Revised 2011 bird total:
437 species

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Gooseeight sure beats a gooseegg

After my dentist appointment in Fredricksburg Va I headed east on Rte. 3 today to try for a Greater White-fronted Goose being seeing off and on lately at several ponds.  I tried pond # 1.  Here there were a few Canada Geese, maybe 50-100 and some assorted ducks.  The highlight was 6 Bald Eagles.   There was also a harrier in the area.  No white-fronted goose though.  We tried pond # 2.  Here there were also 50-100 C Geese and some assorted waterfowl, but no target.  I tried the final stop.  Things looked more promising here.  There were Canada Geese.  Lots of Canada Geese, at least upwards of 300 and probably over 500.  I spent time walking along Rte. 3 and kept searching.  Then I spotted a goose without the black neck of a Canada  with an orange/pink bill and black on the belly walking among the Canadas!  Bingo!  There was my White-front.  Another lifer for me and 378 for the Junior Big Year, thus the title "gooseeight" (for three-seventy-EIGHT).

A week from today I head southwest.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Snowy Owl, Calliope Hummingbird, and Waggoner's Gap photos

Here's 4 photos, one of the hummingbird and one of the Snowy Owl.  The other two are from the Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch in PA, in which we stopped by on our way home yesterday.

Calliope Hummingbird in Maryland, a rare visitor from the west.  A lifer for me.

The majestic Snowy white Owl.  What a beautiful bird for my # 377.

Me watching for hawks at the Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch

Red-tailed Hawk at the Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch

Tomorrow I try for a Greater White-fronted Goose being seen near Fredricksburg, Va.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A great northern wanderer - Snowy Owl

I left Annapolis Maryland at about 10:30 am this morning, headed for the Merrill Creek Reservoir for the Snowy Owl being consistently reported there.

We arrived at 2:30 pm and asked at the visitor center for directions to the Snowy Owl.  She said that it was a 3 mile round trip walk to the main dam where the owl was being seen.  However the gates close at 4:30 pm so we need to houf it.

We arrived at the dam but no Snowy Owl.  Then I spotted a group of about 10 people with spotting scopes way down by a stream.  We found a trail to go there but it was steep and treacherous.  We we eventually got there and there was a nice man there with a swarovski spotting scope and thanks to him I got to look through the scope at this amazing bird.  A lifer for me and number 377 for my Junior Big Year!  Thank you beautiful Snowy...

We then went for a thai dinner at a superb thai restaurant and am now at the Holiday Inn, Allentown PA.  Tomorrow we drive home.

Back at home, I plan to make a photo post from this trip with photos of the Calliope Hummingbird, Snowy Owl, and scenery along the way.

New Jersey bound

It's a Big Year, you got to try for every bird possible and one bird that I surely won't let down is one of my long-wanted life birds, Snowy Owl.

For the last long while (I'm inclined to say at least a month) there's been a Snowy Owl consistantly seen at Merrill Creek Reservoir, northwestern New Jersey.

The chase is on!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Marylandic Adventure - Le Conte's Sparrow AND Calliope Hummingbird

I asked the homeoner of the vagrant that I've mentioned several times in my blog and she said it would be okay to say the name of the species and the state as long as I don't post the location or her contact information.  Thank you.  So, I'll let 'the cat out of the bag'.  The vagrant that I first posted about several weeks ago and chased today is Calliope Hummingbird in Maryland.  I first learned about that bird on November 3rd but the next day my mom was leaving for Canada.  Right after she got home my dad would leave for the Czech Republic.  My mom and I were planning to go when I was away but then my mom and I both got sick.  I thought that there was no chance that the Calliope would hold on until after I got back from my Eastern Shore trip (the next possible time for me to chase it) but it did.  But then I couldn't go before thanksgiving.  Would it really hold on that long?  But it did.  So yesterday my mom and I headed north, for Maryland.

To sweeten everything up, yesterday I got word of a Le Conte's Sparrow in a different part of Maryland but that I could try for as well, before I tried for the Calliope in the afternoon.  But I had a commitment to be at the Calliope location at 1 pm and with hours of driving to get from the hotel, to the Le Conte's, and then to the Calliope I had a mere 20 minutes to search for the Le Conte's.  I arrived on site and someone said it hadn't been seen for 1.5 hours.  UGH!  I didn't have all day to search for the bird by any means, and maybe it was gone if it hadn't been seen for 1.5 hours.  But then someone pointed and everyone gathered around them.  Did they see it?  I ran to them.  Sure enough, the Le Conte's was there and gave great looks.  This is a major milestone, 375 for my J. Big Year!  This was my second goal (first was 350, second was 375, and now it's 400)

But we had to keep going.  We were two hours from the Calliope Hummingbird and we had about exactly 2 hours to get there.  So we programed the GPS and hit the road.  We arrived right on time (or just a minute late) but the homeoner said it hadn't been seen for a while but often feeds around 2:00 so if we waited it should show up.  And sure enough, at 2:15 it was spotted perched on a small tree.  Then it flew to the hummingbird feeder.  Fed on some plants and flew away.  Bingo!  376.  I would like to give a BIG THANK YOU to the homeowner for being so gracious in letting us come to see her visiting rarity.

I'm now in the Doubletree Hotel, Annapolis Maryland and tomorrow drive home.

I am H A P P Y to be at 376!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The chase is on, once again

I'm leaving my house once again today..this time for a 2-night out of state chase for number 375.  The vagrant that I first mentioned many weeks ago has held on.  As I stated previously, I can't give the location or species however I can say it's out-of-state and will be my number 375!

I will post tomorrow if I get the bird (which I should).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time for an update

Now that the Eastern Shore trip is done it's time to look over my Big Year and talk about how it's going.

I added 4 new birds on the Eastern Shore trip plus Eared Grebe the day before I went to the shore.  How is this compared to what I hoped?  Right on track.  I had hoped for 375 after the trip (am at 374) however one bird is not anything to get concerned over.

My target for year's end is 400.  What are the chances?  Very likely!  Even if Arizona treats me on the low end of things I should make 400.

Is Arizona my only new supply of year birds?  basically but not totally.  The vagrant that I mentioned earlier in November is still around.  My mom and I hope to chase it this weekend.  No telling on what it is and where until later (once it's gone).  This is per the request of who discovered the bird.  I will hopefully add an additional vagrant or two as well in this area before year's end.

So that's it for now.  I will update if I get that one vagrant.  It would be number 375 which was my second goal.  Original goal was 350, I was doing great and mid-year I upped the goal to 375.  Once I got back from Alaska I was doing perfect so upped the goal to 400.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Day four of Eastern Shore trip - Hudsonian Godwit, Peregrines, hawks, Kyle Wright and Bob Ake

Ok, just by the title you get the point - a LOT happened today!  We left Chincoteague at 8 am but would slowly bird our way down the Eastern Shore.  Our first stop was near Exmore Virginia because Allen Larner (refer to day two post) said there was a chance for a Hudsonian Godwit at this location.  We arrived and I thought I had a whole darn bunch of Hudsonians but that just didn't make since, especially because there was no Marbled Godwits with them.  I got my book out.  Willet popped into my head.  Oh well, they we were Willets.  But then I spotted a more distant flock of Marbled Godwits.  And a grayer one with them with a white stripe in the wing!  Bingo!  Hudsonian!  Another lifer for me and number 374 for my Big Year.  Our next stop was Kiptopeke State Park Hawk Watch, I didn't plan to add any year birds here but I wanted to stop by since I spent a few days there last year, meet this year's counter Kyle Wright and hopefully see some birds.  And boy was I ever satisfied!  I met Kyle and right away he picked up on a Cooper's.  More coops and sharpies followed suit.  For the next 1.5 hours we witnessed non-stop action!  Several Peregrines came through and a local dive-bombed a vulture several times!  What a show.  The hawk counter at Kiptopeke caught a Cooper's Hawk and Kyle brought it up to be released on the hawk watching platform.  Thanks Kyle, it's always great to see raptors in the hand.  Bob Ake, who did an ABA Big Year last year and holds the third highest record for an ABA Big Year (hewas second until John Vanderpoel broke his 731 this year and is now at 734 and encroaching on Sandy Komito's record 745 bumped Bob into third place a little while ago) showed up at the hawk watch.

I ended the Eastern Shore trip with an impressive 112 species for the trip including 4 lifers and 11 raptor species.

All in all, what a great trip to the Eastern Shore and I'm happy to be at 374 for the year.  Arizona is just a few weeks away!

Day three of Eastern Shore trip - quieter birding day

Written evening of November 20 2011.

Today my dad and I birded Chincoteague Area and explored the area.  We got to see lots of good birds including terrific looks at a Wilson's Snipe and heard some more Clapper Rails (which was a lifer yesterday) but no new year birds.

Tomorrow we bird our way down the Eastern Shore and then drive home.  We'll try for a Hudsonian Godwit and whatever else I can find and I'm hoping for goodness's sakes that I'll at least advance to 374 (375 would be awesome but I'm not expecting that).

Day two of Eastern Shore trip - the best clap to end a great day

Written evening of November 19 2011.
Today I birded with the Augusta Bird Club at Chincoteague Virginia.  Allen Larner is leading a field trip for the ABC here at Chincoteague but it was a very small turnout.  Allen as leader, 2 others, my dad and I. Allen is a very knowledgeable birder.  He's found me several year birds of the course of the year and I'm mentioned him several times in my blog so it was so great to bird with him here.  We met the group at 8 am at the Visitor Center for Chincoteague.  We birded the whole day and found some good birds including well over 50 Red-throated Loons however no year birds until...the end.  Allen's group as well as the group from the Monticello Bird Club that we birded with yesterday met at Saxis Marsh, about a 30 minute drive from Chincoteague to listen for rails and look for Short-eared Owls.  My target was Clapper Rail as that would be a lifer!!  We arrived and one of the participants played their tape for the Clapper Rails and one responded!  Then two, and more.  It was soon a party of calling Clappers!!!  We ended up also hearing a Virginia Rail, a good bird and a year bird for Allen Larner but not a year bird for me.

Tomorrow the bird clubs go home and we'll do our own thing around here.  I don't expect to add any new birds but who knows..Sharp-tailed Sparrows of either species could happen with some luck!  On Monday on our return home we're going to make several stops and with a little good luck I'll hopefully advance to either 374 or even 375.

Right now I'm happy with 373!

Day one of Eastern Shore trip - the Purple Sandpiper, Great Cormorant, an tons of other thrills

Written evening of November 18, 2011     ***note: I didn't have computer access where I stayed so wrote each night and am posting all now

5:00 am, I admit it, I didn't want to wake up...but I knew what lay ahead and it propelled me.  Dave Hogg of the Monticello Bird Club (which I'm part of) had a trip to the Chesepeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) Islands, and Chincoteague Virginia planned.  On the special CBBT Islands which normally are not open to  the public held 2 life birds and other birding fun.  We met Dave Hogg and 7 other birders and were escorted to the islands by the police (since the islands are closed for security reasons).  Arriving at the first stop ("Island number 2") we started looking.  Ruddy Turnstone, Laughing/Herring and Ring-billed Gulls, all great but I was focused on life birds, year birds, birds that would bring me closer to 400 species for 2011.  I found 3 shorebirds, a Sanderling, and a Dunlin but joined by a huge prize -- Purple Sandpiper, a life bird for me and number 371  for the year.  While watching the Purple Sandpiper, Brenda Tekin yelled out Great Cormorant.  I hauled fast the less than 50 yards to her; that would be another lifer for me!  Sure enough, I got distant but ID-worthy looks of this number 372.  We birded our way on 2 more of the CBBT Islands and then up the Eastern Shore.  We saw no more year birds but saw a low hunting harrier, several Bald Eagles, a Merlin, and much else.  We arrived to Chincoteague in time to see the Snow Geese put down for the night.  I ended the day with 66 species including 2 lifers and 7 raptor species!

I'm now in the Blue Heron Motel, Chincoteague VA and tomorrow will bird around here and hopefully add a couple of more list birds...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Eared Grebe, 370!

Eared Grebe in Virginia, photo by Allen Larner

My mom asked me a question this morning around 11:30 am (yes, she's not a birder) "what's an Eared Grebe?"  I responded "it's a REALLY RARE type of grebe in this area"  "is it a year bird for you?" she responded "heck yes, a lifer!" I said.  She had gotten word that one of the area's best birders Allen Larner had found an Eared Grebe only maybe 30 minutes away at Stuarts Draft.  I didn't have directions though.  So I called Allen.  He gave directions.  Next thing you knew, we were off.

I arrived at the pond where it had been seen and within seconds I spotted the grebe.  It swam around giving terrific looks!  Surprisingly the only other waterfowl there was a single American Coot.  Eared Grebe, what a great life bird and # 370 for my Big Year!

On another note, on my way to Arizona my dad and I are going to rent a car for a few hours in Denver, Colorado and go chase an American Dipper.  I've been in touch with a local birder and there's a certain park I will very likely be able to get a dipper at.

Tomorrow it's off to the Eastern Shore.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Top 10 targets

I've created a top 10 target list for the 10 birds I most want for the rest of the year, although, of course I'll take any winged creature that I have not yet seen in 2011!   Of these top 10 I have a reasonable chance at finding all of them (ok, well maybe not a "reasonable" chance at King Eider, but it's one of the birds I would so love to see and there is a chance on the Eastern Shore of Virginia this coming weekend).

Top 10 list:

King Eider
Prairie Falcon
Purple Sandpiper
American Dipper
Olive Warbler
Green-tailed Towhee
Costa's Hummingbird
Greater Roadrunner

The Eastern Shore trip is just around the corner now..departing in less than 33 hours, birding starts in just over 37 hours!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


It's time for a quick update to say how my year is going for numbers, my plan, etc.

I'm in perfect shape.  My current year total is 369 and I'm right in place for 400+ at year's end (400 is my goal).

My plan:

I have my eyes on a certain species that I hope to have be number 370.  I'm not going to let the 'cat out of the bag' on this one.  All that I can say is that it's a vagrant from the western US, it's hanging around at a certain out-of-state location, and if my mom and I are healthy and the bird sticks around we are going to chase it at the end of this week.

Next big trip is the Eastern Shore: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Islands and Chincoteague.  Trip is leaving in 10 days and will last 3 days.  I hope to add 5 year birds here, some of my targets are Purple Sandpiper (easy), Great Cormorant (easy), Hudsonian Godwit (unlikely but possible), Nelson's Sparrow (hit or miss), Common Eider (hit or miss), King Eider (unlikely but possible), and any vagrant that might be in the area.  I hope to be at 375 after this trip.

After that I have a possible slot for a vagrant trip somewhere in the state, and then it's on to ARIZONA.  This is the trip that will put me to 400 if I will get to 400 which I very likely will.  This is my last resource for year birds, after this trip I will likely get no more year birds unless a vagrant pops up somewhere in my neck of the woods.  There are so many targets for Arizona but I'll just list a few..Western and Whiskered Screech-Owls, Phainopepla, Pyrrhuloxia and much else.

UPDATE NOVEMBER 12 2011: My mom and I have both come down with colds so we won't be chasing the vagrant that I mentioned in the first part of this post.  Well, for now anyway.  If it happens to stick around until we're back from Chincoteague we'll try to chase it then.  So unless a vagrant happens to show up right near home here the next place I'll add year birds is the Chesepeake Bay Bridge Tunnel Islands on next Friday.  This is the first part of my three-day long Eastern Shore adventure.  If I have internet connection where I'm staying I plan to post Friday Night.  

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Saw-whet Owls

Yesterday (uh, today at 1 am!) I gave a very quick update saying that last night I added Northern Saw-whet Owl as year bird number 369.  Here's the story.

Clair Mellinger and Charles Ziegenfus ("Zig") run a Saw-whet Owl banding station, about 1.25 hours to my north.  We went several times last year, it is amazing.  One night we were there last year Clair caught 13 owls.  Last night Clair and Zig caught 6 owls.  It is dad and I got to hold them and release them on the picnic tables.  So special BUT netted birds don't count for the list.  I asked Clair if I would be able to hear one or see a non-netted one.  He said likely for the first option but very unlikely for the second.  So we were hoping to hear one.  We listened and listened but no calling owl.  We released one on the picnic table and it flew up and away.  Over 10 minutes later my dad spotted a Saw-whet perched in the parking lot.  Whether this was the one we had released earlier is unknown but I say I can count that bird.  Clair said that he almost never sees that and he indeed agrees that it is countable.  Success!

So there's the story, NSWO is year bird 369.

Until later

Saturday, November 5, 2011


A very quick update..

went to a Northern Saw-Whet Owl banding station this evening.  We caught 6 owls, but netted birds don't count.  Fortunately, I was able to see an un-netted bird which made for year bird number 369 (yes, I'm back at 369 after my Virginia Rail "glich")

It's 1 am and I'm tired.  Will update with info about the NSWO tomorrow (well, today technically!)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Set back to 368

While reviewing my Junior Big Year list I noticed a mistake..I have listed Virginia Rail twice.  I got the bird in New York in June on my way to Ontario, Canada but I forgot but now see from my list that I also heard it in Texas in March.  I had counted it twice.  I need to subtract it once.  This puts my number back down to 368.  Oh well.  Better that I catch it now than after the year and have to subtract from my end year number!