A Connecticut native with an interest in birding shares his outdoor adventures
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Do Birds Sing Jazz?
Here is a portion of the e-mail I received: "Hey Larry, I came across your blog while searching for birding sites and bird related blogs and found yours! Love your "Dirty Birds" will be keeping a closer look at the ground now. I actually handle online outreach for a wonderful collection of songs about birds that I think your readers may enjoy. It’s called Jazz Aviary and it’s a celebration of birds and of the universal music that we share by L.A. based jazz artist Susan Krebs. "
I thought that this approach to jazz music was an interesting and unique idea. Here is a link to the website if you would like to learn more about it: Susan Krebs-Jazz Aviary (click enter then Jazz Aviary to get to music samples).
Birding Magazines that I read-I've had a subscription to Birdwatcher's Digest and Wildbird
for the last year or so. I enjoy reading both magazines. The letters from readers our always of interest to me. Their is usually one or two articles in each of the magazine's issues that captures my attention. The most recent issue of Wildbird has an excellent article written by Kevin T. Karlson which is titled: A different set of Eyes-Enjoy Backyard birding with new observation tips. In the article he writes about concentrating on shapes, behavior, and movements of birds in order to absorb three-dimensional impressions of birds instead of the two-dimensional impressions we get from a field guide. This topic is not something totally new to me, but I like the way he presents the concept in his article.
Do you have any other birding magazines that you would like to recommend?
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Zeroing In On Particular Species
The Casino Effect-Rare birds are reported by birders in Connecticut almost every day. I believe you would have a reasonable chance of relocating some of them if you went back to the same location within a short period of time. There are, however, certain species of birds that don't tend to stay in one place for very long. When one of these nomadic species are reported, it can be very tempting to try to search for them where they were originally found even though the chances are that they probably will be long gone by the time you get there. There may be only one or two reports of a certain species in the whole state but suddenly droves of other birders will have high hopes of finding that same species. It reminds me of people who play slot machines at the casino. The place is filled with people losing money. No one pays much attention to the people who are losing but if one machine suddenly pays off it gets everyone's attention. The nice thing about searching for elusive birds is that you never really lose. You still have a great time trying even if you don't always succeed.
Hammonasset-The day after Thanksgiving, I spent a few hours at Hammonasset. During my visit I was fortunate enough to see two new species (lifers)! These would be the Lapland Longspur and the Northern Gannet.
Let me give you a bit of detail about how I came about finding these birds. I ran into Adrian, Beth, and Fran, all fellow members of The Hartford Audubon . We were all checking through flocks of House Finches hoping to find a Redpoll mixed in. They mentioned seeing a Purple Finch and I happened to come across a couple of Fox Sparrows. We scanned through a flock of Horned Lark at the parking lot near the nature center hoping to find a longspur but there was none. Only a single Snow Bunting was mixed in with the flock. I was particularly interested in seeing a longspur as I had never seen one. They gave me some information about other locations in the park that they have been seen before. I found another flock of Horned Larks at the end of the West Beach Parking Lot. I searched through them one by one and Shazaam! There it was-the Lapland Longspur. It's not that rare of a bird to see but it was for me. It was not in breeding plumage and really blended in with the larks. What made it even more fun for me was that I found it myself. Adrian and Beth are always finding good birds. I finally beat them to the punch on this one and was able to show them where it was. They told me about some Northern Gannets which had been seen at Meig's Point, which is also located within the park. I went to look for them and sure enough they were still there. I watched them as they took turns diving into the water. There was also a swallow flying around the park. It was reported to be a Cave Swallow.
On my way back home, I noticed two Canada Geese with yellow neck collars swimming in a small pond. I checked the numbers and realized they were the same two that I had reported seeing last winter.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
Ten Factors For A Good Day Of Birding
1) Preparation-If you leave things behind such as binoculars, field guide, camera, scope, batteries,field notebook,directions, jacket, or any other needed items it can put a real damper on things. Not leaving early enough can also detract from the day.
2) Sleep-Feeling well rested definitely enhances the day. I tend to be more perceptive in my hearing and vision. I am also much more enthusiastic if I've had a good night's sleep.
3) Weather-You can adapt your day to do some form of birding in any weather conditions but a pleasant day can enhance the overall experience.
4) Location-Exploring a scenic area, hot spot, or a location that you've never tried before can make things more interesting.
5) Birds-Seeing lots of birds, a good variety of species, interesting bird behavior, or new species can definitely help make it a great day of birding. Discovering a really rare bird can make for an exceptional day.
6) Optics-Having superb optics makes everything look so much better. It's not just the quality of the optics though. The viewing conditions- (lighting,air quality etc.) have a definite effect on the performance of whatever optics you do have.
7) Season-There are certain days in each season that exemplify the beauty of that particular season. -The perfect Spring, Summer, Fall, or Winter day.
8) Time-I probably should have put this one higher on the list. Not having any time constraints allows you to bird at a much more relaxing pace without feeling that you have to squeeze everything in.
9) Food-It's nice to start the day with a cup of coffee and breakfast of your choice or perhaps hold off on breakfast till a little later in the morning.
10) Company-Although I enjoy birding alone, it's nice to go birding with others for a change of pace.
Which of these would make it to the top of your list? Do you have any that you'd like to add?
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Sunday Morning Along The CT River
My next and final stop of the day was at Glastonbury Meadows. I finally came on a day when their was no hunting activity going on. I spent less than an hour here, but I was pleased with some of the birds that I found. After walking through the wooded trail, I entered the fields. A mature Bald Eagle took off in flight not more than 30 feet from me. You don't really appreciate the awesome size of these birds until you are really close to them. I once had a view of two Bald Eagles when I was standing 10 feet above them. I looked down over a cliff and watched as they spread their wings and took off in flight. I was shocked. They looked enormous from that angle!
As I walked along the edge of the fields, I was repeatedly hearing the song of one particular species. I wasn't familiar with this particular song but soon discovered it was coming from White-crowned Sparrows. During most years, I only see a few White-crowned Sparrows in Connecticut. On this day, I saw ten, but by the number of birds I heard singing there must have been many more in the area. Moving further along, I heard the sound of a woodpecker making the sound of squeaky toy. It was an immature Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (although I'm sure it was acting its age). A flock of American Crows passed overhead. Interestingly, it seems that a Fish Crow was leading the flock. You can best identify the fish crow by the unique nasally call that they make, which is much different than the American Crow. I wondered if the Fish Crow had to stay at the front in order to have permission to travel with the flock of American Crows? I heard the chip notes of a sparrow coming from some birds that were well hidden amongst a patch of weeds. They kept flying from one spot to another but were hard to see. I was finally able to identify them as Savannah Sparrows. There were Red-tailed Hawks and Northern Harriers patrol the fields. There was also an interesting flock of about 100 Rock Pigeons(some odd variations). If I had the time, I would have checked them out more carefully.
The last species of the day that I identified before leaving was a flock of about 50 American Pipits. They seem to stay close to the ground flying just a short distance away as you move closer to them. I was able to see a bit of the white outer tail feathers when they took flight. I only saw my first American Pipit two years ago. It took me quite a while to make a positive identification of the first one I saw. Since seeing that first one, I seem to have a much easier time locating them. It seems that way with a lot of birds that I have seen for the first time. Once you see the first one, it is usually easier to find more. Has it been your experience that it is much easier to find more of a particular species after you have seen the first one?
Friday, November 16, 2007
Songbird Mix Game
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Following The Wind
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Watch Out For The Dirty Birds!
In the past, I would tend to overlook birds like the ones in the photos. If I saw what looked like an empty field, I probably wouldn't bother scanning it with my binoculars. I figured "who wants to look at a field full of dirt"? These days, I search open fields and lots more carefully.
Monday, November 5, 2007
The Wicked Twitch Of The West
What really made this a wicked twitch was the traffic! It seems like the majority of the rare birds that are reported in CT are located somewhere near the shore, but particularly in the western part of the state. It would appear that there are more rare birds in western CT along with a lot of active birders. The ride to Allen's Meadows was supposed to be about an hour's drive according to Mapquest. I left at 6am: "The early twitcher catches the bird", right? It actually took me over two hours to get there. The traffic was brutal! I asked a worker at one of the service stations if it was like this all the time and he said that this was just an average day of traffic. I had to pry my hands off of the steering wheel by the time I arrived at my destination. I can't imagine how someone could sit in that kind of traffic every day.