Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cape Charles CBC

Harry Armistead assigned John Spahr and me to do the Kiptopeke State Park section of the Bull's Pond sector of the Cape Charles Christmas Bird Count. It was cold with temperatures not rising much above 40F. The wind was not as severe as it was yesterday, which helped, but I'm glad I was wearing several layers. We managed 61 species for the day with landbirds kinda slow. The water birds were nice and included the young male Common Eider seen in this photo and a single dull-plumaged male Canvasback. Overhead the sky was filled several times with skeins of Snow Geese heading south. Maybe Back Bay NWR will get some of these.
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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel CBC

Today is the date of the annual unofficial Christmas Bird Count on the Chesapeake Bridge Tunnel. Ned Brinkley, Bob Anderson, and I fought the fog for most of the day. It lifted in the middle of the afternoon, but the clarity increased mostly the numbers of birds recorded and not the number of species. At this point I'm not certain how many species were seen, but it was low because of the conditions. The best birds were three Black-legged Kittiwakes that flew over island 4 early in the day. Large numbers of Northern Gannets were in the air all day, but it was difficult to assess how many. Many of the gannets were heard calling as they passed the island. A group of four scoters bobbing near the rocks held all three species - a nice bonus. A couple of harbor seals were seen off the points of the islands.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Nassawadox CBC

Due to wet weather the Great Dismal Swamp CBC was cancelled. The heavy snowstorm last Saturday wiped out many counts including the Washington Birthplace CBC I had made plans to do. So Sunday's Nassawadox CBC was my first count of the season. The wind kept the boat party from getting out, so we were down 10 or so bird species to begin with. John Young, Renee Hudgins and I were assigned the Willis Wharf sector. Andrew Baldelli, who had ridden up with us, ended up going with Bob Anderson since the two people he was to have been with bailed. We had a nice day with Maplewood Gardens providing some nice uninterrupted birding in the woods and field edges. It was there that we had a Purple Finch in the woods and a handful of Brant in a field for the only individuals of those species on the count. We spent a fair amount of time viewing the mud flats at Willis Wharf where we counted 49 Willets and 98 Marbled Godwits, both numbers being low for this count. One of the godwits is the subject of the image. We also saw the only Red Knots of the count here.  As of this writing the count tallied 107 species.
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Friday, December 18, 2009

Back Bay and Backyard

On Wednesday, December 16, Sarah and I conducted an impoundment survey at Back Bay NWR as I do three times a month when I'm available. We had a good mix of waterfowl but no shorebirds and no herons besides Great Blue. The Tundra Swans shown here represent a pair of adults with two young and another pair with no young birds. While I was counting gulls on the flat in C Storage impoundment, a large bird flew in and landed beside the gulls; it was a young Northern Gannet. That was the first time ever that I had seen a gannet land in such a small piece of water.
Today a Brown Pelican landed in our cove back of the house and fed for a time with the ducks. Although pelicans have spent much time, usually in the late fall and winter, flying up and down the Lafayette River, they had yet to come into the cove....until today. The bird is an adult with faded plumage and looked very healthy and totally at ease with the Hooded Mergansers around which it fed. The hoodies didn't seem to mind either.
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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

View from the Backyard

Today I made the decision to begin the Big Year from the comfort of my house, starting the day with hot coffee and food instead of somewhere, wild and wooly, on the road. There might be a Great Horned Owl vocalizing then, but I'm not very optimistic that any genuine nightbird will be the first bird of the year. My prediction is that it will be, as it has been for most of the recent mornings, an American Crow. Very little gets by them, so an alert member of the clan will realize that a new year has dawned and it's time to check out the neighborhood.
The posted image was motivated by the presence of the Bald Eagle on the channel marker in the Lafayette River. I put the camera on the heavy tripod and used the timed shutter release option. Even with poor light it came out okay. In fact, the hazy, foggy, misty look, a staple the last three days, captures the feeling of the day. The platform on which the eagle is sitting is the location of an Osprey nest during the spring and summer of each year we've lived in this house. I'm still seeing an Osprey occasionally these days, but less and less often. I still have over two weeks until the Big Year begins, a time I'll fill with Christmas Bird Counts (7 of them) and looking for one last species for my yard year list.
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Monday, December 14, 2009

Juncos and the Suet Eaters

After weeks of complaining that I had no juncos, a small group of six appeared below our seed feeders a few days ago. They've been rather regular since. Today, two different Pine Warblers came in to the suet. However, they had to share the suet with a female Downy Woodpecker. Notice the enormous difference in plumage of the two warblers.  The closer bird is a young female, while the more distant bird is an adult male.  I have a list of 27 bird species that have come to our suet feeders. The suet provides a shot of energy since fat contains the highest content of calories per gram.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Flying eiders and Map time

Yesterday during my final survey on Fisherman Island Calvin Brennan spotted a group of ten ducks he thought might be eiders.  They were in fact Common Eiders with eight of the group females.  One of the two males had a lot of white in the back and that's what drew Calvin's attention to the birds.  The photo shown here is a web image that invokes the spirit of the flyby flock.
In addition to telling you about the eiders, this is an attempt to put a Google map of where I am on my blog.  If it works out well, I'll add a new map each time I change my location substantially during the big year.  I'm trying first with a nearby location.  Let' see what it looks like.

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Friday, November 27, 2009

At home with coffee

Test of netbook blog entry.  I'm trying to do my blog entries in pretty much the fashion I'll do them on the road during the Big Year just to see what hitches there might be.  So far, none, except that my Sony uses CF cards and my netbook doesn't have a CF card slot.  So I'll have to get a card reader that uses one of the USB ports.  The Panasonic uses SD cards for which there is a slot on the netbook.Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Merlin at Back Bay

As part of our beach survey Sarah and I had just reached the North Carolina line having driven south on the beach from the refuge when Sarah pointed out a bird on a piece of driftwood. It was a Merlin and more to the point I was able to get in position, roll the window down, steady the camera, and take a series of photos in very poor light. This image was captured at 1/60 sec, so it's not as crisp as one might hope. However, I'm happy to have it. There wasn't much on the beach in the way of birds. The damage to the dunes from Ida was noteworthy with the primary dunes being breached in several places in both False Cape State Park and Back Bay NWR. Offshore many Northern Gannets were actively feeding as were many porpoises who included full jumps out of the water as part of their activity. Both Common and Red-throated Loons were seen, a few scoters of all three species, and some Red-breasted Mergansers.
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Today during an impoundment survey at Back Bay NWR Geralyn Morales and I saw a coyote.  It was just standing in some water at the far edge of H pool.  It didn't move at first, giving us great looks at him.  Then he simply walked off toward the east into the shrub/scrub.  It was the first coyote I've ever seen in the East.  The photo here is not of the individual we saw.  Ours was indeed a very healthy looking individual, with very handsome fur with reddish tinges. He didn't look the least bit scrawny or mangy as so many coyotes look.  He was a handsome brute.


On Saturday, November 21, I spent most of the day at the hawkwatch platform at Kiptopeke State Park on Virginia's Eastern Shore.  It was a sunny day with a total of 80 raptors seen.  About 70 species including several Bald Eagles and the obliging Snow Bunting were seen or heard during the day.  The Snow Bunting was in the grass near the boat launch at the pier.

Ahead of the storm

Just ahead of Ida that blew through here last week I took a picture of this Great Blue Heron with some Hooded Mergansers in the foreground.  For one thing it shows the limited depth of field of the 500 mirror lens.  But it's kind of an interesting image

Monday, November 9, 2009

Photos in the dark

For the past several nights I've been trying to catch a photo of the animal that's been making a path in the grass from the water to a tree in my yard.  I'm using one of those cameras that hunters use to get an idea of what's around their blind.  So far I haven't been very successful in getting a shot of what I expect is a muskrat.  Instead I've captured several images of raccoons during the night and squirrels during the day.  But I'll keep trying and report back.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Back Bay NWR survey

Did an impoundment and a beach survey yesterday, a combination I refer to as a double-banger. Highlights of the morning survey were a large number of American Coots, Ruddy Ducks, and Lesser Scaup over some sub-aquatic vegetation (SAV) in the bay. The first Tundra Swans of the fall were in B pool, while the Greater Yellowlegs and Dunlin which were in C pool during the last survey were still there. They were joined by a few dowitchers. A young Bald Eagle landed in C storage and appeared to be ill. The last bird of the morning was a cooperative American Bittern pretending to be a stick protruding from the marsh.
The beach survey was rather quiet with only a few gannets and scoters. An odd gull, probably a hybrid of Lesser Black-back and Herring, was studied and photographed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Blue-winged Teal in the cove

This morning I noticed a small duck following a pair of Mallards around. The light was terrible, but it was clear the duck was one of the teals. The scope helped me decide it was a female Blue-winged Teal. The bill wasn't small enough for it to be a Green-winged Teal and there was no indication of any yellow patch near the bird's tail. After a time, she took off and the blue patches in the wing were obvious. She remained through the morning. Too dark for any meaningful picture of her. She was year yardbird #125.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Tale of Two Birds

I have a habit of being out of town or even out of the country when rare birds show up in Virginia. Recently it happened again. My wife and I took our granddaughter to Yosemite where I chose to be out of email contact. After driving back home to Norfolk after returning our granddaughter to her parents, I opened my emails to find that a Roseate Spoonbill had dropped into a cornfield in Augusta County. I checked with John Spahr about the bird's current location and whether he'd like to hook up for a visit. Learning that he had seen the bird earlier, but would be willing to help me, I jumped back in the car with a few things and headed west. Good old Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel on a Friday afternoon added half an hour to the travel time before I had even left Hampton Roads. I didn't have quite enough gas to make it all the way so I stopped as briefly as possible at a gas station near Richmond. Another backup at a bridge, this time over the Rivanna River near Charlottesville during their rush hour, cost another half-hour. I kept in touch with John by cellphone, met and followed him to the site. The landowners had recently given permission to drive on their farm road which made getting to the spot a lot easier. The spoonbill was there but was out of sight at the moment, walking from one edge of visibility to another. Momentarily it was in sight and I could exhale and relax a little. Spent the next hour chatting with the birders there, watching the bird, trying a few photos, watching the bird, chatting. I turned down an invitation to have pizza with John and his wife, jumped back in the car and headed home. It was an uneventful ride; the homeward run after seeing a rarity is always better than the trips after not having seen the bird. But they're not as exhilarating as the run to the bird, filled with expectation. My total miles to and from the bird were 372. If you include the morning miles driven back from Raleigh, the total is 571. By the next day the heat had evaporated so much of the water in the puddles which held whatever the spoonbill was feeding on that the bird had left. A couple of days later a similar bird appeared in Delaware where it was a first state record. Our bird had decided to give a thrill to the birders of another state.
About a week later an eerily similar happening occurred. I got a cellphone message from Bill Williams and an email message on the Virginia Listserve telling of a Violet-crowned Hummingbird coming to a feeder in Craig County Virginia. The location was about 325 miles and five hours away according to Google Maps. So much for the Sunday plans Joyce and I had put together. After extending some telephone invitations to possible cohorts for the following day's trip, my wife and I went to the play at the Generic Theatre in Norfolk which was very good and deserves to be seen more widely. I didn't sleep all that well that night but got together what was needed for the trip the following morning. Ned Brinkley and David Hughes came to the house and together with Ned's dog Roxy we set off at 6 am. We made a couple of pit stops for both people and dog plus a gas refill before we got to the site. As we travelled Ned kept in touch with a birder friend of ours who was also heading to Craig County and would reach the bird before we did. However, he was slowed a bit by being stopped by Virginia's finest, allowing us to close the gap. The location was a nice B&B in a nineteenth century farm house. Our target hummingbird was not in sight when we arrived although there were plenty of the common Ruby-throated Hummingbirds coming to the assortment of feeders hanging under the eaves of the porch. A group of about a dozen birders were there, all of whom had already seen the bird and were engaged in birding chatter. It took about 15 minutes for the Violet-crowned Hummingbird to reappear. More birding chatter and discussion. Roxy got a good walk around the area. Other birds were named as each called or sang or flew by. Digital cameras attached to a variety of lenses, both large and not so large, were clicking away. After an hour had elapsed and three more appearances by the visiting hummingbird had come and gone, Ned, David and I went back to Blacksburg for lunch. Feeling satisfied in many ways, I pointed my Trooper in the direction of Norfolk and we headed east. Another five plus hours and we arrived back at my house where David, Ned and Roxy headed home. I downloaded the photos I had taken, shared them with my wife, turned on the baseball game, and fell asleep. The next evening's email explained that those who looked for the hummingbird on Monday had been disappointed with no sightings. I guess it has moved on.