Sunday, March 18, 2018

In Another Country

 [Common Redpolls love to feed on weed seeds. These are at Wisconsin's Crex Meadows Wildlife Area, a place I didn't even know existed a few weeks ago - and a place I will be returning to. Click to enlarge photos.]

Business had me traveling to the Great Lakes states last week - from the Rio Grande Valley, no less, where I visited friends, saw the wall (ugh) at Santa Ana, and shared my son Tim's excitement with all his  lower Valley lifers, my old friends. By the way, White-collared Seedeaters were easy at Salineno. Just saying.

After notching my last two U.S. states (Oklahoma and Iowa), we arrived in far northwestern Wisconsin, we being me and Boone. It really felt like a different country: nice people, no traffic, wonderful woods and meadows, and a few northern birds despite the fact the land there is still snow covered and at night our frozen breath coated the inside of the truck cap. Birds like Northern Shrike, and the species pictured.

[Trumpeter Swans, also at Crex Meadows. Waiting for the thaw. Trumpeter swans were extirpated from Wisconsin in the late 1800's but were re-introduced in  the late 1980's, with great success.]

Monday, January 15, 2018

Ice-breaking Ferry

Great birding in Delaware, plus the chance to be out with the eyes, ears and skills of my son Tim, lured me across the bay yesterday. And it was indeed great - both light and dark morph Rough-legged Hawks, Snowy Owl, 60+ Snow Buntings, Lapland Longspur, and epic Snow Goose snowstorms at/near Prime Hook NWR, plus terrific waterbirding on the coast. Of course, the wind chill dipped to zero, which made the return trip on the Cape May - Lewes Ferry very special. The sound in the video is not wind . . . it's ice breaking. Made me think of the Titanic, but a safe crossing was made. I've never had a bad trip on that ferry.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Fri-D: Scaup


I've said it for years, and I'll say it again: why, after almost 40 years of birding, studying every possible resource and every possible duck, do I still have trouble with telling Lesser Scaup from Greater Scaup?

Because it's not easy, that's why.

Let me walk that back a bit. I think I've got the scaup thing worked out pretty well, finally, but many times over the years very skilled birders have debated a scaup's identity right in front of me. And it. If only they could talk. The scaup, I mean.

So. I love it when they fly, because then the uncertainty virtually disappears. If the white on the wing pushes strongly out onto the primary feathers, as in the birds above, they are Greater Scaup. If it looks more like a "speculum," they are Lesser Scaup. Or, as Sibley puts it in his second edition field guide, "more white" and "less white." Brilliant. Using this mark requires one to know where the primaries and secondaries of the wing part ways, so study your field guides diagrams on bird topography.

These Greater Scaup flew past the 8th Street jetty in Avalon, NJ yesterday. Click to enlarge.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Winter Color: Last Photo of 2017

[Male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, near Turkey Point, Cumberland County, NJ on New Year's Eve day, 2017. Click to enlarge.]

In winter, any splash of color is a welcome splash, and this sapsucker during the frigid Cumberland Christmas Bird Count sure was easy on the eyes.