RSS Feed (xml)

Powered By

Skin Design:
Free Blogger Skins

Powered by Blogger

Thursday, July 31, 2008

BIGBY Screech-Owl

This evening I was just sitting around when I decided I needed to start training for my Guatemala trip coming up next month (too much computer time, not enough hoofing it time)! I headed out into the dusk thinking I'd just do a quick mile walk down by the creek, but I was enjoying it so much I decided to turn it into a three (plus) mile hike over to the store and back to grab some milk. I was glad I did when I heard an Eastern Screech-Owl whinny down along the Perkiomen Creek. Very cool, and a new BIGBY bird.

2008 BIGBY List: 107

Quiet, too quiet

I'm really noticing a slowdown in bird song this past week. I was really straining to hear my needed 20 birds on my drive into the office today. For the first time on my drive this summer, I saw a Chipping Sparrow today before I heard it. Its fun to see bird activity change through the seasons. But you really do miss the bird songs when they start slowing down!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Little Egret in PA?

Check out photos of this interesting egret, found yesterday by Chuck Chalfont. Without the characteristic head plumes, this is often a tough ID, since Snowy Egrets, Little Egrets, and even white morph Western Reef Herons can be pretty variable (some people would even say they belong to the same species). Since I saw a Little Egret last month at Bombay Hook, I'll probably skip chasing this guy. Of course, if I didn't already have Little Egret and Western Reef Heron on my ABA list, I might reconsider! At any rate, an interesting bird, and one that reminds us to look carefully at every bird we see.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mad Birding Skills

I will probably always be just a so-so birder. Don't get me wrong. I love birding. I go birding every day. I can usually identify almost everything I see or hear. But I'm not sure I'm ever going to really put in the time it takes to develop mad birding skills! Some incredible birding feats that I'm not sure I'll ever be up for:

1) Flight call ID. My hat's off to those folks who can identify all the sparrows and warblers at night, just by hearing the little notes they make as they fly high overhead. I've got the flight call CD-ROM, but I'm not sure I'll ever really be very proficient at this mad birding skill!

2) Fall warblers in flight. I remember standing next to the pre-field guide published David Sibley at Higbee Dike at Cape May during the 1995 Partners in Flight conference. He was calling the ID of warblers as they zoomed quickly overhead. Since then I've gotten better binoculars (those Zeiss 7x42s that seem to have been made just for such a purpose), but I haven't been able to spend much time back there or anywhere else where you can really see that many warblers pouring by overhead. Maybe some fall I can spend some time down there working on this mad birding skill!

3) Hawks in flight. OK, I've even taught workshops on this. Back in the day, I was OK at this, but in the past few years I haven't put in the hawkwatching time to keep those skills fresh. Maybe this fall I can head up to Hawk Mountain or down to the hawkwatch at Fort Washington to brush up on these as well.

4) Immature Gulls. I've done a fair bit of gull watching at landfills and other gull haunts. Given a good look, and enough time, I can usually identify most birds. But I seem to lack the patience to really get excited about identifying every last gull down to their state of molt. I'm afraid once I get my ABA Slaty-backed Gull, my days of careful gull watching may be limited!

5) Big Day birding. Rushing around for 24 hours to see how many birds you can find sounds like fun on one level, but makes me just feel tired thinking about it. I'm more of a big year guy--long term strategy, spending unreasonable amounts of time in the field. That's more my speed. I guess I'm more of a marathoner, rather than a sprinter. That said, I love Christmas Bird Count birding to see how many birds you can find in a day, so I could probably be converted to this one if I had a birding area I cared enough about to really want to try and cover like this.

So while these mad birding skills may elude me for now, I did manage to get my Bird RDA today on the drive into work--including snippets of Northern Mockingbird and Chipping Sparrow songs and a Red-tailed Hawk alarm call caught at 45 miles per hour with the windows rolled down. That's gotta count for something!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Emergency bird walk

So, by 7pm I'd only seen 19 species today--one short of my Bird RDA. Since 20 minutes out on my back porch didn't provide the needed extra bird, I had to take an emergency walk around the block. There are usually some pigeons on the Lutheran Church a couple blocks away, so I headed over there to take a look. Sure enough, there was one on the church and two across the street. Bird RDA achieved!

While no big deal, really, the cool thing about this is that before forcing myself to get at least 20 species each day, I had no idea where to see some of these birds close to my house. I would occasionally see Rock Pigeons flying by on my walk, or near my house, but I had no real idea where they came from. By paying closer attention this year, I found where they most often hang out, so in an emergency, I could head over there to see them.

I have similar stake outs for a quick Eastern Bluebird and Chipping Sparrow (Sellersville Cemetery) as well as Wood Thrush (Perkiomen Creek crossing on Callowhill Rd).

So, while the Bird RDA thing seems like a trivial pursuit, it has already helped me learn a lot more about where each species most regularly occurs in my neighborhood. And that's something I find pretty cool.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Artificial Cactus Wren Nests

You may have caught the news stories the past few weeks about the Irvine Ranch Conservancy's efforts to create artificial nest sites for threatened coastal California Cactus Wrens. This week I talked to David Olson who is leading the effort, and I've got links to the stories and some photos up on the Audubon Birdscapes blog.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Eskimo Curlew in Netherlands?

So what do you make of these photos recently taken in Netherlands? Eskimo? Little?

Birds on the road

Since I've got a lot of work to do before I disappear next month to Utah, Maine, Wyoming, and Guatemala, pretty much all of the birds I'm seeing these days are just those I can find from the car on my drive into the office, or the local birds on my walk. Its still pretty easy to get my Bird RDA of 20 species, but I haven't been getting much more than that this week.

And for a moment of truth--I didn't get my Bird RDA last Saturday and Sunday. I had a wedding to go to and time just got away from me. There were absolutely no birds where the wedding was at a Skippack strip mall (talk about an ecological wasteland!). Sunday I was tired. So pretty much I just fell off the wagon. After six and a half months of getting at least 20 birds every day, I blew it. I'm not proud of it. It was a moment of weakness. I should have been more on the ball!

Monday, July 21, 2008

BIGBY Hummer

OK, its been ages since I've added a new BIGBY birds to my list. Finally, on Friday evening I was walking along the creek behind my house and saw a pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds coming to a neighbor's feeder. Hummers have been hard to find this summer for some reason, at least I've had a tough time finding them on my breeding bird atlas blocks. Good to see a couple of these little sprites in the neighborhood.

2008 BIGBY list: 106 species

Friday, July 18, 2008

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Audubon Birdscapes

At long last, I've got my official work blog up and running at Check it out for info and stories about folks trying to make yards and neighborhoods better for birds and people. With all the gloom and doom out there, this blog will focus on good things going on out there and how we can do more. Of course I'll continue this blog with my own personal birding exploits and thoughts, such as they are. But hope to see you over on Audubon Birdscapes as well!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Birds can smell

A new study proposes that the sense of smell may be more developed and important to birds than has been previously thought. Check it out at the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

New kid on the (bird atlas) Block

So I was noticing that the Pennsylvania Bird Atlas block next to mine only has 30 species reported (26 possible, and only 4 confirmed breeders), so I decided at the last minute (this is the last summer of atlasing) to adopt the poor forlorn block myself. This morning, in a couple hours on the way to work, I was able to find 12 additional species for the block. While I was only able to confirm eight as breeding, I was able to find evidence for probable breeding in 19 others. Not a bad way to start. I'll continue to bird there as much as I can this month. During the first PA bird atlas (1984-89), there were 55 species reported from this block. I'm at 43 species so far, so I've still got a ways to go to beat that total, though I already have more probable and confirmed species than they got last time.

High points this morning were a pair of Orchard Orioles feeding on berries in a powerline right of way, and a female Eastern Towhee carrying food for nestlings.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

High on the Hog

At long last, I'm back from Hog Island and the Family Birding Adventure. Great time with the kids, and some fun birding, including (of course) the obligatory boat ride out to Eastern Egg Rock to see the Atlantic Puffins. This time it was really, really foggy, so we struggled to see beyond a hundred yards out, but we still got close looks at puffins and some good if short looks at Roseate, Arctic, Common and a single Black Tern. If you haven't been to Hog Island yet, there's still time this summer to join in on some of the fun. I'll be back up there for the Audubon chapter leadership workshop the second week of August. Can't wait to be back on the Hog!
Nature Blog Network Fatbirder's Top 1000 Birding Websites