~had~ been seen, but by the end of the day. 

Encouraged, Earic, Gary and I made plans to go the next day. The one wrinkle was that I was supposed to have a contractor come do work at 8am. We agreed to leave afterwards, pending the job completion. But as it turns out, they didn't show up despite promising being on time. After an hour of waiting I called, only to  be told that they were emptying the truck at the dump and were on the way. "Never mind" I said, and called Earic and Gary to tell them the news.

I caught both of them in the shower, though to be fair to them, I am fairly certain it was different showers. We met at Mickey Deez an hour later and set off. 

The trip was uneventful, and we arrived to find that there was a stake-out behind a barn on the street; the owner being very accommodating. Word had it that the bird had been revealed to like eating the Barberry, and had been seen coming in twice in the morning with a group of Robins.

Despite being told "authoritatively" the bird would return in about an hour, it did not. And standing around on a stake out for hours can get tedious. We each took walks at various points in the hope of finding the bird at the other previous locations, or at least something interesting. 

In the fields we relocated a singing Norther Shrike. At first it was shy but it eventually found a perch it liked and deigned to permit us closer looks and some photos.

Northern Shrike
Meanwhile back at the ranch, folks were tailing off and giving up. I joined Gary who was not as keen about walking around as we were, and we kept hoping. 

While may people amused themselves in conversation with other birders, I amused myself by observing that they were so preoccupied that if the bird flew in they would miss it.

I was scanning the surrounding trees that had groups of Robins and Blackbirds come and go. From time to time a group would venture down to the Barberry, and we would look at each one hoping it was ~not~ a Robin. 

And then at about 4:30 pm, a group of ~8 Robins beset the Barberry. I looked at each one, and then at the back of the shrub and well hidden was the Fieldfare! I yelled out: "I got it! The bird's in the right bush, in the back center!"  I was very gratified that I got others on it before it left, but the most pleasing aspect of this twitch was that despite chasing someone else's discovery, I was the one to 'find' it. For lifer # 1080, ABA lifer # 690,  it felt good!

I had put my scope away some time before, getting tired of shlepping it around. Another birder some 20' away had his though, and he got on the bird too. From there everyone present including Gary got on the bird. Earic was still off elsewhere, so I called him and he came running. I went over by the horse fence and fired off a couple of hail-mary shots, hoping for something, anything.

And then the bird departed, but before Earic could arrive. We waited around hoping for its return, but Earic got antsy and we walked off again towards the fields of piggery road. And the Gary called.  We ran back as fast as we could but the bird did not stay long. Gary got a good look at the bird perched on a branch, but had put his camera away. 

As is common at these sorts of events, I ran into some old familiar faces. One such was Linda Ferrarasso, who I originally met at her discovery of a Mongolian { now re-named 'Lesser Sand' } Plover in Rhode Island in 1999.  That bird got me my first 'published' photos in Bird Observer and North American Birds. 

Finally, with daylight departing we decided to leave. Maybe the bird would stick around a few more days for Earic?

Crappy shot #1 of a Fieldfare

Crappy shot # 2 of Fieldfare