Showing posts from September, 2010

An interesting storm track

Anytime a tropical system so much as brushes us, no matter how weak, it is reason to be alert for birds that may be displaced or grounded by the storm. For example, Tropical Depression 16 currently lies south of Cuba. It may become a minimal Tropical Storm (Nicole) and is currently forecast to ride up the East Coast, possibly passing just to our west as a weak extratropical low. Sure, the intensity of this storm is not impressive, and it is very disorganized. But its track is interesting: currently in the Caribbean Sea, forecast to clip southeast Florida, enter the Gulf Stream, and continue up the East Coast. Also, we may be on the east side (AKA the "good" side) of this one. That being said, this one will likely be too weak to provide any excitement this far north. But let's not ignore it. While we won't be talking about Sooty Terns or Tropicbirds or anything like that, we could see a re-appearance of more southern terns (Royal, Sandwich, Skimmers etc) along the coas

Winter Finch Forecast

This year's Winter Finch Forecast , courtesy of Ron Pittaway of Ontario, is now available online. Thanks to Ron for putting this together once again. Here in southern New England, we're not exactly direct neighbors of Ontario, but one can draw his or her own conclusions for our area from this information. I really look forward to this report every year. - NB

Camera suggestions?

Recent frustrating attempts at digibinning have got me seriously considering a digital SLR for the first time. Having never shopped for one, I'm asking for advice from birders. Since I digiscope when possible (so easy to carry a tiny P&S), I'd be looking to use an SLR for fast-moving subjects and flight shots. I'd be willing to spend good money if necessary...I know you get what you pay for. I'm wondering what would be better for me...a top-of-the-line setup regardless of size/weight, or a lightweight one. Is there a best of both worlds? New vs used? What camera/lens combos would you recommend? - NB

Sep 10 - Block Canyon pelagic

On Thursday evening I was one of about 40 birders to board the 90' Gail Frances for an overnight pelagic trip to Block Canyon. The canyon lies at the edge of the Continental Shelf. We departed around 10pm so that we would be at the canyon for dawn. just before sunrise This trip was one of quality over quantity. Very few birds were tallied, leaving a few pelagic newbies understandably unsatisfied. But for those of us who have been on several deep-water pelagics off New England, we were happy to sacrifice common species for rarities. That is, after all, the idea of doing these canyon trips. The common shearwaters, storm-petrels, and jaegers can be seen inshore. But the warm, blue water of the shelf edge gives us hope for species rare to New England. Our first notable birds were a few scattered AUDUBON'S SHEARWATERS, an expected species in these warm waters. We ended up tallying 11 for the day. a very fresh Audubon's Shearwater It didn't take long for someone to spot a jae

Sep 9 - Hammonasset SP

I spent Thursday morning birding Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison, CT from about 0630-1100. The first sharp cold front of the fall season had moved through the day before. The weather began cloudless with a breeze out of the W-WNW, but then became mostly cloudy with a stiff NW wind by mid-morning. BOBOLINKS put on a big flight, with over one thousand tallied this morning. Flocks maxed out at about 90 birds. There was a modest warbler flight, best of which was a drab young female CAPE MAY WARBLER seen in a mixed flock along the entrance road. The newly-designated Middle Beach parking lot, next to the brand new pavilion, had a small flock of sparrows in which the clear highlight was a really sharp CLAY-COLORED SPARROW. It's my earliest CCSP by several days, but they typically arrive around Sep 20th or so, making them one of our earlier scarce sparrow species. In checking eBird for their bar graph in CT, I was surprised to see that the month of September was void of records. T

Hybrid hummingbird, Ash Canyon, AZ - 3 Aug 2010

UPDATE 9/8/10: It seems certain that this bird is indeed a COSTA'S x LUCIFER HUMMINGBIRD hybrid, apparently the first of its kind recorded. ORIGINAL POST: Ash Canyon, in the Huachuca Mtns of southeast Arizona, has been a hotbed of hybrid hummers this year. Reported hybrid combos have been "Lucifer x Anna's" and "Costa's x Anna's". On my first late summer trip to the southwest, I was pleased to run into an interesting apparent hybrid. While watching the feeders at Mary Jo's in Ash Canyon on 3 Aug 2010, I heard a singing Costa's Hummingbird. Upon tracking the bird down, I was surprised to see a bird that resembled a Costa's but had a noticeably long tail. It sang repeatedly while I was observing it, always producing a typical Costa's song. (click to enlarge) Since it was singing a typical Costa's song the bird is obviously part Costa's...but its long tail, projecting well beyond the UTCs, tells us that this is no pure bir

T.S. Earl delivers!...sort of

After realizing that Earl would not really be affecting CT very much, a few of us decided to head to Cape Cod in search of seabirds. We arrived at First Encounter at dawn on Saturday morning to a strong WNW wind and intermittent horizontal drizzle. The birding began first only Common Terns with a handful of Black Terns were moving. Then the weather cleared, visibility improved, and before we knew it, we were in the middle of a very productive sea watch. Going into today, despite having taken several well-timed pelagics and whale watches out of the northeast, I had not yet seen Sabine's Gull or South Polar Skua. A west coast pelagic would take care of those, but heading into Saturday they were two glaring misses on my life list. I had done a few pelagics, whale watches, and sea watches over the past couple years at times and locations to specifically target them. On Saturday I got those two birds no more than 15 minutes apart. Marshall Iliff spotted a distant skua that e

Hurricane Earl approaches

It's a much weakened system as I type this...a minimal CAT 1 with max sustained winds of 80mph. Not quite the healthy CAT 2 that had been forecast! On top of that, the track has shifted ever so slightly east...far enough east to greatly minimize the storm's effects on Connecticut. The southeast Cape and Islands of Massachusetts still stand a chance to get whacked with some nasty weather. It should be enough to produce a decent seabird show at dawn on Saturday. As of right now, that's where I'll be headed very early Saturday morning. I'd be out there right now if not for work getting in the way. Despite this storm being weaker and further away than initially expected, remember that it was one heck of a nasty storm just 24 hours ago and has been moving as a cyclone through the South Atlantic, the Caribbean, and right up the Gulf Stream. It has come into contact with many birds along the way, so really anything from that part of the world could be displaced off the New