Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Western Kingbird at Eastern Neck

It's an odd juxtaposition to have this flycatcher from the West, known as a WESTERN KINGBIRD hanging out at Maryland's EASTERN NECK NWR. But it certainly was a treat getting to see and photograph this bird today. George Jett drove and me?... Well, I just looked around for a puffy yellow bird.

Once we arrived, we got out of the car from our long drive and had a nice stretch. We weren't the only ones.We looked everywhere for this WESTERN KINGBIRD. Tree tops. Fence posts. Chimneys. Wait, there is that EASTERN PHOEBE again.Wrong fly catching bird! Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy watching an EASTERN PHOEBE hunt. Despite the cold weather of late, this PHEOBE was still finding some good eats. It might help to answer the question, "What does an WESTERN KINGBIRD eat in the winter?"But I had a job to do, and find this bird I must. Soon enough I spied this puffy lemon yellow thing perched in the snag of a small tree on the edge of the field. Could it be?This slightly off-course migrant wasn't all that easy to find, but the best ones never are...I assure you, that even though we stood side by side taking photo after photo, that George's photographs will far surpass these you see here. But that's okay... he's got some experience with bird photography. This was George's 304th bird photographed in Maryland in 2008. He's got a month to go and his original goal was 300. Time to blow the doors off of that goal and move on to the next. I expect he'll surpass 311 by the time that ball drops in New York City.Keep in mind that George is doing all this in order to raise funds for ABC, the American Bird Conservancy. So any chance I get to find him a bird, I'm quite honored to do it. This WESTERN KINGBIRD was Maryland State Bird #297 for me in 2008 and it was my 299th species in Maryland. Oh, stop yawning! It's been an amazing year and I'm proud of my results. I've learned a lot, driven many miles, seen some incredible areas of my state and enjoyed it all.

Lastly and most important, I hope you have a Wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!

Best,

Dan

Monday, November 24, 2008

Eastern Shore Weekend

So here are a few awful photos from my weekend on the shore. Chris Murray, his girlfriend Eliza (my wife's sister), Declan (my wonderful son), Emery (my lovely wife) and I spent Saturday night on the shore.At Vessey's Orchard in Somerset County, we found a pair of BALTIMORE ORIOLES. Here is one of them in flight with a butter butt (A.K.A. Yellow-rumped Warbler) as a PINE WARBLER watches from the grass below.It's like Noah's Ark down there at the watering hole. Two House Finches, drinking alongside two Bluebirds and two Balmer Oryuls... hon.The following day, Chris Murray and I thought we'd go for a hike. In soft, deep sand. For at least four miles! Oh, but the reward was worth the sore legs today. See it? Here, enjoy some closer looks at this magnificent first year SNOWY OWL!Just so you are aware, we must've been 200 or more yards away from this owl. It was just flying from mound to mound, probably due to our presence. This being such a beautiful bird, and us not wanting to disturb it more, we decided to not stay very long. The wing tips were more pointed than one would expect for an owl. The rounded flight feathers make the bird ultra quiet in flight. Stealth is the key to this bird's hunting success.We stuck around for maybe 10 minutes, and then moved back a nice distance to observe some more with our scopes.Other highlights included a trio of RIVER OTTERS in Berlin, MD.Lastly, here is a CLAPPER RAIL that decided to pop out and investigate us at Rumbly Point in Southern Somerset County, MD.The dang marsh hen ran out into the sun, so the photos are a bit... ugh. Answer me this: why is it that the more I 'tweak' my camera settings, the worse my photos become? I promise... 2009 I will become a better photographer.And one last thing. I really can't express how wonderful it is to bird with my son Declan. He is such an amazing character. He is quiet, observant, good-humored, patient and most of all, full of curiosity about his surroundings. I'm just delighted and thankful that he is my son.Good Birding All and Happy Thanksgiving!

-Dan

Monday, November 10, 2008

Five More to Reach 300!

I have seen or heard exactly 295 species of birds in the great (expansive) state of Maryland this year. My goal is to break 300. My most recent was an ORANGE-CROWNED WARBLER. But here was one of the latest avian observation, a EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE found at South Point in Worcester County, MD. This bird has eluded me for some time, six times to be exact. It's like I always say, "The seventh time is always a charm."To prove the extent of my effort, here is a photo of my odometer. I've driven almost all of those miles, but as you can see...Declan has asked to start taking over the driving duties. It's great! See... while I hang my head out the window and look for birds, he makes sure the car stays safely between those lines on the road. He is the coolest baby ever.

Have a great week,

Dan

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Northern Shrike in Ewingville, MD

Ah yes, but first enjoy this RED-TAILED HAWK. I spotted this well-known roadside raptor enjoying some lunch on the edge of the Shrike's field. On the way home, I noticed not one, but two more RED TAILS in the grassy median of Route 301. It's a wonder these buteos survive the traffic, let alone the daily struggles of just being a raptor.

And as I drove near Silver Spring, Maryland today, I had a COOPER'S HAWK fly mere feet over my speeding car, crossing yet another major highway. So, aside from the small mammals moving about this autumn, do keep an eye out for wildlife while you're on the roads.

And now, without further ado... the NORTHERN SHRIKE.In a flying shot. The clouds were thick and the sky was dark. The weather was angry my friends.I walked a bit closer and managed to grab a few, slightly less-blurry photos.Here is our Shrike enjoying some lunch. Grasshopper anyone? This bird is famous for sometimes impaling it's prey, small birds, mammals, and insects, on spines or barbed wire fences. Sinister, right? Diabolical? That is quite the calling card, no?Finally, enjoy this HORNED LARK that was singing away in the nearby field. The horns weren't protruding, but it was raining. Moisture does some strange things to feathers (note the last photo).Have a nice week,

Dan

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Photos from the Eastern Shore / November 1st

Like I've mentioned before... next year is the year for me to work on my photography skills with focus and determination. But for now, I shutter to think that I unleash these photos for your to enjoy. I hope you do. In any case, below represent a small collection from Saturday's trip to Worcester County, MD.

-Dan

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