Thursday, February 8, 2018

Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch in PA! ~ February 8, 2018

Just after midnight on Thursday, Stephen Kloiber and I drove the five hours west to Meadville where we met up with Shawn Collins and several other birders. He led us to a gated community where we parked and entered the home of a very nice couple who was gracious enough to allow us to view their backyard from their living room.
We barely got situated when the Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch was spotted in a tree in the backyard and then dropped down to the ground to grab a few seeds. I was pleasantly surprised how well my photos came out when considering that they were taken through their living room window in the early morning light.

If accepted, this bird of the 'interior' race would represent the 1st record for Pennsylvania record and one of what I believe is only a handful of records east of the Mississippi River.
We completed the 700-mile round trip with smiles on our faces. It was a new state bird for me and a life bird for Stephen. Thanks goes to the unnamed couple (their wishes) for their excellent hospitality. We gave them a bag of bird seed as a small token of appreciation for this extremely rare opportunity.
More photos of the bird can be found in my Pennsylvania Notables Album.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Surprising Yard Bird: Dickcissel on January 10, 2018!

On Wednesday afternoon, I looked out the window at the feeders, which is usually packed with House Sparrows. One of the birds on the ground looked a little different and when I put the bins on it, it turned out to be a first-winter Dickcissel! It later perched in the honeysuckle next to the feeder where it allowed me to slowly open the window a bit and take a bunch of photos.

Probably since my suburban habitat was not what a Dickcissel is usually found in, I never saw it after that.
More photos of the bird can be found in my 2018 Local Notables Album.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mistle Thrush in New Brunswick, Canada! ~ December 28, 2017

On Wednesday afternoon, the 27th, Stephen Kloiber and I started the 14-hour run towards the town of Miramichi in New Brunswick, Canada. Way back on December 9th, Peter and Deana Gadd discovered a bird in their backyard that had never previously been recorded in North America. The bird, a Mistle Thrush, is a Eurasian bird that is common in that area of the world, but instead of this one migrating to North Africa, it somehow ended up in eastern Canada.

I had been unable to try for the bird until the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, so I was pleasantly surprised that the bird was still there. The Gadds have been giving daily updates on the bird, which was a huge help when deciding to make such a long-distance try for it. One of our activities while driving the long stretch of I-95 through Maine was watching the car thermometer, which dipped down to minus 16 (-16) degrees Farenheit at one point! In Canada, we hit some light snow between Fredericton and our destination. When we arrived at their backyard just before first light on the 28th, it was zero degrees Farenheit. Luckily, the blustery winds from the day before had calmed down. After watching the bird's main food source, a mountain ash tree full of berries, for over an hour, a Texas birder drove up and told us that he had seen the bird at another group of mountain ash trees about a block away. We decided to go up there while the other birding couple stayed at the original site. About 15 minutes later, they drove up and told us that the bird was back at its favorite tree. Thankfully, the bird was still there when we got there. We got great looks at it through the scope and I managed to get some fairly decent photos of it through the many branches.

When the snow starting picking up in intensity, we eventually headed home. It was a very successful 1701-mile journey. Thanks to the Gadds for a historic find and all their hospitality and help.
More photos of the bird can be found in my New Brunswick Adventures Album.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Barnacle Goose in Northampton County ~ December 3, 2017

Last week, I got an E-mail from Tom Love, an Oregon birder stating that he was on a business trip to Washington, D.C. and wanted to know if I could provide him with any information on the Barnacle Goose that had been sporadically seen in the area since it would be a 'lifer' for him. I wrote him and let him know that it hadn't been reported in a while but would be glad to take him around to the local spots to look for it if he was willing to give it a try. He decided to go ahead and drive up here on Sunday morning and we'd meet at the Wawa on Schoenersville Road. An hour before his arrival, I checked out many of the favorable spots and came up empty.

Upon meeting up at the Wawa, we headed out to the nearby ponds along Valley Center Parkway and High Point Boulevard, only finding small groups of Canada Geese. From there, we stopped at Seiple's farm pond, the Silver Crest Road retention pond, and the Gremar Road ponds. There was one Snow Goose at Seiple's and four Buffleheads at the larger Gremar pond but no sign of the Barnacle. A stop at the Nazareth Quarry yielded several thousand Canadas at the far end of the quarry. We stopped a few times to check out groups of geese in the corn-stubbled fields between Nazareth and Bath, but they were all Canadas, too. The Northampton Quarry was devoid of birds.

Time was running out since he had to be back in Washington for a 7 PM flight, so we headed for his car but decided to make one last check of the Valley Center Parkway ponds. At around 12:30, we pulled up and made a sweep of the southern pond and he said, "There it is!" Amazingly, ten minutes before he had to leave, there was the Barnacle Goose on the back edge of the pond.

I quickly got out the scope so he could get some great looks and then took him back to his rental car where he headed back south with a big smile.

I called Arlene Koch, who was nice enough to post it to PABIRDS, and then headed back over there where I managed to get some better photos.

Mike and Corinne Schall showed up soon after and told me that there was a Ross's Goose in the northern pond just across the road. I walked over there and took some photos of it, too.

More photos from the day can be found in my 2017 Local Notables Album.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Corn Crake in NY! ~ November 8, 2017

On Tuesday, November 7th, Ken and Sue Feustel spotted a brown bird along the shoulder of the Ocean Parkway, just east of the Cedar Beach Marina on Long Island, New York. I later learned from their E-bird submission that they initially thought it might be a Yellow Rail but were puzzled by the larger size and other discrepancies. Eventually, they found the bird to match a Corn Crake. They called two other birders who confirmed the identification.

I found out about the bird about an hour before work, so I was unable to go and probably wouldn't have made it to the spot before dark if I could have. I also had a doctor's appointment in late morning on Wednesday, so I was pondering whether to go and get there before light, having only about an hour-and-a-half before I would have to leave for the appointment, or go right after I got back from the doctor. I decided to go afterwards and called a few friends to see if they were interested in going along. As it turned out, Stephen Kloiber and Jon Mularczyk met me at the house just after noon and the three of us headed for Long Island.

At around 2:45, we parked in the Overlook Beach parking lot, walked back out to the parkway, and carefully crossed over to the median. We continued a little east to where about 15 birders were standing. There, we immediately spotted the Corn Crake feeding in the dry grass along a continuous line of shrubs. My first impression was that the bird was so plump that it reminded me more of a female quail than a rail.

We happily watched the bird slowly walk back and forth, feeding as it went, which included occasionally pulling some worms out of the ground. The bird was close enough to attain some fairly good photos of it while passing through some areas of shorter grass.

After getting great views of every angle of it, we eventually headed home, working our way back through the New York City traffic. Thanks to the Feustels for a surreal find. This is one bird that I never thought I'd see in the U.S. Even more surprising was that, with the Common Greenshank, I got to see two life birds within a couple hours of home in less than two weeks! It was my 750th "Lower 48" bird!
More photos of the bird can be found in my New York Adventures Album.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Common Greenshank in New Jersey! ~ October 26, 2017

On Monday, October 23rd, Sam Galick made a super find of a Common Greenshank at Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, also known as Brigantine. My friend, Jason Horn, called me about it in the mid-afternoon and, since I happened to be off that day, I drove over to his house and we headed right down there. Along the way, we hit major traffic jams around Philadelphia and just barely made it down there before dusk, only to find out that the bird had not been seen for a long while. We drove back home and that was that. Or so I thought. After no sightings on Tuesday, the bird was briefly seen again on Wednesday, so I scheduled another vacation day for a second try on Thursday.

Early that morning, Jason, Matt Sabatine, and I headed back to "Brig". We got there soon after sunrise and slowly drove the Wildlife Drive, stopping to check all the groups of Yellowlegs. At around 8:30, soon after we made the turn onto the east dike, several good-sized groups of Yellowlegs flew over the impoundment. As the last group flew by, Jason yelled, "I got the bird!" Luckily, he was able to get Matt and I on it as it dropped into the impoundment with the Yellowlegs. Jason hollered to the other birders spread out along that area of the dike and, eventually, everyone got on the bird. Scopes yielded nice views. The bird was close enough that its much paler look made it fairly easy to pick out even with binoculars. For about a half-hour or so, I worked on trying to get some documentation photos. They manage to show the much cleaner, paler look and the dull green legs when compared to the darker and more heavily-streaked look and bright yellow legs of the surrounding Yellowlegs.

Common Greenshank (center bird in the next five photos).

Eventually, the bird took off with the accompanying Yellowlegs and I was able to get some flight shots that showed the diagnostic white patch running up the back of the bird.

Yellowlegs (left) and Common Greenshank (right).

Common Greenshank (trailing bird).

Common Greenshank (leading bird).

Common Greenshank (center bird).

Common Greenshank (lower left bird).

Common Greenshank (left-center bird).

We eventually continued on, birded the rest of the loop, and then took a second tour around the impoundments. Among the notable birds found were an American Avocet and a pretty late Red-eyed Vireo in the wooded section of the loop.

Thanks to Sam Galick for a heck of a find and to Jason for picking the bird out for everyone to see. It's rare for me to get a life bird within a couple hours of home anymore, so this was a very successful day. All of my photos of it can be found in my New Jersey Adventures Album.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Parasitic Jaeger in PA! ~ September 20, 2017

I wasn't feeling well last weekend, so when news spread of a Parasitic Jaeger at Prince Gallitzin State Park, I was excited but bummed out because I wasn't able to try and go for it. This was the only jaeger that I hadn't seen in the state and going for it would require an 8-hour, 508 mile round trip. I was mostly recovered by Tuesday and was surprised that the bird was still there. Jaegers don't tend to stuck around in one place very long. So, I planned on heading out on Wednesday.

I called Jason Horn and he agreed to ride along. I picked him up at 2:45 AM and we got to the marina as it was starting to get light. We walked out onto the fishing pier at the western edge of the marina and set up our scopes. As the fog burned off and more and more of the lake became visible, there was no sign of the bird. We did see the Common Tern that was also reported from there.

Now after sunrise and with almost all of the lake exposed and still no bird, it was looking a little grim. Then, I looked to the left and there was the bird, coming in fast and close, almost right over us! Jason got some nice shots of it, but I concentrated on studying the bird and, by the time I grabbed my camera, the jaeger was past us. I lost sight of it in the background of trees and it was gone. I was thrilled that I had seen it, but I was a little upset that I had blown a good photo opportunity.

We walked over to the east side of the marina, thinking it might have landed somewhere nearby, but it hadn't. After at least a half hour, Jason spotted it sitting in the middle of the lake far out to the west.

At one point, an immature Bald Eagle flew past us and over towards where the jaeger was.

The jaeger lifted off and started flying around with the eagle making half-hearted attempts to pursue it. The jaeger sharply zigged and zagged causing the eagle to eventually give up and head on.

Since it looked like it was much closer to the Range Road boat launch, we drove the short distance over there and set up again. It would fly around for a while and then drop back down onto the lake. Several other birders joined us and, at one point when it was on the far side of the lake, we lost it again. As happened the first time, Jason spotted the bird as it seemed to appear out of nowhere and was making another close pass. This time I was ready and got some nice photos of it.

It made a large loop of the area and came back for a second, close pass, allowing me to get some shots of the upper side of the bird.

All of my photos of it can be found in my Pennsylvania Notables Album.

Totally satisfied, we left around 10:30 and headed for home. Congrats to John Carter for a nice find! And thanks goes to the bird for sticking around until I could get out there.