Friday, December 18, 2009

Top 10 Birds of the Decade

A few bloggers have started posting Top 10 Birds of the Decade lists (here and here). I think David's is a little more meaningful, but this will be a fun exercise. Although I had been birdwatching many times as a kid, I didn't really start actively birding on my own until 2001 or so. I didn't chase much for the first few years.

My Top 10 US Birds in no particular order (it's easier to limit it to a US list):

1. Green Violet-ear in Navasink, NJ - showed up on my birthday and I got to see it at sunrise the next morning. It flew off a short time later never to be seen again.
2. Long-billed Murrelet - this is the only bird on the list that I didn't actually see, but I missed this extremely rare bird TWICE. I missed the one at Sandy Hook because I was at a meeting drawing pictures of my annual accomplishments. LAME. I chased it a few days later and missed it. Then I missed another at Lake Nockamixon. Boo.
3. Great Gray Owl - one of the more impromptu acts of my life was hopping on a plane to Minnesota in February 2005 to see the owl invasion there.
4. Northern Hawk Owl - one of my favorite birds, obviously. I first got to see one in Minnesota and then saw another last year in New Hampshire.
5. Ivory Gull - Not one, but two!
6. Bicknell's Thrush - one of my most enjoyable birding experiences was hiking up Wakely Mountain to see Bicknell's Thrush with fellow bird bloggers.
7. Western Reef-Heron - chased twice in NY and both times I was joined by my wife. It was her first rarity chase and we had a lot of fun. Saw it on the second try.
8. Swallow-tailed Kite - seeing a bunch of these along with a throng of Mississippi Kites in Georgia was a real highlight for me and my wife
9. Green Jay - How can you not love this bird?
10. Hoary Redpoll - only because I froze my butt off in the town of Embarass, MN and had my parents think that I died in a car crash just to see one. My cell phone had cut out while on the phone with my mom and I didn't get service back. When I got service back an hour or two later, I had 11 voicemails.

I'm sure I missed some good ones. What are your top 10?

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Birding on a Soap Opera

My wife is addicted to Days of Our Lives, a US soap opera. I will admit that I do watch and enjoy the ridiculous story lines. Ok, stop laughing. In any event, we were watching it today and two of the characters were birding! Here's a snapshot:

The character on the left remarked that the American Goldfinch was "much too far north for this time of year." The guy on the right responded, "To me they're just rats with feathers." That's a Peterson Field Guide in his hand, the 5th edition. Pretty funny.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

A gull of the Ivory variety

In case you haven't heard, an immature Ivory Gull was found in Cape May, NJ on Friday. This is the 5th record of this species for NJ - 1940, 1955, and 2 in 1986. So, as you can imagine, the NJ birding scene and much of the mid-Atlantic is buzzing about the bird. As you may recall, I saw my first Ivory Gull in Piermont, NY in 2007. That didn't stop me from going to see this one in my own state. So, down I headed the 2+ hour drive very early on Sunday. I got to the marina that it favors and only had to wait 15 minutes or so before the gorgeous white creature appeared. I was joined by friends from VA and NJ and we spent a long while photographing and observing the bird. It was insanely accommodating, doing circuits over the crowd of birders, perching close by for photos, and picking from the water. It was nuts. Here are some photos.

Cape May Ivory Gull Photos - Nov. 29, 2009

Oh and did I mention it was a spectacularly sunny and warm day for late November? After viewing the gull, we hit some of the other Cape May hotspots. We got word of a Selasphorus hummingbird at a local feeder which we got to see. We also saw Eurasian Wigeon, Common Eiders, a few lingering Baltimore Orioles, a Bald Eagle or three, and a few lovely Red-shouldered Hawks. We struck out on the Swainson's Hawk that's been down there for nearly a month. All in all, it was a great day to be out. The gull is still being seen as of today. So if you didn't see one of the Massachusetts birds last year, you get a second shot. Although not an adult, this bird is still a beauty and it's a chance to see a bird that is not only rare in the US, but becoming more rare globally.