Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Aruba - Dec 2016

Last month my girlfriend and I spent a week on the island of Aruba, which lies less than 20 miles from Venezuela. It was our first visit to the island, a place known much more for its beaches than its birds. However we managed to squeeze in some quality birding. I don't think I spent enough time to merit writing any sort of site guides or detailed trip report, but if you are interested in birding on Aruba, please email me privately and I'll share what I learned.

In short, there are no Aruban endemics. Some South American species spill over from the mainland, but not many. Still, there are birds to be seen in some nice pockets of habitat, and being an island, there is always rarity potential. Our best find was probably the juvenile LESSER BLACK-BACKED GULL we stumbled across while jet-skiing. We ended up with 67 species while casually birding in bits and pieces - not bad I'd say. I picked up the following life birds: "Cayenne" form of Sandwich Tern, Bare-eyed Pigeon, Blue-tailed Emerald, Brown-throated Parakeet, Northern Scrub-Flycatcher, Venezuelan Troupial, and Yellow Oriole.

"Golden" Yellow Warbler

Burrowing Owl

Northern Waterthrush

Eared Dove

Bare-eyed Pigeon

Brown-throated Parakeet

Venezuelan Troupial

"Cayenne" Sandwich Tern (with Royal Tern at right)

"Cayenne" Sandwich Tern

 - NB

Monday, January 9, 2017

Graylag Goose in Rhode Island

On January 3rd Frank Gallo and I stopped by East Providence, RI on our way back from Nantucket to look for the previously reported Graylag Goose. This bird was initially reported...well...I have no idea when it was initially reported because the Rhode Island bird reporting system is a $%&*ing joke and these pieces of information are difficult to track down unless you are a part of one of the mysterious RI birding factions that treat bird information like classified information that you need a goddamned Russian hacker to extract (how can such a tiny state be this divided anyway?!?).

But I digress. Anyway, let's just say that the bird has been around for...several days.

So Frank and I arrived to driving wind and rain. It was pretty miserable weather, but we were able to find the goose rather quickly on the golf course adjacent to Watchemoket Cove. We watched it feed with Canadas for a few minutes before getting soaked and leaving (us, not the bird). We had both seen (and voted on) the Wallingford, Connecticut wild-type Graylag in 2009 that went on to be accepted. That bird was certainly leaner than this one. Here are a few record shots of the bird.

I'm not going to pass judgement on this bird because I would have to go back and do more research and contact European birders who see these things regularly. This bird may be a bit thick-billed, a bit thick-necked, and a bit "lumpy." One thing's for sure - we're glad we don't have to vote on this one! It will be interesting to hear what the Rhode Island committee does with this one. I'm sure we'll find out never.

 - NB

Nantucket CBC weekend

Hiatus over!!

In recent years I have developed a pattern of active autumn birding followed by a full dose of winter doldrums. The effect was particularly strong this year; my birding just about fell off a cliff once the calendar turned to December.

Thanks to December travel, work, and the way the holidays fell this year, I did not do a single CBC in Connecticut this season. I did, however, make it out to Nantucket for the second consecutive year for their count. I joined Frank Gallo, Patrick Dugan, Wendy Knothe, Mike Carpenter, and John Tobin for their annual Nantucket CBC territory, Madaket (western end of the island).

Frank and I carpooled to and from the island. We left on New Years Eve, stopped en route for the previously reported first cycle GLAUCOUS GULL and adult PACIFIC LOON along the CT coast, then took the late afternoon ferry out of Hyannis. Looks at the gull and loon were satisfying. The ferry ride was slow bird-wise...only a handful of Razorbills, no kittiwake (!), and not many loons. We did have fine views of all three scoters, several thousand actually, but numbers could have been even higher.

I'll leave the social gatherings out of it, but we had a great time hanging out with birders from all over New England, including several full-time islanders.

On the morning of New Years Day, AKA Count Day, we were met with better weather conditions than expected. A steady rain and wind forced into a late start owling, but we did manage a couple nocturnal birds in the form of a few AMERICAN WOODCOCKS (a quality "first bird of the year") and a single NORTHERN SAW-WHET OWL once the weather cleared. The sun soon rose and we were happy to see blue skies and only a moderate breeze - not the 15-25mph we were expecting. Totally manageable.

Overall, according to Frank & Patrick, who have been doing this territory for years and years, this was a below average count. Still, we had a decent day. A couple of SNOWY OWLS, a BARN OWL, and a drake BARROW'S GOLDENEYE were personal highlights.

Snowy Owl

The next morning began with a dawn sea watch from Low Beach looking east. We enjoyed a nice movement of loons, grebes, ducks, gulls, and gannets. Tons of birds to look at. I'm glad I wasn't doing the counting (thanks Ian & Frank!). The famous "gull show" at Low Beach never materialized while we were there. Hopefully it will kick into gear later in the season.

sunrise at Low Beach

photo by Mike Carpenter

Once the seabird show slowed to a crawl we went into chase mode, trying to see a few of the goodies reported on the count the day before. We started with a feeder watch for a green PAINTED BUNTING that had been hanging around for a while. While waiting for the bunting we enjoyed a DICKCISSEL that had been visiting the same feeders. The bunting did make an appearance, though somewhat brief. It was seen pretty well for brief moments, but I never did fire off a shot.


Our next few boxes to check were waterfowl. First, a hen KING EIDER chase turned into two birds, actually. Realllly nice scope views of the closer bird. Another drake BARROW'S was here as well. Then we headed to one of the ponds for a male TUFTED DUCK, which we also saw. On the same pond were an apparent pair of EURASIAN WIGEON (from a distance...male ID obvious, female not so much).

We had wanted to spend the afternoon back at Low Beach to see if any gulls would materialize, but Frank and I were forced to leave the island that evening instead of the next day as we had planned. East winds at 25-35mph were forecast for the next day, and due to work obligations I could not allow myself to be stranded on the island, so we headed out a day early.

Some friends on the Cape bailed us out and let us stay with them, which made our lives a lot easier. The next morning, once Frank had his three cups of coffee (I would drop dead of cardiac arrest if I ingested that much caffeine), we started the drive home with a few birding stops planned despite the driving rain.

First we took a shot in the dark at the adult SLATY-BACKED GULL that had been found by Ian Davies a few days earlier. No joy with that one. Then we decided to stop for the GRAYLAG GOOSE that has been hanging out in East Providence. This bird has attracted much attention because it is not an obvious barnyard type and may, in fact, be a wild bird. I'll leave that for another post...

Lastly, we tried again for the Pacific Loon on the way back, so Frank could add it to his 2017 list. Unfortunately the bird did not cooperate. Given the weather conditions, I'm not shocked we couldn't find it.

We had a really fun four days of birding...something I was really itching for! I'm still wating to experience that gull show on Nantucket, so I'll have to make a point of going back when that is happening, one of these years.

Happy New Year everyone.

 - Nick

Monday, November 14, 2016

Weather to watch for this weekend

UPDATE: This was a total dud. Nothing happened...

ORIGINAL POST: The past couple weeks of weather have been quiet around here. Not surprisingly, no major rarity fallouts, though there has been a slow trickle of 'megas' during the first half of November AKA 'rarity month.'

Looks like there will be a potent low that will track through the upper midwest and then northeast into Ontario. The track is similar to last November's storm that brought the unprecedented Franklin's Gull fallout and large numbers of Cave Swallows to the northeast, but a week later. Not sure how strong the storm will be, or if it will impact New England with strong winds (as of right now, winds are not supposed to be very strong here, but the storm is several days out). It's definitely worth keeping an eye on for this coming weekend. If everything comes together, it could mean an uptick in rarities in these parts.

Here are the current forecast maps for Thu-Sun:

 - NB

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Greenland Canada Goose band info

Back on Oct 10th I observed a neck-banded Canada Goose in Wallingford, 'G73,' that I figured originated in Greenland. I just received the following info from Tony Fox:

"This was another Greenland banded Canada Goose, first banded as a female gosling on 18 July 2009 on Lake I in Isunngua, west Greenland, when it was too small to take a collar, so it was simply banded with a yellow plastic leg band(as well as metal band) with the black engraved code GTX.  It was caught again on lake R on 18 July 2014 a couple of kilometres away from its original catch site, when it was decided to add the collar and the leg band was changed to coincide with the code on the collar.  As you will see, since then it is has been a well-travelled bird, with records from Canada as well as New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Mass and NY, so it is simply wonderful to find it staging in Connecticut with you this year!"

 - NB

Monday, October 10, 2016

Today's diurnal migration - excellent!

With today's forecast showing a NNW wind at a steady 15mph, we were expecting a solid hawk flight along the coast of Connecticut. When the wind is that strong migrant raptors are pinned against the coast as they work their way southward, so a place like Lighthouse Point in Connecticut is a fine place to spend a few hours on a day like today. Julian Hough and I started at nearby Ecology Park for a while, then moved to Lighthouse for the bulk of the day's flight. In all, the observers at Lighthouse tallied over 850 migrating hawks, falcons and vultures. It's been a long day of looking at bright blue skies followed by this computer screen, so I only have just about enough energy to post a series of photos from today.

The last bird of the afternoon came in the form of a tired and hungry BLACK-BILLED CUCKOO that actually landed on the lawn upon flying into the park. A couple of late CLIFF SWALLOWS were another welcome non-raptor highlight.

Black-billed Cuckoo

Northern Harrier

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Bald Eagle

Cooper's Hawk
Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk
Eastern Meadowlark


Saturday, October 8, 2016

October has arrived

Here in southern New England you don't need a calendar to tell you when October has arrived. No, I'm not talking about the disappearance of summer-like weather or the rapidly shortening days. If you're a birder you can tell the calendar page has turned just by the arrival (and departure) of certain species. This has been apparent as I've spent a good amount of time in the field over the first week of the month.

Along the coast, Forster's Terns now outnumber Common Terns.

Forster's Terns

The first "Northern" Horned Larks of the subspecies alpestris can be found in coastal dunes and open spaces.

Horned Lark

Sparrow numbers and diversity skyrocket.

Lincoln's Sparrow

Savannah Sparrows are everywhere

Nelson's Sparrow is a common October migrant in coastal saltmarsh, though this may actually be a hybrid...

Raptor diversity peaks. At one location earlier this week I had 13 species of raptor/vulture in just a couple hours' watching the sky.

Bald Eagle

Cooper's Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk

Hawkwatching often yields a few non-raptor bonuses, such as this adult RED-HEADED WOODPECKER that passed between me and the sun a few days ago.

Red-headed Woodpecker

Yellow-rumped Warblers dominate, while good numbers of Palm Warblers spill over from September.

"Yellow" Palm Warbler

Gull numbers continue to increase while diversity remains on the low side. Still, southbound Lesser Black-backed Gulls are often seen this month, particularly during periods of inclement weather and east winds, some of which we experienced last weekend.

juvenile Lesser Black-backed Gull

Red-breasted Nuthatches have been moving since late summer, and they continue to be common statewide. Perhaps we will see more boreal irruptives as the month progresses.

Red-breasted Nuthatch