Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Declan's Birthday Goose!

On Sunday, December 28th, Declan Jameson Haas, Chris Murray and I saw this rather interesting CANADA GOOSE lounging in a field very near the refuge's visitor center.

Did I mention it was Declan's 1st Birthday? Well, it was. His birding in the morning made him a little tired later in the evening. But like any good Haas man, he put on a fine show for all of his family members who gathered at our home on Sunday night.

Oh yes... the off-colored Canada Goose. I almost forgot. Here are three photos of the goose, which I think is a DUSKY CANADA GOOSE, but I would welcome other's opinion on this bird.

NOTE: I asked some experts, and I got this back from Paul O'Brien:

I'm thinking maybe parvipes. Look at Jonathan Alderfer's discussion in the Complete NG Guide. The ones around Anchorage are quite dark-breasted. Maybe it came east with "You betcha". Note, also, that your bird seems to have a chin stripe, which is common both for parvipes and taverneri. The latter should be noticeably smaller than the other CANG. If we could compare foot sizes we might see that the bird does, indeed, have small feet (parvi-pes). Nice catch!

-Paul
Finally, here are some photos from Declan's big birthday birding trip to Blackwater NWR and the party that followed on Sunday night!!!Here is a photo of Declan pointing out a NORTHERN GOSHAWK. I was not successful at locating this particular bird, so Declan adds one more LIFE BIRD to his growing list. The Goshawk is a bird that has thus far eluded his father's eyes. I was hoping to see one this year, but will no doubt enjoy my first meeting with this rare raptor.This is a photo of Chris Murray flushing a SHORT-EARED OWL from the marsh grasses. I really love this part of Maryland. The habitat is just stunning.And here I am pointing out a flock of Snow Geese. Declan already had seen this bird, so requested breakfast instead of standing around and counting geese. It was his birthday, so it was bananas instead of billions of geese.Should this be my last post of 2008, I'd like to take this time to wish you a very happy New Years celebration, and a happy, successful, joyful, prosperous, laughter-filled and love-rich 2009.

Best,

Dan

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Finally... Siskins

Way, way back in October, I decided to get a little crazy with the feeders. I took some old speaker wire, tied a weight to it and threw it high over one of the big branches in our Maple tree out back. I then tied up six sock thistle feeders that now dangle in a straight line down the wire. It looks a bit like modern art. Anyway...Since then, the most action it's gotten was 16 American Goldfinch at one meal....today (at long last), we had 18 PINE SISKINS feeding on my socks this morning. Oh, how it tickles. They stuck around feeding all day, which made me feel much better about my hanging feeder experiment.They were 'zreeeeeting' all day long out there in the yard. Their song was music to my ears.In other news, here are two more photos of the Calvert County hummingbirds.The RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD (above) was a wonderful find, but the ALLEN'S HUMMINGBIRD (below) was a Maryland FIRST... a State Record! If you think this bird is way off course, just take a look at it's range map!Happy New Year Everyone,

Dan, Emery & Declan Haas

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

New Species of Hummingbird?

So every fall and winter, I diligently put out several hummingbird feeders in hopes of providing a food-source for some wayward hummer from the West Coast of the United States.I have not one, but TWO of those famous BIRDCAMS mounted and ready to capture an image of any rarity that might stop by for a drink of my cool winter brew. It's a waiting game... not of months, but years. One must be extremely patient, well-stocked in the sugar department and hopelessly optimistic when it comes to attracting rare winter hummingbirds.

The neighbors all laugh. They think I've lost more than just my calendar!

But at long last, I think I've FINALLY got one. I mean... LOOK!Spectacular, right? Sure, this bird has a relatively short bill for a hummingbird. And yeah, it is quite large. The wing projection and plumage only add to the mystery! Maybe it's from the jungles of South America?I'm going to get my field guides out and try to figure out exactly what kind of nectar-drinking hummer this little bird is......and once I nail the ID, I'll be sure to let you know. Maybe it's from the North Pole?

Notice in this last photo how this peculiar little bird is flaring it's cheeks out and facing away from the camera? Well, I don't speak Portuguese, but I'm pretty sure that that's bird-speak for 'thank you for the nectar kind sir'.

And looking in the background, that reminds me... it's trash and RECYCLE night! I do love the holiday season.

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

-Dan, Emery & Declan!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rufous or Allen's??? CONFIRMED: RUFOUS!!!

(THIS JUST IN: The bird was banded this morning, Tuesday, December 22nd. It was positively identified as a hatch year female RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRD!)

You make the call. To help with your decision I've posted several really awful (I like refer to them as 'artistic') images HERE. Mull through them. Get out your Sibley's, perhaps the Peterson's, dust off the Audubon's, your Nat Geo, find your Kaufmann's, your favorite bird book, whatever...

Leave a comment or send me an email if you think you know the answer. A professional bander will be attempting to catch the bird tomorrow, band it and make a positive identification. In the meantime, let's have a little fun, shall we?And people laugh when they drive by our home and notice that there are FOUR hummingbird feeders still hanging out in my yard. Hah!

UPDATE:
On Thursday (my birthday), George Jett was able to get some additional images of this hummingbird. The certified hummingbird bander hasn't made the trip yet to Calvert County, so the bird's identification remains a mystery. But your comments are most welcome. Here are George's two images. While you're at it, visit George's website. And PLEASE consider donating to George's BIG PHOTO YEAR FUNDRAISER for ABC!Happy Holidays!

Dan

Monday, December 8, 2008

On Lark Sparrow, On Brewer's Blackbird, On Ross's Goose...

I set a goal for myself back in January. The challenge: to see or hear 300 species of birds in Maryland in 2008, was achieved this weekend in Somerset County on the Eastern Shore. It was cold. I was happy.

#303: RING-NECKED PHEASANT

My wife Emery and son Declan are absolutely THRILLED that I'll be home so much more often. And I am delighted to have learned, seen, experienced and enjoyed so many adventures over the past year. I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that I am exhausted.

GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE IN BETHESDA, MD

I would be even more remiss if I didn't THANK the entire Maryland birding community for their help. I couldn't even begin to try to name them all. However a few individuals do deserve my sincere thanks are my Mom and Dad, George Jett, Bill Hubick, Matt Hafner, Jim Stasz, Chris Murray, Marshall Iliff, Andy Sprenger, Jim Brighton, Bob Ringler, Ron Gutberlet, Dave Brenneman, Norm Saunders, Sue Ricciardi, J.B. Churchill, David Yeany, Les Roslund, Kevin Graff, Fred Shaffer, Phil Davis, Fred & Jane Fallon, Mikey Lutmerding, Gene Scarpula, Ross Geredien, Joe Hanfman, Winger West, Sean McCandless, Stan Arnold, Sue Hamilton, Mark Hoffman, The Bird Couple (Warren & Lisa Strobel), anyone who used eBird or MDOSPREY this past year to report a rare bird AND of course... my lovely wife Emery and incredible son Declan. For the record, bird #302 was a ROSS'S GOOSE in Hurlock, MD.

#300: LARK SPARROW

My Volvo wagon will most definitely enjoy the rest. And I will really enjoy getting back into the many things I let slide in 2008. Things like playing, writing, performing and recording music, painting the mural in my bathroom, playing with Declan, loving my wife, walking the dogs, and working on the yard. Oh, don't worry... I will still go birding in 2009. And I will always continue to try to learn about, list and search for both common and rare birds. I've mentioned it before, but it bears repeating that photography will also be a focus of mine in the coming years.

#301: BREWER'S BLACKBIRD

As for the remainder of this fine year, I am looking forward to a pelagic (sea birding) trip set for this weekend. And I would like to round up the family and make one more trip to Western Maryland before the arrival of 2009. Who knows what the total # of birds seen in 2008 will be, but for now I am savoring the accomplishment and enjoying my rest.

Finally (and most important), I wish you all the Happiest of Holidays.

Best,

Dan

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hungry Kestrel

I snapped this AMERICAN KESTREL recently enjoying a grasshopper. Delicious. As you can tell from each of the photos, I've been messing with the settings on my Canon camera. It's trial and error to be sure, but hopefully I'm learning.The Kestrel is, far and away, one of my most favorite birds. Rarely will they perch so close for any period of time, so getting the chance to take these photographs was a real treat.As you can see from the photo below, this guy doesn't eat the legs.Looks scrumptious, doesn't it?Ok, one more photo. It's the last one, I promise... of the Kestrel anyway.This time I'm absolutely serious.

You'll enjoy this one for it's poetic quality. I really thought this PIED-BILLED GREBE looked like a real tough customer swimming alongside the CANADA GEESE.Best,

Dan

Yet Another Tragedy

Would someone please remind me how long it is until he finally goes away? Read this ARTICLE and weep. Seriously, does "W" have to mess up everything? It would appear so...

-Dan

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Owl Tale

There has been an eruption of a rare puffy white, and rather large boreal hunter, the SNOWY OWL into the Northeastern United States from Canada this winter. A combination of a highly successful breeding season, with a lack of sustainable food sources are two possible reasons that these stunning birds are having to venture so far South. Sadly, survival can be quite difficult.

We here in Maryland have two confirmed SNOWY OWLS thus far this season. One owl has been viewed by many folks on Assateague Island. Scroll down if you'd like more details about that bird.

The other SNOWY has been living on Talbot County's famous POPLAR ISLAND for the past few weeks. I organized a trip out to the island with the wonderful folks at MES (Maryland Environmental Services) for 22 Maryland birders to see this amazing bird. There are some photos below, but first a story...Last year I was lucky enough to have an EASTERN SCREECH OWL take up residence in one of two nest boxes in my back yard. Thus far this winter, this squirrely character has been the box's one and only occupant.What do you think the odds are that this species of owl might drop by the yard for a visit?Not so good, I know...So it was a nice trip to see the SNOWY OWL. But what made the day even more enjoyable was seeing not one, but TWO GREATER WHITE FRONTED GEESE at Pickering Creek Audubon Center on the way home. Enjoy this photo montage of their precision flying.Those who've been around for a while refer to these geese as SPECKLE-BELLIES. I must be getting old because I'm starting to call YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERS by their other common name: BUTTER-BUTTS. I expect that fairly soon I'll start referring to AMERICAN WIGEON as their older, more dignified name: BALDPATE.I know what you're thinking... you're thinking: I wonder where I could possibly learn more about funny, old, out-dated and obsolete bird names in North America?I thought so. I'm here to help. Please, go HERE.Food is always an interesting subject. As a matter of fact, I'm feeling a bit hungry right now.

I'm not so hungry that I would dive under the frigid waters of the Chesapeake Bay like this PURPLE SANDPIPER did at Thomas Point Park this past weekend.But if you'll notice, this submerged hunt for food proved to be well worth the bird's effort. Just look (close) at that delicious worm! It's like our Bay is nothing more than a bottle of fine tequila to this shorebird.This PURPLE SANDPIPER was a County Bird for me in Anne Arundel. I'd like to thank Marshall Iliff for posting news about his sighting on MDOSPREY.

County Birds make me hungry. Not so hungry that I'd eat an enormous fish skin like this GREAT BLUE HERON...But still, I'm pretty hungry. It's time to eat.

Have a great week!

Dan

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