Revised 2011 bird total:
437 species

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Orchard Oriole added!

My J. Big Year is just rolling on like a big burning fire!  Nearly every day in the last few weeks I have been getting at least one year bird with only a few days without one.  One day about a week ago I got an impressive 5 year birds, making the average for the last few weeks at least one even with the 'no year bird days'.  However, this rate is bound to stop.  This is an awesome time to birding, all the warblers, tanagers, buntings, vireos, flycatchers and tons of other summer birds are moving north at a rapid seeped making it easy for me to 'bag the birds'.  At this rate (if it continued all year), I could think about 400 bird species as a possibility for year's end.  Is this a goal to think about trying for?  Or should I keep it at 375?  Well lets see, I am now at 266 species, after my Ohio Warbler Trip coming up (early May) I should be at about 290 species or a few more.  By the end of the spring migration is over I hope to be over 300 which something I think I can achieve without too much hard work.  Is it possible to get 100 more species from June through December?  Well, lets see: 35 in Alaska will come without any problem with what I'm doing there and I may even get 50 on that trip.  Let's say that I'll get 40 because 35 seems surprisingly low given that there is tons of northern birds that I haven't gotten like both crossbills, Arctic Tern, just to name a couple.  That means I need 60 more to get to get to 400.  30 will come in Arizona and probably more.  There's still an Ontario trip but that is not a great birding destination but I still shall pick up about 10 birds.  If I get all my hoped for birds, then I still need 10-20 to reach 400.  This seems tough right now.  I'll keep my goal at 375 and I can always change it later into the year if I hit jackpots all the way.

Ok, that was just a bit of big year statistics.  Now lets go to the year bird I got today: I picked up Orchard Oriole while at a quick stop at a city park, the one that I got the Prothonotary Warbler at a few weeks ago.  I got good looks at 2 males.  Awesome birds!

Until later


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scarlet Tanager added!

Yesterday I headed for Shenandoah Nat. Park in hopes of finding bears and birds.  Along a hike, pishing and using my new "Universal Bird Caller" from Audobon, I came across some good birds.  Ovenbird and Hooded Warbler were among those that I encountered.  But as usual, I was after the year birds, those that would make a positive impact on my big year.  About 3/4 mile down the trail, I spotted a dark red bird in the deep woods.  Such an odd place to find a cardinal.  I photographed the bird, and yes it was a Scarlet Tanager male, a year bird, one that makes my year count up to 265!  I'm chugging on fast and strong towards 375!

I did encounter a bear yesterday which was awesome.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Cerulean Warbler added!

Yesterday evening I went out with Vic Laubach for birding along the local Blue Ridge Parkway.  Vic is one of my followers on this blog and a great birder, as well as the one of the coordinators for the annual local fall Rockfish Gap Hawk Watch.

The previous day Vic had seen a mother bear with a cub along the parkway so we also went to look for them.  Believe it or not, the bears were up in a tree right where they were the day before!  That was a treat.

At one of the spots Vic said something like "hear that? that's a Cerulean".  Cerulean Warbler would have been a lifer for me so I was excited.  We tromped through the brush to look for the bird but all we found was Redstarts.  The day was already a success though -- a heard bird is a year bird!  # 264.  Later on at a different location, we heard another one calling and then my mom finally spotted it and we all got to see it and I got great looks.  Awesome bird!  Thanks so much Vic and thanks mom for spotting it!

Until later,


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Grasshopper Sparrows

I was just a "non blogger" yesterday evening and didn't have it in me to post about yesterday's year bird.

I wrote a book about Black Bears in 2010 and it's being carried all across the country in National Parks (it's website is: the name of the book is "Oh No, Gertrude!".  I did a book reading at a local book store yesterday and did some birding at a local birding spot afterwards.  I've been told that Grasshopper Sparrows come here every year so I was on the lookout for them.

Not long into the walk, I heard the song of the Grasshopper Sparrow.  I count heard only birds, so I had Grasshopper Sparrow to had on to my list!  That's an exciting bird.  Soon I saw the bird, on a low-to-the ground branch as it sang.  It then flew to another branch, flew back to where I first saw it, and then dropped into the grass and out of view so I wonder if it's nest was in the grass there (?).  Later into the walk, I heard another GS.

Year count is 263 and running!

On another note, ARIZONA is now on the books for a trip this year!  It'll probably end up being early November that we go, that's the only time that it's really working out it seems with the other J. Big Year trips and other personal things.  That's not the best time in Arizona, but I'll "make it work" and I'll still get some great birds including different jays, thrashers, and raptors hopefully.  Super exciting and thanks to my wonderful mama and papa for making this trip possible!


Saturday, April 23, 2011

A run to Maryland..Baltimore Oriole!

Last night I never got around to posting yesterday's sighting so I'll post it now.

My dad had to go to Hagerstown Maryland for a business trip, and I decided to come along because he said that we could do some birding on the trip as well.  And what a good decision that was, at the C&O Canal, (Cushwa Basin) in Williamsport Maryland the birds were all over the place!  I had six species of warblers but I had them all already this year.  I walked around for about 30 minutes, had a great encounter with a Muskrat, Rusty Blackbird pair was feeding in great view, but no year birds.  Then, there it was, up in the tippy top of a medium size tree, a mainly-orange bird that didn't look like an American Robin.  Getting the scope (binoculars were in the car, because they were not waterproof and it was raining) on the bird, I saw it bright and clear..Baltimore Oriole!  Year bird # 262.

On another note, I've upped my goal for total number of species by 25 bird species, now I'm shooting for 375!  This will be tougher especially with some news that I got last night about my Alaskan trip: Northern Wheatears, Arctic Warblers, and others will have left on their migration by the time I reach Denali National Park 10-15 August.  On the good side to the news that I got about the Alaskan trip, the birds along the coast, another one of my destinations in Alaska should be good at that time of year.  Also, the Gyrfalcons are easiest to see in Denali at that time of year, and that's awesome because Gyr is on the top of my most wanted list.   Plus of course the bears, moose, and all the other animals are so amazing that you just can't go wrong in Alaska!   It's going to be a great trip and a great journey for 375 birds.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A wave of warblers

Hooded Warbler male, year bird # 257

Today played a key part in my big year, I added 5 new year birds including one that I thought I was going to have to really work for but it showed up without much effort at all.  Just the way I like it!

I started off right at sunrise or very shortly thereafter at a well-known warbler location, Pocosin Cabin area in Shenandoah National Park.  It started out slow with only birds that I've already seen plenty of times like American Robins and Eastern Towhees.  It started to pick up though and I was after the year birds.  American Redstart was the first year bird of the day, lots were around in fact.  First I spotted a male which gave great looks.  The day was already a success but I was after more difficult to get birds.  A male Hooded Warbler was a nice surprise and a year bird.  A female was also around.  A very welcomed surprise was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak that gave awesome looks, and the best photo opportunity of the day.  By this time the birds were rolling and the RB Grosbeak was year bird # 259.  Could I really be at   260 by the end of the trip?  Yes indeed, with an Ovenbird quickly showing up for year bird # 260!

                                               Rose-breasted Grosbeak male, year bird # 259

At the end of the Pocosin walk I had 4 year birds under belt.  I had a few other places to check for warblers and if I got one more year bird I would have been at 261 for the year.  Bingo, at Lewis Mountain Picnic Area, also in Shenandoah Nat. Park my 'eye was on the prize' and I was looking at a Blackburnian Warbler male, year bird # 261 and also a lifer for me, plus a bird that I thought I was really gonna have to work for this year!

Also, the other evening I had a Ruby-throated Hummingbird at my place which was a year bird.

An awesome day.


Sunday, April 17, 2011

2 year bird day!

Another great day.  1 day, 2 year birds (including 1 lifer)!

Yesterday on the listservs I heard the report of 9 Red Crossbills at someone's feeders in the area.  I was bound to go check that out because that would be an important year bird.  I spent several hours at the place, hoping that the crossbills would be a show but a no show they were.  However, while waiting for the crossbills, a Red-breasted Nuthatch came several times to the feeders for brief visits.  That was a year bird, # 254.  The day was already a success!  After realizing that the crossbills would probably not show, I explored the mountains of Western Rockingham County.  After searching with only common birds, at a brief stop, I saw a small bird fly across the road.  My first thought was "Black-throated Green maybe", just because of the size, shape, and location.  I was in hot pursuit of the bird as that would have been a lifer for me.  "Shu,PshpshPshPishpshPshsh Sps Sps" I was trying to pish it out so that I could get a positive ID.  All I was getting was Chipping Sparrows.  Could my bird have really been a Chipping?  I figured that I had such a not good look that it might have been but I was going to keep trying.  Then, there it was, flying, and up into tall trees.  Then it sang.  Yes indeed, a Black-throated Green Warbler!  A lifer and year bird # 255.

An awesome day.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Kingbirds..Eastern added!

Another year bird, I'm on a streak, for the last several days I've been getting at least 1 year bird every day!

Today my mom and I had to walk our dog.  Being a birder, I made it in to a birding walk (ah - I love the dog but I'm all birding minded this year!)  I got some good birds including my nemesis bird for the longest time, including Brown Thrasher which I got last weekend.  Since we were walking on my home roads, that I bird daily, I didn't really think I'd get a year bird but I wasn't against getting one either (whenever I have a chance to get a bird I take the opportunity!)  We were walking along, then I spot a flycatcher fly to a wire.
"that doesn't look like a Phoebe" was my first thought.  I git the BINS on the, white tail tip is clear as day, year bird # 253: Eastern Kingbird!  It seems funny to me that I got Cassin's, Couch's, Western, and Gray Kingbirds before Eastern and Long-billed and Curved-billed Thrashers before Brown, but wild things do happen in a big year!

I'm going to Shenandoah National Park this afternoon and hope to 'win the lottery ticket' and find an early Cerulean or Chestnut-sided Warbler.

UPDATE: Shenandoah National Park didn't have any year birds.  Whip-Poor-Wills and Great Crested Flycatcher were the highlights but I had already gotten them both in Florida.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Prothonotary Warbler added!

After kicking back and watching a movie at my house this morning, of course the task goes back to the big year and I check the listservs to see if any unusual birds have been sighted in the area.  Indeed!  In nearby city Charlottesville at a park called Riverview a birder reported seeing a Prothonotary Warbler.  As I'm 11 years of age I ask my mom if she can take me for the bird.  It just so happens that we had to be in Charlottesville today anyway, so I was in luck.  We headed off for the bird and I said to my mom I'm "all-Prothonotary minded right now"*-()*  Upon arrival at the park we looked at the birds..Yellow-throated Warbler, Common Yellowthroats, Blue-headed Vireo and others.  The Prothonotary had been seen in a remote section of the park so it took some walking to get to.  I get to the "swamp" that it was seen in and begin my search for the bird, as that would be a lifer for me.  I get some good birds including a Green Heron but no Prothonotary.  My search is full-focused spying every bird I hear or see.  Then an unusual song catches my attention and I track it to the bird.  Bingo -- there in the middle of the frame in the binoculars is a beautiful Prothonotary Warbler!  SUPER AWESOME bird, a lifer and year bird # 252!  It prompts celebration and I went for a smoothie out to cool off after searching hard in 75+ degree weather and to celebrate the bird.  Awesome.  Purely awesome.


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

American Pipits!

American Pipit
A lifer for me and year bird # 251

After McCormick's Mill today where I added Solitary Sandpiper (see previous post), I decided to take a run into Rockingham County and try for some year birds there.  Jackpot!  At well known birding location Leonard's Pond there were good birds everywhere it seemed!  Bonaparte's Gulls, Spotted Sandpiper, and more.  That's all great but what did I really need?  A year bird.  I have already picked up a good deal of the shorebirds, the only one I could really find that would possibly be coming through now in this region is Pectoral Sandpiper and that seemed like a really far off bet.  I was hanging out at the pond, then I spotted something on the shore of the pond.  Doesn't look like a shorebird.  Odd place to see a robin.  What is it?  So, I do a typical birder move and swing the scope on to it.  American Pipits -- 3 American Pipits!  That's a bird that I've been looking for a long time and a lifer for me.

The photos were just quick snapshots, and nothing compared to the excellent photo of the Solitary Sandpiper in my previous post, but I've included it in this post for you to take a look at.

Until later


Solitary Sandpiper gives year bird # 250!

Year bird # 250: Solitary Sandpiper
Photo by Penny Warren

This morning I went out with the Augusta Bird Club which I am part of to a birding destination called McCormick's Mill.  Leader Jo King did an excellent job leading the walk as did the birds for showing themselves and singing their songs.  Thanks Jo and thanks birds!  The walk had great results with Ospreys, Common Yellowthroat, and Red-shouldered Hawk among my personal highlights.  The 'best of the best' though was a Solitary Sandpiper that gave awesome looks as it perched on a log, and then flew out of sight.  That's a year bird for me, and a special one because it marks a major milestone for my year..250 birds!  In any year, this would be a major milestone..1 quarter of 1,000!  But extra special in my year, because my goal at year's end is 350 bird species, so knowing that I just need 100 more is a great thing!

Until later,


Monday, April 11, 2011

Bank Swallow and Chimney Swift added!

Today I took a run over to a local pond in hopes of finding some good birds.  I hit the jackpot!

Upon my arrival, I searched through Tree, N. Rough-winged, and Barn Swallows in hopes of finding an unusual one.  Then, I spotted one that didn't fit in.  It had the brown back and wings, white underbelly and throat, and the dark neck collar!  Bank Swallow without a doubt, a lifer for me and year bird # 248!  Then, a few minutes later, several Chimney Swifts were circling above me!  Also a year bird.  So great to have spring arrivals getting me year birds.

Currently I'm at 249 for the year, next year bird gets me 100 away from my year's end goal!!!


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Finally a Brown Thrasher!

Ah, a little relief tonight, I don't have to be thinking "how the heck will I get a Brown Thrasher?" like I have every day for the last few weeks!  After I got American Avocet in Texas which was my true nemesis bird for the longest time, Brown Thrasher became my new nemesis bird.  I've searched in many places for them, but they've avoided me for the longest time..until today!

This evening I headed for Shenandoah Nat. Park, not really a trip for the Junior Big Year, actually, the main focus was to look for Black Bears.  No Black Bears, but it did make a nice impact on the big year!  While photographing a skunk (out of all things!), I heard rustling in the brush.  Then it flew.  Then another one followed behind.  I got enough of a look to make the ID.  BROWN THRASHER!  Now I was hot after the bird, I wanted a better look and a photo.  I heard the rustling, I saw them fly again..but that wasn't the real deal.  I still wanted that "classic Brown Thrasher perched on a branch" that I saw dozens of times last year.  "SHpshPshPshPushPshPuSHU" "PishUEShu PSst, PSst", I was trying to pish the thrashers out into the open.  No luck.  What am I going to do?  Well, I decided to do something I don't usually do and do a "full pish" and pish REALLY loudly and strongly.  "PISHPSHFUSHPISHPSHPSH".   That finally caught one of them's attention enough and he/she hoped up onto a branch.  The lighting, angle, and view was against me, but I still managed a partially-obstructed photo (see above).

What an important and good bird to get!

Until later,


The current running total for my year is 247 species!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Blue-headed Vireo added!

I attended a field trip with the Rockingham Bird Club to Madison Run today with leader Greg Moyers who did an excellent job in getting us birds!  We had great looks at Black-And-White Warbler and much else.  However, the highlight without a doubt was several Blue-headed Vireos which sang beautifully and gave good enough looks!  Life bird and year bird #246 for me!!!

2 vireo life birds 2 days in a get me Warbling tomorrow!  -()*


Friday, April 8, 2011

Red-eyed Vireo added!

While walking along a familiar stream at the edge of Shenandoah National Park yesterday, a fairly good birding spot where I have added several year birds this year, an early Red-eyed Vireo produced a year bird, #245!  A sweet bird.

Also, not relevant to my J. Big Year, my feeders on the home front have become very active with Brown-headed Cowbirds, Song Sparrows, House Sparrows, American Goldfinches, and others which is very exciting!

Until year bird #246:)


Saturday, April 2, 2011

Greater Yellowlegs added!

Today I birded a lot in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia and got some great birds including a Trumpeter Swan, in fact the immature that has hung around in my area since January and seen off and on (see 1st post in blog) but known of the good birds were year ones..except 1.

While at home for a few hour "stop" in between birding outings I saw that a possibly Franklin's Gull (really rare for my area) had been spotted at a pond 25 minutes away.  I had to go look.  Nope, the gulls turned out to be Bonaparte's HOWEVER, also at the pond was a Greater Yellowlegs, year bird # 244!

Until later,


Friday, April 1, 2011

Allen's Hummingbird headed away

A note I wanted to share on my blog that I just got notified of via Va-Bird listserv.

The young female Allen's Hummingbird that I saw in early February and mentioned in one of my first posts has left or is leaving very soon.  Little Martha Gail (Martha Gail is her name) didn't act normal at the feeders this morning, MG's host Julie K. reported.  It's time for MG to go west and find a mate to raise a family.  Good luck and safe travels Martha Gail!