Friday, October 29, 2010

Cape May quickie

one of about a million Yellow-rumps




That just might cover our first night and morning's birding here in Cape May. I'd need way more words to describe today.

They're having one of the biggest migration fall-outs in ten years, according to the local experts. We've seen at least 5,000 Yellow-rumped Warblers, another probably 10,000 American Robins, probably a 500-count mixed swallow flock (Northern Rough-winged, Tree (!), and a couple of Cave! LIFER!), and more. It's truly been a day unlike any other for me.

Some quick photo uploads:I think this is a juvenile Bald Eagle, but Susan was hoping it might be the Golden Eagle that was banded later (after we saw him) this afternoon.

We saw a couple of Northern Rough-wings:

We birded with Bill Thompson III this morning at the Beanery:

presidential birding

More later!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cape May Countdown: 2 days!

Really it's just ONE day, though, because we're leaving tomorrow around 12:30! AB got out of her meeting, so we're on our way early. Susan will already be there, and I think she'll be hanging with our new ABA President Jeff Gordon and his wife (my friend from high school) Liz, so I'm TOTALLY pumped! There's also a gathering on Friday night at the C-View, so I'll see everyone! Beth, the other Beth I don't know, and maybe even BOTB! Sooooooooooooo excited!

We're already packed, which was easy because I've been prepping for days now. I have my to-do list for the morning (drop off AB at school, get oil change, pack car, fix everything up for Nib and the kitties, buy some booze, and then get AB and GO!).

As usual, I've already made my Wish List for lifers that are hanging around in Cape May, according to eBird:
Lesser Scaup
Eurasian Widgeon
Black Scoter
Northern Gannet
Hudsonian Godwit
Wilson's Snipe
Royal Tern
Parasitic Jaeger
Nashville Warbler
Connecticut Warbler
Rough-legged Hawk
Western Kingbird
Cave Swalllow
Rough-legged Hawk
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Swainson's Thrush
Lapland Longspur
Seaside Sparrow
Ruddy Turnstone
Short-billed Dowitcher

There are countless other birds on their latest sightings list that I need pictures of too, so my battery's all charged up and my memory card is blank and waiting for photos! I think I've gathered all the photos I've ever taken (though I didn't count some blurs), and I have 180 photos of my 279 lifers--that's a lot of photos still to get! The worrisome part is that I don't have photos of some lifers I saw in CA and TX--TX I'll visit again, but CA? I don't know when I'll be back out there.

I'll be studying my Sibley and my Shorebird Guide tonight, focusing on things like Seaside Sparrows and Whimbrels and stuff, just to make sure I am familiar with the field marks.

Can you tell I'm totally geeking out?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Cape May Countdown: 3 days

That's three days until Friday's day of fun and birding!

I've been working on a new project lately: getting photographs of every lifebird I've gotten. I've had to search back through the blog for some photos, as I don't have any of the photographs I took from 2006-2008 (they were on Kat's computer), and I either haven't always been able to get photos of other birds I've seen or I must've put them on my old Macintosh computer that's in Texas, so I don't have access to them right now. Still, I'm working on compiling and organizing. I don't have an exact count just yet but I working on it.

I'm also getting the eBird "needs alert" from Cape May, and if I'm lucky I'll be able to not only get some lifers but add some more lifer photographs to my file. So that will be an added challenge!

I'm hoping that AB can reschedule a late Thursday afternoon meeting so we can leave earlier. Can't wait to get there!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Lifer 279, in which Delia freezes half to death

Most people see Golden-crowned Kinglets up here fairly regularly; I had never seen one until today, however. I'd seen bunches of Ruby-crowned before, but I finally got the Golden:I was lucky enough to get this photograph in which you can see the golden spot on its head. Sweet!

We went camping last night at Greenwood Furnace State Park; I was anxious to try out some fire-making and cooking techniques I've picked up from watching my favorite show, Man vs. Wild. Does anyone else watch this show? I LOVE IT! I actually purchased a FireSteel a few weeks ago, eager to spark a fire in a tinder ball of dry grass, just like Bear Grylls does it. I've been driving AB crazy by sparking it in the house or taking it with us wherever we go "in case we're in a survival situation!" I also have been wanting to cook something over an open flame on a spit made from a tree branch or something. Primal!

So I talked AB into going camping last night; we collected sticks and things for our fire to supplement the firewood, and I gathered a little ball of dry grass. Turns out, the dry grass wasn't so dry and didn't really catch the spark. Toilet paper, however, goes up like a mofo, as do cotton balls laced with Vaseline (a trick I learned from my camping book)! So, yes, okay--Bear doesn't use those things on his show, but I'll bet he would if he had some handy! Anyway, I got the fire going pretty quickly, and then it was time to prep the vittles.

As a recovering vegetarian for the last year or so, I've added a little tuna and chicken to my diet, so I'd prepped some chicken breasts in a Greek dressing marinade (Gazebo Room brand--it's the best!). I cut them into strips with my tiny pocketknife (I'm still trying to convince AB that I need a big Bear Grylls knife, but I'm still working on that one) and--again, unlike Bear--skewered a couple of strips on my awesome roasting fork. As a backup plan, I also put some strips into heavy-duty foil and set them in the coals along with some foil-wrapped potatoes. It took a while to ensure we wouldn't eat undercooked chicken and get sick, but the results were fantastic! I couldn't decide what to pretend the meat was; I mean, it couldn't be rabbit, obviously:Someone would not approve! It couldn't be Wild Turkey; I love those birds! So I just pretended it was a feral farm chicken, captured in a clever snare I rigged after stalking it for hours.Or something like that. AB just rolls her eyes and smiles at me during these moments. She's a good sport.

Our fire kept us quite warm until about 10:30; we went to bed feeling warm and happy. AB was prepared with her fleece and sleep pants; in my survival mode, I insisted I was quite warm in my boxies and a t-shirt.

First, I felt the cold in my legs--it was like the ground was radiating cold. My feet were still kinda warm, but my legs felt a little cold. I got the sweatpants. Then I added the fleece pullover I got at the L.L. Bean mothership store. I huddled against AB for warmth. I insisted I didn't need socks, but OH MY GOD WHY DIDN'T I BRING MY WOOL SOCKS!?

In short, we froze half to death. Worse, I had to get up to pee about five times (I have a tiny bladder), and we were roughing it at the walk-up site so the bathroom was waaayyyy too far away. Needless to say, I needed a shower BADLY when we got home.

So this morning when we took a walk to warm up, seeing a lifer was a good way to start the day. We also saw several Hairy Woodpeckers (but no Downy), Least Flycatchers, Blue Jays, and American Crows. The little songbirds were flitting around so quickly that those were the only positive IDs I was able to make.

P.S.--my countdown to Cape May begins tomorrow!

Friday, October 22, 2010



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

More Maine and some New Hampshire too

I love weather vanes.

I never finished showing you everything we saw on our New England trip! Here are some pictures from around beautiful Bethel, Maine:

The mountains there are so much taller than those around me here in PA, which is why Bethel is a big skier's destination. AB grew up there.

We saw a flock of these birds as we walked around town--UPDATE!--female Purple Finches!

This was a bit of a mystery, but only because I always overdo it on the fieldguide analysis. Thanks to Laurent from Michigan for the help!

Here's a sweet little Dark-eyed Junco from AB's grandma's back porch:Kinda pale, no? A juvenile or a female?

We went canoeing on Songo Pond with an old teacher of AB's; I didn't have to row, sitting in the middle and just taking pictures:We had to stay out of the wind by sticking to the leeward side of the pond, and we didn't see many birds at all.

We drove the Kankamagus Highway into New Hampshire:
The line of cars to climb Mount Washington was waaaaaay too long, so we didn't do that. But we saw the Presidentials:

More breath-taking scenery:The Swift River, in a not-so-swift area

Rock faces near the Lower Falls of the Swift River

Beaver Pond

We spent a little time in Northampton, which was nice -- an interesting contrast to the college-town atmosphere of State College. It was much more funky and had more (and more interesting) shops and restaurants, much more like what I expect a college town to be like.

Well, it's late and I'm tired, so I'll leave you with another nice photo:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tribute to a friend of a friend

Back in March when I was driving back to PA from my California-Texas odyssey, Niblet and I had the wonderful opportunity to "get native" and stay with my good friend Susan and her family, including her sweet pup Nellie:I just found out that Nellie passed on last month; I've been checking my favorite blogs only sporadically lately, as I'm often working until 9 or later every night. But tonight I read this post, and it made me think of the one chance I got to meet Nellie:She was a sneaky kisser, that dog. A sweet and sneaky kisser.

Big big hugs to you and the girls, Susan.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

My first Big Sit

There was a lot of standing at our Big Sit

I joined the State College Bird Club's fourth annual Big Sit out at Bald Eagle State Park this morning; it's my first Big Sit ever, and I really enjoyed it. The leaves are at their peak right now:

I got a few pictures; our one warbler species was the oh-so-common butter-butt:

Yellow-rumped Warblers were abundant, flitting about all morning until about 11.

From the time I got there until about a half-hour before I left, this Great Blue Heron was practically sitting in our circle.
"I sometimes like to come out here and ponder the mysteries of life."

Here he is, trying to swallow a good-sized sunfish:


This immature Bald Eagle flew right over our heads, maybe fifty feet up at most, but I didn't get my camera on him until he was almost gone.

A Greater Yellowlegs dropped by:He stuck around for a couple of hours.

This Common Loon began calling to some other loons around the bend at the marina:He stayed under water for almost a minute at one point.

I met AB out at Fisherman's Paradise for a nice little walk along the creek; check out these Woolly Bear caterpillars:
Does the wide cinnamon-colored band mean a harsh winter?

We also saw this little love scene:I had googled red dragonfly and found some great info; I wrote the following: "Is this a Ruddy Darter or a Common Darter? I checked this web site for following information. The size and coloring seem to match Ruddy, but they're far more rare than the Common. The Common is supposed to have 'light patches on the thorax,' which this one lacks; it's also more orange than the Ruddy. This specimen is more red, not orange--at least in my opinion. I can't tell for certain if the legs are black (Common) or red (Ruddy), or whether it has a 'waist' like the Ruddy. I only got this one slightly blurry shot before they took off. Looking at the female, it's also hard to tell. Female Ruddies are 'greeny-brown' while the Commons are 'yellowish-brown.'" Then it occurred to me to check the range. Dangit, both of these species are found in the UK and Europe!


So -- Autumn Meadowhawk? Help, John!

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Weekend in New England, Part 1

What a great weekend we had in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont! Our New England whirl started with a visit to AB's parents in southern New Hampshire and a trip to Plum Island, MA.

Here are some of the birds we saw there, despite the rain and cold:A young Great Black-backed Gull, maybe first year? I'm basing this on the pics in my Sibley.
A full-grown GBBG. There were a LOT of these gulls all over New England; I didn't see many other kinds of gulls, at least not sitting still so I could ID them.

In the Salt Pannes area of the park, we saw these guys:A lot of birds in this group. I think I see a Least Sandpiper there, in front of the bird on the left. The bird with the wings in the air? We'll get to him. Next to him on the right are what I believe to be two Greater Yellowlegs. Then there's the bird in the lower right. Let's look at the next picture.
Okay--there are a few Greater Yellowlegs, but there is still the matter of the bird in the foreground and the bird who's lighter in plumage and facing to the left. Next picture:
The birds, the pale one near the middle and the one in the foreground, were the same kind of bird, but neither one wanted to show me any kind of helpful hint for the camera. I have gone over and over my Shorebird Guide and my Sibley, and the closest I can come is winter-plumaged Black-bellied Plovers. Comments, anyone?

More pics of them:

Here's the best one I got:
Black-bellied Plover?
See how camera-shy he was?

We also saw several Snowy Egrets:

I wish the weather had been better, and that we'd gotten there earlier in the day. Still, it was nice out there. I'd like to go back there soon.