Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hello from Portland

Columbia River Gorge
Hello readers! Unfortunately, I left my CF card reader home so I can't post any close-up bird shots, but we did take plenty of them so far. We have our other camera and a reader for that built into the laptop, so I can share some of those. So far, we've really enjoyed our 4 days in the Portland area. The town itself is amazing with great restaurants, breweries, an incredibly eco-conscious and friendly community, great scenery, and easy access to everything. The surrounding area is gorgeous too. I can't do it enough justice. We also greatly enjoyed an afternoon birding with the Born Again Birdwatcher. He and his family hosted us for a delicious dinner and some enjoyable conversation (with Swainson's Thrush and Stellar's Jays in the yard, among others);. I'll give some more detailed highlights of our trip in future posts. We're off to wine country tomorrow.

For those of you wondering, we have seen many birds and I have two life birds so far: American Dipper and Hermit Warbler.

They have donuts with bacon on them in Portland. Amazing. Seriously.

Friday, May 23, 2008


A "lovely" female Brown-headed Cowbird eating a juicy carpenter ant. I have a friend who tried as hard as possible not to see a cowbird at the start of each new year. I think his record is sometime in late March.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Prepping for Oregon

Beth and I are headed to Oregon on Saturday for 8 days of Pacific Northwest vacationing. It is an extremely needed vacation since my job has been taking up 95% of my time. We've had very little time for the two of us because of that. We'll be visiting Portland for 4 nights, the Willamette Valley (wine country) for 2 nights, and then finishing up along the coast. We'll be meeting up with the Born Again Birdwatcher to do some birding which should be a great time. We'll probably post some pics along our journey, so keep an eye out for them.

Monday, May 19, 2008

"Opposable Chums" Available for Purchase

I'm excited to report that Opposable Chums, the documentary about the World Series of Birding, is now available for purchase. I purchased my copy.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Image of a Birder

I saw this pop-up ad today while browing the web. Let me start by saying that I have no problem with more "senior" women birders. I know many and call them my friends. I just thought this image shows us that very stereotypical image of a birder and it gave me a good laugh. That's a sweet Questar scope she has there!

Friday, May 16, 2008

American Copper

The American Copper (Lycaena phlaeas) is a butterfly that packs a lot of beauty into its quarter-sized frame. You can even see its banded antennae here. I like these photos because it looks like the butterfly is standing next to snow or that it's a giant butterfly standing on a wooded, snow-capped mountain. I took these on Saturday at the World Series of Birding. American Coppers are frequently encountered flying low over the ground. One of their host plants, Curly Dock, is abundant there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Our World Series Team in NJ Monthly Mag

We had a reporter/birder from NJ Monthly magazine tagging along with us most of the day on Saturday. Here's the article which also has a link to a video of our leader calling a Barred Owl. I think the back of my head makes an appearance once.

We also had a movie crew following us for a good part of the day. More on that in a future post.

My Little Buttercup

I took this photo of a Buttercup on Sunday. I'm not sure what species it is. It had this cool little flower fly perched on it that I'm working on an ID for too. (Update thanks to BugGuide: it's likely Toxomerus marginatus, a type of Syrphid fly.)

Here's the fly blown up.

And for those of you who were willing to scroll down and read more. Here's what I think of every time I see a Buttercup. Enjoy the video.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Panoramic images

I love the panoramic feature on my Canon S3. I've been hesitant to post the panoramic photos on my blog because they are difficult to view. The web site Panoye comes to the rescue. They allow you to post panoramic pictures and embed a pan-able (is that a word?) view of the photo on your blog. Panoye is also linking the photos to a Google map in an effort to create a panoramic view of the world!

Here's a panorama from the Sandy Hook hawk watch platform. The directional part came out incorrect and I couldn't figure out how to change it. Cool site though.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Warbler ID Quiz

This picture was taken (not by me) on Saturday, May 10, at Sandy Hook here in New Jersey. We missed seeing this bird on the World Series of Birding. Do you know what it is?

Rosey Gros

Two males and one female Rose-breasted Grosbeak were hanging out at the Sandy Hook Bird Observatory feeders this weekend. It added some fun to my volunteer day trying to get photos of them. The feeder they were using wasn't much bigger than they were. You can really see that "Female Purple Finch on Steroids" look of the female.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Tastes like Raccoon


I did a bit of birding on Sunday before my volunteer day at Sandy Hook. The suite of birds were more or less the same as on Saturday. A bird that we had some difficulty pinning down on Saturday was a Black Vulture. We eventually found a pair flying high out over the bay. Perhaps it was these same two individuals that were feasting on a dead raccoon today.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

World Series of Birding Results

Yesterday was the 25th World Series of Birding. Like last year, I acted as co-leader on the Sandy Hook Century Run. Unlike a traditional 4-man team, the Century Run allows anyone to sign up and donate towards Sandy Hook Bird Observatory. This year, we had 32 participants - the maximum limit we could accommodate and not go nuts.

The day started at 5:30 AM and the weather was quite cool. Participants donned jackets, warm hats, and gloves to explore the bay-side area known as Plum Island. Here we encountered some of the expected species like Gray Catbirds, Boat-tailed Grackles, Laughing Gulls, Willets, and Clapper Rail. A less-expected species we heard, but did not see, was a singing Seaside Sparrow. Unfortunately, we saw very little evidence of a good migration. Warblers and other migrants were few and far between. Could this be a harbinger of a slow birding day?

We then jumped from the far south end of Sandy Hook to the far north end. We explored the "Locust Grove" where we again encountered little to no migrant birds. A small pocket of warblers including Northern Parula, Yellow Warbler, and Yellow-rumped raised our hopes a bit. We also saw our second Kingfisher of the day and our first raptor - a Sharpie. Part of the group had split off and called us by walkie-talkie to tell us they had a Cape May Warbler (!) - a great bird to find anytime and very tough to find in spring on Sandy Hook. We rushed over to where they were and after a few moments of "Where did it go?", we were all able to get amazing looks at a male Cape May Warbler. A long walk out to the "salt pond" yielded a Meadowlark, some Cedar Waxwings, and a few shorebirds.

Next, we did some woodland birding hoping to scare up some more migrants. Several hours of birding added species like American Redstart, Broad-winged Hawk, B&W Warbler, and Baltimore Oriole. The local Barred Owl was also very cooperative. He called unprovoked quite a few times. Overall though, it was evident that migratory birds were few and far between and that we'd have to work to have a high species count.

We spent lunchtime at the Spermaceti Cove enjoying the cloudy, but decent weather. This is always a favorite part of the World Series for me since you never know what will show up. We had Red-breasted Nuthatch, Red-breasted Merganser, several egrets, and Great Blue Heron, among others. Extra bonus points go to Laura's husband delivering Dunkin' Donuts coffee and Munchkins to the group. Bravo!

We then scanned the ocean for a bit, but didn't see much of anything despite it being extremely calm. A move to the bay side yielded one of our more interesting finds - two Surf Scoters.

Back to the north end we went for a visit to the hawk watch platform. Raptor movement was light, but the Munchkins were tasty. I picked out our only Forster's Terns of the day flying overhead. We could see hundreds of other terns flying over the bay in the far distance, so another "death march" out to the salt pond was in order. We made our way out the trail on soft sand where we found 13 Piping Plovers loafing about and a few sitting on nests. Guess who didn't have his camera? My excuse is that I have no excuse. The Piping Plovers were calling and chasing each other around. It was quite a show. All of the terns were Common Terns and we had the pleasure of seeing them display to each other and attempt some mating. It's hilarious seeing the males stand on the backs of the females.

After a grueling walk back to the cars, dinner was in order. Dinner was at the Sandy Hook book store where we had great views of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks on the feeder, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird feeding, and an Indigo Bunting. I also tasted gluten-free beer for the first time, which was surprisingly good. It's made with sorghum.

We closed out the day back at the north end of Sandy Hook waiting for night birds to appear. A lone Bank Swallow and a long Kestrel added a few birds to our tally. We struck out on Least Bittern which nests here. We did get to see and hear Common Nighthawk and a few Black-crowned Night Herons flew over. Complete darkness approached and a last effort for nightjars and owls proved fruitless.

Despite a lack of migrants, we ended with 117 species for the day which isn't bad at all. The weather held up. We had no rain. I got to see some old friends and make some new ones. We had good food. Heck, we even had beer. I went home and got a wonderful night's sleep. Congrats to all who competed! I can't wait to do it all again in 2009!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Opposable Chums - a film about the World Series of Birding

I always thought the World Series of Birding would make an interesting documentary. Jason Kessler has put one together in the form of Opposable Chums. The film has not yet been released, but you can view the trailer below.

"Opposable Chums" trailer from Laura Guerard on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Daily Show meets The World Series of Birding

The Daily Show is an amazing show. I never even knew this hilarious clip existed. It's from 2000 and features Steve Carell "reporting" on the World Series of Birding. Look for Paul Guris of See Life Paulagics fame responding to how feels after winning at around the 3:50 mark.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Armchair Birding and Eagle Prosthetics

My birding lately has been strictly from behind closed doors. I've seen a whopping 8 species of warbler this year! My work schedule has been kicking my butt. Instead of enjoying birds, I get to read everyone's reports. Five Cape May Warblers, Loggerhead Shrike, Wilson's Plover, and FORK-TAILED Flycatcher - all at Sandy Hook in the last two days. Ugh. The World Series this weekend will be my solace. In other news, here's a story about a Bald Eagle getting a prosthetic bill.

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, May 05, 2008

Unknown Moth

I encountered this moth on Friday, April 25 at the Scherman-Hoffman Sanctuary. I thought it was a butterfly at first. I was hoping for a Compton Tortoiseshell. When it landed on the trunk of a tree, I realized it was a moth. I thought it might be a Tulip-Tree Beauty, because it was on a tulip tree. Unfortunately, the photo is garbage. I'll post it to and see what they think. Any thoughts from the readers out there?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Check out my crown!

This is likely one of the best pictures I've taken yet with my new lens. It's not as sharp as I'd prefer, but it's hard enough just getting these Ruby-crowned Kinglets in the viewfinder! The hawk watch platform at Sandy Hook gave a nice vantage point for seeing the red crown on some of the males. A few had their crowns really pushed up!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Do you take field notes?

Richard Crossley, author of the tremendously awesome "The Shorebird Guide," was the guest speaker at our annual Urner Ornithological Club dinner last Thursday. His speech was titled "The Past, Present, and Future of Birding." It was partly an autobiography and partly an appeal to the masses to look more closely at the birds and to get kids involved with birding. He showed some scans of field notes that he has taken and regaled the benefits of taking field notes. He remarked that almost all iconic birders take field notes, which in my reading and experience I have found to be true. I'll admit it. I don't and never have. I don't even write down the birds I see. I can absolutely see the benefits of field notes and sketches in helping one become an exceptional birder. It's one of those things that I intend to start doing one day... Do you take field notes? Please share in the comments.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Sabal Palm Memories

If you've been keeping up with all the border wall controversy, you may have heard that the Sabal Palm Audubon Center in Brownsville, TX is going to be adversely affected by the wall. The border wall will effectively cut off Sabal Palm from the US and put it in some weird in-between zone across the river from Mexico yet behind the wall from the rest of the US. This would make access extremely difficult and threaten the livelihood of this sanctuary. Sign the Petition to help save the Sabal Palm Audubon Center.

In 2005, I had the pleasure of visiting the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas on a trip with Field Guides led by the incomparable Chris Benesh. One of the highlights of a phenomenal trip was birding at the Sabal Palm Center. It was my first sightings of Green Jays and Plain Chachalacas as they fed from feeders right near the parking lot. A butterfly garden was full of interesting critters waiting to be identified. Olive Sparrows skulked in it too. We also saw Groove-billed Anis, Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Long-billed Thrashers, and many other interesting birds.

Plain Chachalaca

Sabal Palm offers some of the last remnants on US soil of plants and animals that are at their northernmost ranges. It saddens me that this gem is in trouble due to this ridiculous border wall. Please help save Sabal Palm Audubon Center by signing the petition. It takes only a minute.
Neotropic Cormorants drying their wings

Thursday, May 01, 2008

25th World Series of Birding

It's only a little over a week away... one of my favorite days of the year... The World Series of Birding is on May 10! If you're not familiar, it's essentially a bird-a-thon where teams compete (or just play along) to see as many species as possible in one day throughout the state of NJ. This year, we celebrate 25 years of fun, birds, and great fund raising. I will be participating, of course. Like last year, I will be helping out with the Sandy Hook Century Run where we limit our day to birding only on Sandy Hook. If you're interested in donating, please contact me off-line or leave a comment. Here are some posts about my World Series experiences the last two years:

World Series 2007 - Sandy Hook

World Series 2006 - Ocean County