Posts Tagged With: heron

More action at the Flats

Shorebirds continue to trickle in at Cohoes Flats. We local birders need to set up a rota so someone’s there every day to greet the newcomers. Just this week in addition to the Willet we’ve played host to a Dowitcher, probably Short-billed.

Important protip – always go for the butt shot for those all-important undertail coverts!

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Now, I know what you’re going to say. “Naomi, if that’s a Short-billed Dowitcher, what the heck does a Long-billed look like?!?” Answer: practically the same. They were considered the same species until the 1950s and their beak lengths overlap. Peterson’s Birding By Impression says they “…have long been regarded by experts as unidentifiable in many field conditions…”, and who am I to argue with the experts? But I’ll try. First, Long-bills are more central-to-western, while Shorts migrate down through New York and New England. Longs are more uniformly and darkly red, while Shorts are lighter to white on the belly and vent. Their flight calls are different, but who wants to scare the bird off to ID it? In conclusion, the odds favor Short-billed Dowitcher, but I’ll readily accept correction.

Also here today, a Black-bellied Plover.

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Keep looking — there’s a shorebird in there!

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All part of the Cohoes Flats experience — lots of nooks and crannies for cryptically-colored birds to vanish into.

Great egrets are passing through too, probably a dozen or more this week.

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Killdeer up the wazoo, of course, and their little cousins Semipalmated Plovers. One black necklace instead of two.

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Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, much easier to tell apart when mixed flocks are dashing around.

Upturned longer bill and thick legs on the Greater (right).

Plus an excitable and ambitious Merlin pursuing a crow.

With today’s cold front passing through, I wonder what tomorrow will bring?

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Categories: Bird photos, cohoes, shorebirds | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Bird everywhere you go.

The meeting place for a recent field trip was a suburban Dunkin’ Donuts. So all we could expect there would be dumpster divers like Starlings and House Sparrows, right?

Wrong. Turns out there’s a storm catch basin behind the store. In 20 minutes, we saw Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Phoebes, Cedar Waxwings, Red-winged Blackbirds, young American Crows begging, American Robins, a Baltimore Oriole…

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… and two Green Herons, almost blending into the muddy foliage.

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AND the first of an even dozen American Kestrels for the day!

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, scenery | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

My father always called them field glasses.

 

I don’t know if that was an army thing, or just old-fashioned on his part. But whenever we started out on a drive, he’d ask, “Do we have field glasses?” The answer was always ‘yes’, of course. They lived in their case hanging from the driver’s seat headrest. They watched ospreys and gulls, shorebirds and seabirds, and on one memorable occasion a Snowy Owl.

Eventually my interest in birding deepened and $25 bins from Sears didn’t cut it anymore. So I moved up to these:

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Notice the wear of 25 years, eroded paint, rubber eyecup rotted and replace with a glued-on washer, the adjustable diopter loose and needing to be screwed back on regularly. Even the button with the maker’s name and numbers is long gone.

I’d been saying literally for years that I wanted, needed new binoculars, but every time I had money put aside Real Life interfered. New tires for the car, textbooks, a new roof, new tires for both cars… So I carried my old ones, and waited.

I broke my elbow this winter, broke it badly enough to need surgery, as badly (the surgeon said) as it was possible to break it. Long cold months housebound, and to cheer me Bill said, “I think it’s time to buy those new binoculars.” Well, except that I couldn’t bend my arm far enough to hold them, lacked the strength to lift them, and couldn’t fine-tune the focus with my clumsy hand. But now I had something to look forward to! Just like with my shoulder, I told the PT my goal — get to warbler-neck position by mid April. Slowly, slowly I gained more range of motion. And then on April 13, this happened:

We drove up to Wild Birds Unlimited in Satatoga and spent several hours trying out all the pairs in our price range (and some wildly out — hello Swarovskis!), ultimately settling on Eagle Ranger ED 10x42s. On sale, too!

Of course we promptly had to take them for a test run, so stopped at the nearby Bog Meadow Brook Nature Trail, a rail trail running through wetlands and woods.

A pair of Great Egrets stalked the shallows.

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Palm Warblers are among the earliest to come north, but this little guy didn’t want to move into the light.

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So, after six weeks, how do I like them? I’m delighted! There’s been a learning curve, of course — they’re heavier than my old bins, and with increased  magnification, I sometimes don’t realize I’m focussed on a more distant tree! But the amount of light they let in, compared to my oldies, is amazing. I can actually see the colors on a sparrow’s beak and leg! I’m really looking forward to shorebird season and how much plumage detail I’ll be able to pick out. I can tell this will be a long and happy partnership.

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I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

…hopefully with better lighting.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

Little Blue Heron, 9/1/13

The word went out this morning that a Little Blue Heron was on the pond at Vischer Ferry. I couldn’t get there until evening, but despite such oppressive humidity my glasses kept fogging up, at 6:45 there was still enough light to see an immature LBH moving around.  It didn’t look anything like the birds pictured in the top pictures in that link, being in pure white first-year plumage. So how to tell it from other white herons?

Great Egret is just that — a great big bird, almost the size of a Great Blue Heron. (There is a Great White Heron, a color morph of GBH, but they’re only found in the Florida Keys.)

Cattle Egret — shorter necked and all-over squatter in shape.

Snowy Egret— here it gets harder. Same size. Adults in breeding plumage have the extravagant aigrettes that almost caused their extinction, and black legs with spiffy yellow feet*. To tell young Snowys and Little Blues apart, you have to focus on beak and leg details. Snowys have yellow and black on both, while Little Blues’ are more green/grey.

So, this bird was pure white, smaller than the Great Egrets it foraged near, with distinctly greenish legs and grayish beak. Little Blue Heron, species #200 for the year. It was quite active, flying from perch to water and up again. A flyover Green Heron bothered it enough to make it chase the darker bird away. At last it flew over the trees and out of sight, and I abandoned the towpath to the mosquitoes and the dusk.

On my way in, I spotted this pretty little Milk Snake on the edge of the path. Only about 8″ long, it barely moved as I approached. I think it was full of its latest meal.

Young Milk Snake

Young Milk Snake

 

*Somewhere in my slides I have pictures of a particularly fearless Snowy Egret in Florida. It walked right up to us on the beach on Sanibel Island, so close that I could get shots of its black toenails.

Categories: bird behavior, Field trip, NYS 2013, Rara avis, the occasional herp | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

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