Saturday, February 27, 2016

Serendipity (23-27Feb2016)

The best birds are the ones you weren't even looking for.  But before I get to that, let's review this week in birds.

The South end of Wrightsville is always good to me, especially as a way to prepare me for a day's work.  There is no better way to clear my mind than taking a walk on the beach.

Bonaparte's Gull

Not sure what drove these Purple Sandpipers to roost on the beach with 2 perfectly good jetties not far away.

The Nashville Warbler at Airlie Gardens has been frustrating me on the regular lately.  I have tried finding it probably 10 times, found it three but failed at getting a picture.  However, the gardens are gorgeous this time of year with hundreds of camellia bushes in bloom.

Blue Jay

Blue-headed Vireo - I have probably seen 20 already this winter.

This Yellow-throated Warbler has been part of the mixed flock that the Nashville has been loosely associating itself with, so if you see this bird, keep looking.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

The Nashville was sitting next to this female Baltimore Oriole 2 seconds before I took this picture.

A quick drive to Wilkesboro (ha!) netted me the Greater White-fronted Geese that have been hanging out there.

I tried hard to find the reported Cackling Geese but was unsuccessful and I didn't have a ton of time to wait around.

This ridiculously blue bird consoled me.

So did this Field Sparrow

These Canada Geese were swimming in Chocolate Milk at Woodfield Way Ponds.

A couple female Common Goldeneyes were hanging in one of the ponds.

Over all a good week. What better way to cap a good week?  Go birding on Saturday!

Sam C and I headed to Sunset Beach first thing on Saturday.

Birds were singing left and right including this Red-winged Blackbird.

Ospreys are back!!!

Orange-crowned Warbler!  You can almost see a hint of orange.

As we watched a group of shorebirds at the Ocean Isle Beach Inlet, suddenly all hell broke loose.  A Merlin had flown in faster than you can say bloodbath and absolutely demolished a Semi-palmated Plover right in front of us.   Luckily the Merlin decided to have his brunch on a post not 20 yards from us.

Nom nom nom......

That is one badass bird...

A final stop as the Waste Water Treatment Plan got us some more birds and netted us our 100th species for the day and it was only noon!

Purple Martins are back!

Finally on the way home to my beautiful wife, already an hour late, I received a call from Dave W.  Apparently someone had a possible Thick-billed Murre at the South end of Wrightsville.  Arghhh...... Sorry dear wife....This bird I must chase.

We did not find the Murre, but we had Razorbills and Purple Sandpipers and Great Cormorants and White-winged Scoters...


Heavily cropped picture of a Great Cormorant. You can just make out the white patch on his right side.

Then I casually said, "we might as well scope the jetty for the Burrowing Owl".  For those of my readers that don't know, we had a Burrowing Owl here last year and only a handful of folks got to see it and it disappeared..... until now...

To give you an idea of how far it was, take a look at this un-cropped photo.

A little cropped.... See the thing in the middle of the frame with the rounded head?  Even with scopes it was hard to be sure it was the owl but we were fairly certain.  But what if we could get out there..?

So we started trying to flag passing boats down to see if they would shuttle us over to the other side to check.  That didn't work, people undoubtedly thought we were insane.  Or just really nerdy.  No one wants a couple of bird nerds on their boat.  However we were stubborn.  Sam and I went down to the boat ramp at the causeway and Sam asked a couple kids that were putting in their boat if they would give us a ride.  They were two of the nicest teenagers I have met in a long time and before long we were under way.

Bingo!!! Burrowing Owl....

I hope folks don't bother it too much, in fact you can see it from the South end of Wrightsville which is easier and cheaper than trying to get over to Masonboro.  But if you must go out there, just keep a respectful distance.  These images are cropped, we did not approach very close although I am sure we could have.

Altogether a great week!


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

40 Years Old Feels a Lot Like 39 (18-21Feb2016)

This week I turned 40.  Nothing special happened.  In fact I was in Philly for a business trip and only got out of my job site at 4:00 pm which barely gave me enough time to try and chase a wild goose.  The catch was that I had a colleague with me that needed to go to the airport.  Now you know you have it bad when you convince your work colleague to accompany you on a wild goose chase.  She was understanding and her flight wasn't until later anyhow.  Long story short, we arrived at FDR park in Philly and found out that someone with a dog had flushed the Barnacle Geese before we got there. Arrgghhh... Not a good start to my B-Day weekend.

Northern Flickers are notoriously flighty and hard to photograph.  So when this one landed on my lawn right outside my office window, I took a picture from inside the house.

Ever since I have seen a Nashville Warbler at Airlie Gardens, I have been going in the mornings before work to try and get a photo.

He seems to hang out with a mixed flock that includes a Black-and-white Warbler and a Yellow-throated Warbler so I was happy when I saw this guy.

Blue-headed Vireos have also been part of this mixed flock.  However, I still have come up empty on the Nashville photo.  He is super skulky.

GBH - Airlie is a great place to hang out as long as you can stay away from the throng of leaf blowers and weed whackers and ATVs.

Black-crowned Night-Heron

Brown Thrasher

Ruby-throated Hummingbird - she has been loving the Camelia Garden.  I didn't know that HBs will feed from Camelias but this one seems to be feeding from them exclusively.  I have a ton to learn still on reducing bad lighting effects.  I couldn't seem to get a decent shot of her with the sun shining right on her.

First stop on the way to the OBX for my pelagic was Mattamuskeet.  What a great place.  I really hope that Derb's predictions of the water level issue don't come true.  What is not clear to me is how raising the water level on the main lake will affect the impoundments.  I will have to research this more.  Maybe I can mobilize my 4 blog readers and organize a peaceful protest at the refuge headquarters.  For those of you not aware, information can be found here.

This Common Yellowthroat had a strange reddish tinge to her head.  Anyone ever seen this before?

Marsh Wren

Bald Eagle

I made it to Alligator just in time for the Short-eared Owls.  Also, I saw a hawk that looked a lot like a Rough-Legged but the looks were horrible.  If you are in the area of Long Curve Rd, keep your eye out for a hawk with a very dark and low belly band.

Short-eared Owl just before dark - this species is notoriously difficult to photograph because they only come out just before dark when the light is too poor to get a decent photo.  Here you can see the big lobular (is that a word?) wings with light patches.  They fly like giant moths and are pretty hard to mis-identify if you do get lucky enough to see one fly by.

Saturday dawned and the trip was a go from Hatteras.  After Captain Patteson went through his spiel, we set off under full motor for the long detour around the sound due to shoaling in the inlet.  This was fine by me because I needed Brant for the year and we easily found a nice group on the way.

This is a species which I have not been able to crush.  Something to live for....

Not long out of the inlet, Lucas B shouted "Glaucous Gull"!!!

What a beast!  All white and large...

I think I took a million photos and never really came out with one that satisfied.  I need to play with my camera more.  Once I get in a place I am comfortable with, I stop experimenting.  All white birds are tough.

Look into his eyes and you will see the meaning of life.

Plenty of fly by Razorbills all day long.

Glaucous Gull

Great Black-backed Gull - the biggest and baddest gull out there if you are not counting Jaegers and Skuas as gulls.

We had very good numbers of Northern Fulmars and saw pretty much every color schema possible.  All gray birds, two-tone birds and all white.  Kind of an ugly bird unless you see it in flight and then they are more like Shearwaters than gulls.

They have an disgusting habit of throwing up fishy bile all over everything but luckily I did not witness it this time.

The sea was rough but only a couple people got sick and they were only briefly sick.  Not like other trips where I had to sit through the sounds of a grown man retching for hours and hours.  So overall it was a great trip.

It's not a bad picture - it's Razorbill art!

One of the things I love about Patteson Pelagics is that Kate (first mate) really takes the time to help you with IDs.  She helped me to pick out the different cycles of Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  I believe this was a first cycle bird she pointed out.

2nd or 3rd cycle Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Bonaparte's Gull - once we found a nice color change (area where cold and warm currents meet), we scoured the hundreds of Bonaparte's Gulls for a Little Gull but came up empty.

Red Phalaropes were plentiful.


Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

A decidedly nice looking Northern Fulmar.  Although you can see a hint of the yellow staining from this birds bullemic tendencies.

We had thousands of Gannets but for some reason I only took 1-2 pics. Such a disservice to such a distinguished species.

DOVEKIE!!!!  This was our second bird but the first was not cooperative and flew off like a wind-up toy.

So cute.... Then a gull started to peck at him/her and Captain threw his engines into gear and ordered the crew to throw some chum to get the gulls away.  It was time to start motoring home anyway.

Farewell dear Dovekie, I hope to see you again next winter.

Sunday dawned at Buxton and I began a long slog home that netted me two photographs for year birds but overall was a big disappointment.  I dipped on any interesting shore or water birds at Cape Point, then at Pea Island and Bodie Island.  Then at Alligator and Pettigrew I could not find anything of note.  In fact at Pettigrew it was so devoid of birds that I couldn't find any land birds at all.  I was hoping for Winter Wren or Brown Creeper but I couldn't even find a sparrow.

Common Gallinule at Buxton Woods trail.

Green-winged Teal at Pea Island

American Avocet at Pea Island

This Cormorant was having a staring contest at the old Lifeguard Station but the piling won.

Back home I tried before work at the Fort Fisher Basin trail for sparrows and Sedge Wren but dipped badly.  Have the sparrows already taken off?  I believe they are one of the first to migrate.

Marsh Wren doing a split eagle.

Maybe this Cooper's Hawk was my problem.

Bufflehead from the side of the Kure Beach Pier.

I made good progress, but I was a little disappointed that my winter pelagic lifers still eluded me - Puffin, Little Gull and Kittiwake.

Next week I have a business trip to San Diego and might be able to fit in a half day between work obligations.  Not enough time for a pelagic, but birding the coast might net me some alcid lifers.  I have most of the Southern Cali land birds already.

So in the end, I did not have any mid-life crisis so maybe that means I will live to at least 90.  Great times.