Total ABA Species Recorded During 2010 - 731

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 72nd birthday.  It started last night when Wes picked up Chris and me at the San Francisco airport and we drove north to Ukiah CA where we checked into a motel at 1:00am, got four hours of sleep, and resumed driving, arriving in Eureka CA, the vicinity of the target bird, around 9:00am.  Eventually, there were about a dozen birders looking for the Brown Shrike, an Asian vagrant which was found a couple of weeks ago and since then has been playing peek-a-boo with those trying to see it.   When the bird has been seen, it was in bushes around a coastal pond.  We spent three plus hours searching until it began to spit rain.  We hadn't seen the bird and it was getting hungry, so we went into town to a wifi restaurant where we checked out the weather forcast and the rare bird reports and then had lunch.  After lunch, we went to the north rock jetty west of town and had a great bird show including Black Turnstones, a Wandering Tattler, Surfbirds, and a couple of Rock Sandpipers (web photo), the latter being a year bird for Chris and a state bird for me.  We also had Black and Surf Scoters, Harlequin Ducks, Double-crested and Pelagic Cormorants, two Pomarine Jaegers harrassing a Black-legged Kittiwake, Common Murres, Pacific Loons, Western Grebes, and Herring, California, Western, Ring-billed, and Glaucous-winged Gulls.  After the rock jetty, we decided to get motel rooms and try to catch up on some rest.
     I have decided as a birthday present to me to take the two splits which ABA has sanctified this year.  As most of you already know those are Pacific Wren (from Winter Wren) and Mexican Whip-poor-will (from Whip-poor-will).  I have gotten both of those birds earlier in the year and ABA Big Year rules allow splits during a year to be counted.  I was going to wait until the end of the year to add them, but my birthday seems an appropriate time to bring them in.  That's the reason my total has jumped two birds without my getting any new ones today.  With that addition I am now tied with Lynn Barber for the third highest all-time Big Year list total.  I need four more to reach second.  First is totally out of the question.
     The weather is questionable for tomorrow, so we'll just have to see what it looks like in the morning.  If it's not raining, we'll probably go look for the Brown Shrike again.  If it is, we'll head south and get positioned for another attempt at flying home.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Streaked-backed Oriole

After a motel breakfast, Chris and I headed out of Phoenix toward Yuma.  It took a bit less than three hours to get to Tacna AZ, turning north and then west to reach the grove of trees surrounding a pair of houses associated with the large agricultural fields in the area.  When we stepped out of the car, we knew immediately what we were up against.  The wind was blowing about 15-20 mph.  You couldn't hear anything and the birds were hunkered down.  We spent about three hours walking up and down the road checking out the trees, bushes, and thickets alongside.  We did see several of the birds characteristic of southern AZ like Crissal and Curve-billed Thrashers, Abert's Towhee, Gambel Quail, Vermilion Flycatcher, Gila Woodpecker, Verdin, and Black-tailed Gnatcatcher.  But nothing like an oriole appeared.  So we hopped into the car and drove back to the interstate which brought us closer to food and to an internet connection.  We cancelled our previously reserved trip to San Francisco so we could spend the afternoon looking for the bird without the worry of getting back to Phoenix for a flight.  After lunch, we went back to the ranch where Ericka Wilson and two friends were looking for the oriole.  So we all looked together while I caught up on Erika's news.  An hour and a half didn't produce the oriole, so Erika's group left intending to return tomorrow.  Shortly after they left, the owner of the house invited us into her yard.  We started carefully worked the southern edge.  In a non-windy interlude we heard an oriole-like chatter which froze us on the spot.  Directly in front of us was a pomegranite bush with fruit.  The call had come from there.  We inched up and took up positions on opposite sides of the bush.  I squeaked and out popped the oriole.  "I've got it!"  Chris raced over and after some initial frustration got to see the bird.  I managed a couple of pics (photo).  We called Erika to tell her the oriole had shown up.  I called Paul Lehman to thank him for finding the bird and for calling me.  Erika and friends returned and we showed them where the bird was, but it had become a supreme skulker and was staying hidden in the interior of the bush.  We left them to get the bird and drove back to Phoenix.  Along the way I made new airline reservations to fly home tomorrow.  But at a stop at McDonald's for coffee and wifi, we discovered that the Northern Lapwing had gone missing for the day, but the Brown Shrike had been seen.   Chris and I discussed what to do and finally decided to rebook a flight to San Francisco for tonight where Wes Fritz would pick us up and we would go for the Brown Shrike tomorrow.  We made it back to the airport in time to turn in the car and get checked in for our flight.  Tomorrow, we'll be in Northern California trying to get the shrike before the weather gets foul.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Tufted Flycatcher at Big Bend TX

The hotel shuttle bus took me to the Baltimore airport at noon Saturday, and I sat around watching families head home.  Although flights were delayed, mine to Albuquerque NM and then to Midland TX were right on time.  In Midland I met Chris Hitt at baggage claim.  He had been waiting for hours, had watched several football games, and had already gotten the rental car. So we loaded up and took off about 10pm.  About twenty miles down the road, it was apparent the car had a flat tire.  We stopped, I changed it (in the dark!), and we took the car back to the airport for a replacement.  Back on the road, we grabbed a McDonald's snack and drove the two hours to Fort Stockton where we spent a few, too few, hours asleep in a motel.  At 5:40am we arose, showered, grabbed some breakfast in the motel lobby, and began the drive to Big Bend NP.  We had almost arrived at the flycatcheer spot when we were stopped by the park police for speeding.  Trying to explain how our excitement had pushed the pedal a bit too much really didn't sell.  But, when we finally were able to check yesterday's flycatcher location, we found Jay Hand in place trying to photograph the bird.  We were ecstatic.  I took plenty of pictures, two of which are posted here (photos).  The bird was calling and doing sorties from a variety of perches, finally settling for a large cottonwood with plenty of little twigs upon which to perch and be photographed.  We birded around the area and then headed back to Midland where we booked a flight to Phoenix to look for the Streak-backed Oriole near Wellton AZ tomorrow.  The internet told us the oriole was seen today, so we're hopeful of seeing it tomorrow.  In addition the Brown Shrike in Northern California was re-seen and a Northern Lapwing was discovered near Storrs CT.  There doesn't seem to be a shortage of birds to chase at present.  Ah, the challenging life of a Big Year birder.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 26, 2010

She's a Beautiful Lady

It took two hours but she finally put in an appearance.  If you've followed this blog, you know that I've looked for a White-winged Crossbill in Colorado, Alaska (three times), New Brunswick, and New Hampshire with no success.  Over a week ago this female appeared at a Juniata County PA bird feeder and I got wind of it through the state listserve.  She then flew into a window and developed a bump on her head and a bum wing.  However, being the resilient soul she is, she righted herself and hung on for over a week just so we (Joyce and I) could see her, and she seems to be doing very well at present.  She was visiting feeders at the Lost Creek Shoe Shop in Oakland Hills PA.  It's a store run by an Amish family.  They also do shoe repairs including putting new Vibram souls on hiking boots.  We waited an hour in the store watching their feeders through the windows with no luck.  Then better news!  The wife and mom of the operation returned from their house across the street to tell us that the bird was feeding at the feeders at the house.  We went there only to miss the crossbill by a minute.  So we sat and chatted with Aden Trayer, the former store owner, recently "retired," who is quite a birder and has traveled to Churchill.   We traded Churchill stories while we waited for the bird's arrival.  After almost exactly another hour had passed, she came in to her favorite feeder.  I got a reasonable picture (photo) although she stayed on the shady side of the feeder.  After chalking up yearbird #719, we went back to the store and bought some bird related items to take with us.  Aden also sells optics, as in Swarovski, Leica, Zeiss, etc.  He showed me some of his wares, and I priced a new scope.  But I also found out it he takes in trades including scopes.  I told him I'd get back to him when I was ready to buy my replacement scope.  Joyce and I then took his lunch recommendation and went to the Bread of Life in McAlisterville.  During lunch I checked emails, NARBA, and listserves on my netbook, and found that the Tufted Flycatcher at Big Bend NP had been seen well this morning.  Using the netbook, I got an airline ticket to Midland TX for tomorrow to give the flycatcher a try.  I also made reservations for a BWI airport motel so Joyce and I could spend another evening together before parting ways again.  And another chase is on.

Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Long Beach Redux

I spent a day and a half in the area of Long Beach where the Black-tailed Gull had been seen most of the day on Sunday.  We did see a nice variety of water birds around the cove like the Western Grebe (photo) and Heerman's Gull (photo), but not the gull we were seeking.  Outlying areas were also checked by astute observers with the same negative result.  Nobody knows where the gull goes when it's not in the cove.  About noon on the second day I left to drive back to LAX where I boarded a plane and headed for home.  I got back to Norfolk about midnight and retrieved my duffel which had come to Norfolk on Sunday without me while I went to CA.  During the day there had been no news from Northern California about refinding the Brown Shrike, but when I arrived in Chicago, word came in that a Tufted Flycatcher had been found in Big Bend NP TX.  As you probably know Big Bend is one of the more difficult places to get to, so I want to be somewhat certain the bird is still there before flying in to Midland and driving to the park.  I'll keep my ear to the ground and follow the news.  Meanwhile I'll let Thanksgiving happen at Joyce's daughter's house in MD.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Going Home, but not Directly

I was heading home to spend some time with Joyce.  At least that's what I thought when I got up this morning.  But when I read my email and found out that the Black-tailed Gull had been seen again in Long Beach, I wasn't so sure.  It did give me something to think about during the drive with Denny to the airport in Manchester NH.  The checkin for my flight to Norfolk was very quick and easy.  During my wait for the plane to board, there was a call for volunteers to give up their seats since the flight was overbooked.  I volunteered, but when the boarding process began, the agent told me that there were some no-shows and my seat wouldn't be needed.  So I boarded when my time came.  I was two-thirds the way down the ramp to the plane when I heard my name called.  A couple of late-comers needed my seat if I still wanted to give it up.  I did, and took the bump for which I picked up $457 to be used to pay for future flights.  My new flight to Norfolk left only forty minutes later, going through Chicago instead of Baltimore.  On that flight I sat next to a freshman at St. Paul School in Concord who introduced herself to me as Hannah.  She was lovely.  I told her I had been born about fifty years too early.  She giggled.  When I got to Chicago, I changed my mind about going home and booked a flight from there to Los Angeles to go for the gull.  When I got to Denver, an intermediate stop, a phone message told me that a Brown Shrike had been found in Humboldt County CA.  Another bird on the radar.  As the plane touched down in LA, it was clear there wouldn't be enough light to see the gull today, so I slowed down a little.  I picked up my rental car just as I got a call from Chris Hitt saying that the shrike had disappeared.  So take a bird off the radar for the moment.  Once inside my rental car I set the GPS for the Long Beach gull location and queried it for the location of a nearby motel.  Guess what!  There was a Motel 6 only 1.5 miles from the gull site.  Sounds like it was meant to be.  I drove there, checked in, and walked across the street to a nice Thai restaurant where I had a spicy scallop dish.  Now, will the Black-tailed Gull give me an audience tomorrow or the cold shoulder?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

White-winged Crossbills - Not

Denny's neighbor called at 8:25am.  The crossbills were at her feeders.  We got over there in less than three minutes, but there were no crossbills.  We waited for an hour for them to return, but they didn't.  We adjourned for breakfast and returned to sit in the car in their driveway where we had an excellent view of the feeders.  Still no crossbills.  We walked the neighborhood streets, listening and looking, but no luck there either.  One more hour in their kitchen watching the feeders, again with no luck.  Denny and I began to think that something wasn't quite right.  Our feeling is that after the initial verification last Saturday, the reports from the nieghbor were not necessarily of crossbills, but perhaps goldfinches with their strong wingbars.  So something that seemed like such a slam-dunk turned out not to be.  Ah, that's birding.  In the evening Denny, his wife Terry, and I went to a nice restaurant, The Barn, in York ME to celebrate Terry's birthday.  It was a delightful meal.  When I got back to Denny's, I packed up my stuff for the flight home tomorrow.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Up at 4am in San Antonio and off to the airport for my check-in with Southwest Airlines.  I swore the whole way there at having to be there at such an early hour, but later when I learned that security had become hopelessly clogged and bogged down to the point that our plane had to wait a half hour for our last passenger to board, I was relieved.  It was much better to be sitting on the plane, working a crossword puzzle and nodding off, than swearing my way through the TSA lines.  On to Chicago and thence on to Hartford where Denny Abbott and Davis Finch were waiting to tell me they had already seen the Fork-tailed Flycatcher earlier today.  I followed them to their car, and we all motored to Stamford CT and Cove Island Park where the flycatcher was still amazing birdwatchers.  We watched it and photographed it at a distance (photo) for about an hour and then headed back to NH in a vain effort to get ahead of the commuter traffic.  Alas, we were instead in the thick of it.  Pausing only momentarily to gas up, we soldiered on until hunger pangs forced us off the road at the same Cracker Barrel at which Denny and I had mourned the loss of my scope last month.  A nice, if unexciting meal was had by all.  Then onward, dropping Davis off at his house and driving on to Denny's home where I cancelled my flight to FL for tomorrow awaiting better news on the Thick-billed Vireo.  But wait!..... there are crossbills just across the street.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Crimson-collared Grosbeak

It was really difficult to contain my excitement this morning.  I had made arrangements to visit Allen Williams at his home in Pharr.  He had reported a Crimson-collared Grosbeak a couple of days ago, and since the other grosbeak which had been reported at Valley Nature Center wasn't seen yesterday, I decided to look for the bird with Allen at his place.  After a mistake with his address and a follow-up call to Allen, I finally parked the car and walked into his yard.  His wife popped out of the house and the three of us chatted for a bit about how putting in native plants on their property had blossomed (?) into a full-time business in the Valley.  He took me on a tour of the property, a little over three acres.  All the while the two of us were listening for the up-down call note of the grosbeak.  We saw a Clay-colored Thrush (lower photo) which used to be a very rare bird, but has now become a regular breeder in the Valley.  A Curve-billed Thrasher hopped into the birdbath.  A Kiskadee called.  After our walk during which he put fresh fruit out on tree snags, we separated, he going toward the front yard while I stayed in the back.  Finally Allen called, I heard the call note, and the bird flew into a tree next to me where I was able to get a recognizable image (photo, manual focus) for the record.  In the photo the bird is chewing on a leaf.  Yum!  I hung around in the hopes I might get a better one.  But aside from another brief good look at the bird, another photo-op didn't materialize.  I left Allen to get on with his work and drove to Denny's where I had a nice breakfast, and used their wifi to catch up on the day's bird happenings.  Which were - the Fork-tailed Flycatcher in CT was seen today and the Thick-billed Vireo in FL was seen again and verified.  The chase is still on.
I had much of the day left to bird so I drove to NABA's Butterfly Park near Bentsen SP where a Rufous-backed Thrush had been found.  Although it was seen today by a staff member, it didn't come to the birdbath as hoped while I was there.  I did see some nice birds and the mix sort of reminded me of a good Christmas Bird Count up north on steroids.  Lots of Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Orange-crowned Warblers, many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Blue-headed and White-eyed Vireos, House Wrens.  You get the picture.  There were, of course, some Valley specialties such as Olive Sparrow, Long-billed Thrasher, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Great Kiskadee, Black-crested Titmouse, and Green Jays.  And, oh yes, the butterflies!  They were unbelievable, colorful, varied, and plentiful.  I got a lifer with the appearance of a Tropical Leafwing.  I also ID'ed one a Comma only to find that Comma's don't occur in the Valley.  Ah me!
So now I'm in the Harlingen airport waiting for my flight to San Antonio which is already an hour late.  When I get to San Antonio, I'll try to get a good night's sleep before my early departure tomorrow to meet up with the intrepid Mr. Abbott in CT.  May the Fork-tailed Flycatcher be there tomorrow afternoon.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Change of Plans

Normally not much happens on a travel day.  And for the first half of today that was true.  But when I arrived in San Antonio from San Diego, I had three phone messages which told me that there was a Fork-tailed Flycatcher in CT and a possible Thick-billed Vireo in FL.  At that point I was on my way to the Rio Grande Valley to try for the Crimson-collared Grosbeak, and I decided to continue on that path.  But I changed my return flight from Harlingen TX to Hartford CT instead of Norfolk VA, so I can try for the flycatcher on Friday afternoon.  I'm holding on plans for the vireo until it is confirmed and it's relocatable (yes, that's a word!).  In Hartford my New England companion Denny Abbott will meet me and we'll go to Stamford where the flycatcher was discovered.  Denny is going to try for that bird tomorrow.  After a hit or miss on the flycatcher, I'll return with Denny to NH where I hope to see the White-winged Crossbills which have been coming to his neighbor's feeder ever since the day after we returned from our Maritime trip.  But let's not get too distracted from the current main course.  Tomorrow is grosbeak day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Salton Sea

I was in place this morning way too early; I didn't want to miss seeing the goose fly in.  But I wasn't the first to be there.  Another car with a single occupant was already parked there with its brake lights on because the driver's foot was on the brake pedal.  I waited awhile then got out and listened to the sounds of the morning - the coyotes, all the geese quietly murmuring, a few Sandhill Cranes calling.  And all the while it was getting lighter and Venus was fading away.  Another car drove up and thedriver of the first car, Richard Messenger, a self-proclaimed nomad who had broken away from the r/v park in Arizona where  he hosts, got out and introduced himself.  The recent arrival was Kim Kuska from San Mateo.  We all enjoyed the dawning together.  A few geese were getting up and flying around, but not the one we were inteerested in.  At about 6:22am Kim saw a single large dark goose flying toward us above the Snows and Ross's Geese that were beginning to move from a pond to fields to feed.  The bird got closer, and then turned to the east (photo) and landed in a field where he was the only goose.  Those with scopes trained them on the bird and confirmed that it was indeed the Taiga Bean-Goose.  The long sloping bill with its characteristic pale band was easily seen as was the long thin neck, brown back, and orange feet.  The head and neck profile is very swan-like.  There were high-fives all around.  A new year bird and an ABA bird.  A group of three Greater White-fronted Geese joined the bean-goose.  After we enjoyed several minutes watching the bird, it began to disappear into the grasses among which it was feeding.  About that time a carload of four young birders arrived from Phoenix.  It took a little patience but they all finally got to see it.  It provided some espcially great looks after a harrier flew over the field and the goose walked up onto a little mound.  In addition to the geese mentioned, we saw Brant, Cackling Geese, and the blue phase Ross's Goose which had been reported.  The other photo is of a Loggehead Shrike that took to posing on a sign post which someone had used to display a glove somebody had lost.
About 9:00am I headed toward  Long Beach to look for the Black-tailed Gull which was found last week, but which had not been regularly seen for several days.  I had a little trouble finding the location, but when I did, it turned out to be a pretty neat place.  I did see gulls (Western, Ring-billed, California, and Heerman's), but not the sought-after Black-tailed.  There were also Marbled Godwits, Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, a Sanderling, Eared and Western Grebes.  After a couple of hours of wandering around the area and convincing myself the gull wasn't there, I drove back to San Diego and got things together to fly tomorrow to Texas, where I hope to find one of the Crimson-collared Grosbeaks that have been reported recently.  Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Florida Pelagic

 I was home from Canada for less than a day.  I had arranged to go on a pelagic trip out of New Smyrna Beach FL in the chance that maybe I could snag a tropicbird.  Odds were not good, but there was at least a possibility.  Go, and you have a chance; don't go and you definitely don't.  Yesterday I flew into Orlando, the gateway to Disney World and the capitol of airline travel for youngsters.  My rental car was a Ford Fusion, fully loaded, classed as a compact.  It's a nice car.  My motel was a mom-and-pop operation, my room was fine, and it was cheap.  I ate at a family restaurant nearby and hit the hay to get a good night's sleep.
The pelagic trip left at 6:00am aboard a 100ft aluminum boat.  It took a little while to get out of the inlet, but the weather was great and the winds were down.  The swells were as high as 12 feet, but the interval was longish so it wasn't bad  The forecast a week ago would have forced a cancellation.  Highlights included a great Pomarine Jaeger show; Cory's, Great (photo), and Manx Shearwaters; Bridled, Sooty, Sandwich, Royal and Common Terns; frigatebirds (photo); Black-capped Petrels.  But no tropicbirds.  Tomorrow I fly to San Diego and drive to the Salton Sea to look for the Tiaga Bean-Goose.Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Day on Prince Edward Island

Denny and I spent the entire day with Dwaine Oakley, the premier birder on PEI.  He tried his darndest to get us the crossbill and partridge, but it was not to be.  We did, however, witness my first Dovekie crash, a total of ten birds in over land, or on small bodies of water, or trying to evade the swooping pursuit by a Common Raven.  We did have some Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins, and a flock of well over a hundred Bohemian Waxwings (photo).  We had a fine day with Dwaine and did pass Green Gables, the literary location for which the island is famous.  We drove west reaching Calais ME before stopping for the night.  These posts are late because I'm waiting to reach the US where my wireless connection yields cheaper data transfer rates.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Better Photos of the Pink-footed Goose

Denny and I returned to the field with the Pink-footed Goose and I was able to get better photos.  The lower one shows his namesakes and the upper shows, through the riffled feathers, the extent of the wind.  Please do not underestimate the strength of this storm; it was a monster.  We were indeed pleased to get these two rare geese, although it is probable that the storm helped keep them in position.  After the photo session , we drove onto Prince Edward Island, a Canadian province I had never visited.  We tried a couple of areas which had been suggested but we had no luck with either the crossbill or the partridge.  We spent the night in Souris.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two Geese Are Better Than One

It was fine weather for ducks or rather geese, but awful for the rest of us.  It wasn't too bad as we headed east from Calais ME and into Canada.  But as we got to eastern New Brunswick the wind was howling from the northeast and the rain was pounding down.  It took about three hours of tough driving to get to the area where the Pink-footed Goose had been seen.  The goose was found a couple of weeks ago by Stu Tingley who since then has kept track of its whereabouts.  A phone call from Stu recommended that since he hadn't found the Pinkfoot yet, we should go for the Graylag Goose.  We followed his suggestion and were half-way to  Truro NS when he called again to say that he had re-found the goose.  We elected to keep going to Nova Scotia and return to New Brunswick after we had tried for the graylag.  I called Eric Mills who had found the graylag originally and who had also been with John and me on Gambell this fall.  He related that two birders were currently looking at that goose and gave me the new location and also the phone number of Ian MacLaren, one of the birders at the goose spot.  I called Ian who updated the directions, but said he would not be able to stay until we arrived.  We got there a little over an hour later and found the flock of geese.  Shortly thereafter I spotted the Graylag Goose and was able to get a photo (lower) even though the conditions were terrible.  After thanking the homeowner who had graciously allowed us to view the geese from his yard, we headed back to New Brunswick.  I thanked Eric and Ian by phone for their help with seeing the graylag.  After a couple more hours of driving in intensely bad weather we reached the area of the pinkfoot and called Stu who told us where he had last seen the goose.  When we arrived at the spot, we found the goose, but the photographic conditions were even worse than they had been for the graylag.  However, I have posted an image (upper photo) and tomorrow we will return and try to get a better picture.  After that, if the weather is reasonable, we will probably go to Prince Edward Island to look for crossbills and partridges.  The two geese bring the year's list total to 715.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, November 8, 2010

Calais, Maine - It's Almost Canada!

The flights from New Orleans to Manchester NH via Baltimore went smoothly.  I used the flight time to re-read "The Big Year" and found it quite enjoyable and and belatedly informative given my different perspective this time through.  In Manchester I was met by my friend Denny Abbott.  We collected my bag and headed east making only two stops - one for gas, the other for food.  We reached Calais ME by 8:30pm and decided to launch our assault on the geese tomorrow from here.  We'll try to get an early start armed with coffee and donuts (Dunken Donuts is the earliest opening foodery here).  The Pink-foot will be first followed by the Graylag.  If we're successful, we'll turn our attention to White-winged Crossbill and Gray Partridge on Prince Edward Island.  Of course you all have heard that an adult Black-tailed Gull was found today in Long Beach CA.  Maybe that would be after the PEI birds....or should it be before them??

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Last Day in Louisiana

A really lazy morning!  With no scheduled activity to get us out of bed, David and I got up an hour later than ususal.  And this on top of the time change making a clock difference but not a sun difference!  We also used the motel's business center to print out our boarding passes for tomorrow's flights.  After breakfast with lots of coffee, we checked out and headed back to Lacassine NWR for a final buzz through some good Louisiana coastal prairie habitat.  At the refuge entrance David thought the cypress swamp along the road looked good for Barred Owl and he was right (photo).  David called one in and we shared it with a group of birders from Ohio who were on their way to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival and had been following my Big Year on this blog.  We revisited the refuge pool unit where we had been a couple of days ago and found mostly the same birds, but we did see some new ones and lots of alligators which we didn't see when we went through before.  The Neotropical Cormorant (formerly Olivaceous Cormorant) posed so nicely I had to take his photo.  The drive back to Jennings for lunch and on to New Orleans was uneventful.  Now at the airport motel we're getting organized to make the rental car drop and trip to airport tomorrow morning as efficient and quick as possible.  By tomorrow evening I should be in Canada with the goose search first thing Tuesday morning.Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Full Day on the Coast of Louisiana

Our last day at the festival didn't include any romps with Yellow Rails.  Instead we joined a group of festival goers on a trip to coastal Louisiana where we scored 109 species for the day moving along at a casual pace and obviously seeing lots of good birds.  We added a couple of new plovers (Wilson's and Snowy (photo)) to our trip list, plus Reddish Egret, White Pelican, Wood Stork, Inca Dove, White-winged Dove, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, two Barn Owls, and four woodpeckers.  Tomorrow with a late start and perhaps some birding along the way we drive back to New Orleans where we will get a good night's sleep and fly out on Monday.  David will return to Norfolk and I will fly to New England to meet up yet again with the intrepid Denny Abbott with whom I will go to Canada to try for the Pink-footed and Graylag Geese.  Thankfully I now carry my passport and I'm not taking my scope. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 5, 2010

More Yellow Rails

Early this morning David and I went on a local field trip just south of town where we saw Bald Eagles sparring with Northern Harriers, tons of geese and ibis, and a few songbirds for our Louisiana list.  Then it was back to Thornwell for our assignment to a rice cutting field for another round with Yellow Rails.  Today there were a lot more festival goers than yesterday, and since the combine could only take four riders, it took quite a few trips before David and I were able to ride the combine.  However, that didn't stop us from seeing many more Yellow Rails from the edge of the field.  I tallied an even dozen solid sightings such as the two shown in the photos.  See if you can find the rails.  At one point I nearly was able to snatch one out of the air as it flushed from where we had marked its landing.  BTW let me set something straight about the combines and the rails.  The combines are in the rice fields cutting the rice.  The birders are there at the invitation of the rice farmers and see the rails as a simple consequence of the rice harvest.  Under no circumstances were the combines run through the rice fields simply to flush rails.  At the conclusion of our combine ride we were served some boudin, a rice-based sausage which originated in this area.  After lunch David and I toured the wildlife drive at nearby Lacassine NWR.  There were lots more ducks, geese, ibis, herons.  We also saw an American Golden Plover, lots of Long-billed Dowitchers, a Neotropical Cormorant, five Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, a bunch of Roseate Spoonbills, and Savannah, Vesper, Song, Swamp, and White-crowned Sparrows.  In the evening we attended a reception with hors d'oveurs including bacon-wrapped alligator served with wine at the Zigler Museum, a local art museum.  David and I both won a door prize and both chose a pound of local coffee.  There is a god.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Yellow Rail

What a day!  This morning we gathered in the conference room of the motel where we were greeted and told the virtues of growing rice.  It was actually quite interesting and the idea for the festival came from a conversation about initiating a cooperative effort between rice farmers and birders to highlight the value of rice fields to the wintering population of Yellow Rails.  At the conclusion of the morning session we adjourned to a rural location where we divided into two groups, each going to a different farm where combines were harvesting rice.  At each farm two of us at a time got to ride in a combine which was harvesting the second cutting of rice.  The combine flushed rails ahead of it, the rail show including King, Virginia, Sora, and Yellow.  Yes we got Yellow Rails.  I saw eight of them, four viewing from the combine and four from land while watching the combine move through the rice.  It certainly was a worthwhile venture and adventure to come to this festival to add Yellow Rail to my year's list #713.  Overhead there were thousands of geese (Canada, Greater White-fronted, Snow, Ross's), ibis (White,White-faced), and grackles (Boat-tailed, Great-tailed).  Other birds flushed by the combine included sparrows (Song, Savannah, Swamp), American Pipit, and Wilson Snipe.  On the way back to the motel we stopped by a place John and I had visited in January and flushed a Sprague's Pipit.  In the evening after dinner (gumbo, fried pickles), we attended a festival event at a museum which held the contents of an old general store.  We were served sweet dough pie a la mode.  Neither David nor I won a door prize.  Better luck tomorrow. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We're in Louisiana

For all the bad flight days I've had, today was indeed a very good one.  David Hughes picked me up at the house and drove us to the airport where we had a little trouble finding a parking place in the long term parking garage.  But that was our only glitch.  After getting a bite to eat, we took the plane to Baltimore where we caught our connection to New Orleans arriving there ahead of schedule.  Our luggage appeared promptly.  The rental car was ready when we got to the Alamo counter, and we headed west on I-10 for several hours, arriving in Jennings by 8:20pm CDT.  At that point we decided to eat before checking into the motel since restaurants may close early.  David ordered oysters and I got catfish; both turned out to be tasty.  We are now in our room at the Hampton Inn, the headquarters for the Yellow Rail Festival.  Tomorrow we'll head out into the rice lands and see if we can find that poster bird for the festival.  Wish us luck.