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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Short Field Trip

I asked my oldest if she would like to go do something special with me as a mini-celebration for making the honor roll this nine weeks, and to my surprise, she wanted to go to Circle B Bar Reservation to look at birds. Then she wanted to go to Lake Hollingsworth to watch birds, then to Lake Morton. Then she thought about it for a second, and settled on going to Circle B. I'm not going to complain about her indecisiveness, I'm just glad she wants to go watch birds!

The trip was easy enough, we started out by looking straight up and noticing both black and turkey vultures circling off to the . We had especially good looks at the black vultures' white patches toward the ends of the wing. Then we began walking along the trail/maintenance road to Heron Hideout. Along this trail, we heard birds, and tried to find them, but never saw them. Once we got to Heron Hideout, we looked up again, and found lots of different birds! We spent some time looking at flying Ospreys, taking note of their wing patches. We also found many of the herons and egrets we saw, as well as some Ibises.
On a bald cypress, two Bald Eagles rested in the shade. I was especially proud of Katie, because the second bird wasn't very visible, but she knew it was a Bald Eagle because of "It's overall brown body and white tail" sure field marks that looked exactly like bird perched next to it that was in full view!
After making a right onto marsh rabbit run, we walked a little ways, and a green heron flew out of the marsh on our left, and gave us a good look over as it flew about at our eye level, between us. Not long after we turned around, and walked back to the car, pausing a few moments to look at a double crested cormorant and anhinga perched in another bald cypress. As we got done walking Heron Hideout, something called in the brush behind, best we could figure, it was a bobcat. Not a bad end to a short trip!

Next time we'll take more pictures, we did keep an official list of birds, here it is:

Official List:

21 Species.

Wood Stork
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Great Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Green Heron
White Ibis
Glossy Ibis
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Bald Eagle
Red-shouldered Hawk
Common Gallinule
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Keeping it Simple

Two trips to report on this week,

No big impressive species lists from Friday at Holloway Park in Lakeland, Three of us walked the big loop, and got some exercise. We also had some great views of different butterflies. We did have some very brief glimpses at some Northern Parulas and Blue-gray gnatcatcher. Most of the migrants it seems, were taking advantage of the tailwind provided by the tropical low in south FL that day.  Coolest thing I'd say I saw was a Loggerhead Shrike. I've always thought it's a good day when I see one of those. I did take some horrible pictures of an American Kestrel using my binoculars and my cell phone camera.

There he is!
I suppose it will pass as "art"

The girls (Katie age 9 and Emma age 6) woke me up this morning wanting to go bird Circle B Bar, once again, not a big list, but we did have good practice using binoculars, and had some excellent looks at a little blue heron, and a Turkey vulture. I was especially proud of Emma, who ID'd the Little Blue Heron using field marks, shape, leg color and bill color. She also spotted the turkey vulture, which was only 15-30 yards away. You could really make out the details on the turkey vultures's head, I think we were leaving just as the migrants were waking up, there was some BGGNs in the parking lot on the way out. We got there at 8AM and left at 9AM.

Here's the link to the ebird checklists:
Holloway Park: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19809773
Circle B: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S19818484
I plan on being out at Holloway again at 09:15 Friday, and I'll certainly welcome any company.

Some notes on taking kids birding.
  • Prepare to be patient. You've got to be there to help the kids, iding birds, finding birds, and keeping lists comes second.
  • Make the outing about spending time together. They have fun birding, but I know it's mainly about being together, outside. The best part of our trip to Circle B was the ride home where I rolled all the windows down and they laughed while the wind blew through the car.
  • The right equipment makes a big difference. The most important thing to consider when considering binoculars for kids is size. smaller, even if it means less magnifcation is better. If you have to choose, choose lower magnification and bigger objective lenses. A pair of 6x 30s is good enough. Especially to start a young birder off right.
  • They'll love you forever if you remember to bring a snack.