I had a great time speaking Connecticut Ornithological Association last week. I was honored to be part of a Cornell/Birdchick sandwich. Marshall Iliff from eBird spoke before me and I was followed by Steve Kress of Project Puffin. I was kind of the cheesy filling that brings the sandwich together. I tested out some new material for my talk Today’s Office (it’s a bunch of stories of all the crazy things I do to get paid to go bird watching). Non Birding Bill and I discovered a nude beach in January and well…let’s just say that I really needed a photo of a sandwich tern and I regret nothing and it’s now part of my talk.
One of the fun things about the Internet is that I have friends EVERYWHERE. When I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to be speaking in Connecticut, some friends that I’ve communicated with via the blog and Twitter mentioned that they would come. We have a friend in common and after checking with him, “Yo, Ari, Rick isn’t an axe murder, or anything,” and getting confirmation from Ari that Rick and his lovely wife Delia were not crazy murderous types, I made arrangements to do a little birding with them. I was anxious to see an oystercatcher again and they knew a spot. American oystercatchers are such iconic looking birds for me. Even though I have them on my list, I will always seek them out when
We got the oystercatchers at Milford Point which was a lovely beach on an early spring day. I was hoping that we also might get piping plovers which were just returning to the area but was content to settle myself with the oystercatcher. My friends aren’t hardcore birders, but they know enough out birds to point me in the direction of birds I don’t normally see. We heard a peep and as it was barely registering with me, Rick said, “I hear a piping plover.”
And sure enough he did hear piping plovers. What a treat to see these cuties again. I know some people get bent out of shape about beaches being closed off for their nesting season, but how can you get angry at a tiny little bird like that? They are too adorable for words. It’s amazing how well they blend in, even when their running. At a casual glance, they look like a piece of fluff rolling away on the sand with the wind.
Rick and Delia were happy to help me in my quest for the Big Half Year, even helping me get monk parakeet photos. They nest in the surrounding neighborhoods at Milford Point. There’s a nest in this pine tree. All the pine trees in the neighborhood were turning brown. Since this area would have been flooded from Hurricane Sandy, I wonder if that is causing problems for the trees?
Cute little snoozy parrots in their nest! Wonder if in the next year or so if these birds will have to find a different tree to use for nesting?
Early migrants were just returning, I saw an osprey checking out the nesting platform and lots of ducks working the backwaters. And I was able to add some common birds we don’t get in Minnesota, like the above Carolina wren.
There’s a visitor center at Milford Point and people leave notes of what’s been observed…this is a hot spot, there have been some very unusual sitings recently. Ah, Humanity.
While in a backyard in Los Angeles, we were watching Anna’s hummingbirds zipping around. One bird landed and one of my colleagues said, “Oh hey, that’s a nest.” And looking closely, you could see that had a nest on top of a pine cone. Cute!
Also, this was a western scrub-jay visiting a feeder in the yard. I just liked this photo and wanted to post it.
Watching as much tv and movies as I do, I frequently find myself in places that are practically celebrities from being used so much as sets so much. My recent project was last minute and I didn’t realize where all we would be working and one morning as I was being driven to my daily office, I gasped when I saw something familiar:
Any Star Trek (original series) worth their salt knows exactly what this is and perhaps even hears music. For those who do not, here’s why it’s iconic:
It’s the set of Arena or as many know it as: the famous Kirk vs Gorn battle! Lots of other movies have used Vasquez Rocks, check out what’s on its Wikipedia Page. But the birds were off the hook on this spot. Also, note the little cave directly above Captain Kirk’s head? Check out what’s really in there:
It’s a raven nest! I know for sure because I saw ravens in there several times, but every time I aimed my scope at them, they took off. Clever birds.
But Vasquez Rocks has some classy looking birds. Up until last year, this was a bit of a nemesis bird for me, but now that I’ve seen it, it has since been very obliging every time I visit its habitat. As if this silky flycatcher didn’t have a cool enough name, you can add some colorful metaphors right in the middle of its name making it cooler. It think that’s my new favorite profanity now. I did manage to digiscope it with my iPhone and one of my colleagues asked, “So is that an iPhainopepla?” So much fun wordplay with such a great bird.
But I loves me some brown birds and Vasquez has those in abundance. This California towhee was a treat, lovely dull brown with a few splashes of pumpkin coloring to add a bit of snazziness. These birds were tucked all over around the rocks and they lacked color wise compared to some of the other snazzier towhees, allows them to blend in well with the terrain.
There were some splashes of color like this male Lawrence’s goldfinch. I got a female at a bird feeder in Las Vegas a few years ago, but to get great views of a male was a real treat. Another fun thing about visiting different parts of the country is that you get to see different versions of common birds. I’m used to the American goldfinch and though that is an uber colorful bird in breeding plumage, there’s something classy about the minimalist use of yellow on this particular goldfinch.
We found a homestead at Vasquez rocks and that allowed me to get views of a lot of backyard birds like the goldfinch abut also Anna’s hummingbird.
And here’s a western bluebird…hm…do you think this bird likes to perch on this roof a lot? Who knew such a small bird could accumulate so much poop?
All in all a great time full of western species and fun to get to bird around a former Star Trek set.
The beauty of bird watching is that you have something to do, no matter where you go, no matter how urban.
I had a project in Los Angeles to work on and time spent on a beach is never wasted and there always birds…though many of them were gulls (not my favorite). But I thought I would use it as opportunity to focus on the super common gulls I rarely get to see rather than trying to tease out something rare, hybridish or just odd as–gull experts are want to do.
Here’s a nice comparison of a western gull (biggest gull) and a California gull (smaller gull in front). But the beach was a great time.
I was excited to pick out this guy, a young Heermann’s gull! I’ve seen the adults before in San Francisco and though this bird wasn’t in breeding plumage, I felt it was a triumph of the human spirit that I was able to pick it out. I’ll never be a true laruphile, but I’m better than I was.
Even more exciting than the beach was all the fun stuff floating just off the shore. At least exciting to a usually land locked girl like myself. I have a tendency to take my spotting scope out more than the average birder (yes, that will be me at Biggest Week with a scope on the boardwalk) but spotting scopes are perfect for sea watch birding. There were some loons right off the shore, here’s a red-throated loon, but even more exciting was a Pacific loon, that’s a life bird for me. I wasn’t able to digiscope it but fun to add a bird to the list.
The best part of the day was getting up close and personal with a surf scoter. These are crazy looking sea ducks to begin with. This particular bird was living up to name by coming in on the surf and then actually landed on the beach. It tried eating whatever is behind it…sea crap? But the bird is quite awkward out of the water…walking doesn’t come naturally to these birds.
I think when the bird noticed we were watching it thought it best to sit so as not to embarrass itself any further. Those feet, so perfect for swimming, so not meant for walking on land. But what fun to get such great looking birds so close to the Los Angeles airport. This was my first trip to LA and I cannot believe how everywhere you turn, somebody is filming something. At one point there was a small two engine plane with a helicopter right next to it racing past. Was it a high speed chase? No, one of my colleagues pointed out, “They’re just filming that plane.”
Having been married to a non birder for a long time, we’ve had to negotiate certain things. You will find yourself having strange arguments and in hindsight, funny misunderstandings. Here’s a video example that Non Birding Bill and I made that anyone considering marring a birder who is a non birder may want to check out. This will give you an idea of to expect throughout that relationship (also you get to actually see NBB in this video):
And yes…Swarovski scopes (and binoculars) are THAT waterproof. After they are particularly dirty, I do shower with them.
It was tough because everybody got creative. But I think this is my favorite. Congratulations to Walter Kitundu for combining gore and total domination as you ride a northern goshawk that is killing one of your friends. I also like the addition of the bloody arm perch. You had all of your bases covered on this one. Walter, send me your mailing address so I can get you a copy of the book (sharon at birdchick dot com).
Here are other entries that I wish I could give books to for creativity and well, just making me giggle when I go through my inbox:
Love the addition of Atreyu and Falcore with my favorite bird. Way to appeal to my geek side Nathaniel Gonzales!
Andrew Wallis, I love your idea of being able to control a goshawk…I know some falconers who would like that invented as well.
Oh Drew Weber, I do so love your commentary on baiting birds with this one. Excellent and well played.
Caitlin Bailey, this was cute. Though, I worry that if you actually did this with goshawks, they’d fly in all different directions and strangle the man playing the crossword.
Heather Labore, I like your style…
And finally, I present the many faces of goshawk by Susan Ellis…very good.
Thank you to everyone who participated. You are all creative freaks and I love you!
Man, if anyone get’s that reference in the title, we must be of similar ages.
This is mostly a post to let everyone know that yes the blog is still active and I am currently deciding the winner of the Crossley Contest. In less than a week I have been on two coasts of the continental United States:
Here’s a beach from Los Angeles where I got my lifer Pacific Loon.
And here’s the east coast via Connecticut. Boy, are my arms tired.
Somewhere in there I managed to have time to get to part of a speaking line up with Cornell luminaries as Marshall Iliff from eBird and Steve Kress with Project Puffin. I got to be the cheese in a Cornell/Birdchick sandwich! I also got to test out some new material for my Today’s Office program that I give and I learned that the nude beach story goes over better than I expected and I’ll most likely keep it in from now on.
Somewhere in there, I have managed to go birding and add birds hand over fist to my Sax Zim Bog Big Half Year like the above western scrub-jay. I’ve got to be close to 90 birds, can’t wait to get them loaded onto the Flickr Album.
I’m a fan of the guides and use them for reference when I have a bird in a photo with that needs better ID or just use it for some boning up before I go out in the field. I asked Princeton University Press if I could do a contest for a book give away and in the spirit of the fun loving Robert Mortensen at Birding is fun…I think we have a good one. OK, above is a page from the new guide with my favorite raptor: the northern goshawk adult plumage.
Here is the immature northern goshawk page. Your mission, should you choose to accept it…photoshop yourself (or a friend or family member) in one of these pages and email to me: sharon at birdchick dot com before 12 NOON Pacific Time on Thursday, March 22, 2013. The best one wins an autographed Crossley ID: Raptors Guide. Best entries and winners will be shared in the blog no later than Monday, March 25 (I have some crazy travel next weekend and my internet might be uncertain).
I’m not saying you have to go hog wild like this image of Robert Mortensen as a common nighthawk, but have a goshawk carry you away, share a beer, gardening–who knows. The entries that make me giggle the best chances of winning!