Thursday, December 11, 2014

Horned Lark sand bath

Taken this past July.  I can't recall on which date, but the USA was playing Belgium in their World Cup game.  I thought the US would win ... but they didn't.  I met up with another guy who liked world cup soccer as much as I do and we talked about soccer more than birds.

I love this video and even though I'm five months overdue posting it on my blog, I still enjoy watching it.   

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Ontario sparrows, (from September) photo essay

This past September (now it's December), I again visited my brother and sister-in-law at their beautiful and rustic property in Northern Ontario.  It didn't seem as good for birds this year - for example, no cooperative woodpeckers or raptors - but it didn't matter.  It is such a beautiful area and the weather was again fantastic.  Something is always going to be stirring about in mid-September and this year it was sparrows.  

I've been trying for a good Lincoln Sparrow (Melospiza lincolnii) photo for a long time.  This isn't it, but at least I can tell it's a Lincoln.

Song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) were plentiful.

No two ways about it - it's so beautiful.  This is the marsh on my brother's property. 

A few common yellowthroats (Geothlypis tracheas) were present and chipping.  This is a first year male bird.

Cyclops!  Probably a female common green darner (Anax junius) because they are, well,  common, and also because it looks like a green darner.  There are other darner species dragonflies this far north too.

Sympetrum species dragonfly, probably White-faced Meadowhawk (Sympetrum obtrusum), since this seems to be the most common this far north.  And in this photo the big white face is easily visible.  I've been taught that you need to have a Sympertrum dragonfly in hand to identify it to species.

I was hoping to see clay-colored sparrow, but it's a song.

We canoed to "daytona" beach, nicknamed by my nieces and nephew, when, as teenagers they came here to swim with their friends.

My brother stripping down to swim.  He needed a bath!  The water was freezing - this is northern Ontario after all.  All I could do was wade, but my brother did dunk himself.  

Photo speaks for itself.

Song sparrow

I think these are my favorite photos of the weekend.  A song sparrow and white-crowned sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) perched together in the early morning mist.

Swamp sparrows (Melospiza georgiana) were also plentiful.

1:19 minute video with active Swamp sparrow and quieter White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis).  That's me phishing in the beginning to keep the bird's attention.  Other sparrows are chipping in the background and at about 30 seconds that's a Pileated woodpecker's brief call.

These spider webs fascinate me.

Above and below, first year song sparrow.

Very worn, White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis), the northern species of our more southern Red-spotted Purple.

Still trying for a good Lincoln sparrow photo.  Again, this isn't it, but too good to throw away.

Basswood Lake from the Melwel Lodge deck where we had dinner one evening.  The lodge was not open for business, but they rent out cabins to a local college to house students participating in environmental field research in the area.

This year we did finally see a young black bear, perhaps two or three years old, run across the road as we were leaving - too fast to get a photo.  Alas, no moose seen.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

New York City: The High Line

Again, just a little behind in my posting.  In mid-September I visited NYC for a conference and, along with Central Park - a must place to visit, I walked the High Line, starting at W. 30th St. between 10th and 11th avenues and ending at Gansevoort St. just south of W. 12th between 9th and 10th avenues for my first ever visit.  

Below is a photo essay of this iconic and beautiful NYC outdoor escape. The photos included here were from my Friday morning visit and you might think that no one goes here.  Oh no!  As the morning wore on the High Line became more and more crowded.  After sitting in the conference hall all day Saturday, I went back again in the evening because I wanted to walk and stretch my legs.  The High Line was thronged.  Many European tourists seemed especially attracted to the High Line.  

There is a building boom going on all around the High Line, but the construction did not deter from my visit.  Rather it was more of a reminder of where I was and that nothing stays the same in NYC.

I have Leadplant (Amorpha canescens) above in my own garden at home.  I hope mine grows as well as this one.

Of course, I was looking for birds.  I was a little surprised not to find many.  The plantings are lush and are mostly native species.  But the High Line is narrow and the walking trail is in the center so the plantings are mostly narrow strips along each side of the trail.  Not surprising that Passer domesticus would be present and busy eating seeds from one of the grasses.       

The only migrant bird I found was a common yellowthroat in a nice thick clump of plants but he offered absolutely no opportunity for a photo.

Many areas of the High Line have water views and a few gulls and cormorants were perched on these old pylons.

As it turned out, during the time I was visiting, robins were the most plentiful bird.

Bumblebees were nectoring on early autumn aster and goldenrod blooms.

How many bumblebees can you count on this goldenrod?

I completely recommend a visit to the High Line.  Such a unique and beautiful place.  Go on a weekday morning and take a cup of coffee with you.  Find a bench.  Relax and enjoy. 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Central Park in mid-September

Just a little behind with my postings!

I went to NYC for a conference in mid-September.  The conference hotel is in Times Square in the mid-40s and Central Park is about a 25-30 minute crowded uptown walk from there.  Arriving in the park it is then about another 25-30 minute walk to the Ramble.  Being an infrequent visitor to such a huge park, I always need to adjust my route to make sure I stay on the correct trajectory for the Ramble.  It's easy to get side-tracked when visiting such a fun and interesting place. 

This year the resident birds were abundant.  I saw a couple of other birders and a few photographers, but if migrant birds were present they made themselves scarce.  


American robins were plentiful including this wary drinker.

Northern cardinals were also abundant and still feeding young.

I hope this escapee cockatiel (?) was enjoying its freedom.  

Tailless common grackle

Dreadful photo of a northern waterthrush.  Other migrants included a female-type rose-breasted grosbeak and ruby-throated hummingbirds nectoring on jewelweed.

In broad daylight I saw several of these guys, about as large as good-size hamsters, scurrying around.

These cute youngsters attracted a large crowd on the bridge over their drainpipe burrow.  The sound of a roller-bladder over the bridge slats hustled them back into hiding. 

As always, a sign on the opposite side of the bridge!