Sunday, January 26, 2014

An Afternoon at Barnegat Light

 [Female Long-tailed Duck at Barnegat Light, NJ this afternoon. Click to enlarge all photos.]

Somehow I managed not to photograph the female King Eider or any of the Harlequins, but other than that it was a fine, cold afternoon outing at venerable Barnegat Light, NJ, which is where everyone goes to photograph eiders and especially Harlequins, so maybe it's just as well I concentrated on the other species present. This was the first serious bird outing I've had in a couple weeks, so everything was appreciated, especially the everything that was close to the jetty, which was most things. There was a really fine, big collection of ducks in the inlet, with all three scoters, both eiders, and a nice bunch of Greater Scaup, plus plenty of Long-tailed Ducks and Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Loons and two Red-necked Grebes and Great Cormorants and. . .it was really pretty good.

[Dunlin forages in the wrack on the edge of the Barnegat Light Jetty.]

[Landing female Common Goldeneye.]

[Always a nice surprise, two Red-necked Grebes were in the Barnegat Inlet near the lighthouse. Note the red on the neck of the back bird, leftover from breeding plumage.]

 [Red-breasted Merganser races past.]

[Pair of Black Scoters. There was much whistling and courting by this species in Barnegat Inlet today.]

[The rarest of the three scoters, we saw a total of 7 White-winged Scoters today.  There are fewer White-winged scoters in the world in absolute numbers than the other two scoter species, and they tend to winter farther north (and on the west coast), which is why we see fewer of them than the other two.]

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Word Is

[Word is. . . it's cold outside, says this puffed up Yellow-rumped Warbler at Forsythe NWR yesterday.]

Word is, there were 29 or more Fox Sparrows on the lawn at Cape May Point State Park today, refugees from snow cover.  That word being from Tom Johnson. Dunno about you, but I've never seen that many Fox Sparrows in one shot.

Word is, the Cape May canal is frozen solid at the ferry terminal, that word being from Richard Crossley, who called to chat about American Black Duck - Mallard hybrids at Forsythe NWR, my workplace.

Word is, the birdseed on the deck is much appreciated, that word being from the juncos and whitethroats devouring it now.

Word is, it's winter, that word being from the National Weather Service, which says temps will go down to 9 degrees F. this Tuesday.  Good time for heat tape and keeping the water trickling in the tap.

Imagine being a bird right now, all the choices you have to make right to survive.  Feed here, or move on to feed elsewhere.  Roost here, or seek shelter elsewhere, and risk being found by hawk or owl while you are looking for the perfect spot.

Word is, we're lucky to be human and sheltered in our homes while our beloved birds struggle out in it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: Frozen Sunset

[Norbury's Landing, NJ January 22, 2014.]

"One man's sunset is another man's dawn."
- Wylie Burp

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Hordes

 [European Starlings thronging to Eastern Redcedar berries in Stone Harbor, NJ on Sunday.]

I guess I was hoping for something fancier when I went to Stone Harbor today, but the highlight had to be the flock of several thousand European Starlings devouring eastern redcedar berries, poison ivy berries, sumac berries, and probably foods I didn't notice on the Nummy Island causeway.  It was a real spectacle, one I'm sure the native birds that were looking forward to these foods probably didn't appreciate.

[European Starlings, Stone Harbor today. The buff feather tips will wear off over the course of the winter, leaving the birds in fine, dark glossy green-black breeding plumage come springtime.]

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday: Guts

“If you build the guts to do something, anything, then you better save enough to face the consequences.”
― Criss Jami

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Finding What You're Not Looking For

[Northern Mockingbird takes a drink from a car roof, Cape May, NJ on Sunday. Click to enlarge.]

I not found (I know, it's bad grammar) the Greater White-fronted Goose, Black-capped Chickadee (second Cape May record), and plenty of other birds in Cape May this morning, but still managed some interesting observations, my favorite of which was the pictured mockingbird.  You could spend a lot of time staking out rain- or dew-covered car roofs and not see a bird drinking from them, so I counted myself lucky to be there, camera at the ready, when this mockingbird decided to do just that.  It's called taking things as they come to you, which is evolving into my New Year's resolution, bird wise: just get out there and enjoy what unfolds. 

Like bumping into friends at Cape May Point State Park, and finding a Blue-winged Teal there, a lingerer indeed when many of its kind are in Central and South America. That's a long way for a duck to fly, as my companions this morning pointed out, and yet wintering numbers of Blue-winged Teal in the U.S. are low except for the Gulf Coast and Florida.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Thoughtful Thursday

"Life is constantly providing us with new funds, new resources, even when we are reduced to immobility. In life's ledger there is no such thing as frozen assets."
- Henry Miller

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Froze-out Birds

[Red-necked Grebe at Nummy Island, NJ today.]
Arctic blasts of air tend to move things, when they're not freezing things, like my home's water line, for example, which necessitated a day off and visits to the hardware store and the dank innards of the crawl space to apply heat tape to pipes.  Ah, but the Arctic air also freezes water bodies, which forces birds wintering to the north to reconsider sometimes.  That, I presume, is what put the Red-necked Grebe at Nummy Island this afternoon, where I was delighted to find and photograph it. Red-necked Grebes aren't exactly rare but close to it, and this I believe is the first I've ever photographed in Cape May County. I'd be curious to know exactly where the grebe was before it up and moved to Cape May - could be as far as the Great Lakes, but probably it was a shorter hop, perhaps from some inland reservoir that froze over and forced the move.
Near the Grebe were two Common Goldeneye, a presumed immature male showing a trace of a white spot on the face, and a female, and near them were numerous more common things like Bufflehead and Red-breasted Mergansers, all concentrated near the toll bridge at the south end of Nummy Island.
 [Immature male and female Common Goldeneye with a Red-breasted Merganser at Nummy Island today.]

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Last Bird, First Bird, Good Birds

[Unexpected: this Painted Bunting, likely an immature male since it is so bright, was discovered by Bob and Stephanie Brown in Cape May Point, NJ this morning.]

By paying just a little bit of attention, I determined that the last bird species I recorded in 2013 was the Dunlin that shot across the Nummy Island causeway in front of the truck on New Year's Eve, shortly before dark and shortly after we recorded Snowy Owl and Snow Buntings in Stone Harbor. A fine finish to a good year.  This morning it was a cardinal chipping outside the bedroom window that became bird number one, beginning a day spent with friends re-tracking-down the Ash-throated Flycatcher and White-winged Dove of yesterday, as well as the continuing Rufous Hummingbird and the pictured surprise, an immature male or female Painted Bunting.  Not even Cape May often produces so many rare birds back to back.

Now, what should the bird goal be for 2014?  A big Cape May County year, perhaps? Several friends are threatening to do just that, why not me too, I wonder.  I dunno, I'm not feeling chasing birds, even just in the county, right now. I had this idea that maybe I would photograph every bird species I see in 2014, but that got broken up right away today when I was unable to get shots of the first several species I found, mainly from lack of patience.  This bird goal thing is going to require further reflection. . .