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Best Of The Year!! November – December ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #82!!

November!!

 

Best Of The Year!! November – December ‘Bird Is the Word’ Blog #82!! During the summer I purchased a used Nikon 1 mirrorless camera and a 70-300 millimeter lens. The 300mm lens with the Nikon 1 crop sensor claimed to make for an equivalent of 810mm. At a bit of a loss I got out of this set up, selling it off as the zoom was maybe 400mm and that simply defeated the purpose. As a Nikon user, who understands the realistic limitations and painfully slow focusing of my main horse: the Nikon P600 I was appalled at the dishonesty of the Nikon 1 system. I possibly have a new camera purchase on the horizon and I believe Nikon has lost me as a customer, but I digress.

 

I mention this not to slander Nikon but to point out that I did take one of the photo’s for the calendar month of November with it. You may notice that I actually have a photo with birds in flight! Simply impossible with the Nikon P600, there was some upside to flight shots with the Nikon 1. On a sunny summer day, with hundreds of seagull and tern subjects at the ready I got some decent flight shots! I didn’t dislike the Nikon 1, but if it was advertised as to what it actually performs as, it would have never been on my radar. Money would have been saved and I would not have been so bummed. Even with all my exhaustive research I still felt bamboozled.

 

Many of my birding friends rejoiced with me and for me when I came around with my upgraded set-up. Hanging my head in shame when two months later I had just my old P600 strapped on and a story of disappointment was…well.. disappointing. The first pic below is the shot that made the calendar, and a few “B” roll ‘flight’ shots included as well for good measure!

 

Laughing Gulls

 

 

 

 

That was a fun day and the little Nikon 1 performed well! It is rare for me to have two of the same species of bird make the calendar but I liked this other Laughing Gull pic so much I had to include it too!

 

Obviously not taked in November but this pic was taken with the Nikon P600
Laughing Gull

 

The Nikon P600 does good on close, large subjects that are still, as evidenced by this Greater black-backed Gull!

Great black-backed Gull

 

December!!

I had to sneak a Wood Duck photo in as per usual!

 

 

Also highlighted here is the very rare Mountain Bluebird that for some reason made it’s way here way out of it’s normal range:

 

You wouldn't expect to see this bird ever around here, especially not in November or December which is when it was found

 

The photo of the Mountain Bluebird just made the cut-off as it was a bit distant and not too sharp of a photograph. This year I made the cover of the calendar all sub-standard shots of all ‘next level’ birds. The subjects are absolutely thrilling, all rare stuff, but due to whatever conditions the photo’s just are not “calendar shots”. Having many small pictures minimizes the imperfections that would be seen if they were blown up larger. I will be however including them here as a ‘Easter egg’ bonus in their full pixelated glory at the end of this blog entry!

 

Belted Kingfisher

This Kingfisher pic was also almost omitted due to lack of sharpness of the photo, but I just liked it too much to not include! The picture was taken in a suburban back yard which adds to the fun of the memory for me, but I get that doesn’t mean much to anybody else.

 

Earl   (Great Egret)

 

Lastly and concluding this calendar/best of the year 2018 series is Earl! A local legend and friend that is a bit tame. My local Salt Marsh affords these kind of impeccable looks at many species including unreal looks at Osprey and Great Egrets. Earl will regularly just show up and land next to ya, sometimes even walk the path a little with ya. He’s a cool bird and I’m looking forward to his return in the spring! See you in a few months Earl!

 

As promised, a little overtime in photos! Best of the year subjects with less than stellar photographs..the Cover! If you love birds you’ll love these pictures, If you like great photography and nice sharp photo’s you may wanna skip it hahaha

 

 

Brown Pelican

 

Purple Gallinule

 

Northern Wheatear

 

Barn Owl

 

Western Kingbird

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher

 

Roseate Spoonbill

 

Acadian Flycatcher

 

Evening Grosbeak

 

Western Sandpiper

 

American Bittern

 

Black-bellied whistling Duck

 

…and with that we conclude our best of 2018/calendar series! Will there be a calendar for next year, I’m not too sure! I’ve gotten some decent photo’s and species since I submitted my pics for this year, so there’s a chance! Thanks again for reading! Please do click the links below for all things https://nursemothercaregiver.com/

 

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Best Of The Year!! October!! ‘Bird Is the Word’ Blog #81!!

October!

 

Best Of The Year!! October!! ‘Bird Is the Word’ Blog #81!! October is heavily based on bird experiences I had throughout last summer, and three of the birds were ‘extra-limital’ which meant driving out of state to see them. There was word of a Roseate Spoonbill the next state over and I did see that great bird, however only less than stellar photo’s were obtained.

 

 

While scanning for the Roseate I was very pleased to see some Whimbrels loafing with the Terns and Gulls! I don’t see them very much at all where I live and I was really excited to have this opportunity! Whimbrels are such awesome looking shorebirds, and that beak is too cool!!

 

Whimbrel

 

 

Not seen in October, but this month showcases some excellent birding moments!
Whimbrel with Caspian Tern

 

 

Among the loafing birds there was also a few Caspian Terns! Another bird that was so accessible here that I rarely see on my local birding adventures. A impressive Tern with a monster red beak, it is quite a looker!

 

Caspian Tern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Seeing the Whimbrel and the Caspian Terns literally in thew same photo frame was very cool! A few hours later while getting assaulted by the marsh flies I did see the Roseate Spoonbill!

 

 

Sandwich Terns are featured in the month of October on the calendar as well! For the full story click here!: https://nursemothercaregiver.com/trip-to-get-a-sandwich-bird-is-the-word-blog-62/

THese snazzy Terns “turn up” locally in very small numbers and I had zero luck on them for a few years. Simply going down south to see them was the way to go for me! With a bit of looking I found a large flock of Sandwich and Royal Terns and it was one of my coolest birding memories ever! Just looking at those pictures gives me much joy!

 

Sandwich Tern

 

 

 

 

Seeing the Sandwich and Royal Terns many miles away was great, so when I got treated to a hang out session with a decent size flock of Royal Terns about 2 miles from my house I was happy about that as well!! There were adult and juvenile birds and the picture I used in the calendar was a noisy begging youngster being largely ignored by a non-plussed adult. The juveniles have the beaks that are more yellow in color.

These pictures were taken on a cloudy cold day in October. The Royals were surely not around much longer and soon after departed for warmer pastures I’m sure!

 

Royal Terns

 

 

 

 

It’s nice when some of the stories from the blog also have images that I can use in something like this calendar. Sometimes I can’t capture quality images, sometimes I get decent pics and sometimes a few photo’s are just too poor for the calendar. This year I made the cover page a montage of all great birds, mostly quite rare that my pictures are not too good. Keeping the size very small keeps it moderately respectable. But.. look forward to a lot of pixelated images coming at ya in a week or so hahaha!

 

These Sora pictures are worth a mention regarding blurry photographs as I saw this bird in a persistent rain. I snuck it into a regular month but just barely. It was a tough call! Hopefully no one will look too closely at the sharpness of the photo! A great celebratory moment as a birder for me and I guess I just couldn’t help but feature it prominently!

 

Sora

 

 

 

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Best Of The Year! September!! ‘Bird Is the Word’ Blog #80!!

September!

 

Best Of The Year! September! ‘Bird Is the Word’ Blog #80!! Of course many of these photo’s and birds were featured in earlier posts in this blog.  Avid readers of this blog may recall that I had a brush of luck with a rare Hudsonian Godwit before ever seeing the more “common” Marbled Godwit. Not such a bad position to be in, but I was still really buggin’ to see a Marbled!

 

When one was spotted somewhat nearby I hopped right on it. It was tough to get due to the hard to find legal parking and a long walk in the heat. Of course upon walking up to the bird all that was forgotten and it was really awesome to see this cool looking shorebird! The fact that I saw one a few days later, and also that a small fleet of them hung out consistently at my local beach soon after made me second guess my efforts slightly after! But hey, what can ya do! No regrets!

 

Marbled Godwit

 

This is the Marbled godwith I saw just a few days later!

 

 

 

Pretty awesoem beak on these birds! Representing September well!

 

 

 

 

I had so much fun observing the Marbled Godwit and got to see it groom, sleep, fly and fraternize with the American Oystercatchers!

 

Getting a chance to see Least Bitterns was also a birding dream that I hoped would come true! They don’t seem to be readily seen locally, so I had to travel an hour or two to see them. Totally worth it! Especially with the great looks of them I got!

 

Least Bittern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hopefully by next September I will have seen them again, and maybe with a better camera!!

As much as I like to remember this beautiful chance meeting with an Eastern Meadowlark, I don’t really want to recall how many times I looked for and failed to see this species of bird! They do seem to like being quite elusive and don’t seem very fond of humans at all! Awesome birds though! I can’t wait to get another opportunity like this one. I hope it is in the cards to happen again one day!

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Meadowlark

 

 

 

 

 

Eastern Meadowlark certainly has a high ranking for me! Thanks to these pictures it could be part of the ‘Best Of’. My previous pictures of it were quite bad…quite bad!! Til’ next time!!, thank you for reading and please do click the links below for all things https://nursemothercaregiver.com/

 

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Best Of The Year! July-August! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #79!!

July!
July

 

Best Of The Year! July-August! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #79!! Summer is upon us, not in reality on the U.S. east coast where I am, but here, in your friendly ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog! Ahh, thinking of summer, how I do miss those mosquitoes and all the sweat! Can you trade them for frozen extremities? I’m not sure which I dislike more, but I guess it’s the mosquitoes. Even having to think about it while in the midst of winter weather conditions I guess reveals the answer!

 

Starting off this entry and representing the month of July is this Northern Parula! I wish every photo I took came out nearly as well as this one! My goal is to get a better camera and make this blog a bit more photo-centric. If I had better photo’s it would only help make this blog a “must click” My Nikon P600 did a nice job with this one however! Credit where it’s due!

 

Northern Parula

This was the only month where only one bird was featured. Having multiple photo’s on each page allows smaller images and hides the fact that if those pictures were as large as this one they would be under-par for the most part. I’d consider this one a true “Calendar shot!”

 

August

August is very heavy on the raptors! Featuring a very red-tailed Red-tailed Hawk! Also An Owl in the daylight of the Great-horned persuasion and an Osprey with the distant landmarks recognizable to people that know this area!

 

Red-tailed Hawk

 

 

 

In photography, they say light is everything…

 

Great-horned Owl

A case could very much be made for timing as well!! Thankfully seconds before taking off I got more than just the back of the bird! I suppose two eyes was asking too much! Oh well, I’m O.K. with it. I like the way the yellow eyes look with the green leaves in the background

 

July is certainly a great month to see Osprey around here!
Osprey

I like how in the background of this shot it has the out of focus bokeh effect on images miles away. A nice touch that was purely accidental I’m sure! Thanks for reading! See you next time with the months of September-October! ..and please do click the links below!

 

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Best Of The Year! May-June! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #78!!

 

Best Of The Year! May-June! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #78!! We’re already hitting the mid-point of last year! It certainly was an interesting birding year! The month of May on the calendar features a Chestnut-sided Warbler and a Green Heron. The warbler fallout just a few miles from my house was quite good! The “warbler tree” as I call it did not disappoint! The day when a Bay-breasted Warbler and this Chestnut-sided Warbler basically hung out in plain sight for the whole afternoon was quite awesome!

 

Chestnut-sided Warbler

 

 

 

 

 

No reason to not add some pics of that beautiful Bay-breasted Warbler too!

 

Bay-breasted Warbler

 

 

 

Here are a few pictures of the Green Heron that made the calendar, the salt marsh offers some fantastic views on these small Herons!

 

 

This pic above is my favorite, the ‘head-on’ shots are always fun!

 

The month of June brings us to what are some extra special editions to my life list. Three birds I was so excited to see!

 

June!

The Pileated Woodpecker, well, there was a pretty in-depth blog entry about that experience. If you click here you can see that!!: https://nursemothercaregiver.com/2018/06/

 

Pileated Woodpecker

 

 

 

 

 

The first Pileated Woodpecker I ever saw clearly was this male that disappeared as fast as he appeared. The other photo’s are of a female that flew in moments later and ‘clung out’ for a bit! That day ended a pretty long search for this species. I have seen them twice since then, but one observation was quite distant. The other was recently, a fly-by while looking at a Barred Owl!

This year looking for rare warblers in specialized areas resulted in some fruitful sightings. Not only did I get to see Hooded Warblers, but a second, somewhat nearby location also yielded the Golden-winged Warbler. A protected species that isn’t too easy to find without knowing where to look! Missing out on Kentucky Warblers just gives me some motivation for next spring haha. Finally a picture of a Cerulean Warbler that wasn’t completely terrible was obtained that day as well!

 

Hooded Warbler

 

 

 

 

Golden-winged Warbler

 

 

 

 

 

May and June are great times to look for migrating Warblers!
Cerulean Warbler

There were some nice additional sightings as well like Prairie Warblers and Eastern Bluebirds, this cute turtle and even a nifty snake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Best Of The Year! March-April! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #77!!

March!!

 

Best Of The Year! March-April! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #77!! Back at it and continuing the ‘Best Of 2018’ series takes us to the months of March and April!

 

I had heard about a Red-necked Grebe that was hanging around a marina nearby. That bird was fun to chase around as it would disappear and re-appear but even when it would move on to the adjacent marina I would always re-find it and enjoy watching it! I got to share the bird with other birders too, and it made for some really nice moments!

 

Red-necked Grebe

 

 

When I was looking for the Red-necked Grebe I came across this darling pair of Greater Scaup Ducks. They were always together and just adorable! One one occasion they were resting in the marina very close to the boardwalk and I was able to set up for some pretty respectable photo’s!

 

Greater Scaup (male)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greater Scaup

 

 

 

 

They needed to be well represented in the calendar and of course this ‘Best Of The Year’ series!

 

I sat very patiently when trying to blend in to get decent Red-necked Grebe pgotographs and the Pigeons that call the marina home got used to me and started resting next to me on the boardwalk! It was sweet to earn some trust from them and that afforded some really nice photo opportunities!

 

Pigeon

 

 

This Palm Warbler is a nice spring bird for April! Sporting it's nice breeding plumage!

 

Palm Warbler

 

The Palm Warbler above was a real nice photo capture for me, as these small feisty birds, like most all Warblers aren’t known for staying still very long. My camera has a good zoom, but it does need a lot of time to focus. A lot can change from getting the image I think I’m getting to what I actually get. Usually it changes for the worse. This was one of those times that the bird fortunately stayed still and I was shocked and excited at the result! Warbler season is breathtaking, they are so stunning and beautiful!

 

Henslow’s Sparrow

 

I made a special trip to see this Henslow’s Sparrow which apparently is trying to reestablish itself in territories it had long since been forced out of. Word is this bird had a mate and that they had a successful brood! Here’s hoping! I absolutely adore all sparrows and it will be hard for me to add any to my life-list without traveling a bit! This lifer required a bit of travel, but was quite cooperative upon arrival! My camera had a tough time focusing when it was singing on a thin branch, but I tried every trick in the book and got a few pics to come out.

 

 

 

 

After a time it did sit very auspiciously and gave great looks! That same day a nice fella told me about a hotspot for Red-headed Woodpeckers. I followed him to this really cool swampy lake with lots of dead trees.  The Woodpeckers really like this habitat and it did not disappoint at all! The light was not on my side for good pictures, but it was still very cool!

 

Red-headed Woodpecker

 

 

 

Both of the times I was lucky enough to see Red-headed Woodpeckers they were both juvenile birds. This time they were all adult birds and just striking with their red heads and black wings with the prominent white feathers on them! Just beautiful!

 

Judging by the bare brances I'm guessing this was a winter shot and not taken in April.
Black-capped Chickadee

 

No calendar can be complete without a cute little chickadee, right!?? My favorite sound is the banter of Black-capped Chickadees. It always makes me smile! They are such fun and sweet birds,and when I find myself joined by a flock of them it’s always special! This one is just adorable!

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Best Of The Year! February! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #76

Get ready for February!!
February!

Best Of The Year! February! Bird Is the Word’ Blog #76!! Continuing from last week’s theme, we turn the page of the calendar to the next month of photos: February! I like this month especially because as it turns out three of the four pictures are from my favorite birding spot, my local Salt Marsh!

This was the place that transitioned me from curious party to legit birder. That credit goes to their knowledgeable and awesome staff! In addition, they are so nice to me despite all my millions of questions, and millions of requests for ID’s, usually from my less than stellar photo’s! If you guys ever read this, you know who you are!…and Thank You! Witnessing my progression from knowing nothing to sometimes thinking I know everything has to have been kind of a funny thing to witness!

The first photo for February was the one picture not taken at the marsh. That is of the Eastern Screech Owl that resides at a nice trail by a stream that I do enjoy very much! As a matter of fact this trail has at least two Eastern Screech Owls, this one, the red morph:

 

Eastern Screech Owl (red morph)

 

and this one, the gray morph!

 

Eastern Screech Owl (gray morph)

I’m not sure if they are a pair or not, although a gray one and a red one have been seen together on that trail. If they are a pair perhaps they like some space as these two reside about a mile and a half from one another! I always go each winter to see them. Once the leaves are on the tree’s the gray one can be very very hard to see, the red one is in an easier spot thankfully! Here’s a few more pics of the red morph Eastern Screech Owl, she got a visit from a Blue Jay while she was resting just outside the tree cavity she lives in and it get her all riled up!

 

Before the Blue Jay visit, and…

 

 

 

..And after!!

 

Cute little Gremlin is a highlight of the calenday month of February!
Cute little Gremlin

 

Next up is the Tricolored Heron. A rare visitor to my area for the most part, though their breeding range can expand to as north as me and beyond. It is an exceptional treat to get one at my local marsh! This one stuck around for awhile too! It made many birders very happy!

 

I took a lot of pictures of this bird at various times, but none of them came out all that great. It is such a fantastic Heron though! It had to be included!! Here’s a few B-roll shots!

 

These pictures were from a bright hot day, definately not in February!

 

 

 

The next photo, I’m particularity happy about because it really was a “photographer’s shot”. Usually I walk around where the birds take me, and where I hope they’ll be. Yeah, I try to get the sun behind me if at all possible as that really helps out the quality of the photo’s. That is one of the cornerstones of taking pictures! Get that light behind ya if you can!!

On this picture I actually sat down next to this snag, a dead branch coming up from out of the marsh. I simply waited and hoped a bird would land there. By being in position and very quiet this Barn Swallow landed just mere feet away with little to no care of my presence! That allowed me to be much closer than I would have been able to if I tried to approach the bird after it had perched up there. Most likely the Barn Swallow would have flushed from that spot before anyone could get this close!

 

Barn Swallow

 

 

 

These photo's also were not taken in February! Whoops!

 

What a stunning subject! Just a real treat to try to get a real ‘calendar’ photo of this bird! My camera really does best when you fully zoom on the subject, even when it is quite close. It ‘bokehs’ the grass into that nice pea soup background and tends to take a pretty high quality image. That was a rewarding experience and a lesson that patience can certainly pay off!

 

Finishing off February is a Common Yellowthroat Warbler. We are lucky enough to be in their breeding range. As most warblers are flying through and past me to get up north, some of them stay put to spend the spring and summer to nest. I see them at the beach, the marsh,at the local parks and ponds. The Common Yellowthroat, especially the male was a bit of a nemesis bird to me. That is due to the fact that they are generally well hidden in the underbrush, and quite ‘skulky’ as we birders say!

In the fall, they are less numerous as most have begun traveling south for the winter, so when this bird posted up on a branch next to me as I walked the salt marsh trail on a dreary fall day I was really excited! It stayed for quite a while and I managed a few decent shots. I did what I could with my settings and did my best to combat against the lack of natural light! It was great moment that I’ll always remember fondly!

 

Common Yellowthroat

 

This is the photo that made the calendar, and below are a few bonus photo’s as well:

 

 

 

 

 

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Best of 2018! January! ‘Bird Is the Word’ Blog #75

January!
January!

 

Best of 2018! January! Hi everybody! I enjoy being a birder, and it does have a tendency to also somewhat make you a photographer. In the early stages of learning, a camera is very handy to capture images that can be studied later. I notice the more veteran birders carry scopes and binoculars, but not always cameras. They are confident in their abilities and can bird in real-time, even when it’s just a flyover bird in the distance.

However, I need to take photo’s! I can compare field marks in the photo’s with my guides, or use the internet to figure out the exact bird I did see. I can ask friends and other birder’s their opinions too. Without the photo’s to reference, I’m afraid I would forget or become fuzzy on the details.

Speaking of fuzzy, many of my pictures are fuzzy and pixelated. Sometimes a fleeting moment is all I’m offered and I know without that reference shot that sighting will always be a mystery. I don’t like that at all! I want to know what species of birds I see. Even a rough reference photo can still be very useful in getting the right identification!

Sometimes instead of fuzzy and pixelated, the images come out quite nice, and I’ve always lovingly described these photo’s as ‘calendar shots’. I use these photo’s to create an annual holiday gift for some friends and family. That gift is a calendar, highlighting….well, the highlights of my birding year!

So without further ado! And through the power of this blog I can now share my best moments of the year with everybody, including you! Hey, that rhymes!

 

January:

 

The centerpiece of the first month of 2019 is the Bonaparte’s Gull. I recently blogged about running into several hundred of them, but this was from last winter. A few of these beautiful gulls were loafing on the (very cold) beach and I was afforded much better photo opp’s than my more recent sighting!

 

Above, is the pic that made it to the calendar. Below are some alternate shots:

 

Bonaparte’s Gull

 

 

 

 

I believe it was the same day that I saw those Bonaparte’s Gulls when I photographed this Ruddy Turnstone. It had found an easy meal of the remnants of this Horseshoe Crab. Here’s that photo and an alternate shot as well!

 

Ruddy Turnstone

 

 

Moving on the January page clockwise is a somewhat recent photo of a Lesser-Black-backed Gull. This Eurasian species has been more and more common over the last few years. I’m told maybe just a decade ago a sighting of one would have caused a lot of excitement in the birding community. It is now a bird that most birders can see by checking just a few reliable spots. Here is the photo that made the calendar and an alternate shot of this bird as well! We hung out for a while, an awesome bird that had made it into last years calendar as well!

 

Lesser Black-backed Gull

 

Best of 2018! January-February 'Bird Is the Word' Blog #75 is all about the stunners like this one!

 

There is a honest attempt to try to have birds from appropriate months to make the calendar well rounded. If you look close you can sometimes find a summer photo in a winter month and vice versa. Guilty! I wouldn’t put a spring migration bird in say, February. It’s just a loose translation that gets muddy by the time I cram everything in! The future will hopefully bring a more professional camera and my hope is a future calendar will just be one photo for each month. Using smaller pictures helps the resolution stay intact, and the photo’s will look a bit sharper than being blown up very large to fit the whole page.

 

Each year I fear I won’t have enough good photo’s to make the grade, but so far I have had surplus and tough omissions. Not every picture is an A+, but I do the best I can with equipment that is quite tangible for anyone interested in starting out. A Nikon P600 camera, which was a little under $300 new, and Diamondback Vortex binoculars which were around $200. I had some cheap Bushnell binoculars until I couldn’t take it anymore!

 

Next up, is a extra special one for me. If you read this blog you know I loooove all kinds of ducks and this rare visitor was a real treat! Yes, it was freezing out. Yes, I had heard there were steep fines for walking out on the jetties. I didn’t push my luck, especially after “eating” the jetty the year before and clinging on a rock so I didn’t fall in the winter ocean lol! So i didn’t get as close I would have liked. But whatever…it’s a King Eider! The pics are not great, but it’s a special moment for me as a birder and I needed to highlight that sighting!

 

King Eider

 

 

It's cold at the beach in January!

 

 

Lastly for the month of January is this Horned Grebe. Most all of these pictures for January where all from the same beach. Not this bird though. This grebe was seen at a nearby bay and we had a bit of staring contest. It showed really well but it would dive frequently and my camera was too slow to get any good shots, but this one was pretty cool:

 

Horned Grebe

 

And…an alternate shot:

 

That does it for January! Some months have quite a few pics and others less. I’ll cover February and March in next weeks edition of ‘Bird Is The Word! Till then please do click the links below for all things https://nursemothercaregiver.com/

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Flock of the Bonnies!! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #74

Flock of the Bonnies!! Bonaparte’s Gulls that is!! It’s really feeling like winter here in New York, the sun goes down real early and the amount of clouds we’ve had only shortens the day even more. I’ve been limiting my travel and going to the closest places I can, figuring that means more birding and less wasting time on the road. That has backfired on me, when I go all in on one place, find there’s no activity and wish I would have traveled to the next park, or any of the other locations I mulled over trying out. It’s the plight of the birder, we want to be everywhere at once it seems.

 

Today I was at the beach, looking for Saw-whet Owls and finches. Really I’m just there to get outside and enjoy the day, but I know a few birders that want to see a Northern Saw-whet Owl and I’ve been putting in extra effort trying to find one and get the word out to them. There’s certainly no guarantee to see one, and today was no different, and I struck out on those despite my overall feeling of confidence that I would find one.

 

In the back of my mind I want to head out towards the water and look for the newly arriving Snowy Owls. They are an annual visitor to my local beaches and I hear the first one has showed up already! That backfires when some flooding on the paths stop my progress and leave me wishing I was still combing through pines a mile away, as this decision was not fruitful for Snowy Owls! This decision did however lead to some very interesting birding!

 

I did see a late Eastern Phoebe that sort of lead me to an American Bittern! Thanks Phoebe!

 

American Bittern

It’s not much a photo but I got a real good look at it in my binoculars! I saw the Bittern land, but unsurprisingly could not relocate it as they are notoriously great at hiding! So who knows which way is right way to go birding! To go, stay, move on, take a chance… will you strike out or strike gold!?

 

I mention this because recently I tried a nearby park that leads to the ocean. It’s a really close drive and has a few different habitats. The ocean, the dunes, a parking lot with fences that the sparrows love and even an area with tall grass and cattails. A high fenced tennis court regularly has doves, kestrels, merlins and others enjoying the fence-posts. The tall bare trees are a hot spot for Cooper’s and Sharp-shinned Hawks. I have seen rare birds here like an Ash-throated Flycatcher and an Eastern Meadowlark. However on this day there was …nada. What recently had been teeming with many kinds of sparrows was just super quiet. There was no movement at all! I went to the water and saw nothing…at first.

 

Luckily I made out a Black Scoter in close in the rough surf. I noticed a gull that got my attention. I followed it in my binoculars but it refused to land. I had a hunch this gull was not one of the more common gulls and when it touched down on the water I was able to time a photo amidst the rolling and crashing waves. I noticed this was indeed a Bonaparte’s Gull!

 

Bonaparte’s Gull

Always a thrill to see, it’s a bird I had decent luck with last year as well. Word is they used to be really common here, but not so much anymore. When there was a lot of flocks of them around they were known to have even rarer stragglers mixed in the group such as Little Gull and Black-headed Gull. Two tough species in these parts, and luckily two that I have ticked of my life list in the last year or so.

 

I was glad I hung in there! The Black Scoter helped me find the Bonaparte’s Gull, and the Bonnie helped me find many Common and Red-throated Loons. This was a vast improvement over how things were going! And… it was about to get better! A second Bonaparte’s Gull started hanging around the first, cool!! Two Bonnies!!

 

Then I noticed a large flock of white gulls fly in all together close by. Wouldn’t you know they were all Bonaparte’s Gulls! With a few winter plumage Laughing Gulls in tow! I quickly got the word out to the rare bird list service, stating I had “at least 50 Bonnies”, but I kept thinking in my head there must be more like 100. Of course staring at your phone doesn’t help you keep track of birds and I honestly lost sight of the flock when I looked up after hitting ‘send’ on my e-mail to the birds-list service!

 

I wasn’t too worried as I knew they had to be around, and then I saw it…a little down the beach, the original flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls had apparently joined another flock and now I was seeing what looked like at least 200 Bonaparte’s Gulls!!

 

Some were in the ocean and I noticed others were forming a large group on the beach. A large mound of sand was obscuring the view so naturally the move was to head over there to get a better look! I excitedly headed that way, while again updating the list service that this was not 50 birds, but was at least 200. In my head I couldn’t help but feel like that number was really more like 300!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pictures don't really give an idea of the size of this group of Bonnies!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bonnies are such cute birds, and a favorite gull of mine! In winter plumage they have just the little black patch behind the eye, but in summer plumage they have a fully black head. I’ve never seen one in summer plumage as their breeding range is well north and west of me.

 

 

 

 

Here’s some video!!! < bonapartes >

 

 

None of these pictures really show the scale of the group as I was zooming in all the way from a respectable distance as to not disturb the flock of Bonnies!

 

 

 

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Saw A Needle In A Haystack! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #73

Saw A Needle In A Haystack! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #73! Two winters ago I was desperately searching for winter finches like Red and White-winged Crossbills. I’d go down by the beach dunes and I’d comb through the pine trees. Hoping for a sound or a movement to tip me off to their presence. I knew I was canvassing the same habitat that could uncover a Northern Saw-whet Owl but I really wasn’t feeling too confident that I’d find one. It’s funny when you search for new birds as sometimes the guides and things don’t really get across the size of the bird. I had read the Northern Saw-Whet Owl’s are not much bigger than a typical human hand. Pocket Owls, I like to call them.

 

Hard to believe these little predators equipped with sharp talons, a very capable beak and a facial disc to assist them in hearing the tiniest of noises are actually a real thing. The image of large majestic Owls like the Snowy Owl or the Great Horned Owl have a stark contrast from the ‘Pocket Owls” like the Saw-whet and the Screech Owl. Both are quite cool to be sure!

 

Two years ago a Northern Saw-whet Owl was in the cards for me when I turned a corner on a pine tree and saw two golden eyes looking back at me I was just like “No Way!!” What a piece of luck! It made me almost take for granted that I’d see one last year too, but that was a no go even with multiple times checking that same habitat. Here’s a few pics of the Northern Saw-whet Owl from two winters ago, they may be familiar to those who have followed this blog:

 

Northern Saw-whet Owl

 

 

This Owl seemed comfortable enough to have me around, however there was no angle to really get a great photo. I love the first photo even though it’s only half of it’s face. That was basically the only photo that wasn’t completely obscured by the pine needles.

 

So fast forward to the other day, back at the scene of the first sighting and I’m looking really hard trying to find another Saw-whet. A friend has been trying to find one and I’ve been searching even more than usual hoping to locate one for her! Scoping out the pine tree scene I am finding nothing. Considering giving up for the day I try another area that I don’t often go. There are a few Dark-eyed Junco’s around but I’m not seeing any owls. It really is like trying to find a needle in a haystack. These small birds are roosting silently, hiding in plain sight. Am I looking hard enough? Am I trying to hard? Am I staring right at one but somehow still blind to it? Here’s an example,to test your skills and see if you can find the Owl:

 

There is a Northern Saw-whet Owl in this tree, can you find it!

It’s right there, to the left of the main vertical part of the tree, pretty much right in the middle of the tree!

 

 

Originally it was seen from the head on angle and not much was showing. It was a miracle to actually spot it! I believe a Dark-eyed Junco came across it and movement was noticed as the Junco flew out of that tree, luckily giving away the Owl’s location! Here’s a few shots from the initial sighting!

 

 

 

 

 

I then popped a squat in the sand, sitting on dried pine needles and backed up against the next tree but achieving a clear view to the Owl while keeping a respectful distance. Just like the first Saw-whet experience, this situation was the same in that these birds are pretty chill about human presence, and it would be unforgivable to break that trust by getting too close or too aggressive. This time my luck was a little better as far as pine needles being in the way! Here’s some video < sawwhet > and some photo’s:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saw-whet talons!

 

 

It was fascinating and amazing finding this bird and sitting with it for a bit! I made a call to share it with my friend who has been hoping to find one but she was out of town so that was not ideal! It would have been cool to share it with her 🙁 Before leaving I tried one more angle which didn’t work out too well, but captured these two images which are kinda fun! Then I waved goodbye to my Owl friend and left it alone to rest.

 

 

Thank you to everybody that clicked this and read it or looked at the pictures! I do appreciate it so much! Please click the links below for all things https://nursemothercaregiver.com/

 

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