Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Cape Cod Winter Bird Sightings

I continue to get great tips from my friend Chris Walsh. He said he spotted 8 common Eiders at the Spit in Mashpee a few weeks ago (in addition to the Short Eared Owl he and his wife Chelsea's dog Jackson flushed out), and he also shared a story of a hawk sighting near the bird feeder in his yard.

Here is his story unedited:

I woke up last week to the sound of a vocal bird outside my window. Most of the time, even while half-asleep, I'm continually monitoring the common bird sounds I hear, but this call got me out of bed because it was a loud scream and because I had no idea what it could be. This immature Cooper's Hawk sat outside long enough for me to snap a few pictures through the bathroom window. I think this one turned out the best. I was thankful to get the opportunity to take a long and studied look at the bird. It's a resident of the neighborhood that I've glimpsed several times over the past couple of months. It flew through the yard again today, presumably gunning for a chickadee or titmouse or mourning dove.

He also caught this nice fat little chickadee:

I'm impressed he was able to get the hawk. I saw one in my parents' back yard a few weeks ago, also preying on the birds at the bird feeder. He had a reddish chest, which was the most notable characteristic about him. Overall he was very dark. I spotted him from within the house and by the time I ran out the front door to get my camera from the car he had already flown away. I'm suspecting it was probably a Cooper's Hawk as well, although the majority of the pictures I'm finding show a lighter-colored chest, as in Chris' picture above. I think there's a possibility it could have been a Sharp-shinned Hawk, but I have no way of truly knowing since I only saw it for a moment. According to my Sibley Guide, they also tend to hunt small birds at feeders and their average height is 11" versus Cooper's Hawks at 16.5." Also considering where I saw him in the tree I think it's more likely it was a smaller bird since I think it would have been difficult for him to land within this tree if he were a larger bird (the difference between a 36" wingspan and a 42" one). Again, I can't be sure until I spot another one, but it's interesting to learn about them!

Other winter sightings I've had here outside Boston have been flocks of Bufflehead ducks on the Charles River every morning during my drive to work. I also see swans every morning, and today there was a pair curled up and sleeping on the ice. I realize they're nice and insulated but it makes me shiver just looking at them.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chelsea Harry: Bird Dog Owner

My friend Chelsea from the Cape was visiting Tuesday night and told me about her dog Jackson, who is apparently a bird dog. He flushed out a pheasant at Crane Wildlife Management Area in Falmouth, MA. Then he flushed out a Short Eared Owl at the Spit in Mashpee, MA.

She was walking him at the wildlife reserve when he ran off into a field and began tracking the bird, following its scent on a random path through the field. Then all of a sudden she saw there was great commotion as he flushed the bird out and it flew up out of the tall grass. Jackson stopped in his tracks and pointed, then followed the bird, leaping all the way across the field.

Her husband Chris said the same thing happened when he was walking Jackson at the Spit, which is a beach in Popponesset in Mashpee. She said he was walking him and then he ran off into the tall grass and out flew the owl.
She was really excited to share this story with me about her "mutt" from Hawaii. She said a few weeks prior she had chatted with a hunter at the wildlife reservation about his birding dog and said she would love to be able to train her dog to do it. She said he was pretty snobby in his reply and said "this isn't something you can train your dog to do—they're bred that way." Well, apparently Jackson has some sort of hunting breed in him. Good for you Jackson!! :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Cape Cod Bird Sightings

I was on the Cape this past weekend for Thanksgiving and although my mother's birdfeeders were empty there were still plenty of birds around. I saw numerous chickadees in the backyard flitting around among the oak trees and in the front yard I saw a male cardinal, junco and a red-breasted nuthatch. It's rare to me to see a single junco since they usully come in flocks and always when it snows. It got pretty cold this weekend though- we had consecutive days of below-freezing temperatures for the first time, so the junco wasn't a complete surprise. But again, I'm not used to seeing them alone.

The red-breasted nuthatches have to be my new favorite bird to watch while I'm home. I've seen them in my parents' yard during my past few visits. What usually alerts me to their presence is their unique squeaking chatter. It's obviously much like that of the white-breasted nuthatch but since I know theirs so well I can tell when it's the other bird.

My friend Chris Walsh saw some Snow Buntings on the spit in Mashpee the week of October 29th. He also saw a Rough Legged Hawk over the marsh near Provincetown.

Another bird I'd love to catch is the Snowy Owl. I read that they're around on the Cape right now in the Cape Cod Times.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blogging Update

I've made a few trips to Blue Hills lately but unfortunately I don't have any bird pictures to share! I have some great ones of a garter snake, a deer, and some pretty foliage but no birds :(

I may post those in the next few days once work dies down a bit.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Appearance on Spiderzrule.com

I used the website Spiderzrule.com to research the spider I saw at Gifford Pinchot State Park. It was great because it featured user-submitted photos which allows for multiple views of different spiders and aids in identification. I decided to submit my photos since I thought they would be helpful/interesting for the website's visitors to see.

Here's a link to the live pictures: http://www.spiderzrule.com/orbweaver11.htm

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Gifford Pinchot State Park Insects and Spiders

I was also able to get some great pictures of a Walking Stick and a large spider (turns out it's a Marbled Orb Weaver spider) while camping at Gifford Pinchot. The Walking Stick was especially exciting because neither my boyfriend nor I had ever seen one in real life. This one was missing a leg, but apparently they can grow them back after several successive molts. I also learned that they remain hanging motionless during the day waiting until it gets dark so they can go out and feed. That makes a lot of sense because he barely moved from the small bush where we left him. We can back from our hike and he was still in the same spot. I also learned that the females can lay a batch of female-only eggs in the event that there are no males around to breed with.

We initially encountered him trapped underneath the rainfly of our tent. I pulled back the rainfly (after grabbing my camera of course) and he was free to move around.

I picked him up from here to move him:

Next I moved him onto a nearby bush that he closely resembled:

We also came upon a large spider while we were walking on one of the trails. I just did a little research with Google Image Search and discovered it's a Marbled Orb Weaver spider:

Mysterious Bird

I snapped this picture of a bird at the Museum of Natural History in New York. I just tried doing a little research on my own to see what it is but didn't have any luck. I should have just stopped to read the label on the exhibit but we were moving really quickly through it at that point and it just didn't occur to me.
Let me know if you can identify it, or if you have any ideas about how to research it. The long feather coming out of the crown is the most unique aspect of it but I've had trouble describing it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Gifford Pinchot State Park

Finally I was able to get out and do some birding this past weekend. It was great to spend some time outdoors and also to get some good pictures. Thursday and Friday my boyfriend and I were in Vermont visiting his friends and then Friday afternoon we took the ferry from Charlotte, VT over to Essex, NY and cut down to PA for my college homecoming. We really lucked out with weather and had great driving weather and warm temperatures throughout our trip.

The last two days of our trip we left up in the air and after pondering our next move over some craft beers in my college town we picked Gifford Pinchot State Park since there was a camping icon on the map. Oh that and the fact that it was the closest state park to Field of Screams, in Mountsville, PA! My boyfriend found a brochure for it in Sheetz and decided we had to go. It turned out to be pretty impressive. It's a strange feeling to be out in rural PA and then drive up to a such a sophisticated haunted house- it was like a city unto itself. There were three main attractions: two haunted houses and a haunted hayride. In addition, there was a skateboarding competition going on complete with a local radio station covering it. It being the night before the Columbus Day holiday the place was mobbed with teenagers and local college students.

The next day we spent some time exploring Gifford Pinchot State Park before driving back to Boston. I wish we had longer! It was a huge park (2,338 acres) with a lake and lots of tent sites and recreation opportunities. We spent our time on the trails and snapping some shots of birds and wildlife. There was also a frisbee golf (something I've never heard of but my boyfriends knows all about) course that seemed like a lot of fun. Too bad we lost our frisbee to one of the dogs in VT! There were lots of campers going out in rented canoes, and even people swimming, which would have been refreshing since it was in the 80s but unfortunately it didn't occur to me to bring my bathing suit since it's October! Another cool feature of this park is its bird blind which is set up in front of several birdfeeders and suet baskets. According to the sign it was funded by the York Audubon Society. This chapter doesn't have a website, but here is a link to a complete list of Pennsylvania Audubon Society chapters. The blind was pretty cool and I sat in it for a little while watching chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and a downy woodpecker. Unfortunately I didn't have the patience to wait and get some good pictures, but I managed to salvage a few good ones of the woodpecker.

I'm already planning my return visit to Gifford Pinchot! What a great park.


First Great Blue Heron:

Second Great Blue Heron:


Downy Woodpecker from the bird blind:

Red-tailed Hawk:

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Whalehead (Shoebill Stork)

I was going through a new book I borrowed from my parents. It's called Water and Marsh Birds of the World written by Oliver Luther Austin and illustrated by Arthur Stinger (1967). There are lots of copies available still, found on Amazon.com and similar sites.
While I was flipping through the pages I was caught offguard by the image of the Shoebill, which the book calls a "Whalehead" and classifies as a type of stork.

I did some more research on Wikipedia and it explains that it's been a difficult bird to classify. Although previously thought to be related to the stork, now apparently it's closer to the Pelicans or the Herons.

Here's the image used on Wikipedia

The Oliver Austin book contains some interesting information about how the bird: it averages around 4 feet tall and it's bill is able 8 inches long. Its range is the papyrus swamps of the upper White Nile River and its tributaries into East Africa. Its bill has been adapted to poking around in the mud for lungfish and garfish.

According to Wikipedia, it's listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List and there are between 5,000 and 8,000 of them left due to loss of habitat and hunting.

Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge

Although I haven't been going bird watching lately, at least I friends who have!

My friends Dave and Meg got these pictures while canoeing at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. Meg was the one taking the pictures. I can't believe how many great pictures they were able to get. It's definitely inspiration to go to a bird sanctuary soon.


Great Blue Heron

Green Heron

Mallard Pair

Painted Turtle

Lesser Yellowlegs

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kauai Birds

I'm finally getting around to posting my final set of bird pictures from Hawaii! Ironically, these are some of the best ones I got, but I just haven't viewed the folder in so long I forgot.
White-rumped Shama:

Correction! This is not an Elepaio as I naively though- it's actually a Female White-rumped Shama:

Red-crested Cardinal:

These were all taken on the first part of the Kalalu Trail on the Na Pali Coast. We only had time for a day hike but it was definitely worth the trip to Kauai.

I'm not sure about the second bird and I'd really appreciate some feedback if anyone knows what it is. I've spent a lot of time with my Hawaii's Birds published by the Hawaiian Audubon Society but I still can't figure it out. I've been doing Google image searches, which have been pretty helpful but this bird just seems bigger than most of the forest birds I'm seeing the book.

As for the Red-crested Cardinal, those pictures are pretty exciting I think. We took those at the end of our hike when we were right up on cliff where most people stop to take panoramic pictures of the coast (like the one below). He was up in a tree and it was pretty cool that he didn't move at all, which helped us to take those great close shots. He kind of has a disdainful, angry look on his face, but I think that helps give the picture some personality.

Miscellaneous Kauai Pictures

Na Pali Coast:

Banana Spider (I'm pretty sure):

Orb Weaver Spider:

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Little Blue Heron

I know I've been slacking in the photo department so I decided to take my camera out last night and go birding along the Charles. I went at dusk and unfortunately by the time I walked down there I realized my batteries were dead. It wasn't such a big deal because I really didn't see anything too interesting. Lots of catbirds as usual, and I also saw a female cardinal that I got a few pictures of before my camera died. Unfortunately they're too blurry, but it was good to get back out there again. My batteries are all charged up and I can't wait to go out again soon.

Today I spent some time walking (the key word here is walking since I never have time to stop and identify birds when I'm jogging of course) along the river again. It was Green Day at work and I took the bus in and decided to walk home since it was nice out. It took me an hour exactly and it was nice to have time to get even more familiar with the trail and where the best areas are for birding.

The most exciting sighting occurred at the beginning of my walk home. I saw a little blue heron wading in shallow water pretty close to where the Charles River Yacht Club is. I stopped for a minute to look at him and I was happy that he didn't walk away but rather was checking me out at the same time. He gradually took a few steps away, still keeping an eye on me over his shoulder.

I've posted about seeing some great blue herons in flight, but I never identified a little blue heron before. It's really too bad I didn't have my camera with me but I just didn't think of it this morning. I'm 99% positive that's what it was and based on my Sibley Guide and images I've seen online, I think that's what it was. If anyone has any other ideas though please let me know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mashpee Birdwatching

I was at my friend Chelsea's house on Sunday and was lucky to see some lively birds in her backyard. Her grandmother has one of those wire basket birdfeeders in the backyard that is actually pretty big and can feed a lot of birds at once. She had a lot chickadees, titmice and other small birds on there. One bird that I saw a lot of and I'm having trouble identifying is a small sparrow or finch with a red mark on its crown. I'm sure if I spend some more time with my Sibley Guide I can figure it out, but I'm anxious to get posts up so I'll come back to it later.

Another Mashpee sighting that was pretty exciting was an osprey. Osprey are pretty common on the Cape, and there are several nest perches within my town. I usually notice the mother up there with her chicks, but I've never really paid attention to one in flight, and certainly when there isn't a nest in sight. I saw what looked like a hawk with a white head flying above me while I was in Mashpee I believe (I only briefly stopped by my parents' house in Bourne so it must have been in Mashpee while I was at the beach). It was screeching, which should have been a big indicator what it was but again, I don't think about ospreys away from their nests. Anyway, I just looked it up and that's what I'm pretty sure it was. I need to get better about bringing my National Geographic log book and my Sibley Guide with me in the car so I can get better about recording locations and times.

Birding While Jogging

Based on a reader's comment about my birdwatching while jogging along the Charles River I thought I would write a post on the subject.

I went for a 6 mile jog along the Charles this past Saturday, which was the first long run I had done in a long time. I left around 10:45-ish, is not optimal for birding but I was still happy to get out in the fresh air. I saw a lot of repeats on my run, which included:

Tufted Titmouse
Female Cardinal
Gray Catbird (tons of them)
Mourning Dove

I also had a lot of chipmunk sightings. I must have had about five or six cross the path in front of me.

Unfortunatley I didn't stop to try and identify any of the birds up in the canopy, but I was happy to catch the ones I did. I particularly like catbirds because they're so lively and I like how they point their tails up. We have a lot of them at my parents' house on the Cape and I've always liked them. I also find it interesting how low-flying they are and how they keep to the lower branches.

I can't wait to make another trip down there to walk with my camera!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Bird Habitat Conservation

Here are seven helpful tips to conserve bird habitat I came across on the Birdfreak Birding Blog:

7 Things You Can Do Now to Conserve Bird Habitat

Join a birding organization is one tip that I know would be really beneficial to getting my birding hobby off the ground and would help me learn about conservation. I'm fortunate to live close to several Audubon bird sanctuaries and also very close to Concord, MA, home of David Sibley. There are unbelievable areas I have yet to explore and that is something I really want to look into in the coming weeks.

I should also take advantage of my trips home to the Cape. Here's a recent article from the Cape Cod Times about summer birdwatching:

Birding heats up during summer stormy weather

Cape Cod Birdwatching

While I was at my parents' house this weekend I got to see lots of birds up-close at the bird feeders and suet basket in the yard. They're so used to my parents and dog being out in the yard that it takes a lot to scare them away so the whole weekend they were in close proximity.

Birds I saw this weekend include:

Purple Finch
House Finch
Downy Woodpecker
Tufted Titmouse

I also saw a female Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, with the beatiful green back. My dad did some tree-trimming in the yard on Sunday and unfortunately one of the falling trees knocked over a hanging plant that they like to visit. However, after I repotted it and hung it back up she returned as if nothing happened! My mom also has two hummingbird feeders but the past few times I've been home I've seen them favoring this plant.

I'll have to bring my camera next time so I can get some pictures to post.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Great Blue Heron

It's been over a month since my last post but it's been such a busy summer I've had trouble finding time to sit down to work on my blog. I also haven't been outside birding at all, but I have had some great sightings in my parents' yard in Monument Beach and out and about in Watertown.

Just last weekend I was driving down to the Cape and I had two Great Blue Heron sightings. One was while I was driving- it was right after I had gotten onto Rte. 24 from I-93 at that point I believe. I never noticed that the road passes by a little pond/marshy area and that's where he was taking off from as he flew over the highway. I forget how huge they are!

Then I saw another one as I was leaving to head back up to Boston. I forget exactly where it was but it was somewhere in Bourne and again, it was in flight crossing over the road.

I decided to read about them in Wikipedia since it's my new favorite thing. I didn't find anything too interesting, but I did learn that there's a Great Blue Heron Music Festival. It's already passed but it sounds like a good time, and this year it featured a Cape band, Entrain. Correction: apparently they're from Martha's Vineyard.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Summertime Birdwatching

I've started seeing a lot of the same birds during my runs along the river. What amazes me is that what I always believed to be common birds have the most beautiful and most diverse range of calls. Just tonight I heard an interesting call while I was jogging and looked up to see a robin. Last week I saw a speckled bird that turned out to be a juvenile robin. It reminded me of the plovers I saw in Hawaii ,or some sort of shore bird but my Sibley Guide told me otherwise.

Another thing I've been noticing lately is how active hawks are. I was home on the Cape Sunday and saw 3 different hawks- one of which swooped down to grab a mouse in the grass by the side of the road and then flew up to the top of a telephone pole to eat it. When it came down it looked like it was going to hit the side of our car but obviously he had a precise flight plan. They really are amazing.

Speaking of hawks, there was a good article in the Cape Cod Times about this very subject: Bird scouts sound the alarm.

Later on Sunday while I was in my parents' yard I got to appreciate the songbirds that visit my mom's birdfeeders. She has an abundance of purple finches, gold finches, nuthatches, chickadees and cow birds. The gold finches are my favorite because of their vibrant color and amazing songs. I'm always surprised at how close they come to us too when we're sitting in the yard. There was a nuthatch that landed on the suet basket in the lilac bush right above where my mom was sitting in the yard. In addition to songbirds, she has hummingbirds that visit the feeders regularly. Without fail every time I'm home I see one. Usually they're on the fuschsia plant she has hanging in the front garden.

I still have Hawaii pictures to post so I'll get on top of that.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Early Morning Birdwatching

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been doing a lot more of my runs in the morning now that the sun's out so early. It's great especially since we're having a little bit of a heat wave so it's still nice and cool in the morning.

I really like the challenge of trying to identify birds without slowing down or stopping. The path I run along is very dense in vegetation, which makes it even harder to spot the birds when I hear their calls.

The few birds I was able to spot yesterday morning included two Baltimore Orioles (very vocal), a Goldfinch and what I believe was a Northern Waterthrush, since my Sibley Guide says they're very common in dense shrubs and small trees new slow-moving or standing water. I've seen these little and white-streaked birds during many of my trips down to the river, but I haven't put much effort into identifying them. I'll have to get a better look next time.

I'm going to be down the Cape this weekend for Memorial Day. I'm a little nervous about the traffic, but I'll try to be optimistic. We're going down Sunday to go camping in North Truro. The Wellfleet Audubon Sanctuary is on the way and I really want to try and stop there. I know they have some wonderful trails and it's an excellent spot for birding.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Charles River Birdwatching

I'm taking a break from my Hawaii posts to report on some local birds I've seen along the Charles. Yesterday morning on my drive to work I saw a Baltimore Oriole fly across the road and land on a shrub. Its yellowish color caught my eye and I'm glad he landed low enough for me to get a good look at him.

Baltimore Oriole:

Courtesy of www.briansmallphoto.com

I've also seen quite a few warblers in the trees along the river during my runs either in the morning or after work. I've read that the best time for birding is either early morning or dusk and it's been true according to my experiences.

The two warblers I've been able to remember and identify are:

Black and White Warbler:

Courtesy of www.jeffraflik.com

Yellow Warbler:

Courtesy of www.jnweb.com/british-columbia/

I'll pick up with my Hawaii posts soon enough. I still have my Kauai pictures to post so there should be at least one or two more posts from Hawaii.

I really want to get in some more birdwatching locally now that the weather's nice. I'm going to North Truro on Cape Cod for Memorial Day weekend and I'm looking forward to stopping by the Wellfleet Sanctuary. It's over 1,000 acres of wetlands, beach and pine woods. I know it's an amazing spot for birdwatching and I really want to check it out.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

Big Island- Punaluu Birds

On the day of my friend's wedding we made a trip to Punaluu, a black sand beach south of Volcano where we were staying. It was a little overcast once we got there, but it was cool to experience the beach and as an added bonus there was a small wetland area behind the beach where we were able to get some close pictures of ducks and other birds.

Here's a view of the area:

Yellow-billed Cardinal:

Hawaiian Coot:

Lesser Yellowlegs:

Myna bird:

Muscovy Duck: