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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.

 

 

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Cut to the chase! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #69

 

 

Cut to the chase! How does this specifically describe something to do with birds you may ask? Well, there’s a bird called a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. A real nifty Flycatcher with a super long tail and such a gorgeous combination of white and gray. On its sides it even has shades of pink.  It’s a bird I figured I’d probably never get to see. Typically their range is Texas and points just a little north and a little south of there.

It was a hot burning issue for me as one had been spotted quite a distance away north of me, and had stuck around for over a week. Do I chase the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher?? I met another another birder and we spoke about it while on a unsuccessful search for an odd Snowy Egret/ Little Egret. “Too far” he said.  Hmm, perhaps. It’s a stellar bird, but when is it just simply too far a trip? A few things got in my way anyway and I didn’t try for it.

As the weekend approached the sightings starting turning to ‘no’ on this particular Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. I daydreamed that it could show up in my locale, figuring it would at the least be heading south as the autumn started to actually feel like fall. Upon awakening Saturday I checked the local bird sighting listings as I tend to do, and sure enough a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher had turned up closer to me! Could it be the same bird? A different bird? Would it stay long enough for me to get to see it?

So on the way I went. The feelings you get when you chase a bird for me is a combination of excitement and doubt. A lot of times when something seems too good to be true that’s because it is! How can you expect a bird with wings and freedom to roam anywhere it wishes to stay put? However, sometimes birds do mark out a territory for themselves and hang around around a day or two and sometimes longer. Who could say how long this one had been there, could it be about to move on?

My navigation gave me some problems and when I thought I had arrived I was still about 10 miles away…cool. Using whatever technology I could and intermittently getting no signal on my phone the trip continued. Seeing a parking lot in the general area of the sighting was a good start upon arriving and any confusion I had quickly subsided when I saw a few other birders. Noticing the tri-pods and scopes and making haste to flock up with the others the vibe was “It was just here, but flew out of sight moments ago” but was not considered to be gone…hopefully!

 

A few other flycatchers showed up in the form of two Eastern Phoebe’s and this gorgeous horse was feeding on the grass! A nice touch to go along with the Wild Turkey walking around in the distance!

 

We all noticed at once when the majestic Scissor-tailed Flycatcher burst back on to the scene. It flew and landed on a fence post across the way. I zoomed and a snapped a photo and then enjoyed the bird through my binoculars. Everybody looking for the bird was really friendly and nice and it was fun to talk shop with them, and to see the bird and share that moment with them was really cool! I even got to take a long look through some nice scopes with sharp optics! Beautiful!!

 

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher!

Everyone got even more lucky when the bird chose to perch up on the wire fence on the closer side of the field to us! The Scissor-tailed Flycatcher stayed at close range for awhile. It was witnessed in it’s typical feeding style of flying to the ground to snatch up insects.

 

Having read about them doing sky dances and being quite agile fliers I suppose that is why they need the dramatic long scissor like tail. This one did not have the longest version of  the tail. Their tails can get quite formidable! I had asked a birder if anyone else thought this could be the same bird as the one a few hours up north and was told it wasn’t likely. But lately speculation has arose that this actually could be the case. One birder had some pictures to compare and made a good case for it being the same individual.  It sure is a beautiful bird and I was totally blown away by it! Here’s a little video

< scissortailedflycatcher  >

 

And some photo’s! :

 

 

 

 

It was certainly worth the chase to see this great bird!

 

 

 

After initially not going to chase this bird it somehow managed to actually come closer to me. I doubt that is gonna happen again!

 

Roughly thirty minutes after I arrived from my long drive to chase this bird it flew back to where I first saw it. It then picked a tree or two for a moment each and then flew, like really flew. We all watched it go. Most of us decided to give chase to the area across the street and we did indeed pick the bird back up momentarily before coming up with nothing but Phoebe’s and Mockingbirds. I asked a very informed birder about good spots for Virginia Rails and he had some great intel for me. There was a freshwater pond just two miles away I could try.

 

With an hour or so of light left I made it that way, parked, and walked a trail. After getting slightly lost and muddy I took a chance on a mowed trail when I noticed some pond looking vegetation that way. This may be a pond, but at the moment just looked like a dried field of brown vegetation and twiggy bushes. Wouldn’t you know just about five minutes after arriving I had a Virginia Rail grunt loudly very nearby. Then in an unprecedented event a small tiny black rail zipped out and back into the vegetation. What was it? A black Rail? A Yellow Rail youngster, or a really late Virginia Rail chick? I guess I’ll never really know! But it was cool!

 

I accidentally did flush out a Virginia Rail I had no idea I was walking past and it flew out over the pond and I got to get a nice look at. A two (or possibly three) lifer day! That pond was great and I’m looking forward to going back some day! I’m glad I asked questions and received some advice on where to chase the Virginia Rail. That was really cool and it is nice to have my birding experiences enriched by others. Of course, I always hope to do the same for others in return!

 

Thank you for reading and coming on this adventure with me! If anyone remembers my pictures of my hopeful Baird’s Sandpiper from two weeks ago, well, it turned out to be a Semi-palmated Sandpiper and my quest for a Baird’s continues! I’m O.K with that, as I mentioned in that blog I had some nagging doubts keeping this bird of my life-list.

 

It’s a fun challenge to keep learning and trying to get better at identifying birds. Another advantage of the chase of this bird was that when I was there I got to ask some really strong birders their opinions of the I’D and not only find out the correct species, but also learn more in-depth facts and essential details to look for. I’m pretty sure when I finally do see my Baird’s Sandpiper I will know it for sure. Getting it wrong will eventually help me get it right!

 

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Prince Caspian and the Royals! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #68

Prince Caspian and the Royals! What ever could this blog entry be about??! Terns of course!! It didn’t look like I would have the opportunity to go birding, but I was able to slice out a little time in the afternoon to get out for a bit! I was hoping to bird along a dune fence-line at the beach parking lot looking for migrating sparrows. However a Merlin Falcon patrolling the grounds prompted hitting the actual beach instead. I feared I could disturb the sparrows if I walked by, possibly flushing one out that could be targeted by the Merlin. It wasn’t worth the risk. So I backtracked and hit the sand.

 

The events that took place next made this one of my favorite birding days ever!! Hardly stepping on to the beach I heard a distinct call that I knew was Tern, A royal Tern?? It didn’t seem quite right! Looking through the binoculars I was pleased to spot four Royal Terns loafing on the beach. Not a typical occurrence around here and they are not always appreciative of human presence so it was very exciting to see these large and interesting Terns. I find them so fun! Grandpa Munster’s name has come up in describing the appearance of a Royal Tern.

 

Satisfied enough to passively match the call with the assumed bird I was shocked when looking just a few feet to the right there was another large tern. A Tern with a really big red stocky beak! Caspian Tern! Two in fact! This was the bird I had heard call! Putting this sighting over the top was this was a parent tern traveling with one of its young. A hatch year Caspian Tern! I had never seen a hatch year Caspian Tern before! As it is, maybe I see one Caspian Tern a year! I couldn’t believe my eyes!

 

Oh, to be Prince Caspian!
Caspian Tern hatch year bird with Adult

 

 

Caspian Tern with Royal Tern

The Caspian Terns flew after a few moments, heading west. I did manage to capture a little video of this adorable connection between parent and juvenile. Click here to watch!  < caspiantwo >

I walked on stumbling on this little peep, A Sanderling. It seemed a little disappointed I spotted it hiding among the sand.

 

Sanderling

 

The four originally seen Royal Terns somehow swelled to at least 10 and it was just me, alone on the beach with this Motley Crew!

 

Royal Terns

 

I just love Terns, especially the “oddball” ones, not oddball as in weird or looking like Grandpa Munster or anything, but as in the less seen species! I adore Royal Terns and usually I see them from a distance or they fly away pretty quickly. But not today! Nope, today was just me and a group of outgoing Royal Terns that knew I was just a buddy hangin’ out! One landed close by me:

 

Royal Tern

I didn’t get too greedy with the zoom at first figuring this moment wouldn’t last long. But, I needn’t have worried as this friend hung out with me for awhile! It was an overcast day, with a chilly wind so I did the best I could with my camera that the light would allow!

 

 

An especially interesting moment with the Royal Terns was when a parent handed off a pretty large fish to one of the yellow billed youngsters in the ocean. Excited to be fed but struggling to swallow the big fish right away it started to fly as the gulls figured out very quickly it had something. In flight, panicked, and now with a large entourage the Tern was able to get the fish down the hatch and you could see it’s body language change instantly.  I noticed, as did the gulls who promptly knew there was nothing to give chase for and tailed off. It was kinda funny to see how quickly the young Royal Tern went from a panicked chase to a victorious, almost defiant celebration.

As the birds hung around doing their thing I eventually walked around the flock of Royals so the sun would be behind me in the event that it actually would come out! That didn’t happen, the clouds were so low not even a setting sunset light was available. I stayed a long time hoping the sun may dip below the clouds, but to no avail. The best thing about staying that long and kinda freezing my butt off was the birds got very used to me and I eventually had quite a few very close to me! I had a field day taking many pictures! Here’s video of some juvenile Royal Terns waiting to be fed < lilroyalz

 

 

 

 

The hatch year Royal Terns are the ones with the yellow beaks like this one

 

 

 

What a mug!

 

 

 

 

 

Just seeing a Caspian Tern, let alone a Juvenile was enough to make this day great. Hangin’ out with all these Royal Terns was enough to make the day great on its own. Getting to enjoy both, well..that’s just kinda ridiculous! Along with the many gulls that were full of character were a small flock of Sanderlings and a few lingering Black Skimmers. I even had a Peregrine Falcon come in at the speed of sound in a full stoop, wings fastened to it’s sides as it powerfully shot onto the scene like a missile. Apparently the birds had noticed it on its way in and took flight accordingly. The Falcon must have still been content enough as far as what was in it’s belly as when that initial approach failed it changed it’s vibe quickly and flew off somewhat harmless looking.

 

The Black skimmers had some young hatch year birds with them as well!! Such cute birds!

 

Black Skimmer (juvenile)

 

Here’s a little video of the Black Skimmer youngster < skimmerone >

 

I hope you have some great birdy experiences in store for you too!!! As always, Thank you for reading!

 

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Autumnal Marsh Walk! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #67

I have to admit this late summer/early autumnal season has had its ups and downs out on the birding trails. I’ve been driven out of some of my favorite spots by ravenous mosquitoes which is a downer.  But on the upside if you’ve been following this blog you already know recently that Western Sandpiper,Western Kingbird, as well as a Sora have been added to my life list. I may be able to add a possible (probable) Baird’s Sandpiper to the list as well. This I’D looks pretty good to me, but I’m still studying the finer details of the bird, needing to be 100% sure! This bird would be mega for me, especially cause they always seem to be far away and gone by the time I get there.

 

Baird’s Sandpiper

 

Baird’s Sandpiper

 

This one has matching I’D points. Black legs,streak over the eye, scaly appearance of feathers with white edges, wings that extend past the rump and the color that runs through the throat to the chest before giving way to the light colored belly. I’ve been given the thumbs up by the original birder that spotted three Baird’s earlier that day at this location. Those three it seems moved on as I couldn’t find ones that matched his photo’s. However this bird still looked good! No one has told me no yet, and I feel like I’m 90% certain I’m good, but that 10% is irking me. My life list is at 310 not counting this Baird’s Sandpiper and it feels good having 100% confidence in each tick added to the list.

 

It’s not all about life list birds, but admittedly there are few feelings quite as cool as seeing a new species of bird. It’s a magical experience, that I’m sure all birders can relate too. You’ll know if you have a lil’ ‘birder’ in you if you feel that excitement when you start to see new species.

 

That brings us back to today, selecting a low tide in autumn is potentially an awesome thing at the marsh. Instead of everything full of water, the marsh is nearly completely drained allowing the waders like Egrets and Herons and the Shorebirds like Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, spotted Sandpiper and fellow ‘peeps’ to move in.  Also a nice host of gulls. All these birds like the opportunity of the muddy shallow and empty pools filled with crabs, clams, small fish and the like.

 

It’s the right time of year and the right tide, but however the shorebirds just weren’t around today. It was overcast and rain seemed to be imminent. Quickly after arriving a fellow birder pointed to a Green Heron that he was watching so I could see it too! That’s always appreciated!  The nearby parking lot had a group of Cedar Waxwings, including some juvenile birds feeding in a berry filed tree. It was nice to share their presence with a few birders that were passing by! Cedar Waxwings always impress birders with their color, bandit mask and awesome crest. This youngster isn’t flashy, yet, but still so cool!!

 

Cedar Waxwing

A Belted Kingfisher rattled by and a Merlin that was fooling nobody was working the treeline as well. Being followed around by Blue Jays that had every bird in the marsh aware that a predator was among them. Coming a across a bunch of Snowy and Great Egrets I thought I spied a juvenile Little Blue Heron but after zooming in my photo revealed it was a Snowy Egret. I then got some close looks at a young Yellow-crowned Night Heron as well as this Greater Yellowlegs. I tried to get fancy and get a decent picture with a nice full reflection. The bad light as well as keeping a respectful distance cost some clarity, but that’s OK!

 

Greater Yellowlegs

 

My luck really turned for the better when a Marsh Wren darted around the phragmites nearby, nothing more then a few blurry shots came of that but then a new bird came on the scene. A bird you may know has given me some fits over the years as far as never staying still or out in the open long enough for me to get a good photograph of it. That bird is the Common Yellowthroat Warbler. This young male was content to perch up nearby and make my day by posing for a few shots. I didn’t have the luxury of good light, but had done my due diligence to have a manual setting all set up for the overcast day. Equipped with a decent shutter speed at the ready. This was very handy especially compared to what any automatic setting would be doled out by my Nikon P600. So with a fully open aperture, a medium ISO and 1/500 shutter speed I was getting the best photo’s I think this camera can take in these conditions!

 

Common Yellowthroat

 

Except for maybe some Yellow-rumped Warblers most autumnal warblers are on their way down south this time of year as this bird will be soon!

 

 

 

 

 

Soon this bird will take his maiden voyage down south for the winter! That’s pretty exciting! Migration always fascinates me! An amazing experience! It was so nice getting to spend a few minutes with this great Yellowthroat. Returning to the parking lot to leave I walked among an active group of Savannah Sparrows and one perched up close just as a little sun peeked through the clouds!

 

Savannah Sparrow

 

It may have not been the day I expected, as my intel didn’t quite result in finding many shorebirds, but my local marsh is always filled with great birds, and I always learn from the great staff there! That chance meeting with that young Common Yellowthroat is something I will never forget!

 

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I saw a Sora! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #66

I finally saw a Sora!

I saw a Sora!! Say that 5 times fast 🙂  Up my way a Sora is probably a bird missing from many birders lists. Even more so when you consider some birders will count this bird on hearing its call alone, never actually seeing it. That happened to me in August, I finally heard one when I was looking for Virginia Rails and it was really cool! I personally don’t count that as a lifer bird, but I was seriously ecstatic to hear it! I tried to cover every angle to see if I could find it but they tend to keep to the themselves in the thick vegetation and that was a miss.

 

Once again the local bird list was a hero, as a post went up about a Sora sighting and I just had to try for it! It was a real rainy gray day, but to heck with it, right!!?? Back at the same location where I recently saw the Western Sandpipers I stood with umbrella in hand. This pond has known south and north entrances and wouldn’t you know I got them confused. I looked and looked and was just coming up empty which wasn’t really a surprise. This nice Semipalmated Sandpiper hung around at my feet and kept me company for awhile though, being adorable.

 

Semipalmated Sandpiper

 

Striking out I reached out in e-mail to a lifeline, a birder that had seen it that morning. I don’t like being high maintenance, but pride is a bad reason to not give myself a decent chance at the elusive Sora, a bird of the rail persuasion. Rails are all pretty good at staying well hidden. Thanks to the tips from that lifeline (thank you!!), and now with a few landmarks to look for renewed the sense of hope. Until I realized that I couldn’t even find the landmarks. Having to reach out yet again it was concluded I was indeed at the complete wrong end of the pond!

 

Oh boy!! No harm, just a few hours of trying not to sink in the mud while standing in the rain. Unhindered I headed to the right place and within a few moments found the correct landmarks. There was a bird or two where I was hoping to see the Sora, but alas, none were it.

And that concludes this blog entry…

 

 

…Kidding!!

This is one of those times where I got just unbelievably lucky. Scanning the side of the pond wouldn’t you know all of a sudden that Sora came out of the phragmites just about 15 feet away! Seeming completely unaware of me and giving ridiculous looks I was in absolute birdy heaven! To go from a “I’ll never see one” to “hang out with one 10 feet away for 10 minutes” was a dream scenario! My camera lens soaked in rain despite the efforts to keep it dry and the dark day did not assist in getting great photo’s. Oh well, no complaints! This was too cool!!

It sure was great seeing a Sora!
Sora

 

 

Sora

 

Sora

 

It’s nice to be able to add some video of the Sora walking around in the rain here on the blog!  Click here <sawasoraone1> and here <sawasoraone2> to see that. The video came out a bit better than the photo’s as the movement of the bird along with poor light made it hard to stop motion resulting in blurry shots with just a few decent looking ones!! This was a huge one off my life-list and this fall season has been a pretty good one! Western Sandpiper, Western Kingbird and Sora!

 

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Western swing (of luck) continues!! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #65

Western Sandpiper…check, put the number on the board!  But could I get lucky with another western migrant this fall season? Well, it turns out I could! While searching at the beach unsuccessfully for what would be a lifer Philadelphia Vireo I glanced at my phone to see if there were any recent bird reports. Turns out there was one, a Western Kingbird was seen at a park not too far away. It’s a park I’ve been to a few times, and a cool place that I really need to get out to more often.

 

There was a reference photo posted by the birder who saw and photographed this bird. It showed it sitting high up a bare tree that was back- lit. There was as clue of where to look too, near the one structure on the premises. I got to the building to what looked like the spot, found a similar looking bare tree, and figured I was in decent shape if the Kingbird liked the area. After some time it wasn’t looking good. I started expanding my viewing zone, looking everywhere. I met another birder that had ventured deeper into the park, as I was about to. He said there was no sign and he was giving up. We teamed up for a short time putting in the extra effort but alas, no Western Kingbird.

 

There is a marsh with a boardwalk and I figured I minus well try there. I took a good look but didn’t go to the end as a Mother was spending time with her young son and I didn’t want to ruin their moment. Trekking back to where I started I ran into three very good birders I had met before and it was great to see them! We joined up and headed back down the boardwalk path which by luck was now clear of people. One of the birders pointed out movement in a bare back-lit tree and it turned out to be a Baltimore Oriole. Another of the birders must have seen something else and headed to get to the other side of the light, leaving the boardwalk for the area behind it to check. The third birder pointed out a roosting bird to the right of the Oriole. I got a quick look in my binoculars and then attempted a photo before it could fly away. Reviewing the photo on the back of my camera I exclaimed ” I think that is it!’

 

Western Kingbird!
Could it be?? Yes!! A Western Kingbird!

 

The light was a problem so I joined the search to find a better angle with the others. Now getting into tick territory and overgrown vegetation we attempted to re-locate the Kingbird. I volunteered to go back to where it was seen from the boardwalk and call them to help triangulate a location. I hurriedly ran out but noticed two more birders with scopes looking out over the marsh down the boardwalk. I made a break for them to tell them if they were looking for the Western Kingbird that we were on it!! Then I got a call that the bird had come out in few view, in perfect light! Getting back into position now a party of three to join the others we were informed the bird had flew, but it had not gone far. It had flown to a tree just a bit in the distance. Sifting through the tree one birder saw it was even though it was partially obscured by leaves. After a few unsuccessful minutes of looking I did finally figure out its new spot and snapped a photo. The leaves parted with the wind slightly and I got a better photo then I should have. Not a good picture by any stretch, but enough for a I’D! More-so than my back-lit shot.

 

Western Kingbird

Suddenly the bird returned to the closest tree and gave a great look!! Awesome!!

 

Western Kingbird

However, that look didn’t last as it decided to perch up across the way. Still pretty close! It was great though! Everyone got great looks at the bird as it made it’s rounds!

 

Western Kingbird

We were almost in for what would have been very upsetting as an American Kestrel made an attempt on the Kingbird, sending the latter dipping down and out and into cover. Here is a video of that Kestrel perched up and flying away: Click here < kestrel1

 

American Kestrel

This resulted in the bird hiding and not coming back out. Eventually just about everybody left, but wanting to see if it would come back seemed worth waiting around. The closest tree had activity which gave me some hope! It was visited by this Northern Flicker:

 

Northern Flicker

And this Baltimore Oriole:

 

Baltimore Oriole

I was giving myself the five minute warning, the sun was setting and I was ready to pack it in for the day. Two of the birders came back over and the second they did in a flew a bird! Guess who it was?? The Western Kingbird! It’s amazing how staying the extra time can really help! Perseverance doesn’t always pay off in bird watching, sometimes the bird has simply moved on and you can look as long as you like but it’s gone!  But I personally have had much greater successes from staying out longer and bearing down and trying harder. Many times I’ll tell myself to hang in there a bit longer, or even kinda set a five minute timer in my head that is really extra time. I’m all set to leave, but put some extra time on the clock. Sometimes it works!!!

 

Western Kingbird!! What a great bird!
Western Kingbird

 

Click <kingbird > here to see a short video of the Western Kingbird!

 

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A western wind! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #64

To see birds of the zephyr is a tall order around these parts. Western Kingbird, Western Sandpiper, maybe even a Yellow-headed Blackbird could come my way during fall migration. All three had been seen ,even just last year, but I had missed the trifecta. I was determined to not miss out again! Scanning shorebirds at various locations I tried to make out a Western Sandpiper. I looked a lot on my recent southern trip too. They are a small shorebird of the ‘peep’ variety. Around here ‘peep’ typically means Least Sandpiper and Semipalmated Sandpipers.Perhaps you can throw in Piping and Semipalmated Plovers into that group as well, I find their identifying marks a bit more obvious though. Oh..amd Sanderlings and Dunlins….

 

When looking for a Least Sandpiper the identifying point is the light yellow legs which easily separate them from the dark black legged look of the Semipalmated Sandpiper. The latter gets its name from having “semi-palms” meaning there is some partial webbing between the toes to help this bird work the mud easier. So I needed to look for black legs, a longer bill then most peeps, and some red highlights on the feathers..easy..right?? This bird below is not in the least a Western Sandpiper, it’s a Least Sandpiper. So much for the flash of red helping me find one! Even with a little mud on the legs you can see these are light colored legs,also the beak is too short. It’s all wrong for a Western Sandpiper. Obviously!! 🙂

 

Least Sandpiper

 

My search continues and I find myself looking at pond that is known to have good stuff but has sent me home with nothing but outfits and shoes to throw in the garbage more then once, soaked with mud and all kinds of good stuff like strange pink and purple pond bacteria. I see some beautiful red colored Least Sandpipers, but I have zero luck on my target species.

 

Least Sandpiper

 

I strike out, but return the next day and strike gold! Hiding behind a Canada Goose I see a bird that gets my hopes up! Could it be a Western Sandpiper!??

 

Western Sandpiper

While there are millions of Western Sandpipers that migrate on the west coast of the U.S. there is a smaller wintering number in the east. While it’s somewhat rare in the north east Atlantic, we get a few, if you look closely!! You have to scan through dozens, if not hundreds of ‘peeps’ at a time to even have a chance!

Of course I managed to cut off part of the bird in my excitement while taking the photo. But not to worry, I got some other photo’s and as a added bonus another birder came along and not only verified my I’D so I could be totally sure but pointed out a few more that were close by too!! Score!!

 

The quest for the Western Sandpiper is over!
Western Sandpiper

 

So awesome!!! Among the Least,Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers there was also some White-rumped Sandpipers and a Marbled Godwit too! Oh! And even a very back-lit Stilt Sandpiper!

 

White-rumped Sandpiper – I learned from a friend to look for the orange at the base of the bill to help I’D the White-rumped!

 

 

Marbled rye..I mean Godwit…

 

Stilt Sandpiper

 

 

 

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