Sunday, January 23, 2011

Four out of Six...

In most years in Maryland, with some hard work, one can observe six species of owl within our state's borders: NORTHERN SAW WHET, EASTERN SCREECH, BARRED, SHORT-EARED, LONG-EARED and GREAT HORNED OWLS. Today, I missed out on Eastern Screech and Great Horned... and they can usually be heard near my home. Argh!!!But forget about all that... it was an AMAZING day of birding. And what's more, it didn't start until after 2pm! Nice.I found this Northern Saw-whet Owl while searching for the Long-eared Owl. Talk about a great consolation prize! On the way out (of this undisclosed location) a Barred Owl flushed from right in front of me. Three prizes in ONE stop!I closed out the evening at Blue Mash Nature Trail near Olney Maryland in Montgomery County, as two Short-eared Owls hunted on the horizon, soon after two Northern Harriers went off to sleep.But if you think I'm just lucky, please note: I missed the GREATER WHITE-FRONTED GOOSE that everyone has been seeing lately in Howard County. You win some (many) and you loose some (far too many to count), but being outdoors (in most cases, birding) is always an adventure. At least it gives me something to yell about...-Dan

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Post-flu Car Birding

I'm getting over Round 5 of the 2010-2011 Winter of Nasty Colds. I'm sick of being sick... really. After three days of home-bound fever aches, I had to get out and see what was stirring in the 7 degree air. Brrr. I could've caught a cold if I wasn't careful. Who am I kidding? I've welcomed into my life every strain of virus known to planet earth lately.So here is a quick update. My back yard feeders have been empty of birds. Why you ask? This SHARP-SHINNED HAWK spends nearly every day perched in my backyard, awaiting his next meal.On the plus side, my seed has lasted a very long time! No House Sparrows anywhere. The down side? I was worried about my white-headed WHITE-THROATED SPARROW. I figure that bright head might be like a bullseye for an accipiter. Alas, look who showed up late this afternoon (when there was no sign of the hawk!). Smart sparrow. I'll keep an eye out for him.Anyway, back to the mini-trip. I ventured to Bay Ridge where I was able to literally open my car door and snap a few photos of a BONAPARTE'S GULL. There were two present at the point during my brief visit.From Bay Ridge, I made my way North to Sandy Point State Park, picking up some breakfast along the way. One sad discovery I made was this male CANVASBACK. It had a broken wing, likely the result of an unsuccessful shot from a hunter.I got in contact with the local wildlife rescue, but as of 5pm, the bird was not relocated. Don't get me wrong, hunters as a group do more than most any other outfit, to help these waterfowl. By helping to protect habitat, hunters actually help these ducks maintain healthy populations. But please don't get me started on fishermen and their old line (I know, sometimes line breaks)... I found three dead ducks today as well: a RUDDY and two SCAUP, all with fishing line attached to their beaks. Seriously? Snapped fishing line to the mouth must be a really awful way to die.

If you'd like to do something really simple that will help these birds, just BUY A DUCK STAMP!But I'll finish this post on a high note; with the continuing ICELAND GULL at the Northeastern-most tip of Sandy Point State Park.What a beautiful gull.

Good Birding,
Dan

Monday, January 17, 2011

Life is Hard

Standing on the rocks at Jonas Green Park in Annapolis, this Cooper's Hawk looked majestic and fierce.The bird was on the hunt, and quickly decided a better vantage point was in order. So it flew to the top of the old Severn River Bridge.Prey spotted, it took off like only an accipter can... much like a bolt of lightening.Since I was beneath the old roadway, I had to run up the hill back to the bridge to see where this raptor went. No worries, a FISH CROW alerted me to the hawk's exact location.What happened next was a blur. The hawk, in between the time when I photographed it on the bridge and when I ran up to the top of the hill, had snagged it's prey item. Dinner was served. Try to guess...Watch your back!

-Dan

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Snow Goose, Snow Goose, Snow Goose

I had a morning appointment in Snow Hill, MD. Just outside of town, there is a field that is regularly littered with hundreds upon hundreds of SNOW GOOSE. I was able to nab two birds with tags, which I will report.That one tag feels like my belt after Thanksgiving dinner. Someone put that one on a bit tight, no?Anyway, I was particularly interested in this one odd goose. I checked my guides, and searched the internet... but there are very few images or descriptions of a BLUE SNOW GOOSE with this eye ring. Thankfully, Bob Ringler and Frank Marenghi respond to my query about this goose. It does occur occasionally and is nothing too unexpected.The only image I could find online was of a flat painted snow goose decoy with a white eye ring!And yes, my meetings went great! Thanks for asking...
-Dan

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Embarrassing, But Worthy of a Post...

Snow started falling late this afternoon, but only in very brief spurts. So before I went back home to my office, I decided to stop off and scope the river. Bad weather almost always equals good birds. It also means terrible photos, but these things can be edited later.So I took a look at this GREATER SCAUP and it's friend. I thought... look at that eye ring. Hmm. And the slope on the head. Interesting. It's not a GREATER or LESSER SCAUP, and it is certainly is not a RING-NECKED DUCK. I decided to blow out the exposure on the photo. Well, now I am left wondering what this bird could possibly be...I'm looking at all sorts of field marks, and for whatever reason, I never once consider the obvious. So what do I do? I email a friend and highly-respected birder and ask for his opinion. A REDHEAD, he (probably while holding back some laughter) replies. Sure enough, turn the page in nearly any field guide to REDHEAD and it's this bird. Oh damn, I thought to myself. Now how will anyone believe me the next time I find a rare bird?Excuses? Sure, I could make a million. First off, let me just say that (from now on) REDHEADS should only be male. ;) Wait, no... my mind was distracted with furniture quotes for my schools. Uhm, how about... our home is getting an offer put on it any minute? I was tired? What if I said that it was snowing and that made it kind of dark outside? No, seriously, look...Well I'm here to tell you that I have got no good excuses, only the thought that I need to slow down, think clearly and be absolutely thorough. These are three steps that I'll continually work on while birding, and in all aspects of my life. Identifying birds, for me, is a welcome challenge.But please... don't even get me started on THIS goose.-Dan

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Wild Goose Chase and a White-winged Dove

Check out this partially-albino Canada Goose.
Wait a second... something is not right about this bird. Let's see if I got another shot. Oh yes, here...a first-ever record for a ROSS' GOOSE in Harford County, MD. This bird breeds in the Arctic, but typically spends it's winter in California.That said, this species is being observed more and more on the East Coast.But here, enjoy some extremely awful photographs of a recently-discovered mega-rarity for Maryland; a WHITE-WINGED DOVE.According the Cornell's BIRDS of NORTH AMERICA ONLINE, "this large, semitropical dove ranges from the southernmost U.S. and Mexico (where it is partially migratory) south through Central America and much of the West Indies." Here, check out the range map (Courtesy of BNA Online) to see how rare a bird this is in Maryland.I suppose as the birds in Maryland get better and better, my photography just gets worse and worse.Eh well, I'm still quite happy...

-Dan

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Harley in Baltimore AND Anne Arundel

This morning, the third ever recorded HARLEQUIN DUCK was discovered by Keith Costley at Fort Armistead Park, which is situated at the Southern end of the Key Bridge (Sunday, January 9th, 2011).For a bird that prefers rocky coastline and fast surf, the weather and the habitat certainly suited this sharp-dressed duck.Makes me wonder just how many might be around in the bay, as they typically are found down at the ocean.If you are enjoying the shores along the our mighty bay this month, do keep your eyes peeled for this magnificent duck.Considering that more than half of eastern North American population of Harlequin Ducks winter in coastal Maine, anytime one gets found in Maryland, it's exciting and worth documenting!The fort was named after Major George Armistead. And for all of you history buffs out there, George was the commander of Fort McHenry during the British bombardment in the War of 1812.The fort was abandoned in 1923, but was eventually claimed by the City of Baltimore in 1928.The property was used as a Navy ammunition dump during World War II and returned to the City in 1947.It has been run down in recent years, and the scene of many a crime. But today this historic park at the foot of the Key Bridge played host to a most beautiful bird.To the best of everyone's knowledge, the duck paddled over the county line a few times, making it a 'tick' for both Baltimore and Anne Arundel Counties... for those of you keeping score. ; )ABOVE: Baltimore County.BELOW: Anne Arundel.Best,
Dan

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