Tuesday, September 25, 2012

So now 0-for-2 on Fall Twitches to Western New York - the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper Dip

You can't see everything .... I guess.

On Sunday, while we were entertaining guests and enjoying one of the last 'pool-days' of the Summer, word started to spread that Gary Chapin had found a SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER in the Rochester area.  I briefly toyed with the idea of running up that afternoon but it's a 9-hour drive from East Hampton so I couldn't have made it by car, and the logistics of flights, cars, guests, etc. meant that it just wasn't going to happen.  So compromising, I drove back to New York City on Sunday night planning on an early start and the shorter 6+ hour drive in the morning.

Up at 2:30am (yay!) and in the car for the drive.  Somehow it doesn't seem so bad in the dark, and with the aid of Charles Dickens on the iPhone Audiobook App, the miles flew by.  As I got closer I was hoping for news that the bird was still present, but apart from Willie D'Anna's excellent directions, no-one published anything.  I assumed though that there would be people out looking for the bird, so when I pulled in to the parking lot overlooking Irondequoit Bay I was a bit shocked to be the first car there.

Still, at least there were no negative reports so I slogged out on to the mud, started scanning the Pectoral Sandpipers, and was soon joined by Brad Carlson (who had seen the bird yesterday and was back hoping for better photos).  While we found a Baird's Sandpiper, and the previous reported Black-headed Gull among a good mix of birds, the Sharp-tailed Sandpiper was nowhere to be seen and no amount of staring at the 39 Pectorals would make it appear.

Black-headed Gull
So, after nearly 5 hours of scanning, my time was up, and I had to conclude that Rochester had enjoyed another one of its famous one-day rarities.  I thought that after running up for the Franklin's Gull (and dipping that too) I might get a break from the Birding Gods but perhaps the Fork-tailed Flycatcher had used up my karma for the week.  And so on to the next bird ....

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Getting back to the Montauk Circuit

The Township of East Hampton, where we (mostly) live, is a truly beautiful spot and actually does get a fair number of good birds.  It is not known for its migrants however, and exists in a bit of a 'migrant shadow' especially in the Spring.  While we do get some migrants in the Fall, I suspect you could see four times the diversity of species in any given day by heading to say Central Park.  As the season turns though, and Winter birds (and late migrants) start to join the mix, our area gets a lot more interesting, and it starts to be worthwhile to get out and check all the nooks and crannies.  The historical list of rarities is a long one and hey, you just never know ...

Inspired by reports of Western Kingbirds and Northern Wheatears on similar dates in prior years, I did spend a fair amount of time in the Montauk (in East Hampton Township) area this weekend.  While birding was generally quiet, Michael Duffy and I slogged away and managed to winkle out a few things.  Seawatching was reasonably productive with Manx and Great Shearwaters seen from shore, a few sea duck, and the odd seasonal mix of Common Terns and Northern Gannets feeding together.  I also had two Parasitic Jaegers chasing terns at the Point in Saturday, and there are still some Forster's Terns about.  Still no Brown Pelican though, looks like that might be my 'bogey bird' for the year.

On the shorebird front, an American Golden-Plover at Rita's Stable was a surprise among the Killdeers.  The change of ownership at Deep Hollow Ranch has unfortunately resulted in the removal of the feed lot (which was good for blackbirds) and the associated 'cow puddles' (which were good for shorebirds) so diversity has been low this Summer in Montauk.  This was my first and only 'grasspiper' in Montauk itself this year.

American Golden-Plover with Killdeer (and fence lines)
On the land bird side we had 12 Bobolinks, an Indigo Bunting, 12 species of warblers (including Bay-breasted), and a Philadelphia Vireo.  Not a bad haul for passerine-poor Montauk and the vireo even posed for a few photos....

Philadelphia Vireo - the first 'good' one I've seen this Fall Out East.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fork-tailed Flycatcher in Nassau County.

One of the best things about birding is the unexpected, and today New York birders had quite an unexpected treat.

Up late, but seeing text alerts from Central Park with Golden-winged and Tennessee Warblers I jumped on the subway and headed North.  I couldn't find the warblers, and despite the texts, the park was pretty quiet.  Best bird by far was an Eastern Whip-poor-will that has been roosting in the same tree for several days now.  Otherwise, there was a scattering of warblers, but nothing too amazing and I resolved to head back downtown at around 10:45am.

Eastern Whip-poor-will
Just as I was heading out I got a call from Richard Fried.  Joe Guinta had just told him about a second hand report of a FORK-TAILED FLYCATCHER at Marine Nature Study Center in Nassau County.  This is a really good bird in New York, but a really difficult bird to chase as most sighting are brief and the notorious nomad usually moves on before many people can see it.  Having said that, you don't look, you don't see, so Richard and I met up and rushed off to pick up his car (nearer than mine) to brave the mid-day traffic and see if we could get there in time.

When we got to Richard's car he briefly entertained the idea of going back to his apartment to pick up his scope, but given this species' reputation as a short-stayer, we thought better of it and headed straight out there.  Forty-five minutes later, we pulled into the parking lot at the Center, walked out onto the boardwalk, and there was the bird.  We were offered quick scope views, I fired off a few distant shots, and then .... a Cooper's Hawk swooped in, and the bird vanished.  If we'd stopped for the scope we'd have missed it.  Phew!  Fork-tailed Flycatcher (NYS 2012 #341).

Fork-tailed Flycatcher (2 shots) 

We stuck around the location for another hour and a half but there was no sign of the bird.  Got to talk to a lot of the New York birders and the number of big names that still needed this species as a State Bird was testament to the short-staying nature of the species.  Feeling really lucky to get this bird.

Update:  the bird was apparently relocated later in the afternoon but on a private golf course nearby.  Access may be an issue but perhaps the bird will stick around for many to see.  Hope so ...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I'm old enough to remember when Lesser Black-backed Gulls were considered a European Vagrant in New York ...

So the forecast was miserable today - blasting Southerly winds and heavy rain - but I had to get out of the apartment (the maid needs her space on Tuesdays) so I went to the beach anyway.

Not a ton to report but there were birds sheltering from the weather.  There were more than 300 Black Skimmers on 'the spit" at Jones Beach along with a Caspian Tern and a Western Sandpiper.  A Pectoral Sandpiper in the parkway median had the distinct look of a bird that would rather not be flushed and have to go back up into that wind.  The parking lots were also full if gulls, including at least 17 Lesser Black-backed Gulls ....

Black Skimmers

Wait ....  Aren't Lesser Black-backed Gulls a European species (I hear you ask)?  Well they used to be. In fact, when I moved here in 1991 they were still considered a reportable rarity and an exciting star bird for a day on Long Island.  Fast forward 20+ years however, and they are now pretty common in the near-shore and mid-shore waters of Long Island.  On a day like today, with big Southerly winds, any visit to a coastal parking lot is going to come up with this species.  We are also seeing more juveniles, which suggests breeding 'on this side of the pond' so probably not really a vagrant any more. Looks like they are here to stay ...
Heading into 4th Winter?
Heading into 3rd Winter?
Heading into 2nd Winter?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Finally out to the Hudson Canyon ...

I've been itching to get out to the Hudson Canyon all Summer.  New York isn't exactly one of natures natural pelagic birding states, in fact it's generally pretty awful compared to say Massachusetts or the Carolinas, but such as we have, tends to show up 90-miles offshore in the canyons.  So any trip out there is filled with the thrill of possibility and it was with great anticipation that I, and 39 other New York birders, boarded one of the Captain Lou boats at Freeport at Midnight on Saturday.

It's a long slog out out to the Canyon, so sleeping bags were spread out and folks crashed on the benches, or on the floor, as we cruised South for 6-hours through some fairly rough weather and a fairly tough (6-8 foot) swell.  As dawn approached, we all came to life in the semi-darkness.  Forty pairs of bins were put on, forty cameras came out of their bags, and fort pairs of bleary eyes sharpened to the coming light.

Hard to shoot at first light when your camera is set for bright light - but I think
this is an Audubon's Shearwater.
As the light came out, I guess as the result of the swell, we weren't as far off as we hoped to be, so we motored on for an hour to get to the center of the Hudson Canyon before laying a chum slick in 75-degree water.

Over the canyon we had a lot of Great Shearwaters, a couple of Audubon's Shearwater (NYS 2012 #339), a few Cory's Shearwaters, a brief Leach's Petrel (NYS 2012 #340), and a few Pomarine Jaegers.

Pomarine Jaeger
Although there were lots of birds around, the hoped for Band-rumped and White-faced Storm-Petrels failed to show, so we moved on and worked back down our slick.  That tactic didn't produce more petrels, but we did get some Red-necked Phalaropes, and later, checking the local draggers we added Parasitic Jaeger and three Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Red-necked Phalaropes
So not the best trip bird-wise and, as so often this Summer, the cetaceans were the highlight of the trip.   We had a number of Short-beaked Common Dolphins and Atlantic White-sided Dolphins over the canyon, and had a small group off Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins following the draggers.  We also had two or three Humpback Whales included a very acrobatic young animal that spent a lot of time airborne.  Unfortunately, that whale was way too close to get shots with my 400mm, but others (notably Richard Fried) have posted great shots on Facebook.

Juvenile Humpback Whale
So all too soon, at 10am, we had to head back to land and we steamed for 6-hours back to the dock (mostly through the bird-desert of the mid-shore zone).  I knew that we'd miss land birds given that so many of the locals were off-shore (Murphy's Law demands it) and, sure enough as we got back to cell-phone range, we heard about Western Kingbirds at Robert Moses SP and Jones Beach SP.  So within minutes of arriving at the dock, a convoy of birders headed out to look for them, but to no avail.  Can't see everything I guess, but there's plenty of time for WEKIs and I'm looking forward to getting back offshore again as soon as I can ....

Photospot: Connecticut Warbler in Bryant Park

Was planning (and really needed) a day off today but was lured to Midtown Manhattan when Matthew Rymkiewycz found a Connecticut Warbler feeding in the open on the lawn at Bryant Park.  Having failed to photograph the only one I'd seen so far this year, I grabbed the camera and jumped in a cab.  Was able to get some photos and got back home so quickly that my coffee was still warm.  Urban birding can be very convenient sometimes ....

Connecticut Warbler (3 shots)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A tale of two Godwits ...

Anyone with the misfortune to be near me when I'm in a griping mood recently knows that Brown Pelican and Hudsonian Godwit have been my Summer bogey birds.  More so the godwit because of a series on near-misses, where I've rushed West along Long Island only to arrive just after a group of short-staying Hudwits has flown the coop.  Not that I haven't put in the time; I've scanned for them at Jamaica Bay, Jones Beach and Cupsogue (all historical sites) every week, often several times.

This week, it looked as though I'd missed my last shot at the species, when two birds that had stopped for a day at Montezuma NWR moved on before I could get there.  Still, ever optimistic (despite the griping) I kept scanning likely spots on Long Island almost daily.

Red-breasted Nuthatch

At Jones Beach this morning there were quite a lot of shorebirds, and detailed scanning through the morning produced a good selection including a BAIRD'S SANDPIPER, 2 Western Sandpipers, a Pectoral Sandpiper, and a MARBLED GODWIT.  The last bird was hidden, sleeping, among the Willets and just appeared (as if by magic) when the birds reshuffled under Peregrine attack.  The bird also flushed as others, including Greg Lawrence and Gary Chapin were rushing over to get a look - I could see the bird flying West and frantically jumped up and down making exaggerated pointing gestures, but to no avail.  Always good to get a Godwit, but unfortunately, the wrong one again, and even that one didn't stay long.

While we were watching the shorebirds, Derek Rogers texted me a photo of a Clay-colored Sparrow, so a group of us headed over to Robert Moses SP to see if we could find that bird.  After a couple of minutes of searching, Gary Chapin picked up the bird, and we all got good looks - another Suffolk County year bird for me.  A pleasant day, with some decent birds but, wanting to rest before that night's pelagic trip, I departed happy, and slogged my way into the City through miserable Saturday traffic.

Clay-colored Sparrow
Almost as soon as I got in through my door, the phone rang.

"Hi, it's Greg" said Greg Lawrence.
"You're going to kill us, but we're at Jamaica Bay, and we have a Hudsonian Godwit."

So back to the car, which the bemused garage attendant had just put away for the night at the back of the building.  Back into traffic, which of course was horrible, and off to Jamaica Bay.  While I was on the road Andrew Baksh, Tom Burke, Derek Rogers, and Corey Finger all called.  They wanted to make sure I knew about the bird (which was really nice) but each call also ramped up the stress level so that I was positively frothing at the mouth by the time I finally broke free of traffic after almost an hour of bumper-to-bumper crawling, and pulled into the reserve HQ.

I needn't have worried though, after a quick walk/jog over to The Raunt, I found Greg, Gary, Tom, etc. all quietly watching the bird, which looked happy and settled.  HUDSONIAN GODWIT (NYS 2012 #338)!

Hudsonian Godwit (distant iPhone shot)
Then back to the City, through horrible traffic for a quick nap, before heading back out to Long Island at 10:30pm tonight for the Pelagic.  No rest for the wicked ...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bell's Vireo on Staten Island. Or not?

Tuesday, mid-morning, I got word that Dick Veit had found a Bell's Vireo (a potential third New York State record) at a preserve on Staten Island.  Unfortunately I had commitments in the City all morning so couldn't get there but, as soon as I was free, I checked on the status of the bird hoping that it had stuck around.  The word wasn't encouraging; many had been looking but the bird hadn't been seen since early in the morning.  Based on that information, I decided not to go for it, and stayed in the City, only to hear later that Mike Shanley saw the bird that evening.  So perhaps it would stick.

So no excuses on Wednesday morning and I left TriBeCa at 5:00am, arriving at Mount Loretto Unique Area (the preserve) way before dawn.  As the light came up, I was joined by Corey Finger and we hiked in to the exact spot where the bird had been seen the day before .... and waited.  From 6:30am until 9:00am, we watched the bushes (joined by perhaps a dozen more birders), chased down every warbler, wren or gnatcatcher that popped up, and waited for the bird to show.  Finally, a small, very active, drab, gray-and-yellow vireo popped up and we grabbed glimpses of it as it flitted through the thicket we'd been watching.

The bird looked really good.  It was a small gray vireo with a gray head, greenish back and yellow undersides.  It had a plain grayish face but at moments you could see a faint black eye-line, and a broken white eye-ring.  The two wing-bars were uneven, with the lower one being significantly larger and more obvious.  Plus it was a fast moving bird and seemed to many to be small bodied and long-tailed.  I was certainly 100% sold, added it to my NYS Year List (in my head at least), high-fived Corey, and left happy when the birders dispersed after seeing the 'Bell's'.

To date no-one had managed clear photographs and, while the bird was tough to get in a frame, I got a few distant, not quite crisp, shots as it popped through the bushes.

When I got home, rushing to get onto another commitment, I quickly cropped some photos and threw them up Facebook and on the NYS Birding List.  Then rushed off, fat and happy, to do other things.

Coming back to my email a couple of hours later, I could see that all was not well in Bell's Vireo land.  A couple of folks had posted messages suggesting that the bird could be a juvenile White-eyed Vireo - the white on the lores and a concentration of yellow on the shoulder being the most concerning field marks.  To complicate matters, Shai Mitra had also been to the site, seen a bird that he was convinced was a Bell's Vireo, but was having a hard time reconciling the bird he saw with my photos.  The white-lored bird in the photos didn't look like the plain-faced bird he, and others had seen (an impression also noted by Dave Klauber, and others who were with me when we saw the bird in the morning).  He suggested that perhaps there was a second 'Bell's' present at the site and that I had posted photos of one bird, while others had seen the second.  The debate raged on (to the extent that birding ID debates can ever been said to truly 'rage') all afternoon.

For my part, I was feeling pretty awkward, having posted the photos that started the controversy - especially awkward if it turned out that my photos were of the wrong bird.  I shot an email to Dick Veit, the finder, apologizing for stirring things up, and made plans to go back the next day for more shots.  I also sent the photos to some West Coast friends, who presumably would have more experience with Bell's Vireos (they shall remain anonymous but you've probably bought their books or been on their birding tours).  The answer was a resounding 'maybe' - while they knew Western race Bell's Vireos, they both had little experience with Eastern races, or juvenile White-eyed Vireos, and demurred to local expertise!  This at least made me feel better about my ignorance of the species.

By the evening things were looking bleaker for the 'Bell's' record.  Corey Finger, one of the early Bell's optimists had got home from work, looked at his photos (which also showed white lores) and had defected to the White-eyed Camp.  This morning, Shai Mitra, after having had the chance to study photos, came down firmly on White-eyed too.  So unless some compelling new evidence comes along, or unless someone gets photos of a second bird that looks better for Bell's, I suspect that's where we'll end up.

So no Bell's Vireo, and a little egg on faces - mine included.  In situations like this my silver-lining is usually that the debate, and all the studying associated with it, at least taught me a lot on how to identify the species.  I'm not sure that's true in this case though - I remain just as confused about Bell's Vireos as I ever was, and the more photos I look at, the less clear it becomes.  Still, it's part of what makes birding interesting I suppose, and it certainly keeps us all humble ....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Crested Caracara in New Jersey.

Took a spin out to Mercer County, New Jersey today to look for a Crested Caracara that had been seen by many over the weekend.  There have been a few recent records in the NorthEast and, while everyone (rightly) debates the origin of these long-distance wanderers, I think the consensus is coming around to them being good birds.

Got to the site (a recently cut alfalfa field near West Windsor) by about 9am, only to hear that the bird had been seen well by many but was now out of sight.  The bird had apparently flown across the field and vanished behind a small 'ridge' not 15 minutes before I got there - 'you snooze, you loose'.  Sat and waited for a good three hours before getting antsy and heading off to drive nearby roads checking other alfalfa fields and open spaces.  Coming up empty I headed back to the original site and, as I rounded the corner, saw that the birders had all moved a quarter of a mile down the road and had scopes all focussed in the same direction!  Sure enough, the bird had flown out from behind the ridge not two minutes after I'd left.

Crested Caracara (2 shots)

Got some distant shots and celebrated my second New Jersey State Bird of 2012 (after Brown Booby). Then I got greedy and tried to add the Elegant Tern at Sandy Hook on the way home; but no luck on the double for the day.  Still, a nice bird, and a change of (state and) scenery, so well worth the trip.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Spoon-billed Sandpiper on Long Island! Or not ...

So a full day on the shorebirds on Long Island on Thursday.  Started at Jones Beach S.P. and worked East with stops at Robert Moses S.P. and Heckscher S.P.  It was shaping up to be a pleasant day with nice looks at Buff-breasted Sandpipers and finally adding Stilt Sandpiper to my Suffolk County Year-List.

Buff-breasted Sandpiper (2 shots)

Stilt Sandpiper
By early afternoon I was near Manorville and debating on whether to go to Cupsogue to look for Hudsonian Godwits (this Summer's bogey-bird) or to follow-up in reports on Baird's Sandpipers near Riverhead.  While I was getting lunch (and dithering) the phone rang and a very excited Derek Rogers came on the line.

"Are you Out East?"
"Sort of.  I'm near Manorville."
"Great.  Get over here now!  Someone just found a possible Spoon-billed Sandpiper."

So decision made, I headed over towards Sound Avenue North of Riverhead.  While I was driving I got a series of texts from Derek.  The bird 'didn't look right' he said (let alone that sod fields aren't exactly classic Spoon-billed Sandpiper habitat) and it had yellow in the bill.  Then a fuzzy, distant, photo of a bird that really didn't look all that promising.

Still, pulling up to the group of birders assembled along Sound Avenue, I jumped out and grabbed my scope.  'The Bird' was sitting, hunkered down among a group of Semipalmated Plover and we had to wait for a while to get a look at it.  But when it stood up and showed itself, it was pretty obvious that the bird, while odd, was not a Spoon-billed Sandpiper.

While the folks on the ground 'wanted to believe' (a Spoon-billed Sandpiper might well have been the best bird ever found in New York, maybe the US) the ID just didn't add up and everyone knew they were looking ant an oddity rather than a rarity.  The bill, while spatulate, flared from the base - more a duck-bill than a spoon-bill.  It was also a mostly yellow bill, as opposed to black.  If you discounted the bill, there wasn't all that much that was odd about the bird.  Basically a Semipalmated Sandpiper juvenile.  Jacob Drucker texted me for an opinion, and forced to make a decision, I came down on "SemiP with a radiation-assisted bill".

So reluctantly, the group of birders dispersed almost as quickly as it had assembled.  I sent a quick email to Shai Mitral and Angus Wilson with the negative news and also responded to emails from Peter Scully and a few others.  Then I, like everyone else, moved on and enjoyed great looks at a group of 20+ Buff-breasted Sandpipers along with a good mix of Baird's Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper and American Golden Plovers.  By far the best and biggest group of Grasspipers I've ever seen.

What I didn't realize was that the negative news was not getting out and that some people were getting very stressed waiting for news on the bird and the ID.  When I got to East Hampton and posted some photos I walked straight into the controversy and I guess, in retrospect, I should have more broadly posted the negative news (although any of the 20 or so birders on site could have done so too).  So live and learn.  An interesting bird and a couple of moments of excitement in an otherwise quiet Summer bird wise.

Summer Tanagers in East Hampton.

We've had Summer Tanagers in, or near, our yard in Northwest Harbor for the last three Summers.  We know that they bred successfully last year as we saw young in and around the yard.  These birds are the only breeding Summer Tanagers in New York State right now - this species has been recorded potentially breeding on only a handful of occasions and it's normal range is way to the South of us.

This year however, we aren't so sure.  There was a male singing in late May / early June but it was singing from an area a little South of the yard and we haven't seen a female, let along young this year.  In fact, I've only seen a male a couple of times this Summer - for a brightly colored bird, they are remarkably good at hiding in the leafy oak canopy.  If it weren't for the load calls, we would never know that they birds were there.

This morning though, I got a break and heard a "chatter call" from the driveway while I was having coffee in the yard.  Grabbing my camera I ran around to the front of the house and saw the male high in an oak tree.

Not the best shot - it had to be heavily cropped to zoom in on what was not much more than a red spot in the original.  It was the first shot that I've managed to get in three years though, so happy to get some documentation for the record books.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Never, ever, leave home without your camera ....

So August was a super-frustrating month bird-wise and my year-list really didn't move all that much.  I did add 6 species but was frankly hoping for 10, 12, or more.  With no hurricane, no offshore pelagic trips, and a bewildering absence of vagrants (especially when compared to last year), birding felt painfully slow.  To add insult to injury, I also missed a few of the things that did show up.  For someone who spends a significant chunk of their life seawatching or messing about on boats, missing Brown Pelican is a little embarrassing.  I also managed to miss all 26 Hudsonian Godwits that came through New York, a fact made more painful by my having decided not to run up for the long staying bird at Montezuma in the Spring.  So, to sum it up, not feeling too good about the whole "Big Year" thing right now.

So, this morning I almost didn't go out but, psyching myself up, finally forced myself to get motivated to go to Central Park. The weather forecast was dismal, with Yahoo Weather predicting a 100% chance of thunderstorms by 9:00am (the remnant of Hurricane Isaac).   So at 6:00am I jumped on the 3-Train but left the camera at home, brought an umbrella, and planned to spend just an hour or two, mostly looking for the Red Crossbills (Type-3) that had been reported there over the weekend.

The Lake in Central Park
Arriving at Strawberry Fields, the light was so terrible that the few warblers I saw were all Warbler sp.  The rain held off though and , and the light slowly improved, so I pushed on to the Upper Lobe (where there were some recent Crossbill Records), and started working uphill towards Belvedere Castle and the Shakespeare Garden.  As I walked uphill, I swore I heard a Connecticut Warbler sing twice - a rich, loud, fluty 'wichity-wichety' song*.  So I pushed on to the spot and quickly saw a bird walking on the ground in one of the densely vegetated woodlots.  I put bins on it and saw a gray-and-yellow warbler, with a long bill, and a white eye-ring!  Male CONNECTICUT WARBLER (NYS 2012 #337)!  Only the third one I've ever seen in Central Park in 21-years - and I didn't have my camera with me ....

I got a couple of good looks and then lost the bird briefly as it crossed to the far side of the fenced enclosure it was in.  Before I went round to the other side, and nervous of flushing it, I stopped, picked up the phone and fired off a NYNYBIRD Text Alert.

Now there are three things that can happen when you do that .....

Scenario 1: you put the bird on the text alert system and 40 birders quickly appear, see and photograph the bird and everyone basically has a jolly good time.  Strangers come up and shake your hand.  Younger/beginner birders thank you for their life bird.  People generally say complementary things about your birding skills.  This happened to me a couple of times this Spring (Kentucky and Yellow-throated Warblers in Central Park).  It's a pretty good feeling.

Scenario 2: you put the bird on the text alert system and 40 birders quickly appear, but fail to see the bird.  They wander around for 15 minutes and look in the area immediately surrounding your sighting.  There is some muttering, mumbling and a general reluctance to make eye-contact.  Birders who don't know you ask others whether you're experienced or whether you could be the type of birder who makes mistakes on the complex IDs.  After what seems like an eternity, people drift off (even while you stay frantically looking for the bird) and an uncomfortable silence returns to the scene.

Scenario 3: you put the bird on the text alert system and 40 birders quickly appear, and quickly get on the bird but, instead of the Connecticut Warbler a Common Yellowthroat or a Mourning Warbler pops out of a nearby bush.  Game over ... take up a new hobby.

Well, lets just say we got Scenario 2 today, and even though I spent most of the next three hours in the general area looking for the bird, I couldn't re-find it.  There were plenty of other good birds in the Park today - Olive-side Flycatcher, Philadelphia Vireo, Yellow-breasted Chat, and a good wave of migrants including lots of Red-eyed Vireos and a scattering of warblers - but was unable to re-find the star bird.  Guess I owe the locals a bird, and I'm never, ever going out without the camera again.

* - I feel better about the song having since listened to tapes and also hearing that one of two Connecticut Warblers found this week at Cape May was also singing.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Photospot: Dickcissel at Montauk

Somehow the colors seemed very Autumnal and fit well with the obvious change of seasons going on right now.  A good week for Dickcissels on Long Island with 3 or 4 showing up at various points along the shore.  Not the most common bird here ....

Blasts from the Past: Jamaican Hummingbirds

[Random shots from my travels around the world over the years]

Recently found an old camera card with photos from an April 2004 trip to Jamaica with Rich Hoyer.  Lots of cool birds and great memories, including a sweep of the endemics, and potential splits.  Given that we did that fairly easily, we spent time looking for herps and came up with some cool things.  Just going to post the four hummingbird species for now.  A little color ....

Black-billed Streamertail

Red-billed Streamertail

Jamaican Mango

Vervain Humminbgbird