Revised 2011 bird total:
437 species

Monday, October 31, 2011

Another Goshawk and planning Chincoteague

No, not a new year bird, but amazing to have 2 in a weekend and it was a year bird on Saturday.  While at the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch yesterday afternoon another N. Goshawk flew by!  Perhaps I'll end up with more goshawks in VA than I would have at Waggoner's..they had none yesterday!

Also, while at the RGHW, Allen Larner was there and he's co-leading the Chincoteague field trip which I'll participate in the weekend before Thanksgiving.  I knew I could pick up Purple Sandpiper, and Great Cormorant but others I wasn't too sure about.  Allen assured me that I'd get Marbled and perhaps Hudsonian Godwit and a shot at Common Eider, and a very remote shot at King Eider.  He said there was at least a 50/50 chance at Nelson's Sparrow and since I seem to have good luck with sparrows I'm hopeful. Looking good!

Until later


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Not going to Waggoner's

Quick update:

because I got a NOGO today we won't be going to Waggoner's Gap.  Instead we will take the opportunity to go look for bears in Shenandoah National Park (unless a vagrant happens to show up somewhere within 3-4 hours that we will go chase).

The next big trip and year bird supply is going to be Chincoteague and some special birding islands the weekend before thanksgiving.  Here I should add Great Cormorant, Purple Sandpiper and hopefully a few other year birds.

Until later.

They come to me before I go to them!

I often count migrating birds in my yard.  Today I went outside from 1:15 pm-2:45 pm and had a superb time.

By 2:15 pm I had already tallied a Northern Harrier nearly at eye level, a Bald Eagle, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks, several Red-tailed Hawks among other non-raptors.  At 2:13 pm I spotted a large raptor just to my north.  It proceeded to fly nearly directly overhead low giving amazing looks.  I first thought it was a Red-tailed or Red-shouldered Hawk but I put my scope on the bird only to discover that it was an accipiter.  I started noticing the field marks.  Black by the eye, small head, OMG those tail bands are uneven, and the underside is white with gray streaking!  It was a Northern Goshawk adult, my nemesis bird up until this point in the year, a year bird for me # 369.

The odd thing about this is that tomorrow I was planning to head north to Waggoner's Gap, PA to try for a goshawk.  And last year right before I went to Duluth MN (2 days before) where one of my main targets was Northern Goshawks (where I saw several), I saw a large accipiter that I believe to have been a Northern Goshawk from my yard.  I'm just not sure on that one though, it was fairly distant and didn't give good looks as today's goshawk did.  It's like the goshawks know I'm coming for them and come to me beforehand!

Because I got a NOGO today I likely won't be going to Waggoner's Gap but I may because it's a great hawk watch and there's lots of other great raptors (although not year birds).  I will update this evening or tomorrow with my plan.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eyes on my NOGO

Eyes turn to the NOGO, the Franklin's Gull and Brown-headed Nuthatch (and the North Carolina trip for that mater) are now history and Northern Goshawk is the next target I lay my eyes on.

It's not long now - Sunday October 30 we're northbound to Carlisle, Pa and the Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch.

I plan to leave and arrive at the Wag Gap watch for the last few hours on Sunday, spend the full day at the watch on Monday, and spend a good part of Tuesday at the watch and then come back home Tuesday afternoon.  In all willingness I will get a goshawk in this time period.  If not, that's okay, it's a wonderful hawk watch to go to with Golden Eagles common there and much else.  And if I don't get a gos, I have a few possible backup plans.

I will update from my hotel Sunday night.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Day three of North Carolina trip - Eagles back home!

Today I left the wonderful Doubletree Hotel of Durham NC at around 1:00 pm Virginia bound.

It was a nice but rather uneventful trip home until we got 30 minutes out.  We stopped by the Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch and upon my arrival Rose Thomas who I know was looking at a Golden Eagle!  Not a year bird but always amazing to see and rather rare for this area.  About 5 minutes later a Bald Eagle flew over! A nice way to be welcomed home!

I won't post until more news or when I'm heading off to Pennsylvania to Waggoner's Gap for my goshawk trip, but that will be soon (probably leaving a week from today).

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Day two of North Carolina trip - the Vagrant chase

There wasn't much light yet when the wakeup call rang.  Is this really 7:15 am?  I checked the clock.  For goodness sakes it was 6:50 am and the wakeup call had come at the wrong time.  Better that than late though!  We were out at approx. 8:00 am and put in the intersection near the bridge where the Franklin's Gull is being seen into our GPS.  But the GPS just wouldn't get a signal it was 8:20 and we still weren't more than .5 mile from our hotel.  We didn't know what to do, where to go and our GPS wouldn't work.  We were ready to ask for directions (but after all who at a gas station 20 minutes away would know the northerly Farrington Road Bridge on Lake Jordan?)  But I had the idea, check for written directions on the GPS.  And that worked.  Before you knew it we were on I-40 west and headed for the gull.  We arrived to the lake and almost immediately spotted the flock of Ring-billed Gulls.  I got out my scope.  I was looking for a smaller, darker, dinky-billed gull with white crescents above the eyes.  That would be a Franklin's Gull, a lifer for me and year bird number 368.  I searched for it and then I spotted a smaller, darker gull!  Could it be?  I got the scope on the bird.  I studied it and was 99 percent sure but I'm not a gull expert.  Another birder pulled up and asked if it was there.  I told him I was pretty sure it was the Franklin's I was looking at.  I asked him for conformation help.  He looked and indeed it was the Franklin's Gull.  We were there only about 20 minutes and we had got it as easy as pie.  Happy as can be, we headed off to another park to do some birding.  As expected, I didn't come up with any year birds but I tallied 25 species plus a confusing fall warbler.  Highlights included many Ruby-crowned Kinglets, several Brown-headed Nuthatches which was a year bird just yesterday, a Magnolia Warbler, a Great Blue Heron, a Killdeer that flew right by me, and an Osprey in addition to White-throated, Song, and Chipping Sparrows.

What an awesome trip - the 2 target year birds and so much else fun!

Tomorrow we head home to Virginia, but not for long, by the end of the middle of the first week November we're headed north to Waggoner's Gap PA to try for a NOGO (N. Goshawk).

Until later,


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Day one of North Carolina trip - Brown-headed Nuthatch and Big Year movie!

This afternoon around 1:30 pm my mom and I pulled out of New Hope Virginia, North Carolina bound with eyes on the Franklin's Gull and Brown-headed Nuthatch.  Around 6:00 pm we pulled into Chapel Hill North Carolina and arrived at the health food store.  As luck would have it I discovered a "birdy" area right around the parking lot of the food store.  House Finch, American Goldfinch, but my eyes were looking for a nuthatch.  I saw an interesting bird fly into the tree and I looked carefully at it.  Clearly a nuthatch but I didn't have binoculars so I couldn't tell what kind.  But then thank god I heard it call - Brown-headed Nuthatch!  Number 367 for my Junior Big Year.

We got everything we needed in the shop and continued on, to a movie theater to check when the Big Year was playing in case we wanted to go see it tomorrow after I search for the Franklin's Gull.  Luck would have it, I arrived at 7:02 pm and the Big Year started playing at 6:50 pm.  That means we where there in perfect time to arrive just in time but miss the previews.  We got tickets and in we went.  We still had to see some previews but fortunately didn't miss any of the Big Year.  It was a wonderful movie with some amazing bird scenes (talk about the fallout on High Island Texas!  My gosh!) I also loved the scene of the Great Gray Owl in the snow.  Just awesome!  For any birders that haven't seen it yet, I HIGHLY SUGGEST it. 

We're now in the Doubletree Hotel of Durham North Carolina, but are you sure this is a hotel?  It's as big as a house!  And are you sure this is 3 stars?   It's good enough to be a 4-5!  We got it on Hotwire for $52 per night but it's normally about $150 per night (which in itself seems low for this room!)

We're right in position to get up in the morning and go to the Farrington Road Bridge where the Franklin's Gull is being seen.  I hope to get it early so we can explore the area, bird other places, etc. tomorrow but we'll be on site all day to wait for the bird if that's what it takes.

Friday, October 21, 2011

I will likely get to 368!

More exciting news:

I asked for help on the Carolinas birding list for directions, etc. to the Franklin's Gull.  Many people have responded and BIG THANKS to all of them - now it will be easy to find the bird!

Someone told me that they read on this blog that I need Brown-headed Nuthatch.  And yes I do.  He said that if I learn the call it's easy in the pines along the lake that the Franklin's is at.  That's excellent news as it makes for a likely 2 year birds which will put me at 368 for the year, just 32 away from 400!  In Arizona I'll dash through 400.  Eyes are on the end of year number!  402?  406?  410?  January 1st, 2012 12:00:00 am will tell!:)  No, not December 31st, 2011 11:59 pm because what if I heard an unusual owl calling in the last minute of 2011?  Yes, unlikely, EXTREMELY unlikely, but you don't count your number until the year is officially over!

The chase is on!

I just got notified of a Franklin's Gull that is being seen daily from a certain bridge near Chapel Hill North Carolina.  This is a rare straggler to the east and a bird that I need for my year list.  Tomorrow, Saturday Oct. 22 my mom and I are taking off to NC!  We plan to search for the bird (and find it) on Sunday and return home Monday.

We have the hotel and everything booked, we're all set if I can get the printer working to print up the information!

I plan to post each day with updates.  Franklin's here I come!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mid-October overview

It's now early/mid October and I only have 2.5 months left in my Junior Big Year.

It's been over a month since my last year bird (Red-necked Phalarope, number 366 on September 10).  Truthfully, this is not surprising super surprising.  Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Blue-winged and Connecticut Warblers (other than an odd vagrant) would be the only birds that I could possibly still pick up in my area.  Those are very tough and it's now late for them.  I won't really get any more new year birds in may home area other than possibly Northern Goshawk if I get really lucky.

I'm at 366 for the year and 400 is my goal for the year's end but if I get in the 390s somewhere I'm solidly happy.  I'm over 350, my original goal, what more can I ask?

Brown-headed Nuthatch will be the easiest year bird I still can pick up.  It is very easy on a certain trail in Chincoteague Virginia, a place I'm visiting this November.

Northern Goshawk will nearly certainly be placed on my year list one way or another.  In late October or early November I'm making a quick run up to Waggoner's Gap Hawk Watch in Pennsylvania where I should be able to get a gos.  If not I have a couple of backup options.  Goshawks do rarely migrate through this area.  The local Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch (where I've been spending most of my time lately) records one or two most years.  Arizona has a population of Goshawks and with luck I can possibly get one.

On my trip to Chincoteague Va in November I'll be stopping over at some awesome birding islands with the Monticello Bird Club.  These islands can hopefully host several easy year birds: Great Cormorant, Purple Sandpiper, one or both of the Sharp-tailed Sparrows, and possibly an oddity.  

Arizona will nearly surly get me 20-30 year birds.

I should make 400 but you never know.  What if weather scrues up Chincoteague, the Islands, or Arizona and diminishes the number of year birds I get?  There's always iffs.

On another note, I may have to subtract a bird from my year list: Northern Hawk-Owl.  The one and only individual I have this year was the injured one I rescued and found alive on the side of a road in Alaska (see August entries in my blog for more information in the post titled Day eleven of Alaska trip - Welcome to Denali I would say!).  Because the bird was found injured, unable to fly along side of the road I don't know if it's countable or not.  If any of you readers have info on this, please comment and let me know.

UPDATE OCTOBER 14 2011: last night I attended the monthly meeting of the Monticello Bird Club in which I'm on the board of directors for.  This month's speaker was Bob Ake, who did a Big Year in 2011 and ended up with the second highest record for a Big Year (731)!  I asked Bob about my Northern Hawk-Owl and he said that I can keep it on my list.  He said that since I was the one to find it on the road and stumbled upon it it counts.  If someone else had found it, taken it and then told me about it and I came to see "their" bird it wouldn't count, but this wasn't the case so fortunately I'm still at 366 not 365!  

Until 367 or more news.