Sunday, December 20, 2009

Sandy Point in the Snow

After the twenty odd inches of frozen precipitation that Maryland received this weekend, Chris Murray and I decided to venture out late this afternoon for some local snow-filled birding. Sandy Point seemed like a safe bet.With almost all available field and forest covered with the white stuff, I figured that the beach area where the water kept the snow from piling up, might be a great spot for hungry foragers. We were not disappointed. We found one, possibly two, HORNED LARK and two SAVANNAH SPARROWS enjoying whatever morsels they could find in the sand.We returned home, backs aching from shoveling snow, and legs destroyed from hiking through knee-deep snow drifts. Sleep and some Advil will be most welcome this evening. And the best news of all... no school tomorrow.Declan and I will see you on the sledding hill!


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Odd Goldeneye in Queen Anne's County

There was an interesting post from Harry Armistead on the MDOSPREY listserv earlier this week.

It read, "I just had a call from Lou Carpenter of York, PA, who asked that I post this information on MDOSPREY. At 12:30, Monday, December 14, he saw 2 female goldeneyes at Jackson Creek Public Landing (east side), Kent Island, Queen Annes County. One had an all yellow bill. He's not saying this is a Barrow's Goldeneye but wanted it reported so that others might secure a better look at other features, such as the head profile and the pattern of white on the upper wing. He saw these 2 birds, no males present, at c. 200 yards through a 40X Bushnell scope. - Best to all. - Harry Armistead, Philadelphia."Today, I was driving back from a meeting in Salisbury and thought I'd stop off at Jackson Landing Road to investigate this sighting. The temps felt like the 20's and the winds were burning cold straight through my clothing. My face felt sunburned and my fingers ached as I tried to take some photos of this bird. It stayed a great distance away, but here are a few photos from this afternoon.I took these poor quality photos and sent them in an email to some of my more experienced birder friends. Matt Hafner was kind enough to reply with the following welcomed information: "Hey Dan, I'm far from a goldeneye expert, but this strikes me as a Common Goldeneye. I've only seen one like this before, but Steve Collins photographed one at Conowingo a few years ago. Photos HERE. Basically, the bill looks very long and the head shape seems to better fit Common. It is very triangular with a point over the eye. Thanks for going to check it out. I'm surprised someone hasn't already. -Matt"Despite it being completely yellow-orange in color, this Goldeneye's bill looked massive compared to what I would expect for a BARROWS GOLDENEYE. My only experience with a BARROWS were last winter's male BARROWS in Calvert County and female BARROWS in Dorchester County. Those two birds had cute, little bills and a strikingly different pushed-forward forehead.Click on any of the photos for slightly larger versions.

Good Birding,


Monday, November 30, 2009

Cape May, NJ Exceeds It's Stellar Reputation!

At 2AM on Sunday morning, I had just returned home from my gig at the Ram's Head Roadhouse with the band. It was a nice night, to be sure. Simply put, I was exhausted from playing four gigs over the holiday weekend. But did that stop me from setting my alarm for 3:15AM to go see a rare bird? To put it even more simply, no.Fellow birder and Cumberland, Maryland resident David Yeany II and I met up at 4AM in Catonsville in order to carpool to Cape May, New Jersey.We were off to see a very rare gull of the polar region, the IVORY GULL. You may recall that I went to Massachusetts earlier this year to see an IVORY GULL earlier this year. So, this bird was not a lifer. But being that this bird is such a rare species this far South, I just had to go see it.Needless to say, we were successful. While we were there, David asked a friend to show us around. Mandy Weston has been a raptor bander in Cape May for this fall's migration. The season just ended today. In any case, Mandy was kind enough to show us around, introducing us to one rare bird after another. SWAINSON'S HAWK, on your left.SELASPHORUS HUMMINGBIRD, on your left.To your right, you just barely missed seeing a YELLOW-HEADED BLACKBIRD and a WESTERN KINGBIRD. Two EURASIAN WIGEON, dead ahead.

In Cape May, the birders there have a system in place where rare bird alerts go out via Twitter, a web blog and even texting. Mandy's phone was alerting her of bird sightings all morning! Being a bird enthusiast, she had the ringer set to the call notes for a SCARLET TANAGER. We didn't spot any, but even still... a nice touch.

I was so impressed by the birding network in Cape May, I wrote Don Freiday from to thank him and his fellow birders for putting on such a wonderful show. Little did I know, he posted one of my photos to the site's blog.

I even got the opportunity to meet world-renown birder, writer, hawk-watcher and columnist Pete Dunne. At that point in the day, I was so exhausted I believe I was only capable of a blurbling mumble. But I did say something along the lines of, "It was nice to meet you."

Cape May... I'll be back soon, and often.


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Pre-winter Bird Update

Hello folks! (Mind if I call you 'folks'?)

As fall migration cooled down for warblers, things heated up again quickly as the sparrows and the waterfowl started to arrive into the mid-Atlantic region. Here are just a few highlights from some of my more recent adventures.The above two photos are perhaps the last two photos taken of the Howard County CLAY-COLORED SPARROW, a long-awaited life bird for me. I observed this little fellow last Saturday, November 14th. This sparrow not been reported since then. Perhaps one reason why might be the lark chunk of it's head feathers that went missing? Some thing, be it a Cardinal or a Cooper's Hawk, nearly did in this wayward migrant.Forgive the awful photography, but I just wanted to show you a PINE SISKIN that appeared on my sock feeders last week in the midst of a downpour. I remember that last year the only time the Siskin flock ate at my house was when the weather was raining.Mikey Lutmerding found this EARED GREBE at Piscataway Park in Prince George's County, MD. It's located just across the way from George Washington's place. Sadly, I found this rare grebe diving in the midst of a river of garbage.On Saturday, Chris Murray and I birded both Montgomery and Frederick County in central Maryland. A BROWN CREEPER is always a nice find (below), as is a GOLDEN-CROWNED KINGLET (above).A WHITE-CROWNED SPARROW graced us with it's presence at Lilypons Aquatic Gardens later in the afternoon. Despite the thick, overcast skies, the sun managed to peak out for a second... long enough to get one photo of this bird in actual sun light (the middle of the three photos).Note the bi-colored bill, the jet-black feet, the very light reddish-brown wash on the sides and this bird's stunning red head. Indeed, this is one fine looking sparrow.And perhaps my favorite of all of our wintering Sparrows, this AMERICAN TREE SPARROW was, for us, the bird of the day. That is until this bird almost bit me!When I tell you that this TRUMPETER SWAN (one of a pair) owns the pond at Riderwood... I MEAN IT! Warn any relatives that you might have living at this famous assisted living facility in Silver Spring! These stunning beauties will bite.

Good Birding,


Friday, November 6, 2009


It's been a busy year. Work has been a challenge. Declan and Isla are the two most amazing, absolutely adorable kids on this planet. Despite having less gigs than most years, I've still been busy with dozens of musical events. I'm quite lucky to have one very active, yet extremely loyal and loving dog; Oiseau. And last, but most certainly not least, my beautiful, gorgeous and VERY busy wife Emery.Suffice it to say, it's been a jam-packed 2009 thus far. Yet, thanks to the winds, the weather, some luck, some study, some experience and MDOSPREY, I've made it to 300 birds seen in 2009. To prove to you just how amazing 2009 has been for avian variety in Maryland, back in 2008, I did not reach the big 300 until I saw a LARK SPARROW at Vessey's Orchard on December 6th. Go figure... I am a full month ahead of last year.Ok, I should divulge a little detail. Currently, there are three birders who have broken the single year record already... in early November!!!Stan Arnold, Jim Brighton and Jim Stasz are all around 335 or 336 for the year in Maryland. 336!!! That's just incredible.There are still several other birders in the high 320's, but the exact details I don't know at this time.In order to stay sane, I decided to concentrate on Anne Arundel County this year. And of course I would try and chase the occasional Life Bird too. Well, with this year being so rich with rarities, there has been more than a few trips outside of the county.I could say that responsibilities kept me from the reaching the 320's, but that would diminish the success of those at the top. They studied every corner of our state, they learned where to be and when to be there in order to get their target birds. They spent years perfecting their skills and acquiring knowledge.Breaking the Maryland Big Year record requires a combination of wisdom, research, skill and of course, luck.What's more, there is still lots of time to absolutely obliterate the old record... held by Jim Stasz (I believe). I wish them all the best of luck.My 300th bird for 2009??? You may have already guessed... three COMMON EIDER. These obliging winter sea-duck arrivals were observed at close range at the Ocean City Inlet.I would like to thank my wife, for her patience with me this year, and all of the years that we've known each other. My passions tend to occupy a large chunk of time, so for all of the occasions that they have swept me away from her (birding, music, painting, gardening, eating chocolate, etc), I can not thank her enough. I love you Emery.Good Birding,


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Meet Our Local Peregrine

She enjoys Grackles, Robins and the occasional Blue Jay. She loves to soar, thinks perching in the afternoon sun while sailboats glide past is just splendid and believes there is nothing more exhilarating than going from a lazy soar into a vertical stoop. She is none other than our very own local Peregrine Falcon.Born in 2006, she hails from Virginia. To be more specific, she fledged from the Norris Bridge, just South of White Stone. It's really not far at all from Annapolis.One could get there in a matter of hours by car. On the wing, there is much less traffic. But she's not just from the tidewater area of Virginia. No, there is more to the story. Lets just say that she only 'hatched' in VA. Like my dog Oiseau, she spent those formative first few weeks in West Virginia.Here is a map of where she hatched:How do I know this, you ask? Well, she was banded as a young falcon back in the spring of 2006 by Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William & Mary.

(photo courtesy of Magic Dragon 55.)

On May 24th, 2006 our very own local Peregrine was banded on a bridge over the Rappahannock River.

And here is a map of where she fledged:Soon after, she was then relocated for hacking to the New River Gorge in West Virginia. You see, whenever some nest sites have a poor history of fledging (high mortality), young birds are now moved to sites where the success rates are much higher. Issues like traffic, inexperienced birds flying into the water, a vehicle, buildings, as well as things like nest predation from likes of Great Horned Owls, all contribute to young Peregrines not surviving those first few weeks.I don't believe she has a name, but I'll have to check into that with the folks from William & Mary. If I find anything out, I'll let you know.
As for our local tiercel (the male), he has no leg bands, so his geographic origins remain a mystery.Now... if only we could get her to use the nest box that USFWS built for her, we could tell stories in future blogs about her chicks whereabouts. In the meantime, I'll keep a watchful eye towards the skies for local 1807-02723. That is her band number. She looks good in green and black.If you have a moment, I urge you to visit the Center's website.

For more on the New River Gorge Peregrine Program, please click HERE. If you'd like to read her 'yearbook', a little PDF document with details from 2006, when she and 14 other Peregrine chicks fledged, click HERE.

The story goes that, "On the morning of June 15, over one dozen feeder quail were dispersed on the ground outside of the hack box and the door was engineered to open from a concealed location over 100ft from the site. West Virginia DNR personnel, staff from Three Rivers Avian Center, and National Park Service biologists were on site during the release. At 1041hrs the box door was opened and within 15 minutes one bird (L green; R black 07/green W) had taken flight. At 1125hrs the last eyas (R purple; L black 17/green V) emerged from the box."Yes, she was the last one to leave the box that day. And it would appear that she spent around 28 to 29 days hanging around the hack box at the New River Gorge, before eventually relocating to Annapolis. Now I'm quite sure that she sowed her wild oats and traveled a bit before settling down to start a family, but it's just the points where we 'know' she has been.Here is our girl all grown up, wearing proudly her "L black 17 / green V" band.



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