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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fairfield, Connecticut

Yesterday I had a meeting at the Birdcraft Museum and Audubon center in Fairfield, Connecticut. One of the first urban bird sanctuaries in the country, it was establised by the legendary early bird conservationist Mable Osgood Wright. After recent snow storms, there was over half a foot of snow on the ground, but still a fair amount of bird activity at the bird feeders. Between meetings I was able to see American Robin (3), Northern Cardinal (2), Black-capped Chickadee (3), White-throated Sparrow (1), White-breasted Nuthatch (1), and Downy Woodpecker (1).

Meanwhile, here in Pennsylvania, we have over a foot of snow on the ground, and dozens of White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are at the feeder at work. This morning, a Song Sparrow joined these birds at the feeder for the first time this month.

Last week I went to New York City, but missed the Boreal Owl from Central Park by a few days. Our only birds in the city were one House Sparrow and six Rock Pigeons. Makes me glad I'm not working in downtown Manhattan!

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Short-eared Owls

There is a pair of Short-eared Owls spending the winter in a farm field a few miles from my house. On my way to work, sometimes I stop to watch them as they swoop low over the fields looking for mice. As its getting light, before the sun is even up, they come in to roost in tall grass, so you have to get their early in the morning to see them hunting. Lately, they've been calling to each other...wierd and wild sounds that many people never get to hear (listen to their calls here).

This morning, I thought I might be too late to see them, as Savannah Sparrows were already singing (birds don't just sing in spring time) and a Ring-necked Pheasant was standing in the road when I arrived. Fortunately, after a few minutes, the owls came in calling and after just a few last passes over the fields, landed and disappeared in the tall grass a few hundred yards away.

A very cool way to start the day. When I got to the office, several Purple Finches were joining other birds at the seed feeders. Having spent 10 years in Texas, its nice to live in Purple Finch country again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Roadside Birding

After almost another week in Pennsylvania, I'm getting antsy to do more than watch the birds out my office window (though that is nice) or scoping out goose flocks on my way home in the evening (though I've turned up some nice sightings of Horned Larks, Brant, Cackling Goose, and Greater White-fronted Goose--all locally uncommon or rare). I'm itching for an all out bird chase.

There's a Barnacle Goose, which may be a wild bird, though most would assume its an aviary escapee, that has turned up just over an hour away down in Lancaster and Chester counties. If it is seen again, I'll try and plan a quick trip down there.

My birdlust isn't salved at all by the knowledge that this is the best winter for rare Mexican birds in south Texas in over a decade. Looks like I picked a poor time to move from Texas! Birders there are enjoying the first North American record of Social Flycatcher, several Crimson-collared Grosbeaks (which haven't been seen there in a decade), a couple White-throated Robins (ditto), a Golden-crowned Warbler (first on in a couple years), as well as several other rarities I've already seen including Green-breasted Mango, Gray-crowned Yellowthroat, and Blue Bunting.

But no more whining! There are birds to find in my own neighborhood. Maybe even something rare or new. For sure something interesting and fun. Birding isn't all about chasing rare birds--though that can be a most delectable treat!

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Settled in PA

Whew! What a wild month it has been. Our family recently moved so I could take a new position working on home and neighborhood bird conservation for the National Audubon Society in Pennsylvania. It has been a huge adjustment for our family, and I'm now adjusting to the different birdlife and birding opportunities.

So far I've started my Bucks County list and a 2005 Bucks County list. One afternoon I spotted a rare Brant goose in a flock of several hundred Canada Goose--the most common bird here, which flies around the area in enormous flocks.

This morning I enjoyed three Eastern Bluebirds and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, among other species, outside my office window. Every Thursday and Friday, our office participates in Project Feeder Watch, which Audubon partners with others to conduct. We count the highest number of each species we see at the feeders and in the office yard. Since the office is on 160 acres in rural Bucks County, there are some great birds here. Having lived in central Texas for 10 years, its fun to live where White-breasted Nuthatches are common again. So far this morning I've seen a dozen species at the feeders outside the office window. Beats a suburban office park, hands down. You can see a photo of my office here.

If you haven't checked out Project Feeder Watch, its a great way to keep track of the birds in your yard. And would be fun to do with kids. It also provides important info on wintering bird populations. This kind of research, conducted by normal people, is called "Citizen Science".

Be a Citizen Scientist. Participate in Project Feeder Watch!
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