Monday, December 30, 2013

big day highlights

in honor of Neil Hayward's record-breaking big year, I thought I'd take advantage of mild weather and a day off to do my first "big day" (see list below). 

kicking things off at the Huntley Meadows Monday walk did not disappoint, as I picked up a life bird (American Wigeon) and many other lovely water birds.

made my way up to Dyke Marsh/Belle Haven in hopes of more water birds, and though the weather was gloomy, the second life bird of the day (Canvasback; part of the raft shown below with buildings for scale) lifted my spirits. the raft of Canvasbacks was massive, as were the numbers of Great Blue Herons and Ruddy Ducks.

after lunch and coffee, I finished the day at Riverbend Park, where water birds were in full display. from Common Mergansers to Buffleheads to Pied-billed Grebes to a flock of well over 50 American Coots, there was plenty to keep my mind off the quickly-dwindling temperature. this, by the way, was the second time in two weeks that the group of American Coots were present at Riverbend. you can find them on the northwest side of the island (south of the boat ramp).

in all, I managed 60 species (I'm sure the number would have been much larger were I more skilled at IDing). a good day indeed.

list with locations
Canada Goose (all 3 sites)
Gadwall (all 3 sites)
American Wigeon (Huntley)
American Black Duck (all 3 sites)
Mallard (all 3 sites)
Northern Shoveler (Huntley)
Northern Pintail (Huntley)
Green-winged Teal (Huntley)
Canvasback (Belle Haven: huge raft!)
Redhead (Riverbend)
Ring-necked Duck (all 3 sites)
Bufflehead (all 3 sites)
Hooded Merganser (Huntley)
Common Merganser (Riverbend)
Red-breasted Merganser (Riverbend)
Ruddy Duck (all 3 sites)
Pied-billed Grebe (Dyke Marsh; Riverbend)
Double-crested Cormorant (Dyke Marsh)
Great Blue Heron (all 3 sites)
Black Vulture (Riverbend)
Turkey Vulture (Riverbend)
Bald Eagle (Riverbend; Huntley)
Red-shouldered Hawk (Huntley)
American Coot (50+ at Riverbend!; 1 at Huntley)
Laughing Gull (Belle Haven)
Herring Gull (Belle Haven)
Ring-billed Gull (Belle Haven)
Great Black-backed Gull (Belle Haven)
Rock Pigeon (all 3 sites)
Mourning Dove (all 3 sites)
Red-headed Woodpecker (Huntley)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (all 3 sites)
Downy Woodpecker (all 3 sites)
Hairy Woodpecker (all 3 sites)
Northern Flicker (all 3 sites)
Pileated Woodpecker (Riverbend)
Blue Jay (all 3 sites)
American Crow (all 3 sites)
Fish Crow (all 3 sites)
Carolina Chickadee (all 3 sites)
Tufted Titmouse (all 3 sites)
White-breasted Nuthatch (all 3 sites)
Winter Wren (Huntley)
Carolina Wren (all 3 sites)
Golden-crowned Kinglet (Riverbend; Dyke Marsh)
Eastern Bluebird (all 3 sites)
American Robin (all 3 sites)
Northern Mockingbird (Huntley)
European Starling (all 3 sites)
Eastern Towhee (Huntley)
American Tree Sparrow (Dyke Marsh)
Song Sparrow (all 3 sites)
Swamp Sparrow (Dyke Marsh)
White-throated Sparrow (all 3 sites)
Dark-eyed Junco (Riverbend)
Northern Cardinal (all 3 sites)
Red-winged Blackbird (Huntley)
Rusty Blackbird (Huntley)
House Finch (Dyke Marsh)
House Sparrow (Riverbend)

Sunday, December 29, 2013

new england revisited

spent a few more days in Connecticut and Massachusetts for xmas break, and although the birds weren't particularly plentiful, I did manage to add 10 new life birds to the list.

I've been meaning to pay a visit to Quabbin Reservoir for a few months now because it's by far the hottest birding spot in central Mass. unfortunately, the birds simply weren't around on this day snowy day. I did luck out, though, when I spotted a large group of Snow Buntings. I'd never seen these birds before, but I knew instantly that they were something special once I saw their beautiful white wing patches in flight.

a couple of days later, I made my way to Hammonasset in hopes of rare coastal birds (and maybe another Short-eared Owl!). there weren't any owls visible, but I did manage to see a few lovely birds. among others life birds, I saw Lapland Longspurs, Horned Larks, Ruddy Turnstones, and Black-bellied Plovers. I was also entertained by Northern Harriers hunting over the fields, as well as an enormous flock (150ish!) of Yellow-rumped Warblers.

and a seal!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Great Falls CBC & Barred Owl

We had 43 species at our Great Falls CBC (my first CBC!), and as Marshall pointed out, the Barred Owl was definitely the highlight. Though at one point a pesky Downy Woodpecker tempted the owl to have a snack, he mostly just sat still, basking in the sun.

I also had good views of two Common Loons. One was swimming solo in the middle of the Potomac, and the other was swimming with a Common Merganser, the two apparently good enough buddies (mates?) to want to stay near each other for upwards of 5 minutes.

(Oh, and as a bonus, here's a Downy Woodpecker pecking the ice-covered tree in our backyard.)

Thursday, December 5, 2013

first lesser scaup

Drove over to East Potomac State Park this morning because eBird's Hotspot map showed some really promising numbers. Well, as with all things in the birding world, results are unpredictable, no matter how much data you sift through, and today's trip proved to be an unmitigated disaster. There wasn't even a single sparrow to report. No cardinal, nor robin, nor mallard. So I packed up shop and headed dejectedly back toward the suburbs.

But, lo, what's that ducky shape over thar!? I quickly pulled over to the shoulder, got my bins and camera, and jumped out of the car. It was a lone waterbird, and I immediately suspected it was a Goldeneye. Delighted, I snapped a few photos, hopped back in the car, and rushed back home so I could study my findings.

Turns out, as experienced birders know, more than one duck has a golden eye, and in this case, I had a Lesser Scaup on my hands. As names go, Lesser Scaup doesn't quite compete with Goldeneye, but the bird is a stunner, nevertheless. And it's a life bird!

Monday, December 2, 2013

175 (and a noteworthy 176)!

Birded New England (this time at Windsor Meadows State Park) again this past weekend, and I picked up life birds 175 and 176.

175 was a Ring-necked Pheasant (aka, long-tailed chicken); 176 was a Peregrine Falcon. The latter is certainly not a rarity, but somehow it eluded me all summer/fall. And although I didn't see it "in action," the perched falcon still made quite an impression. That's a bird I'd not want to bump into in a dark alley.

The Ring-necked Pheasant was the biggest surprise, though. Hell, I didn't even know the bird existed until the moment I nearly bumped into it in the brush!