Saturday, November 20, 2010

On A Wild Snow Goose Chase

I work in the Bloomfield area and have been seeing what appeared to be 3 Snow Geese mixed in with a flock of Canada Geese at various locations in town. Unfortunately, chasing birds isn't part of my job description so I had to wait until the weekend before I could get a closer look at them. Bloomfield has a number of large corporate businesses that own property with huge grass lawns and man-made ponds where I found a Snow Goose and a Greater White-fronted Goose over the past couple of years. There has also a recent report of a Barnacle Goose in the area but I was unable to relocate it. This morning, I found the 3 juvenile Snow Geese hanging out at a soccer field at the Bloomfield High School. The white form of the juvenile Snow Goose has a grayish bill and a bit of dingy gray on the upper side. Snow Geese breed on the arctic tundra during the summer and pairs remain together for life.
Maybe it's time I think about getting some knee protection for those times when I decide to crawl across fields on my knees with a camera. My wife always says she likes surprises so she should be surprised when she finds these pants in the hamper! (Just kidding Joan-I already took care of them :)
video
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Monday, November 15, 2010

Stubborn Red-tail And Tiny Long-tail

I went to make my rounds at Wangunk Meadows on Sunday. I started the morning by taking a couple of photos from my truck window of this Red-tailed Hawk. I watched it as 3 crows came in to take a few dives at it. The crows even flew across the street to round up a few more crows to try to harass the hawk but it seemed immovable. I got out of my truck and walked across the grass to get closer. Still, the hawk didn't flinch. I thought it might be nice to get a picture of it flying off but decided to leave it be since it was so determined to stay on his branch.
I searched for birds in the fields and near overhanging trees and snags. I found the usual variety of sparrows including-White-crowned Sparrow, Belted kingfisher, 4 species of woodpeckers, Brown Creeper and and an Eastern Phoebe.
I was on my way out and noticed a small duck on the opposite side of the river that made me curious because it was in the middle of the channel by itself and was holding its position against the current. I tried to search my mind for a list of possibilities but I really wasn't sure (didn't have my field guide with me either). Long-tailed Duck was one possibility I considered but thought that they're only found near the shore. The only time I've seen them is in January at Old Saybrook. I took some photos and mega-cropped them when I came home. Sure enough, it is a female Long-tailed Duck. I checked with the duxperts to confirm the id. It is unusual to see them this far inland so it was an interesting find for me.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Turnstone Ruddy & His Sanderling Buddy

I arrived at Hammonasset Saturday in time to see the last glimpse of sun before it disappeared behind the clouds. I started the day by walking along the trails on Cedar Island hoping I might find an owl tucked away in one of the cedars. Twice I flushed a bird that might have been a small owl but couldn't relocate it. In the nature center parking lot there were Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, and a few peeps rambling around. I took a few photos but the birds seemed to disappear into the pale grass and gravel background.
I worked my way over to Meig's Point where I found a flock of about 30 Sanderlings. They were running along the tide line picking out morsels of food and at the same time trying to avoid getting clobbered by the waves. It seems like they've had plenty of practice. It find it interesting that they don't have a backward facing toe like the other Sandpipers do. I was curious as to why some individual birds go off on their own to look for food away from the rest of the flock. Are they outcasts? loners? or just picky about where they get their seafood? I was kneeling in the sand wearing my light grey pants trying to move in for a closer look. I must have looked like an over-sized Sanderling because they didn't seem very concerned by my presence.

There were also a couple of Ruddy Turnstones in the area. They really do turn stones to search for food sometimes.
Turnstone Ruddy and his Sanderling buddy
went walking near the shore side by side
they had breakfast by the sea..
but then they had to flee...
as any lunch would soon be swallowed by the tide-
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I went to Hammonasset because there is always the possibility of finding a rare or uncommon species there. Instead, I spent the morning watching common shorebirds, but that was a conscious decision. My philosophy about birding right now is to do whatever feels right at the time and not to worry about what I could or should be doing. It seems that I'm more observant if I follow this approach instead of following the same pattern every time. Watching these birds as they searched for food
was a nice change of pace from the usual seek and identify mode.
video
click to play
Here's some footage of the turnstone in action. You may want to turn your speakers down a bit because there was quite a bit of wind that day.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Birding Blind 2: Beneath The Platform

I made a stop at the Helen Carlson Bog in Portland on Sunday. I spent most of the morning looking and listening for birds from the top of the platform. I was just getting ready to leave when it occurred to me that the support walls beneath the platform might serve well as a blind for taking photos of birds. I believe the wooden walls were designed with spaces to let water pass through when the water level was high but it also serves well as a place to stick a camera lens through.
I had to wait for a quite a while before any birds showed up but a Dark-eyed Junco finally showed up.
Next, a small flock of bluebirds took turns landing on branches that were fairly close.
The photos didn't come out as well as I would have liked but I was good to find another place where I can have an opportunity to get a little closer to the birds without them seeing me. Finding more ready made blinds is on my list of things to do this year.
I also found this wren sneaking around the edge of the bog. I'm guessing it's probably a Winter Wren from what I can see of it. Some of the other birds I saw at the bog included: Red-shouldered Hawks, Common Ravens which were making some strange vocalizations, Wood Ducks, Mallards, yuk-ducks, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpecker, Ruby-crowned kinglets, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and about a dozen White-throated Sparrows. Some of the sparrows were singing their old-sam-peabody song while others were busy rustling through the leaves looking for food. I tried to sneak up on them by crawling on my hands and knees. Needless to say, that method didn't work as well as the blind.