- Now here is a bird that I do not see enough: wild turkeys. Though another birder saw one over the summer in Washington, I have yet to see any in this city. But in New Hampshire, these wild fowl are doing very well, apparently due to backyard bird feeders, which help them survive the winter.
- Mike has a post on the plight of the red-cockaded woodpecker at 10,000 Birds. As this species used to range as far north as New Jersey, it ought to be at least conceivable to re-establish a breeding population in New Jersey's Pine Barrens. The Pine Barrens represent several large tracts of mostly undisturbed pine woods and bogs.
- The latest Circus of the Spineless is up at Snail's Tales.
- From November 1 until March 31 there will be an exhibit of illustrations depicting birds and other animals - including reconstructions of extinct creatures - at the American Association for the Advancement of Science here in Washington. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has more on the artist.
- Here is a summary of an interesting study on the relationship between deer abundance and bird populations. As one might expect, populations of bird that depend on the forest understory were lowest in areas with the highest density of deer. What ought to be done about this remains to be seen.
Monday, October 31, 2005
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Today I took the bus up to the National Arboretum for a morning of birding. The air was crisp, but apparently did not get as cold as predicted in the forecasts, as I saw no signs of frost on the grass.
With the end of daylight savings time early this morning, we have shifted out of our summer routines. The natural world also is shifting into winter. For the last week we have had below-average temperatures, after a summer that persisted well into October. Here in Washington we are nearing the peak week for fall foliage. Many trees are already in full colors, while others have not quite turned. I saw some deep red sumac-like trees and several other species that had turned a golden yellow.
The local birdlife is also shifting out of the migration phase and the winter residents have become more abundant. White-throated sparrows and dark-eyed juncos are to be found everywhere. Other sparrows moving through included a couple white-crowned sparrows. At several points I saw sparrows that might have been savannah sparrows, but I never got a good enough look at them to be certain. We have had an influx of hermit thrushes; a few small flocks of these foraged on the hill near the R St. entrance. Both kinglets were in good numbers also, though not mixed together.
The real prize among the winter birds was a pair of red-breasted nuthatches in the pines near the Asian garden. This species, while somewhat more common up north, and even in Maryland, can be hard to find in Washington, D.C. The red-breasted nuthatches that I saw today were foraging by hanging upside down on pine cones and sticking their bills inside, presumably looking for seeds rather than insects. (See here for a DC Birding-endorsed ode to nuthatches.)
There were still a few lingering summer birds. One common yellowthroat was calling from the bushes near Heart Pond. Some yellowthroats will frequently linger in the area throughout the winter. An eastern phoebe hunted down by the river. About a dozen chimney swifts were in the air over the holly and magnolia collection. This is the latest I have seen chimney swifts here, but it would not surprise me if some stayed a little longer as temperatures this week are expected to stay relatively warm.
SPECIES SEEN: 37
Saturday, October 29, 2005
- Anecdotal evidence suggests that Hurricane Wilma hit birds in the Everglades particularly hard. Witnesses describe finding many wading birds blown off their perches and dashed against other trees.
- Elsewhere, Hurricane Wilma brought unusual birds to Bermuda on its winds. Observers noted about 60 magnificent frigatebirds and about the same number of sandwich terns, as well as a few royal terns. Various land birds also were caught up and dumped in Bermuda.
- This article reviews a new book on the New Jersey Pine Barrens: The Natural Wonders of the Jersey Pines and Shore, by Robert A. Peterson, with photographs by Michael Hogan. The book is a collection of essays written by Peterson for a local newspaper; some of Hogan's photographs are included with the review. The Pine Barrens are a large tract that covers most of southern Jersey. Much of it has been preserved in a natural state because the soil was unsuitable for agriculture. In the 1970s the New Jersey preserved several large tracts - totalling 300,000 acres - as state forests before they were affected by the boom in development. Despite the name "barrens," the area is quite rich in natural resources, especially birdlife.
- Here is a list of what elected officials are doing to protect Americans from poultry flu. Sadly, some of it is believable.
- Surfbirds has a more serious - and sensible - look at the situation. GrrlScientist adds some links and analysis on this issue in her weekly "Birds in the News" column. DC Audubon also has information on the issue.
With Tropical Storm Alpha, this season broke the record for named tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin for one season. Now, with Hurricane Beta, this season also broke the record for hurricanes in one season. This is the thirteenth hurricane. Hurricane Beta is currently battering two Colombian islands, San Andres and Providencia. It is on track to hit Nicaragua and Honduras on the mainland as a Category 2 storm. This is the same area Hurricane Mitch hit several years back.
Note: That Colombia owns islands so far from its mainland is probably a result of the machinations that led to Panamanian independence.
Posted by John Beetham at 10/29/2005
Friday, October 28, 2005
Thursday, October 27, 2005
As if we needed further evidence that the local white-tailed deer population has grown beyond what the natural areas can support, yesterday one young male deer took a jaunt through Georgetown. The yearling buck entered at least two stores along Wisconsin Avenue before being tranquilized by animal control officers. Acting on the hypothesis that the deer had come from Rock Creek Park, they deposited him back there. But really, at that location, the deer could have come from several other places, including the C&O Canal and Glover Archibold Park. It would not surprise me if this deer took to the streets again as Rock Creek is already pretty well saturated with white-tailed deer.
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
The ninth I and the Bird was posted this evening by GrrlScientist.
I and the Bird is a blog carnival for writing about birds and birding. Every second Thursday, a new host writes up a presentation of the best bird writing from around the blogosphere. The next I and the Bird will be hosted by Pamela at Thomasburg Walks. If you have written something about birds - even if you are not a birder or do not write about birds regularly - you might consider submitting to a future I and the Bird.
My own contribution to this week's issue is here.
Surfbirds has some recommendations for separating short-billed and long-billed dowitchers - one of the difficult identification problems for shorebird watchers. When I have observed these in the past, I have relied primarily on my impression of their overall coloration. On the east coast, at least, it seems safe to classify the strongly rufous individuals long-billed, even though a western race of the short-billed dowitcher come close in rufous coloration.
Well, now Surfbirds has some ways to make that identification more certain. These include the loral angle and other structural field marks, molt and migration patterns, and voice; plenty of illustrations are provided along with the text. I would advise reading the whole article rather than just my summary.
Posted by John Beetham at 10/26/2005
Monday, October 24, 2005
The Washington Post reports that the Park Service has recorded instances of poaching in many American national parks. The poaching tends to focus on items that are hard to find outside the protections nominally offered by the park system - especially items with a high resale value:
In Shenandoah National Park, the ginseng and the black bears that thrive along the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains are the biggest draw for poachers. Wild ginseng sells for $400 a pound on the open market, 10 times the price of cultivated ginseng. And a black bear's dried gallbladder sells for $1,000 in Asia, making it worth more per ounce than cocaine.Poaching is harming rare species and other resources:
Thieves take at least one archaeological artifact from a park every day, they say, and a 1988 federal survey found poachers had taken 105 wildlife species from 153 parks the year before. That illegal take included 12 threatened and endangered species, including the desert tortoise, Steller sea lion and Schaus swallowtail butterfly.It is shameful that people are poaching natural resources - especially endangered species - for profit. While I would not want to see the national parks turn into a scene from Capitol Hill or the White House, I tend to agree with the conclusion of the article that more staff is needed to reduce the losses that our parks are taking. The article cites a figure of 51 agents to cover 388 parks, a figure that seems low to me, and ought to seem low to policy makers as well.
One thing that will be interesting to watch is what happens to the sources that talked to the Post about funding shortages. The last time a Park Police employee discussed funding issues with the Post while the matter was before Congress, she was fired.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
"Odds and Ends" is my irregular series of links to news that impacts birds and the environment.
- The reintroduction of gray wolves to Yellowstone National Park has changed the composition of the plant and animal communities in the park considerably. By preying on elk herds - among the largest in North America - wolves have reduced their numbers and driven them to move around more. With less grazing by the elk, previously dormant plant communities such as aspen and willow have returned, and "songbirds like the yellow warbler and Lincoln sparrow have increased where new vegetation stands are thriving."
- While introducing wolves in the east may not be politically or ecologically feasible, the results in Yellowstone should encourage greater efforts to control the population of white-tailed deer. The deer population has boomed, devastating farms and forests alike, and creating increasing hazards on roads. At the moment, increased hunting - especially of does - seems like the most efficient solution, but this has run into opposition from hunters.
- As winter approaches, many bird watchers are preparing to provide backyard feeding stations for wintering birds. Here is a list of recommendations for feeding birds safely and efficiently.
- If you have a hummingbird feeder, you might want to consider maintaining it through the fall and winter; hummingbirds from the west - especially rufous hummingbirds - have been wintering along the east coast with increasing regularity. (See also this excellent post on how hummingbirds use torpor to survive cold nights.)
- A silhouette image of a peregrine falcon chasing a flock of starlings has won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year award. The photograph is truly impressive.
- Brown creepers are exceptionally hard to see, not because they are particularly rare but because they are very well camoutflaged. An article in the Booth Bay Register explains how they do it, and how to find them.
- A wildlife biologist working for the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Maryland is tracking nocturnal bird migration through the Appalachian Mountains with the use of digital sound recorders placed in 30 locations. The point of the research is to establish migration routes for greater understanding of migration and to provide data to help locate wind farms in areas where they will cause the least death toll among migratory birds.
- With the fears about the spread of avian influenza, there has been a rush to blame the spread of H5N1 on migratory birds, with proposals to cull wild birds or drain wetlands. Environmental groups are cautioning against a rush to judgment here, since such actions may be counterproductive, and most cases of H5N1 have been among populations of domestic poultry. (Charlie's Bird Blog, among others, has been attacking the migratory bird hypothesis and media hype for several months.) The use of the word "pandemic" strikes me as a bit premature; if H5N1 jumps to humans it may become a pandemic, but 65 human deaths around the world - while tragic - do not amount to a pandemic. The 1918 flu was a pandemic; AIDS in Africa is a pandemic; the current poultry flu is not, so far at least. (Our governments do need to take precautions such as monitoring the disease and ordering more vaccines.) Cornell has additional information on the subject.
- Finally, Cornell recently posted a new set of reviews of binoculars for birders from various price ranges.
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
Field Trip: Roosevelt Island
Theodore Roosevelt Island is a 91-acre park near the Virginia shore of the Potomac River. A memorial to the former president sits at the northwest corner of the island; the rest of it consists of woods and marsh, with several trails running its length. In September, this small national park avoided a sale to developers engineered by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Cal.) only after substantial public outcry at the local level. I suppose he thought he could get away with this because many do not know of the park's existence, but in fact many people do use the island - joggers, students from Georgetown, families out for a stroll, and birdwatchers.
This morning I made myself part of the last category on my walk around the island. It was another beautiful morning to be out walking; though I could see my breath at first, it really was not cold. There were several lively patches of bird activity in the usual spots near the southern bathroom building, around the bridge over the marsh, and then in the wooded swamp along the boardwalk.
Three or four male black-throated blue warblers gave great views at close range. I saw at least two in the first patch; one of these was foraging on the ground. The black-throated blue is one of my favorite warblers, and probably one of my favorite birds. A golden-crowned kinglet and a flock of yellow-rumped warblers (common throughout the island today) were in the same area.
A little further on, at the bridge, I found a singing Lincoln's sparrow. Singing seems a bit unusual at this time of year, but I have heard other migrants sing during the fall. The song initially confused me into thinking I was hearing a house finch, though it did not sound quite right; it was only after hearing the song a few times that I finally saw the singer. Another possible Lincoln's was a little further along the boardwalk, appearing and disappearing among the marsh grasses. In this area it became difficult to track the sparrow individuals because of a large number of red-winged blackbirds - now in winter plumage - and another flock of yellow-rumps.
Moving along, I found a black-throated green warbler and two or three blue-headed vireos in the wooded swamp, as well as more yellow-rumps. An eastern phoebe pursued insects near the northern end of the boardwalk. Finally a ruby-crowned kinglet near the Roosevelt memorial rounded out the morning.
SPECIES SEEN: 33
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Monday, October 17, 2005
Odds and Ends
- The Grand Forks Herald has a nice column on watching black birds.
- Delaware is close to enough to Washington, D.C., for an occasional day trip. (The major wildlife refuges are about a two-hour drive, non-stop.) This article gives a rundown of some of the best birding spots in Delaware, and the best times for visiting them. Bombay Hook NWR, one location mentioned, is fabulous for shorebirds.
- Some researchers from Purdue University have produced a study predicting more violent weather and much higher temperatures due to global warming. The forecast was for years 2071-2095, and compared to records from 1961-1985. The researchers seemed to be seeking a worst-case scenario, as they assumed that carbon dioxide concentrations would double. It presents a troubling scenario that I hope does not come to pass, but that I fear will. Even a less extreme rise in temperatures than the one predicted would demand significant changes in our way of life.
- The NY Times has a profile of David Suzuki, a Canadian environmentalist.
- The CIA is investing in a portable unit that can produce electrical energy via solar panels or wind turbines.
- "The Explainer" looks at whether aspens really do "turn in clusters," as Lewis Libby asserted in his letter to Judith Miller.
Sunday, October 16, 2005
East Potomac Park
This afternoon I decided to take advantage of the marvelous fall weather and do a little birding. After almost two weeks of clouds and rain, this weekend we finally got two mostly sunny days. And with a strong cold front moving last night, today we finally got some normal October weather - cool temperatures and blustery winds.
I chose East Potomac Park, which may not have been the best choice on a windy day, but I was going to be in the vicinity anyway. Starting out at the Maine Avenue docks, I saw a brown-headed cowbird among a group of house sparrows, as well as some mallards in the channel. Once in East Potomac Park, I quickly found a winter-plumaged laughing gull in the channel. Occasionally a falcon or eagle will turn up on the golf course, but none were apparent today. The large number of golfers may have discouraged birds of prey from hunting there. The walk back on the river side was a little difficult with the wind blowing in my face, but I was rewarded at the end with some golden-crowned kinglets near the west end of the park. The walk was finished with a sighting of a few late chimney swifts.
SPECIES SEEN: 15
Great Black-backed Gull
Thursday, October 13, 2005
I and the Bird #8
The eighth I and the Bird is now online at Science and Sarcasm. I and the Bird is a blog carnival for writings about wild birds and the experience of watching them. As in the past, the eighth I and the Bird has gathered together posts from birders around the world.
If you have a blog and write about wild birds - frequently or occasionally - and have a post that you really like, please consider submitting it for the next installment of I and the Bird, which will be hosted at Living the Scientific Life. Blog carnivals are a wonderful means to expose your writing to a wider audience, especially one that shares similar interests.
(My own post for this issue is here.)
Wednesday, October 12, 2005
Upcoming Field Trip
The DC Audubon Society is running a field trip to Point Lookout, Maryland, this Saturday. Point Lookout is a narrow peninsula between Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River, where the Potomac flows into the Chesapeake. The geography of the site makes it very good for finding migrant birds of all types. More information can be found here.
Tuesday, October 11, 2005
Odds and Ends
- Snakeheads, an invasive fish species from Asia, continue to be a problem on the Potomac and its tributaries. On Sunday, 80 were found in Dogue Creek, a stream that feeds the Potomac near Fort Belvoir. I think this discovery should settle any questions about whether snakeheads are firmly established in the area. The only question now is how much of an effect they will have on native fish populations.
- Emperor penguins, the subjects of the film March of the Penguins, may be among the oldest species in the penguin family, if DNA studies are correct. DNA indicates a split from other seabirds around 70 million years ago, and a common ancestor for penguins about 40 million years ago. Both dates are before Antarctica froze over.
- Another study suggests that the speckling on birds' eggs may serve to strengthen weak areas of the shell.
- The folks at Capital Weather had an interesting note about Columbus and hurricanes in honor of yesterday's holiday and this year's crazy hurricane season.
- Today is the last day for submissions to this week's I and the Bird, which will be hosted at Science and Sarcasm.
Sunday, October 09, 2005
Today was the Big Sit for 2005. The Big Sit is a more sedentary version of a Big Day, in that the object is to see as many species as possible from within a limited area. Officially the circle is supposed to be 17 feet in diameter, but unofficially it could be as large or small as you want, keeping within the spirit of the game.
In past years there has been an October Big Sit at Huntley Meadows Park in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Singing House Finches?
About an hour ago I heard what sounded like a house finch singing outside my apartment window, or at least some bird doing a very good imitation of a house finch. Unfortunately I could not locate the singer. Needless to say, this would be rather unusual for this time of year. Normally I only hear house finches singing around here from March through the middle of the summer.
Posted by John Beetham at 10/09/2005
Field Trip: National Arboretum
This was our first dry day since Thursday, so I made sure to do some birding in the morning. I headed over to the National Arboretum, my usual patch. Today the Arboretum is holding its annual fall orchid sale. This show is very popular, so as usual it made the entrance and the area around the visitor center a bit of a zoo. Luckily the areas away from the show were quiet.
I started off at the hill near the entrance since I had been successful there in the past few visits. Today the birding was fairly slow. My only warbler was a common yellowthroat that I called out of the tall grass. (I think my pishing is getting better.) Some thrushes were flitting around in the tree tops, but they were teases; the only one I could identify was a wood thrush since the others would not stay out in the open long enough. As I approached the top of the hill there was a flock of blue jays angrily scolding something. I never found the object of their ire. I did see a juvenile sharp-shinned hawk on my way down, but I do not know if that was their target.
At the top I searched in vain through the trees for any sign of warblers. All I could find were woodpeckers. (Northern flickers were especially common today.) That is, until I turned around and saw a small brown bird sitting out in the middle of the path. As I checked through its field marks - olive-brown back, overall thrush shape, lack of a distinct eye-ring, grayish face - I realized it could only be one bird - a gray-cheeked thrush. (Well, I suppose Bicknell's is a possibility, but I would not try to claim it off of its breeding range.) A Swainson's thrush was nearby to provide a helpful contrast.
On the way down the hill I ran into a small patch of birds. These included my first yellow-bellied sapsucker of the fall. There were also two scarlet tanagers (male and female), a red-eyed vireo, and one warbler that I missed. One flycatcher perched briefly on an open hemlock branch, but not long enough for a good look.
Fern Valley turned up a few more Swainson's thrushes, along with a rose-breasted grosbeak. Other than that it was mostly quiet, there and during the rest of the walk. The end of the river trail near the golf course had a single palm warbler, compulsively flicking its tail as if it had a nervous tic. The river itself had a lone great blue heron keeping watch from a fallen tree and a couple of double-crested cormorants flying overhead. I suppose it is still a little too early for bay ducks to be coming up the Anacostia.
On the way back to the visitor center I checked the parking areas around the New York Ave entrance. Those had struck me as possibly good sparrow haunts, but all I turned up today were a few American goldfinches, beautiful birds in their own right, but not quite what I was looking for.
Fortunately no rain fell while I was out. I think there is a chance this afternoon. All morning the sky was draped with thick gloomy clouds that diffused the sunlight and made it difficult to see color. We appear at this point to have hit an intermediate phase of fall migration. The early migrants like warblers seem to have mostly moved on, while the winter residents are only starting to appear.
SPECIES SEEN: 38 seen
Great Blue Heron
Saturday, October 08, 2005
The rain here has pretty much stopped except for a little sprinkle now and then. As of 9 pm, National Airport had recorded 7.34 inches over the past two days. I believe this one storm exceeded the normal October rainfall. The highest reported rainfall I have seen so far has been Montebello, VA, which recorded 11.36 inches.
The rain was badly needed, but some areas may take some time to recover from such a heavy amount in such a short period. So far I have heard about flooding, power outages, and delays on trains leaving Union Station where a tree fell on the wiring for a train signal. An evangelical gathering on the Mall also got washed out.
If I lived along anyway of the streams like Rock Creek or the upper Anacostia River, I would be very worried about flooding tonight as the runoff makes its way down the tributaries. Roadways and bridges along these waterways have also been known to wash out from time to time, and after a rain like this, they will be especially dangerous.
Update (Sunday morning): Capital Weather has a graph of the rainfall recorded at National Airport over the last two days. According to this article at least, we may now have a colorful fall instead of a crispy brown when the leaves turn.
This evening after the rains had temporarily ended, I walked for a little bit around my neighborhood. I saw a flock of chimney swifts fluttering over the intersection of Massachusetts Ave. and 3rd St., NE; it is a spot where I frequently see them in late summer and during fall migration. Swifts are difficult to count because of their fast flight and flocking habits, but I estimated there were about thirty in this flock. That is a good deal smaller than the peak flocks that I was seeing back in the same general area in September.
Chimney swifts may be one of the few native bird species that benefitted from the urbanization of North America in the wake of the European conquest and Industrial Revolution. They adapted well to nesting in human structures, particularly chimneys and other hollow cavities. (Changes in chimney design may be a cause for concern. See also here.) During the breeding season, swifts will only nest one or two family groups to a chimney, but once the young have fledged, the swifts begin to gather in large flocks that may number in the thousands for a single roosting site.
Now that it is mid-October, we are approaching the late dates for swifts in this part of North America. They will appear in increasingly smaller flocks, until one day there are none, and then we will have to wait to see them again until next spring. My latest date for a chimney swift sighting is October 16; that was set last year in the National Arboretum. The Maryland "Yellow Book" gives November 23 as the late date, but that is clearly an abnormal sighting; most records stop at least two weeks before that date.
When can we expect them to return? The Yellow Book's early date is March 14, but again that is an outlier. Early birds appear around the end of March, and then the full flight comes in late April. My early date is April 18. Between now and then the chimney swifts winter in Peru and the Amazon Basin.
So if you want another look at these characteristic urban birds before next spring, make sure to look up and listen for their chattering during the next two weeks. After that, the swifts will be gone.
Friday, October 07, 2005
The chairmain of the New Jersey Marine Fisheries Council claims that researchers are currently harming the outlook for endangered red knots on the Delaware Bay and suggests steps that need to be taken in addition to the moratorium on harvesting horseshoe crabs.
In South Florida, large wading species such as herons and ibises had a relatively unproductive breeding season due to exceptionally wet conditions. Because these birds are indicator species, this may signal a wider problem among animal species in the Everglades.
Several weeks ago, over 400 birds were estimated to have been killed by flying into the wires of a TV tower in Madison, Wisconsin. Most were warblers. The Department of Natural Resources is seeking to form a task force to study the issue and determine what, if anything, can be done to reduce the kills. Skyscraper kills have been reduced by shutting off or dimming lights that otherwise would be left burning all night. I wonder if TV and cellphone tower kills might be reduced by illuminating the wires.
Two turkeys were shot by police in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, for disrupting traffic. Residents appear not to be very happy about the incident.
Rain, Rain, Rain
Today and for the next few days we are getting heavy rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Tammy, plus a cold front moving from the northwest. We may see 3-4 inches between now and Saturday night. The rain is much needed because a drought has persisted in the region since August. The rainfall in September was only 0.11 inches, the least since 1884. The drought has been severe enough to make the Potomac dip below normal streamflow levels.
After the rains pass, it appears that temperatures should finally get back to normal. With few strong cold fronts, the temperatures have been well above normal. Even today, with its heavy cloud cover, has reached 75ºF, as opposed to the normal high of 71ºF.
The steady stream of air from the south has kept temperatures warm, and it seems to have reduced bird migration to a trickle rather than the waves that accompany northerly winds. Perhaps with the passage of these storms we will get another wave.
Update (4 pm): We just had a very heavy downpour in downtown Washington. The rain was so heavy at one point that it started setting off car alarms.
Update: As of 9:11 pm, the District had received 2.40 inches of rain. Elsewhere, Augusta County in Virginia had received close to 9 inches.
Update (Sat. morning): Unfortunately the rain has been knocking out power across the region. The heavy rain and flood warnings have also prompted cancellation of some events on the Mall.
Update (Sat. afternoon): As of 11:06 am, Washington had received 5.39 inches of rain. We have been getting pretty steady rain since then, so I imagine it has gone over 6, at least. This may break some records. Baltimore County was up to 9.5 inches.
Posted by John Beetham at 10/07/2005
Wednesday, October 05, 2005
Tuesday, October 04, 2005
Dave from BirdTLC and Pamela from Thomasburg Walks have tagged me with the personal history meme that has been travelling around for the past few days.
10 YEARS AGO In 1995 I was starting my first semester in college. During my first semester I had an unhappy roommate situation, which marred the experience of that fall. That was soon resolved.
5 YEARS AGO Having graduated from college, I was beginning my second year of graduate studies in Washington.
1 YEAR AGO Last fall I was excited by Kerry's performance in the debates and I was expecting him to win the presidency. Unfortunately things turned out differently. ... In birding news, I saw my life bay-breasted warbler on 10/1/04.
YESTERDAY I spent an hour and a half waiting in a train station between trains on my return trip to Washington. Normally my trips on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor are very efficient, but yesterday I had delays introduced from having to exchange a ticket and the train I had expected to get being sold out, etc. I have little liking for this particular station, with its bland architecture and annoying but unavoidable muzak played loudly over the platform speakers. But I do like that the station has retained its old mechanical board for arrival and departure announcements.
5 SONGS I KNOW ALL THE WORDS TO: I have a good ear for music and I learn and retain melodies very quickly. Unfortunately the words do not stick in my memory quite as easily, so there are not any I know all the words to.
Peanut butter with crackers
Cheese with crackers
Orange marmalade with crackers
Chocolate chip cookies
Baby carrots (newly discovered)
5 THINGS I'D DO WITH $100 MILLION DOLLARS:
Pay my debts.
Invest for the future.
Buy a house.
Donate to worthy causes.
Go birding in exotic locations.
5 PLACES I WOULD RUN AWAY TO: These are all places that I have not visited but would very much like to visit sometime.
Acadia National Park
Olympic National Park
5 THINGS I'D NEVER WEAR:
5 FAVORITE TELEVISION SHOWS: I do not watch much television, so coming up with five is beyond my reach.
5 GREATEST JOYS:
Being in a meadow or forest early in the morning
Hearing a winter wren
5 FAVORITE TOYS:
35mm manual Minolta SLR
5 PEOPLE I'M TAGGING: Most people I would consider tagging have done this meme already, so I am not going to tag anyone. But if you want to pick it up from here, go right ahead.
Posted by John Beetham at 10/04/2005
I was sick early last week, which prevented me from posting very much on this site. However, by the weekend I had recovered enough to do some birding. At this point I am not going to write up a full report about any of my trips from last weekend or the previous weekend. Rather I am going to give some notes on sightings from the two weekends.
At Sandy Hook on Saturday, October 1, the birding was slow but worthwhile. My personal highlight was a lifer northern waterthrush. This bird was stalking through some underbrush - the mix of poison ivy, brambles, blueberry bushes, and Virginia creeper characteristic of the Hook - and it vigorously pumped its tail as it walked. Other warblers that day included worm-eating and Nashville. Yellow-rumped warblers were to be found everywhere.
The Hook also had a decent showing of raptors. Ospreys were most numerous of all, from one end of the peninsula to the other. These birds linger much longer at the Hook than at inland locations. (My latest date for an osprey at Sandy Hook is November 26.) A sharp-shinned hawk made a nice display at the hawk watch site (staffed only in the spring). The most spectacular show was by a trio of falcons, two American kestrels and one Peregrine. First, one kestrel wheeled above a flock of tree swallows that was passing by. Soon it dove at a Peregrine that had appeared in the meantime. Another kestrel joined in taking shots at the larger falcon, until the two birds tired of the game and moved on.
My other recent birding walks were not as productive as the trip to the Hook, with few outstanding sightings. I saw my first pied-billed grebe and northern pintail of the fall last weekend. I am beginning to see flocks of ruby-crowned and golden-crowned kinglets mixing with the resident chickadees and titmice, while I hear the thin squeaks of white-throated sparrows foraging in the brush underfoot. All these birds, for me, are harbingers of winter.
At the same time, warblers have continued to move through. My sightings have included chestnut-sided, magnolia, pine, and black-and-white warblers, among others. The pine warbler I saw on Sunday was joined shortly after by a blue-headed vireo in the same tree. Fall-plumaged scarlet tanagers have also been in evidence during my few walks the last two weekends.
Sunday's blue-headed vireo, by the way, set my year list for 2005 at 205.