Monday, December 20, 2010

December 19 - Connecticut Rarities & a good wrong turn into Rhode Island

I went out this morning with Simon K. and Bill E. for a trip into Connecticut to chase some rarities.

The first stop was in Westport at the Longacre Golf Course. Arriving just after first light we got a brief look at the Barnacle Goose (thanks to Tina Green who pointed out the bird to us while she was performing her Christmas Bird Count!). This is the same goose seen at Orchard Beach in the Bronx, NY and later in Stamford., CT.   The bird's leg band was proven to be one from Scotland, showing that this bird has indeed traveled very far !

We decided to press onto the next stop, which was a residence in the town of Guilford, for the Calliope Hummingbird. The homeowner came out to greet us, and allowed us to setup scopes to view this tiny hummer. As a high-elevation montane species of the American West the bird did not seem put-off by the cold, however it took only a few short flights during our early-morning visit. Interestingly we could see the bird become more active as the few rays of sun hit its feathers. Unfortunately it was mostly overcast today, so the bird was a bit less active.

Having success so early, Simon decided to try for the Rufous Hummingbird that has been in Sterling, CT for an incredible 70 days now. Once again the homeowners very incredibly gracious an spent some time with us while watching the bird. you can see some of Mark Szanytr's photos here of when it first arrived. The bird now appears more colorful and the tiny red gorget flashed a few times in the morning sunlight.
credit: John Schwarz

We then began heading home and made a wrong turn along the CT border so we ended up at Watch Hill Light on Narraganset Bay in Rhode Island. We did a seawatch from here and had nice views of species like Razorbill, Red-Necked Grebe, Horned Grebe, Purple Sandpipers, Common Eiders, all three Scoter species, Great Cormorants and a few Horned Lark.
Credit: Bob Hazell

 On the way back home we again stopped for much better views of the Barnacle Goose.

Monday, December 06, 2010

December 4 - Western New York

A long ride today to western New York with friends Rob and Simon brought some great birds. The target bird was a Lewis' Woodpecker. This is a species I recently missed while in California a few weeks ago. In fact I had searched almost 3 hours on & around Mesa Grande Road without any luck.
So, given another chance to try for it I was fine with the 4.5 hour drive !  Fortunately we were able to see the bird & to see it well from inside the homeowner's kitchen , as well as, outside the house a bit later.  Quite the beauty, and well worth this effort

credit: Ed N.

Afterward we drove to Cayuga Lake and were able to sustain the snow squall and get nice looks at a male King Eider there.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30 - Central Park's Varied Thrush

My friends Andy & Jen picked me up at work early today and we took a quick ride into Central Park. Here we looked for, and ultimately found, the Varied Thrush which had first been discovered on Sunday.

We had very nice views of this bird that is a vagrant from the Pacific Northwest. The bird was seen just east of the Rambles Shed along the 79th Street Tranverse. While there I ran into Corey Finger, and his images of the thrush can be seen at his website here.

You can see some wonderful images of this bird at Lloyd Spitalnik's webpage, including the one below:

So a quick NY State bird # 317 for me, and I'm back at work without anyone missing me... :)

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 20 - Flycatcher Redux & NY specialties

With friends Andy and Jennifer, today saw a return to see the continuing Fork-Tailed Flycatcher. Today was overcast so the bird stayed down longer & was less active then on early Thursday morning. Nevertheless we had nice views & good company with all the local metro-area birders making the similar trip for this rarity.  A quote from the group that manages the Cove Island Park Natural area:
"600 people ranging in age from 2 to 97 visited from 15  

credit: Kevin Bolton
Visit Kevin's website for more photos of this bird, plus plenty more

Afterwards we went to eastern Long Island for the now long staying Common Ground-Dove. This bird is a first for New York State.
credit: Corey Finger
Visit Corey's website for more photos & some background info on this bird

Lastly we stopped at Jones Beach where I had a late Laughing Gull, Snow Buntings, and the juvenile Loggerhead Shrike. See Phil Jeffrey's web page for images of the Loggerhead Shrike headlong into the breeze.

The Dove and Shrike boosted my NY State life list to 316.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 18 - Connecticut's Fork-Tailed Flycatcher

Minutes away from arriving at work today I received an e-mail stating that the Fork-Tailed Flycatcher discovered in Stamford, CT yesterday had been I kept on driving and headed north on I-95. The commuting traffic was tough but I was there within 75 minutes and the bird was still being seen.
At first it was across a large field, but later it came withing 40 feet of us affording great close views of this extreme vagrant.  ABA-area bird # 611 for my list

click on images to enlarge

November 13 - San Diego Pelagic & Coronado Islands

The primary purpose of my trip was to enjoy the pelagic offered by Although I had already seen the Black-Vented Shearwater, Northern Fulmar, and Red Phalarope from shore at Point La Jolla I was still after some life birds today.

While still inside US waters, I was able to see my ABA-life bird of Rhinoceros Auklet:

credit: Patty Bruno

Also I was able to get several views at the Pomarine Jaeger:

credit: public domain

This Glaucous-Winged Gull circled the boat for seemingly hours. Apparently when it got either too tired, or finally smart enough, the bird decided to hitch a ride on the bow!

November 12 - Salton Sea's Bean Goose

 Since it was such a rare bird (first ever in California, and perhaps 4th ever in the Lower 48 States) I took the 2-hour ride out to Salton Sea. I was rewarded with seeing the bird.

credit: Unknown

Visit Vic Murayama's website to enjoy his excellent images
Click on images to enlarge

Also seen at the Sea, were Mew Gull, Yellow-Footed Gull, Burrowing Owl, Sandhill Cranes, Ross' Geese, Stilt Sandpiper and Long-Billed Curlews.

On the way back I stopped in Jamul and saw the dark-morph Ferruginous Hawk.
Dead Sexy !

November 11 - La Jolla Point seawatch

Birding from here again, with Stan W and Paul L, I was able to view lifebirds of Red Phalarope and Northern Fulmar.

 Credit: Terry Fountain

 Credit: USF&W public domain

Also seen were more Black-Vented Shearwaters, Common Murre, Black & White-Winged Scoters along with the expected Surf Scoters.

November 10 - Tijuana River Slough and more

With the information from local birder of Matt S., this morning I visited the Tijuana Slough area looking for the Pacific Golden Plover. After a short search I found the bird close to where I was told it would be.


November 9 - La Jolla Point Seawatch & Rare Gull chase

This morning I made my first stop at Point La Jolla. Here I met pseudo-resident Stan W. and former New Jerseyan (among others) Paul L.

Here we had a decent flight of seabirds including Common Murre, Elegant Tern, and Black-Vented Shearwaters, and Pacific & Red-Throated Loons among others. Also had a Black Scoter, which is uncommon on the west coast.
credit: Avesphoto

Later I headed north about 90 minutes toward Long Beach for the vagrant Black-Tailed Gull being seen there. I did not see the gull, no one did after 8:30 am, but I did meet several local SD birders and found that quite a few of them will be on the pelagic this coming Saturday. So at the least, the boat trip will have a few new friends * hopefully some new birds for me too!

November 8 - Wet again, but got my targets

A few years back there was a Golden-Crowned Sparrow found in New Jersey's Monmouth County and my friend Rob F. and I had tried for it, waiting over 90 minutes in a heavy steady rain without any luck. Making my second attempt for this bird in the normally "sunny" San Diego,  I guess it was appropriate that it was drizzling this morning too. I had come to Black Mountain at the suggestion of local birder Kevin Pickard. He frequents this spot and had recently seen the sparrows.
I walked up the hillside and birded in the rain for an hour seeing lots of birds but not my desired sparrow. When the rain started to lighten I was out of time and decided to come back again later this week, hopefully with Kevin, and also the sun !
As I got to my car I shook off the rain jacket and saw the sparrows across the street from where I had parked. If only I had stayed dry in the car !  Nevertheless I was able to get great views of these sparrows, even having time to setup my scope for amazing closeups.
 credit: unknown

Next up I made my way to San Elijo Lagoon. Here my target was California Gnatcatcher. Local Jan N. had suggested the site and it paid off nicely. I saw two or three of the Gnatcathers quickly and even pretty close at some points. Fortunately it was dry by this time and I got to enjoy these birds and several other species while I was here.
Credit: Peter Knapp

 Thanks goes out to the local birders who helped me get two life-birds today!

November 7 - Borrego Springs, CA

Wow, sometimes folks are just so damn helpful that it can surprise you. Such is the case with one Bob Miller of Southwest Birders. Just a few days before my trip out West, and by complete chance, I came across his recent posting on Inland County Birds about a Le Conte's Thrasher sighting. Even though it would mean a 2-hour drive from San Diego for a chance on this bird, I wrote to Bob for some more info. He was incredibly helpful and gave me specifics on where, when & how to spot the thrasher. Additionally he gave me spot-on information about another target of mine the Saltbush Sage Sparrow.

The only trouble I had was due to the change from Daylight Time back to Standard Time. I was told that my hotel clock would automatically "fall back" at 2 am. Of course it did not, so the alarm went off at 2:30 instead of my desired 3:30 !   So, I went back to bed for an hour, getting up at the "real" 3:30.
Then, the Hotel's Wake-up call also got messed up with the time change. Their call came thru right on cue -- at 4:30 am !    Needless to say, my wife wasn't too thrilled about being woken up at 2:30, 3:30, and 4:30 on the first night of vacation...But really, she was actually ok with it all later on.
I left at 4:00 driving over the mountains & into the desert. It was a great drive, especially Banner Grade. Anyone who loves driving would enjoy this road!  I got to the Thrasher spot just before official sunrise, but the desert was already light. Within 15-minutes or so employing Bob's technique of covering as much ground as possible I was able to see the Le Conte's. Later I saw another too. I was also able to briefly see one Sage Sparrow here.
credit:Peter Ericsson @

I then stopped at the recommended nearby spot for the Sage Sparrow and this spot delivered too. I saw a handful of the sparrows here, giving me nice long looks at the bird.

Thank you, Mr. Miller !

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

October 31 - Cape May fallout

The continuing 'fall flight of the decade' continued today with some fantastic results. The highlight must be the Henlow's Sparrow, which is quite unusual in New Jersey, and the first chaseable one at Cape May in twenty years!

click image to enlarge.

Other sparrows seen were Grasshopper, Song, Swamp, Savannah, White-Throated, White-Crowned, Field, Chipping, Lincoln's, and Junco.

Other top species seen today were Cave Swallow, Golden Eagle, and year-birds of Cattle Egret, Common Moorhen & Redhead. A female Eurasian Wigeon was seen, along with Blue-Winged & Green-Winged Teal, Pintail , Shoveler, Black, Mallard and Ring-Necked.  Scoters of White-Winged & Black were seen.

Raptors included Sharp-Shinned, Coopers, Red-Tailed, Red-Shouldered, Kestrel, Merlin, Peregrine, Bald Eagle, but I missed a Norther Goshawk reported elsewhere on the Cape today.

You can never get to them all !

October 30 - Overpeck Park

This morning I made a brief stop at Overpeck Park by Challenger Road and had a group of 80 American Pipits

credit: Terry Sohl

Later I was joined by Bill E  & Kevin W, and we birded behind the stables. There were a handful of Rusty Blackbirds, some Purple Finch, the resident Monk Parakeets, plus sparrows of Song, Swamp, Savannah, Chipping, White-Throated, White-Crowned, Field, Lincoln's, a few Vesper, and my first Fox Sparrow of the season.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

October 17 - Warren Green Acres

Today had nice views of a pair of Orange-Crowned Warblers, and many sparrow species but no luck with Clay-Colored. Also I missed the Grasshopper Sparrows seen at first light by Kevin B.

Later on the way home I stopped at Schermann-Hoffman and got Pine Siskin at their feeders.

October 16 - Windy Hook

I came here hoping for less winds but that was not the case. It was blowing in the twenties, so after some land-birding I settled for a seawatch.

Late-season views of Common Tern, plus Royals and a Forster's, first of season Red-Throated Loon and a pair of Commons. Surf Scoters, and Gannets.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October 10 - Warren Green Acres

Because I did not have much time today I visited Glenhurst Meadows a/k/a Warren Green Acres. Here I met Simon and also ran into friend Jonathan K.  We had a nice variety of sparrows, and added a few more after Jonathan left.
Sparrows seen were Song, Swamp, Savannah, White-Throated, White-Crowned, Chipping, Field, Lincoln's, Towhee, Junco, and Vesper -- which was my primary target bird today. Thanks goes to Mike H. who first found the Vesper, and to Simon who had it in the scope later on. Simon also showed me an Orange-Crowned Warbler!  Other warblers were Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-Rumped, and Pine.
Along the river we saw an American Bittern, and just before leaving we had Red-Shouldered Hawk amongst the several Red-Tails and lone Coopers Hawk. A Kestrel also put on a show for us.

October 2 - Sandy Hook

I did some King-sized birding today while out with Simon and Ron King. We started at Plum Island and were able to get fine looks at sparrows of Seaside, Nelson's, & Salt-Marsh, along with White-Crowned, Song, Savannah, and Swamp.
Later at the Locust Grove warblers put on a nice show with Pine, Magnolia, Cape May, Yellow-Rumped, B&W, BT Green, Palm, etc

Sunday, September 26, 2010

September 25 - Forsythe NWR and south

Met friends Rob F. and Simon K. along with Simon's Dad, who is visiting from England, and birded Forsythe NWR a/k/a Brigantine. We had a pair of Sora, but only I saw them, and a pair of Yellow-Headed Blackbirds that Rob spotted. Other good birds were Stilt Sandpipers, Long-Billed Dowitcher, Caspian Tern, Black Skimmer, Willet, Dunlin, Northern Shoveler, Pintail, American Wigeon, Blue-winged Teal, Pied-Billed Grebe, Wood Ducks

A quick run down to Stone Harbor's bridge produced Caspian and Royal terns, Ruddy Turnstones but no Marbled Godwits or Pelicans. I then got a text message courtesy of Doug G. advising of an American Avocet down in Cape May Harbor. Fortunately I was close so I was able to quickly get on this bird. And also phone Simon and his Dad, which allowed the Senior Mr. King to get a life bird !

A return visit to Brig on the way home gave me fantastic looks at Hudsonian Godwit. It was missing it's left foot, which makes me wonder if this was the same footless bird seen at Cape May last week.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

September 16 - Overpeck Dickcissel continues

The Dickcissel I saw at Overpeck yesterday continues this morning.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

September 15 - Overpeck Park and Dickcissel

I birded Overpeck Park this morning and the highlight was an immature Dickcissel. I was able to call friends Simon K. and also Steph S. and they were both able to see it & it was a life bird for both of them. And helping friends see life birds is always a lot of fun for me.

Monday, September 13, 2010

September 12 - Garret and the Overpeck

Although it was kind of slow at Garret this morning, my group of Andy, Jen and Simon and I were able to pick up a Philadelphia Vireo and get nice long looks at the bird from close range. This bird was a lifer for Simon, and it's a bird I missed seeing last year. So it was productive for the short time we were there.

We then drove eat to Overpeck Park in Teaneck/Leonia and half of the group got to see a Connecticut Warbler. Unfortunately for Simon he missed this bird, as it would have been a life bird for him.

September 11 - Garret Mountain

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

September 4 - Overpeck Park surprise

Birding today with Bill & Simon we were surprised to find a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper here in Bergen County.
Typically these birds are coastal migrants, however they do turn up at inland sod-farms. I guess the soccer fields at Overpeck were a suitable substitute.

Credit: Aiden G. Kelly

Also seen today were warblers of Wilson's, Prairie,Yellow, Palm and Common Yellwothroat.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29 - Pine Island & Oil City Road

With Simon K. today. We visited Pine Island Turf Farm but had no luck with either Baird's Sandpiper or Buff-Breasted Sandpiper. We did have quite a few Cliff Swallows, along with Barn & Tree Swallows. Also seen was a Kestrel, Harrier, Solitary Sandpiper, and wonderful views of Bobolink.

Cliff Swallow credit:
Later we stopped at Walker Avenue in Wayne, NJ and I was able to show Simon the Baird's Sandpiper there.

August 27 - Baird's Sandpiper at Walker Avenue

A quick check here after work produced my second Baird's Sandpiper seen here this season. I was able to call a few folks and Dan was able to make it down to see the bird as well.
Also about 25 feet behind me a Green Heron was taken by a Red-Tailed Hawk. Very cool for me to see, for the Green Heron not so much..

A return here on Sunday with friend Simon also produced the bird, so its good to see that it has stayed for a few days. Will check again tomorrow night

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22 - De Korte

During a break in the morning rain I decided to get out & as luck would have it I ran into friend Rob F. at the Richard W De Korte Park in Lyundhurst.  Rob phoned me to say he was looking at the Avocet which had been reported yesterday. This Avocet was my first being seen here in Bergen County.

Later I was able to get some quick views of a Sora rail, unfortunately I could not return the favor to Rob and get him on this bird as my sighting was too brief.

However together we did see White-Rumped Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Short-Billed Dowitchers, Semi-Palmated Sandpipers and Plovers, Spotted Sandpipers, Osprey, both species of Yellowlegs, and a Peregrine falcon chasing the shorebirds.

August 15 - Jamaica Bay

August 7 - Connecticut Chase

No, I wasn't chasing a Connecticut Warbler but rather chasing into Connecticut for a White-Tailed Kite at Stratford Beach and Short Beach. With friends Bill E., Simon K, and Purple Chickadee Steph S. we took the ride up I-95 to Stratford, CT.

We saw the kite from 3 sites today - Stratford, Short Beach, and Milford Point. These sites are all within 10 minutes of each other. We also saw Peregrine Falcon, Black-Bellied Plovers, American Oystercatchers, Yellow-Crowned Night Herons, Whimbrel, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martins

August 2 - Riverside Drive & Whiteface Mountain

August 1 - Massawepie Mire

In search of the elusive Spruce Grouse, today I drove the hour west of Lake Placid to visit Massawepie Mire. This site is an old railroad bed that cuts straight through a large boreal bog.

And here people take their privacy seriously:

July 31 - Bigelow Road

The next morning, Saturday, saw a return to Bigelow Road and I got fantastic views of a male/female pair of these beauties. At times the birds were too close for bins!.
I also got to see 3-4 Boreal Chickadees, a species I had only seen once before back in the winter of 2007. The views this time were much better, and it was much warmer too!

Other highlights today were Yellow-Bellied and Alder Flycatchers, Gray Jays, Red-Breasted Nuthatch and warblers of Nashville, Parula, Magnolia, Yellow-Rumped, American Redstart, Canada ( a NY State bird for me) and sparrows of Lincoln's, White-Throated, and Dark-Eyed Junco, plus Purple Finch .

July 30 - Lake Placid weekend

My wife and I drove the 4+ hours north to Lake Placid this weekend so I could enjoy birds of the boreal region of the Adirondack Mountains. First up was a visit to Bigelow Road in the town of Bloomingdale where I was able to get a brief view of a Black-Backed Woodpecker in flight across the road.

July 24 - Cape May ducks

Alternating weekends between my Scottish and English friends, today saw the return of scotsman Bill E. as we drove down to Cape May for the trio of Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks that had been found the prior Sunday. We were able to get on the birds immediately and at very close distance. This rare east coast vagrant was a New Jersey State bird for the both of us.

We also saw a summering Surf Scoter, Royal Tern, Black Skimmers, Purple Martins, and Prairie Warbler.

On the drive home we stopped at Forsythe NWR and saw Glossy Ibis, Western Sandpiper, and Eastern Meadowlark.

July 18 - Jamaica Bay Refuge

Friend Simon K. and I met here to view the American White Pelican that has spent some time on the bay. We had the Pelican straight away, and that was very good news for Simon because it represents a life bird for him, as he is here on work assignment and normally resides in Winchester, England.
The Pelican was good news for me too as it was the first time I have seen this species in New York State.

Also seen today while in the Refuge were Blue-Winged Teal, both species of Night-Heron, several Stilt Sandpipers and Short-Billed Dowitchers along with American Oystercatchers, and terns of Least, Common, and Forster's.

July 5 - Pine Island, New York

My friend Bill and I made the trip up to Orange County this morning to look for a Dickcissel.
We did not see that bird but did have nice views of summer breeders like Blue Grosbeak and Orchard Orioles. In fact, I can't recall ever seeing more Orchard Orioles in one place ever!
Also seen in the area was Eastern Bluebird, Bobolink, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Phoebe, and Horned Lark.

June 28 - Lacey Township Game Farm

Before visiting nearby family today I made a brief stop at a new section of Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. This area was formerly a wild game farm but has now laid fallow for several years. The area is being rehabilitated into upland habitat as this is one of the few remaining places in the state where Northern Bobwhite still re-produce in the wild.
The area was full of Blue Grosbeaks and Orchard Orioles, Field and Chipping Sparrows. Hopefully when the rehab is done more of this 100+ acre area will be open.

Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31 - Blue Chip Farm and High Point

I awoke early this morning and quickly decided to head north into Ulster County, New York to look for Upland Sandpiper at Blue Chip Farms. I arrived at 7 a.m and shortly after found the sandpiper. A little bit later a second sandpiper was seen. The last time I saw this species was in the fall of 2007, so it was very nice to see again, particularly since this bird's population in the northeast continues to drop.

After that, and being concerned about getting stuck in holiday traffic, I left here just after 8 and headed southwest to hit the High Point State Park. Once in the park I drove the Ridge Road loop and then took Sawmill Road to its junction with Deckertown Pike. Here in the boggy area on the corner I found both Willow and Alder Flycatchers. Driving back toward Route 23 I came across a Cerulean Warbler whose azure colors are always a treat. Next I stopped at Cat Swamp and saw some breeding Brown Creepers and heard them sing as well.


Overall a very good morning of birding.

Friday, May 28, 2010

May 23 - New York Warblers

The specialty bird of Doodletown is the breath-taking Cerulean Warbler:

Also seen was the handsome Worm-Eating Warbler:

Next we headed to Sterling Forest for looks at the quickly declining Golden-winged Warbler:

May 29 - Belleplain & Heislerville

Out today with guys that force me listen hard in order to understand my native English...a visiting UK birder in Simon K., and a now resident Scotsman in Bill E.
We took the long ride down to the Delaware Bayshore areas in hopes of some uncommon shorebirds & the breeding specialties of Belleplain Forest. While we did not encounter any rarities at Heiserville we did enjoy the shorebirds, including a breeding plumaged White-Rumped Sandpiper.

At Belleplain we saw some life birds for Simon in the Acadian Flycatcher, Blue Grosbeak and Summer Tanager.


May 22 - Kentucky & Prothonotary warblers

Early this morning Bill E. and I took a trip to help Simon K. get a life bird in the Kentucky Warbler. After some patience we were rewarded with fine looks at this stunning bird.


Also seen in the area today were Chimney Swift, Pewee, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Veery, Wood Thrush and the warblers of Chestnut-Sided, Black-and-White, Redstart, Ovenbird & Common Yellowthroat. Scarlet Tanager & Rose-Breasted Grosbeak also were seen.

Afterward, we ventured to Lord Stirling Park, which is adjacent to the Great Swamp NWR. Here we were able to see 3 of the Prothonotary Warbler. The last time I saw this species was back in 2008, so it was nice to see the beautiful "Golden Swamp-Warbler" once again.


Other birds seen in this area were Ruby-Throated Hummingbird, Willow Flycatcher, Cedar Waxwing, Blue-Winged Warbler, Northern Waterthrush and Baltimore Oriole.

Monday, May 17, 2010

May 16 - Mourning Warbler at Garret Mountain

Another visit to this hotspot in search of, and successful in finding the Mourning Warbler:


Also seen here today were warblers of Blue-Winged, Northern Parula, Yellow, Chestnut-Sided, Magnolia, BT Blue, BT Green, Blackburnian, Bay-Breasted, Black-and-White, Redstart, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's and Canada.