Friday, May 29, 2009

Another reason my workplace is great

You'll recall this cool thing they did during Kids-to-Work Day.

Now, here's an email I just got from someone in HR:

Many of you have already heard that we have a mama and eight baby ducks in the courtyard. By nature, mother ducks are very protective. The courtyard will remain open but please respect the ducks and do not go looking for them in the grass or trees. You can see them swimming in the pond and waterfall area through the cafeteria doors. Thank you.


SWEET.

My birding plans for this weekend are pretty ambitious, and I'm totally pumped: First, tonight, Baby G and her girlfriend plus my girlfriend and I are having a double-date-birding-night-extravaganza! We're meeting at AB's (my wonderful girlfriend) house for dinner and drinks, and then we're all going out to the Scotia Barrens for more warbler/woodcock/whip-poor-will action!

Then tomorrow morning, AB and I are headed to Penns Valley, my old stomping grounds, for a little field birding in the mostly Amish-farmed fields, and then we're going to the Nittany Antique Machinery Show for fun and frolic!

I'm also hoping to do some birding on Sunday in an unspecified location (perhaps where they hide Dick Cheney?). Haven't decided where yet.

What are your plans?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Camping adventures! and old business

My wonderful girlfriend and I went camping at Cunningham Falls State Park near Thurmont, MD, this past weekend; we joined some old friends of hers and had a great time building big fires, making s'mores, and cooking on the open flame.

I didn't see too many birds that weren't familiar to me; here's my list:
Red-bellied Woodpecker (they were everywhere!)
Eastern Wood Pewee
Song Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
American Robin
American Crow
Chimney Swift (weird, seeing as how there were no chimneys around)
Northern Cardinal
Eastern Phoebe
Northern Flicker
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-headed Vireo
Carolina Wren
Black-capped Chickadee

There were also some mystery birds:
--what looked like an Orange-crowned Warbler
--Water Thrush, either LA or Northern--sadly, my photo didn't help much with determining the ID:We couldn't get very close, lighting was bad, and my hands were a little shaky from the arduous trek. I got decent looks in the binocs, but I forgot to check whether it had that white eyestripe (Louisiana) or not (Northern), so I don't know which kind it was. It was, however, definitely a water thrush, and it made that "chik chik chik" of a Louisiana. ?
--some bird whose song went "pia-pia-pia tazip-zip!" Any ideas what that was? The leaf cover was waaaay too thick to spot him, though I tried and tried.
Not too bad, considering I only birded while doing other things. No Scarlet Tanager! Grrrrr.

We also saw some interesting non-bird things. Here are the falls, a 75-foot spectacle with some nice observation platforms at the bottom:(Definitely click on the huge version of this photo) To get to the top of the falls, you have to climb the rocks like all these people did. We didn't climb the falls, thank god, or I'd probably have fallen to my death.

We went on two long hikes, both of which were pretty strenuous for my old feeble body. I fell a couple of times and banged up my knee, but I survived. AB's back held up well too. I even saw a life-flower: Jack-in-the-pulpit!The distinct "leaves of three" of these plants are probably the reason I've never seen one before; I ALWAYS steer well clear of anything with three leaves because I am extremely allergic. This time, though, I was rewarded with a life-flower!

And we saw this weird fungal spire all over the place:
Any guesses as to what this is?

And this pretty green moth:What kind of moth is this?

Saw some cool-looking beetles who were either gettin' it on or having a beetle smackdown:We couldn't tell which. But the ooky-looking stuff they're on is that weird fungus or lichen or whatever that grows on old trees and looks like a soft light-beige shelf. I used to know the name of it but I forgot. I'm guessing the beetles were eating it, or the tree, or both.
- - - - - - -
The day before we left, I saw a Northern Flicker dead on the side of the road near my house:I always wondered why they call the eastern version of these birds "yellow-shafted;" now I know--the actual shafts of the feathers are a beautiful sunny yellow color:Amazing. I can't wait to see the western Red-shafted version, though I hope I see him alive. It was sad to see such a beautiful bird this way, but I did get to examine him up close for a long time. Look at those breast feathers, with the pretty spots on the ends. And those yellow feather shafts! Beautiful. What a lovely bird.

Friday, May 22, 2009

NUMBER 200!!! Whip-poor-will!

It happened! I got my 200th bird! And while it wasn't a Scarlet Tanager, or any of those crazy warblers, it was just as satisfying. Yesterday after work, I saw Matty for a while but he ended up cancelling on dinner so I went to TICK WORLD--the Scotia Barrens on the north edge of State College. I bought some Cutter's with 23% DEET and soaked myself in it, then I hit the trails. My best photo was of a Chestnut-sided Warbler who was driven nuts by my BirdJam:

These guys were everywhere, singing "pleased-pleased-pleased-to-meetcha" at the tops of their little birdy lungs. It was often hard to hear anything else over their din! I wish I could've gotten better pictures of this bird, but it was getting dark quickly, and we were under the canopy of leaves. He flew all around me, so close to me that many times I could've reached out and touched him. The hum of bumblebees doing their bee jobs was constant, like the drone of distant airplanes. Imagine my horror when I noticed that many sections of the path looked like this:

For a person who's allergic to bee and wasp stings, I was pretty freaked. I gutted it up, though, and walked through at a brisk but calm pace. These trees were incredibly fragrant, with a lilac-like smell. What are they? Here's a close-up:

Probably something invasive. It was everywhere. After an hour or so on this trail, looking at Canada Goose babieswatching an Eastern Towhee high in a treeand watching all the Chestnut-sideds everywhere, I made my way toward an area that's supposed to be lousy with American Woodcocks and Whip-poor-wills. I was hoping to maybe get a photo of a woodcock, and I figured that Katdoc's comment about hwo you can count it if you just hear whips (because they're almost impossible to see in the dark) made it okay to count any whips I heard as my big #200.

By now I was deep into the barrens, and I was all alone. I made it to the spot--a nice big clearing where people sometimes shoot skeet--about 8:15, as I'd been advised. It wasn't looking (or sounding) good until about 8:30, however; that's when I heard it: above the constant trills of Wood Thrushes, the never-ending songs of American Robins, and the whiny mewing of Gray Catbirds, I heard the unmistakeable "PEENT!" of a woodcock! Sweet! I strained my old eyes trying to see them in the fading light, but I didn't see anything.

Long around 8:40, I began to hear "whip, whip-poor-WILL! whip, whip-poor-WILL!" over and over again--that was it! Number 200! The best part: when I finally left, after video-ing the darkness with the whips singing in the background, I saw several of them in my headlights as they sat on the dusty dirt road! If only I'd had the camera ready!

Also on the way back, I heard a loud peenting just off the road, so I stopped and pointed my lights over a little ridge. Here's what I saw:
videoWOODCOCK! I realize I probably broke the ethical rules of birding by shining my headlights your way, Mr. Woodcock, but I was just trying to see you! It was only for a second! Sorry! Leaving now!

And so I saw and heard my #200th lifebird, and I got some decent photos/video. Pretty damned cool.

Listening to Whip-poor-wills with a big goofy grin on my face:

video

Note--that Eastern Towhee was singing a weird version of "drink your tea" in which he would say "teeeee-terrrrrr-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet-tweet" with the 5 tweets sung in rapid succession after the two drawn-out syllables in front. Weird.

I heard a lot of calls I didn't recognize--strange gruntings (frogs, maybe?), weird little dry rattles (not like a Belted Kingfisher though--very quiet), and so many other sounds I can't even remember. As many songs as I've learned, there are still soooooo many more I don't know yet. It's frustrating, but I still had a great time.

And no ticks!

Of the calls and birds I did recognize, I heard and/or saw:
Field Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Parula
Worm-eating Warbler
Killdeer
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow Warbler
Northern Flicker
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Mourning Dove

I think that was it. There were so many birds, but the trees are really leafing out now so it was hard to see them. It was so cool to have that Chestnut-sided so close to me; he was so tiny!

So now--the big push for 300 begins. My new goal: hit 300 by the end of the year! After all, California will offer a ton of new birds.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Warblers that could easily be #200

In which I continue to obsess over which bird will be my 200th lifer....

People on the state birding listserv are always seeing the following warblers all around the state, so any of these guys could easily be #200 on my lifelist:
Nashville Warbler (Vermivora ruficapilla)
Cape May Warbler (Dendroica tigrina)
Prothonotary Warbler (Protonotaria citrea)
Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis)
Mourning Warbler (Oporornis philadelphia)
Wilson’s Warbler (Wilsonia pusilla)

I should probably review the important field marks or behaviors that each of these birds displays so I’ll be sure to know them if I see them.

Nashville Warbler—guitar (some spp. with pearl inlays) slung over scapulars, rhinestones studding primaries and uppertail coverts, whiskey bottle prominent near chins of older males and some females.

Cape May Warbler—“diamonds” (from Sunset Beach) on lores, often wears flip-flops in July-August, back is usually sandy.

Prothonotary Warbler—often seen carrying a crucifix and rosary.

Connecticut Warbler—noted for its bejeweled breast, well-manicured feathers, and all-white body.

Mourning Warbler—black mantilla worn over crown, single black wingbar, driving a hearse. Song sounds similar to this.

Wilson’s Warbler—only the crown and eyes can be seen. Fishing hat is prominent on crown.

Bird pics-o-rama!

As almost always happens, my big weekend plans for birding came undone. My girlfriend injured her back, so I spent the weekend nursing her back to some semblance of health. She's much better now.

So last night we went to Millbrook Marsh to really work the birds there. There were many young and beginning birders there too, which was really exciting. We saw the requisite Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats, and we also saw a Chestnut-sided Warbler! I got some great pics of the first two, but none of the Chestnut-sided. Oh well. Here are the highlights from the walk (most can be clicked on for embiggening, though some are small crops of larger pics). A Yellow Warbler impersonating a missile.

An Eastern Phoebe got a little ruffled at me.

The phoebe and a Yellow Warbler preened together.

I drove this YEWA nuts with my BirdJam. But look how nicely he posed!

Overheard conversation between these two Barn Swallows:
"Stop it."
"No, YOU stop it."
"I'm not kidding. Stop it."
"No, YOU stop it."
"I'm gonna kick your--"
"MOM! He's threatening me!"
"Oh gees..."



A Red-winged Blackbird posed for us.


Perhaps my best pics of a Common Yellowthroat!

I love Barn Swallows!

We also saw and/or heard a Swamp Sparrow, a Gray Catbird singing a weird song, some sort of flycatcher, Song Sparrows, Grackles, American Crows, American Robins, Mourning Doves, and some other birds I couldn't ID (grayish brown, small, bird-like...). I think that was everything. It was a nice trip, what with the sun shining and the cool breeze blowing. This is such a nice time to live in Central PA -- when it's not raining, that is.

So the girlfriend and I are going camping with some friends of hers for the holiday weekend. I'm hoping to see Lifer #200 on that trip. At this point, I don't even care if it's my nemesis, the Scarlet Tanager. I just want #200!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Millbrook Marsh in 15 minutes

I had a few minutes to kill yesterday after work before I met my new gal for dinner, so I stopped by Millbrook Marsh just north of Beaver Stadium. I was only there for about 15 minutes, but I got some nice birds:
Yellow Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
American Crow
European Starling
Song Sparrow
I didn't get to the actual pond area and viewing platform before I had to go, but I did get some photographs! These are the best (and only) pics I've ever gotten of my FOY Common Yellowthroat:
I drove several of these guys nuts with my BirdJam, but they were wily enough to remain quite well hidden whenever I got my camera ready. I got some good looks in the binocs but had to settle for these crappy photos. Still, it was fun hearing and seeing them instead of being fooled by the similar call of the Carolina Wren.

An obliging Song Sparrow:
So cute!

Tomorrow after work, the girlfriend and I are meeting at the marsh to really give it a thorough birding. I'm really excited; I've only ever been there once before, but it was cold and wintry so there weren't even any Red-winged Blackbirds, much less warblers. I hope to have some good pics for you Friday.

This weekend will also be rather birdy, as Baby G and I will be checking out the sure-thing American Woodcocks and Whip-poor-wills at the Scotia Barrens (aka TICK WORLD--more on this later) on Saturday evening, and then we'll be joined by our friend Anne the Writer for some Sunday crack-of-dawn birding at Bald Eagle State Park, where I'm hoping to see a Scarlet Tanager, dangit!

Now--you'll recall that I'm in search of Lifer #200, but I have some issues with the list now. I've heard and kinda seen a fuzzy darkened outline of a woodcock, so does that count? Because I counted it, though now I feel a little funny about it--but that's part of how I got to 199. Still, I'll definitely see them Saturday (unless it's freezing or raining, both of which are NOT on the forecast), so I figure it all evens out. Right? But then, if I hear a Whip-poor-will but don't see it--does that count? I haven't ever counted heard-only birds, but I did count the woodcock, even though now I honestly don't know if I only imagined seeing the bird's shape in the darkening conditions at Middle Creek.

I guess, for the sake of whatever, that the woodcock counts, but if I only HEAR the Whip-poor-will, it will not count. If I actually SEE it, it will be #200. But you know that I really want the tanager to be #200. Of course, I may not even see the tanager on Sunday.

I guess whatever new bird I see will be #200, no matter whether it's a tanager or a whip-poor-will or even a snipe.

Now for some info on Scotia, aka TICK WORLD: several people have been commenting about the ridiculously abundant ticks at Scotia. They're bad every year, but this year, a woman talked about finding over FORTY! of them on her and on each of her kids! And they stayed on the mown paths and dirt roads! Gretchen and I are terrified, and we will NOT be taking Domino. Speaking of Domino, here she is, whoopin' it up at Em's recent birdday party:
hee hee! She's such a party animal. Anyway, back to the ticks: I guess we'll just have to drown ourselves in DEET and hope for the best, checking ourselves for the dreaded ticks all the way and afterwards. Eek.

What birdy stuff are you doing this weekend?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Lol birdz

Barn Swallows can be so cruel to one another.
(from ICHC)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

My hopes for #200

As I mentioned in my next-to-last post, I'm now officially at 199 birds on the lifelist. I have been hoping to go birding one of these mornings before work, but it's been raining all week. Like I didn't get soaked enough in Cape May?

I'm hoping that we get a good sunny morning on Saturday or Sunday. In that spirit, here's my list of bird-candidates that I'd like to see take the coveted 200 spot:

Photo by Jeffrey A. Gordon, taken at the New River Birding and Nature Festival

1. Scarlet Tanager--this bird has been my nemesis for a couple of years now. I always look but never find. Zick found one for me at Oil Creek two years ago, but of course it flew away right when I looked up, so I caught only a blur. I don't count blurs. I just want to see this bird so badly--red is my favorite color, and the thought of such a beautiful red bird with black wings just makes me happy. And my gosh, look at Jeff's beautiful photo! (I shamelessly stole the pic from his excellent blog.)

2. Painted Bunting--I know--unless I'm going to Florida (with a blindfold on the whole way), the beautiful "Monet bird" is NOT going to take the 200 spot. I still love this bird, though--always have. Some day....

3. Bobolink--at least this one's possible, given my location. I soooo want to hear this song, which was described by some Flockers as sounding like R2-D2, one of my favorite Star Wars characters. (Han Solo's the man.)

4. Evening Grosbeak--I dig the black and yellow birds, and I especially love grosbeaks. (Rose-breasted is my favorite.) When I was at Middle Creek, a guy told me he hadn't seen an Evening Grosbeak in PA in over 15 years. WTF!? Odds are this bird won't appear, but I want to see one!

5. Prothonotary Warbler--would LOVE to see this bird; he's so beautiful! And now that I live in PA, I actually kinda know what a prothonotary is! (I wanted to drive to Belleplain when we were in Jersey just to see this bird, but we just never found the time.)

So this is my wishlist. I should take Painted Bunting off, but you know me--always dreaming of having silly stuff like Slayer strength or the ability to go into Harry Potter's world (and of course I'd be a Muggle witch just like Hermione!).

I'll keep you posted on the quest. Meanwhile, cross your primaries and think birdy thoughts!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

A little more from the Cape, and a Niblet update

I also took some phone-camera pics in Cape May that I wanted to share with you. Here we go:

Sunset at Sunset Beach--the only sunlight we got all weekend, for about 15 minutes. Still, it's beautiful.

There were so many dead horseshoe crabs on the beach at Sunset. We also saw two of them mating in the shallow waves--come on, guys, produce some eggs for the Red Knots!

Why does the CMC Health Dept insist on mentioning (ugh) "human fecal matter" in the restroom of every single restaurant in Cape May? Is that really necessary? Can't they just say "wash your hands or else!"?

A book cover I saw that reminded me of a certain monkey we all know.


My amazing campfire on Saturday night. I tried something new this time, a trick for starting great fires; I read it in a book called Camping and Woodcraft (which is actually two books combined), written by Horace Kephart. The amazing thing is that I only paid 50 cents for this book at the local AAUW book sale (which is coming up this weekend!), but you can't get it online for less than 17 bucks!
Photo by Baby G
Here I am, taking the above photos of my excellent fire.

Anyway--here's the trick: get some cotton balls, some baggies, and some Vaseline. Rub the cotton, two or three balls at a time, into the Vaseline, getting a good amount into the cotton. Make sure to coat the entire blob. Note: this is really messy, but the good thing is that you can just rub the extra Vaseline onto the skin on your knees and elbows--it's moisturizing! I did about 30 cotton balls, again two at a time, and put them into three baggies. When it came time to start the fire, I piled up the wood and some kindling into the classic teepee shape; then I poked some of the cotton/jelly blobs into the base of the teepee and lit them with one of those Aim-n-Flame type lighters. (IMPORTANT: You do NOT want your hands anywhere near this highly combustible material.) I used probably three blobs of the now soaked-through cotton and got a fire that the Aggies would've been jealous of.

Gretchen and me at the lighthouse, exhausted but happy from all the birding and walking and rain.

It was a great trip, but I sure did miss my Flock friends in West Virginia. We'll migrate again, ladies and gentleman! Soon!

Now for the Niblet update. Thank you all for your continued good wishes and thoughts for the health of my little Son, Moon, and Stars™. He's doing great! No return of the infection, and I think he feels better in general these days, as he's become much more social and friendly again! The only remaining evidence of his surgery is the bald spot on his head:
Dr. Scholz said it would likely grow back the next time he had a big shed and re-grow. It's very soft! I try to kinda comb-over the surrounding fur so you can't see it. Hee hee!

He's really doing well, and he's been so affectionate for the last few weeks. I think he finally believes me when I tell him we're done with all that hurty stuff at the vet.

Monday, May 04, 2009

The BFF birding trip 2009

Last Thursday, Gretchen and I left for Cape May about 7 p.m. Spirits were high, despite the fact that I’d just phoned the campground and found out that we would have to sleep in the car (“car-camp,” as Gretchen called it) that night because check-in ended at 7 p.m., and we didn't want to lose out on Friday morning birding.

I didn’t think it would be soooo terrible.

I was wrong.

We got there about 1:30 a.m., thanks to a too-long dinner stop in Harrisburg (oh well!). That wasn’t the terrible part. The terrible part was that I discovered it’s impossible for me to sleep in the driver’s seat. Call it conditioning, call it too excited to sleep, call it steering wheel in the thighs, but I got about 2 hours of sleep that night. Gretchen, however, slept like a corpse. In fact, she may or may not have slept through:
--my 3 a.m. bathroom run to find an open convenience store
--my second bathroom run a couple hours later
--my moving of the car a couple of times to minimize light
--the rave party with live band and circus acts
--the rare but severe earthquake that struck the Jersey shore that night
In short, she was OUT while I was wide awake until about 4 a.m.

We awoke at 6 a.m. the next day, across the street from Uncle Bill’s Pancake House. After a little early-morning bathroom break, during which I found out that there was a public restroom not 50 yards from where we were parked (rage!), we had a great breakfast. We then headed to the Second Ave jetty to look around. I’d seen Black Skimmers and several kinds of gulls there the last couple of times I was in Cape May, but this time there wasn’t much: a few Forster’s Terns flying around, some Laughing Gulls, and a lot of first-year Herring Gulls. That pretty much was the tally for the whole weekend, which looked a lot like this--cloudy and cold:
What a start to a very long weekend of endless walking, warbler neck, and rain. We cooked over the campfire all weekend, with the exception of some burgers I grilled. I had pre-cut all the veggies, so food prep was easy and our meals were delicious. So at least we ate well!

Birding was pretty rough the whole weekend; a lot of rain, the cold temps, and perhaps the early date conspired to make birds scarce. No Sanderlings chasing the surf, no flocks of Black Skimmers on the beach, few birds at all on the marshes, and hardly any warblers or songbirds to be found. I hope this weekend is better, for the World Series of Birding. On a good note, Gretchen got to see first-hand how nice other birders are when you meet them in the field; we shared observations and tips with several people along the way, and everyone was very nice.

In all, we birded at CM Point (beach, pond, nature trail); Higbee Beach (where we were almost eaten alive by mosquitoes); Sunset Beach; the Meadows/Nature Conservancy; Second Avenue jetty area; the CM-Lewes Ferry area (on the CM side); and even our campgrounds in Rio Grande, a place which proved to have a few surprises in store for us.

Here’s my list of 48 species:
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Carolina Wren
Northern Cardinal
American Robin
Mute Swan
Canada Goose
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle (LIFER!)
Great Egret
Red-winged Blackbird
Fish Crow (LIFER!)
Tree Swallow
Purple Martin (LIFER!)
House Sparrow
American Goldfinch
European Starling
Forster’s Tern
Little Blue Heron (LIFER!)
American Oystercatcher (LIFER!)
Swamp Sparrow
Yellow Warbler
Mourning Dove
Gadwall
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Double-crested Cormorant
Northern Mockingbird
White-throated Sparrow
Bald Eagle
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Killdeer
Blue-headed Vireo
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Gray Catbird
Piping Plover (LIFER!)
Northern Parula (heard)
Glossy Ibis (LIFER!)
Great Black-backed Gull
Sanderling
Chimney Swift
Worm-eating Warbler
Great Crested Flycatcher
Yellow-crowned Night Heron (LIFER!)
Tufted Titmouse
Blue Jay
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Common Tern (LIFER!)

Only nine lifers—far short of the forty I’d hoped for. But considering the conditions, I think we did all right. The dumb thing is that I realized that I’ve not counted several lifebirds on my giant list (like the Least Flycatcher I saw with Zick at Oil Creek), and so my tally of 186 is WRONG! I just went back this morning and corrected my errors, adding several species I’d apparently lost along the way by moving my big list from one spreadsheet to another (usually by memory—I know—feel free to laugh yourself silly; this time, I went back and checked my posts).

So once I added these eight lifers to the big list, my real and certified! count is 199. 199??!! One away from 200? Sheesh. So the next lifer I see will be the one. If only we’d seen the Black-necked Stilt that was supposed to be wandering around the Meadows, or the Say’s Phoebe that was seen at a couple of spots on Cape May!

This is my first time at the spring migration in Cape May, and I can tell you that it's VERY different from the fall. In the fall, there were just so many birds everywhere, even in the rain and cold. The ponds at the Meadows and at the lighthouse were always full of all kinds of ducks and shorebirds; this past weekend, however, the ponds were relatively bare. I don't know if we were just there too early or what, but we didn't see much in the way of migration.

Baby G in full rain gear.
My big disappointment of the weekend (besides not getting 40 lifers) was not getting to bird at the Beanery. It would’ve cost us $39 each to do so, as they require a CMBO membership and didn’t offer any kind of day pass. I think we might’ve seen more boreal birds there, but who knows? It might’ve been relatively empty, like a lot of the other places around the island. So we didn’t go there, and I’m bummed. I really like that place—so many good birds! We also didn’t drive the hour to Belleplain, preferring to stay in Cape May and enjoy our weekend there.

Now for some highlights:
1. You wouldn’t believe how we saw the Yellow-crowned Night Heron: a pair of them flew into the trees over our campsite! One of them stayed and watched us all weekend, hanging out in a big pine near us. I did get some decent photos of him, along with some other birds.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron in breeding plumage:


He was so beautiful.

A TV, hangin' at Cape May Point (photo for Lynne):

Young Herring or Great Black-backed(?) Gull and a lifer, an American Oystercatcher, showing us his badonkadonk from the concrete ship at Sunset Beach:
An Osprey--we saw a few of these:
Another lifer, a Piping Plover, photographed from waaaaay outside his protective roped-off area:
More lifers! Purple Martins (and a dumb HOSP) on their front porches near the Education Center at CM Point:
Yet another lifer, a Fish Crow--one of the million who "car"-ed their way through the entire weekend above our campsite:
A Laughing Gull photographed on the CM side of the CM-Lewes Ferry:

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet refused to be photographed:
A Carolina Wren singing his heart out--these were plentiful all weekend:


A Great Black-backed Gull at the Meadows, with some Forster's Terns in the background:

2. Gretchen and I said some crazy things that will stick in our memories for the rest of our lives. Here are a few examples of the birding-related comments, because even out of context, they made us laugh all weekend long:
“Oh holy crap… oh holy crap… oh holy crap!… oh wait. It’s a leaf. I thought it was a molting Summer Tanager. Crap.” (DG)
“If I see one more grackle, I’m going to gouge my eyes out.” (Gretchen)
“Can you please stop yelling ‘bird sex’ so loudly? You’re scaring the birds.” (DG)
On our way back, Gretchen made the same mistake I made last year when I drove back from CM through Philly/Harrisburg: she missed the exit for Harrisburg. (This time, I was sleeping!) We ended up on the turnpike for an extra hour or two, but it all worked out in the end.

3. It seemed like death was all around us all weekend. We found this tiny turtle near the hawkwatch platform at CM Point:
Dead-—we were too late to save him. Springtime can be so hard on the little ones. Any idea what kind of turtle this is? He was mostly black with red little speckles in a pattern on his underside and around the edge of his tiny though perfectly formed shell.

Another day as we walked on the Second Avenue jetty, looking between the huge blocks of rock to see what shells and stones had washed into the crevices, I encountered this:Having watched the waves crashing rather violently on the jetty, I figured it must’ve been easy for this little shark (maybe a nurse shark?) to be swept right onto the jetty and into this crevice by a big wave. He wasn’t alive, but that didn’t make it any easier. I got Gretchen to pull him out:I touched his skin a little bit—because how many people can say they've touched a shark? His body was very rubbery by this point (he was a little ripe), but the skin itself was tough and abrasive. Gretchen threw him back into the water so he could at least rest back in his home.

4. We stopped by this alpaca farm, hoping to be able to love up the cute little guys, but we didn't get any closer than this:
Probably for the best--we might've been tempted to snag one and put him in the car!

All in all, an exciting if soggy weekend. We got back last night about 8 p.m., exhausted, sandy, and happy to be home.

UPDATE--Checking out the Cape May sightings blog, I'm wondering if that was a Lesser Black-backed Gull (he was kinda small, but I had no other black-backs to compare him to). And I'm wondering if among those Laughing Gulls were some Bonaparte's. Only the Lesser BBG would be a lifer, but ???. Pete Dunne led the Meadows walk this morning, and I wanted to go soooo badly--but I had to come back to work!