Monday, February 10, 2014

Pulling Mussels from a Shell

Purple Sandpiper feeding on mussels, 1/9/14 at Cupsogue Beach County Park
Image captured with an iPhone, Meopix Adapter & Meopta S2 Spotting Scope
I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a Purple Sandpiper feeding away from rocks before? This was no major surprise to me but I am used to seeing them on jetties and rock pilings rather than on sand/mud flats. This was the case this past weekend when I came across this stunning solo Purple Sandpiper feeding on the various exposed mussel beds at Cupsogue Beach County Park in Westhampton. This bird selectively probed and extracted the meat out of several mussels during my observation, which was also new to me. Some quick internet research specifically suggests that mussels, along with other mollusks, are a favored food source for Purple Sandpipers. Something I should have known I suppose. Pretty cool and even better to witness the behavior while in the field. Purple Sandpipers are known to be very tame and if you approach in a non-threatening manner you can often go home with some solid photos.

Purple Sandpiper posing for the camera, 1/9/14, at Cupsogue Beach County Park. Image captured with an iPhone, Meopix Adapter & Meopta S2 Spotting Scope

Purple Sandpiper showing off its claws. They sure can use the extra grip while scurrying along algae covered rocks. Image capture with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope

Purple Sandpiper mussel extraction complete. Image captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Female Eurasian Wigeons - What To Look For

Every winter, wigeons migrate down the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts where they spend time dabbling in  marshes, ponds and tidal flats. Long Island has no shortage of these ecological features and in turn is a  great place to study the less common Eurasian Wigeon.

Every waterfowl season, birders enjoy sifting through groups of American Wigeon, and other dabbling ducks, in search of Eurasian Wigeons. Adult male Eurasian Wigeons in full breeding plumage are very easy to identify and stick out like sore thumbs among flocks of other ducks. Females, on the other hand, are a bit more difficult and require careful observation. Here, I will share several photos of female Eurasian Wigeon, share some thoughts and point out some of the key features that have worked for me when separating female wigeons of both species.

One of the first things that I always notice with female Eurasian Wigeons is how warm and chocolate-toned their heads are in direct comparison with female American Wigeon. Female American Wigeon usually appears more gray-toned than brown. I say usually because there are some American Wigeons that can occasionally show a bit more of a brownish tone, but never as rich as the Eurasian females, at least with my experience in both species. This is the single most standout feature that allows me to hone in on this species.
Female Eurasian Wigeon (below) with female American Wigeon (above). This photo reveals several key features in distinguishing both species, the most obvious being the overall difference in head and breast tone. The Eurasian Wigeon is more richly brown on the head blending down through the breast vs. the colder, gray-toned American shown above. Also, note the gray toned upper scapulars (filling in behind Eurasian Wigeon's head). Photo taken in West Sayville, NY on 1/19/14 with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotter
If you get stumped by head tone, there are several other features that can help guide you toward correctly separating these species. An important area to focus on is the bill/head interface. Take a close look at where the bill meets the feathers on this wigeon's head. An American Wigeon will usually show a black border here. The thickness of the border here is variable and will sometimes be unnoticeable but its worth having a look. Notice there is no border within this interface on the Eurasian Wigeon image below.
Eurasian Wigeon - Noting the same features as above, but without the comparison to American Wigeon. Also, note the gray upper scapulars. Photo taken in West Sayville, NY on 1/19/14 with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotter

In this final photo of a female Eurasian Wigeon (below) we look at two additional clues, probably more noticeable and reliable than the black border trick mentioned above. Notice the pale gray fringes on the upper scapulars of this bird, seemingly consistent with female Eurasian. This photo shows it well but you can also note this feature on the above images. Finally, hen Eurasian Wigeon tends to show matching tones on head and breast, blending together well. Female American Wigeon shows much more contrast and we will look at some additional photos to reiterate this field mark.
Hen Eurasian Wigeon (bottom) with drake American Wigeon (top) - Image reiterating the gray fringes on the upper scaps of the female Eurasian Wigeon along with the more blended tones on head and breast. Photo taken in West Sayville, NY on 1/19/14 with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Scope

Next, we'll take a closer look at an American Wigeon female. Again, always going back to the gray, cold toned head. Also note the contrasting tones between the head and chest area. This will appear to blend together on a female Eurasian Wigeon showing much less contrast.

Female American Wigeon - Image reiterating the two-toned contrast between head and breast. Image captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope.
Finally, hen American Wigeon generally appear brighter and more strongly patterned above as shown with this individual. This bird is barely showing a black border at the bill/face interface but this is good, as it reiterates the variability of this feature. 
Female American Wigeon - Image reiterating the two-toned contrast between head and breast, bright and strongly patterned above and barely showing a black border at the base of bill (highly variable but never seen on Eurasian Wigeon hen). Image captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Top 3 Summer Highlights - 2013

1) White-faced Storm-Petrel, Block Canyon, August 20, 2013:
It was August 19th when I received an email from John Shemilt that he was looking for a 3rd individual to join his team, on August 20th, to hunt for the much sought after Big-Eye Tuna in the Hampton Offshore Invitational fishing tournament out of Shinnecock Inlet. How could I resist? I scrambled around a bit, made sure things were squared away at work and decided to jump in on this last minute invite to try and catch a tournament winning fish. John had caught a nice Big-eye not long ago and was hoping to repeat during tournament week. I should mention that John and Keegan are both expert pelagic birders, so for obvious reasons I enjoy spending time with them. Fishing while birding, or birding while fishing? I'm pretty sure it doesn't get any better than that. I have to say, August 20th was a very slow day offshore, both for birds and fish, but that's just how it goes sometimes.

White-faced Storm-Petrel                    
We blasted off out of Shinnecock at roughly 5:15 AM (Can't quite remember but there was an official start time to the tournament). All of the tournament boats were lined up, inside of the bay, just waiting for the clock to tick. We first set off to Rhode Island waters where we trolled around for the morning, searching for life and hoping to attract some fish with the spreader rigs. Unfortunately, all of the fish we marked were some 300-400 feet beneath us. Reports of fish, and some other marine life, were being reported at "The Tails" or "Fish Tails." This is the north end of Block Canyon, shaped like a fish tail of course, and is a popular fishing location (roughly 90-100 miles south of Shinnecock Inlet). We ripped over to The Tails, reset the spreader bars and headed into the canyon. We picked up on a moderate-sized pod of Rizzo's Dolphins and Keegan asked John to follow behind them. Bam! We had a Big-eye on, and it was a really big fish. Keegan manned the rod while he and John communicated back and forth, strategizing as they fought this monster of the sea. After nearly 2-hours of fighting, we lost the fish. All that returned to the surface was a bent, nearly straightened hook. Only a really big fish has the capability to bend out a hook and John and Keegan would not have been surprised if that fish weighed near or above 300 pounds. Needless to say, we were devastated, shocked, speechless.
White-faced Storm-Petrel

We mustered up the will to reset the spreader bars once more and give it another shot. Our final attempt was fruitless so we packed up and started gunning back for Shinnecock Inlet. We were going nearly 30 knots, probably 10-15 minutes north of The Tails, when John suddenly yells, "WHITE-FACED STORM-PETREL"!!!!!! John and Angus Wilson had several White-faced Stormies on a recent, previous trip and this life bird was on my brain the entire time we were offshore. This was a memorable moment and probably one of the most unique birds that I have ever seen. This small, paddle-winged, master of the ocean surface put on an absolute show for us. We circled the bird 3-4 times and watched as it picked food from the ocean surface, darted behind swells, "surfing" waves and disappearing, almost as if it dove under water. To think how lucky we were to see this bird is also beyond me. They are difficult to spot to begin with and if this bird wasn't 10 feet off the starboard side, while we were blasting north at 30 knots, we never would have seen it. This goes down as one of my most memorable experiences and I feel very fortunate to have seen this. 

2. Chuck-Will's-Widow, Fire Island, June 22, 2013:
Chuck-Will's Widow - iScoped with Meostar
S2 Spotting Scope and Meopix Adapter
Tyvek suits, duct tape, deer ticks and poison ivy is what it took to see a Chuck-Will's-Widow and its chicks out in the middle of the dense coastal forests of Fire Island, New York. This sounds challenging but its not far off from the fairly routine hazards of my daily work at the Nature Conservancy. It's not fun when its 90 degrees out but it was well worth the battle on June 22nd. I was assisting friend and colleague Jordan Rafael with some vegetation monitoring on this particular day, knowing darn well from his expertise that Chuck-Will's can and have nested in the nearby vicinity. For some odd reason, Chuck-Will's Widow can be seen and heard in various locations throughout Fire Island National Seashore but are scarce elsewhere on Long Island. I took a previous trip to Watch Hill on June 19th and heard 7 birds calling, all from the boat basin alone! This really opened my eyes to the potential density of this species across the seashore.

Chuck-Will's Widow - iScoped with Meostar
S2 Spotting Scope and Meopix Adapter
We made our way through the dense woods to each veg plot while carefully surveying the ground for chicks and even "nests." Chuck-Will's don't actually construct nests. They simply lay their eggs on open ground and rely on their amazing camouflage to hide and secure the eggs while incubating. According to some excerpts from Arthur Cleveland Bent's Life Histories of Birds, Chuck-Will's Widows will sometimes drop their eggs within 3-5 feet, sometimes the same spot, of the exact location that they nested in the previous year. Amazing.

After about an hour of trekking, we flushed an adult Chuck-Will's Widow. The bird weaved and soared through the dense forest with ease, making various croaking noises and calls and eventually perched up on a dead Shadblow snag. I had clear, unobstructed views and began firing away with my iPhone/Meopta set up. Jordan quickly spotted 2 chicks on the ground in the approximate area from which the adult had flushed. We would discover a third chick hidden underneath a nearby dead pitch pine. We did not linger very long as the adult was obviously concerned with our presence. The few minutes that we spent observing this family group would go down as one of the top highlights since I've been birding.

3. Henslow's Sparrow, Fort Drum, 6/29/13:
Henslow's Sparrow - Distant iScope image captured with my
iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotter
It was very difficult to pick a my 3rd and final favorite highlight of the Summer, and I'm still a bit undecided. I suppose if I picked a top 5 I'd have to include Long-tailed Jaeger and Hudsonian Godwit but in no particular order as I have fond memories of each one. I've always had an interest in the Ammodramus genus and Henslow's Sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) has been one of my most sought NY birds.

I planned a western slope birding mission in late June this past Summer. My friend Eugene Davenport Nichols has a place on Long Point, right along the shores of Chaumont Bay on Lake Ontario. Eugene is a master naturalist and botanist and is also one heck of a fisherman. We planned both of the above during my visit with a few target birds in mind; Henslow's Sparrow, Sedge Wren and Black Tern (on their breeding grounds). He'd help me land my life Walleye up in Alexandria Bay on this trip. Eugene is also friends with Jeff Bolsinger, who has the birding scene of St. Lawrence County on lock and agreed to spend a morning with me at their place of employment, Fort Drum.

Henslow's Sparrow - Distant iScope image captured with my
iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotter
Jeff led us to to various locations within the complex but wasted no time in taking us to Henslow's Sparrow territory. Henslow's Sparrow is a grassland bird that prefers wet, grassy meadows with very limited trees and shrubs. Their population has been steadily declining through the years and there are now very few places to find them in New York State. This species is notoriously difficult to detect as they are very secretive, usually running through the dense grassland to avoid detection rather than retreating in flight. Luckily, their call notes do carry and a trained ear can usually pick them up from a considerable distance, as was the case when we finally located a bird after hours of searching. We tried several locations and almost lost hope when Jeff decided, as a last resort, to try the "trolling method" where we would drive slowly along the grassland road and just listen. Sure enough a Henslow's called and we all simultaneously froze as if a bomb had dropped (not an uncommon occurrence at Drum apparently). We had great scope views of the bird and I managed some distant, record iScope shots for the memory. Another Ammodramus down and only two to go (Baird's and Le Conte's) but this was a good one and I was happy to score in my home State. Below is a short video clip of the Henslow's. You can watch as the bird lifts its head and belts out its short song, which is often described as a high pitched, insect-like "tsillik." Can you pick out the song among the many other singing grassland birds in this video?


Friday, August 9, 2013

Godwits on Long Island, NY - Early August 2013

Hudsonian Godwit, 8/9/13 - image captured
with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken
through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope
Its been quite a while since my last blog post, 2 months to be exact. The Summer tends to grab a hold of me as I'm busy working 2 jobs, attending weddings, parties, etc. There is much less time for me to enjoy the outdoors and go birding. And when the birding opportunities come about, I always feel rushed, like I have to think about where and what I'm going to have to do next. For this reason, I now have to choose my birding locations strategically and hope to maximize my time. I always look forward to the Fall when I can get back into my groove and spend hours upon hours wandering sites looking at birds and enjoying nature.

This week was one of those weeks where I had to squeeze in my birding. I decided that Jones Beach West End would become a morning routine. It is more or less on the way into my office and if I got there early enough I could get in a solid hour or so of birding at the Coast Guard Station. Why go to Jones Coast Guard Station? Its a great location to comfortably view shorebirds and other goodies that may drop into Jones Inlet or loaf on the nearby sand bar. But the real reason that I kept visiting Jones this week was in hopes to find a HUDSONIAN GODWIT. I would say that this is a nemesis bird for me; a bird that constantly seems to escape me. I gave up on chasing this species and decided I'll just find my own one day. Well today was the day that I finally came across a molting adult HUDSONIAN GODWIT and the 5:15 AM wake ups payed off quite quickly.
Hudsonian Godwit, 8/9/13 - image captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope. Note that this bird is molting out of its alternate plumage, barely retaining some specks of rufous along its belly, flanks, and under tail coverts. 
Hudsonian Godwit, 8/9/13 - image captured
with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken
through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope
While I was analyzing a leg band on an American Oystercatcher, I noticed a flock of about 20 Black-bellied Plovers land in along the east side of the sand bar. I thought I noticed a different bird in the mix. Was it a dowitcher? I quickly took my focus off the Oystercatcher and scanned the newly arrived flock of birds. Standing there by itself was a Hudsonian Godwit in belly deep water. I watched the bird preen and bathe for a few minutes, took a couple of record photos, and decided to call some friends before quickly putting the word out to the masses. I continued to watch the "Hudwit" preen and bathe until is disappeared tight behind the inside of the sand bar. I knew the bird was still there but it just wasn't in view. Finally the bird, along with a larger formed group of Black-bellied Plovers, took to the ocean, flying across the barrier beach. It looked like these birds were on a mission and I had little faith they'd return.

Hudsonian Godwit is not a mega rarity or anything but its a tough bird to get here on Long Island as the majority of the birds are quickly passing through. It is very easy to miss this species on migration, and many people do, as we don't get huge numbers. They are also known for making nonstop flights over several thousand miles as they migrate from their Arctic breeding grounds down to their wintering grounds in South America. They basically just pick up and go, no lingering. Being in the right place at the right time is the best way to get set up for seeing a Hudwit. Marbled Godwits tend to linger a bit more offering a much better probability of sighting one. This juvenile Marbled Godwit, shown below, was photographed in Westhampton Beach on August 6, 2013. Marbled Godwits are much larger than Hudsonian Godwit and stand out among other shorebirds. Hudwits, being the smallest of the godwit tribe, can easily tuck in among other groups of shorebirds and can be overlooked. Especially when loafing with large groups of dowitchers, willets or yellowlegs.
Juvenile Marbled Godwit, Westhampton Dunes Overlook, 8/6/13 - image captured with
an iPhone and Meopix Adapter taken through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope

Friday, June 7, 2013

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach County Park

I came across another Arctic Tern on 6/5/13, at Cupsogue Beach County Park. A 1st Summer type individual that put on quite a show and I watched intently. I first noted the bird sitting along the edge of a large group of Common Terns. Also in the mix were a few Forster’s and Roseate Terns. The Arctic Tern exhibited uniform grey primaries, as they always do and this was one of the first major keys that tipped me off on the bird. This, along with a more rounded head shape, extensive black on cap dipping beneath the birds eye, and seemingly shorter black bill pointed directly Arctic Tern. The bird was standing on a firm surface of sand, therefore the short leg length was obvious and apparent. After about 15 minutes of viewing, the bird took off toward the east marsh, showed off its wing pattern and lent a few squeaky call notes. The bird took a 5 minute hiatus, returned to the flats, and decided to land within 20 feet of me! The tern continued to loaf and preen for quite a while before it finally took to the sea. Safe journeys little buddy! The following photographs are accompanied by brief descriptions in what to look for when attempting to identify these tricky terns. 

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/5/13 - Note pale gray primaries, extensive
dark on head surrounding and dipping beneath eye, seemingly shorter bill and short legged.
Overall head shape still round. Image taken with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through
a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope by Meopta Sports Optics. 

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/5/13 - This shot, again, showing the
pale gray primaries in better light. Image taken with an iPhone and Meopix 
Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope by Meopta Sports Optics. 

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/5/13 - In flight, note
thin black trailing edge along outer primaries. This feature can be seen among
all ages of Arctic Tern and is perhaps one of the better diagnostic field
marks when seen well. Upper wings uniform gray. Image taken
with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2
 Spotting Scope by Meopta Sports Optics.

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/5/13 - Note the grey toned vein that runs along the outer tail feathers on either side of the tail. Just like the thin, black trailing edge to the outer primaries, this characteristic is shown through all ages of Arctic Tern. The rest of the tail is primarily white. The birds shorter legs are quite apparent in this photo. Image taken with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope by Meopta Sports Optics.

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/5/13 - Another shot of a preening 1st Summer Arctic Tern showing
the pattern of its tail. Again, single grey outer vein running along outer tail feathers. Image taken with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope by Meopta Sports Optics. 

1st Summer Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/5/13 - Nothing like a nice spread wing shot. Here showing both the
underwing and upperwing pattern. Note the 8 primaries on left wing as it reveals underwing pattern. Each feather is tipped with black along the outer edge. Upperwing (right wing for the purpose of this photo) showing a relatively uniform gray throughout. Again, you can note the tail pattern with that gray outer vein running along the outer tail feathers. Image taken with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope by Meopta Sports Optics. 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weekend Highlight - Arctic Tern

It was a fairly long week at work, even though Monday was a holiday it still felt long. All I could think about was waking up early on Saturday and birding the flats at Cupsogue Beach County Park to study some terns. I really wanted to find an Arctic Tern, the furthest traveling migrant in the world. Arctic Terns breed in the Arctic and spend their winters in Antarctica making roughly up to a 44, 000 mile round trip per year. The majority of their migration takes place over open sea, where their buoyant, seemingly effortless wing beats carry them across the ocean. Every year, a handful of Long Island birders get lucky enough to view these birds as they touch down on the island for a quick rest stop. 

Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 5/20/13 - Note many good field marks
captured in this image. Thin black trailing edge of outer primaries, relatively
short, deep red bill, short legs and an extensive black cap (image captured
with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter through Meostar S2 Spotting Scope).
On 5/20/13, I finally got to study my first, real life Arctic Terns out on the flats at Cupsogue Beach with Shai Mitra. Despite the rolling fog I was able to make out the 2 individuals that Shai had found, both subtly differing from one another. Having Shai’s expert commentary on the sideline was invaluable. I don’t know that there’s one single book that covers all of the tern information that he doled out. The first adult-type Arctic Tern remained on site for about ten minutes past my arrival and eventually took to the ocean, flying directly overhead and lending a few quick “kip” notes. It must have only been 5 minutes until Shai picked out another adult-type Arctic on the flats. I have routinely missed Arctic Tern in previous years since I’ve been birding more intensely. This was a highly sought lifer for me and it was great to finally observe these birds. 

 So as I was initially saying, I was anxious to get out to Cupsogue this past weekend and search for “my own” Arctic Tern. I arrived at Cupsogue shortly at 7:30 AM on the morning of 6/1/13. I started out with a brief sea watch to see if any morning pelagic wanderers were within the reaches of shore. It was pretty quiet with only a few Sooty Shearwaters loitering around just east of the jetty at Moriches Inlet. I decided to cross to the bayside flats and start studying terns. I ran into Steve Walter, who takes dynamite nature photographs and was also out looking for Arctic Tern. After about 3 hours of roaming around the flats we decided to go revisit a group of terns that were frequenting the north end of the flats. Arctic Terns will drop in periodically throughout the day and can really show up at any time. While glassing a large congregation of terns, primarily composed of Commons, I picked out an adult-type Arctic Tern. Picking out an Arctic Tern definitely takes a bit of time and scrutiny as they look superficially like the other 3 members of the Sterna genus or “medium-sized terns”, most closely resembling Common Tern. Carefully examining each and every individual is extremely important. 
Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/1/13 - another adult-type bird. Note the uniform gray primaries, extensive black
cap and a deep red bill showing a bit of a dusky tip. Also notice the small white gap between the upper mandible and
black cap, usually more broad on Common Tern (Image captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adpater though a Meostar S2 Spotting Scope).
Like many birds, terns appear differently depending on their age and plumage cycle. In this instance, I am only focusing on Adult-type individuals. Some clues to look for when searching for an adult Arctic Tern are:

  • Bill Color - A deeper red toned bill (some showing a slight dusky tip). Arctic Terns generally show a shorter bill compared to their other Sterna counterparts but this is sometimes difficult to judge in the field.
  • Head & Face - Rounder headed with black cap extending further down past the eye. White facial feathers between the upper mandible and black cap may appear as a narrow white line. The line or gap may appear more broad on Common Tern.
  • Underparts - darker gray throughout underparts, although in bright conditions this will not always be so apparent. I have noticed that this feature seems better viewed when the bird is in flight. 
  • Leg Length - Arctic Terns will appear short-legged. Another caution that is dependent upon the contour of the ground in which it stands. Other Sternas can appear this way if they’re standing in a small divot, ditch, soft substrate, etc.
  • Tail Length - Outer tips of tail feathers extend beyond wing tips
  • Underwing Pattern - this is a great feature that can be noted in all plumages of Arctic Terns and separates it from the others. The pattern of the trailing edge of the 7-8 primary wing feathers lends the effect of a dark, sharp edge. Commons appear more blotchier and thicker. 
  • Upperwing Pattern - Uniform gray throughout. When sitting, the birds primary extension will appear uniformly gray.
  • Flight - Said to have a more buoyant, effortless flight. 
Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/1/13 - Not the best image but you can
note the darker gray undperparts, thin black trailing edge of outer primaries.
The dark body contrasting with the neck and cap almost creates the look of
a white line (image captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter though a
Meostar S2 Spotting Scope).

Arctic Tern - Cupsogue Beach C.P., 6/1/13 - Again, note
the dark gray body, creating the white line effect where face
meets cap. See the outer 8 primaries tipped with black (image
captured with an iPhone and Meopix Adapter though a
Meostar S2 Spotting Scope).

Monday, May 13, 2013

Meopta Mud Hens - 30th Annual World Series of Birding Recap

Red-headed Woodpecker - iScoped with
Meopta S2 Spotter and Meopix Adapter 
Before I begin, I'd like to extend a tremendous thank you to Meopta Sports Optics for sponsoring our team in this years efforts. It was a true honor to have such a reputable optics company support our team. Meopta has pioneered the industry with their top of the line equipment and, without question, has developed some of the worlds finest optics in the game. I raise my binocs to Meopta for supporting bird conservation efforts in the Northeast.

The Meopta Mud Hens consisted of 3 members. Chase Cammarota, James "the Godfather" Blumenstein, and myself, Derek Rogers. We were missing our 4th member this year, my brother, Chris Rogers. He was busy cheering us on and tending to his newborn daughter Braelyn Lily Rogers. Perhaps she'll be entering in the World Series of Birding in the near future. The Mud Hens chose to participate in the LGA category (Limited Geographic Area) as we have done in previous years. The LGA is fun, challenging, tiring and saves a bit of gas guzzling. We detail Cumberland County every year as the birds are plentiful and there is no shortage of habitat diversity. We like the amount of open space in this county and it really adds to the enjoyment of our travels. Last year we ended up finishing in 2nd place for the Cumberland County LGA with 136 species. There is a lot of solid competition in this County tournament and we're always up against some very sharp birders.
Yellow-breasted Chat - iScoped with
Meopta S2 Spotter and Meopix Adapter 

Despite the apocalyptic, intermittent rain and thunderstorms 2013 was our best year yet. We finished up with 138 species overall (71%) of par for Cumberland County and just 5 birds (2%) fewer than the leading team putting the Mud Hens in the #2 spot for the Cumberland County race. Good scouting and some growing familiarity with the territory is starting to really pay off. Cumulatively, between scouting and the "big day" we birded for 43 total hours within Cumberland County starting around noon on Thursday, May 9, 2013 until we ended at about 11:00 PM on May 11th. It was a struggle to get passerines this year in the near constant pouring rain but we made the best of any and every break in the weather. On Friday, May 10th, while scouting Hansey Creek Road, we witnessed an epic fallout event. Warblers were strewn about all over the place calling, singing, and feeding. It was almost overwhelming, trying to pick apart each individuals song while simultaneously glassing each bird that flew across the road. Between a few locations, we had 26 warbler species in a little under 2 hours of birding. This activity did not continue into the "big day" but it was certainly a moment to remember. We ended with a total of 20 warbler species during the actual world series event, which was not bad considering the the weather and change in conditions. The most glaring warbler miss was Hooded Warbler, as we heard them in several locations during the days leading to the event. Not a single Hooded sang in any of our noted locations, after multiple visits during the day. Another glaring miss was Glossy Ibis. Last year we noted Glossy's all over the place. I didn't see a single Glossy Ibis in Cumberland County since Thursday afternoon. Perhaps we were just unlucky but I'm interested in finding out how other folks in the area fared with this species.

Here is the final checklist submitted by the Meopta Mud Hens at 11:20 PM on Saturday May 11, 2013. The following birds were seen and/or heard between 0200 hours and 2300 hours:

1) Canada Goose
2) Mute Swan
3) Wood Duck
4) American Black Duck
5) Mallard
6) Green-winged Teal
7) Lesser Scaup
8) Wild Turkey
9) Common Loon
10) Double-crested Cormorant
11) Great Blue Heron
12) Great Egret
13) Snowy Egret
14) Green Heron
15) Black-crowned Night Heron
16) Black Vulture
17) Turkey Vulture
18) Osprey
19) Bald Eagle
20) Northern Harrier
21) Red-tailed Hawk
22) Peregrine Falcon
23) Clapper Rail
24) Black-bellied Plover
25) Semipalmated Plover
26) Killdeer
27) Greater Yellowlegs
28) Willet
29) Lesser Yellowlegs
30) Solitary Sandpiper
31) Spotted Sandpiper
32) Ruddy Turnstone
33) Red Knot
34) Sanderling
35) Semipalmated Sandpiper
36) Least Sandpiper
37) White-rumped Sandpiper
38) Dunlin
39) Short-billed Dowitcher
40) Bonaparte's Gull
41) Laughing Gull
42) Ring-billed Gull
43) Herring Gull
44) Great Black-backed Gull
45) Least Tern
46) Forster's Tern
47) Black Skimmer
48) Mourning Dove
49) Rock Pigeon
50) Yellow-billed Cuckoo
51) Eastern Screech-Owl
52) Great-horned Owl
53) Barred Owl
54) Chuck-will's Widow
55) Eastern Whip-Poor-Will
56) Chimney Swift
57) Ruby-throated Hummingbird
58) Belted Kingfisher
59) Red-headed Woodpecker
60) Red-bellied Woodpecker
61) Downy Woodpecker
62) Hairy Woodpecker
63) Northern Flicker
64) Eastern Wood-Pewee
65) Eastern Phoebe
66) Great-crested Flycatcher
67) Eastern Kingbird
68) White-eyed Vireo
69) Yellow-throated Vireo
70) Red-eyed Vireo
71) Horned Lark
72) Purple Martin
73) Tree Swallow
74) Northern Rough-winged Swallow
75) Bank Swallow
76) Barn Swallow
77) Blue Jay
78) American Crow
79) Fish Crow
80) Carolina Chickadee
81) Tufted Titmouse
82) White-breasted Nuthatch
83) Carolina Wren
84) House Wren
85) Marsh Wren
86) Blue-grey Gnatcatcher
87) Eastern Bluebird
88) Veery
89) Grey-cheeked Thrush
90) Wood Thrush
91) American Robin
92) Gray Catbird
93) Northern Mockingbird
94) European Starling
95) Brown Thrasher
96) Blue-winged Warbler
97) Northern Parula
98) Yellow Warbler
99) Chestnut-sided Warbler
100) Magnolia Warbler
101) Black-throated Blue Warbler
102) Yellow-rumped Warbler
103) Black-throated Green Warbler
104) Yellow-throated Warbler
105) Pine Warbler
106) Prairie Warbler
107) Black and White Warbler
108) American Redstart
109) Prothonotary Warbler
110) Worm-eating Warbler
111) Ovenbird
112) Northern Waterthrush
113) Kentucky Warbler
114) Common Yellowthroat
115) Yellow-breasted Chat
116) Eastern Towhee
117) Chipping Sparrow
118) Field Sparrow
119) Grasshopper Sparrow
120) Saltmarsh Sparrow
121) Seaside Sparrow
122) Song Sparrow
123) White-throated Sparrow
124) Summer Tanager
125) Scarlet Tanager
126) Northern Cardinal
127) Rose-breasted Grosbeak
128) Blue Grosbeak
129) Indigo Bunting
130) Red-winged Blackbird
131) Boat-tailed Grackle
132) Common Grackle
133) Brown-headed Cowbird
134) Orchard Oriole
135) Baltimore Oriole
136) House Finch
137) American Goldfinch
138) House Sparrow

Again, it was a great honor to represent Meopta Sports Optics in this 2013 World Series of Birding. This was the 30th Anniversary of the event and thus far has raised close to $9,000,000 for bird and habitat conservation efforts.

The three photos in this blog post were captured during our scouting period on Friday, May 10th using my iPhone and a Meopix iScoping Adapter. Fasten this set up onto some good glass like, Meopta's Meostar S2 Spotting Scope, and you're in for some really nice photos and videos.

Finally, for those wondering what in the world a mud hen is. Mud Hen is the old hunters term for either  rail or a coot, both of which live in marsh environments, hence the nickname "mud hen."

Short-billed Dowitcher - iScoped with Meostar S2 Spotting Scope & Meopix Adapter