Monday, December 31, 2012

7 Reasons I Will Do A Big January This year

1)There are some great birds to see in Connecticut during January - like this Snow Bunting.

2) It gives you a reason to get off the couch and out the door: I like being outdoors, even in the winter but sometimes it takes a little motivation to brave the elements. Making a list of the bird species I see in January is a good motivator.

3) Gas finally dropped below $3.50 a gallon: There's no doubt that driving around looking for birds eats up gas. $3.50 a gallon is still expensive but not as bad as $4.00 a gallon.

4) Big January helps make the winter go by faster: I like winter but it does seem to drag on after a while.

5) It's a fun tradition: I  know several bird bloggers who look forward to doing a Big January each year.
6) Big January Makes ordinary birds seem extraordinary: The American Tree Sparrow is a nice bird but in January it's an excellent bird!

7) It gives me something to blog about for the entire month: I don't have to waste too much brain power trying to figure out what to post about this month. I already know what the topic is-Big January. It's almost like a blogger break!

What is Big January? Make a list of all the bird species you see from January 1st until January 31. I count birds only in my state but
you can set your own boundaries. It's difficult to compete with someone who doesn't live in your same region but it's still fun to compare notes. Are you doing a Big January this year?

Happy New Year Everybody!

Sunday, December 30, 2012

I've Had Enough Of Multitask Birding !

December was a busy month for me so I tried to squeeze birding opportunities in between various tasks on my to-do list. I stopped at Westmore Park on my way to a meeting. I've had good luck there in the past finding warblers in the spring, swallows in the summer, and an Eastern Screech Owl last winter.
This time the best I could manage was a mockingbird, farm animals, and a few starlings.
I stopped by Lyman's Orchard for a deli sandwich and did a quick scan of their man-made pond. I found Mallards, Canada Geese, and Ring-billed Gulls.
This is a nice stretch of power lines I found on my way to do some Christmas shopping. There was plenty of food and a lot of bird activity there. I  found Winter Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Juncos, goldfinches, sparrows, and Eastern Bluebirds. No time to track them down for photos though.
On my way to the dump I stopped by Great  Hill Pond and found some Hooded Mergansers.
 It was a relief to stay home during a snow storm this weekend. I could stay in one place and watch birds at my feeder (when I wasn't shoveling snow).

  Multitasking seems to be a popular term these days. Many people take pride in their ability to complete multiple tasks simultaneously. I think that it's a little overrated. If  I'm trying to do a number of things at once I'm less efficient than if I were to focus on one thing at a time. I know that I wouldn't want to text while I'm driving, deliver eggs while on a pogo stick, or read a newspaper while riding a bike. Birding in between tasks isn't all that satisfying either.

 I'm looking forward to the next time that I can focus all my attention on birding. At least I was able to finish this post about multitask birding (while watching NFL football and eating nachos)!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Domestic Wild Turkeys & Wild Domestic Ducks?

We've had Wild Turkeys roaming around out backyard for a while. We don't  live in the woods or on a farm so watching the antics of the turkeys is a treat for us. As you can see, they aren't exactly shy.

I've watched them eating lavender, ornamental holly berries, dropped bird seed, and whatever they find  scratching through the fallen leaves I left behind. It seems that Wild Turkeys have adapted well to changing habitat. They find food in woods, fields, and aren't afraid to visit residential neighborhoods when the need arises.
  These are pet ducks which have taken the opposite approach from the turkeys. Instead of leaving the wild to visit someones backyard ,they left home and  swam downstream. I found them along a woodland trail eating some sort of algae from the bottom of the brook.

I find it interesting to watch birds adapt to areas  outside of their natural habitat. It doesn't matter to them whether they are domestic or wild. They just want to know where the food is!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Geminid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight!

I've been reading various articles about the Geminid meteor shower. Conditions are excellent this year because the skies are clear and the moon won't interfere with viewing. You might see as many as 100 meteors per hour with bursts of several within a minute. The peak may start as early as 10pm tonight and continue until about 3am Friday morning. The reports have been good from areas where people are already viewing the meteor shower. The key is to get to a dark area that doesn't have a lot of glare from city lights. I've been disappointed by these things before but I think this one is worth a try.
Update: I was in my backyard at 9pm and was able to see a handful of meteors streak across the sky over a period of 20 minutes. There was too much interference from lights  in the neighborhood so I went to a dark area near Meshomasic Forest for better viewing.
 I counted 38 meteors there over a 45 minute period. The best part was when I saw 5 consecutive meteors in a row. If I didn't have to work the next day I would have stuck it out longer. The photo is a view of the constellation Orion as seen from my backyard. I used the starry sky mode on my Panasonic fz35. Not exactly a "stellar"
shot but at least you can see it.

Monday, December 10, 2012

I Picked A Partial Path At Peckham Park

Every weekend I  make a choice about where I want to go birding. Sometimes I have a hard time trying to decide where I want to go. I recently visited the James L. Goodwin Forest And Parks Center in Middlefield hoping to get some new ideas.
I like exploring new places but their is a downside to doing that. A lot of times the place I choose doesn't  turn out to be a good birding spot. Lately, I've fallen into a routine of visiting known birding hot spots like Hammonasset or at familiar places close to home. I wanted to break out of the routine so I searched through all the brochures at the center until I found some places that I hadn't visited before.
One of the places in the booklet that was an old trolley line located behind the athletic fields at Peckham Park. It was cleared by the Lion's Club to make a walking trail.
 The first thing that caught my attention was a sign that explained what this pile of junk was. Apparently, the owners of the surrounding land replaced their cattle with 7,000 minks in the 1940's.  All that's left now is these abandoned cages.
The trail quickly enters a deep wooded area as it  passes through wetlands. There were no real surprises in terms of the birds that I saw which included Golden-crowned kinglets, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Brown Creepers, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrows, White-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted titmice, and Black-capped Chickadees. I enjoyed walking the trail of the trolley that never was but I wished that the little bit longer. I'm guessing that it  was less than a half mile long. It amazing how you can find places that have been right under your nose for years.
I took a ride through town to see if I could find any duck ponds.  My journey was temporarily interrupted by a freight train from Providence @ Worcester Railroad that was passing through. There's something about seeing these old trains that brings out the kid in me.
I found this small pond at the entrance of a housing development. I looked across the pond and thought that I saw a diving duck.
When I first looked at this duck I was a little confused. My first impression was that it was a Bufflehead but then realized it didn't look like a female. I am used to seeing adult breeding males with the entire back of their head being white so I was perplexed. I looked in one field guide which didn't have enough detail to slove my mystery but my full sized Sibley showed me that it looks like a 1st winter male. Please don't tell anyone that I was baffled by a Bufflehead!