Life lists

When a Big Year isn’t big enough…

A group of birders at the Bronx Botanical Gardens the other day heard a cry of “Connecticut!” Immediately they rushed back to the parking lot… to find a child saying excitedly, “Look, Mom! This bus is from Connecticut! And the car is from Maryland!” Big laughs all around, but that got me thinking — how about a locale Big Year?

Find your Connecticut Warbler in Hartford! A Nashville Warbler at the Country Music Hall of Fame! Philadelphia Vireo by the Liberty Bell!

Yes! Heading to Europe for my European Starling! W00t!

Yes! Heading to Europe for my European Starling! W00t!

Some would be a puzzle. Do I look for Acadian Flycatcher in a park in coastal Maine, or in the bayou? Is my life-bird victory dinner lobster or crayfish? If a Chickadee is in South Carolina, it’s probably a Carolina, but be sure to listen to its song!

While some are gimmees: Florida Scrub-Jay is found in Florida, period. Galapagos Penguin!

I could branch out to finding birds only in their named habitat — What are the odds of finding a Palm Warbler perched in a palm tree? If it’s in a Salix, does that make it a Willow Flycatcher? Can I find a Sandwich Tern at the deli?

Mourning Warbler habitat?

Mourning Warbler habitat?

And you can wind up your search for Brewer’s Blackbird somewhere like this.

anchor-brewery-beer-week-ipa

Off to Russia for a Muscovy Duck!

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Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, Life lists | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Short-eared owl, 11/21/13

So there I was last night, sitting on the hood of  my car peering into the thickening dusk, looking for a owl I just KNOW isn’t going to be there. Why do I bother? Anyone else goes to this spot, the bloody birds zoop back and forth across the road like commuters running for a train. Me? Five tries, five strikeouts. Why do I even bother? Why…

 

Wait. Rewind.

 

It’s Thursday morning, so I’m getting up at the edge of dawn, layering on the thermals and scraping hard frost from the car windows. Upriver, searching for waterfowl. All quiet on the riverfront: the Canada Geese are probably all out in cornfields foraging. Up in the Washington County grasslands, only a few raptors present yet. But it’s 40F, no wind and sunny, so you don’t waste a November day like this.

Reports from Saratoga Lake suggest a chance to pad our year numbers. I haven’t often birded around there — there’s not a lot of public access to the waterfront. (That was one of the hardest things for me to adjust to when we moved up here, that I couldn’t just walk along the shore. The first thing any of us kids learned on Long Island was the High Water Mark Rule: anything below the wrack line is public property, be damned to fences and ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Doesn’t work up here…) So I get an extensive guided tour of how to sneak legal peeks at the often frustratingly-distant waterbirds, where the Purple Martins nest, and the secret password that gets you in almost anywhere. Want to know what it is?

“I’m looking for The Eagle.” Yup. No one takes you seriously if you say you’re looking for gulls or sparrows. Mention an eagle and previously suspicious people will jump out of their cars to point out the exact tree The Eagle perches in.

I pick up a Horned Grebe at the extreme edge of scope range for my year count — 212 for the state, 202 for the region!

At 3:30 I’m back at my car in Mechanicville. You know the thing about Mechanicville? It’s about halfway between home and the grasslands, where in an hour or so Short-eared Owls hunt in the winter dusk. (You thought I’d never get back to the owls, right?)

And that’s where we came in, me on the hood of the car, increasingly frustrated, almost ready to pack it in as the last light fades. Then a gliding form ghosts along a hedgerow, color almost the same faded dun as the grasses, wingbeats soft as it courses just above the brush.

It stays in sight for perhaps three breaths before vanishing into the treeline. My life look at a Short-eared Owl. At last!

(year count: 213 for the state, 203 for Region 8)

Categories: Field trip, Life lists, New bird, NYS 2013, OMG bird, Species count | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

NYS list

ETA: my NYS list now stands at a not-too-shabby 227 species, due largely to HMBC and Thursday Birders field trips — thanks, guys! And, of course, a bit of sloppy book-keeping and species splitting. The latest state checklist stands at 480 birds (minus 6 either extinct or locally extirpated) so I’ve got a long way to go.

I’m not as much a lister as some (mostly male) birders, but I do have my life, state, and yard lists. They’re all in a mess, in notebooks with the pages falling out and all out of order. So! Here is my NYS list, fairly neatly arranged according to Peterson’s and not likely to fall out. 🙂

I made up the first version of this list in 1995, when I had 181 species. Then I dropped out of birding and didn’t add anything for over 8 years, and I’ve been adding a few at a time since then. As of today, the list stands at 199. Two hundred, here I come!

Surprise news, I can’t count! In fact, I have on this list exactly 200 birds! OK, three hundred, here I come!

Snow Goose, Brant, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Trumpeter Swan, Tundra Swan, Wood Duck, Gadwall, Eurasian Wigeon, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Mallard, Blue-winged Teal, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Ruddy Duck, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Northern Bobwhite, Ring-necked Pheasant, Ruffed Grouse, Wild Turkey, Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Pied-billed Grebe, Horned Grebe, Northern Gannet, American White Pelican, Double-crested Cormorant, American Bittern, Least Bittern, Great Blue Heron, Great Egret, Snowy Egret, Little Blue Heron, Tri-colored Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Glossy Ibis, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Osprey, Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, American Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, Virginia Rail, Common Moorhen, American Coot, Sandhill Crane, Black-bellied Plover, Semipalmated Plover, Piping Plover, Killdeer, American Oystercatcher, Spotted Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs, Willet, Lesser Yellowlegs, Hudsonian Godwit, Ruddy Turnstone, Red Knot, Sanderling, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Least Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Short-billed Dowitcher, Wilson’s Snipe, American Woodcock, Wilson’s Phalarope, Bonaparte’s Gull, Laughing Gull, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Caspian Tern, Black Tern, Common Tern, Forster’s Tern, Black Skimmer, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Black-billed Cuckoo, Barn Owl, Eastern Screech Owl, Great Horned Owl, Snowy Owl, Barred Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Common Night-hawk, Chimney Swift, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Belted Kingfisher, Red-headed Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-pewee, Alder Flycatcher, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatcher, Eastern Phoebe, Great-crested Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Northern Shrike, White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo, Blue-headed Vireo, Warbling Vireo, Red-eyed Vireo, Blue Jay, American Crow, Fish Crow, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Purple Martin, Tree Swallow, Northern Rough-winged Swallow, Bank Swallow, Barn Swallow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Red-breasted Nuthatch, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Carolina Wren, House Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Veery, Hermit Thrush, Wood Thrush, American Robin,Gray Catbird, Northern Mockingbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, American Pipit, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Nashville Warbler, Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Palm Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, Pine Warbler, Prairie Warbler,  Bay-breasted Warbler, Blackpoll Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, American Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Louisiana Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson’s Warbler, Canada Warbler, Eastern Towhee, American Tree Sparrow, Chipping Sparrow, Field Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Lincoln’s Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Snow Bunting, Scarlet Tanager, Northern Cardinal, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bobolink, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Rusty Blackbird, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird, Baltimore Oriole, Pine Grosbeak, Purple Finch, House Finch, Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, House Sparrow.

Categories: Life lists, Species count, What am dat bird? | 1 Comment

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