Monday, May 15, 2017

Planning the Birding

New Year, added focus.
Every year, I want to go birding more, and every year, I eek a little more out of birding, try different things, make it more productive I think. I really like eBird, and last year I expanded my use of it. Things kind of tapered off at the end of the year though.

After New Year, I decided to go birding around Lake Morton after I got off work. So far, this has been a pretty good activity, the couple of times I've made it. There's a bunch of introduced swans and ducks, but for some reason, this is the lake all the winter diving ducks seem to hang out. All winter, Scaup, Ring-necked, and Ruddy ducks play around. There's even a bunch of American pelicans that hang out around the edge of the lake in the winter. Summer time, there's still waders of all kinds, Wood ducks, occasional Solitary Sandpipers, not to mention all the exotics that are kept as wild pets.

There's the local hotspots as well, especially Circle B Bar Reserve. The sandpipers there have really been showing out! Reports of Ruff, Western, and a Phalarope. I got Stilt, Pectoral, White-rumped, Solitary, Least, and Semipalmated sandpipers in addition to a nemesis bird: Bobolink!

Holloway shines bright as the closest hotspot to my house. I'm still sparrowless at that site, but I'm managed to see 73 species there so far. This year, I've added 8 species to my site list there, and I've got high hopes for the rest of the year. Even after the sandpiper blitz at Circle B, Holloway is still the place I've seen the most species of birds. It's my goal to be 90+ species there by the end of November.

I also want to expand out of Polk county. Get into Pinellas and Ft Desoto. Visit some of the other coastal spots. I anticipate a birthday big day that encompasses the I-4 corridor somehow. This summer I plan to visit my parents, and I want to open up some places on the way there, and where they live with the kids. Visit the Louisiana State Arboretum and Chicot state park. The kids would like it there, I think. It seems to be set up similarly to the nature center at Circle B Bar. I want to tromp around Kisatchie National Forest looking for Red cockaded woodpeckers!

I'm making plans. Plans to bike and go birding, hike and go birding, teach kids about the outdoors and go birding. I can't wait to find out what I'll see next.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Actually Rode my Bike... Twice Even!

Two Sundays in a row, I woke up before dawn.

The first Sunday morning heralded the day before the beginning of school for E (Kid #2) and also the end of a small vacation. We were out of town at the beginning, and visiting with my parents at our house the rest of the time. I needed a break from the break. I needed to see something green.
I always attempt self improvement, sometimes it works better than others. One of my more recent efforts involves becoming physically fit by riding my bicycle to work. Because of the vacation, I haven't been riding to work, but I have done a lot of walking, hiking, swimming with the kids, and other stuff to maintain what I've accomplished. On Sunday morning, the bicycle called to me.

"Go to Holloway Park," it said. "You'll gain blog material."

Hey it worked! I had fun riding there because the exercise I have been getting made the trip quick and easy. That increases the chances I'll keep getting up early on Sundays to do this trip. I also managed to see a few birds, 23 species to be exact, including some (like Laughing Gull) I hadn't seen at Holloway park in a while.
Sky was overcast, temps still warm. The dawn was gorgeous. First order of business was to ride my back down the dirt road to the area where people park who want to do the running trails. Looking over the grass fields for Killdeer and Eastern Meadowlarks, I only managed to spot various Grackles, and the Ospreys on their nests over on the ball field lights to the north of the park. No Killdeer, no Meadowlarks. I did spot one nice looking American Kestrel, and some Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks going to roost. After rechecking the birds around Lake Ann, I parked the bike against the fence and locked it up. Holloway has a "no bikes on the trails" policy, and I respect that.

Walking the trails revealed nothing highly unusual. There were higher than normal numbers of Blue-gray Gnatcatchers about, and that was about the only sign of migration I saw. There was a late seasoned Great Crested Flycatcher there that came out while I was pishing at the local Tufted Titmice. I hopped on the bike at about 5 to 9am, soaked in sweat and dew, and mashed pedals back home, happy to see birds, and to pedal my way there and back.

The next week I repeated, only instead of going out into the field first, I parked, and walked the trails first, the first thing I saw heading into the park was an Eastern Bluebird. I glanced briefly at the pond, confirmed it was still there, then beat feet. There's a couple of places at Holloway that I'm convinced are magical. I think that the next time I'm there, there will  be some heavy activity. There's the Poplar tree that I saw a mimid trifecta in a while back (Brown thrasher, Northern Mockingbird, and Gray Catbird all eating the same thing from the same tree!), and there's also the line of cypress trees that seem to offer so much at the right time. This time, there was still very little sign of migration. The weather was just too clear I think. Gnatcatchers and a Northern Parula were all that was there to scratch the listing itch. The bird watcher in me though noticed a change on the local birds. They were looking very frazzled. The Tufted Titmice were missing tail feathers, and mockingbirds all were very gray and worn looking. Cardinal tails could barely be called tails, and the Boat-Tailed Grackles could barely be called that. Soon they'll be full on no tail grackles.

I took the trip around the parking area on bike, still no Eastern Meadowlarks, no shrikes, couldn't even scare up a Killdeer. That day, I did see Barn Swallows for the first time at Holloway. That's one of those birds that's been on my list of  "I ought to be seeing these here, and I haven't yet". So are Chimney Swifts. Soon they'll be gone south I suppose.

I mashed pedals hard on the way home, burning off energy and stoking the thirst to keep up this trend.
We'll see how it goes tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Not a Bad Baseball Hitting Average

We participated in the Global Big Day on May 9th! Didn't make it to Holloway Park or Lake Hollingsworth, but we did get out there and do some birding.

We went to Circle B Bar ranch and observed birds as a part of the Global Big Day. Our submitted list contained 23 species. Skies were clear, weather good, temp warm. Highlight of the day from my perspective was seeing 15 American White Pelicans flying above.

Somewhere out there is a Great Egret, and other waders and wonders.

"I gotta write down that I saw a great egret, a great blue heron, and an Alligator!"

It was nice out there, but got hot, wish would could go swimming here.

What was that Little blue heron doing?

We didn't just see birds, we also saw this beauty as well!

All in all it was a good trip, and we had fun seeing some birds.
Here's the official list:

BIRD (number observed)

Mourning dove (1)
Red-bellied woodpecker (2)
Tufted Titmouse (2)
Northern Cardinal (2)
Carolina Wren (heard 1)
Little Blue Heron (4)
White Ibis (17)
Osprey (2)
Glossy Ibis (2)
Snowy Egret (3)
Limpkin (2)
Double-crested comorant (2)
Great Blue Heron (3)
Common gallinule (9)
Tricolored heron (1)
Boat-tailed Grackle (2)
Anhinga (4)
Red-winged blackbird (1)
Cattle Egret (1)
American White Pelican (15)
Black-bellied whistling-ducks (2)
Great-crested flycatcher (2)
White-eyed vireo (1)

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Global Big Day is Coming Up!

Saturday coming up is Global Big Day. Because the lists my kids and I generate are shared with eBird, I asked the girls if they wanted to participate. They're down for it they say.
We'll see.
This morning we began planning our trip(s). I still have to go to work at noon, so it won't be a "real" big day for us, but if we get out at three different places we'll be doing good.

I'll try to post a map of our exploits later.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Is Birding Easy or Hard?

Over on the ABA blog there's an article about how the longer you do birding, the harder it gets. I get what this article is talking about. Nothing drives me nuttier than a bird that deviates just a little bit from the norm.

The most memorable experience I've had misidentifying a bird (so far) happened while in High School. In December, shortly before Christmas break of my Junior year, I found a dead Swift on campus. I don't know how many thousands of Chimney swifts I'd seen at this time, but I knew I had something different in my hand. The Peterson field guide showed that a field mark for the Vaux Swift as a white throat, and in my hand I held a swift with a VERY WHITE THROAT. The guide even said they'd been spotted in Louisiana before, so I even thought that I had a good case for a vagrant swift. When I considered what I thought I had, I also had to consider, the bird was dead. It would never fly again. It didn't die because it was a pest, or because somebody wanted or needed to eat it. It struck a window. There's a lesson in there for another time.

 I turned to the local birding expert, one of my teachers, to help me confirm the id. Dr. Hall has been involved in the Louisiana breeding bird census in the past, and has lead birding field trips around the area during what my high school called "special projects week". Our excitement bubbled, but he did give one word of caution. This would not just be highly unusual, this would be "third bird of its kind" in the state unusual. Our identification would have to be exact!

All I had was the Peterson, but he had something more, and after cross checking references, noting the fact that chimney swifts were definitely heard overhead at the same time this dead bird was discovered, Dr Hall broke the bad news to me. This was a Chimney swift. Yes, it had a whiter throat than normal, but it was still within acceptable variation. Also, the odds of only one particular kind of swift out of a whole flock of another kind of swift, striking a window and turning up dead were high.

Id redacted, the bird was still dead.

I still look for Vaux's swifts to fly by every now and again though.