Friday, January 12, 2018

Twitching!

The main goal of twitching is often to accumulate species on one's lists. Some birders engage in competition to accumulate the longest species list. The act of the pursuit itself is referred to as a twitch or a chase. A rare bird that stays put long enough for people to see it is twitchable or chaseable.

But it's not just about the numbers it's about the experience and the effort! Otherwise I wouldn't have been here yesterday!  The only competition going on here is between me, myself, and I. 

                              boardwalk at Huntington Beach State Park

I had no intentions of becoming a twitcher but why not, if I can do it.  As I've mentioned I want to step up my birding when I saw that I may have a shot of making it to 500, I thought it's worth a try.  Now I know that is low by most people's standards..but I spent 2 decades raising a child so I am playing catch up.

                                      a very heavy sea mist just wouldn't lift

I saw a few birds I was in need of rare e-listed for the coastal SC region. Ones I had hopes of were Greater Scaup, White-winged Scoter, and King Eider.  So with 3 possibles I jumped up and packed the van for an overnight trip!
So awesome to be able to be spontaneous, something I have not always been privy to.  I did however decide to leave the big dogs at home.  I knew they would be fine one night alone...but it is the very first night they have ever been home alone in their 9 1/2 yrs!  

                       no scaup in the pond, some Bufflehead and Rudy duck


                                        Sanderlings in the surf

I left late in the afternoon after giving the girls their dinner and assuring them I will be back....and hit the highway.  Casey came along as he is old and prone to some dementia, he gets into trouble pretty easy. I arrived to my campsite after dark, and basically ate some dinner and  hit the hay...

top: great blue heron, middle: tri-colored heron, and bottom: greater yellowlegs 

In the morning I enjoyed lots of song birds in my camp site while I made coffee and breakfast.  I have no photos of those guys as I was hurrying trying to get my food eaten and break camp...I took Casey for his long walk and we saw Cedar Waxwings and tons of Yellow Rumped (Myrtle) Warblers, probably 100 in the trees.  Then once Casey was secured in the van, I went and took all the photos shown above while I looked for the Greater Scaup, that I dipped on.  And quite frankly the tide was out and I didn't see much.  This spot used to produce tons of birds, just didn't see the numbers here that I have seen in the past.  The recent cold blast may have moved them farther south.   

                            I went with  Dunlin? Winter plumage peeps I wish they wore signs on their necks.  

I kept going back n forth between Western and Dunlin on the peeps in the mud flats... finally I just stuck with Dunlin.  Another birder and his wife were asking me the same thing, I said I wish they had signs around their necks! He brought out the Sibley's, and yet we could not be 100%. 
There was a Harlequin Duck spotted down on the jetty, but I decided to use that time to drive up to Myrtle Beach where the Eider had been spotted.  I saw Harlequin Duck  in the Port Townsend Bay in WA.  I heard later that the sea mist was so heavy no one saw the Harlequin that morning...and that mist refused to lift even as the morning passed to noon. 

                                                                the Grand Strand 

The Eider and Scoter had been spotted at the 2nd Ave Fishing Pier.  Winter season the pier is closed so that meant searching for the bird from the shore as the tide was coming in.  Would have been easy peasy from the pier but to the wet sand I went.  

                                                             2nd  Ave N pier

Fortunately for me a lady was walking back with a scope on her shoulder...so I asked..and she was so nice she walked me right to where she spotted it and set her scope back up so I got a good look... not just of the Eider but the White Winged Scoters too.  CaChing!  She was so nice and her name just went right into the back of my mind! She had driven down from Cape Lookout where she had been working as a temporary Ranger, but unfortunately she just got laid off for the season.  I almost think I have met her before maybe at Congaree NP where she has also worked.  

                                                                            incoming tide

It may not look it but it was cold and windy and the waves were rolling big...the ducks would appear on the crest then suddenly disappear as they rolled over the wave so they were up then gone every couple seconds! While I stood there with my face glued to my binoculars the tide got my feet wet! AHHHHHHHHHHHRRR. Soaking wet cold feet. Ok there she is...


And then the Scoters too...


Lousy photos but considering  the mist, movement, and distance I was thrilled!


The King Eider Female. 


She would make her way up to the piling and eat a few barnacles off the wood, then the tide would pull her back away from the pier and she would try again...


These fishermen did set up on the pier...about 50 Double Crested Cormorants!


On my way back to the van, a young girl with a camera on a tripod thrown over her shoulder was walking toward me, so she asked me the same thing I had asked the Ranger lady, and I did the same for her, took her to the shore and pointed out the Rare Bird! Gotta pay it forward.  


PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Premier of 2018!


It has been dang cold! Record breaking...like 9F and then 11F degrees overnight for 5 days straight...and daytime temps barely getting to freezing, or one degree above.  Just not what we signed  up for here in the deep south!  Daytime I chop wood, nighttime I binge watch Breaking Bad, wrapped in blankets, while I burn the wood in the fireplace!  It's hard to get any rest when you chop and saw all day and are up and down every 10 minutes feeding the fire I'm exhausted! And you can see this is a morning photo of the conditions outside and inside my house! When I first got up it read 52 inside I had to put on extra heat to get it up to 57.  This was on Thursday. And 2 days before....
SNOW.


We got about 1/2" in total, not a lot but some parts of the state are still buried. The coastal regions were hit with snow and ice...I'm just happy I'm not traveling right now that would not have been fun to have to hold up in the snow and cold.  Southern weather is very unpredictable.  So I've been keeping the bird feeders filled and I've had some nice birds in the yard...I heard Casey barking up a storm in the front yard, it was a Northern Harrier on the ground...I didn't see any prey so I think he tried for something and missed. Hope it wasn't Casey he missed?  I didn't have the camera ready for that one.

I very seldom see these guys on the feeders..the Downy Woodpecker, with all the trees in the yard they have more than enough food...


Even tho they didn't hang around 6 Blue Jays were in one of the dogwood trees for a few minutes by the time I got this shot through the front window all but one had moved on.  The never eat at the feeders anymore...I don't understand that.




Everybody is all puffed up from the cold as you can tell... bad for the migrating birds like the American Goldfinch they come here to escape northern winters...

American Gold & House Finch

I haven't been out with my camera searching for birds much don't want to take my gloves off to deal with the buttons...so these were shot on the run as I went about my chores in the yard...the Northern Cardinal is like a bright red beacon against the cold sky...it is almost impossible for this bird to hide.


I've been lucky to have not one but two Pine Warblers in the yard and they chase each other off the feeder, it's a nice bright limey green/yellow color almost breeding color as Spring is really NOT that far away! By late February some of these birds will be preparing for nesting! Of course that all depends on the fickle weather. 


                                            Pine Warbler                                              

The puffy little Chipping Sparrow is one of my favorites they have some sounds that sometimes leave me guessing...I always seem to forget what great song birds they are...


The Hermit Thrush is not hanging around to get at the feeder he does expect some water to be provided so I gotta get out there and put out some nice warm water for him/her This bird looks small here but honestly he is nearly the size of an American Robin. 


It warmed today to 34 It actually felt good! A Yellow Bellied Sapsucker came around checking his "holes" I made a video of him but my camera is really starting to misbehave and it never actually recorded. 


The first week so far so good I didn't go anywhere just hung close by so I was happy to have these birds come to me. 

chipping sparrows

A very cold start but hopefully we have 3 more days and on Tuesday it is supposed to start warming up some!  I'm ready for that. 


PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

The last bird of 2017

I hope everyone had a peaceful new yrs and if you made resolutions I hope you can make it happen!

 I dragged my feet on getting my end of year post up so this post should have been put up before the year end  but I just couldn't make it  happen.  And even tho I was victorious in my search I had little to show for this bird in the way of photos...but I will share what I found.

It's a beautiful area...


                                         Bennet's Point rd

I get the SC eBird Rarities alert in my inbox daily.  I had seen for about a week people reporting the Eurasian Wigeon in the area we call the Low Country, low meaning it is barely above sea level at Bear Island.

 
    Mary's Pond the birds are way at the back can't even see them can you? Neither could I!

I have blogged about Bear Island before it is a Wildlife Management Area in Colleton County, SC not too far from Charleston. Y'all may recall.  It's a solid 2 1/2 hrs south of me,  south east of I-95.  They do a great job with the water levels and keeping the habitat just right for waterfowl, waders, shore birds, forest birds, mammals and reptiles! BUT unfortunately Wildlife Management means hunting is allowed...so they close the place down every year (Oct 31 - Feb 8th)...just as all the ducks arrive! It's so infuriating.  The main gate is closed but if you have the secret code you can get in and kill your limit...grrrrrrr




        It was easy to see the Swans, I counted about 55 in total.



I was able to get a zoom on the big birds and see the little bit of yellow at the base of the eye on the beak to ID as Tundra Swans. 
 
The wigeon had been spotted in Mary's Pond which happens to be at the entrance and one can hang by the bank...so me and one other guy froze our asses in a stiff wind to look at the flotilla.  He was not looking for the wigeon, but he so kindly allowed me to scan with his scope and I did find it...all the birds were so far away it was especially hard trying to take photos...I never thought of bringing my tripod! It would have helped in the wind...




This huge mass of ducks is mostly Gadwall, there is some Bufflehead in there, some Hooded Merganser, Canada Geese, and American Wigeon.  Some Ring Billed Gull flew around, Great Egrets were hanging out in the trees out of the wind, and a Bald Eagle kept buzzing the ducks scattering them around each time I hoped they would resettle closer to me, but they never did...I guess the guy and I was as scary as the Eagle to them.


                                              Bald Eagle Duck Hunting



                                                       and away they go...

Mostly Gadwall these few came a little closer to the road, until the eagle returned to flush them away.



A Tri-Colored Heron settled in some marsh grass to look for a meal from a higher perch...

 

The Belted Kingfisher watched from the high line, mostly he watched me and the guy try to figure out how to get any photos of the far far away waterfowl.  

 

 The Little Blue Heron found a perch and hunkered down keeping his back to the wind...



 Across the road one Great Egret came out to hunt....

 

The Eagle finally settled in some trees nearby when I went to the Van to warm up and have some lunch...






And not far from  him Black Vultures rested too...

 



I had some left over home made hummus and I made 2 wraps and some olives, and a piece of left over fruit cake too!  I saved one wrap for later.
It looks like he is saying...
"WHATTTTTTTTT you eatin?"


LoL




I tired several shots of the wigeon and this was the best shot I got of him he was soooo very far away...a very shaky wind blown shot; he is the bird in the dead center of this image.  It would have been a better shot if he hadn't stuck his face in the water just as I clicked.

      
   (Mostly white on the sides trailing off to grey and black on the back...a cinnamon head and you can just barely see the shimmer of white down the center of his face..and a darker shadow around the eye.)

And actually my shot was about in line with others who were there that same day...this couple was there early in the morning check their list from ebird.  
 
So I felt a little bit vindicated when I saw their photo was not much different than mine...we all did our best under the circumstances.  I did however notice one thing on ebird.  (this is an aside) One list that popped up today was submitted by a fellow who happens to be an area ebird reviewer, the reason I know this is he has reviewed me a couple times.  When you submit a bird and the rare birds pop up it's the reviewers job to "confirm" or "not confirm" the bird as being correctly identified...I just happened to notice some that were submitted with a documenting photo, were still listed as Unconfirmed...and yet his personal sighting without any Photo was listed as "confirmed" 
Who reviews the reviewer? hmmm  Corruption in birding politics? Without a photo I'd say unconfirmed...lol.

The chill of the afternoon was really setting in by 2 pm and the man left, and an hour later so did I, he gave me his card and asked me to check out his website...so I did. 
Andrew Griner Nature Photographer.  He was an older man with some disabilities, and yet he was out there brazing the cold and enjoying himself while his supportive wife waited in the car.  I noticed she got out and helped him load up all his gear...it was sweet.
Take a look n see...some of his work is really good!

 https://andrew-griner.squarespace.com/





PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

It Was Memorable!

I wanted to do a year end post but honestly my year WAS SO BIG I couldn't pin it down!! It was an insane year for me! I had so many new experiences, and visited so many fantastic places where to begin?  
I camped 35 days in 8 different states! Traveled about 11,000 miles, roughly. 
Spent the spring in TX seeing all those fantastic birds, and camping on the beach, and at San Padre National Seashore, driving along the gulf coast, and the Rio Grand River peering over into Mexico then to Big Bend, and Guadalupe Mountain NP, visiting Carlsbad Caverns NP and watching the bats fly out of the cave,  the Alien Museum of Roswell NM, the Billy the Kid Museum, the Route 66 Museum...and then spending the Summer in Colorado...the absolutely gorgeous landscapes, animals, birds, wild rivers, and scenic vistas...the perfect day trips, the family picnics, the great hikes we took....how could it not be memorable?  Colorado just explodes with beauty...then all too soon my 2 months there were over and it was time to return home.   I took the scenic route...camping in Rocky Mtn National Park, listening to the bugling of the elk as the Rut was under way...then Kansas's National Tall Grass Preserve, finding the Chalk Pyramids...I explored or camped in so many State Parks I lost count,  along with visits to dozens of National Wildlife Refuges, Birding Centers, all the while witnessing some EYE Popping beautiful landscapes from the Mountains to the Sea.The cherry on top was I worked hard and added 77 birds to my life list when I decided to buckle down and move it forward! The first life bird in 2017 was the Nashville Warbler in Lee County, AL, and the last one Eurasian Wigeon in Green Pond, SC (yesterday).  Not like a Big Year in the true sense but for me it was huge!   I also completed some DIY projects too! 


So it's My Most Memorable list of 2017:




1.   Most memorable day in 2017...

...was wallowing in the mud with my sisters at Rifle Gap State Park, Colorado, when we decided to go tube floating.  We are all in our 60's and yes we put on swimsuits and slogged through knee deep mud to float on tubes in murky water! What a hoot! Later found the path we should have taken to avoid the mud..lol

                           Labor Day  picnic and  our towels drying on the fence afterwards 
  

2.  Most memorable photo of the year...

my Mom and I enjoyed so many awesome mornings on the deck of sis's CO house overlooking the mountains and the valley below drinking coffee and watching the sun rise, I treasure each of those morning memories...



               
                                                                     July 10th


3.  Most memorable encounter in 2017

...while hiking a trail on the Grand Mesa Lakes in Colorado and coming face to face with this guy:

                       


                                                    July 20, a Pine Marten

... he has porcupine quills stuck in his muzzle...poor little guy. 


4. Most memorable Camp Spot of the year:

...has to be Sea Rim State Park, Sabine TX.  I really hope they are able to recover from the horrid hurricane season of 2017. 


                                                                   sea rim state park beach camp April 19

5.  Most Memorable Bird Find:

...is the Red Crossbill I hunted all summer and thought I had not seen until I got home and saw the photos on my computer screen...


                         Sept 14th Routt National Forest, Meadows Campground, Grand Co, CO


6.  Most Memorable Surprise of 2017

Was when the Bull Moose camp trotting through the tourists at the Maroon Bells Wilderness,  and right past us...awesome moment...

 
                                                                 Sept 6


7:  Most Memorable Project:

Hands down the shed building done with the help of my sis Em! 


                                          ta-da! April 15th

8:  Most Memorable Hike:

Is the most recent where my sis M and I found the last falls on Slickum!  



                                 Dec 2nd, hike to the last falls on Slickum Creek


 9:  Most Memorable Sunrise


 
                                                         Hogback Sunrise.  Garfield Co. CO Sept 7 


10:  Most Memorable Neighbor:

 This sweet California Spotted Ground Squirrel who was out there enjoying the same sunrises that I did at Deer Run.


                                                  hello friend


11:  Most Memorable Wildflower 

...wild Columbine on a south facing slope in CO... Land's End Road, Grand Mesa.

 



12.  Most Memorable Scenic Drive:


The Switchback gravel road coming down off the Colorado Grand Mesa via Land's End.



                                                  July 20



13:  Most Memorable Moon:

This full moon with the smokey haze from fires to the north left me spell bound!

  
                                              Sept 5 


 14.  Most Memorable Character:

The photo says it all..



                                                     in my homemade bird feeder


 15:  Most Memorable Artwork:

There is a dreamer in each of us, I hope that no one forgets that each person's dreams fulfilled become the memorable moments of their lifetime and anyone who would begrudge someone of that...well... is despicable.
2017 was definitely a memorable year for me... now I dive headlong into 2018...I have to wonder what awaits, and I can only hope it's memorable!




                   SO get out there and start making those memories!

PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.