Showing posts from 2012

Finch Fever

During last Fall and Winter, you'd have been hard pressed to find a Red-breasted Nuthatch around Long Island. Some of their historic breeding sites, like the pitch pine forests at Brookhaven National Lab,  did hold this species throughout the year. But, for the most part, there was little movement. This year has been a different story. Solid numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches started getting reported in the late Summer months islandwide. This relatively early arrival time has been, in the past, known to signify a finch irruption. For Long Island, this generally means that the winter finches (Pine Siskin, Purple Finch, Crossbills, and Redpolls) might move south and visit our beaches, forests, and bird feeders. The photo on the right shows a classic view of a Red-breasted Nuthatch. I particularly like the perspective of this shot, the bird's classic, clinging and curious stance, and the background color composition. Another classic iScope image with my Meopix Adapter.
On Septemb…

Digiscoping with the MeoPix iScoping Adapter by Meopta


I entered the iPhone world relatively late. It was in November 2011 when I upgraded from my ancient “flip” phone to the iPhone 4. Shortly after I purchased my iPhone, I was at Smith Point County Park viewing a Vesper Sparrow through my scope when I decided to try and digiscope the bird using my iPhone camera. I was shocked at how well the camera matched up with my scope and knew I’d be using this technique often. I later found out that this technique had a name, “iScoping.”

I’ve been having a blast using the iScoping technique and have produced some outstanding quality images and videos. I use the Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scope with the Razor HD 30X Wide Angle Eyepiece. I’ve noticed that the 30X wide angle eyepiece really makes a world of difference when iScoping. It has tremendously reduced the outer circular scope outline and has helped produce a brighter, closer image. Still, I was missing something. How was I going to construct a mount that would enable myself to im…

Buff-breasted Sandpiper


While we're still within the window of shorebird season, I wanted to write about one of my favorite birds of the world, the Buff-breasted Sandpiper. There's something about the grasspipers that really attract me. I'm sure it has a lot to do with my fascination for the far north and the high Arctic habitat in which several of our migrant shorebirds breed. Buffys nest way up in the islands of the Arctic, as far as northern areas of Baffin Bay. They are common migrants throughout central North America (Great Plains) but uncommon along the Atlantic Coast. Nearly all of the Buff-breasted Sandpipers that reach Long Island during Fall migration are juveniles.

This year, on the morning of August 20th, I observed an adult Buff-breasted Sandpiper foraging in the median at Hecksher State Park in Great River, NY. Adults are extremely uncommon along the coast and can also be difficult to identify. A molting adult (in this case, transitioning from breeding plumage to non-…

Brown Booby at Cupsogue Beach County Park - 7/5/2012

Today at 1415 a Brown Booby flew eastbound, across the sand flats at Cupsogue Beach County Park. The bird completely struck me by surprise but I did not hesitate to quickly shout, “Brown Booby!” I was scanning around the flats, located in the approximate pin-pointed area on the map below when I noticed a “different” looking bird coming straight at me from the west. My brain scanned, I waited, then waited and the Brown Booby flew right past me, offering great looks. Accompanied by Arie Gilbert, I turned to him once the bird made some distance toward the east. We responsibly debated the other options, but quickly firmed my initial thought and sighting as a Brown Booby. Arie was fast with the shutter and managed to snap these photos. While not award winning, we were excited to see that they helped firm that the bird was indeed a Brown Booby.

Birds of the Boreal Woods


A Weekend Excursion to the North Country

I always enjoy spending time in boreal forests. The powerful aroma of black spruce and tamarack can barely be recreated. Lichens dangle from old snags, sphagnum moss carpets the forest floor and the cool, moist woodland sets the stage for an unforgettable experience in nature. This has always been the case since I've visited the many boreal forest areas in New York's Adirondack Park. Even when the black and deer flies are in heavy pursuit, I arrive prepared and accept their place in the forest. It's no wonder that Yellow-bellied Flycatchers thrive in this habitat. You can hear their bills "snapping" as they hawk aerial prey. One last deer fly to breach my defense.

The photo on the right was a digiscope shot taken at Bloomingdale Bog, south end near the first powerline cut. I'd encounter several more Yellow-bellied, just not as photogenic, in the general vicinity. My Flicker link cont…

Birds of the Rockies and Prairies - Birding with David Sibley, Keith Hansen, John Carlson, Jeff Wohl & Nikki Mann


On May 26, 2012, I landed in Great Falls, Montana. It was 33 degrees Fahrenheit and the snow was falling. While I didn't pack for winter weather I was prepared with the right gear to feel comfortable. "Spring in Montana" is what John Carlson and the other local folks would say with a slight chuckle. Despite the unexpected snow, and dry Montana cold, I was ready for a week of intense birding. I traveled with friend Mike Scheibel who shares the same dedicated passion in finding and observing birds. We were picked up in Great Falls by Nature Conservancy staff and volunteers and headed to Pine Butte Ranch. The ranch is owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy's Montana Chapter. The ranch is located about an hour west of Choteau (pronounced sho-toe) on the south bank of the Teton River at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. This would be our base for the next 6 days from where we would travel to various locations within the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front.

Buntings & Grosbeaks

The fun began on Sunday, April 22nd when 2 Indigo Buntings were feeding on dandelion seeds directly in front of my doorstep. Indigo Buntings are an attractive looking bird. As the name suggests, Indigo Bunting males are bright blue. It's a color that one simply cannot recreate. Other than the visual feast that the indigos provided, it was exciting to log this species into the property list, at bird species # 147. I am actually surprised that it has taken 6 years to see an Indigo Bunting. You always wonder, what will be next? Indigo Buntings are a fairly widespread species holding a large range within North America. They breed throughout NY State but more sparsely throughout mountainous territory. Indigos like brushy open habitats with edges and trees nearby.

 The recent migration push, coupled with last weekends coastal low pressure system that moved up the coast, ended up delivering some displaced birds along the barrier beaches. Among these birds were …

Louisiana Waterthrush (Parkesia motacilla)

My morning began with excitement when I watched a Louisiana Waterthrush belting out its song along the creek corridor at Franklin Pond in Cold Spring Harbor. I have been routinely checking this site for the past week and half on my way to and from work and my time has finally paid off. There's definitely a bit of luck involved when it comes to finding birds but knowing and reading your habitat is a big advantage when it comes to being a successful bird watcher.
Franklin Pond is part of the Cold Spring Harbor watershed. It is situated above (south of) St. John's Pond where the two are connected by a small freshwater stream. Water exits Franklin Pond by means of a spillway, runs into the stream and eventually makes its way into St. John's Pond. The understory vegetation consists of skunk cabbage, canada mayflower, american beech tree and other hardwood saplings. Moss covered snags and rocks line the stream bank making this a perfect recipe for suitable Louisiana Waterthrush …

Purple Sandpiper


 I decided to go birding at Jones Beach, West End, this morning. The sky was overcast which made for perfect viewing. I began my loop trek along the East Side of Jones Inlet. Hundreds of Northern Gannets were plunge diving inside the inlet making for excellent, detailed viewing. Common and Red-throated Loons were beneath the feeding frenzy. I headed south along the jetty in hopes to see a Purple Sandpiper. Knowing that there was a decent ESE swell, I figured my chances of viewing a purple would be along the protected inlet side of the jetty. As I continued south, I noticed an approximately 30 individual flock of shorebirds burst off the jetty, regroup in the air, and land within the inside of the rocks. I knew they had to be purples. I've seen plenty of Red Knots foraging and roosting along jetties but these guys landed in low and deep, right along the water edge. I was still several hundred yards from the birds but my scope immediately picked up on a group of Purple…

A Visitor From Sable Island, Nova Scotia

Savannah "Ipswich" Sparrow

This morning, I joined friends Mike and Lynne Scheibel at Point Lookout Town Beach for a brief bird outing. Diversity was somewhat low all around. The first jetty yeilded several numbers of our common gull species. Four Harlequin Ducks were a nice surprise but are always fairly reliable at this location. We made our way east toward the inlet, the usual suspects continued. Horned Grebes were gaining some color as the early signs of the breeding season were apparant in their plumage.
While scanning the inlet, Mike called out, "Ipswich." He located the sparrow about 30 feet from us on the jetty of which we were standing. The Ispwich variety of the Savannah Sparrow is one of my favorite of the sparrow species. While not entirely uncommon on Long Island, or the coastal Northeast, you will very rarely see an Ipswich sparrow inland.

The Ispwich Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis princeps) is one of many subspecies of the widespr…