Thursday, October 20, 2011

White-faced Ibis Visits Portland Fairgrounds!

 I met 3 other birders at the fairgrounds this morning to start an assessment as to whether Wangunk Meadows can qualify for special designation as an important area for birds. (I was with Patrick Comins, Corrie Folsum-O'keefe, and Alison Guinness).

  I've seen Ibis down at the shore a couple of times but was surprised to see one sitting at the pond at the fairgrounds. When we took a closer look at the ibis it appeared to have a red iris and pink skin coloration around the face. This would indicate it is a White-faced Ibis, not a glossy. It also seemed to be smaller than the Glossy Ibis's that I've seen. It's a rare sighting for this area so we took photos for verification (thanks Luke Tiller).
It was quite an exciting find!

click to play
Here's a short video clip of the Ibis in action.

note: If you happen to do any birding at Wangunk Meadows, please log sightings on e-bird. It will help with the project. Caution, Wangunk Meadows is an active hunting area.

Fall Camping At Pawtuckaway & BWBT&C

I spent a couple of days camping at Pawtuckaway State Park in New Hampshire. I stayed at one of the five cabins available in the campground. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice they were. I decided to read the book: "The Big Year" while camping and later saw the movie. They were quite different from each other but I enjoyed them both. The book gave more character background background than the movie did. The movie wasn't perfect but it was great that they even put a movie out with the main subject matter revolving around birding. If every birder sees the movie at least three times then maybe Hollywood will put out another movie about birding!
     They are very simple inside with 2 sets of bunk beds, 1 couch and 1 table. It also had electric lighting and an electrical outlet. Nothing fancy,  but perfect for camping. Both Vermont and New Hampshire have a number of state parks that offer cabin rentals that range between $46 for a single room cabin to $80 a night for larger cottages. This includes Brighton State Park which is in an area where boreal species can be found.
  I spent most of my time exploring the trails within the parks 5,500 acres. There were many small ponds and marshes within the park which afforded nice views of the foliage.
This is a picture of Burnham Marsh which was designated as a wildlife viewing area. If only the wildlife would pay attention to the signs. I did have a stunning view of a female Belted Kingfisher perched in a dead tree. As I was viewing the bird, two onlookers stopped by to have a look at the bird through the scope. They were impressed, saying the kingfisher looked like an exotic woodpecker to them.
    I underestimated the length of the trails I went hiking on and neglected to pack proper supplies (as usual). I can imagine the headlines-"Body of a man discovered in the woods with an empty can of orange-dry soda and an apple core by his side."  "Friends and family said that he died doing what he loved to do." No thanks, I'd rather live. I caught a glimpse of what looked like a coyote sneaking into the woods about 5 miles in. It seems that the beavers were setting up booby-traps by chewing through 95% of a tree and leaving it standing.
There is something special about the fall season. Summer is the season that I feel confined or almost imprisoned by the weather at times. Once the cool fall air hits I feel free again. There's nothing like the stunning colors of New England color and the smell of birding. The flames in this fire have a shape that reminds me of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character. Can you see it?
On the way home from the trip I stopped at a Massachusetts Audubon. These turkeys must be smarter than the average turkeys.With Thanksgiving soon to arrive, what better place for turkeys to hang out than the protected land of an Audubon Center?
  I was glad to make it back in time to join Birders who Blog Chirp and Tweet outing. We had a great time meeting up with each other as usual. (photo of Savannah Sparrow)
  We probably did more chatting and eating than we did birding but that's what makes these events fun. We did see a nice array of sparrows including White-crowned (above) and Vesper. One of the highlights of the day was when Kathie found a Dickcissel! It was the first time I've had a view of one. I also learned of a new Internet Radio birding website: birdcallsradio (thanks Mardi). The archives include interviews of Luke Tiller who led our trip, and Mark Obmascik , author of the book "The Big Year".
 It was kind of funny that I went camping for 3 days and couldn't come up with any photos of birds then I went to an event with 16 birders and didn't get any people photos. I believe we saw this Peregrine Falcon at our last stop which was Sherwood Island.
All in all it was a good day of birding and a great time getting together with my fellow bird bloggers!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Field Trip & Influx Of Birds At The Meadows

  Last week we had a field trip at Wangunk Meadows. It was pouring rain when I arrived at the meeting place so I was surprised to see that 6 other birders showed up. We waited for the rain to pass by. We were rewarded for our patience as the rain soon stopped and the sun broke through the clouds. We weren't able to bird the entire area because of the muddy conditions. Instead we concentrated on the areas near the fairgroundsand skating pond.The birders in the photo include members of Mattabeseck and Hartford Audubon. They have their binoculars focused on 4 Great Egrets and a Great Blue Heron across the way.
  One of the highlights of the morning was watching a dozen or so Eastern Bluebirds traveling back and forth between power lines and fence posts. Everyone seems to love seeing bluebirds, espceially on  a sunny day. There were Palm Warblers and Yellow-rumped Warblers in this area as well.
  I've been seeing yellowlegs, Pectoral Sandpipers, and Solitary Sandpipers at the fairgrounds but this sandpiper  was unfamiliar to me. I'd never seen one before but did notice the white eyebrow marking and slightly down-curved bill. We sent in a photo for identification and found out that it was a Stilt Sandpiper (thanks to Greg Hanisek).
 I've noticed Killdeer are curious and will often walk towards my vehicle when I talk to them.
  Later in the week I was ready to move on to try other places but made a quick check of the meadows again. It seemed there was no reason to waste gas driving somewhere else because more birds had moved into the area. I came across a flock of about 40 or so American Pipit.
  The number and variety of sparrows allso increased since our field trip. I found a couple of Lincoln's Sparrows and lots of Swamp Sparrows including the one in the above photo.
Pectoral Sandpipers have been hanging around the area for a few weeks now.
With all the food available in the area I wasn't surprised to see a Northern Harrier show up. This juvenile bird seems to be admiring the white patch on its rump.
click to play
Here's a short clip of the harrier coming in for a landing and then taking flight again.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

"Birding Jargon"

 This is a guest post from Natalie Hunter . 

If you’ve dipped a tick on your big day list and the twitcher on the
next patch over is gripping you off about it, just keep in mind that
the bird may be twitchable and you might be able to tick it off your
big year or life list tomorrow.

 A dedicated birdwatcher, or “birder” as those within the community refer to themselves, would have no trouble understanding the specialized jargon in the above sentence. Birdwatching as an organized pastime is becoming more popular than ever, especially among young people, as interest in conservation continues to grow. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that nearly 48 million Americans enjoy birdwatching as an organized hobby, a nearly 20 percent increase over similar estimates a decade ago.

This burgeoning interest has created a $31 billion-per-year industry
as companies from birdseed manufacturers to camera makers to travel companies specializing in birding tours position themselves to gather a share of the market catering to the wants of the birding community.

 Much of this growth in birding can be attributed to the advent of the Internet, which has allowed millions of people to connect with others who share their passion for birdwatching. Young people especially have shown a great interest in birding, as the pastime allows them to take part in citizen science projects where their observations and recorded data can help build a better overall understanding of changes that may be occurring within bird populations.

To help young new birders ease into the hobby, below is a listing of some of the specialized jargon used within the birding community, starting with those in the first sentence of this article:

Dip: A failure to observe a reported rare bird on an outing. Example:

"I went to Jerry's favorite park to find the Red-headed Woodpecker he was bragging to me about, but I was dipped."

Patch: One's favored birding location or area. Also referred to as
"local patch," as in "The State Park along the river is my favorite
local patch for birding."

Tick: To add a newly sighted bird to one's lists. Derived from the
process of "ticking" off marks on a checklist.

Life list, Big day list, Big year list: Variations of the lists that
dedicated birders compile as a record of their observations. A Life
list is a complete record of all the species observed by a birder to
date. A Big day list is a record of all the species observed in a
single day, usually as part of an organized birding competition.
Similarly, a big year list is a record of a birder's observations for
a complete calendar year.

Twitch: The seeking out of a reported rare bird sighting, often
traveling long distances to do so, (twitching). Used as a noun
(twitcher), refers to a birder who twitches regularly in an effort to
see the rarest of birds.

Twitchable: Conversely, twitchable refers to a bird that is easy to
find in a local park.

Grip, Grip off: To brag to another birder about a rare sighting that
they have not made themselves. A good-natured form of bragging about one's birding prowess.

Now that the first sentence can be deciphered using the list above,
budding young birders can move ahead into the world of birding
confident that they won't become lost and confused by the jargon of
their respected birding elders. But just in case, there are a few more
comprehensive lists of birding jargon that can be found here  and here.

Natalie is not a birder herself,  but was inspired by her Aunt Jaime to do the post, because she and her husband are avid birders. Thanks for the article Natalie!