Saturday, February 28, 2015

Cabin Fever (23-27Feb2015)

A combination of bad weather, work and a visit from the in laws was the perfect storm for very little birding.  However, I refuse to not try when I can so I did eke out a few photos for this year despite poor quality.

Little Blue Heron at Ashley School - yes I am still trying to get a Ross's Goose.

Even Rock Pigeons can be good looking.  This one and 100 of his closest friends were huddled for warmth on the Kure Beach Pier.

A new perspective on a Bufflehead which I usually do not see from on top.

Most of the week was spent in my home office which does not have much of a view.  I have to go to the bathroom when I want to check if there are any birds at my feeder.  I am planning a move to another room in the house soon so I can look at my feeders while working.

Northern Cardinal through my bathroom window. 

Blue Jay also from the bathroom.
The ice storm this week had me thinking Oak Island and a repeat of last year's Woodcock Extravaganza.  However, when I could finally get away from work it was late enough and the ice was bad enough that I decided going across the downtown bridge would be useless.  A mixture of rush hour and bad whether is pretty much hell on earth.  So instead I haded down to Ft. Fisher and took the ferry across.

This Boat-tailed Grackle was braving the sleet at the ferry terminal.

Long story short, apparently an ice storm does not necessarily mean Woodcock Fallout. 

However the White-tailed Deer were falling out.

Later in the week I ventured out to Carolina Beach.  This Snowy Egret was not in a good mood.

American coot recipe - Put them in a pot of boiling water with a brick.  After three days throw the coot out and eat the brick.

Ring-necked Duck

I scrutinized this Scaup for quite some time as I still need a Lesser Scaup photo.  After much deliberation I did come to the conclusion it was in fact a Lesser Scaup.  Forhead is relatively abrupt instead of the rounded head of a Greater.

Then I realized my scrutiny was in vain because a more obvious Lesser Scaup was hanging out under the Kure Beach Pier.

I love a female Bufflehead.
Hmm, what next to chase?  I don't have the desire to drive all the way to try for the Rough-legged again and the OBX are too far. 

I think I will just sit tight and keep birding locally.  George's 8th B-day tomorrow so many festivities to be had including the Serpentarium for the afternoon feeding.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Disgusted then Delighted (22Feb2015)

Today was family time, but little did my family know what they were getting into.  My wife went to go shopping and I decided to bring my kids to Holly Shelter so I could get my year Red-cockaded WP.  I reasoned that it was Sunday afternoon and so the target shooters were probably in church.  Yeah right.  The militia was in full force.  Every 100 yards or so was a group of guys and a couple women with an assortment of guns that would make ISIS Jealous.
If there was a zombie apocalypse, I would feel safer with the zombies.

It is really sad that you can go to a beautiful place like Holly Shelter and run into 30 cars all of which are toting arsenals and are there to shoot things up instead of enjoy nature for what it is.

So needless to say I was in a foul mood.  It was really hard to find the Red-cockaded which is sad because usually it is pretty easy.  Several years ago I don't remember seeing any target shooters but now there are so many that I don't ever want to go back to Holly Shelter, or at least the East side.

This Brown-headed Nuthatch was telling me that my kind was ruining his home and that he is hoping the Zombies win.

Then as we were leaving, I spotted an anomaly among the parked Suburbans with AR-15 stickers.  A sensible sedan (ford focus or Subaru or something) was parked on the side of the road.  A quick scan and I found a pair of birders!!! Another quick scan and I could see they had a flock of Red-cockaded Woodpeckers.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

So I went from a very foul mood to feeling great. We pulled out and a couple miles South on the 17 we spotted a group of Wild Turkey!  I slammed on the breaks and did a U turn.

Wild Turkey - somehow all the passing traffic did not bother them but when I pulled over they took off running.

My wife had finished her shopping so we met at Airlie Gardens for a nice walk.  Airlie is horrendous any time of the day except 7am or 4pm.  Usually the workers and consequently the constant ATV traffic is from 8am to 4pm so if you go before or after it is nice and quiet which is what a garden should be.

Greater Yellowlegs - he was bigger looking but the slightly up turned bill is what made me go with Greater YLs vs Lesser.

Then just before dark hence the bad picture, a Common Gallinule (Moorehen) was spotted where the Wood Ducks usually hang out.

Common Gallinule - bluish gray head and breast, brown back, lateral flank strip and a white rump. I will get a better picture later, once I see this bird at Airlie he usually sticks around.

Margaritas and burritos at K38 ended out the day nicely.

As my homie Ice Cube once said "Today was a good day".

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Don't Ask (20-21Feb2015)

I made another trip to try for the Rough-legged today and I had a second target bird which will remain un-named.  Unfortunately when I was about 10 miles out it started snowing hard and it was sticking.  I put the truck in 4WD and forged on.  Unfortunately after searching for 30 min I had to pull the plug due to the rapidly accumulating snow.  Even with 4WD I was starting to get stuck in the drifts.

These first few pics are actually from the day before.  I went to Halliburton Park and checked the feeders but nothing out of the ordinary.

Pine Warbler?  Pines can be so confusing.

A more typical male Pine Warbler.

Tons of Chipping Sparrows.

Mourning Dove

After Halliburton I checked Greenfield Lake.

Greater Scaup - rounded head, honker of a bill, clean white flanks.  The green head was a nice bonus although that can be deceptive as even Lesser Scaup can appear to have green heads in the right light.

Back to the Rough-legged adventure.  The Xmas farm was pretty as ever with the fresh snow.

I couldn't find the RL Hawk but there was a very large flock of Siskins.  Probably close to 100.

Pine Siskin - the best photo I could manage with the snow and wind.

On my way back down the mountain, I found a couple sparrows looking at me like they wanted to jump into the warmth of my truck.

White-throated Sparrow

A flock of Cedar Waxwings in the falling snow.  Snow Falling on Cedars?  I think that is a book title.

Some Bluebirds in the flock.

I tried Doughton Mtn Rd and saw an interesting raptor, but I have decided despite the dark arm pits that it was a Red-tailed Hawk.  ARGGHHH that's two trips here with nothing to show.

I decided to check Bandit's Roost at Kerr Scott on my way back to Route 77 to see if the Greater White-fronted Geese were around.  The campground was closed to I drove around to the Dam.


A huge flock of Canada Geese was present and mixed in was some goodies.  Above is two Snow Geese.  I was hoping Ross's Geese but they were too big and had grin patches.

Then I spotted my quarry!  6 Greater White-fronted Geese.  Also in this picture if you zoom in, 2 Ring-necked Duck, 1 Scaup (probably Greater) and some Canada Geese.

Another cool finding, a white foreheaded Canada.

And he was huge compared to the others. My Sibley's mentions this weird phenomena as a known aberration.

Greater White-fronted Geese.

American Crows everywhere.

On way home, I found this Hermit Thrush. Actually I was at a residence where I got a good bird for my year, but I can't post it because the homeowners would prefer not have tons of visitors.  So I will post my blog entry and eBird entry in 3-4 months when the bird is gone.  The suspense is killing you??  Good.

I spotted a huge flock of Blackbirds on my way home.

 99% of them turned out to Common Grackles.

Great times.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Mid Life Crisis (14-18Feb2015)

I think I am going through a midlife crisis.  Instead of fast cars and cheap women I want birds.....  Lots of them....A little piece of me dies each time I see a bird species come across my filter that I have not seen yet.  Although this habit might seem harmless to most, it definitely is not.  Driving to see birds is costly in terms of time and money and therefore can put the same strains on life that an addiction like gambling or drugs can.  I think I have it under control for the most part but there is still a little devil in the back of my brain that tells me "you could totally drive up to the OBX on Friday and hop on that Pelagic trip".

So anyway, in order to keep my family intact and job firmly in place, I have been trying to ignore the devil and have kept my birding local and before or after work.

Saturday we (my family) took a walk at Burnt Mill Creek in Wilmington.  I was hoping for Barred Owls but no luck.

American Robin

This Sharp-shinned hawk was able to single-handedly scare the living daylights out of 200 plus robins. Although I can usually find perched Cooper's Hawks, for some reason the Sharpies I see are usually brief glimpses of a flying bird.  So I was happy to get this photo.  Note the relatively square tipped tail white a very thin white border.  The Cooper's Hawk has a more rounded tail tip and thicker border.  Also, I saw this bird up close and it was notably smaller than a Cooper's but this is hard to appreciate from a photo.

I have had a thistle feeder at my house for quite some time and had no takers that I have noticed.  I think I have it hanging in a spot that is too exposed.  Anyway, on Sunday I finally had a single Goldfinch. I thought to myself, oh goody he will bring in waves of finches and siskins.  Not so.

American Goldfinch

Sunday afternoon I decided to bite the bullet and renew my membership to Airlie Gardens.  I have a hate/love relationship with Airlie.  I love the gardens and proximity to my home base, but I hate the way it is managed.  They have all kinds of noisy ATVs roaming around at all times of the day and I also do not like the way they are always clearing sections of the gardens that do not need it.  I frequently see them pulling perennials like Salvias (guaranitica) and chucking them so they can plant some annual that will die in a week.  Recently they got rid of a whole bunch of mature butterfly bushes so they could mulch and plant some myrtles that had been raised on a farm somewhere.  It just seems like a waste of money and resources to me.

Mute Swans nest at Airlie every year that I have been going.

Black-and-white Warbler

This Golden-crowned Kinglet was working a tree in front of me for 10 minutes and somehow this is the best image I got.  They simply will not stay still.

Monday I got away from work for a quick break and checked Wade Park.

Mallards - please do not take these birds for granted.  If you grew up on some other planet and came to Earth you would probably think these were the most beautiful of all the birds.

 Gray Catbirds love Wade Park

So do Brown Thrashers.

Next stop was Greenfield Lake.

This Anhinga would not wake up.  I was waving my arms and yelling so I could get a shot of his head (I know - shameless, but keep in mind I was across the other side of the water and no threat to the bird).      Then I saw a police car eyeing my poorly parked vehicle so I took that as a queue to split.

However, not before taking a picture of Ebony and Ivory.  Double-crested Cormorant and Great Egret.

Last stop was Sutton Lake.  I drove the dirt road hoping for some interesting sparrows and instead ran right into a cute covey of Bobwhite Quail.

Northern Bobwhite.

These birds were relatively fearless, or maybe my car was working great as a blind.  However, there is a slight possibility they were released birds.  There are Bobwhites at Sutton Lake normally, but these birds were not very skittish like they usually are.

So freaking cute.

If the light was not failing these photos would have been insane.  It was almost sunset at this point.

A Cooper's Hawk swooped down while I was watching and I missed the shot but it was impressive.  It was close enough that I could hear the sound of the Cooper's wings swoop in.  Luckily it was an immature Cooper's and he missed his mark.  After dispersing into the woods, I waited and the covey came back out feeding on the side of the road.  Some of you may remember a post from last year called Jimmy Crack Corn.  Well apparently that nice man is still spreading cracked corn out this way and that is what the birds were attracted to.

It was my birthday yesterday so I tried some spots before work and unfortunately came up empty handed with the exception of a nice cluster of Piping Plovers at Masonboro Jetty.

Piping Plover

I bought a new "Squirrel Buster" for my yard so I can stop feeding the many squirrels and so far it seems to be working.  The squirrels have been flabbergasted.

 Red-bellied Woodpecker.

Great times? Could be better, but could be worse.