Monday, April 28, 2008
I admit we got there a little late (8am); we should've been there by 6:30 but we had some trouble getting going, what with my allergies/cold thing that is hanging on. Still--the first bird we saw was a lifer for us both: a Hooded Warbler, flitting among the bushes at ground level, so from the elevated path it was a great view--no warbler neck! I was so busy pointing it out to Gretchen, explaining the field marks and handing the binocs back and forth that I just didn't even think to get the camera. This would be the trend for the entire trip.
There were birds everywhere, and the pines around the rail tunnel were filled with Ruby-Crowned Kinglets and Northern Parulas! One RC Kinglet was flashing his little red crown so openly that it was obvious he was out for some serious mating. What a stud.
Here's a list from this area:
Hooded Warbler (Lifer/FOY)
Northern Parula (FOY)
Wood Thrush (FOY)
Hairy Woodpecker (FOY)
Northern Flicker (FOY)
After Gretchen and I left the tunnel trail, we took this road that was deceptively named the Sieglerville-Milheim Pike. Some "pike" -- after about a 100 yards, the pavement ended and it was all winding cinder road for 16 miles! Off-roading in a 2001 Honda Civic is not exactly big fun, but we made it through and had breakfast at the locally (and supposedly world-) famous Honey Creek Inn, which serves some amazingly good French toast. Yum!
En route along the "pike," we caught a Broad-winged Hawk finishing off a small bird (possibly Tufted Titmouse, judging from the feathers) right next to the road. We had time to observe field marks both on the ground and in flight, as he was not eager to leave his kill. I wished Susan could've been there to appreciate the wild hawk action.
Later, we drove to a small woodlot on Indian Road to see whether the Red-headed Woodpecker was still there. Sure enough, he made an appearance within ten minutes of our stopping there, making it three straight years I've seen him there. It was like seeing an old friend.
The day turned a little chilly, but we spent it all outside either birding or just hanging out on the Adirondack chairs and watching the marsh. No doubt about it: spring is really here!
Oooh--this morning, one of the State College Bird Club bigwigs emailed me to ask if I would lead a field trip to this spot on Mother's Day weekend--wow! I don't know what all that entails, other than pointing out the spots where I saw birds last time and just generally being helpful. I hope it's not much more than that, as you know I'm a little shy.
Monday, April 21, 2008
I hope there will be some attention paid to this issue during the RGV birding festival in November.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
So I drove on to the old rail tunnel, parked, and started looking around. Here are some shots of the old tunnel, hewn directly into the rocks many moons ago:
The moss had grown onto the rock around the entrance to the tunnel:
Here, you can see that while they prettied up the entrance with cut stone, the actual tunnel walls themselves were left natural:
I love seeing moss growing like this; it's so soft and green and alive, with water flowing out of the rocks:Sigh. So beautiful. While I was looking at the tunnel, I heard a bird sound--a single "chock" that resonated through the woods. I thought it might be a some sort of grouse or a turkey, but I've listened to a lot of those sounds (owls, gamebirds, etc.) and just can't find it. It was a warbly but sharp "chock" sound. Does anyone have any other guesses?
I also saw a first-of-year Eastern wood-pewee; here are my best shots of him:
I thought it might be a phoebe, but the beak and the size were wrong; I'm pretty sure it's a wood-pewee, but if you disagree, please let me know!
I also saw a northern harrier, several brown thrashers, and the usual flurry of American robins, grackles, red-winged blackbirds, European starlings, and American crows.
I can't wait to go there super-early one morning, to see what migrants might pass through. I'm hoping for some good birding there as the migration gets into gear.
Monday, April 14, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
But the lilac tree is budding!That totally pumps me up. This lilac bush (about ten feet tall) perfumes the entire backyard when it's in bloom.
Remember my little mushroom? It still looks the same:
Really nothing at all like a morel. I wonder what it is.
Finally, a picture of Miss Kitty Claws, taking a nap. She always looks so sweet when she's not biting and hissing:
Sorry, but Niblet's been a little shy of late, hanging out in his Magic Bunny Dreams house, so I haven't been able to post any Friday Night Nibbles.
Friday, April 04, 2008
Wednesday, April 02, 2008
Eagles in flight offer a reward
A mere seven miles from the oblivious rush of downtown State College, a few hearty souls, hot chocolate in hand and binoculars pressed against anxious eyes, patiently but excitedly scan the sky.
Is there a more majestic, a more inspiring sight than an eagle, riding unseen seasonal currents on its annual journey northward in spring or south again in autumn?
Thirteen years ago, Dave Brandes, a Penn State hydrology and engineering student, was walking with his dog along the Mid-State Trail when he spied a golden eagle circling overhead.
He returned the next day and was rewarded: He saw 15 more golden eagles and —eureka!— four bald eagles, and thus, with a fortunate discovery by an observant lover of nature, began the annual spring raptor count on Tussey Mountain.
Gradually, more bird enthusiasts got involved and, in 2001, it became a full-time, February-through-April effort to tally hawks, ospreys, falcons and, yes, eagles on, as it turns out, one of the busiest raptor migration routes east of the Mississippi River.
As of a week ago Friday, 215 goldens — a record — had been observed and counted at the hawkwatch site, just a short walk from the Jo Hays Vista, named for a legendary Centre County educator, in the Rothrock State Forest south of Pine Grove Mills.
The Shaver’s Creek Environmental Center, the State College Bird Club, The National Aviary and others now sponsor the watch, which Dan Ombalski coordinates.
It is one of those rare endeavors that combines the pure research of the scientist with the enthusiasm and passion of the volunteer hobbyist.
And it came about almost by accident. We say almost because the careful observation and appreciation of our natural surroundings is never accidental.
And those who do take the time and make the effort enrich not only their own lives, but ours — those of us who are too busy, too involved or too unaware to notice.
Just knowing that hundreds of eagles have silently passed by only a few miles away is inspirational.
Seeing them, of course, is even more so.
One, alone, is worth the effort.
Note: I was trying to get my post up about this little "mystery" before Laura and Susan did, but Blogger was being a pain about uploading my photos. Still--here's my side of the story!
You remember the "mystery egg" I found on the marsh a couple posts ago?
Well, um... it wasn't an egg.
It was a little plastic ball.
How could I have been so incredibly wrong? you ask. I'll tell you why: Because I didn't touch it! I thought it was an egg, so I figured I'd better not touch it! I couldn't really tell, but it looked like an egg to me.
So of course Susan, aka Science Chimp Junior, just pushed aside the grass, grabbed up the "egg," and noted the -um- plastic seam on it:
"Hmmmm" indeed! "Sure," I said, "laugh it up!" But if it had been a rare egg, and I had scared its mother away with my scent... yeah, they wouldn't be laughing then!
Laura and Susan came into town for my commitment ceremony with Kat, and on Sunday morning they came out to the Marsh House and went birding with me! What a blast we had. Here are a few of the very few photos I took, as I was too busy laughing and scaring birds. We did find some more interesting "mysteries" to investigate on the marsh:
Here, Grissom and Willows work a particularly bloody crime scene:
I love the serious look on Susan's face here. She and Laura wondered whether it was a tree swallow--look at this brilliant irridescent blue feather:
They decided it was likely a mallard. (Oh, and note that Susan is wearing her Ruthie J-knitted gloves.)
There was evidence everywhere, including blood:
We also came upon some coyote poo! Susan pointed out the fur:
and the bits of bone and grassy matter:
It was so much fun being with someone else who has to pick up everything and touch everything and try to figure stuff out. I thought I was observant, but these two are far more watchful and knowledgeable about things than I am. It was a real pleasure to bird such familiar territory with new eyes.
Even if they did bust my mystery egg wide open, and what "yoke" there was, it was on me.
Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Based on my conversations with Laura and Susan, I've updated my yard list: 66 species! (fireworks sounds)
Before, my list had 35 species: 35 different kinds of birds that had actually landed in my yard. But when I count the marsh and Neighbor Ed's yard (both places I can see from my yard) and the air above my yard and the marsh, then I get 66. 35 isn't bad, but 66 absolutely rocks.
What do you consider a "yard bird" when making out your list? Or do you even bother to keep count?