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Friday, January 27, 2012

What the Robin Knows

I was excited this morning to see an advance reading copy of Jon Young's new What the Robin Knows: How Birds Reveal the Secrets of the Natural World.  A few years ago I had the great pleasure of reviewing Jon's earlier Advanced Bird Language CD set, and made me much more aware of what was going on in the world around me, changing how I walk through the woods and look for birds, and see the world through their eyes.  This new book expands on that series with additional information, stories, visuals, and a companion CD of important bird and animal sounds.

I plan on spending a good bit of time with this book over the next few months, and look forward to providing a more thorough review and to discussing the book at greater length.  But more importantly, I'm excited about the greater understanding and enjoyment of nature that I always get from Jon Young's way of interacting with birds and animals.

For additional insight into what is in store for us all in this new book (available May 2012), here's a bit more from Jon.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Hanging with my HOMEs

For birders, HOMEs (pronounced ho-mees) are Hooded Mergansers.  I've got some HOMEs I've been seeing regularly at Demott Pond, a small nearby pond that I visit whenever I'm in the area or need a few more birds to get my 20 species minimum daily requirement.  For the past month and a half, I've had anywhere from two to six of these HOMEs on the pond, where they patrol the area, males flashing their striking black and white crests, females flexing their auburn tresses.  They dive for small fish and other aquatic goodies, and at any one moment several may be floating on the pond, while others are swimming through the murky waters below.  I love seeing these guys, ever since I spotted my first pair on a small pond near Canby, Oregon while on a bicycle ride as a kid (26 March 1983, to be exact).  Never can get enough of hanging with my HOMEs!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Occupy Chaffinch

As I pulled up to the Common Chaffinch stakeout in Union Township, NJ this morning, the cul-de-sac was filled with cars.  I knew it was going to be exciting!

Up the hill, where the birders were gathered waiting on a porch for the bird to come in to a feeder, I thought I could hear the following chant::

What do we want?  Chaffinch!
When do we want it?  NOW!
What do we want?  Chaffinch!
When do we want it?  NOW!

Holy cow, I thought what the heck is going on?  Usually, stake outs are quiet places were nervous birders are afraid to even whisper, in fear of scaring away their quarry.

I quickly dashed up the hill to the house, but all was quiet.  Nobody admitted to having heard the chant.  Maybe it was just the wind?

The Common Chaffinch had just flown a few moments earlier, so I waited with 20 other birders for 25 minutes, hoping it would show up again.  The feeding station was empty.  I started hearing some White-throated Sparrows off to one side, so I walked to the edge of the covered porch and started scanning.  I saw a bird fly past quickly with white on the outter tail feathers, but I didn't think it was a junco.  Within a minute the Chaffinch came down from where I was searching and landed in a tree, then dropped down to the ground under the feeders where we all got good looks.  I didn't stay long, maybe a minute tops, before flying off.  Then a couple minutes later it was back for a few seconds.

In the hustle and bustle of the 20 birder scramble, I managed to capture 16 seconds of frustratingly blurry video through my binoculars.

It flew just as a few other birders arrived, including my friend Patrick.  So I stuck around until it showed up again an hour later, enjoying the hushed and somber crowd.  I apologize to anyone we may have annoyed with our hushed but animated talking while waiting.  I'm not one for somber when there are good birds around :-)

What do we want?  Rarities!
When do we want them?  Now!

In fact, it was such a fun morning that afterwards I headed over to Merrill Creek to get another look at the Snowy Owl that has been hanging out there since early November.  It was sitting on the same rock where I last left it nearly two months ago.  A Tundra Swan, Bald Eagles, and Common Goldeneye rounded out the morning.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

New Jersey Common Chaffinch

This morning in the wind and subfreezing temperatures I was able to get a short look at the Common Chaffinch coming to a feeder in Union Township, NJ.  The bird was coming in every half hour or so to the seed under the feeder.  It was only visible for a few minutes when I was there, and I only managed these poor blurry photos through my binoculars with my Android phone camera.  Better photos are online here.  Bird location map is here.  Viewing instructions from the homeowner are on Jerseybirds here and here.  Special thanks to the homeowners for making this bird viewing available.  Please be respectful of these viewing guidelines, which include no weekend visits.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Kumlien's Gull

Here an apparent adult Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull that I photographed at Spruce Run Reservoir, Hunterdon, NJ on December 28.  Note especially the small gray primary tips.  Currently considered a subspecies of Iceland Gull, who knows, maybe it will be considered its own species someday.

Cute Baby Duck?

When is a baby duck not a baby duck?  In this case, the small duck in this picture is not a baby Mallard, but a Call Duck, a small domestic variety of Mallard. It waddled up to my car the other day with the full-sized Mallards at one of my local ponds in Clinton, NJ.  Note also the interesting plumage, without the dark brown chest of a wild drake Mallard.

eBird One a Day Challenge

In addition to staying in good birding shape by making sure I get my 20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement, this year I'm also going to take the eBird One a Day Challenge--and will make sure to enter at least one eBird checklist for each day of the year.  I'd like to invite everyone else to do the same!  BTW, this year I'm also going to dig out all my old trip lists from outside the U.S. and enter them into eBird so I can finally figure out what my World List looks like.

So far, two days into 2012, I've submitted 7 eBird checklists.  As far as the 20 Bird MDR goes, yesterday I took a Birding Shabbat, which I usually do on Sundays.  However, I did incidentally see 15 species on my way to church and back, so today I did a Makeup Birding Day and found 35 species to make up for the 5 I missed yesterday.
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