Monday, December 31, 2012

Massachusetts part two.

As I mentioned in my last post, I dragged my parents to several beaches around Cape Cod to look for birds.  The first one was Sandy Neck in Barnstable.

Cell phone-manipulated shot

  Just as we reached the beach a Northern Gannet flew by, the first of three on my trip.

Along the shoreline were small groups of Sanderlings and Dunlin sunning rather than frolicking in the waves.

Out on the water was a bird I assume is a Common Murre, though I am not 100% sure.... Thoughts?

We saw several loons on the water, including a few Red-throated...

To get out of the wind for a bit we walked along a trail through the sand dunes.  Lots of Song Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers were flying around, along with one Northern Mockingbird...

Our second beach visit was to Kalmus Park Beach in Hyannis.  It wasn't very exciting but this Common Eider showed us a little shake...

The third beach we visited, Forest Beach in Chatham, was the best.  It was the afternoon after a big wind and rain storm had hit and the wind had disappeared and the temperatures rose to the warmest of my trip. 

We were entertained by surfing Ring-billed Gulls and countless Herring Gulls trying to crack open shellfish.

Now that I'm looking at pictures, there's one gull that I had assumed to be Herring at the time, but now looking at it I'm not sure.  It has a darker back (though it could be the lighting), the legs look more yellow (though I don't think yellow enough), and the red spot on the bill is rather large- making it seem a bit like a Lesser Black-backed (several of which had been reported throughout the Cape while I was there).  Thoughts?

Also along the beach were several Black-bellied Plovers.  This one we followed for a very long time before it finally flew to a spot behind us.

The reason we visited this beach was to hopefully find a reported American Oystercatcher that was a bit late to head south.  Success!  Another lifer!

I was not expecting to turn around and find yet another lifer chilling on some rocks in the water...

 A Black-legged Kittiwake!  So stoked.  That makes five lifers on a trip when I wasn't expecting any at all.  One last photo from my trip- the sunset at Kalmus Park Beach on Friday:

Good times and happy new year!!

Sunday, December 30, 2012


I just returned from a week visiting my family in Massachusetts.  We had a great time and I managed to get in a lot of birding as well.  On Monday morning my brother and I went out to Plum Island where Parker River NWR is located.

Here I found my first lifers of the trip: a pair of Razorbills swimming relatively close in on the ocean.

Very cool!  In a stand of trees near a bird blind were my second lifers- a flock of about twenty White-winged Crossbills!  They had very little interest in being photographed...

In addition to Plum Island, my brother also took me for a hike in his local park in the Boston suburbs.  We ended up near a zoo where my brother has a membership so we stopped in to peek at a few animals.  Disclaimer:  I am pretty anti-zoo and find them kind of depressing, but I do like looking at Arctic fox pups.  A lot.

When I go back east to visit I get shuffled between my brother's house outside Boston and my parents' house on Cape Cod.  At my parents' I got to do even more birding- their yard alone attracts tons of awesome birds.  One morning I was in the middle of a glass of OJ when my dad left to pick up the morning paper.  He came back in and told me to grab my coat and my camera because the "egret" was outside.  It was actually a Great Blue Heron but still very pretty...

Just up the road from the heron was a flock of turkeys holding up traffic...

Back to the yard- my parents have lots of feeders as well as some crazy awesome bird houses my dad built, like this one:

This is all the same birdhouse from different angles- it's huge and amazing.  My dad also carved his first bird recently- an American Avocet:

He's working on a Whimbrel next- how cool is that? 

One morning I was looking out the window with my mom and she pointed out a bird on a branch.  I could tell it was quite yellow but it took off as soon as I got my bins on it.  Luckily it just flew over the house to the tree in the front yard.  It was another lifer- a Pine Warbler!

Taken through a screened window, but still awesome.  Here are some more nice yard birds...

 Yellow-shafted Northern Flicker

 Northern Cardinal

Tufted Titmouse

Partially leucistic Black-capped Chickadee

 Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco

I have more to share from several freezing cold beach trips (and one strangely not cold trip).  Good times!!!

Friday, December 28, 2012


I am sure you are all just frantic with worry after a week of no blog posts from me, trying to calm your nerves with cup after cup of rummy nogs and whatnot. Don't fret, I am busy collecting lifers and torturing family members in freezing weather in New England. I will be back quite soon and have lots to share with you. Till then be soothed with these Mute Swans...

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Ridgefield NWR.

Yesterday was my last day of work for the year!  And the afternoon was dry!  Kind of.  I went up to Ridgefield to enjoy it and celebrate the end of the world.  Nothing too exciting going on, what with it being winter and getting dark out at 3:30...

Herons, egrets, and nutria were all out and about looking for snacks.

Plenty of Red-tailed Hawks around- I average about 8 per visit, along with one or two Red-shouldereds.  Still no Rough-leggeds.

There was another hawk yesterday...

I am leaning towards Cooper's because the streaks seem kind of think and the legs aren't all long and skinny lookin.  Eh?  Crap photo I know.

The "best" bird of the afternoon was a lone out of season Tree Swallow cruising one of the ponds...

Pretty random.  It was an alright afternoon... Hopefully with a week off from work I can scrounge up some more good birds to share with y'all. 

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Three for three.

It's been a brutal week here in the northwest.  The rain has been relentless, except of course when it's been snowing.  But that's not quite enough to keep me indoors.  Especially when I got tapped Tuesday morning for a top secret owl hunt with Rhett the owl whisperer!

It was completely dry at my house so I was surprised on my drive to Reed Canyon to find snow and more snow.  I had never been to the canyon (which is in SE Portland on the Reed College campus) but now I will be disappointed to go back and not find it like this... a winter wonderland:

The owl we were hunting was unfortunately not where it was supposed to be.  But who cares?  It was a beautiful snowy morning and there were other birds to be had!  Like this most random lone female Barrow's Goldeneye in one of the ponds...

Some more snowy birds...

The best bird for me that morning was a Hutton's Vireo mixing with a flock of Bushtits and chickadees...

So this owl was the second owl I failed to find this week, starting with the Murder Barn Owl on Sunday.  I did not quit there, I went for a trifecta yesterday with a recently reported Barred Owl at Mount Tabor Park.  Adrian Hinkle was kind enough to share directions to where it had been roosting in view of one of the trails and I set out in the rain to find it.

But I didn't.  I found a Red-breasted Sapsucker...

And some Cedar Waxwings and robins feasting on hawthorn berries...

Owls shmowls. 

Oh well, this is the "worst" part of the year here.  It never really gets light out and the rain can make you feel a bit crazy... But when the holidays end things get better.   If the world doesn't end of course.  Good times!!