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)?

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