Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At last, some birds!

I've been seeing a lot of Red-tailed Hawks, American Kestrels, Red-shouldered Hawks, and possibly even a Rough-legged Hawk (but I didn't get a good enough view to call it a lifer), and today I went down to the Duck Pond near PSU and saw some nice ducks:a cute little female Ruddy Duck, complete with perky stiff tail, and

and a beautiful female Redhead. There is some back-and-forth on the listserv today about whether this is a Redhead or a Scaup -- I think the consensus is Redhead. Any other offers?

I'm also super pumped about three upcoming events:
1. Flying to Boston tomorrow for New Year's with AB and some of her old friends.
2. My bff Gretchen is moving back to State College next month!
3. I'm participating in the Christmas Bird Count for Bald Eagle State Park on Sunday! (that means a quick turnaround on the Boston trip)
So much fun, so little time!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas in New England

AB and I spent Christmas in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, visiting AB's family and friends. We got caught by the big storm on our drive home on Sunday, though we'd thought it would miss us. It wasn't too bad, though; AB's a pro on the snow.

We had a great time with AB's parents and grandma, and I even got to walk on a frozen pond!So cool!

There was a big beaver dam across the pond, and lots of the trees looked like this:Real beaver teeth cut that tree down! I've never seen anything like it. I wish we could've seen the beavers, but I'm guessing they were underwater in their lodge.

AB's parents' dog Nora chases BIG sticks, no matter what the condition of the water:Apparently, little sticks hold no challenge for her. She was so funny, running and slipping around and grabbing the stick in mid-slide.

Didn't see too many birds, but I did get some great bird gifts! A neat bird whistle, bird books, and a beautiful cup:
and this cool sweatshirt:
My sister Nora got me that one. Cool!

Hope everyone had a great holiday/Christmas/Xmas/Yule/Hannukah/Kwanzaa/etc. (I'm doing my part in the Liberals' War on Christmas!)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

beginning to freeze

It was a very nasty day out at Bald Eagle State Park; temps just above freezing, a wicked wind, and steady light rain. Gretchen and Laura and I drove out there about 1.5 hrs after I got a text from a bird clubber that there was a big flock of Common Goldeneyes along with lots of mergansers out there.

We were disappointed to find only smaller rafts of Common and Red-breasted Mergansers and no Goldeneyes. Some very blurry (click to embiggen) photos:
That tall one near the middle up top isn't a Goldeneye, right? Or is it? It seems to have the white cheek patch, but I don't remember seeing the patch through the scope--and I LOOKED.

Here's where you can really see some good wing and neck markings.

Look at this bird sticking his neck up, on the right:
Almost goose-like, no? But
a merganser. So we saw 20 birds when I snapped these pics, but when I was looking in the scope a little after these guys flew and landed again, the numbers were lower and those are the ones I went with for my eBird count below.

There was also a large flock of at least 250 Canada Geese, and mixed into that flock was one odd goose with pink/orange legs and feet, a white ring around the base of his bill (which was not black but not orange either--orange-black?), some random white feathers on the back of his tall black neck, and whitish cheek patch (sort of dirty white) but definitely NOT a white chinstrap like the other Canadas. It was just a patch on either check, with black underneath. It looked somewhat like a Greater White-fronted Goose but somehow NOT. Here are the three best pics:

So you can see that his body is more Canada-like, but a little lighter and his tail and rump were DEFINITELY like a Greater White-fronted, with the shorter tail and white tip, rather than the wide bands of white and then black of a Canada's tail. I really think this was a cross between a Canada and a GWFG. Is that possible? At one point we saw them flying and that's when I noticed the distinctly non-Canada tail. None of my guides have any juvenile Canada illustrations, and this goose was the ONLY one in the entire flock with these weird markings. Is this a Greater White-fronted Goose, or a cross between a Canada and a GWFG, a weird-looking Canada, or what?

A local listserver said that it kinda looks like some of these Barnacle x White-fronted crosses. Maybe?

Our whole list:
Canada Goose 250 (including the weirdo)
Mallard 4
Common Merganser 6
Red-breasted Merganser 4
Ruddy Duck 1
Bonaparte's Gull 10
Ring-billed Gull 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 3
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Eastern Bluebird 3
European Starling 15
Northern Cardinal 1

I was really hoping to see a Goldeneye; it would've been a lifer.