Saturday, January 7, 2012

A New Year (#191-192)

Alright, so it's 2012, and the beginning of another birding year. My birding has definitely slowed down since I started my 100 Birds in Year Challenge back in 2010. The wee winged ones still have a very special place in my heart, though I'm not nearly as obsessive about my outings and seeking them out. Still I have managed to add many lifers to my list, and have had some amazing birding experiences this past year, and I'm stoked for my upcoming trip to Mexico where I'm sure to see even more fantastic birdies! I still have to get a copy of a field guide (thinking of this one), but here are some of my target birds, which I think I'll be likely to see right where I'm staying:
  • Yucatan Jay (wicked looking bird, in the Corvidae family. Guess what I just realized? Jays are in the Corvidae family. Doh!)
  • Great Kiskadee
  • Hooded Oriole
  • Pelicans (*heart* *heart* *heart*)
  • If I'm REALLY lucky, a blue-crowned motmot

For the most part over the holidays we stayed at Matt's mom's, Mary's, in Bath. She has an amazing new house on the water, and there are a ton of birds there all the time. We were treated to a huge group of swans right out front every single day, along with lots of other ducks, and woodland birds too.
This was pretty frustrating: This little nuthatch kept perching on this branch right in front of the swan sitting out in the lake. I wanted to juxtapose the two but the swans were so far back, and the focal length just really does not give you any depth of field. I cranked the ISO to close down, but there just wasn't enough light to get both and a clear shot! Anyways, here is my best effort!

I headed to AI over the holidays and paid a visit to the Owl Woods. We actually didn't see any owls in the woods that day, only a snowy along the south shore. Either an unlucky day, or maybe too early in the year. Well, if there's one thing I learned about owls, is that it takes some patience if you want to see them!

View of the Wolfe Island windmills from Amherst. They are putting windmills on Amherst too. Sadly, this is not going to be good for the birds :( I totally understand the desire to come up with alternative energy sources, but we can't do it at the expense of wildlife! Well, the main thing I liked was the wind and the waves--the colour was an awesome colour of blue. I probably should have taken the time to put the wide angle on to get the full effect.

I do have to go back just a bit to late fall to mention a very important bird for me. We hadn't been out birding in quite some time but Matt mentioned that a purple sandpiper had been spotted in Andrew Hayden Park. He asked me if I wanted to go...usually the bird chasing ends in frustration (like the razorbill we tried to see on the Ottawa River...all I saw through the x60s was a black speck that may or may not have been a razorbill...not hugely satisfying...).

So out we went, and saw a bunch of birders on the shore all looking out in the river. Naturally, we looked where they looked, to see some of the expected ducks and geese. So we ask, "have you seen the purple sandpiper?" They replied, "Oh sure, it's right there," and they point 5 metres to their left. I was a bit floored--they were already done with that one, already had their looks. Huh! Birders are weird sometimes.

Anyways, the purple sandpiper, an Arctic bird (and therefore less accustomed to people), was anything but timid and let us get extremely close. When I saw it, it actually made sense as to why it's called purple--it definitely seemed to have a purple tinge to it. There is something very striking about the bird, and I think it's that it appears to have eye whites. Since that's what we're used to seeing in humans, it looks almost "knowing," or something.

# 191: Purple Sandpiper; Andrew Hayden Park (Ottawa), November 26, 2011
We also saw many ducks in the pond. As it turns out, I never claimed a lesser scaup, so I will now! There were lots that day.

#192: Lesser Scaup; Andrew Hayden Park (Ottawa), November 26, 2011
and another one, scratching the head!

On an earlier stop in the Britannia area in the fall, we'd seen some sandpipers, but I'm still working on my ID skills. I definitely need to brush up and get better at observing and knowing what to look for. Maybe next Christmas I need to ask Santa for a scope.
unidentified...anybody want a challenge?

So by the end of 2012, I hit 192. Dad had said to me at the start of the year, "maybe you'll get to 200 in 2 years?" Not quite, but I'll take it!

Today we visited the Hilda Road feeders for the first time in a while. Just as many birds as ever...saw a beautiful pileated, which is always a treat (saw one out skiing yesterday too...that's 2 days in a row!).
Ok good, I'm all caught up and it didn't even hurt that much! Hope everyone is off to a great start in 2012!!

The Big Year and the Big Rescue

So this is not really news anymore, but I didn't write about it when it happened. Anyways, a coworker of mine, Ron, and I were grabbing coffee when we noticed a bunch of smokers outside the building looking at something. Didn't take long for us to see it was a poor bird shocked and stuck near the entrance of our building. It was a little yellow-bellied sapsucker, seemingly confused that the siding of the building was a not a tree, and apparently very confused about how to get out of that maze of concrete and metal.

I really felt we needed to do something and luckily Ron was there, ready to do a good deed. I donated my cardigan to the cause and Ron managed to get it in my sweater, where it made very loud screeches for a few moments before quieting down completely and apparently becoming quite comfortable in Ron's arms. We debated where to take it, and instead of just releasing it in the concrete jungle we opted to take it over to the nearest park space. On the way Ron casually mentions, "by the way, I took a course on animal rescue."

So we head over and he puts it on the ground, and wants to check its wings when the thing just takes off like a bat out of hell, headed for the closest tree. Judging by how fast he took off, we think it was just fine. Well, my first sapsucker in the downtown core! Although we do have lots of birding stories at the office...another recent on is the peregrine that caught a pigeon and sat on the ledge opposite our office defeathering the thing...amazing to watch!
Hero Ron and Woodpecker!
Oh yeah, so remember what seems like ages ago they came out with a movie about birding? Woops...this post has been in my drafts for a while now...

I'd been patiently waiting for the Big Year to be released. Knowing it was coming out made me acutely aware of just how long it takes for a film to be made and finally released. I found out about it when it was already being filmed, which seems like AGES ago. Matt and I headed out on release night to catch it, not knowing exactly what to expect. I was curious to see how they would adapt a book with so narrow a focus to such a broad audience.

I wasn't sure what to expect--I didn't think this could possibly be a blockbuster--I just couldn't see the general public rushing out to see it, except maybe for the all-star cast. I don't know what a theatre normally looks like on a Friday night these days, but it was pretty quiet in there. We arrived just 9 minutes before it started, and when I asked if there was much room left, the cashier looked at me and said, "well, we've sold 35 seats so far." Hmm, so nobody rushing out to see it on opening night. We headed into the relatively empty theatre, and the previews had already started.

I got a few laughs and chuckles in, and a few when nobody else was laughing (especially when a coworker asks Jack Black what he's listening to on his headphones and he replies "Clark's Nutcracker," partially because I have been known to this in my own cube).

Normally I would have passed this one off as pure fluff, but I was lenient with it because I wanted to be. Would I recommend it? No, probably not. It's not enough for a serious birder, and can't carry its own weight for non-birding fans. Ok, I'm going to go ahead and was pretty terrible. Ah well. My recommendation would be...just the read the book. It's great.
in line for the movie...had waited for what seemed like forever for it to be released!

Pt. Roberts (Point Bob) - life's a beach (#188-190)

Hey guys, I just in this very moment made a new year's resolution to keep this blog up to just need to catch up, and then I'll live in the present :)
And on that note, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Wishing you a wonderful birding year in 2012.

Alright, let's jump in the time machine for one last ride to the West Coast trip, and then I'm done with it, I promise.
Cormorants on the pier almost right after getting off the ship. Different ones from home, but not 100% sure which! seems to be pelagic.
The cruise was over, but the vacation was not. After the cruise we spent a week at Matt's cabin in Point Roberts, WA. Another bizarre little place, because it is a (little) part of the United States just south of Vancouver (by little I mean 3 km wide and 5 km long), but not physically connected to it, even though it is not an island.

It's not a bad little spot, directly on the ocean, but you have to climb down exactly 100 steps to it, and 100 steps back up to leave...that's why we don't like to leave! (just kidding--I run up and down them for exercise).

Not long after arriving we saw a hummingbird in the trees at the top of the stairs, so not long after we pulled the feeder out of the closet and made up some mix, knowing that there aren't any ruby-throats around there, but Anna's and rufous-winged instead. Well, the feeder hung out there all week, but nary a hummingbird did visit it (that we saw).

We didn't have the great sandbars that we normally do, but did have a decent one toward the end of our trip. We'd seen LOTS of shorebirds at the Riefel Bird Sanctuary, but we added one more shorebird to the list. Walking on the beach I saw these and noticed that their heads were dark, unlike all the other sandpipers we'd seen. They were pretty tolerant of us and let us get really close (unfortunately I felt a little pressure to get out of there because the tide was already coming in).

I snuck out for a run before dinner one night and about 2 km out I saw a large bird sitting on a low wire right beside the road. I got closer and realized it was a beautiful owl, and it didn't flicker when I got really close (not that I was trying to flush it, but it was right on the road I was running on!). I tried to memorize it as well as I could, but didn't look at the most important feature that would have helped me figure out what it was (either a barred or spotted owl). I ran back, got the camera and Matt drove us out there, but it was gone by the time we got there. Of course, I finally spot a random owl and I'm not ready for it! It was either a barred or a spotted...darn, wish I'd had my camera.

Matt's uncle, who we went to Riefel with, lent us his kayaks to take out and what else did we do, but chase  the birds around. I saw lots of great blues in this pose out west, something I have never seen at home. Something to do with the cold ocean water? Apparently they are drying their wings out.
Matt never tires of taking shots of GBHs...he's responsible for these ones!
landing gear out!

Got really great views from the kayak...this little bird seemed confused, or sick, or I'm not too sure what. We got so close, and something didn't seem right. you never know though.
pigeon guillemot?

Some sanderlings let us get so close they were almost too big for the frame even with our 70-300!
#188: Sanderling; Point Roberts, Washington; September 6, 2011

 More pics from the kayaks...
 #189: Pelagic Cormorant; Point Roberts, Washington; September 6, 2011

I feel like we have spent so many summer vacations at Point Roberts trying to chase around the little ducks that scoot along the shore. This was the first year we were better equipped to see them...with a longer lens we headed out. I always assumed they were black or white-winged scoters. I've realized looking at my pics that they were ALL harlequin ducks in nonbreeding plumage!

scoot scoot! once they get going, they start to run on water. it's hilarious!

beautiful birds!

On the last full day we got a decent sandbar and went out waslking. Thought for sure that we'd seen all the shorebirds we would by that point. Although, there's that constant, insatiable feeling that you can better shot you go after more...some of these next birds let us get really close on foot. then we get back to the cabin and clue in that we totally just scored another life bird. Don't you love that moment when you realize, "hey, something's a little different about this one...."!?

#190: Black Turnstone; Point Roberts, Washington; September 7, 2011
I'm almost all caught up now...just have a couple of posts of local birding to get on here.