Monday, December 21, 2009

Cape Cod Winter Birds

I hope everyone had a great holiday. It was so nice to have a white Christmas in the New England area. On Cape Cod more often than not snow turns to rain and have a very wet Christmas, but this year the snow from Dec. 19th's storm (SE Massachusetts got 2 feet) was still on the ground.

Here are some pictures taken by my cousin's cousin Megan (but I consider my cousin too) in Sandwich. Look at those waves!

Tufted Titmouse:

Purple Finch:

Friday, December 18, 2009

White-throated Sparrow Song

Back in late November I did some birding while staying at Steve's friend's farm in Baltic, CT. Naturally I wanted to put my sparrow identification skills to the test. We had done a walk at dusk Saturday night but my camera batteries died. But I couldn't disappoint my BirdingGirl readers and come back empty-handed! Even after staying up pretty late Saturday night (there was a party with a bonfire) I dragged myself out of bed at 7am when I heard the birdies calling to me!

Still had some poor battery life to deal with, but got these shots and accompanying audio.
Song Sparrow(?)
White-throated Sparrow:


White-throated Sparrow Song:

video

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Female Yellow-rumped Warbler at Blue Hills

Back in early October we went for a hike to Blue Hills and I snuck in a little bit of birding. I'm not sure I've mentioned this before, but Steve and I set a goal a few years back to hike every trail at Blue Hills. When we go, Steve is very serious, carefully planning a route that will cover the most ground. We don't stop until we get to the summit marked for that day (remember, this is Blue Hills- so the summits are quick to get up, but there's always a nice view of Boston). There's little time for birding, so I have to choose my birds carefully.

I recognized a unique call and stopped to take pictures of this female yellow-rumped warbler. Of course I identified her afterward, but at least I knew enough to stop and take notice of the call! :)



Also in October I got Steve to go with me to check out Borderland State Park
. We used the entrance off Bay Rd. in Easton, I believe. Since moving to Bridgewater I had wanted to go birding there, and although we didn't see any lifers, I still had some nice lighting for these shots of this mallard pair:

I also saw some ducks sitting out on the "sand bar" although not really a sand bar, but are of low water in the middle of the pond. I noticed the blue bars and thought it was something interesting, but then went back and consulted my Sibley Guide and realized it was most likely a juvenile mallard duck.

UPDATE: Thanks to Hap in Minnesota for sharing his insights- he thinks the duck on the right is a Black Duck, and based on these Google Image Results I agree. Thanks for teaching me something new!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Project FeederWatch is Fast-Approaching!

Have you signed up for Project FeederWatch yet? I mailed in my renewal a few weeks ago. Better stock up on black-oil sunflower seed and nijer seed/thistle!

Here's the press release from Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Help Project FeederWatch Track Backyard Birds—Bird watchers needed to help scientists discover changes in bird populations

Ithaca, NY—What happens in the backyard should not stay in the backyard—at least when it comes to bird feeders. By sharing information about which birds visit their feeders between November and April, backyard bird watchers can help scientists track changes in bird numbers and movements from year to year, through Project FeederWatch, a citizen-science program from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Bird Studies Canada.

Project FeederWatch begins on November 14 and runs through early April. Taking part is easy. Anyone can count the numbers and kinds of birds at their feeders and enter their information on the FeederWatch website. Participants submitted nearly 117,000 checklists last season. Since 1987, more than 40,000 people from the United States and Canada have taken part in the project.

“To get the most complete picture of bird movements, we always need new sets of eyes to tell us what species are showing up at backyard feeders,” says David Bonter, leader of Project FeederWatch. “Participants always tell us how much fun it is and how good it feels to contribute to our understanding of birds by submitting their sightings.”

Project FeederWatch is for people of all ages and skill levels. To learn more and to sign up, visit www.feederwatch.org or call the Cornell Lab toll-free at (866) 982-2473. In return for the $15 fee ($12 for Cornell Lab members) participants receive the FeederWatcher’s Handbook, an identification poster of the most common feeder birds, a calendar, complete instructions, and Winter Bird Highlights, an annual summary of FeederWatch findings.

Participant Nancy Corr of Harrisburg, Oregon, sums up her Project FeederWatch experience: “Thanks for the wonderful opportunity to share our love of birding and to participate in something meaningful!”

Here are links to my 2008-2009 FeederWatch posts:

Project FeederWatch- Week 1
Project FeederWatch- Week 2
Project FeederWatch- Week 3
Project FeederWatch- Week 17

I'm excited for the new season because of my new zoom lens and tripod combo! I hope to get better pictures this year. Well, and more interesting visitors too of course.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Female Common Yellowthroat at Central Park

I squeezed in some birding while I was in New York last weekend. I was there for a "Girls Weekend" with two of my best friends from college- Kristin and Lori. Lori just moved there in January, which is very exciting.

I forgot my binoculars, and we were on a tight schedule, but I still made a few interesting sightings.

Female Common Yellowthroat


Mystery Thrush (it's Friday and I don't have the energy to try and ID it from this poor picture):


We stuck to Strawberry Fields, but it was really cool being there on a nice Saturday with lots of other birders. We encountered:

- A dad and his 4 year-old son who each had their own binoculars. The dad told us about the ruby-throated hummingbirds and then the little boy piped in and told us exactly where to go and added "I hope they're still there for you. I hope you get to see them." SO cute.

- A scary homeless man over by the ruby-throated hummingbird site (looked like a patch of honeysuckle surrounded by a fence, but I'm convinced it was some other type of flowering bush). He got right up in my face and told me "You're going to be dead like that fence." He was really obsessed with the fence and keeping people away from it. There was a man with a scope set up, focused on the bushes, and there were plenty of other people around so I didn't feel scared. But we did end up leaving the area shortly after that since we weren't seeing any hummingbirds.

- Another homeless man, this one sleeping on the grass in the clearing where I was following the female common yellowthroat. At one point I had to step around him to get closer to the bird but he didn't wake up! haha

- Last but not least, Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones casually walking through the park with what seemed like an agent or producer.

It was a great trip! Next time I'll have to schedule some more extensive birding time while I'm there, and when I can go alone. No one wants to hang out while I bird, it's very boring...

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Fossilized Feathers Resemble Starlings and Grackles

Here is some interesting news I just came across—the first traces of color in a bird feather were discovered in a 47 million year-old fossil.

Image Source: ScientificComputing.com

Here is an excerpt from the New York Times article:

To find well-preserved feathers, the scientists traveled this May to a famed
fossil site in Germany near the village of Messel, where exquisitely preserved
47-million-year-old bird fossils are regularly dug up in an old quarry pit.
The scientists inspected several fossils and removed small pieces from 12
fossilized feathers. They returned home to put the material under a scanning
electron microscope. “You can see a surface of beautifully packed together
melanosomes,” said Richard Prum, a Yale expert on feather colors. “This looks
exactly like a grackle or a starling, where you have a dark glossy bird with a
metallic sheen.”


To read the entire New York Times article visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/01/science/01feath.html

I personally think Grackle feathers are more metallic-looking, but I'm not expert. Clearly, since I have trouble keeping starlings and grackles straight!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Laughing Gull at Monument Beach

I was excited to see a laughing gull for the first time on Cape Cod. When my friend Kristin got married on the Jersey Shore last year I saw plenty of them, but for some reason never in Massachusetts.

I was waiting for my mom to meet me at the beach when I heard it- it really sounds like it's laughing. It was definitely not a regular herring gull, which made me take notice. I caught her before she left the house and asked her to bring my camera. For most birders, a laughing gull is not too exciting, but for me it was.
He was a little itchy:
Looking for food- of course:

Juvenile American Robin

Here are some pictures I took of juvenile robins on my back lawn after it rained.


I really like how different they look, with the spotting on their breasts.

Wood Duck Boxes at Carver Pond

Today is the last day of August and even if it kills me I'm going to catch up on my August birding! I started commuting into the city using the Commuter Rail 4 weeks ago and I haven't yet figured out how blogging is going to fit into all of this. But I'll at least catch up on my pictures from August. That's a start!

The first weekend in August we went to Carver Pond, right here in Bridgewater. Steve had driven by it a bunch and wanted to check it out, and it's a really nice spot. Most of the other people we saw that day were fishing, including a father and his young sons- they had to be around 4 or 5 and were so cute.

I didn't see many birds, but wanted to share these pictures of Wood Duck boxes. I'm always interested in seeing where they're mounted and of course I'm curious to learn of their success rate. Incidentally, we were hiking in New Hampshire yesterday (Mountain Lake trail in Intervale, NH) and saw one that had been knocked down in a storm I'm presuming, and was in a big pile of trees and debris.

While we're in off-peak birding season, I like to hone my other nature identification skills. I'm very interested in learning the names of wildflowers so let's get started.

I'm referencing an old book from 1961 that I picked up at a flea market. It's called Wildflowers of North America in Full Color, by Robert S. Lemmon and Charles C. Johnson, published by Hanover House.

Wouldn't you know, the first picture is actually an easy ID- I started at the back of the book (that's how I read magazines and similar publications- for some reason I always start at the back) and the first flower I need to ID is right there- the Cardinal Flower:

According to my book the Cardinal Flower blooms late in the season (August into September) and likes shaded streams and moist thickets.

Here are some pictures of different stages of Groundnut Flowers:


This one is a mystery to me, although I feel like I saw it in the Audubon Field Guide (*UPDATE: this is Buttonbush- thanks Pete for the tip):

Pearl Crescent?:
Mute Swan:

Painted Turtles:

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hermit Thrush Call- Fryeburg Maine

A couple weeks ago we went up to Fryeburg, Maine to visit some of Steve's college friends. They live on Lovewell Pond, which actually seems more like a lake.

I did some birding (and also jogging) on the trails near their house, and didn't see anything too exciting, but did see my first red-breasted nuthatch.

The underside isn't as "red" as typically seen in pictures, although it could just be the lighting. I still wanted to include it in case anyone wants to set me straight!
Every time I went jogging or birding on the trails near their house I heard this "mystery bird" that had an eery whistle-like call. I was very, very, patient but the bird was elusive and I could never get close enough to see it—it always got spooked and moved further away.
I reached out to my friends at the BwBTC Forum and Sharon and "Chickadee" in the Maine forum were very helpful in identifying this call, even without hearing my audio clip! Both suggested thrushes (Chickadee asked if it sounded like a flute, which it did) and sure enough I listened to the Hermit Thrush call clip on All About Birds and it was a match!
Here is my audio clip from the weekend in Maine:

video

These are a tricky ID for me since I don't see them often. I saw a hermit thrush last spring at Drumlin Farm MassAudubon Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA but that wouldn't have helped me since I never saw the bird in Maine.
I also had fun watching these Eastern Phoebes down by the shore of the pond. There were two of them flitting around on the steps of the house next door.


The loons were fairly active (there was a rumor that one of them flipped our friend's canoe but it couldn't be proved- haha) and the first night we thought we saw one coming up near the house, but this pictures shows it was just a mallard:

After hearing them all weekend, I finally saw one on Sunday.

Common Loon:To set the scene, here's a shot of the pond and our friends' deck/yard on the right:

It was a great weekend! Thanks to Kate & Techer for having us!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Cooper's Hawk at Aspetuck Land Trust

I spent the 4th in Fairfield, CT with my boyfriend Steve's family. On Saturday we went for a walk with his mom and dog Toby to Aspetuck Land Trust in Easton, CT. Aspetuck is a really great spot- we usually go there whenever we're in Fairfield.

(I believe this is a Cooper's Hawk because of the white spots on its back.) *UPDATE: Thank you to Chris from Tails of Birding for sharing this helpful insight. He believes this is actually a Broad-winged Hawk because "Tail is short, beak appears dark, eye appears dark, and a brownish hood - all suggest a broadie. Cooper's would have a long, banded tail, lighter eye (if juvie - red if adult) and bigger head." Thank you Chris!

I didn't see any other interesting birds during the trip, just the usual suspects.

I did get some great nature photos though.

Newt:

Water snake:

Tadpole:
Water spider:

And some wildflowers (using the macro feature on my camera):

Orange Butterfly Weed (thanks to Kelly from Red and the Peanut for the ID on this!)

Sunset from Steve's parents' yard:


(This is for you Meg!) Here's Steve's family dog Toby. I actually have a picture of him at Aspetuck Land Trust, but not on this computer...

Monday, July 13, 2009

I love my new lens!

I've been so busy taking pictures that I haven't paused to recognize my cousin Sue (of Nature of Framingham), who was so thoughtful in selling me her Sony telephoto lens (actually she refused to accept my $$ so I'll need to find a way to get her back- I'm thinking of getting her a nice birding gift).

I had blogged about wanting to buy a telephoto lens for my Canon PowerShot S2 IS and got a tip from Spencer at Beginning Birding that he uses a Sony VCL-DH1758 for his S2 IS. I then tweeted about it to see what people had to say about that lens.

I'm very happy with the lens so far, although I'm really just happy to have a tele lens.
Here are some recent pictures taken with it: