Monday, February 9, 2015

Types of Posts on Facebook Birding Groups

I live in Pennsylvania right near the border of two other states (DE and NJ), and not a very far drive to another state (MD, in which I grew up and visit regularly), so to keep up on bird happenings, I have to keep an eye on four different states. Which means I belong to many Facebook groups for birding for each of those states, plus more regional groups (both larger and smaller). It gives me a good amount of exposure to what people post in these groups.

If you've ever been in a group like that, or actually on any group or message board or community or list-serv (from the olden days) then you run across the exact same problems. Nothing special to birding groups, but after awhile you see the patterns. You see the same types of posts over and over and the same discussions over and over again, and usually with the vigor of people who think that this is the first time any of this has happened.

It isn't.

In fact, the issues like this caused a split in the Maryland Birding group so that you have that group, a photography group, and a Maryland rare bird group. Yet still you get the same things.

So let's have some fun with this and make a list!


Thursday, January 29, 2015

So You Want to See the Redpolls at the Philadelphia Navy Yard?

Recently there have been some great birds spotted near me in the Philadelphia Navy Yard (note: I've seen it at “Naval Yard” many places, like on eBird, but the official name according to its website is “Navy Yard”). There has been a Vesper Sparrow for weeks now (not bad!), a handful of Common Redpolls (I need those!), and a single Hoary Redpoll (damn, that's a good bird!). If you ever need a reason to go birding there, then those are some pretty good ones.

Vesper Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, by Damon Orsetti

But if you do go, know there are some problems you might come across if you go. So, before you take a trip over to Philadelphia to get your next life bird (and I've run across a few people from many states who showed up to find it), let me guide you through it all so you know where to find it, when to go, and what to avoid.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cape May Ducks

I've been a bit busy lately and haven't been able to go birding as much as I would like to (which, in case you don't realize, would be every day), and this past weekend was no different. Sure I was down in Cape May, but for other reasons that did not involve birding.

The standard lighthouse pictures. Cape May, NJ. By Damon Orsetti
So instead of running around with others on the two-day course on sparrows, I managed to grab an hour to go birding around Cape May Point to enjoy the raptors and ducks. Now, the raptors are neat but hard to get pictures of (and they aren't quite my thing), so after seeing some Yellow-rumped Warblers I knew I had to get into the winter frame of mind. I concentrated on the ducks.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

A Bald Eagle Streak

There is a part in The Big Year near the beginning of the book where Al Levantin sees a Bald Eagle during the first day of the year. His comments were to the effect of other birders may be jaded with Bald Eagles, but he thinks they are great, with a certain subtle sense of superiority because he still appreciates them.
Bald Eagles at Heinz NWR, 9/14/2014 by Damon Orsetti
It was a small part of the beginning, but it felt odd to me for two reasons. First, almost every birder I've run into (including hard-core listers) still do appreciate Bald Eagles. Hell, they appreciate all birds (including the damn European Starlings). But the other reason is that, while many of us appreciate and like Bald Eagles, we realize that seeing them is not really a big deal in terms of likelihood.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

More Dragonflies at DuPont Environmental Education Center

Fall migration is upon us, and we owe you a few more posts about birds, but first let's look at some more dragonflies!

Like previously, at my work there is a nice selection of dragonflies, and some actually perch for pictures. Some will migrate away soon, and when the weather gets cold they will be all gone, so let's enjoy them before we turn our attention to hawk watches and big sits.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Other Flying Creatures at DuPont Environmental Education Center

Let's try something different for this post!

Today, while working at the DuPont Environmental Education Center down in Wilmington, DE, I walked around and took some pictures. I spent way too much time taking pictures of Least Sandpipers, but they were only about 10 feet away and were just asking to be photographed.

Least Sandpiper, DEEC 8/9/14
The entire time I was hoping more shorebirds would swoop in and I would have to work hard because of the rarities. While the first part did come true (more shorebirds!), they were all Least Sandpipers.

But I am not just a birder, I am also a nature-loving naturalist guy too! So I kept my camera out and went after the dragonflies instead.

Now, I don't know my dragonflies, so take any identification I give with a bit of caution. Also, at DEEC there are probably a dozen or two different species out now, and many of them don't like to perch for pictures for very long. The result? Me getting a handful of pictures that I spent way a bunch of time trying to ID. Using General Impression of Size and Shape doesn't work as well with Dragonflies.

So, without further ado, I will unveil the first Year of Birds dragonfly picture post! Over the next couple weeks I'll try to do this once or twice more, and who knows, maybe Paul will post some too? Do they have Dragonflies in Canada?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nummy Island in Early Summer, a Photoessay (with words!)

Cape May, New Jersey is full of fun places, but right nearby is a bunch of really good birding places as well. One of them is Nummy Island.

Nummy Island is an odd place, but I've been been there before and so I knew what to expect in terms of bugs and the fact that it really is just walking along the side of the road. I say that because many people just stay in their car with their binoculars, but those people are missing out! Sure there are bugs, but just wear long sleeves and long pants (thin because, you know, summer) and you should be fine (I eschew soaking my body with anti-insect chemicals).

So, on one of the earliest light days of the year, I set my alarm clock for 4:30 a.m., got up and drove down from my in-laws' house to Nummy Island.

(as always, all pictures by Damon Orsetti....please don't steal them)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Damon's Spring Warblers (with pictures!)

I love warblers, but honestly who doesn't? Gulls are fun and challenging, ducks have a nice variation, tend to sit on the water to be watched, and both groups are there to help pass the dreary winter months. They are good. Eagles and hawks and falcons are showy and neat, but are usually a dot on the sky and aren't that common. They are good, and even non-nature people know that. Woodpeckers are great and hummingbirds are charming and sparrows make you focus on things you should, but they just aren't warblers.
I'll let Kenn Kaufman explain a bit (from the Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding):

"No group of birds in North America separates birders from non-birders so sharply as the warblers. The average person may have never seen a warbler, even unknowingly, and may not know that such birds exist. Birders, on the other hand, may focus a major amount of their energy on warblers, especially in spring and fall. The arrival of warblers migrating north from the tropics is a highlight of spring for many birders, especially in the East. The challenge of identifying fall warblers is an absorbing puzzle for many observers, and the search for vagrant eastern warblers is a major preoccupation for many western birders, particularly in fall."

Spring migration is over, and I already miss it, but instead of wallowing in pity over it being done, I thought it would be better to celebrate the wonderful birds that we did see. This works well because I got my new camera just before migration started (not a coincidence) and I tried to get as many pictures as I could.

So what warblers did I see this year? I saw 26 all of last year (lame!), but this year I did much better and saw 30, though remember this is just for spring (come on fun fall warblers!). There are a couple that I could have gotten but didn't, which I'll go over first, along with my excuses.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Fish Crow Predation on Barn Swallow Chicks, a Photoessay by Damon Orsetti

While migration is long over (fall migration is right around the corner though!) we can still see interesting things while birding. Sure, there are those that get more interested in breeding bird stuff this time of year, but the best things we see are often those we don't expect.

When I was at John Heinz NWR the other day I was lucky enough to find something I was not expecting (see my eBird for that trip checklist here). You see, on the boardwalk there they have lots of Barn Swallows nesting underneath and apparently a Fish Crow found out about the delicious and tender, yet crunchy, morsels that are Barn Swallow chicks.

I first noticed this when a huge (probably at least a hundred) swarm of birds was absolutely freaking out on the boardwalk. They were mostly Barn and Tree Swallows, with a couple Baltimore Orioles and a single Eastern Kingbird and Red-winged Blackbird. And they were pissed.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Upcoming Goodness on The Year of Birds

Yeah...we've been busy.

Since we last posted we've had migration come through, and this time we were prepared. There was a point where I was WAY behind Paul, but then I not only caught up, but surpassed him in year total. But then a week later the birds got up to him and he re-took the lead.

As always, migration seemed far too short and we already miss it some. Paul keeps insisting he is out of birds to find, yet he adds one or two every so often. I feel like I am tapped out around here (besides the nesting Kentucky Warblers nearby that I've unsuccessfully tried to get a few times), but I still have Cape May to go to so I can add some shorebirds and terns. So the game is not over!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Rare or Noteworthy Birds at Pennypack on the Delaware Last Week

Besides looking for warblers last week, I also took another trip to a more distant part of Philadelphia to a couple good spots for birds. So, with my kids off from school and impending thunderstorms, I got up early, picked up a birding friend of mine, and headed out to Glen Foerd on the Delaware. There were nesting Osprey and soaring Bald Eagles, but I was more interested in the Red-breasted Nuthatch and numerous singing Chipping Sparrows. I was also intrigued by these guys.

Not a bird.

Wild Turkey at Glen Foerd, by D. Orsetti

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Warblers at Heinz National Wildlife Refuge Last Week

Some birders like hawks, some birders like owls, some birders can't get enough of Great Blue Herons. I love warblers.

I've written about them before, and I will write about them again (have to finish the warbler ranking list!), and during the winter months I will dream about them. But today is not a winter month, oh no, today is a spring migration month. And that means....warblers!

It was slow, with only a trickle of Pine and Palm Warblers coming through (even slower than normal), but soon the Yellow-rumped arrived and then, while not quite a floodgate, there has been a nice amount coming through. Hooray for warblers!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Winter Birding in Ontario

I haven't contributed to the Year of Birds lately. This is not to say I haven't been birding; I just haven't had much to say about my winter birding. It struck me, though, that there are some strategies to winter birding in a northern location, like Peterborough, Ontario that I could share. If you want to see birds knee-deep in snow in the middle of winter, where do you go and what do you do? Here are my observations of winter birding in Peterborough:

Monday, April 7, 2014

Birding The Willows in Early April, a Short Photoessay

The Willows is a smallish (47 acre) park surrounding an old mansion in Radnor Township in the north part of Delaware County, Pennsylvania. It isn't right close to me, but it is a quick drive up a main road to get to, so I've been going there every now and then birding.

Just like Taylor Arboretum near me, The Willows is one of the eBird hotspots that is dominated by a single person's listing effort (with Taylor dominated by my listings), with one person birding it many times in one week (I bet it is during her lunch break or something). It is at both times an underutilized and well documented spot.

So when I saw that there were some warblers spotted in it the other day, I had to stop by and get myself my first Palm Warbler of the season. I also had to try out my new camera! (Yeah, those warbler pictures sort of suck...I'm just learning about my camera and learning how to imbed pictures from Flickr).