Tag Archives: birding

Termite Hatchout

We were all looking at a House Wren working a stump when I glanced down to see a rotten log crawling with termites.  Nice. I was hopeful that a good sized mixed flock of (preferably) warblers would come to scoop them up.

The termites milled about then one by one took off, lifting into the air, glittering in the sunlight like fairy dust.  For most, their maiden voyage was cut short when the birds came to gobble them up.  It started with the House Wren, then the White-throated Sparrows, and Robins got in the act.  A Northern Parula showed up and so did a Veery and several Hermit Thrushes.

Many logs and stumps were crawling with termites in the heat of the day.  It is the time of year, if you seen one, keep watch, the birds will come.


Filed under Local schmocal

A Study of Willets in First Light

I awoke before first light, threw a coat over my nightgown and headed out to the beach.  I wanted to catch that first liquid gold as it poured over the waves.  The sand was cold under my feet as I topped the dune.  As the light strengthened, I  saw birds sleeping at the surf line. I fell to my knees and crept forward.

I knee-walked across the sand, then fell flat on my belly.

The light brightened and the willets roused.

They looked around blinking sleepily in the light.  One yawned and stretched a leg and a wing. 

The freshening tide swamped the delicate feet of the Willets, bringing with it renewed energy.  The Willets now fully awake began probing the sand.

When the light turned from gold to silver, I lurched to my feet, cold, stiff and sand covered.  The Willets fluttered further down the beach. With a parting shot, I headed in with gold-dazzled eyes and the promise of coffee in the air.   


Filed under Travel

Birding in a Blizzard

I had just fed the birds and was sitting in the garage with the door open when I heard the scrape of the plow coming up the driveway. The driver waved as he inched past making a wide swath through the knee-deep snow.  The birds scattered but returned when he backed away to make another pass.  The driver was someone I had never seen.  He rolled down his window as he prepared to make the final pass and hollered above the roar of the diesel, “Are you a birdwatcher?”  I nodded happily and pointed at the busy feeders.  “I love Chickadees,” he shouted and with a smile and a promise to be back, he crawled down the steep drive onto the unplowed street.

Today’s snow birds  were: Carolina Wren, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Cardinal, American Tree Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Blue Jay


Filed under backyard, Photos

Birding from the top of the Canopy Tower

Sunrise from the roof of the Canopy Tower

With a view of the Panama Canal and the surrounding  forest canopy, the Canopy Tower is an incredible place to stand in the early morning light.  I climbed the narrow steps to pop my head above the hatch to see the vista open before me.  As I walked in wonder around the roof, a flicker of movement caught my eye in a cecropia tree.  There, facing east, as if waiting for the sun’s rays to dazzle the eye, were 2 Golden-hooded Tanagers.  Nice. 

Golden-hooded Tanagers

I continued my walk around the huge yellow dome with a jig in my step.   

Roof of Canopy Tower

Both Turkey and Black Vultures were swirling around at eye level.  Three Red-lored Parrots landed in a clump of leaves and disappeared.  A Keel-billed Toucan clacked in a tree across the way. 


Each direction had new trees to scan.  I made the turn on my route around the dome when a flash of blue zipped into a cecropia tree.  I stared in disbelief.  My first lifer in Panama was not a little nondescript something, something, but…Holy Crap… a Blue Continga.

blue continga

I’ll tell you more about all of this tomorrow. Right now the rain is letting up and there are birds to see.


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Birding in Panama – part 1

yellow-tailed oriole

I arrived at the Canopy Tower at 2:15 to find out my first bird tour was at 3.  I quick, quick, changed clothes and met Domi, one of the guides,  in the parking lot.  We headed out to the Pipeline Road. We were no sooner out of the car before we saw a mixed flock picking through the trees.  Domi sang out “Crimson-backed Tanager” and I got my first awe-struck look at an incredible bird.  The day only got better.  I am blessed with being the only birder at the lodge so I had a personal guide.  Let me leave you with the list of what I saw today.  I’ll blog more tomorrow. I am too pooped to even type straight.  Remember I’ve been up since 2:30 am.

Rufescent Tiger-Heron, Cattle Egret, Green Heron, Black Vulture, Turkey Vulture, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Gray-headed Chachalaca, Purple Gallinule, Southern Lapwing, Wattled Jacana, Pale-vented Pigeon, White-tipped Dove, Red-lored Amazon, Smooth-billed Ani, Blue-chested Hummingbird, Keel-billed Toucan, Red-crowned Woodpecker, Cinnamon Woodpecker, Plain Xenops, Cocoa Woodcreeper, Fasciated Antshrike, Barred Antshrike, Yellow-bellied Elaenia, Paltry Tyrannulet, Yellow-olive Flycatcher, Lesser Kiskadee, Great Kiskadee, Social Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Streaked Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Cinnamon Becard, Scrub Greenlet, Golden-fronted Greenlet, Gray-breasted Martin, Mangrove Swallow, Barn Swallow, Plain Wren, House Wren, Clay-colored Robin, Tropical Mockingbird, White-shouldered Tanager, Crimson-backed Tanager, Blue-gray Tanager, Palm Tanager, Thick-billed Euphonia, Golden-hooded Tanager, Blue-back Grassquit, Variable Seedeater, Ruddy-breasted Seedeater, Buff-throated Saltator, Great-tailed Grackle, Yellow-tailed Oriole.

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Panama Bound

howler monkeys

I am off to the land of Motmots, Flowerpiercers, Tinamous and Howler Monkeys.   I will be at the Canopy Tower in Panama for 4 nights and the Lodge for 3.  Can I hear a W00T?  I’m super excited. I am dragging my creaky old laptop with me, so I certainly hope I can get online from there and maybe do a post or 2.  Although… I may be so busy ogling Trogons that do not have a spare minute to blog.  We’ll see.


Filed under Travel

Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari

semi-palmated plover

You are not really here to see shorebirds are you?  C’mon, fess up.  You want to see birders in Hawaiian shirts. Well, I’ll get to that.

I first heard about the Hawaiian Shirt Shorebird Safari back in June when I attended the Bloggers who Blog, Tweet and Chirp outing.  I was chatting with Laura about birds, birding, our cats, and trips she has led; when she mentioned this crazy thing they do with the Brookline Bird Club.   They all wear Hawaiian shirts and leis while scouring South Beach for shorebirds in migration.  I instantly fell in love with the idea and resolved to go.

I drove up the day before and spent the night with Laura and Mark. We had to be at the meeting place at 8:30 am; the boat to South Beach left at 9.  (We used Rip Ryder in Chatham $25.00.)  As soon as we arrived, it was obvious this was not your usual birding trip.

birders meet-up

While Laura checked on the boat, Mark put out the box of leis.  I was wearing a cobalt blue shirt with hibiscus flowers and macaws on it.  Pretty snazzy, huh.  A multi-colored lei just added to the chaos.  The trip across to the spit was uneventful.  As we were wading to shore, a shouted “Whimbrel!”  made us all look up.  Nice.  On shore, scope legs were quickly slid out and the real business of the day began.

birders in Hawaiian shirts

There were Semi-palmated Plovers, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers, and a few Red Knots.


There were hundreds maybe even thousands of Terns including a few fly-by Roseates. There were Herring, Laughing and Ring-billed Gulls.

Birders in Hawaiian shirts

There was as a Ruddy Turnstone determined to dig a hole to China in search of sand worms.

Turnstone in a hole

Can you see it there in the bottom left?

We birded sitting,


and standing.


There were a lot of shorebirds, we ended up with 51 species. The Godwits put on quite the show.

hudsonian godwit

Big aloha thank you to Laura


and Mark


Dude, Mass birders so rock.  For more birds and less birders check out Picus Blog.


Filed under Travel

Birding the Long Trail

bald eagle

The sun was beating down mercilessly as I trudged down a particularly open part of the Appalachian Trail.  I would not call what I was doing hiking, frankly, it was more of an amble.  Sweat trickled down my my cheek.  Stopping to pull off my hat and mop my brow, I saw a through-hiker staggering under the weight of an enormous pack coming around the bend in the path.  As he approached, he slowed to pass the a few words of cheerful greeting.  He asked about water and shade.  I was thankfully able to reassure him that shade was close by and I had just dropped off 2 gallons of water by the kiosk.  The relief spread over his face.  His parting comment tossed over his shoulder was, “I’ve been seeing lots of birds.”  I shouted at his back, “Good for You!”

“I wish I was,” I muttered as I turned and pushed on.

Birding had been light at best. Yes, it was the doldrums of the day in the dead of summer, but still I had expected more than I was seeing.  As I made the turn around a pond, I looked up to see a kettle of swirling vultures.  Watching them I saw a flash of white.  In hawk-watching terms, these birds were bigger than pepper specks, maybe even large grained pepper, but you needed bins to see them.

There!  Another flash as the bird banked.  Hot diggity.  White at tail AND head.  There was a Bald Eagle slumming with the boys in the hood.  I stood there in the blazing heat losing him in the pale sky and haze; then catching sight again as the sun reflected off the white.

A group of 3 fully-loaded hikers and a dog strode toward me.  They stopped when they saw me standing in the middle of the path craning upward.

I looked over grinning.  “Ever seen an Eagle?”

None of them had.  They shrugged out of their packs and we stood sharing my bins watching majesty in the sky.  They were thrilled.  Heck, I was thrilled.  Watching eagles never gets old.  And sharing with nature-loving strangers is the best.


Filed under Local schmocal

What’s the deal-ee-o?

“Why are we stopping?”

I shrugged, “I dunna know.”

I pulled the car over onto the grass behind the others.  Diane, Catherine and Christopher peered through the tinted windows at the marsh.  Frowning, I stared out the driver’s side window at the house across the street.  There was a young person lying on a love seat behind a firepit apparently sleeping in the blazing afternoon sun. Caught up in the human drama out my window: Was she drunk? Was that a dog with her? She was definitely going to be burnt to a crisp in this sun; I was brought out of my reverie when car doors started to slam.  As the cry of “Yellow-crowned Night-heron” filtered down the line of cars; birders hopped out and started rifling around in the back of cars for scopes, bins and cameras.

Birders with bins

I was surprised to look across the marsh to see the Night-Heron not tucked into the weeds and grasses with only it’s head showing, but standing out in the open. I had only seen this once before at a park in New Orleans.  Like the NOLA bird, this one was hunting for a little morsel of something.   As we watched, it darted down and came back up gulping.

YC Nightheron

One of my favorite YCNH fun facts. They eat {{shiver}} leeches. Thank goodness something does.

This was but one stop on the Connecticut meet-up.  Huge round of applause for Luke leading (that’s him in the blue sweatshirt) and knowing where to see Night-Herons hanging out snacking on crab.


Filed under Local schmocal

What’re You Lookin’ At?

Birders on the prowl

Where you goin’?

Birders with scopes

What do ya see?

Rocky beach

I don’t see anything.  Wait. Maybe.

Piping plover

Piping Plovers are tiny shorebirds that look like rocks. Seriously if they weren’t running around all over the place you wouldn’t know they were there.  These are the same birds that close beaches all up and down the eastern seaboard to protect their nests.  They are suffering from habitat loss and their nests are often destroyed by vehicles that can drive on the beach.  They nest above the tide line in a scrape often lined with concealing stones or shells.  There is only something like 7000 in the world.  PP fun fact: part of their courtship display is him stamping his feet.  I’m sorry but that idea is just too cute.

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