Saturday, October 25, 2014

Sedge Saturday (25Oct2014)

I got up early today so I could get some birding in before the double-header soccer games for the kiddos and the half marathon for the wife.  Where to go when you don't have tons of time?  Fort Fisher of course.  I might as well buy a house down there.

I started out at sunrise at the Rocks at Federal Point.  Lots of birds moving around including hundreds of Yellow-rumps.  I ran in Dave W. and we birded there a bit and then headed to the Basin Trail so he could show me where he had his Sedge Wren.

We had some good activity in the small brush before the long boardwalk including this mystery sparrow.  It had a nice eye-ring, no real streaking that I could see on breast, scaly patterning on nape and back, buffy breast and the weirdest part was that the lores were dark and there was no real eye line.  Usually the dark bits are behind the eye not in front.  I think its a Vesper/Swamp/Field/Lincoln's hybrid.  Whatever it was, it doesn't count for my effort.

However what does count is this Sedge Wren that Dave re-found!!!!!

Buffier and lighter in color than a Marsh.  The cap is not as dark and contrasting as on a Marsh.  Just one of those birds that description is difficult but it just looks different.

I went to CB State Park for Sunset and heard a chorus of Great Horned owls but nothing new to be found.

Great times.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Vesper Friday (24Oct2014)

I have been birding Ft. Fisher regularly this week trying to get Sedge Wren pictures and more recently Vesper Sparrow.

The basin trail has been gorgeous at sunset with plenty of Yellow-rumps and Palm Warblers.  The bush at the end of the trail is covered with Monarchs (I think thats what they are).

Anyway long story short the Sedge Wren is around but evading my camera.

Now I thought Vespers had eluded my camera too, but it turns out I got one really bad photo that should qualify.  I had seen at least one or two mixed in with a flock of Song and Savannah Sparrows at the Ft. Fisher Ferry Terminal but every time I got one identified they flew off before I could get my camera up. I did see one with a decent eye ring and a couple with white outer tail feathers.

Vesper Sparrow - over-exposed photo with the sun shining right on his breast but the eye ring was pronounced enough that I think this photo is diagnostic.  Also the auriculars are framed nicely like a Vesper should have.

I saw Harry at the Ferry Terminal and he is looking well.  He said there was nothing good on the spit, just tons of fisherman and no birds.

I am hoping I can get a better photo tomorrow.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Tons of Birds but nothing New (12-20-Oct-2014)

Hello birders,

Nothing new to report but I figured I would post a couple things so you don't think I am slacking off.

Of course I have made trips to Ft. Fisher as usual.  On the 12th, I went out to the end of the Basin Trail and got good looks and pics of what I think is all three of the salt marsh sparrow species.

Seaside Sparrow - The drabber of the three.

Seaside Sparrow

Nelson's Sparrow - the best field mark which seems to work for me is the contrast between the malar strip color and the breast.  I the Nelson's it should be about the same.  The Saltmarsh has more contrast with the malar being more bright then the breast.  Streaking is also more fine on the Nelson's.

Nelson's Sparrow - the Sibley guide says that the bill color is different with Nelson's being more gray and the Saltmarsh being more yellow.  I can't seem to agree on that so I hope my IDs are not wrong.  Also, Sibley says the Saltmarsh has a longer bill which I also have not noticed.

I think this one is good for Saltmarsh - malar is darker orange than breast and streaks are darker and thicker.

At Carolina Beach State Park, nothing new but some nice birds none the less.

Pileated WP.

Sunday the 19th Shun and I went to Pea Island and Lake Mattamuskeet.

This Marsh Wren was at Bodie Island.  We had a Sedge Wren too but I couldn't get a pic. Same goes for a vocalizing Virginia Rail - no pictures ARRGGGhhhh.

We went to the "New Fields" at Pea Island and combed thousands of ducks for a Eurasian Wigeon but came up empty.  Later we spoke to Carson and James at Mattamuskeet and they said the EUWI was seen from the third viewing platform.  Of course Shun and I only went as far as the second - ARGGHHhhhh.

The best bird of the day came about 3 miles from the Mattamuskeet entrance on route 264.

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - what a beauty!!

In Mattamuskeet we had lots of good birds including a Lincoln's Sparrow Shun had but I missed.  A common theme that the birds were around but just do not want to be added to my big year for some reason.

Gray Fox (I think thats what its called).

Bald Eagle - what a gorgeous bird.  I can see how some folks misidentify immature Bald Eagles as Golden Eagles.  They have a somewhat golden color especially when seen in the right light which in this case was right before sunset. However the patterning underneath is different and this was a Baldy.

I had a great time with Shun despite not finding any new birds.  I guess it gives me a reason to go back up soon.

Monday back in the office and Ryan J calls me with a Nashville Warbler at the end of the Basin Trail at Ft. Fisher.  As soon as I got of my morning TC I sprinted down there and it seems I was too late.  It was lunch time and their was tons of people hiking the trail with a huge group eating lunch at the very spot Ryan saw the bird.

On my way back to my truck I did find a nice flock of warblers and I thought I had a Nashville in the flock but he flew away before I could get a decent look/photo.  I could have sworn the bird had a full eye ring and yellow throat.  But the problem was there was gray headed Orange-crowned Warblers mixed in and Common Yellow-throats and I started second guessing my first look.

I think this was the bird I first saw that I thought was a Nashville but the picture is poor and I am not counting it.  Also this bird has some streaking on breast which is problematic.  Its possible this is not the bird that I first saw that I thought was a Nashville, there was so many birds moving around I was getting confused when I finally got my camera up.

Orange-crowned Warbler ?  This bird had some traits of a bunch of species.  I think this is a different bird than the one above it.

Orange-crowned Warbler.

The Common Yellowthroats in the flock added more confusion to the mix.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow?

Great times.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Determination (08-11-Oct-2014)

New birds are coming really slow now and it's getting really difficult having a hopeful attitude knowing that the majority of sessions you will see nothing new.  This despite putting in the time and effort of locating a bird that has been seen recently and driving long distances to see it.  They are birds after all and are known to fly before you can get to them.

This past week I have been birding Ft. Fisher every day before work and sometimes after work hoping to get some of the last migrants I still need to photograph like Blue-winged Warbler and Bay-breasted Warbler.  These are birds I have seen several times this year but have been too slow with the camera. No luck but the birds have still been plentiful.

Least Sandpiper at Ft. Fisher

Semi-palmated Plover

Semi-palmated SP in middle.

Friday I made the trip up to Duck so I could try for the reported Wilson's Warbler.  No dice but there were tons of other warblers to distract me.  The yellow-rumps were in full force so I had to be careful picking out the other species.

Prime example above, could easily be mistaken for a Pine, but I am pretty sure this is a Blackpoll.  The feet and legs were very yellow and the undertail coverts long and tail relatively short.

I had what I think was a Bay-breasted too but none of the photos were good enough to be conclusive.  All of the Bay-breasted I have seen this year have been way to high up to get decent photos.

Parulas were everywhere.

I thought I had a Nashville but it took off before I could get a photo or a decent look.

Black-throated Green

They say Corvids are super smart, this one apparently did not like me.

Black-throated Blue.

This Carolina Wren felt bad for me with all the flitting warblers evading my camera so he posed nicely for me.

Friday night I stayed at Milltail Rd at Alligator NWR for sunset hoping the Short-eared Owls were back.  Beautiful sunset but no owls.

So then I drove real slow through Washington and Beaufort Counties hoping for a Barn Owl on the telephone poles but no luck there.  I even stopped at Terra Ceia Christian School to see if any Barn Owls where hanging out in the old structure across the street.  Nothing.

So that's like 10 hours driving for no new birds.  ARGGGhhhhh.

However, I had a back-up plan.  Whenever in doubt, tag along with John Fussell and crew.  John and Chandra were nice enough to let me know of a trip that one of their local bird clubs was taking to Shackleford Banks to look for Long-billed Curlew.  Thanks to Bob G. who was organizing the trip for letting me on.  We left Harker's Island on a small rented boat and the Captain drove us around some of the spots that John and the others had seen Curlews in the past.

First we found three Reddish Egrets which was nice in itself.  The pictures came out bad so I will spare you.  There were nice little flocks of other shorebirds like Oystercatchers, Dowitchers and we even had a couple Blue-winged Teal.

As we rounded the East side of Shackleford, I spied this baby horse doing his/her morning calisthenics.

Then we rounded the cape to the South side of the island and we found a nice grouping of birds on the shoreline.  Of course we were all looking at this large group of birds but John knew better and had spied something way in back in a little tidal bay that was all to itself.

Long-billed Curlew!!!!!

At first glance it looked like a Marbled Godwit more than a Whimbrel with the exception of the long downcurved bill.  The coloration was buffy or orange compared to the more gray brown of a Whimbrel.  The most pronounced difference was the plain looking head compared to the streaked head with well defined markings on a Whimbrel.  The bill was long and slender, but this was probably an intermediate age bird as the bills can get much longer.

Excuse the poor pictures, the captain was not allowed to beach the boat due to regulations set by his competitors and therefore there was quite a bit of engine shake and small wave action which prevented crisper images.  If we were allowed on the beach I am sure we could have gotten fairly close to the bird.


So nice to get such a great bird after trying so hard to get something this week.

On the way back we looked for some more but only found some more Reddish Egrets, maybe the same ones.

To end the day I stopped by Willis, NC near the North East Border to Camp Lejeune and bagged this Sandhill Crane that has been there for a couple weeks.

I could have gotten much better photos but as I approached he let me know to back off so I did and left him alone.

Sandhill Crane with his Black Angus buddies.

Great Times.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Cape Lookout Fallout and Ft Fisher Sparrowfest (05-06Oct2014)

Hello birders,

What a great couple days of birding.

Saturday I birded Greenfield Lake before my kids' soccer games and had some warblers and other birds but nothing great.  I knew Sunday was going to be the big day because of the front.  I was torn between staying local and joining John, Jack and Chandra for a trip out to Cape Lookout.  The Cape is the southern terminus of the Outer Banks so a Northwest wind will push all the birds down.  The added bonus is that most of the trees are fairly low.  Its a long drive to the Harker's Island Ferry terminal, but in the end I trusted John's innate bird finding ability and made the drive leaving my house at 4am.  It ended up being worth it.

We walked about 8 miles according to Chandra's iPhone app and ended up with 14 warbler species, over a hundred Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Philadelphia Vireo, Hundreds of Catbirds and Phoebes, Peregrines, Merlin, Clay-colored Sparrows, White-crowned Sparrow, Bobolink and some other goodies.  The big miss was a Blue-winged Warbler that I found but somehow missed a picture of it.  I think the few times I clicked the shutter I must have just missed him before he jumped to a new perch.  However all in the group got a good look.  John says its a good bird for Carteret County.

Black-throated Green.

Cape May - there was tons of Cape Mays and a few really colorful ones.

Black and White Warbler.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo - we ended up putting about hundred on our list but I think there were several for every one we flushed.  They were everywhere.

Magnolia Warbler - we had a couple of these.

Black-throated Blue.

Peregrine Falcon - there were at least two of them but we saw them again and again as they cruised the relatively small area.

This Merlin had a very full crop.  He was in heaven with all the easy targets.

After Cape Lookout we swung by North River Farms and had Bobolink, tons of Blue Grosbeak and Indigo Bunting feasting on some yummy Millet.


Monday morning before work I checked Carolina Beach State Park and Ft. Fisher.  Nothing great but still nice.

Red-tailed Hawk with a really nicely defined bib.

I counted about 10 Marsh Wrens at the walkway near the Cape Fear River at Ft. Fisher.  I still can't buy a decent look at a Sedge Wren.

This evening after work I headed back to Ft. Fisher and joined Greg and Harry for some birding.

Greg found this Clay Colored Sparrow at the Ft. Fisher Aquarium trails.  He was so exhausted from migration that he let us get within 10 feet but the lighting was not the best.  The picture does not do the looks we got justice.

We hit up Crossover 2 and had a huge group of migrating Nelson's Sparrows.  Usually I can see 1 or 2 resident birds in the winter mixed in with Saltmarsh and Seaside but this time there was 10-15 in a small area and they were not shy.  This was the last of the three I needed a decent picture of and I got some good ones.

Nelson's Sparrow - face and breast yellow/orange color is fairly uniform and the line delineating the breast and belly is well defined.  Streaking is lighter than Saltmarsh.

Nelson's Sparrows - two for one shot.

I love this shot - spread eagle.

Can your Grandfather do this!!!


Great times!!!