Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Bird Count highlights!

I signed up to help out with four Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) in North Carolina this year: Durham, Chapel Hill, Bodie/Pea Island and Mattamuskeet.

Yeah, it sounds like a lot of work to go out and count every single sparrow and chickadee, but it helps contribute to a long-running data set. And these counts are also a great chance to get out with some fantastic birders who have fantastic scopes, which greatly increases the odds of seeing rarities.

An unusual early snowstorm made for an especially wintery feel to the counts this year. And I was among the many people who skipped the Chapel Hill CBC to go sledding; Yahoo! I did see some decent birds on the Al Buehler Trail on my way to the Duke Golf Course--a CBC no man's land stuck between the Durham and Chapel Hill count circles.

I can't even remember if I participated in the Durham CBC last year, but the memory of this years' should last awhile! The above comment about scopes didn't hold true as Doug Shadwick and this professional birder from France took their fancy scopes off to some wind-sheltered field leaving Robert Meehan and me to cover the frozen windswept section of Falls Lake by the railroad grade using Robert's "Parkinson's disease" tripod to attempt to count unidentifiable "ducks" several miles away.

Despite this handicap we found quite a few lingering shorebirds including these Dunlin who were out ice-skating.

But the most unusual find was a blue form Snow Goose that flew over us early. After we finished counting we went on a short wild goose chase and found the flock by a nearby pond where it had already been spotted by another birding party.
Brian Bockhahn has way better pictures from when the goose was much closer.

Of course a Snow Goose goes from being a highlight in Durham to becoming merely one of several thousand "Down East."

One odd Cackling Goose hanging out with a flock of snows was the celebrity goose of the Bodie/Pea Island CBC and a new NC bird for me.
(Hooray for two awful goose pictures!; see Ali Iyoob's way better photo)

Our party's best find was this White-winged Dove we stumbled upon at North Bodie (Life bird #1446!). I've been double-checking every Mourning Dove since.

But our rarity was eclipsed by other ridiculous sightings of Black Rail, Long-eared Owl and two Saw-whet Owls! Unfortunately only a few people got to see these rare and impossible to see species and I was not among them.

I did catch a fleeting glimpse of a Virginia Rail, which I'll count as a state bird, since I had previously seen one in Vermont. I also saw my first Sedge Wrens in NC by the Bodie Lighthouse at dusk. My "Grass Wren" sighting in Ecuador kept this from being a life bird.

I did get a second life-bird (#1447) for the day in an Orange-crowned Warbler at North Pond. I had poorly seen, but not counted one last year at Mattamuskeet, so I was glad to finally get a good look at one.

Fittingly, Orange-crowned Warblers seemed to be all over the place the next day at the Mattamuskeet CBC. But my best warbler there was definitely the Yellow-throated I found with a flock of Pine Warblers near the south end of the causeway.

Other state birds for the day were Common Moorhen, Canvasback and Common Merganser, but after hours of birding I had not seen a life bird; no Eurasian Wigeon or Golden Eagle. But just before sunset Brian and his party told us about a couple Clay-colored Sparrows nearby in a yard. Ali kindly showed us the spot and my 1448th life bird (thanks Ali!; his photo).

On our way back down the causeway we spotted an American Bittern standing awkwardly by the roadside away from cover for #1449. I was pretty excited about this since Robert had seen three invisible bitterns over the past couple days while I was standing next to him.

So in just two days I was able to see four life birds and 12 state birds (those mentioned above plus Merlin and Black Scoter, which should bring my NC list up to 230); not bad at all!

It's amazing how ubiquitous the snipe are in the Mattamuskeet area as it seemed like there was one in every front yard.
A quick shout-out to Ali, Matt Daw and Kyle Kittleberger. It's great to see young people into birding and at 16(ish), these Raleigh kids are metaphorical zygotes to the birding world. Yet they are already such knowledgeable, intelligent birders. Their exuberance is infectious and their nonstop bird story-telling made the drive home go quickly.

Before I end I have to reprimand everybody for losing my nest quiz from last time by not guessing.

In fact hardly anyone even read the last post. I guess the septuagenarian backyard bird-feeder theme is revolting to the modern birder hoping to shed such stereotypes.

But for all zero of you who were curious, the answer was Band-winged Nightjar.
Here's the follow-up shot up of the fledgling starting to resemble mom. I did find this nest around 1300 meters elevation--about 500 meters below its altitude range (Ridgley and Greenfield) so its identity was a bit of a surprise once I finally worked it out.

Coming very soon... My top ten bird sightings of 2010!

Stay tuned...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yard bird #76 is life bird #1444

Can you guess what it might be? We will get to that later...

First, another congratulations to Harry Legrand, who nailed last week's nest quiz.

An absolutely atrocious picture. Not that you can tell, but the owner of the eggs was this Pauraque.

For some reason my most recent post got buried back in the October section even though I published it in December. For those of you who may have missed it, see: Birding Tiputini Biodiversity Station.

Second, great news out of New England. My friend, Peter Capobianco, has photographed what may be the first ever state record of a Lazuli Bunting. Go Pete! (it wouldn't be a post if I didn't mention his name somewhere). Link to Lazuli Bunting? pictures.

Anyway, the weather here has been downright nasty lately by North Carolina standards. Add to that final exams, and I sure haven't been outside a whole lot.

As if to reward my laziness, a Pine Siskin showed up in my backyard yesterday and a pair appeared again today.
I had been after this species for sometime. And by "after" I mean patiently waiting at home for one to show up. Yard bird #76, NC bird #217, ABA bird #285 and life bird #1444 all at once. A life bird in my backyard isn't likely to happen again any time soon. Unless of course I were to move to California. Or I suppose a flock of Evening Grosbeaks could show up, but that seems like quite a long-shot.

I may as well keep going with the backyard birding theme for this post. I just can't wait to be 75 years old!

The three previous additions to the yard list were Brown Creeper, Golden-crowned Kinglet

and Red-winged Blackbird.

The flocks of red-wingeds have been all over the place in the neighboorhood this winter including up in pine trees feeding, which I had no idea they ever did.

Obviously, this isn't a new yard bird, but it is the orangest House Finch I've ever seen.

Sibley has always claimed that the color can be variable; turns out he wasn't lying!

And check out this video of a ruby-crowned kinglet at my feeder going nuts at his own reflection in the window.

Make sure to watch it in HD!

Apparently these birds are rather territorial in winter. I saw another kinglet doing the same routine for his reflection in the window of a parked BMW.

We may as well do another nest quiz even though we know Harry Legrand will just win again.

Yes, I know. The adult is in the picture and the egg already hatched; so this is really more of a "Name that bird" quiz. But it's a cute picture (click it!) and the one I'll put up next time, of the chick much larger and about ready to fledge, may be one of the best bird pictures I have ever taken ever.

Please leave comments!

To inspire you (as if this post weren't inspiring enough!) here is a question:

What should be the topic of my next South America post? The Galapagos (epic pictures)? Jatun Sacha Bilsa (Banded Ground-Cuckoo story)? The Durand Brothers' Lodge (birding the Amazon on $30 per day)?

I'll probably write one first about Christmas counts. I plan to participate in Durham, Chapel Hill, Lake Mattamuskeet and Bodie/Pea Island.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What do you do between fall migration and Christmas counts?

Hopefully your answer was to go birding anyway. And depending on your region and/or religion this question may be completely irrelevant.

For me this year, unfortunately, it meant mostly working on a bunch of midterms and applying for a grant from the National Science Foundation. Yuck.

Anyway that's my excuse for the hiatus from blogging...a lack of time and birds exciting enough to go see locally.

Of course birds are everywhere and you have to find a deep dark hole to miss them.

I stumbled upon this surprisingly tame Great Blue Heron at Duke Gardens on a walk with my family. Click the picture for a high-res view; you can see how banged-up their bills can get.

And I did get to go out with Robert Meehan to Falls Lake again. He promised me Rusty Blackbirds, which obligingly vanished from existence. But we did find a Lesser Black-backed Gull mixed in with some Ring-billeds and Herrings--not a bad find for the piedmont (I refuse to get excited over this bird was a new ABA bird for Robert, who claims it's only the 4th record
at Falls Lake
for Durham County, though I'm sure a fair few crusty veterans would beg to differ...see Robert's comment below)

See if you can find the Lesser Black-backed Gull in the photo! (hint: it has a black back). At least one of the other gulls thinks this is a boring (or hilarious?) game.

We also found a few late shorebirds: 2 Dunlin, a few dozen Least Sanpipers and one depressed-looking Greater Yellowlegs.

The highlight for me was a flock of about 60 American Pipits (NC bird #216 for me!)

Continuing with the game theme...

Can you guess what bird laid this egg??

Hint: I found (errr.... my guide found) this nest in the Ecuadorian Amazon at Tiputini Biodiversity Station, a rediculously spectacular (and remote!) birdwatching spot, which will be the topic of my next post. Heck, it's in the Yasuni, which rivals Peru's Manu for the title of "most biodiverse spot on the planet."

Hopefully that will bring you back for more!

Stay tuned...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Birding Tiputini Biodiversity Station

First off, a big congratulations to Harry Legrand for correctly identifying the nest as belonging to a tinamou...impressive!

He was off with his species guess of Cinereous...this was actually a Bartlett's (correct me if I'm wrong!)

Now before I dive headfirst into the Amazon I should mention that I will be paraphrasing myself from my other blog's post from back in April: Elementary my dear Hoatzin. If this current post leaves you wanting more (like pictures of monkeys), then follow that link.

Alright let's give this place some context:

View Larger Map

Yeah, this place is a bit out of the way. Travel from the nearest airport (Coca) takes 6 hours and 3 legs via boat, truck and motorized canoe. So you'll have to budget a day of travel each way.

They neither solicit nor discourage "tourists" or birders from visiting; the station is primarily for researchers: tropical ecologists, primatologists, ornithologists, etc. to conduct field work. So it has a much different (and refreshing) vibe to it, than the standard Amazonian ecotourism lodge. They do have fantastic and knowledgable resident guides who know all of the place's 550+ species and ours, Jose, showed spent a couple days enthusiastically leading us around a few of the trails.

I ended up at Tiputini because I had the serendipity to meet one of the station's directors, Prof. Kelly Swing, while he was visiting La Hesperia with a group of students.

I managed to convince my buddy, Peter Capobianco, to fly down from the states to get in on the trip as well.

Anyway, on to the birds:

What stood out most about the bird life at Tiputini, aside from the staggering total species diversity, is that so many of the birds encountered were considered either "rare, scarce or local" according to the field guide (Ridgley and Greenfield). Most birds were encountered only a single time. For a serious birdwatcher this does demand constant vigilance as a once-in-a-lifetime type species could show itself at any moment and then disappear just as quickly. For us this happened when were were with Jose when he spotted an (to us anyway) invisible Rufous-vented Ground Cuckoo. He said it was the second one he had seen at Tiputini in four years. Don't worry I made up for it later at Jatun Sacha Bilsa (account coming soon to a blog near you!).

Not a mega-bird, but one example of something "rare" that cooperated for a photo was this Black-bellied Cuckoo that joined us in the 35-meter canopy tower. We must have spent 40 hours in that tower over the course of our six full days at the station. It was an awesome spot to see passing groups of macaws (we saw lots of Scarlet as well as Blue-and-Yellow and Chestnut-fronted), canopy flocks (loaded with Paradise, Opal-rumped and Opal-crowned Tanagers) and various toucans including:

Many-banded Aracari.

And here a Common Piping-Guan:

...and a Double-toothed Kite:

...also joined us in the canopy tower.

Along the river we found a foolishly tame juvenile Great Black-Hawk:

...and a totally badass Sunbittern!

...not a great photo unfortunately.

Another nice vantage point was a gazebo by the dock overlooking the river. A nearby fruiting tree was a popular spot for Dacnis, such as:
...this Yellow-bellied
...and this Black-faced

Combining our lists for the 6 days we had a little over 170 bird species (we each individually had around 165) and also saw 8 types of monkeys. Bird highlights were many, but to name a few: the macaws, the Salvin's Curassows (we saw 7 individuals in one day), the Bartlett´s Tinamou, Gray-winged Trumpeter, Black-faced Hawk, and of course the Hoatzins:There were loads clambering clumsily among the trees by La Laguna.

We were a bit unfortunate in our timing in that we missed the ornithologist who was mist netting understory species. It would have been nice to see some of these birds up close as finding them in the field we both decided was some of the most difficult bird-watching either of us had ever experienced, because of the poor light under three or four layers of canopy, the density of the habitat, and the diversity of similarly plumaged species (i.e. dusky-throated antshrike vs cinereous antshrike).

Another bit of bad timing was that the mannikins happened to be molting rather then displaying and every individual we did happen to see was immature/female and essentially unidentifiable. Otherwise we probably would have added 6 or so charismatic species to our lists.

I was really hoping for a Harpy Eagle, which are erratic, but regular at the station. It's hard to really complain though:

This Crested Owl was one of many "consolation prizes." A big thanks Jose for this stakeout; it was my first owl sighting in Ecuador!

I hope the mediocre photos managed to pull you through all the text. For wayyy better shots check out Pete's work here. Pages 1 through 10 have Tiputini pictures. My personal favorite.

More information about Tiputini can be found here.

I would end on video, but don't have anything from Tiputini worth showing. Sooooo instead let's have another nest quiz!

Hint: this one was found at approximately 1500 meters elevation on a trail at La Hesperia (about 2 hours west of Quito).

Good luck!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Connecticut Warbler and White-rumped Sandpiper at Falls Lake

I went out this morning to Falls Lake with Robert Meehan, the man who discovered the Connecticut Warbler a week ago, with pretty low expectations. The bird hadn't been reported for about 48 hours and it had been 7 days since Robert's original discovery.

Against all odds we flushed it from the sedge along the lake side of the peninsula and then spent a good hour following it through the thickets losing it and re-finding it. I tried to get some pictures, but the thing always seems to keep at least two or three layers of vegetation between it and any observers. I have a hard time focusing through dense stuff with my point-and-shoot, so this is the best I could do.
We came up empty on our first sweep along the path and with no sign of any Palm Warblers we assumed that the Connecticut was long gone. So we went further out to check for lingering shorebirds. Surprisingly we found 2 Least Sandpipers, a Dunlin and a White-rumped Sandpiper, which we thought would end up being our consolation prize for missing the Connecticut. The best part was that these birds had apparently been feeding on sedatives and let us walk right up to within 15 feet of them without ever taking flight.

It was probably the best closest look at shorebirds I've ever had anywhere and the White-rumped was my 215th NC bird!

Back to the main celebrity though...

When looking for the Connecticut, definitely check all the sedge (tall grassy stuff) along the shoreline. This is where we first flushed it and where we found it again later after losing it. We also stumbled upon a Marsh Wren this way (a life bird for Robert!)

Seven days seems like quite a long time for a migrant to stick around and Robert and I could only foolishly wonder if it might stick around to winter. I'm sure other folks will be checking up on it this weekend.

I'm going to end with a re-posting of my link to the birds of La Hesperia. I added 14 awesome pictures by Peter Capobianco (the same guy who shot the Cerulean Warbler nesting video) of some really cool birds like Toucan Barbet, Flame-faced Tanager, Blue-winged Mountain-Tanager, Red-headed Barbet, etc. They are all right at the beginning for easy viewing.

And finally here's an HD video of the White-rumped Sandpiper from today. Sorry for the wind noise! And you may want to skip ahead to 40 seconds when the Least Sandpiper shows up for good size comparison. Also around 53 seconds the bird ruffles its feathers briefly exposing its white rump.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Birds of La Hesperia, five state lifers, more on ebird and a nesting Cerulean video!

I promised when I started this blog that I would go back and revisit some of my birding experiences in South America. So to make good on this promise I present to you the birds of La Hesperia:

Birds of La Hesperia
(click it and watch the slideshow!)

In here are all my best bird shots from La Hesperia, the biological station where I worked from January through June, 2010. They are roughly ordered from best to worst in terms of quality, with some hilariously poor shots toward the end (see Blue Seedeater and Black Hawk-Eagle).

I included bad pictures in a record keeping effort. Nobody to my knowledge has previously worked on a photo inventory for this site. And all were taken on site. I have better shots of some species, but they were taken elsewhere and have not been included.

So while this is not meant to be exhibition of my photographic skills (and I don't even claim to be a photographer), some of them did come out pretty well. If you would like to use any, just please give me credit and mention La Hesperia. There are also a handful by my friend David Kilner (a.k.a. "Colorado" on and these are marked DK.

Also this is a bit of a challenge to anyone who fancies him or herself as a naturalist or photographer, and somehow ends up at La Hesperia, to photograph any species I was unable to capture or to submit better photos so I can take down some of the embarrassingly bad images.

For more information on La Hesperia, see or visit the facebook page.

Turning to domestic birds...

I participated in another fall count back on Sept. 25: Jeff Pippen's in Duke Forest gate 23 (Korstian division). I got the times mixed up and showed up 15-minutes early and was serendipitously rewarded by a Common Raven being mobbed by several American Crows. The raven is quite a good bird for the Piedmont and state bird #210 for me! (#209 was Cattle Egret, which I had seen before but somehow left off my NC list).

Other wildlife pretty much stole the show for the rest of the count. A big copperhead was a highlight for the other student participants. And Jeff got really excited about this butterfly:

...which apparently is somewhat rare. (a White M Hairstreak, can you see the white 'm'?)

We did encounter a small migrant flock at the bridge near the end with Magnolia Warbler, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Chestnut-sided Warbler Bay-breasted Warbler. I missed the latter two, which would have been state birds.

I quickly made up for these misses when I went out to Eno River State Park (off Pleasant Green Road) with Norm Budnitz three days later. Warblers were thick along the river and we managed 11 species including the missing Black-throated Blue (NC #211) and Chestnut-sided (#212) as well as Cape May (#213) and Tennessee (#214).

A pair of noisy Pileated Woodpeckers kept trying to distract us from the warbler show and with a Hairy Woodpecker and a couple Red-headed present (not to mention the ubiquitous Downy and Red-bellied) we were only a sapsucker short of a woodpecker sweep.

Also in the mix were about 10 Yellow-billed Cuckoos (pictured), a couple Scarlet Tanagers and the other warblers: Blackburnian, Redstart, Parula, Pine, Yellowthroat, Black-and-White, Magnolia. I ended up being probably my best day of fall migrants outside of trips to Block Island, RI.

I'll finish this post with a few more comments about ebird...

My discussion on ebird last time generated nice comments from a couple other bird bloggers: Ali Iyoob (see his birding journal) and Andrew, who keeps a blog on birding in Arizona. It turns out a lot of folks keep birding blogs, in fact there's already another one that calls itself birds on the brain. Since it was started a few months before mine, I should probably think about changing the name. Any suggestions?

Another nice thing about ebird is that regional volunteers check up on rare sightings among lists and contact birders to confirm that a mistake was not made. This has happened to me three times so far and in one case it alerted me to a life tick I had missed. I had recorded a few sightings of Pied Oystercatcher in New Zealand. At some point this species was split into Pied (in Australia) and South Island (in New Zealand).

So I went back and corrected the errors in my data for accuracy's sake and got a life tick in the process. I had lost a few ticks while updating my checklist due to various lumps, so I am now at 1443, but who knows what other splits out there I am missing out on? Hopefully some alert volunteer will see the red flags in my list backlog and help me out!

Finally I'm going to end with an amazing HD video of Cerulean Warblers nesting behavior taken by my friend, Peter Capobianco. I promise it will blow you away (make sure to chose the highest resolution and watch full screen!)

Pete is also a fantastic photographer and puts anything I'll ever post here to shame.

Check out his work:
And his new Zazzle storefront where you can buy sick refrigerator magnets! :

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Chatham County fall count and transition to ebird

I have been meaning to post much sooner, but a few relevant changes have been taking up what would normally be blogging time:

1) A new computer! My 4-year-old Dell is on its last legs and rather than watch it die along with whatever data I hadn't managed to back up, I got a new sleek and light ASUS.

And this change led me to...

2) Move all my bird lists to ebird.

I only used Avisys listing software for a couple years, but I was never really that impressed. It could do a lot of things as a piece of software, but rarely in an intuitive or expedient way (somewhat reminiscent of Windows 3.1 in look and function). Surprisingly it is the best piece of bird listing software available based on reviews.

Anyway, in order to move my lists over from Avisys to ebird I had to first update my Clements checklist from 2005 to exercise in tedium that highlighted all that is wrong with Avisys.

(you should really skip reading this example, but I'm going to write it anyway as if you care)

Between 2005 and 2009 ornithological experts split, lump and rename dozens of bird species (i.e. White-vented Storm-Petrel should be renamed "Eliott's Storm-Petrel"). When trying to update to the new checklist with updated names, new species discoveries, lumps and splits, Avisys doesn't know what to do with my sighting of a now nonexistent bird--there is no White-vented Storm--Petrel anymore.
The solution? Sift through .pdfs from 2006, 2007,
2008, 2009 of Clements updates for the line that says: "White-vented Storm-Petrels shall heretoforthwith be knownst as 'Eliott's Storm-Petrels'" and manually rename the species. But often the bird will have changed names again, or the latin name also changes, or Avisys simply can't recognize a crucial apostrophe or hyphen, or for unknown reasons an error message still comes up when trying to update.
For "problem species" Avisys advises you (if you are patient enough to read through a page of instructions--which is necessary to achieve most things without problems in the Avisys world) to put that sighting in a different "safe" species temporarily, run find a pen and paper to scribble down the change you made in order to remember to change it back once the checklist has succe
ssfully updated. So I renamed my Storm-Petrel "White-faced" (a species that existed in 2005 and still exists today under the same name) and then repeated this process with 25 other "problem species" only to have to swap them back later after a successful checklist update.
Anyway, the whole process must have taken 2 hours and I had not even gotten started importing data into Ebird! There are at least 1,000 easy ways Avisys could easily make the update process run more smoothly. Why anyone puts up with this sort of insanity from a program that costs ~$100 when a superior free version (ebird) is available is beyond me.

end rant.

After using ebird for about 2 days, I already love it. Here are just a few reasons why:

1) It's free
2) My lists are accessible from anywhere with an internet connection
3) Checklists update automatically
4) Beyond normal features of listing software it allows all sorts of interesting data analysis
5) It combines every birder's data set into one worldwide database that is free to explore

Just messing around with it I can see that I'm 5th among ebirders for Rhode Island life lists (and only 5 ticks away from 3rd) link and 1st among ebirders for Ecuador for 2010 (though only by 3 ticks, so I may soon be surpassed!) link. Clearly not enough birders use ebird!

Before this post becomes nothing but text, check out this pic from the Chatham County fall count at Jordan Lake last weekend:

A 1st-year bald eagle.

And check out this Red-headed Woodpecker.

We checked the mudflats for shorebirds, but didn't come up with anything super exciting:

Greater Yellowlegs
Lesser Yellowlegs
Least Sandpiper
Semipalmated/Western Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Wilson's Snipe

As always there were lots of Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets. We also saw two Forster's Terns and Caspian Tern.

We hardly had any warbler's worth mentioning:
Common Yellowthroat
Northern Waterthrush

Last year when the drought was worse the lake much lower and we saw a Ruff near the mouth of Morgan Creek. This is a pretty rare bird for NC, caused a lot of commotion on the carolinabirds listserve and required me to fill out paperwork for official record-keeping in Raleigh.

Anyway, nothing was spotted this time around to cause any waves, but I did see a Bobolink and two Wild Turkeys for North Carolina birds #206 and #207.

#208 showed up in my bird bath the other day:

A Veery (and yard bird #70)!

From now on I am going to try and include one video clip at the end of each post. I'll start (and end this post) with this one of a flock of 51 Purple Sandpipers I encountered on Wrightsville Beach on New Years Day 2010. Has anyone ever seen this many purples flock together before?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway, life bird #1447 and Brown Boobies update!

Last weekend I took the opportunity to visit Fancy Gap, Virginia and stay at a mountain house owned by legendary Carolina birder and naturalist, Will Cook.

While there weren't as many birds around as we might have hoped, the weather and views were gorgeous.
From the deck of Will's house I did manage to spot a couple Tennessee Warblers in a passing flock for life bird #1447! I also saw and photographed this Cape May Warbler.

It would have been a new bird for my North Carolina list had I been a few miles south. Instead it became bird #1 on my Virginia state list (which is now a whopping 18 species long)!

That was sarcasm in case you missed it. In Ecuador I couldn't make it to breakfast with seeing 18 species.

Anyway, here's a picture of a first fall female Cape May. Probably the best picture I got all weekend--ironically of a very drab bird. We also saw a nice-looking male Black-throated Blue Warbler at Will's.

After Will recovered from E. Coli poisoning contracted from all the old freezer meat we ate for dinner Saturday night we did make it down the Parkway into NC territory for a bit.

There didn't seem to be a whole lot of bird activity so we spent most of our time telling jokes to the bored hawk-watchers at Mahogany Rock.
We did get some good views of this great-looking male Hooded Warbler. It was also North Carolina bird #205 for me and I am now only 200 species away from overtaking Will in that category. The only other Warbler to add was a female American Redstart (yawn).

Despite the somewhat disappointing bird turnout it was a great trip. Thanks to Will for hosting and to Lisa for the great cooking that didn't even kill anyone!

Back in Durham I have yet to see much in the way of exciting migrants other than a Blue-headed Vireo and some Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in my backyard.

I did see one of the Red-shouldered Hawks this morning out by "Richardson Lake" along the Al Buehler Trail. A family has occupied this site for at least a couple years and it was good to see that they all hadn't been killed by stray golf balls.

As promised here's the big update on Brown Boobies.It still exists! Not only that, but it has just entered its third generation of leadership.

I have always said: "birdwatching is about the worst hobby a college student can have," (mostly in reference to the necessity of waking up early). On top of that, one would think that anyone clever enough to get into Brown and with a strong interest in birds would go to Cornell instead. Then again, when I was applying to Brown I didn't even like birds. And here I am.

Anyway, suffice to say I'm pretty thrilled that the club is still around. This also means there will be another order of for T-shirts made soon (see the logo above). These are super popular and always sell out so don't count on extras lying around to get at the last minute. Put your order in now!

Monday, August 30, 2010


This blog is going to be about all about all the bird-related things I do with hopefully lots of cool pictures.
(such as this Lineated Woodpecker from La Hesperia)

I spent the last 8 months living, working, traveling and birding in Ecuador (mostly), Peru and Colombia. I posted 25 times in my travel blog, "because postcards are so passe" ( and often there was a lot of emphasis on birds and birding, but I kept having to write about trivial things such as my personal health and safety. And monkeys.

But now that I am back home, the old blog is on hold. I have started this new one to focus entirely on things bird-related. I do hope to revisit some of the South American birds and birding spots here and post more pictures.

But this post is not just a placeholder. I have important breaking news to share. Read on!

1) My book, Birds of the Tyler Place, sold out on August 20! I never expected to sell so many copies without being there to lead bird walks and tell people about it. Tyler Place guests visiting during the last 3 or 4 weeks of the season will just have to miss out. I want to make some minor edits before ordering a second print run for May 2011. Send in your feedback now!
2) Peter Capobianco, whose work is featured in Birds of the Tyler Place, has recently posted photos from his trip down to Ecuador and Tiputini biodiversity station. These photos will put anything I ever attempt to capture to shame! Check them out here:

3) I list and South America is a gold mine for anyone who does this (and foolishly considers ticks to be worth gold). Here's a quick recap of the numbers:

Total bird species seen (and successfully identified): 779
Of these, a staggering 642 were life birds.
When I left for Quito, my world life list was at 804 and it now sits at 1446.
My state bird list for North Carolina was at 201 and I ended up seeing 205 species just at La Hesperia.

That's it for now. I'll leave you with this image:

(These two Ruddy Pigeons at La Hesperia were getting in the mood. At least the male was up for it...the female seemed to be a bit of a tease).