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Thursday, January 01, 2015

2015 Backyard Big Year Kickoff

12 hours of birding in the cold got me more than just frozen toes--I was able to find 36 species in the yard, including 3 new for my yard list.  See a more detailed report here.  I'll be posting daily updates on my Backyard Big Year blog and Backyard Big Year Facebook page.

Most of the more unusual yard birds were too far away to get photos, but I did get images of a lot of the more common bird residents.

Carolina Wren on my patio--Day 1 of the 2015 Backyard Big Year

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2015 Backyard Big Year

Join me in 2015 for a hard-core birding adventure right in my own backyard!

For 2015 I'm bringing hard core birding home in an all-out, high tech blitz to see how many birds I can detecting in my yard during the year.  I'll be watching the sky for flyovers, recording at night with a microphone to catch the birds migrating over the yard, and will have trail cams set up to detect birds trying to sneak a drink out of my water features.

I'm really excited about this Backyard Big Year and have created a Backyard Big Year blog just to keep up with all the birds and birding that will be involved.  I'll post highlights here, but otherwise for 2015 my Birdchaser blog here will focus on my other birding adventures as well as equipment and book reviews.

So look forward to seeing you over at the Backyard Big Year blog or on the Backyard Big Year Facebook page.  We're going to learn a lot about how to see more birds in your yard, so it won't just be about me and my backyard adventure.  I'll be exploring the cutting edge of bird detection, identification, and birding technologies.

It's going to be great!  See you there!

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Top 10 Birds of 2014

So the year isn't quite over, there are still a few days left to find something to add to this list.  But barring a last minute birding surprise, here are my best birds of 2014.

10)  Calliope Hummingbird--a first state record found at my friend's feeders, this bird was a first Hunterdon County record and lingered for a week giving many folks a chance to see it.  One of 7 new birds I added to my county list this year.

1st Hunterdon County Calliope Hummingbird, Holland Twp.


9) Sanderling--After missing this bird in the county for the past two years, I was happy to finally see one at Spruce Run this fall.  One of the 7 birds I added to my Hunterdon County list this past year.

Sanderling, Spruce Run, Hunterdon, NJ


8) White-tailed Wheatear--This bird is a first record for The Netherlands if accepted as a wild bird.  I twitched it on the way to the airport on my way home, and got some distant digiscoped shots (below) of it sitting on an apartment building.  A great rarity and urban bird, and one of the 11 life birds I saw this past year.



7) Arctic Loon--A flyover on a jetty in the North Sea of The Netherlands was one of only 11 life birds I saw this past year.

6) Caspian Gull--I hiked over 8 miles down a beach in the rain and got totally soaked to see this bird, but it was one of the 11 lifers I saw this year.

5) Great Skua--I got a very distant look at this bird during a storm from a jetty in The Netherlands.  One of the 11 life birds I saw this year.

4) Whiskered Tern--I drove down to Cape May, my first trip down there in 19 years, to see this bird that spent a week flying around the hawk watch platform.  One of the 11 lifers I saw this year.

3)  White-tailed Eagle--I've dreamed of seeing this bird for a long time, and finally got to see several of them--if distantly--on my trip to The Netherlands in October.  One of the 11 lifers I saw this year.


A crummy digiscoped shot, but that large-headed, short-tailed blog on the post is an adult White-tailed Eagle :-)

2)  European Golden Plover--found by my local birding friends while I was in New York, I drove through the night to see it and was the first to get video (below) or photos confirming the identification by showing the white underwing.  This is a first state record for New Jersey.


1)  Neotropic Cormorant--I found this bird, a New Jersey first state record, at one of my local patches on the way home from the grocery store back in April.  It lingered until early July, giving hundreds of birders a chance to add this to their state list--and since it is a regional first, folks even came from out of state to enjoy it.

Neotropic Cormorant
First NJ record of Neotropic Cormorant, Clinton, Hunterdon, NJ
 I ended the year within a stone's throw of an ABA milestone, and may take some time out next year to chase a couple more birds for my North America list.  I ended the year with 240 species on my 2014 Hunterdon County list, ending in the top 3 again for the third year I lived here.  I didn't do as good a job of taking my kids birding as I had anticipated back in January, and my Holland trip was the only foreign trip of the year.  So not a big listing year outside of the county, but finding a 3rd third NJ record in 15 months was nothing to complain about!

Hope everyone had a fun time birding in 2014.  Feel free to share your own bests in the comments.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

North Pole Birding Fail

I spent most of the day playing Santa's helper.  Not a lot of good birding on a drizzly overcast day on the North Pole.  My usual stops on the way to Philipsburg were pretty much dead.  I did have a flock of Snow Geese on the side of I78, but not much else.  I had one 3 minute point count with no birds.  None.  By the time I got home I had only 16 species for the day.  I spent an hour in my yard during the late afternoon trying to get my #20BirdMDR, but ended up with only White-throated Sparrow, Mourning Dove, and Carolina Wren new for the day. So I ended up with a 19 species day, a #BirdingFail.  I could have taken another quick trip into town and picked up a few more species at Demott Pond, but didn't feel like spending gas money just for that. I tried to string a distant calling Song Sparrow, but it just wasn't to be. Oh well. Santa got a lot of work done today :-)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best view of bird evolution yet

A series of articles published this week (see overview here) provide the best view of bird evolution yet. Based on the complete gene map of over 40 species from all the recognized bird orders, and taking over 400 years of computer computation time to calculate, this is a real thing of beauty. Here's the tree--


Source Jarvis et al 2014

Interesting evidence that many of the landlords we know of may have descended from the lineage of some sort of raptorial bird that lived through the asteroid impact that destroyed the rest of the dinosaurs--with one group evolving in Africa (Afroaves--woodpeckers, hawks, etc.) and another in Australia (Australaves--falcons, parrots, songbirds, etc.).

There's a lot to digest here, but it's definitely a golden age of bird taxonomy with the technology we have now giving us a much better view than ever before of how our world came to be inhabited by our feathered friends (and everything else, for that matter!).

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Evening Grosbeaks

This afternoon I was fortunate enough to see a pair of Evening Grosbeaks at a private residence near my home.  I had a couple of birds flyover in 2012, but these were the first I've seen at a feeder since 2007.  Lots of fun!


Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Birdchaser 10th Blogiversary

Today is the tenth anniversary of my first post here on the Birdchaser Blog.  Back on this day in 2004, I had just accepted a job with National Audubon in Pennsylvania, and was getting ready to move my family out from Austin.  I didn't know how much time I was going to have for birding at the new job, so I thought a birding blog would give me an excuse to go birding regularly so I'd have something to post.

Remember the early blogging days when we all had light text on black backgrounds?  And there weren't very many pictures?  Been there, done that!  Here we are ca. 2006.

Turns out there was a lot of birding over the next five years I worked at Audubon.  I was posting a couple times a week during my heyday, and when birding blogs were sparse, Birdchaser was one of the top 10 birding blogs by traffic.

After I left Audubon and started teaching, the blogging started to subside.  The last couple of years my posts have been far less frequent.

Black on white, still just one sidebar, ca. 2008.


So, is there a future for the Birdchaser blog?  Will it make it through its tween years and into a more robust teenage stage of blogging life?

Here's what I have planned:

More posts.

More book reviews.

More photos.

More NFC recordings.

More birding humor.

More fun.

More bad photos of good birds--Juv. Greater White-fronted Goose, Cushetunk Lake, Hunterdon Co, 20 Nov 2014

I've got a birding project coming up in 2015 that will be a lot of fun.  More on that later.  It will have its own dedicated blog, but I'll post highlights here, as well as posts of other travels and the books I'm reading.

I'm also revamping my Urban Birdscapes blog and will have some fun stuff to point to over there soon.  So while I have other projects going, the Birdchaser will be my blog focussed on my own birding trips and bird books.  And who knows what else.

Thanks for sticking around, and I look forward to sharing more adventures in the coming blog tweener years!
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