Sunday, May 1, 2011

Backyard Jems

The weather was kind of gray all day today, which brought a lot of birds to our bird feeders. Many goldfinches are still enjoying the nyjer seeds and most males have now fully molted into their bright yellow breeding plumage.

The first hummingbird (female Ruby-throated) made a pitstop at one of the nectar feeeders I put out last week.

A pair of American Robins are nesting under our neighbor's deck and they are becoming very aggressive towards other large passerine approaching our yards.

The best bird of the day, a gorgeous male Rose-breasted Grosbeak was promptly chased away by the robins every time it attempted to land on the feeders.

A House Wren has taken interest in one of the new bird boxes we constructed this spring, and has been very busy nest building the last two days. He's a very hard worker and I hope it pays off!

It's interesting how birds are often more confiding when it's cloudy. I was able to get very close views and photos of many normally skittish birds.

Mourning Dove (above) and Northern Cardinal (below):

Monday, November 8, 2010

Just another day at the farm

The doomed farm across the street continues to surprise me with great birds. Last weekend I spent four hours exploring the weedy fields and wood edges around the perimeter of the farm property and tallied 49 bird species in addition to four mammal species (white-tailed deer, red fox, eastern chipmunk and gray squirrel). During the first hour there was a good flight of American Pipits and Horned Larks while the mid-day brought a strong hawk flight with several kettles of Red-tailed Hawks and Red-shouldered Hawks streaming southwest. A late Osprey, a Barred Owl, several Purple Finches, Pine Siskins and Red-breasted Nuthatches were additional highlights of the day!

American Goldfinch
 American Kestrel with grasshopper in talons
 American Pipit

 Male Red-breasted Nuthatch
 Male Dark-eyed Junco
 Juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk
 Song Sparrow
 Yellow-rumped Warbler

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Wonderful shores of Delaware

Recent reports of rarities like Swainson's Hawk, Hudsonian Godwit, White-winged Dove, Western Kingbird, and Cave Swallows coupled with a perfect weather forecast of a massive cold front pushing down from NW after days of southern winds was too much of a temptation to resist a trip to the shores of Delaware Bay. I started at Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge and made a stop along Deep Branch Rd. where a Clay-colored Sparrow had been reported a few days earlier. The roadside and forest edges were littered in sparrows, kinglets, juncos, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and bluebirds but I could not find a Clay-colored among the many Chipping Sparrows. They mostly stayed hidden in tall grass or high up in the tree canopies whenever they got flushed by prowling Sharp-shinned Hawks. Best birds there were fly-by Pine Siskins, Purple Finch, and Palm Warblers.
 Blue Jay (above) and Golden-crowned Kinglet (below)
 Chipping Sparrow

I continued towards Fowler's Beach along Cods Rd. where I quickly relocated the juvenile Swainson's Hawk sitting in a harvested corn field. The bird stayed at the back of the field and did not allow for photos so I headed down to Fowler's Beach instead, in search of the Hudsonian Godwit. Again, the roadside was littered with tons of sparrows and yellow-rumps! As I approached the mudflats in the lagune near the beach I spotted the Godwit foraging right next to the road in a flock of Dunlins. This is just too easy!
 Juvenile dark morph Swainson's Hawk!
 Female Boat-tailed Grackle (above) and adult winter Forster's Tern (below)

Hudsonian Godwit!

Lesser Yellowlegs (above) and Juvenile Northern Harrier (below)

I stopped once more to watch the Swainson's Hawk on my way out but it remained partially hidden in the back of the corn stubble. So, I decided to leave it be and headed south to Lewes and Cape Henlopen State Park. The hawkwatch platform was full of visitors, likely due to the previous day's report of White-winged Dove and Western Kingbird in the park. I was told that both Northern Goshawk and Golden Eagle were seen earlier in the morning, but a strong raptor flight was still ongoing. However, the now strong NW/W winds pushed the birds far out to sea as they made the jump from Cape May across the bay to the mainland and most birds landed far south of our viewpoint. It was weird seeing Bald Eagles and Northern Harriers appearing low over the ocean waves amongst the numerous Northern Gannets and Royal Terns. Flocks of Common Loons and scoters were passing by on their way south as well.
 Hermit Thrush (above) and Killdeer (below)
 Pine Siskin by the Nature Center

 Lesser Black-backed Gull (above) and White-throated Sparrow (below)

The woods near the cape were alive with birds, thousands of birds, mostly White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Yellow-rumps, Song Sparrows, Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Phoebes, and kinglets of both species. Still, I managed to pick out a few interesting migrants amongst the hoards, like Grasshopper Sparrow, Palm Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, American Woodcock, Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, and Eastern Meadowlarks. On the beach I also found a near-adult Lesser Black-backed Gull. By 4PM I was content with the fact that I had filled all my memory cards and headed home to Baltimore.

Later that evening I learned that others had found both LeConte's Sparrow, Lark Sparrow, and 2 Clay-colored Sparrows at Cape Henlopen SP as well as a Henslow's Sparrow at Rehoboth Beach nearby...... Good to know there is more to want in the future.

Good Birding!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Eleven reasons to keep our local farms!

Song Sparrow

Having an old farm right across the street was a major plus when we moved into our new neighborhood two years ago. My daily dog walks past the corn and hay fields in the morning yielded Blue Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Orchard Orioles, American Pipits, Eastern Meadowlarks, flocks of Canada Geese, Killdeer, American Kestrels, Northern Harriers and other hawks hunting the fields. It was with great sorrow that we soon learned that the farm property has been sold and approved for light industrial development. A year and a half went by without anything happening, so we hoped that plans had been scrapped due to the poor economy. Alas, last winter bulldozers came and tore the farm house and the old barn down. However, nothing more has happened since. New crops were not sown last spring and the fields were left fallow all summer.

Ironically, the property is now in a more bird-friendly state than ever! Last Saturday I therefore decided to check it out, since the current owner probably doesn't care. The fields were overgrown with waist-deep weeds and grasses and hopping with sparrows! I zig-zagged across every field flushing birds in all directions and walked along all the hedgerows between the fields and along the forest edges. Best birds found were 1-2 Vesper Sparrow, 3 White-crowned Sparrow, 16 Savannah Sparrow, 2 Palm Warblers, and a beautiful Blue-headed Vireo.

Blue-headed Vireo

Eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler

 Immature White-crowned Sparrow

American Kestrel

The sparrows and grasshoppers had also attracted the attention of several Kestrels and a Merlin. Being a warm sunny day with a NW breeze also meant a strong hawk flight overhead, with numerous vultures, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, Cooper's, and Sharp-shinned Hawks, a late Osprey and a Northern Harrier streaming south.

Turkey Vulture

Black Vulture

Adult Red-tailed Hawk

Adult Red-shouldered Hawk

Adult Cooper's Hawk

Immature Sharp-shinned Hawk

I will keep birding the area for all it's worth for as long as I can until they start digging and the inevitable fences and No Trespassing signs come up....... Sad!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Cromwell Valley Park Saturday 10/16/10

I spent this gorgeous morning at Cromwell Valley Park, located just north of Towson in Baltimore County. The season has certainly changed since my last visit to the park. The trees had turning yellow, and the weedy fields were crawling with sparrows of all sorts, mostly Song and Swamp Sparrows but also Field, Chipping and a lone LINCOLN'S SPARROW. The hedgerows along the fields were plentiful of more sparrows such as White-throated Sparrows and Eastern Towhees, Palm Warblers (both eastern and western forms), hoards of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Common Yellowthroats, Eastern Phoebes, a lingering Black-throated Green Warbler, House Wrens and at least four WINTER WRENS. Above, hawk migration was going strong with lots of Turkey and Black Vultures, Red-tailed, Red-shouldered and Sharp-shinned Hawks heading south.

The bird of the day was without a doubt this brilliant adult male NASHVILLE WARBLER hanging out in a flock of Palm Warblers. After patiently stalking them for about an hour he finally allowed for some close-up views and shots:o)

Young female Common Yellowthroat:
Eastern Phoebe:
 Fly-by Great Blue Heron:
 Eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler:
 Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
 Swamp Sparrow:
 Winter Wren (now considered a separate species from both the European Wren and Pacific Wren):

Good birding All!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Warbler migration still going strong

While working from home today I could not help but pay some visits to the backyard and check for migrants along the forest edge. The cool fall weather and NW winds brought quite a few birds into our neighborhood and by the end of the day I had tallied 5 warbler species (12 Yellow-rumped, 4 Palm, 3 Magnolia, 2 Black-throated Green, and 1 Blackpoll Warbler), Red-eyed Vireo, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatch, several Blue Jays, 2 Downy Woodpeckers and a Northern Flicker.

First-year female Black-throated Green Warbler:
 Male Downy Woodpecker:
 First-year female Blackpoll Warbler:
 Eastern (yellow) Palm Warbler:
 First-year Male Magnolia Warbler:
 Red-eyed Vireo:
 Ruby-crowned Kinglet:
 One of a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers (first-year male):
The arrival of the hoards of Yellow-rumped Warblers typically signals the end of warbler migration. They will be highly missed until their return in spring!