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Twitchers

Have you ever been found guilty of being a “Twitcher”? And if you’re not sure what I mean by this here’s a good definition I found on the internet while composing this blog post.

” a birdwatcher whose main aim is to collect sightings of rare birds”

For myself I am guilty as charged. There are some birds that were so elusive to me I started to believe they didn’t exist at all. “Can you say Whimbrel”. I’ve chased this bird multiple times without success, but it wasn’t till my recent trip to California was I finally able to tick this bird onto my life list.

Another good example was the Yellow-headed Blackbird. Always seen sporadically during my multiple stays in northern Ohio during spring migration, I would always keep my ears open at the idle chatter from other birders just waiting to hear the name mentioned. A relatively rare and elusive bird for Ohio, I’ve been know to travel at slightly elevated speeds to stake out locations of recent sightings. It wasn’t until a few years back while on the boardwalk at Magee Marsh when word came to my ears of one being seen on the auto tour at Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge was I able to score another lifer.

When a Garganey showed up at Fernald Preserve in 2011 (45 minutes from my house), Twitchers from all over the country flocked to the area just for this rarity, as did myself. When the bird hung around for several days I was able to treat a group of Boy Scouts who were attending my Bird Study Merit Badge class to this awesome bird.

So if you think about it we all have a little bit of “Twitcher’ in us. I think this is one aspect that makes bird watching so much fun. The exhilaration of the chase and finally seeing the bird is very exciting.

Twitchers from England I’ve heard can really be overly obsessive when it comes to rarities. To see them in action I’ve pasted a URL of an hour long video about English Twitchers. I found this to be really entertaining and I hope you enjoy it.

“Twitcher Video”

Autumn

Autumn, specifically October is both my favorite season and month of all time. And even though I was married 31 years ago this month, the fact remains whether I’m married or not this is my favorite time of year bar none. The landscape is changing, from green corn fields to golden brown rows of ripening field corn. The soy beans are turning golden as the days grow shorter, as well as the leaves on the trees. We’re changing from shorts and T-shirts, to jeans and sweaters. Soups are served warm to the table weekly, as we throw open the windows and turn off the AC.

Change is good. It keeps us in balance with nature. And with these changes comes the much anticipated Winter Finch Report from our friend up north, Ron Pittaway.

Every year at this time birders wait for October and for Ron Pittaway’s look into finch movement during the fall and winter. A field Ornithologist from Ontario Canada, his highly respected, and accurate reports help us birders as we go into the field, or sit inside our warm homes, and watch the birds.

Now I could do a simple copy and paste of his report, but it would be simpler to just add a hyperlink to his report.

And for those birders in the Midwest, Red-breasted Nuthatches are showing up in quantity.

Ron Pittaway’s Finch Report

On The Road

Greeting from beautiful California,  and the equally beautiful Marin County. Well our vacation has finally arrived and it has started out very well. Our flight from Cincinnati to San Francisco was pretty smooth with the added bonus of having the middle seat empty for the entire flight, which gave Kathy and me plenty of room. Our flight actually arrived a little early, and after picking up our luggage and travelling by tram to the rental car compound, we headed off into the big scary city of San Francisco.  

My GPS took right through the heart of the city and right across the Golden Gate Bridge, which was very cool. We enjoyed driving across so much, we went back to Golden Gate Park and walked around and took pictures. One thing to remember if you ever go is that it can be really, really crowded. 

So far the birding has been excellant. Granted if I could just focuz on the birds I probably would have a few more lifersthan I do at the moment. We visited Point Reyes National Seashore both yesterday and today and hit up a good cross section of birding habitat while at the park. 

So all told I’ve added 15 new life birds, with my nemisis bird, the Whimbrel going down. Pictures have been kind of tough to get. It seems when I focus in on so many new birds my camera is the last thing I think about till I make a correct ID. Anyway here are a few iconic California birds





Right now as it stands here are the new additions to my Life List.

  1. Acorn Woodpecker
  2. California Scrub Jay
  3. Stellar’s Jay
  4. Common Murre
  5. Whimbrel
  6. Brewer’s Blackbird
  7. California Quail
  8. Spotted Towhee
  9. California Towhee
  10. Pacific Slope Flycatcher
  11. Western Wood Pewee
  12. Band-tailed Pigeon
  13. Brandt’s Cormorant
  14. Pelagic Cormorant
  15. Chestnut-sided Chickadee

And tomorrow after we pack and grab some breakfast, it’s off to Redwood National Park.

“On The Road” with a added Surprise

So far my trip to the shores of Lake Erie has been a huge success with loads of birds, which include everyone’s favorite Wood Warblers. Now I haven’t added up my totals for the whole trip, considering that my trip is still going on and there are still birds to see. But this little side story started back on Thursday evening when Kathy and I were enjoying a adult beverage at a local brewery. It was 5 pm as I connected to their wifi to check my email.  I’m normally don’t feel the need to check my email, or other social media sites constantly while I’m out birding. My focus is on the birds, not my smart phone, which almost cost me a new life bird.
So it while I was sipping my first tasty brew I read the rare bird of alert of a Curlew Sandpipier just to the west of Toledo. The first posting time was 12:30. Almost 5 hours have gone by from the initial sighting with countless more eBird reports jamming up their servers. As exciting as this sighting is I had to hold back my anxiety to sprint off since we had made plans for the evening which was keeping me busy. My only hope was the bird sticking it out through the night. As the evening wore on the last report was a 7 pm sighting, which gave me hope. I immediately texted Jon to fill him in on the situation,  since he was driving up right after work.
After Jon arrived at his cabin I gave him a call to finalize the details for Friday morning. He was picking me up at 6:15 and with the 45 minute drive we were hoping for enough sun to spot the bird.
The drive wasn’t too terribly bad, we only got turned around once. But we got ourselves un-lost and pulled up on this wonderfully flooded field lined with a couple dozed birders scanning the field. Jon pulled up and we grabbed our scopes as a young women motioned to us to hurry up. We found the bird.
The sun was right in our faces so all the images I shot were horribly back-lit. This bird is in full breeding plumage and is quite a sight to see, however the pictures I took you can’t see hardly any of the coloration or details. Nor was I waiting around for hours till the sun moved to behond us. I may go back zfter we leave tomorrow to try again, but in the mean time here’s the bird.

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Notes From The Field

It was a chilly morning for the first day of Spring as Kathy and I climbed into the bird-mobile for a day of birding for me, and a day of hiking for Kathy with her hiking group. Today destination was Shawnee Lookout Forest, which Kathy hasn’t been to before and I haven’t been since last year. The sky was blue with very little cloud cover, so the hopes were for a quick warm up with decent trails.

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I dropped Kathy off at the Miami Fort Trail where her hiking group was meeting, an I back tracked to another trail so there would be less of a crowd. Little Turtle Trail was my choice.

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It’s really too early for any Spring migrants to be showing up, so for most of the hike I observed birds when they showed themselves, but for the most part I immersed myself in the beauty of the first day of spring.

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Tufted Titmouse, Northern Cardinals, Eastern Towhees, and American Robins, with a hand full of Carolina Chickadees were the dominate species I watch as I made my way along.

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This section of the trail runs parallel to the Ohio River way below my feet. I just love the greenish tint everything is getting while the trees are leafless.

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Wildflowers were just barely showing themselves in small patches adjacent to the trail.

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A Turkey Vulture drying it’s wings in the morning sun. I stumbles upon a small group of 7 or 8 roosting almost at eye level while on the section of trail above the Ohio River.

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Eventually my wife’s hiking group caught up to me. It seems after they finished their first trail they were in the need for more hiking, so they selected the trail I was on. It was about this time I was bringing my cameras up to my eye to snap off a photo of Fox Sparrow when the group showed up. And the bird spooked away.

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I did find the Red Bud just about ready to bloom. One more week of good weather should do it.

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Eastern Towhee

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Northern Cardinal

For the most part it was a wonderful day just to be outside. The air was sunny and cool and the birds were very vocal. And just getting my bins back from Vortex where the rubber eye cup needed to be re-glued, I was anxious to try them out.

So as the weather warms even more, my hopes to get out more and do more birding will increase. And as a added bonus, next month kathy and i are visiting our oldest son in North Carolina for a long weekend. And he has the location of a nesting pair of Brown-headed Nuthatches. Oh-boy, I can’t wait to bring you that story.

Notable birds for the day include.

  1. Red-shouldered Hawk
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. White-throated Sparrow
  5. Fox Sparrow
  6. Field Sparrow
  7. Canada Goose
  8. Carolina Chickadee
  9. Tufted Titmouse
  10. Carolina Wren
  11. Northern Cardinal
  12. Blue Jay
  13. Brown-headed Cowbird
  14. White-breasted Nuthatch
  15. American Crow
  16. Pileated Woodpecker
  17. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  18. Hairy Woodpecker
  19. Downy Woodpecker
  20. American Robin
  21. American Crow

Feeder Watching

On this Valentine’s Day while my wife is out relieving the everyday stresses of work with a massage, I’m having a wonderful time doing some feeder watching this weekend. As much as I love to get out into the field and do some serious birding, sometimes it can be athrill when you just sit there after filling all your feeders and seeing what appeaars in your yard.
February can be a pretty lean month as food supplies dwindle and birds become bolder around feeders. House Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows fight over seed scattered on the ground, while Starlings hang out under the suet feeder waiting for scraps that are dropped.
Surprises like a Red-winged Blackbird ( where were you in January) Common Grackle, and a American Crow are always a welcome sight. Woodpeckers are always fun as they try to muscle their way to the suet.
With feeding in both my front and back yard there is always some action close by. Keeping the feeders filled is always a challenge when you work. If you forget just one day the feeders could be emptied and no birds around to watch. Granted I’m never thrilled with the Starlings taking over the feeders, but there is usually enough for all the others.
As Spring slowly approaches the feeders will be removed as the birds start to find food on their own, but as long as the bitter cold sticks around I’ll be out every couple of days filling them up.
Notable birds
American Crow
Common Grackle
Eastern Towhee
European Starling
Red-winged Blackbird
Northern Cardinal
Northern Flicker
Hairy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
House Finch
American Gold Finch
House Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated SpRrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Mourning Dove