Bird Music – Indie Mixtape

31 03 2011

RT Hummingbird - Luke Tiller

I have been messing around with the playlists function on youtube and have finally nailed what I think is a pretty decent indie/alternative bird related music setlist. Hope you enjoy it:

Track List: 1/ Eels – Little Bird 2/ Grant Lee Buffalo – Mockingbirds 3/ Iron and Wine – Flightless Bird, American Mouth 4/ The Bird and the Bee – Please Don’t Stop the Music 5/ Goldfrapp – Little Bird (Animal Collective Remix) 6/ Catbird – Yellow Moon 7/ Sun Kil Moon – Heron Blue 8/ Electrelane – Birds 9/ Foals – Hummer 10/ The Decemberists – Crane Wife Three 11/ De Rosa – Robin Song 12/ TV On the Radio – Owl and Stork 13/ Fleet Foxes – Meadowlarks 14/ The Tallest Man on Earth – Where do my Bluebirds Fly? 15/ Swans – Love Will Tear Us Apart

Eurasian Wigeon – Braddock Bay

19 03 2011

Eurasian Wigeon - Art Tanghe

Another new species to add to the growing list of ducks I’ve seen over the almost month I have been here. Probably only he second rarity as well. It’s amazing how abundant species that would be considered uncommon or even rare when you get as far east as Connecticut can be here. Tundra Swans are an very day occurrence, flights of Snow Geese regular, numbers of Shoveler, Pintail and Redhead nothing to get too excited about. What was most interesting to me was seeing Horned Grebes sitting right up by the mouth of the creek yesterday instead of way off on the open lake or at least even at the mouth of the bay. One of the few times I’ve had point blank views of Horned Grebes with just bins.

Thanks to Art Tanghe for both finding the bird and sending me a visual memory of the bird and letting me borrow that memory to illustrate the blog. Terrible conditions for photography and the bird was some distance out in the haze but it’s a nice record. Out of interest I wonder whether anyone in the US has ever had a female type Eurasian Wigeon record accepted? I don’t recall any off the top of my head in Connecticut.

This evening I popped out to listen for displaying Woodcock and was intrigued to spot a Great Horned Owl on the far side of the field where the Woodcock were displaying. I think we were both there to listen for owls but its reason for doing so was slightly more sinister than mine. I remember seeing a Great Horned Owl  carrying a Woodcock at Allen’s Meadows and became aware that the Great Horned Owls that nest nearby must make this a regular part of their diet as they would often show up at that time of year. I just hope they don’t try and swallow that Woodcock bill and all – could make for an interesting pellet!

Owl Woods – the name finally seems appropriate!

13 03 2011


Saw-whet – Luke Tiller

So finally after almost three weeks in Hilton, Owl Woods finally gives up the goods. Yesterday there were rumors of two Saw-whets and two Long-eareds at the woods. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any of them on the way home. Not that it really mattered as I hadn’t hiked out there so it would have done nothing for my all important Bigby list.

Anyway today at the hawkwatch a couple of well known local birders showed up and said that there were Saw-whets there again today and gave me a couple of pointers on where to try. Anyway to cut a long story short ,after just a few minutes searching I had one. The bird was snoozing peacefully in a rather dark and well camouflaged spot. I decided the best thing to do was leave him to get on with it, as it was not a bird remotely conducive to photography and I didn’t ant to disturb the little guy – so above is what he might have looked like had he been in a better spot 😉

As well as the owl I managed to pick up another handful of goodies for my Bigby including a dozen or so flyover Snow Geese and Ring-necked Ducks (in good numbers on the bay). Yesterday, I added a couple of flyover Great Blue Herons and a Bald Eagle that was out on the Island Woods. Passerines are still very thin on the ground, but I imagine that they are on their way. I have set out some bird seed out just in case. Hmmm, I wonder if it is worth having a wander outside for Woodcock tonight – might be a little cold, but a the SAS motto says ‘Who Dares Wins’.

Bigby total thus far: 68 Species (Perhaps I should set up a separate page for that list)?

Golden Day at the Hawkwatch

11 03 2011

Golden Eagle - Ed Sailer

I was pleased to get the first decent flight day at Braddock Bay Hawkwatch. After a so-so start, things picked up mid morning and as the throngs of local hawk aficionados gathered we were treated to a pretty good mid-morning flight. The birds were pretty haphazardly strewn across the sky, but there were plenty of birds that put on a good showing including the above Golden Eagle which came straight over the park. Unfortunately lighting conditions weren’t great but you can certainly get the idea from Ed’s shot.

As well as 100 raptors we were also treated to about 600 Snow Geese amongst the many thousands of Canada Geese, and I was pleased to find my first flyover Bluebird of the season. I would have liked to have seen the Evening Grosbeak that someone had flying over Owl Woods this morning (still no owls there it seems). I guess you can’t have everything!

Is it just me or is aging of Golden Eagles somewhat difficult, especially in spring. I’d be interested on any thoughts on this bird although there may not be enough detail in the shot?

EDIT: I should mention two excellent articles on the challenge of aging Golden Eagles by Jerry Liguori one on Utah Birds (here)  and one one from the ABA Birding Magazine (here).

Bigby Bonanza

6 03 2011

Sundown in Hilton


I wandered out to the West Spit again today in the late afternoon after a rather heavy snowstorm had scuppered the days hawkwatching. Ducks were literally littering the bay, with numbers of both individuals and species rather impressive.

The usual hordes of Oldsquaw (LT Duck) were up to at least 400 birds and the ever present Greater Scaup flock seems to have grown to easily over a thousand. All in all 13 species of duck on the pond including a few new birds for the Bigby list: Northern Shoveler (12) and Ruddy Duck (1). There was also a couple of American Coots to boost the new Bigby species for the day to three and the years total up to 62.

No sign of the Snowy Owl or anything interesting amongst the 1000 plus gulls. Still lots of great birds and it was just enjoyable (if cold) scanning through the throngs of waterfowl, and I’m still not tired of seeing Tundra Swans on a daily basis.

The Bigby Map so far (here).

Back to the Bigby

4 03 2011

Kumlien's Gull

A couple of years I stumbled upon the idea of doing a Big Green Big Year. The basic premise being to find as many birds as one can whilst traveling under ones own steam or by using public transport. It struck me as a cool idea. The main appeal is that it encourages birding locally, looking for ones own birds as well as doing a little bit for the planet as well

It has always somewhat bothered me that most birding ‘competitions’ always seem to involve burning a huge amount of fossil fuels, which has always struck me as a little incongruous in a hobby that has close links to conservation. I can’t say I am a huge fan of the ‘big year-ization’ of birding either, and that twitching has become the predominant form of the game. Not to knock those that are into it, but it just doesn’t fire me personally.

For me the thing I enjoy most about birding is just getting out and finding out what is around even in the most unlikely of spots, I like to stay local (unless I am really traveling) and I like to find my own birds. A Big Green Big Year seemed pretty much perfect in this respect as it’ll allow me to concentrate on what is around locally and I imagine there won’t be too many birds I can walk (or cycle to later in the season) to twitch so I’ll be forced to find my own goodies.

Obviously being in a great location for birds is going to help make the undertaking more enjoyable and as I now find myself in a spot where I can hear Long-tailed Ducks honking  from my yard, I thought it would be fun to restart the project and see just how many species I can dig up over the year from my two bases around the country.

After a couple of slow days (I haven’t even seen a Junco, passerines are so thin on the ground in Hilton) things got on a roll on Wednesday when I managed to dig out a couple of decent birds from Braddock Bay (which I can view from the West Spit just a stones thrown from the house). The highlights were 30 Tundra Swans and the first decent self found bird of the Bigby, a handsome drake Barrow’s Goldeneye.

I popped back Thursday to see if I could locate the Barrow’s but with no joy and ran into a couple of other birders who had struck out as well (Dave Tetlow and Curt). I couldn’t find the Lesser Black-Backed Gull that Dave had spotted earlier but did manage to find a third cycle Glaucous Gull which was another highlight addition to the Bigby list.

Looking forward to seeing just how many species I can manage to round up. Just disappointed at the moment that Braddock Bay is wide enough that I can’t make out the shrike that is still hanging around the hawkwatch across the bay 😉

Bigby List: 59 species (including some from Audubon Greenwich). Highlights in bold.

Mute Swan, Tundra Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, American Black  Duck, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Northern Shoveler, Canvasback, Redhead, Greater Scaup, White-Winged Scoter, Long-Tailed Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Hooded Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Black Vulture, Sharp-Shinned Hawk, Coopers Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-Billed Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull, Great black-backed Gull, Mourning Dove, Great Horned Owl, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Wren, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Snow Bunting, Northern Cardinal, Red-Winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, House Finch, American Goldfinch, Common Redpoll, House Sparrow

Braddock Bay Barrow’s

2 03 2011


Barrow's - record shot.

How things seemed to have changed since I last posted. I am now up in Rochester New York for three months carrying out the spring hawkwatch at Braddock Bay for BBRR. It’s a beautiful spot (although cold so far) and bound to be loaded with great birds once the season begins to pick up in a couple of weeks. For now, I am trying to stay warm at the hawkwatch and picking off the first few migrants.

As I now have the luxury of a waterside view just a stones throw from the house, I thought it might be time to relaunch my attempt to do a big green big year (Bigby) that I set off on and abandoned a couple of years back. Anyway more about all of that later. For now I just wanted to stick up a couple of shots of the Barrow’s Goldeneye I picked out on Braddock Bay today, as well as some of the 30 Tundra Swans that were resting up near the shore.

The bay is absolutely loaded with ducks right now and the Barrow’s was hanging out with a huge raft of Greater Scaup (with a few Commons keeping him company). Tundra Swan and Barrow’s Goldeneye, all just a couple of minutes walk from the house. Can’t complain about that!!!!!