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 www.birdcapemay.org 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.

-Dan

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,

Dan

Friday, November 6, 2009

300

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,

Dan

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