Friday, January 26, 2018

Unwound


The weather remains mostly cold, but no snow lately and the sun is out so I really should not complain eh?  It's been a long time since I drove out to Carolina Sandhills NWR, it's about a 20 min drive for me.  I finally went into the new Headquarters building and got a passport stamp from them! I was the first one of the year to ask for their stamp! The lady who helped me told me their stamp year only went to 2017 so she had to write in the year for me.  So it may end up being one of a kind as she is checking for a new Year wheel for the ink stamper so if she gets it before anyone asks for a stamp I have a Rare Stamping!

I didn't see a whole lot on this day but I had a great day! I did find about 120 in total Canada Geese in 3 different bodies of water. Most of the geese were in Martin's Lake, at the very back where the water is shallow. 


There was room for more, 


...a few Mallards (about 30 in total) were in the mix along with way in back at least one pair of Wood Duck.  I really need a scope! The birds were way OUT there...I drove up alongside that narrow spot where the shore comes in.  There is a photo blind, but I didn't think I had enough daylight left to hike to the blind...and back!  Usually Mom is with me and with her handicap pass we can drive right up the blind.  
A lot of Song Sparrows on the ground this was through the windshield.


Also had some Swamp, and Savannah Sparrow, Eastern Bluebird, American Kestrel, Turkey Vulture, Hermit Thrush, Brown Thrasher, and one Northern Harrier.  Back at HQ they told me they had a Golden Eagle here this past summer,  why didn't I hear about that...OH yeah I was in Colorado! Duh. 


I had the whole place to myself, I love that, when I can stop in the middle of the road and just walk away from my van and not even close the door! This is what I call unwinding!
I got a late start and the light vanished pretty fast..


I was far off the main refuge road so I headed out to get back home before dark thirty I had to bring wood in for the nightly fire...and feed my dogs of course.
And even tho my sightings list was small I really enjoyed the easy slow pace of this visit to the refuge. 


I want to make another trip soon and get there early and try for some better sparrow looking...there is a Le Conte's on the rare bird list not far away but it's on Private Land...Some sort of a sand and gravel place, the submitter's had permission to trespass to see the bird.  I got something cool in my little piece of the world...Recall me telling y'all I had been hearing an Eastern Screech Owl...in the yard and I did a cavity search....well today the other birds in the yard alerted me to his location!  


Well hellooooo there.  Owls have used this tree before for roosting, the camo is excellent!  My Camera is getting so funky now it doesn't want to focus on digital zooms, so these are not up close...you see him/her?

Those eyes are so intense and yellow!



I see red and grey...but I think there is enough red to call it a red phase...unless I see the rest of the body and it is all grey.  I knew I wasn't hearing things so I'm glad to get this confirmation! And I hope he hangs around...the feeder birds were very upset so they may not allow him to be this close to them and the feeder area.  He is literally 10 ft from the house, in the front yard. 


Totally thrilled about it!  

I went in search of a new thermostat for my dryer in town...the repair guy said it's $40! WHAT? It's a tiny little thing about the size of a man's watch dial...I found one on ebay for $13.00 free shipping.  Maybe I can reassemble the dryer soon! If you need to take your's apart just look it up on You Tube, was easy to take apart!

I am painting it too....so hopefully I will do a blog about this soon...another thing I finally finished is putting up the remaining rails on the deck!  I just need to trim off those 3 ends. 


Can you believe Casey jumped off this deck? OMG And Flossy nearly rolled off...so now hopefully it will be safe for dog use. 



PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Failure and Success



There is a saying here in the south...If you don't like the weather just wait a minute... notice the difference! ON that day we had the same system that caused the landslides hit here and made everything wet! It poured for about 12 hrs and then the cold front came along and now it's more normal for Jan.  Last night 24 and today will be high in 50's that's more our normal for this time of yr...that heat wave lasted one day but it was warm in the house, 70! In fact it got so humid I had to put the AC on for about an hr.  And this afternoon, Wednesday as I'm writing this blog to post in 2 days, it is snowing!  My house is creaking from all the contraction and expansion!

With the weather being so crazy all my outside projects are in a holding pattern, (i took my dryer apart and it needs to be put back together SOON before I forget what goes where) so I went in search of another bird last Saturday at Parr Reservoir, meeting up with my sis for an afternoon of catching up and scanning a very cold lake...We dipped on the Long Tailed Duck...but we were not the only ones dipping, this guy's boat got away from him and he had to take a dip in the icy water!  Really felt sorry for him. Tip: do not launch your boat without a very long tow rope on it!


We had Pied-Billed Grebe, Bufflehead, Double Crested Cormorant, lots of Bonaparte's Gulls...and over on the other side at  Lake Monticello 3 Horned Grebes, and lots of American Coots  but all pretty distant views so I'll spare you the fuzzy photos...And this.   


The VC Summer Nuclear Plant and right next to it the Failed $9 Billion expansion project!  Hard working people have been overcharged on their electric bills to help pay for a project that has been ditched after the company went through $9 billion and the project was expected to need an additional $20 BILLION to complete it so the work stopped!! Yet the electric customers are still paying higher rates to the tune of $20 per month for the next 60 yrs!  So customers are being charged to pay for something they never received and probably never will.  The SC Congress has stepped in and they are trying to help fix this mess but I think they had a lot to do with why it failed in the first place.  Electric customers have been promised a $1,000 rebate, but the reason for this failure is just pure greed and mismanagement of the project!  It may be up to 8 years before they get those rebates, but 3 execs of the company were paid over $2 million each salary in 2016, as the project was failing they still got bonuses, and stock options!! The management turned in millions of dollars in expense reports that the SCANA refused to accept....like a $14,000 plane ride to pick up papers from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that could have been delivered by courier for a few bucks! This is what is wrong in America...one guy walked away with a retirement bundle of over $800,000 a yr plus a $2 million + dollar 401(k)...Okay I don't get it and I never will.  

So back to the birds, a report came in for Greater Scaup at the Catawba River dam spillway...(thank you Steve Patterson)


So Tuesday I drove up Hwy 97 N from Camden, SC to Hwy 200 West and the bridge and dam are right there...so I found a spot to park on the other end behind the guard rail and hiked down under the bridge to the water's edge to scan for the birds. 


The reflections under the bridge, the coolest thing!!


Right away I saw lots of Double Crested Cormorants and Ring Billed Bulls on the rocks sunning.  No that is not white paint! And yet ebird said my count of 200 Cormorant was high....they have never seen these rocks...a couple of birds don't make this much staining. It's heavily used. 



Lots of Cormorants periscoping on the surface..



And right out in front of everybody is the small flock of Greater Scaup...Yippie!
Males and females.  The book says, look for a rounded head, with a green sheen to the face, a black tip on the bill end, a stocky neck, a cross hatched back, white sides extending to the primaries, and the female has a wide white band above the bill! I'd say this fits that description.  



A shaky closeup they are pretty far away...


A lifer and one that has eluded me since my Florida trip in Feb of 2016, so I am really happy to be adding this sighting to my memory, and not just my list!

Back at the van, this Yellow-Rumped Warbler was all over me. Take my picture!! There was 3 others egging him on too. 

yellow rumped (myrtle) warbler

Another fun day searching for the jewels in life, and I made a  new friend he bellowed out a greeting!

                                                 
                                              HOWDY!

This post is a little shorter than my normal run off at the keyboard, so I wanted to add this little blurb to point y'all in the direction of this artist...you may already know all about him...Robert Wyland.  I like his style, it's big, bold, bright and he has an environmental message of protecting our cherished oceans and ecosystems.  His prices are way out of my league, but you can catch him painting on PBS they are now running Wyland's Art Studio series.  I can't support him financially but I can spread the word...that there is another message out there coming from better messengers! 



PEACE
Every day is a new Adventure.

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.