Monday, June 3, 2024

Black-necked Stilt Has Distinct Markings

 A Black-necked Stilt which is considered a rare sighting in Connecticut showed up at Hammonasset State Park Last week. It was a reminder of why Hammonasset is considered one of the best birding spots in Connecticut. 

This is a bird that I thought was well worth taking a ride out to see. I was fortunate enough to be able to see it. This was my first time I have seen this species. It was very busy working back and forth picking food out of the water. The thing I liked most about this one was it had an elegant posture and long pink legs. The thing I liked most about it was that it had its own unique markings. There was no mistaking it for another species. I wish all birds were considerate enough to have their own unique markings. It makes identification so much easier!


Friday, May 31, 2024

Sharing Birding With Others Led To 2 Rare Birds

I've been interested in birdwatching for many years. It started when I borrowed my grandfather's world war 2 binoculars to watch birds around his yard and at the feeders. That was 50 years ago and my interest in birding increased over the years until it became a regular pastime for me. 

Over the years I have tried to share the wonders of birding with others. Some people are mildly interested, some very interested, and others not much at all.

 Last year I ran into someone out on a hiking trail while I was birding. I shared a little information about birding and within one year he was all in as a birder. He already had photography experience and within a few months he became one the top birders in the area! Some people just have a knack for these sorts of things. 

That brings me to the top photo of an Olive-sided Flycatcher. The tuxedo-like markings on the chest and a call described  as quick!-3 beers are 2 things that help with identifying them. They are very uncommon and hard to find around here. The birder that I introduced to birding was able to lead me to this bird and show it to me. That's what I call a small investment of time paying dividends!

I introduced another person, my cousin, to birding about 10 years ago. He was slow to get hooked on the hobby. For the first 5 years he would describe birds in general terms: big, small, red, noisy, etc. He would carry his partly broken binoculars around on his car floor wiping the lenses clean with his shirt a couple of times a year. He did not really start identifying birds seriously until recently when he surprised me by naming a few different types of warblers he had seen. 

A couple of weeks ago he told me about a spot he found near some powerlines where he encountered a medium-sized, noisy bird that he thought might be something interesting. I had heard stories like this from him before but hadn't been compelled to follow up on them. Then a week later he told me the same bird was still there and that he noticed it had an eye ring. Once I heard that I was there early the next morning. 

It turned out to be a Yellow-breasted Chat which is another rare bird not often seen in this area. As its name indicates it makes a lot of chatty noise. It also has a bright yellow breast and a prominent eye-ring. That is another example of how introducing someone to birding can pay dividends later. Then there is the most important dividend of all. The privilege of being able to pass on the joys of birdwatching to someone new! 

After identifying the chat I was able to share the sighting with other birders who were interested in seeing it. That is another fun part of birding. Being able to share a bird you found with other birders!

Friday, May 10, 2024

Is Playback To Attract Birds Bad?

I visited a local nature preserve the other day It had nice habitat with a stream surrounded by thickets, steep hillsides with mature trees, and then it led down to this swamp. The thing I liked it about it most was that no one was there. It was just me and the birds.
I don't get a lot of warbler photos. They are tough to keep up with using my point and shoot. This is a Black-throated Green Warbler which are usually high up in the trees. 
I got lucky when this one came down to a puddle to take a bath. I also decided to stop trying to chase new species to add to my list and instead, visit places that appeal to me using my own instincts. I wanted to slow down and stay in one place for a while instead of rushing to get through the trail. 

One way that birders get better pictures of birds is to playback the song of a bird to attract them. Some birds respond more than others with this technique. There is controversy over doing this because it is thought that it can disrupt birds, especially during nesting season. It could move them off of their territory or agitate them causing them to waste energy on chasing down an imaginary rival. There hasn't been enough conclusive research yet to see exactly what effect it really has. Some are completely opposed to it and others are 100% for it. I believe that many birders/photographers secretly call birds but don't want to be seen by others while doing it. For years I never did it. I was opposed to it. Now, I do it occasionally and only for a minute or two before moving on.

Saturday, May 4, 2024

Put Down That Phone Down And Watch Those Birds!

The Merlin bird sound identification is a great app that can identify birds by sound using your phone but like most good things it does have its downside. I now see birders walking around looking at their phone screen while birds are flying all around them! I've been guilty of it myself at times this year and have come to realize it's not a good good habit.

 It also picks up bird that you may never see or hear yourself. That drives me crazy when it happens because you know you might be missing out on some great birds! It is fairly accurate but does misidentify some birds songs too.

This morning I decided to put that phone away and just use my ears and eyes while I was out in the middle of Meshomasic forest. It turned out to be a good decision because if I wasn't paying close attention I might not have noticed the Barred Owl hunting in the woods.

I also had my hands free to snap a picture of my first American Redstart of the year. Technology is great but once in a while you just have to give it a break and get back to basics. It is a decision that comes with rewards!