Blue Jay Wahay!!! – Weekend Bigbying

11 01 2009

Ice Storm - Luke Tiller

Ice Storm - Luke Tiller

My Bigby list had majorly stalled since last weekend and wasn’t being helped by the ice storm which left me feeling like  just hibernating for the next couple of months. I just couldn’t come up with anything new the handful of times I popped out anyway. Most amazingly 10 days in I still hadn’t managed to track down a lousy Blue Jay. The last time my dad was here he was amazed by the beautiful birds we had in the yard like Blue Jay and Cardinal. Sadly it usually takes an outsiders eyes to remind you how special those common or garden birds are, however 10 days into my BGBY and my first pair of Blue Jays was a real right for sore eyes. Pre-storm (although this one was a bit of a non-event 8 inches of predicted snow rapidly turning into about 1 and 1/2) on the Saturday the yard was pretty hopping and I also added American Tree Sparrow as a new species, Pine Siskins were flitting around in the birches (one was even picking up grit from the road) and there were about 15-20 Eastern Bluebirds in one giant flock picking at the Multiflora Rose and Cedar berries.

Today I took a stroll out to Meadow Ridge, a nice healthy walk with lots of pulse quickening hills gave me some decent exercise. Between here and Meadow Ridge I managed to find a total of 3 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers which I thought was pretty good (although they seem to be generally increasing in regularity here in winter). I was impressed by how well their mottled black, brown and white backs mimicked the craggy barked trees and nicely broke up their silhouettes as they foraged. A nice addition to my BGBY list. Onwards towards 40 species!!!

New Bigby Species: AMERICAN TREE SPARROW, BLUE JAY!, YELLOW-BELLIED SAPSUCKER for a total of 36 species.

Sunrise Bird Walk – January 10

11 01 2009

GH Owl - Steve Ballentine

Spent a cold but entertaining morning at a few spots in Westport. Highlight of the walk was the sheer number and variety of waterfowl out on Long Island Sound (no need for the early season worries on CT Birds).  Nothing rare in and of itself and the most uncommon ducks (the WW Scoter) were not very cooperative but plenty of great looks at the common stuff and I was quite surprised to see a couple of ‘flocks’ of Red-throated Loons out on the sound, something I have noted a couple of times in migration but not knowingly in mid-winter before (perhaps the impending storm was pushing birds into the sound?)

The bird of the day was a Great Horned Owl (no locations being given on nocturnal owls I’m afraid – in keeping with CTBirds policy), which although sat quite some way up a tree did provide for a good photo opportunity (thanks for letting me use one Steve). Probably the other real highlight was a stunning first cycle Iceland Gull that was loafing round the point at the 9-11 memorial.

A good friend of mine was asking the other day why 1st cycle had replaced 1st winter etc as a favored terminology with gull identification? The Howell and Dunn book has a useful explanation (see online copy here – explanation on page31) which seems to mainly revolve around creating a neutral system to describe birds that either straddle the two hemispheres or are predominantly southern hemisphere breeding birds. The book is a great place to start with Gull identification, although I must admit to finding some of it a bit long-winded. But then again I guess that’s gulls for you!

A couple of other nice finds on the day were some Pine Siskins (almost ubiquitous this year) at Long Shore and a couple of lingering Snow Buntings which were hanging out with a Horned Lark Flock at Compo.

Trip Species List

Common Loon, Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Brant, American Black Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Greater Scaup, Long-tailed Duck, White-winged Scoter, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser,  Red-tailed hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, ICELAND GULL, GREAT HORNED OWL, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Horned Lark, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Blue Jay, American Crow, Northern Cardinal, American Goldfinch, PINE SISKIN, House Finch, American Tree Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Song Sparrow,  Savannah Sparrow, DE Junco, SNOW BUNTING, European Starling, House Sparrow