Showing posts from January, 2013

Pacific NW birding

Just back from a medical conference in Seattle which allowed for some local exploring during meeting breaks with Frank Gallo, Ryan Merrill, and Jay Withgott. I came away very impressed with the birding that the Pacific Northwest has to offer at this time of year. This has been a banner season for Asian vagrants in the region, with Red-flanked Bluetail and multiple Bramblings being the current highlights we were able to enjoy last weekend. A Citrine Wagtail on Vancouver Island was last reported on Jan 13th and a Little Bunting was recently a two-day wonder in NE Oregon, so we did not try for those. Both the wagtail and bunting are almost certainly kicking around somewhere nearby but are currently eluding birders. Vagrants aside, the birding was just phenomenal. The raptor show in such places as the Skagit Valley and Samish Flats just north of Seattle and at Boundary Bay near Vancouver was nothing short of brilliant. Multiple Short-eared (several dozen), Long-eared, Snowy, and Barn O

Jan 10 - Florida "West"

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Western and Cassin's Kingbirds, Swainson's Hawk, "Krider's" Red-tailed Hawk. All of the above can be expected on a typical winter day's birding where? You probably wouldn't have guessed south-central Florida, but that's exactly where I'm talking about. Florida, while much too flat and humid for my liking, is a fascinating winter birding destination. Sure you have the typical resident specialties and the occasional West Indian stray, but south Florida's collection of wintering western/central birds is impressive in both quantity and diversity. Dori and I spent most of a day birding inland Florida south of Lake Okeechobee, concentrating on agricultural fields (I had particular interest in photographing Red-tailed Hawks which will be featured in a future post). The land here is flat and open, an inviting habitat for many western species, particularly raptors and kingbirds. Any wet ditch or marsh between farms cou

Jan 9 - FL Gulf Coast 'keets

On Jan 9th I took a midday ride north from Ft. Myers with Dori Sosensky and Lynn James in search of two established ABA-countable parakeets, both of which were easy to find. Our first stop was Hernando Beach, north of the Tampa area, in search of Budgerigar. We found a flock of about eight birds on Gulf Winds Circle without much trouble. The Budgie numbers have really dropped off in FL, so it may not be on my list for long... Budgerigar We really worked up an appetite by hardly working for those Budgies, so we headed back south for a sushi lunch which just so happened to be in the heart of Nanday Parakeet country at St. Pete Beach. Just before we reached the Basil Leaf Sushi & Thai, a flock of about 15 Nandays flew by. Didn't even have to try! A few more birds flew past the restaurant window as we were eating. After lunch (which was delicious, by the way) we drove backroads near the restaurant and quickly came across four more parakeets. Nanday Parakeets Not

Jan 8 & 11 - Miami rarity trifecta (Bananquit, La Sagra's, Spindalis)

I'm recently back from four full days in Florida, based in Ft. Myers with long-time friend and birding mentor Dori Sosensky. We had no set plans for my visit, but when a wintering female Western Spindalis was joined by a Bananaquit and La Sagra's Flycatcher over a 6-mile area near Miami, our itinerary began to take shape. On my first day, January 8th, we would head for the Bananaquit and take it from there (apparently my fingers are incapable of typing "Bananaquit" correctly on the first try...I'm currently cursing out loud). We arrived at Bill Baggs State Park just after its opening at 8am to find a few birders already looking, with no sightings yet. After about two hours of searching, Dori walked back to the car to get something, so of course the Bananaquit flew into its favorite wild sage bush while she was gone. I jogged towards the parking lot, yelled out to Dori, and returned to the bird for a few seconds of viewing. I was able to fire off a single blurry

Escape from New York

Kurt Russell would be proud. On New Year's Day, Ian Worley and Ron Payne discovered a COMMON POCHARD on the Vermont side of southern Lake Champlain, later ID'd by Jeremiah Trimble thanks to the wonder of digital photography. I made the trip north on Sunday January 6th with Phil Rusch and Greg Hanisek. After a few hours of searching by several dozen birders, the duck was relocated on the NY side. We arrived to very nice views of the bird sleeping, every now and then picking its head up for a quick look before re-tucking. Tick! Everyone on site was thrilled, and many birders had already departed feeling very content with their views of this mega rarity. Not so fast. Birders down the line from us noticed a band on the bird's right leg as it began to dive and take short flights. A rumor had been spreading during the morning's search that the bird was banded, based on the previous days' observations. We had hoped this was untrue. Chris Wood was able to get so