Posts Tagged With: bird behavior

I aten’t dead.*

I ended 2014 on a down note, but this has been a decent birding year despite an awful lot of Real Life™ intruding. But I shall strive to blog on, nevertheless!

It’s appropriate to start again today since I hit a significant number — 200 bird species in my Region 8 area, with the unexpected arrival of this ghostly-pale Western Willet at the Cohoes Flats. Willets (Eastern subspecies) are common all along the coast and I saw them often back in my Queens days. Up here, though, we get the Western sub, and not many of them. A quick check of eBird showed this is the first report since 2011!

I had to play with these photos a bit to bring out the subtle colors of the bird. In the glaring sunlight against bleached rocks, the Willet almost disappeared.

This may be my favorite bird picture I’ve ever taken. I was disappointed at first that I hadn’t caught the wing fully extended, showing off the bold black-and-white pattern, but I love the arc of stretch and the tiptoes.

Willet

I shifted over to my perch above the spillway. The lighting was marginally better but the change in elevation made the bird almost invisible. Only its reflection gave it away!

IMG_2908

Just how long are those legs?

IMG_2905

Birders (and parents of small children!) are likely the only people who can’t wait for summer to be over. A change in shorebirds is the earliest sign that migration is just beginning. It’s almost time for Confusing Fall Warblers!

*Obligatory Pratchett reference.

Advertisements
Categories: Bird photos, cohoes, shorebirds | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Casual eagle

I saw this Bald Eagle in the drizzly mist today.

IMG_1569

As long as I watched her she stood in this casual pose, one foot dangling, talons loosely clasped, surveying the marsh below. Like a child in a tree fort, one foot tucked under, one swinging.

IMG_1568

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, raptors | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Osprey at Montezuma, 9/25

I’m trying to get better at photographing birds in flight so I practiced on this osprey circling to hunt.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, montezuma nwr, Osprey | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Trumpeter Swans at Montezuma, 9/25

It was a beautiful day at Montezuma NWR as we headed home after a week in the Ithaca area. You couldn’t ask for a nicer view over Tschache Pool.

IMG_1509

A family of Trumpeter Swans swam close to the dike, giving me better views of them than I’d ever had before.

IMG_1505

IMG_1520

They nest on the marshes of the refuge, and eventually the whole family paddled into view.

IMG_1523

I think the upper bird has a damaged wing. It looks almost as if it’s twisted upside-down.

IMG_1525

Tundra vs Trumpeter is a real ID challenge. Tundra Swans usually (but not always) have a yellow spot on the lores — the area between the beak and eye. Even if that’s lacking, the eye is usually more defined — a circle at the end of the beak, while the Trumpeter’s eye seems absorbed by the black of the beak. The Trumpeter’s beak and head form a straighter wedge shape, like a Canvasback’s head.

(Also, this family has been watched and identified all summer, so I’m pretty sure!)

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, montezuma nwr, swans | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

If it’s Tuesday this must be Newcomb; or, a whirlwind tour of the ADKs

 

At 4:00 AM my alarm went off. At 4:02, a second alarm, just in case… Only for you, birds. Only for you. I grabbed my gear and stumbled off into the still-dark morning, the only sound the unwearying Carolina Wren. We met at our rendezvous, and then up to the North Country for a long day birding.

I don’t often see Common Loons in full breeding plumage. They’re usually in plainer winter garb while passing through the local lakes. On Little Tupper Lake, we watched two preen and dive.

Sabattis Circle Road paid off immediately. A Broad-winged Hawk carrying prey exited fast, pursued by Blue Jays. At least a dozen warbler species, four thrushes, and an assortment of sparrows and vireos serenaded us. When we stopped, within minutes some Gray Jays squabbled by (more on those later!). After a family of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers moved through, we were almost complacently dismissive of another woodpecker, until we realized its solid dark back marked it as one of our target species for the day — Black-backed Woodpecker. Lifer!

In the background we’d been hearing a flycatcher sound off — che-bek, che-bek. Or was it? More of a che-LEK? We fine-tuned our ears and confirmed — Yellow bellied Flycatcher. Second life bird of the day!

IMG_1106

We could easily have spent the rest of the morning walking along the road, listening to bird song and examining the bog plant life.

But we had plenty of place to go yet. Off to Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center!

I hadn’t been here in 25 years and the place has certainly changed. I want to move in…

Another place you could easily spend a day or more wandering the trails, but we just took a quick look across Heron Marsh for possible waders. No luck, so we broke for lunch at Steve’s hot dog wagon. Don’t be a meanie, buy a weenie! How could we resist?

Next stop was Bloomingdale Bog and its famous performing Gray Jays. The way it works is, on the way in the trail, you place your offering on the altar — or, toss some nuts on the platform feeder. By the time you head back, the jays have passed the word and they’ll be waiting for you. Offer food on your palm and they’ll fly in and grab it. I had one immature Gray Jay swoop in for walnuts, and I was so excited I couldn’t even think of trying to use my camera. I was one of the lucky few — the birds might have been unnerved by our numbers (a dozen) and the quantity of treats offered. Where to go first??

Oddball sighting of the day — this Vesper Sparrow, normally seen in grassland areas like shorn fields and airports. What was it doing here?

Bird life was quieting down as the day heated up, so I switched my focus to insects.

Our final destination was Intervale Lowlands, in Lake Placid. How I wish we’d had a whole day here, too! The 160 acre preserve is intensively managed and monitored to study population,weather and habitat changes and visitors are encouraged to share their observations to build up the databank.

So now I’m planning out a multi-day excursion for next year, giving all those sites (and others!) the time and attention they deserve.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, flowers, insects, Life bird!, New bird, Rara avis, scenery | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Taunted by an empid.

So, you’re feeling confident in your bird ID? Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs, first-winter Blackpoll/Bay-breasted Warbler, worn-plumage Sparrows no challenge anymore? well, my young Padawan, do I have a bird family for you.

MEET THE EMPIDS!

That’s birder shorthand for the baffling family of Empidonax flycatchers. Around here we have Alder, Willow, Least and Yellow-bellied, and every bloody one of them is “Best identified by call.”

But what do you do when they don’t call?

That’s the puzzle we faced today at Mosher Marsh, a wetland preserve near Amsterdam, NY. This empid flew to the top of a shrub and posed for us.

“Left profile!”

IMG_1063

“Or is my right profile better?”

IMG_1060

“How about a rear view? That help?”

IMG_1058

(He offered us full-frontal, too, but I wasn’t quick enough to catch a shot.)

We stood on the boardwalk and stared at him. A Willow Flycatcher called from the right. “FRRRITZ-bew!” An Alder Flycatcher replied from the right. “FREEbeer!”

IMG_1057

And our International Bird of Mystery sat in the middle, saying nothing.

At length we gave up the struggle, entering on our trip list the admission of defeat: Empid Sp? An air of mockery followed us in retreat.

 

 

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, scenery, What am dat bird? | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Ithaca is birdeous, too. Or, frequently distracted by birds.

For five years now I’ve wanted to spend some time birding around Ithaca but we always seem to be in a rush, dropping kids off or picking them up. So when Will’s graduation was near we decided to spend a few extra days, booking a cabin in Robert H. Treman State Park.

You have to drive across the creek to enter the campground.

IMG_1014

The first afternoon, after unpacking, we lounged about listening to the falls and forest sounds. A pair of Carolina Wrens chattered nonstop, fluttering from tree to roof and under the rafters, I realized the squeaking was coming from a nest and one by one the fledglings popped out, bounced off the ground and almost immediately fluttered up to anything they could cling to: a tree trunk, the side of the cabin, or ME! One tiny bundle of fluff clung to my shirt for a minute before gathering the energy to take off into the hobblebush, and another used me as a rest stop while flying between trees.

Eventually five young wrens had emerged and the parents lured them away — all but one, the bird on the left above. It was the last one out of the nest, last to get off the ground at all, and as long as I watched was never able to fly more than a few feet. When I saw it last it was hunkered down in some undergrowth. The parents by then had stopped calling to it and moved off with its stronger sibs.

One afternoon we walked part way up the Rim Trail — we had a deadline that day, so only went halfway up and had to pick up the pace on the way downhill. There was still time for a long look at a Scarlet Tanager overhead, a satisfying look after trying to catch a glimpse the day before at Buttermilk Falls. How something the color of a firetruck can be so hard to see among green leaves! But this guy decided to be generous with his beauty.

IMG_0972

After this we really did had to hurry, so when I saw a warbler with a yellow face and black throat, I mentally checked it off as “Black-throated Green, seen a million of ’em,” and kept going. We were almost back to the cabin when I slapped my forehead — bright yellow face, black at the back and top of the head — damn, I’d charged right past a Hooded Warbler, the best look I’d ever had.

Of course we had another reason to be in Ithaca besides birds and hikes…

IMG_0995

…though birds made an appearance at graduation too. One of the resident Red-tails soared overhead and landed on a light pole to rearrange its lunch.

A model plane equipped with a camera took aerial photography of the festivities.

IMG_0994

I kept mistaking it for another hawk.

And here’s our star of the show:

IMG_1003

William L. Feldhusen, BA, Math.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Mammals too, Nests | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Pine Bush ramble, 5/31/14

I decided to check out some of the outlying areas of the Albany Pine Bush that I hadn’t visited before. It was a perfect day for a walk, and the lupines were in bloom.

IMG_1037

I looked at the spot off Lincoln Ave where the Red-headed Woodpeckers were last year. No one had reported seeing them so far, but it’s always worth a try for such striking birds. No luck, but I watched these guys soak up the sun before catching a thermal. So sue me, I think Turkey Vultures are photogenic.

IMG_1029

There’s a bird in here somewhere…

IMG_1033

Oh! There he is! Well, that wasn’t very helpful at all!

Take my word to it -- it's a Red-eyed Vireo.

Take my word to it — it’s a Red-eyed Vireo.

Indigo Buntings weren’t any more cooperative so I put down the camera and just enjoyed their blue lightning glow in the sun as they flashed in and out of cover.

This Eastern Phoebe posed with its breakfast — a huge long legged horrifying spider. Go Phoebe!

IMG_1031

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, insects, scenery | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The usual suspects, part III

When I hear a Pileated Woodpecker drumming or calling, I look up. That’s not always the right direction — Pileateds are often found at the base of rotting trees, excavating the ant larvae they love so much. This handsome fellow was tossing chips about and ‘wuk-wuk-wuk’ing at top volume.

We’re so fortunate to have these spectacular birds regularly dine at the dead trees in our swamp. If you have a dead tree that’s not in a problematic location, let it stand! Who knows who will call it home?

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

One of these birds is not like the others…

Can you tell? Hint: these are all Goldeneye. The brown-headed birds are (probably*) all female and immature Common Goldeneye, and all but one of the black-and-white birds are male Common Goldeneye. That one exception…

Do you see the one that doesn’t match, a visitor from the far north and west?

That’s a male Barrow’s Goldeneye, life bird and NYS Species #255! After striking out twice last weekend, I was lucky that the bird was still hanging around this morning. So after errands we headed back upriver hoping third time was the charm. I was beginning to despair when the river looked nearly birdless, but then a good flock of waterfowl moved in and at last (with help) we were able to pick him out of the crowd. We spent the pleasantly springlike afternoon enjoying the ducks’ courtship performances.

Despite their best yodeling, the ladies did not look impressed.

IMG_0504_2

Look at that beautiful eye! It’s obvious where they get their name.

Goldeneye are diving ducks, so sometimes just as I was getting the camera on them they’d do this:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Song Sparrow affirmed that spring really is coming, and he just had to sing about it!

IMG_0505

 

 

 

*One sharp-eyed birder spotted one female with more yellow on her beak — probably a female Barrow’s. I was happy enough to be able to pick out the male!

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, Life bird!, New bird, Rara avis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.