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Marbled Rye…I mean Godwit! ‘Bird is The Word’ blog #63

The marbled godwit was a bird high up on my ‘hopefuls’ list, and a bird that eluded me for some time! A friend saw them at the beach consistently hanging with american oystercatchers, but try as I might I just could not get so lucky. A reported red-necked phalarope got me to one of my usual birding haunts out at the hidden dune ponds at the beach. However it was a very unusual day. Being that I was on a mission trying for a previously reported bird I trekked out even though it was raining and pretty miserable out. Missing my target bird and getting annoyed by the herky-jerky umbrella movements from the forceful wind I figured I would not last too long in the elements. Suddenly, looking out into the dune ponds I saw a large bird, with a up-swept long bill. I knew this was a godwit, but there are two types of godwits that can be seen around here, the hudsonian godwit and the marbled godwit. I was aware the hudsonian type was the tougher of the two to spot. I sent some ‘back of camera’ pictures to some friends that are great at identifying birds and got the sighting out to the area bird list as well so I could share it with my fellow birding community. Just reporting it as a godwit of unknown origin.  For a brief time there was speculation this could even be a super rarity such as a bar-tailed godwit or a black-tailed godwit. The fact that the bird was dripping wet sure wasn’t helping me figure out what I was looking at!


Hudsonian Godwit



Super excited to see this bird and knowing birders would be coming to see it, I hung around attempting to keep an eye on the godwit to help people see it when they showed up. I was getting texts,and calls about it and in just a brief moment of taking my eyes away to look at my phone somehow this large bird was just…gone. People showed up, and dejected I had to inform them that the bird was not here. Smartly some of the birders started to check other possible sites in the area. My guess was the bird had simply walked closer to me and was now hidden by the tall vegetation. But I also had a inkling that a bird I saw flying south may have been it. One birder picked it up across that way, and the group of birders started rushing to the parking lot to get into their cars and head there. Then the phone rang, and that same birder said that it was now heading back towards us. Scouring the area I looked through my binoculars,lenses soaked from the rain, scanning the parking lot outside the dunes really for no reason, the birder next to me did the same. Being a birder much better then I, he picked up the godwit even though we were looking in the same place and I hadn’t noticed it. Drenched at this point, I gave up on the umbrella, and gave in to full soaked mode. The group of birders were all in the same spot and all got to see the bird. It was a great feeling to help out and assist birders getting their ‘year bird’, ‘life bird’ or ‘county bird’. To this day I do regret that my misdirection about the entrance to the parking lot cost a fellow birder and friend a good look at the bird. It didn’t help that a random car drove past the godwit and it flew just as my friend arrived. When the bird flew it did reveal some further I’D points to confirm this bird was indeed a hudsonian godwit. More bummed that I had messed up my friends shot at seeing the bird then I was excited about seeing a lifer, somewhat dejected and soaking wet I apologized profusely only to be met with a super nice attitude that I appreciated so much. I felt a little bit better when a few weeks later a few hudsonians were showing consistently not too far away and my friend got to see them well! “All’s well that ends well”…. I guess…I felt real bad about it. I still feel bad about it.


Hudsonian Godwit (and black-bellied Plover)


Fast forward a year and a birder reported a marbled godwit at a place I’d never been. A place where you can’t park hahaha. So I had to walk about a mile or two each way in the hot august sun, but good as gold the marbled godwit was just where it was said to be and gave some really nice looks! Moments like this really confirm how great it is to be a birder. The excitement to see this new species was really a bit overwhelming and it’s hard to stay still enough to get a photo! I also saw a pod of dolphins close to shore as well!


Thankfully, unlike Jerry Seinfeld I didn't have to do anything to unethical to secure a marbled rye..I mean marbled godwit!
Marbled Godwit


So cute right??

Thankfully, unlike Jerry Seinfeld I didn’t have to do anything to unethical to secure a marbled rye..I mean marbled godwit!




I got a bit of a laugh when a family of five walked next to and continually flushed the marbled godwit without noticing this rare bird that I had searched for years to see. They never did notice the godwit and it gave up trying to feed and flew back right over to where I was. Even if your not a birder how do you not notice a bird with a beak as exceptional as this!!

In the next week or so, while out looking for Western Sandpipers, I had marbled godwits on back to back days…funny how that can happen!! it always takes the pressure off to see the species, and then they seem to come around a little easier after that.


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Trip to get a Sandwich! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #62

As many a trip as I’ve taken to the local beach in hopes to see a sandwich tern, I just couldn’t get lucky enough to see one. arctic tern,..check, black tern…check, roseate tern, forster’s tern, royal tern, least tern, common tern…check! The one I was missing was the sandwich tern, and it showed up…yup, it showed up a couple times, but never when I was there. And I was there a lot! So if the sandwich store doesn’t deliver, well what can you do when you really want that sandwich?? You gotta go to it and pick that sandwich up! So that was the plan! It was gonna take sometime behind the wheel, but I checked the recent sightings, found out the closest places I had a pretty good chance to see them and headed that direction.


On the way down, there was no chance I could pass up the opportunity to see the wild horses at Assateague Island. Upon arriving I saw in the distance what looked like a lone horse. Was it real?? It had a Cattle Egret on it’s back! Proceeding to the Wildlife refuge I thought I’d try the beach for a look at the tern and shorebird situation. The parking lot close to the beach was not only full of cars and people it was also full of wild horses!! The park has staff to urge people to stay 40 feet away from the horses, but this band of horses were not shy and they’d walk around the lot, in between parked cars and they were very casual and cool about it. It was quite an experience! I’d never thought I’d be standing next to these beautiful wild animals! I talked to a very kind and informative staff member and he said while a lot of the horses are very calm and sweet, there are some rambunctious stallions. He said he’s seen all kinds of activity such as galloping at full speed, mating and fighting and he mentioned you don’t really want to be too close to them while they are up to all that!


It was worth the trip just to see their cool hair! It is so pretty!
Wild Horse





It sure was a trip seeing wild horses standing next to Toyota Rav4’s. It was quite a scene! The beach was very crowded and there was not a lot of bird activity to see. However Brown Pelican’s flew over in groups repeatedly and for me that was very exciting as they don’t come up as far north as I am typically, and I just find them so immensely cool!


Brown Pelicans

Sweltering in the immense heat I tried to find some openings on the trail by the bay side of the park after leaving the sandy beach area. I found a eastern kingbird and more horses! At one stop I found many horses and the aforementioned cattle egrets were in full swing feeding at the horses feet and standing on top of them too, as I had seen from the distant horse on the way into the park. I was trying to find Virginia Rails, which I missed, but I did hear my first ever sora, although unfortunately I did not get to see it.


Cattle Egret with wild horses
Cattle Egret on a wild horse

A bit south of Assateague is Chincoteague and it’s too bad there was no shoulder to pull over to, as the road headed there was loaded with cool birds. I whizzed by Black-necked Stilts, White Ibis, many terns, and even had a fly-over bald eagle on the road leading into Chincoteague, it was crazy!! Many more horses were seen but not being familiar with the area cost me I think. The wildlife drive didn’t turn up a whole lot and a few days later I heard sandwich tern were seen in a spot in the park I didn’t get to. That was a bummer! I had an idea of where to see sandwich terns, and was still thinking this was too north to look.


The next day, armed with my intel I went to a great preserve that was loaded with terns…royal terns, and pelicans! But no sign of my target species. If I had a kayak available it would have been amazing, but I didn’t. I scanned and scanned the large group on birds with no luck and having a back up plan I decided to move on to the next place rather then to leave, rent a kayak and come back. It was low tide and all the terns and pelicans were on a mudflat I probably could have walked out to, but most likely would have had to swim a little if I’m being realistic. It was tempting as I would have loved to get closer to the huge flock of royal terns. Not to mention get close to the pelicans that were just chillin’.


So plan B it would be. A nearby beach. It was very crowded and very hot. But I was super excited right away as there were lots of poles sticking out from the ocean, and atop pretty much each one was a brown pelican! The ones that didn’t have a pelican each had a tern. So far no luck on that sandwich tern, but I could almost feel it.




Looking left about a mile or so down the beach I saw an active flock of white birds. They’d lift to the sky and then seemingly come right back down. So needless to say, the walk to get to that part of the beach was in order. I walked and walked and I had noticed there was some kind of fence directly where I was headed to. When I finally reached the fence I could go no further, but that flock of birds were on the other side of the fence. Luckily they were just on the other side! From a few feet back the fence stopped all focus from my binoculars or camera from getting through, but I was so excited to see what kind of birds they were! Gulls? Terns??


Uh-oh! So close, but so far away!!


I rushed up to the fence and looked between the spokes and had a clear view of the flock. I noticed this was a large flock of royal terns with a few gulls, common terns and even a couple nearby pelicans mixed in. I excitedly got my camera lens up to the fence to take some pics through it. It wasn’t ideal, but as long as no one minded me leaning up against that fence I didn’t mind working with it.




I took some general shots of the group, starting to sift through them looking for I’D points of sandwich terns. Black legs, black beak with yellow tips at the end, slightly smaller then a royal tern, but bigger then a common tern. Thinking of all the hours filtering through hundreds of terns at my local beach in vain, but now I was in their range and had a chance! I only had to sift through a reasonable sized flock. Maybe I’d get lucky! Then I saw it, a yellow tipped beak, I nearly lost it in excitement! I had found my sandwich tern! And, not just one but quite a few!! Sticking my lens against the fence I took what shots I could, and tried to really take it in and enjoy all these wonderful birds! Pelicans flew right past me, royal terns chatted and flew nearby and finally the sandwich tern even gave me a nice fly-by to to really chalk this up as a truly great experience!


It's always a more fun trip when you see the bird you were looking for!
Sandwich Tern


Quite a few sandwich terns, note the yellow tipped beak, the royal terns have the colorful orange beaks.


Can you find a Sandwich Tern in this pic? Look for the yellow-tipped black beaks!


Thank you for joining me on this journey, as nice as it would have been to see these birds without having to take a trip to seem them, it was an amazing experience filled with cool birds and y,know…just some wild big deal!! 🙂


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6th Sense!! Calendar series Part 6 ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #61

The ^th and final episode of this 2016 calendar series!
6th sense!! Thank you for coming along to this 6th edition of this ‘ Bird Is The Word’ blog calendar series! This will conclude this particular calendar! Perhaps 6th sense is appropriate, as maybe it takes some Extrasensory Perception, some ESP if you will to sense that there is something calling out to you, something that will enrich your life, and that is nature and birds and bird watching!! It doesn’t hurt to have some supernatural abilities to spot birds too! I’ve been thinking lately about how it took me years to realize that good birders use wind direction,habitat, weather fronts and more to increase their chances of finding rare birds. The right combination of elements probably brings a pretty high level of success. I think that’s a good thing for budding birders to know if they want to track down their own special finds! My philosophy was I would just try to get an early start in each change of the seasons, and be very thorough.
December has four birds crammed in on this calendar page, looking at the page my mind is rich with memories of each bird,especially that two of the pics were taken on watercraft, one in a rowboat and another from a kayak! But more on that later!!
December: Savannah Sparrow, Peregrine Falcon,Mute Swan Cygnet and Common Goldeneye Duck.
Savannah Sparrow:
Savannah Sparrow
My “backyard” seems to be a bit of a migrant trap. In the fall I see interesting species each year. Birds like Dark-eyed Juncos, White-crowned and Savannah Sparrows as well as warblers like Yellow-dumped and Black-throated blues! They flit around on the ground,in the one or two tiny trees around or sometimes perch on the rust chain link fence such as this one did!! I take a lot of photos of these accommodating birds, and this Savannah Sparrow was just an astonishingly stunning subject!! Giving me real nice long looks while it sat very content! I always look forward to the fall season and check out what’s going on and that spot doesn’t disappoint!!
..and a few more “Rusty Fence” birds:


Dark-eyed Junco


House Sparrow


Eastern Phoebe


Lincoln’s Sparrow
Peregrine Falcon:
Peregrine Falcon
I had never been on a kayak before. I’ve been on a few rowboats and all, but those seem to have been replaced by kayaks and wake boards at the rental places. I was looking at a 5 mile round trip on my first ever Kayak trip, but at the midway point of that trip I had the incentive that I’d be staring down a active peregrine falcon nesting box! I was lent a dry bag that keeps valuables from getting ruined if you tip over and because of that I unexpectedly got to bring my camera which I didn’t think was gonna happen! I got a quick little pre-flight and off I went. Paddling through the bay I was blessed with the presence of Barn and Tree Swallows a ways out into the water giving me a greeting! It was amazing! I paddled past ospreys on their nests, and I saw a Herring Gull walking on a grassy island with adorable little puffball chicks. I had never seen baby gulls before! I’m lucky that the wind seemed to not be a factor in my travels and although it was all new to me I was making decent progress. Soon enough I got stuck in the mud as close as I could get to the peregrine nest without being a bother. I sat in the kayak,zoomed out my camera all the way and snapped away. There were three young birds already as big as the parent birds but a dark brown in color. They seemed to engaged in games and challenges between the siblings. They were flying around very well but returning to the nest shortly after each flight. Peregrine Falcons are perfect predators with agile determined flight mixed with incredible speed. Recorded speed in a dive of over 150mph!!! So basically it gets what it wants,when it wants it. After some memorable time with the peregrine family I pushed my paddle into the mud until I was no longer stuck and made the trek back. Certainly running out of energy I put some music on from my phone to paddle to that kept me movin’. Getting close to the launch dock I encountered some fast water craft and jet ski’s, a decent wave attempted to separate me from my dry reality but I had a zen moment, stayed balanced and managed to not tip! Moments later I got back on solid ground filled with feelings of achievement, and a memory card full of pictures!! I tried last year to go again but got met with heavy winds and choppy waves and had to go the other direction instead of returning to ‘Peregrine Island’. It just makes me that much more appreciative of the good fortune I had on my first attempt!!
The 6th edition of this calander series is the best one so far!
Mute Swan Cygnet:
In what was a much more mellow experience out in the water, a relaxing row boat in a calm lake, I happened upon a Mute Swan that had some babies swimming with it. Swan babies are called Cygnets, and they are just the cutest things! If you ever see a swan the same size as the adults, but it is not a pure white color, that means you are looking at a “first year” swan. It is already full size, but hasn’t matured into the adult plumage yet! These baby swans were also “first year”  but very young, just in their first months! maybe weeks!!
Mute Swan with Cygnet

This picture below is the photo used in the calendar, but it’s nice to share some alternate photo’s too!

It made a nice afternoon of lazily rowing the boat that much nicer. Spending time with these wonderful swans was the real highlight of the day!
Common Goldeneye:
I was having some trouble getting to see my first ever Common Goldeneye duck. Now I’m better at understanding where to look. Around here they like oceans and bays, and not the ones close to me. As the years have gone on if I’m lucky I’ll see them in the winter in some small ponds that I check frequently. That is always awesome because I’m standing in the cold, scanning through a pond full of geese and ducks. Most will be Canada Geese, and Mallard Ducks. Swans and American Black ducks. Then it trickles down to the rarer species that show in less numbers Gadwall, Northern Shoveler  and Wigeons, and then smaller numbers Common Mergansers, Redhead,Pintail,Wood Duck, Ring Neck Duck and Cackling Goose. Rarer still would be the Common Goldeneye, and at this pond I’ve even seen Eurasian Wigeon, although just once. So a nice day walking a trail with a creek in nice weather, Common Goldeneye was pretty much the last thing on my mind, but sometimes, for me at least that is just the way birding is!! It’s certainly not ESP or luck, or maybe it’s both. It does seem when you want to see a rare species really bad suddenly they get even rarer to see, it’s like they know, like you are giving off a vibe, and they are not there to satisfy that desire of letting you see them! But when it’s the last thing on your mind…sometimes…POOF! It just happens! And that day it did! Admiring a few American Coots…
American Coot


American Coot

…I look to the left and what is there?? A duck I don’t even recognize. I start taking photo’s excitedly and in my mind I’m deducing what species this duck could be. I know I’ve never seen it before, so the list is a short one, it hits me and I  probably say out loud “Female Common Goldeneye”!! And boy is she a cutie, and giving me some darn good looks! I didn’t expect to see this lone female duck feeding in a pond in early spring. It is a great thing about birding, you just never know what you’ll see!!


Common Goldeneye







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Retrospective Part 5!! Calendar series Part 5 ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #60

Part 5 of this retrospective brings us to the next two months of the calendar,October and November! Starring in September are an American Goldfinch and a Common Yellowthroat Warbler! I know I’ve written about this American Goldfinch before on the ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog and I still attest that this is the best photograph I’ve ever taken.
American Goldfinch


Although I did get a photo of a Northern Parula last spring that could get the nod as winner.
Northern Parula

But back to this:

All my shots are just unedited basic .jpg shots. I’m into nature, not sitting at my computer processing photos. I don’t know if I could work editing into my repertoire. I like the wysiwyg! What you see is what you get!! I took the photo of this American Goldfinch with a Fuji Sl1000 which I’d consider a step down in clarity from my main camera, a Nikon P600. I was shooting a lot at the time in aperture mode, as that mode was coming through with the best results with this camera.
Seeing a flash of movement I pivoted unnaturally and quickly took the shot and when I reviewed the photo I was stunned by the quality of the image of the bird as well as how cool the background was and the vegetation it’s sitting on is very attractive as well. For whatever reason the settings just clicked on this shot,even the centering is nice and this camera, like my Nikon p600 can easily cut off half an image with just a slight seemingly unnoticeable movement. It was a proud moment for me and I’m so happy to have this pic! It was taken at my favorite spot, my local salt marsh where I also obtained this photo of a female Common Yellowthroat Warbler.
Common Yellowthroat (female)

..and a “B” roll shot:

Walking out on one of the trails, I didn’t expect to nearly get my feet stepped on by this warbler!! It was awesome and she posted up for a moment before retreating back into the high grass. If you read my blog you may have picked up on the fact that I have terrible luck with Yellowthroats, so this experience meant a lot to me! She may not have the bandit mask of the male, but she sure is beautiful!
I shoulda been adding opics of the calender to the retrospective series! Duh! I'll add them!
November gives way to some beautiful ducks and geese!! First comes this beautiful Northern Shoveler.
Northern Shoveler
I love the beautiful colors on the wings. Truth be told I love that big beak the most! Just a great bird and if you thought every duck with a green head was a mallard well you may be pleasantly surprised to see one of these guys!! Part of the dabbling duck family, you can often see them swimming together in circles feeding. You guys know I love ducks! I’m sure with this beautiful shoveler you can see why! If you need a little more traditional beauty take a gander at this make harlequin duck!
Harlequin Duck
Stunning! These ducks are are pretty rare where I live, but we get a handful each winter. They use the jetty’s to rest on and then jump in to feed usually near the jetty’s and the coast. I’ve seen them feeding so close to the coast where the water meets the sand that I could see their feet through the ocean water. I always have to freeze my butt off to see them, but it’s worth it, they are soooo cool!!
Third up is a beautiful unique goose, the Egyptian Goose.
Egyptian Goose

This was a top moment for me for sure, and it nice to add an alternative pic to this retrospective!

Somewhat unknown origins have these birds in the U.S although their natural range would have them in Africa!! There seem to be known ‘feral’ populations in various locations in the U.S, with varying stories of how they got there. I once heard an amusement park had them as an attraction and its possible they escaped or where released. I really enjoyed seeing them! They were quite accommodating and gave great looks!! I made a big birding blunder the day I saw them. A crow with a piece of white bread flew over my head and considering I had a small window of time to announce it I yelled out “Bald Eagle”!! to anyone within earshot hoping to share it with my friends and the other park goers, the words barely escaped my lips before I realized the dark bird with the white head was no bald eagle, and was the aforementioned white bread carrying crow….needless to say I had to eat a little crow and got some wary stares from the people around me. I was just trying to share!! Whoops!! Please click the links below to see all the happenings of
..and as always!! Thanks for reading!!


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May the fourth be with you!! Calendar series Part 4 ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #59


The fourth installment! Thank you for joining us here on the ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog for the fourth entry going through some of the best highlights of recent past!! These are my highlights that make it into my annual calendar and even some alternate shots as well as some background on those birds and experiences!! I’m always hoping to give a fun, quick, light read to help you take a break from your day and hopefully having new content each week is something that has achieved the goal of giving a quick mental vacation and something positive!   This week will cover at least the months of August and September! So …here we go!!!!


August: Black Skimmers and Quaker Parrots!!


While I’m out “terning”, looking for rare terns while enjoying the “common” terns as they are called, I also get to witness the flock of breeding Black Skimmers. Probably the coolest looking bird around, and an absolute thrill to watch, their beautiful flight, humorous puppy sounding calls and their very tropical looking beaks all make for a unique birding experience. Watching them skim over the water is also just amazing! They get so focused as they do their thing that by being quiet and blending in  I’ve had them so close to me that I can hear their wings as they whip by. Too cool!!



Here’s the photo that made the calendar, the parent with the young chicks! Sooo cute!


Black Skimmer with young


And alternate shots:


I see two, or is that three?? Is there a fourth chick in there too!!??



Whaddya know!! There was a fourth youngster under there!!


This a Black Skimmer fledgling that is starting to grow up! It doesn’t take too long!




I can’t handle them, they are just too adorable! …Speaking of cute how would you like looking out your window to see a flock of beautiful pistachio green tropical looking birds?? Well, that’s what we see around here as feral Quaker Parrots have made a home in my town and many other towns around here! It’s a wonderful addition to the local avian community as these family oriented flocks of birds fly playfully around, picking a tree to hang out, eat, sleep, groom each other and chew on leaves and branches! One day when arriving home I heard a squawk and discovered a whole flock had landed in a tree just above my car and then they just started chilling out all around me! Truly magic and a day that I’ll never forget!


Quaker Parrot









I think this one below was a young one. Looks like a baby face to me! It also looks like this one just had landed after bathing, it has wet feathers all over!!


Just an absolute amazing experience! It always makes my day when I hear them as they fly through the town! From time to time I do find myself under whatever tree they decided to hang out in for awhile and that is always awesome! They are such fun and curious birds!


September: Cedar Waxwing, House Sparrow and Carolina Wren!




There is a recreation center nearby that was a real nice hot spot for me a few summers ago. Not only did I see one of my favorite birds ever this juvenile Cedar Waxwing, I saw Golden and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, Black-throated Blue Warblers, Muscovy Duck as well as getting great photo opportunities of the local House Sparrows! I’ll start off with this sweet lil ‘un: The Juvenile Cedar Waxwing that is just impossibly cute!


Cedar Waxwing (juvenile)

In a fleeting moment of color I noticed a bird or two land in a bush right next to me, when I looked up I saw this young Cedar Waxwing!!!  I had not seen too many Cedar Waxwings yet at the time and had never seen a young one so needless to say I was excited and just thrilled that this bird was so accommodating and awesome! Above is the photo that made the calendar.  Here’s two additional photo’s as well!




…and one of the parent bird who was a little more hidden in the bushes!!


Cedar Waxwing (adult)

This park is also where I saw my first ever female Black-throated Blue Warblers!:


Black-throated Blue Warbler (female)


Black-throated Blue Warbler (female)


Their pictures unfortunately did not make it into the calendar, so it’s cool to get to include them here!!

Here’s the Muscovy Duck I saw there…quite a looker! I guess it’s an albino. I have never seen one quite like it!


Muscovy Duck

This was a great spot also for Black and White Warblers!


Black and White Warbler


Black and White Warbler


Now as uncommon as some of those birds can be, this House Sparrow shows just how much beauty can be seen in a “common” bird! If you look out your window right now you can probably see one of these. This one is a female and tell me she isn’t just stunning as well as just posing perfectly! I love this photo!!


House Sparrow (female)


Here is a male House Sparrow  pic taken on the same day. They may be common and not native to North America, but they are beautiful. They are oft taken for granted of due to the fact that they are easy to find. What a shame that is… that “common” means less valued. C’mon people, appreciate the beauty in all!!


House Sparrow (male)


Spoiled to have amazing views of the Carolina Wren will wrap up these two months and this blog entry. This individual was calling and sitting out in the open for some time and again, it was just a rare and appreciated experience as these birds tend to be loud, yes… but not always so social and easy to see and photograph! This picture is a personal favorite of mine, although dealing with harsh lighting which sorta blacked out the background, the eye is illuminated which brings out a lot more of the birds personality, dontcha think??! I find it hard to get photo’s where the bird’s eyes really stand out, although this week’s post has a few shots that show that a little better then what I usually get! So that’s a good thing!!



Carolina Wren


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Third Installment! Calendar series Part 3 ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #58

Welcome to the third part of this Calendar series!! So far we’ve covered American Goldfinch,Northern Pintail, Wood Duck, Yellow Warbler, Purple Finch,White-breasted Nuthatch, Indigo Bunting, Merlin and Sharp-shinned Hawk. That brings us to May, and one of my favorite birding experiences ever!!


May: Black-capped Chickadee




My local salt marsh had baby Black-capped Chickadee’s hanging out in a tree just off the walking path. Chickadee’s are notoriously cute, so you can guess baby Chickadee’s are just an impossible amount of adorable! I attempted to get some decent shots of one of the fledglings and lucked out as mid snapshot the young one stretched out a wing and a foot! It looked like it felt good to this little one just earning its wings! Here’s that shot:


Black-capped Chickadee fledgling

Thanks to the space here, I can add a few “B” roll shots of this adorable bird. The pics aren’t too sharp, but they are all pretty cute!


Black-capped Chickadee with young


The third installment of this calendar brings some cute chickadees!



What an amazing experience to spend some time with this adorable baby Chickadee, if you have never seen a Black-capped Chickadee before do yourself a favor and find a little park and before too long you should hear there adorable calls and hopefully get to see them, sometimes they are not too shy! Here’s a few more pics of Chickadee’s!


Look at the thornson that branch!!


You can’t beat it when one lands in your hand!! I recommend this highly!!


June: Barn Swallows



Three separate Barn Swallow pictures adorn the month of June, two of the photo’s are from the same salt marsh as this Chickadee above. The third was taken at another birding hot spot not too far away! We’ll start with that shot first!:


Barn Swallow


This wonderful subject landed on a nearby handrail and really spoiled me with amazing looks! What a spectacular bird! The combination of colors are outright stunning and I always have fun watching the swallows each year when they spend the spring and summer. Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows are the most common swallows around here. We also see Northern Rough-winged, Bank,Cliff and Cave Swallows though those are all pretty rare! Purple Martins and Chimney Swifts join in the fray of working over the land and water for bugs which is what these birds eat. My local marsh has nest boxes for Tree Swallows, and the Barn Swallows help themselves to opportune spots like under a little bridge to build their nests and raise their young. After the fledglings leave the nest they will hang out together and wait for food to be delivered by their parents. One day when arriving at the marsh, I saw these three young Barn Swallows in the parking lot just a moment after getting out of the car! It was quite a treat!


I had a hard time choosing between these two shots, but opted for the one above with the wide open beak on the leftmost bird. But howabout the mug on the rightmost bird below!



Lil’ bundles of adorable!! The third photo for June is this one below, my local marsh has this great expanse of grassland that gets very green in the summer, if a bird lands on a snag, my camera picks up an amazing pea soup ‘Bokeh’ due to all that green background if I zoom up real close on the bird. Here’s an example of that here:


Here’s a couple more Barn Swallow pics, cause why not??




The third month we’ll cover in this entry is July: Ruby-Throated Hummingbird




Ruby-throated Hummingbird


More props to my local salt marsh, each summer when these beautiful red Canna plants bloom it brings in the hummingbirds. If you sit quietly the birds will treat you to some great looks! Getting a photo is not too easy hahaha, and stopping the wing motion with copious amounts of shutter speed isn’t too easy either, for me at least! Right now, these birds are coming back as it’s that time of year again, and I will be out there trying to get some more pics!! I know a few friends that I promised I’d take over to see the hummingbirds when the time is right, and now the time has come and I’m looking forward to sharing these great birds up close and personal with people that wish to see them!!


I especially love this picture when this hummingbird waited for me to walk away so it could get back to eating. It posed very still and very close and it’s moments like these that are just unforgettable as a birdwatcher!


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In continuum! Calendar series Part 2 ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog #57

In continuum from last week, we’ll pick up from right where we left off! So far we’ve covered…the cover…hahaha as well as January and February. March brings us to a pair of raptors! So, here we go!!!!


March: Merlin and Sharp-Shinned Hawk




In Continuum from last week's calendar series we continue with part 2!


It’s pretty intense getting this close to a wild bird of prey, but that is exactly what happened when for a quick spell I had this Merlin as a backyard bird for a week or two during the winter. I pretty much saw it hangin’ around any time I looked after discovering it by just diligently checking around as I typically do. Even with the gray background and winter sky I just love this picture as the falcon itself really pops out nicely from the very bright, white background! This bird got kinda comfortable with me and never flew away when I was around. As a result I got to get pretty close to it without any drama, except for the bit of stink eye it’s giving me in the picture above.

I can take advantage of the space here to add some “B” roll of this bird as well! This similar shot doesn’t have the menacing stare down, but offers a solid side profile!



One rainy day I checked to see if it was around, and found it tucking up a claw as it tried to rest while just being generally very wet. Please excuse the image quality on these, no light along with clouds and rain on my lens made it a tough series of shots to get! I like these images though, it was cool to see this bird trying to make the best of a soggy situation. It doesn’t look too thrilled to be honest.


Notice how one foot is supporting the weight of the bird, while the other is tucked up to aid in warmth.


Another time I found the Merlin again tucking up a claw and waking up and giving a nice stretch to the tail feathers!

I see Merlins pretty much everywhere I go, whether I like it or not. Neighborhoods, parks, the beach, the marsh. They’re around. I see a lot of Cooper’s Hawks too, but a similar bird to the Cooper’s Hawk that I don’t see very often is the Sharp-shinned Hawk. Even experienced birders can have some issues differentiating between these two. A notched tail, along with a more orange hue on the chest as well as looking a bit smaller are my best attempts at an I’D on one of these. After missing on them for a while I finally hit a home run with one sitting on a empty nest box during the winter when I was just heading out of the beach for the day. I was the only person around so I pulled over to the shoulder and popped out to get a few shots. I managed these three pics before the Sharpie went on its way:


Sharp-shinned Hawk



Another time at the beach I stumbled upon this American Goldfinch:


American Goldfinch

I was amazed at how still this bird was and I snapped a shot even though the light was terrible. I continued to be stunned by just how quiet and still this bird was, until I looked 180 degrees and saw the reason. This Sharp-shinned Hawk. I babysat the Goldfinch until the raptor moved on. I’m not sure if it was aware of the finch, and credit to that little bird for becoming a statue to avoid detection from this bird of prey.


Sharp-shinned Hawk


April: Female Wood Ducks!




These three pics from my favorite spot for Wood Ducks made the calendar. Good proximity, reliable attendance and awesome reflections make this place a top spot for Wood Ducks

The reflection looks like it went through a space time continuum hahaha!
The reflection on this Wood Duck looks like it went through a space time continuum hahaha!


This photo was possible thanks to a red roof reflecting on the water!


These female Wood Ducks are just so beautiful! Here’s a few extra shots that weren’t included in the calendar due to space reasons:




…Still quite a few birds to go over from this calendar!! I’ll be back soon with more!! Please do click our links below! And, thank you for reading! It means a lot! 🙂

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Calendar series Part 1 ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog #56

Last December I did a holiday picture special for the ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog which was essentially a ‘Calendar Series’ of my most recent calendar project that I design on or, depending on who has a good sale at the time! Here is a link for part one of that three part series if any one wants to visit:

I have been compiling my best photo’s to make these calendars to give as holiday gifts for close family and friends for just the last few years. Not many are made, and I like the idea of sharing the photo’s and additional outtakes here without wasting paper and ink and whatnot.  I laugh when I look at the first one or two calendars I made because…well, they were pretty unspectacular with distant blurry shots of reasonably common birds and anyone who complimented me on a job well done back then was just being nice hahaha. But, you gotta start somewhere!!!

Part of getting a little better was getting some better technology, stepping up to a super zoom camera instead of a pocket sized point and shoot. I haven’t been willing to take on the price or the weight of a more expensive camera, favoring the zoom and mobility of my integrated lens cameras. Granted, they have some lesser points, like slow focus and lackluster low light performance. I’ve been frustrated at times, but have had some good results too.

Well, without further ado, we’ll go back to the future to the pictures and stories that go with a calendar from 2016 meaning the pics were taken in 2015. Even though I havn’t missed a year since I started making them, I never know year to year if I’ll make the calendar or not, it kinda depends on how I do getting good images throughout the year, but as it comes time to mock them up and see if I have enough content the answer has been yes and I’ve even had to make some tough omissions. This was from only my second or third year of birding and I’m really proud of it! The one before it was pretty good, but the one before… not good at all!.. I hope nobody minds the calendar concept, it’s just a nice way to recapture my top birding highlights and photo’s and to give a little information and backstory. I have noticed birding sharpens my memory. I can look at any of the photo’s even those without much showing in the background and remember exactly where the photo was taken on like any picture I ever took, which is thousands of shots! Just another reason to go birding!!






It doesn't seem right to be featured on the cover and then actually not be a featured photo of a month in the calendar
American Goldfinch (juvenile)

Selecting the right amount of photo’s can be daunting, first I’m worried about not having enough to do a whole calendar, and then having situations like this where a favorite picture and experience makes the cover but doesn’t get to highlight a month itself due to cramming in a lot of pictures. This little American Goldfinch who has appeared in this blog before was just such a sweetheart. Upon discovering it well hidden and acting shy in a small evergreen I found a small opening through the branches and was able to get a nice photo. I hung out with this little bird for a while, it was sweet moment to share! Coincidentally this time of year I see Goldfinches more, just today I saw one out the kitchen window, it is miraculous looking out the window at asphalt and concrete and seeing their brilliant shade of gold (The adults in breeding plumage are much more colorful). Plus, they have a really cool flight pattern! A lot of up and down movement as they fly!


American Goldfinch (breeding plumage)


January: Northern Pintail and Wood Duck!




I love this photo, it had to make the calendar!
Northern Pintail (male)


I love this picture of the drake Northern Pintail duck. The fact that he is drinking water and has a few droplets falling from his bill and that the camera caught the light in a interesting way to highlight his wing patch as orange, which it typically doesn’t look like, makes this a special photo for me! Pintails are a lesser seen commodity then a lot of ducks around here and this picture doesn’t really capture the beauty of the glossy black beak or the beautiful white stripe that works up the back of the head. Here’s a few more pictures of this species showing those attributes!



If you have been reading this blog you may well know that my favorite bird is the Wood Duck and sharing January with the Northern Pintail in this calendar is a Wood Duck that was standing by the edge of a creek. I just adore this photo, as it’s a different look then when typically seeing this duck swimming.


Wood Duck


I had cut some of this photo out to make it fit equally in the calendar, but in this unedited version you can see his girlfriend just to the left! No, she’s not a Wood Duck, I believe she is a Mallard/American Black Duck hybrid. The fact that she was pretty tame and not as flighty as most Wood Ducks was really the only reason the male Wood Duck was staying put, you could tell he was a little uneasy to be in a surrounding comfortable to her, but not to him. He really wanted to fly away, but didn’t want to leave his girl who the other mallards were certainly trying to swoon away for themselves! Here’s a few more Wood Duck drake pics:


What a cute couple!


February: Yellow Warbler, Purple Finch, White-breasted Nuthatch and Indigo Bunting!


One of my favorite local ponds has this little spot you can stand on if you traverse around the whole place. When the sun is going down it gives great light there, whereas if you were on the other side of the park your on the wrong side of the light and your photo taking day would already be over. There’s no guarantee there will be birds in the couple of trees that are illuminated but Warbling Vireos and this beautiful female Yellow Warbler have given me excellent looks as well as Blue Jays,Robins and Common Grackles!


Yellow Warbler


We get a decent amount of House Finches around, but seeing a Purple Finch is a real treat, and no diss to the girls who are brown and white with a striped underside, the males are a stunning purple/red. The related and somewhat similar House Finch red coloration honestly isn’t always so pleasing looking, it looks like the reason Vultures have no feathers on their heads, which is to keep their heads clean even though they are sticking their heads into some pretty gross places. But the Purple Finch is very dapper and beautiful!


Purple Finch


Below is a picture of a male House Finch so you can see what I mean. Beautiful in their own right, and when their heads are a pretty complete red they are very attractive. However the in-between stage makes him look a little..bloodthirsty??


House Finch


It’s funny reflecting on these photo’s  now that a little time has gone by. Some of the photo’s overachieve to me, considering my experience at the time. Others, like this Nuthatch below are humbling because I was so excited to finally track one down and get a photo that I didn’t really notice how it’s a pretty soft image. I remember it was a winter day, and snowing out. It was low light, and my camera doesn’t like that. The one factor I love is this is what birders consider the prototypical White-breasted Nuthatch position to get in a photo. Clinging to a tree with it’s head lifted up in this fashion. It will post up this way often enough but doesn’t hold the position long and it’s almost feels like a right of passage as a birder to catch the bird in it’s “pose”


White-breasted Nuthatch


Another image that’s very soft, but I was so excited at the time as it was my first Indigo Bunting. To be fair, they are small and I was keeping a respectful distance. It’s said that Indigo Buntings aren’t blue, they are actually black and it’s the sunlight that makes them show as being blue.

Hmmm, certainly very interesting! Only the male Indigo Buntings are blue, the females are quite brown.


Indigo Bunting


Thank you for reading! Part two will follow next week!! Please do click the links below! We appreciate it so much!!

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Snowy Owls keep you cool!! ‘Bird Is The Word’ Blog #55

It’s the dog days of summer here in the north east Atlantic coast. Many breeding birds are tending to their chicks and we are just starting to get an influx of shorebirds migrating south through our area. There’s been a lot of heat, a lot of bugs, a lot of sunscreen and a lot of squinting but let’s forget about that for now. Yes, let’s go back in time to just a few short months ago, it’s freezing and I can’t feel my face or my hands. It’s the dead of winter and I’m at the beach of all places, looking for our winter visitor sea ducks, and by association I just happen to run into these guys…The Snowy Owls:


Oh hey!! Snowy Owl! Fancy seeing you here!!
Snowy Owl


Nothing naturally makes me feel like I’m in a room of cold air conditioning than remembering just how cold it is out there. So if you are feeling warm from the summer heat cool down with us on the “Bird Is The Word’ blog and place yourself on a frozen snow covered beach, miles from your car with a brisk cold zephyr reminding you that you must be out of your mind to be a birder. You adjust your hands in different positions inside your gloves thinking somehow that will keep your hands just a little bit warmer…however you can forget about those uncomfortable sensations a little when you see these majestic Snowy Owls.  Apparently depending on their food source or lack-thereof these birds will widen their range sometimes quite considerably and for the last few years you pretty much can’t miss one any given day you spend a bit of time at the beach in the winter. If you can stand the potential frostbite, your pretty much as good as gold!!!


This Snowy Owl regurgitated a pellet and you can see it if you look closely!

They truly are majestic and beautiful birds and during the day they just sit upon the dunes or on the sand. In the sunlight they kinda glow as the sun seems to just bring out just how white they are.

Most of the Owls around here are a task to find as you need to get really lucky and find a roosting spot, or just happen upon one. Some spots are dependable for a few species like Great-horned,Screech and Barn Owls, but still it’s not a guarantee that you’ll always see them. The Snowy Owls are not always easy to find, but I always advise birders looking that if they go twice to look it’s pretty much 100% they’ll see one.

If photographers are chasing them around the beach, which unfortunately they do, sometimes they will even take a little respite in a tree. I would never chase one around the beach mind you. They need all the energy they can get as they battle tough conditions for survival. I suppose if it lands in a tree next to me I might as well snap a few photo’s from a respectable distance. I consider myself much more of a birder then a photographer. Which translates to not aggressively chasing and disturbing wildlife. I take a photograph with full zoom and try to have as little impact as possible on nature. I suppose this keeps me from capturing truly stellar images, but I really don’t care and I hope that is taken into consideration when seeing my photo’s here and on the Instagram ‘Bird Of The Day’ photo’s! It’s all about what’s possible and fun for anybody to enjoy!



So in other words I don’t think I deserve looks like the one this one gave me! 🙂 Hey!! What did I do???


Well thanks for reading!! I’ll leave you with some “B” roll and outtakes to embrace your inner chill and to cool you off on a hot summer day!! I promise all photo’s were taken in freezing temperatures!





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Not the Least Bitt(ern) disappointed! ‘Bird Is The Word’ blog 54

I read blogs, that’s why I write one. As a birder I’m always trying to learn, trying to see what’s going on locally, and keeping informed on what birders refer to as “extralimital” meaning maybe there is something cool going on a state or two away! I also write a blog because while working at an office job we were allowed to be on a just a few websites only, and just ones that pertained to the field. One of those websites I was allowed to be on had an interesting blog and I would light up when a new entry was posted each week, as I had probably read the past entry quite a few times killing a few minutes of work. Now I’m not advocating giving a less then honest day at the workplace, but sometimes the work is done, and you got a few minutes, you need a few minutes. Well you just might be in your field of business while on and a little click over to your friendly ‘Bird Is The Word’ blogger isn’t gonna do anything but brighten your day!!


Well, I digress…I mention blogs because a local birder I’ve met quite a few times has a blog about his birding and sightings and I don’t think he believed me when I told him that I check it every day, but I do. A year ago he posted about going to see Least Bitterns. These are small Herons with long legs and a pretty long beak that work the reeds in the marsh. They hunt moving in and out of the reeds, sometimes even clutching one reed in each foot as they extend their impossibly long necks to the water or a reed that has a bug or something it can eat. They are not too easy to see, they are small, they are camouflaged well for their terrain and they don’t make their presence known or just simply walk around in the open much. They are all about stealth. Since I saw that blog post, and am now aware of a reliable location to see them I make a plan in my mind right then,…next year…in July..I’m going…


First I had to calm myself down about going too early. I had talked to some birders and they mentioned if I go too early the Least Bitterns will probably be busy nesting and they will be tougher to spot as they will be less active in the marsh while sitting on nests. I keep checking my Ebird hot spots and finally in July I see people are seeing a few on each visit. Much like these Herons I have been steady, stalking and patient and but now finally it is the time to strike! Armed with all kinds of notes and intel from birder friend and from all over the internet I make my way there. I have a number of a birder in my phone who has been there who I know can help me, but I’m hoping I won’t have to reach out and ask him a million questions, but it feels good knowing if I get confused I maybe have a life line for assistance!


I’ve been picturing this day for a year. In my head I see myself sitting in one place for hours, in the hot sun, getting harassed by blood sucking bugs. I think If I sit long enough one will pop it’s head out from cover. This does sound like fun right?? Anyone??  Yeah…so that is the plan, but now I’m there, and the trail is a wooden walkway over a salt marsh and some spots look like perfect stake out spots, but I feel myself itching for my phone to see if I can even the odds by getting info from someone whose been here and had success seeing these birds. So I text and wow! this birder is just amazing and gets back to me right away and sets me on the way! (Thank you!!) I now have an idea that I’m at least giving myself half a chance and I’m starting to like my odds!


It’s hot and there’s no sun for cover, but I hardly notice as I’m just so psyched to get to possibly see a Least Bittern. I make an initial run and get the lie of the land, and now back track to start over again. I tuck into one of the wildlife viewing blinds even though that wasn’t the plan. I get my binoculars to the low pints of where the mud meets the reeds and suddenly I notice there’s some color in there that is standing out. It’s a Least Bittern! I snap a quick photo, and suddenly the bird is just gone.


It's in there I promise! Bottom left hahaha. They don't call them Least Bitterns for nothing! They are quite small!
Least Bittern (It’s in there I promise! Bottom left hahaha)


I saw it for a couple seconds and got a photo so I’m absolutely thrilled at this point! Then the Bitten comes back out even more clearly now, I quietly walk the trail thinking I just may see if from the main path and I do! Now I’m pretty close and get to see it really doing it’s thing. It’s an amazing bird to watch. Every move calculated and with patience. I get some decent pictures all things considered and watch the bird for a while before it disappears into the reeds.



Least Bittern


I then walk to the next wildlife blind, and again look down the side of the vegetation and again I see a flash of color and a it’s a second Least Bittern. After watching it for a moment it sees something in the reeds that gets it’s attention and it starts to reach it’s long neck out and turn it’s attention to….another Least Bittern!


This Least Bittern noticed another Least Bittern was in its vicintity !
Least Bittern


They have a little spat and fly around the marsh finally breaking off in separate ways. I walk to where I think one went and am rewarded with more great views when after thinking I was out of luck. Slowly it came out of the reeds to pick off something in a textbook Heron fashion, the legs extended, the neck reaching to great lengths, all this movement with really no movement at all and then a successful strike with it’s beak.


Least Bittern


Least Bittern


Least Bittern


I catch glimpses of even another individual or two, and I see the tide is getting higher and at that time also notice that I’m seeing less activity from the birds. A lot had to go right for me to see them like the help from my friend, and the tide luckily being low which the first blog I read that had alerted me about these birds mentioned a low tide would be beneficial! A great day and it’s always amazing to see a new species and get to see it “in the feathers” and really see the personality of these awesome birds!!!


I hope this blog brings some joy the way some blogs have brought joy to me! Thank you to the birders and blogs that make a day like this possible! 🙂


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