Monthly Archives: January 2009

Bird Photography Weekly-Yellow-billed Loon

I have been to Alaska on business trips a number of times and have always managed to scrape together some time to add on a birding excursion or two.   The last time I was there, I had an unexpected bonus.  I had booked a 1/2 day boat trip around the bay (this would be my first time back on the water after the disastrous trip in California).  It was in June and still bitterly cold out, or at least I thought so.  There were 15 of us huddled together inside the tiny cabin peering out through the wide windows.  There was talk in town about an immature Yellow-billed Loon being found, but then it had disappeared.  Apparently they were around, but not common.  I asked the captain of our boat if there was any chance that we would see it.  He didn’t sound hopeful. Oh, well. We all shrugged. He offered the possibility of an Aleutian Tern. We all happily abandoned the Loon for the Tern.

Coming back into the harbor after a terrific day of seeing amazing birds, we were all chatting about what we had seen where; when the oddest, palest loon I have ever seen was suddenly next to the boat. It popped up, then disappeared and reappeared a little ways away.  We all rushed to the back of the boat.  The captain swung the boat around in a wide arc and just when we had given up; the loon popped up right beside the boat.  Sweet!  Talk about icing on the Cake!  Have you been to Alaska yet?

To see other birds check out Bird Photography Weekly.

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Filed under Photos, Travel

Siskin Visit during an Ice Storm

pine-siskin-in-an-icy-tree

I woke up to a world turned to glass.  Every paved surface was as smooth as a skating rink and icicles dripped from the trees.  The rain that everyone else had down below was freezing rain on the mountain.  The backyard was a flurry of activity as the regular crowd ate its way through yesterday’s seed.  Unable to leave the house, I couldn’t make it out to fill the bird feeders.  With no other option, I stood in the doorway to the deck and tossed handfuls of seed out onto the wind and the ground.  Within an hour, the backyard regulars had been joined by a flock of 20 Goldfinches, 35 Pine Siskins and 1 female Purple Finch.

I have been seeing Pine Siskin flocks flying over, but they had not visited my offerings until today.  And today, I am awash in them.

I happily stood in my toasty house and took photo after photo.

pine-siskin-1

pine-siskins-on-the-deck

pine-siskins

I see on the local ListServ that many people had an influx of Siskins to their feeders during the storm.

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Filed under backyard, migration, Photos

Bird Photography Weekly-Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle in Alaska

Winter is a great time to look for Eagles.  We have them here in NJ on both the Delaware and Hudson Rivers as well as most reservoirs.  Many bird groups or Audubon Societies offer winter Eagle field trips.  Check it out and dress warm if you go. I almost froze my patootie once on an eagle trip.

But, let me tell you an Eagle story.

A few weeks ago, as I was driving around the Wanaque Reservoir I glanced through the trees and there were thousands of Common Mergansers sitting on the water.  Thinking there might be other things hanging around with such a large flock, I slowed up and squeezed into the only available hint of a pull-off.  I walked back to peer over the fence and through the trees.  Hoping for a better view, I followed the fence line until I found a thin opening through the trees, when all of a sudden the Merganzers exploded into a swirling mass of white.  I looked up expecting a Peregrine or some other raptor.  What I saw was a 3rd year immature Bald Eagle.  As soon as the flock would settle down onto another part of the water, he would buzz over the top of them causing them to take to flight again.  He did it repeatedly, I could almost hear the laughing.  I watched transfixed.  I had never seen anything like it.  After playing with the Merganser for several passes, he started to swoop low and drag his big yellow feet in the water that they had vacated.  Maybe he was  fishing?  He suddenly veered off to the north when a large adult Bald Eagle appeared.  It started to do the same thing though-flying low over the water and dragging its feet.  Within a few minutes the immature Bald Eagle was back and they both skimmed the water back and forth dragging their feet.  I watched them for perhaps 20 minutes.  They were still doing it when I left.  It was one of those birdwatching moments when I wished someone else had been there to see it.  Have you seen Eagles do this?  Were they fishing?

To see other birds check out Bird Photography Weekly.

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Filed under Local schmocal, Photos, Stories

Sorting through Flocks of Canada Geese

cagos-in-the-snow

One of the joys and sorrows of winter birding in the Northeast is all of the odd geese (Greater White-fronted, Pink-footed, Ross’s, Cackling) that show up with the migratory flocks of Canada Geese.  But searching for an odd goose in a sea of Canada Geese is a study in perseverance. It has taken me 5 tries this year (and 3 last year) to finally get on the Barnacle Goose that has been in Califon, NJ. Part of the problem is that there are many farm fields where the flock could be munching it’s way through the corn stubble. Then there is also lots of pasture land with yummy, tender, frost-weaken grasses.  Some of the fields are close to the road while others are far and really not viewable.  So I would end up creeping around back country roads looking at field after field of geese.  (Ya know, there really are a lot of Canada Geese in the world.) And, of course, the flock in front of you may not be THE flock you are looking for.  Sigh, it is a trial.  BUT, I finally found the Barnacle Goose today in an orchard (of all places).  Can you see it in the picture?  Trust me it’s there.  And yes, it was snowing, again.

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Filed under Local schmocal, migration, Photos

First bird of 2009

tree-sparrow

Ooooo, lookee.  It’s an American Tree Sparrow.  What a great first bird of 2009.  It is not a rariety by any means but I only see them in the depths of winter.  One showed up at the nyger feeder during the first big storm (remember that 17 incher) a week or so ago; then disappeared.  And here it is again when the fridgid arctic air pushed our high today to 4F.  It does not come to the heated bird bath for a drink, but like the Chickadees can eat snow for the liquid.  I saw both birds eating snow today.  My resident backyard Chickadee flock drinks from the heated bird bath.  So, does that mean the snow-eaters are migrants from further north?  Interesting.  Have you seen birds eat snow?

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Filed under backyard, Photos