Saturday, February 28, 2015

Is Winter The Best Time To Find Butterflies?

 I visited Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory & Gardens up in South Deerfield,  Massachusetts this morning. Within footsteps from my car I was transported from a 15 degree winter morning to a miniature tropical paradise. 

It was humid and about 80 degrees inside so it took a while before my camera lens stopped fogging up. The main attraction here is butterflies and plants but there are also a few birds, dragonflies, and lizards as well. 
 The conservatory is not what I would call a huge place but it is absolutely loaded with butterflies! They're in the trees, in the flowers, circling through the air, landing on the ground, and sometimes, they even land on you! I believe this one is called the Owl Butterfly
 I think these two (above and below) are called Postman but I couldn't say for sure.

 These 2 are called Zebra Longwing
This is a Blue Morpho. I was trying to find one of these hyperactive giants on a flower but had to settle for one that landed on the decking.
The Cairns Birdwings were one of my favorites. The colors are much more intense when you see them live in a sunlit tree.

I'm not a butterfly fanatic and don't normally enjoy humidity but in the midst of a long, cold, winter this was just what the doctor ordered! My only regret is that I didn't plan for a longer stay. An hour just wasn't enough time to take it all in. I definitely plan on  visiting again next winter.

Note: If you plan to visit then be aware that they don't allow use of tripods or monopods. It's okay to take your own photos like I did but they don't anyone borrowing photos to post online from their website.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Not Everyone Is On Board With eBird

 Almost everyone who is into birdwatching knows has heard of eBird. It's a great way to keep track of your bird sightings online in a way that you're able to share the information with others. Sounds like a great idea doesn't it? That is why I was surprised when I learned that not everyone in on board with eBird. The word on the street is that there are quite a few eBird haters out there! 

  I've seen evidence of this on some birding-related websites, blogs, daily bird reports, and birders I've talked to while I've been out and about. Some of the objections come from old school birders who started out sharing rare bird sightings by direct phone contact with other birders. It was a sort of grass roots effort that was very exciting and relied on a network of local birders to verify the reports. 

With eBird, rare bird sightings can quietly be entered into the data bank without a lot of fanfare which can be disturbing to those who rely on the daily list-serve to find rare bird reports. eBird also keeps statistics about the top eBirders in different areas. Those who are competitive listers may be concerned that their competition using eBird may not be completely on the level about their bird sightings (stringers). Still others don't always like it when their sightings may be scrutinized. 

 You can't please everyone but I think eBird is a great resource to have available for birders.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Eagle Owl Sighting In Arctic Winter Conditions

  I can imagine Clint Eastwood's voice coming out of this owl saying "Go ahead, make my day". It is  actually a female Eurasian Eagle Owl and she is referred to as Big Mama.
 This photo gives some perspective of how large an Eagle Owl is. Big Mama was one of the featured birds at a display booth  belonging to:
Talons! A Bird Of Prey Experience . 
We have had arctic-like winter conditions  in Connecticut this week which is exactly why I decided to attend the 18th Annual Northeast Fishing & Hunting Show . Subzero-wind-chills and giant snowbanks aren't a big deal when you're indoors at the Connecticut Convention Center !

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Seeing Is Believing And Believing Is Seeing

 At the end of January I took a ride down to Long Wharf in New Haven and was able to see Gadwall (above) along with a lots of Scaup. The photo was taken just after sunrise casting an orange glow over the ducks making me wonder if there was such a thing as Cinnamon Gadwall.The color of a bird's plumage can change a lot depending on the lighting which is why color of plumage is not always a reliable way of identifying birds.
I visited Hammonasset the day after it snowed. The road to the park was closed so I ended up walking several miles along the roads and beaches. I doubt these shorebirds enjoy being assaulted by  crashing waves but they manage to get the food they need each time the water recedes. It reminded me that life struggles and turmoil can sometimes lead to opportunity.
As I was walking along the main road on my way out of the park I noticed a distant stretch of cedars. I scanned the tree-line hoping that I might be lucky enough to find something, maybe even an owl. To my surprise, there was Great-Horned Owl sitting right out in the open. I don't know if that was a case of believing is seeing or seeing is believing but I'm always excited when I find an owl. It made the long walk back on a cold winter morning worth while. I noticed the gate was open and cars were passing me just as I was getting back to my car but if I hadn't been walking I never would have seen that owl!

Watching all the Superbowl  coverage (congrats to the Pats!) and shoveling snow have slowed my winter bird-watching activities down a little but I hope to get back out again next weekend.