Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Cape Cod III & Plum Island

The last installment of my Cape Cod birding photos is from Dowses Beach in Osterville, where my dad and I wandered around for quite awhile on Saturday morning.

We followed this Lincoln's Sparrow (aka a Song Sparrow.. Those eastern ones confuse the heck out of me) around for a bit:

I was psyched to see a flock of about twenty Ruddy Turnstones, having only seen one once before...

There were a bunch of Common Eiders way out on the water but one female was rather close to the shore...

On Friday morning my brother and I went to the Parker River NWR on Plum Island to do some exploring.  Last year we visited the area in December and most of the road was closed and we had to walk through about a foot of snow.  This time it was like 65 degrees.

We scared up some Mute Swans right away:

The ponds along the road were filled with American Black Ducks, pintails, and Gadwalls.

While walking on the beach about a dozen Snow Buntings flew over our heads and disappeared.  I was psyched we were able to find one later on near the road.

Definitely one of the cutest birds ever.

Also along the road we came across some turkeys.  They didn't seem too concerned with us, maybe because Thanksgiving was over...

Definitely NOT one of the cutest birds ever...

There were a bunch of American Tree Sparrows in the nearby shrubs...

At the end of the road is Sandy Point, where there had been some recent Snowy Owl sightings.  There were some Black Scoters out on the water:

And hell yeah, we found a Snowy Owl too!

We walked by it, giving as much room as possible without standing in the ocean (it was high tide), and taking tons and tons of photos...

After awhile we walked up the beach to see if we could find the second one that had been reported but no luck.  On our return trip the bird was gone.  Then we noticed a group of people and realized the owl had flown to some driftwood right by a viewing platform.

We made our way back to the road so we could get over to the platform also.  We got even more great views of the bird from there...

Mind=blown.  Awesome awesome trip!  Picked up five new birds total, and saw many I rarely get to see... Good times!!  Now I can't stop thinking about the SEVEN Snowy Owls being seen at Damon Point in Ocean Shores.... Hmm...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cape Cod II: Revenge of the Birds.

Nah.  No revenge, just birds. On Friday morning I convinced my dad to drive up to Herring Cove beach in Provincetown.  We walked along much of the beach and enjoyed the gorgeous weather and scenery...

Dunlin were splashing about in the water:

Most of the gulls were Herring (shocker), Great Black-backed, and Ring-billed...

I picked up three new birds on this beach, the first of which was Great Cormorants:

I had picked this beach to visit because of the Northern Gannet sightings, and I was not disappointed.  Aways offshore there were dozens of them, flying and diving, putting on quite show.  A bit distant for good photos, but coulda been worse...

I hate to call that Sibley character a liar, but he says that these guys "catch fish in spectacular plunge-dives, piercing the water with almost no splash."  Not so... I saw many a grand splash that morning...

More gannets:

The third new bird was the Fish Crow...  I wasn't completely sure about this guy, but he was definitely smaller than the crows I'm used to seeing, with shorter legs.  And there was just something different about him.

For some reason this beach had quite a few dead birds on it, and the gulls were more than happy to eat them.  These next photos are gross.

I'm pretty sure this gull was yelling "Cannibal!"

Common Eiders are pretty common on the cape, but they are still relatively new and exciting for me.

There was a small group of gulls along one section of the beach with a Bonaparte's Gull...

And a Ring-billed Gull tongue which I found hilarious:

On the way home from Provincetown we stopped at Fort Hill.  I was hoping for any of the interesting birds seen recently there, but instead got great views of a billion people.  Not sure why, but it was packed.  Saw very few birds, but this Red-tailed Hawk was rather accommodating:

And an Eastern Bluebird on the way back to the parking area helped make the visit worthwhile...

Good times!  Still more to come...

Cape Cod.

I got back last night from visiting my family in Massachusetts over Thanksgiving.  It was pretty fun, awesome weather, lots of birds, no flight delays or major headaches.  My parents' house on Cape Cod attracts quite a few birds, so although it is tempting to skip right ahead to the Snowy Owl my brother and I saw on Plum Island, I will begin with the yard birds...

I only saw one Blue Jay while I was there.

There are lots of Downy Woodpeckers around, and unfortunately they have been working on the sides of my parents' house...

Tufted Titmice are always nice to see...

On Sunday morning there was a small flock of sparrows in their shrubs and I followed them down the yard until they disappeared.  The White-throated Sparrows stood out:

There was a sparrow I didn't immediately recognize but I am pretty sure is a Swamp Sparrow:

Full foggy body shot:

Cardinals are also nice to see... Randomly these two chose to pose on the same root for me:

Carolina Wrens do not like standing still.

Nuthatches are also common in my parents' yard...

There were some epic sunsets while I was visiting, like this one:

And this one was good too:

Good times, lots more birds to come...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gull ID torture, part two.

Well, I figured I did such a nice job butchering my gull ID's yesterday, that I would post some more gulls I photographed at Westmoreland Park.

Ok, so this bird I thought looked good for a Glaucous-winged but it has a light eye which just confuses me...  Glaucous-winged X Herring?  Something else entirely?

Now is this next one a Herring Gull?

And what the heck is this:

Glaucous-winged X Western?

Ok that's all I have the energy for right now.  No more gulls for awhile.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Weekend Birds.

Most of my birding this weekend revolved around the need to walk the dogs.  Sometimes that fact is annoying, but sometimes it works out nicely.  Yesterday I walked them along the Frenchman's Bart Trail in Vancouver hoping for some raptors or at least cranes.  The best bird is what I'm calling a juvenile Sharp-shinned Hawk because that's what I felt it was in the flesh (feathers?).

Also in Vancouver on the road towards the lake were two dead beavers and a dead raccoon, all very near each other.

Sorry, guess that's kind of gross.  Anyway, this morning was freezing cold so for some reason I decided it would be really fun to walk the dogs at Broughton Beach.  I lost feeling in all my fingers and toes quickly, but it was totally worth it for this guy:

Hell yeah, a Short-eared Owl!  This is why I was glad the dogs were with me.  I had been walking on the trail down the embankment from the bike path when I saw a woman approaching with a boisterous yellow lab off leash.  Yellow labs are generally Jake's least favorite creature on the planet so I dragged him and Ralph up the embankment to avoid it, and thus flushed the owl who had been on the other side of the bike path.  Yay!

In addition to the nice show put on by the owl, I had great looks at some American Pipits and a Common Loon eating a fish (or something).

Goodbye Loon 

This afternoon was beautiful (though cold) and I decided to torture myself with some gull ID practice at Westmoreland Park.  Ring-billeds are of course the easiest to pick out, what with them being the cutie pies of the bunch (and yes I just wrote that).

I can usually pick out the Herring Gulls as well, like this fella [Not. It's a Thayer's Gull]:

The trouble arises when I try to find a Thayer's Gull.  I am guessing this next bird is one, but obviously I could be totally wrong...

And another shot of just its head:

Please help me understand why this is or is not a Thayer's!

In order to keep my brain from frying I moved on to Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden for some utterly relaxing birds that did not confuse nor frustrate me.

American Wigeon



Wood Duck (female)

This next photo is blurry and the Wood Duck hasn't even gotten all his colors yet, but you can see his tongue!

Alright, and one last fella that was being stuffed full of peanuts by a toddler:

Good times!