a place to express my love for birds
This is a blog/journal about birds and birding. I grew up watching birds, as I lived in a rural area with farms, fields and forests. As an adult, I got into "serious" birding around the year 2015 when I went on my first "guided" bird walk at a local state park in Pennsylvania. In 2017, I kept track of how many different species I could spot in one year, which was 137. In 2017, I saw 201 species!|
So I have some goals for 2019:
Five "lifers" (A "lifer" is a bird I have never seen/identified before)
Enter a checklist every day on www.ebird.org
Visit 10 new "hotspots" (popular birding sites like parks, gamelands and sanctuaries)
Sharp-shinned Hawk in my backyard, December 2017
Snowy Owl in Fleetwood, PA, January 2018
I had a great birding year for 2018! My goal was to see at least 140 different species of birds, and I ended up at 201! I don't expect to get that many in 2019, honestly. I don't have plans to go on vacation at the shore or out of state, so I probably won't get near 200 again. In 2018, I saw 161 species in my county, so I'd like to at least match that number for 2019.
I have a goal to see 5 new "lifers," and to visit 10 new "hotspot" birding areas. I'd also like to focus even more on photography and to get some good recordings of bird songs (especially warblers in Spring).
I'd really love to find an owl on my own during the day. It's a tough thing to do, and I'd love to accomplish it one day! There are a few birds I'd love to see (Evening Grosbeaks, Golden Eagle, Dickcissel, and Snow Buntings) and a few birds I'd really love to get good photos of (Hairy Woodpecker, Vesper Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, Winter Wren and hawks in general).
In the first day of 2019, I spotted 12 species:
1. Dark-eyed Junco (first bird of the year 3 years running!)
2. Mourning Dove
3. Tufted Titmouse
4. American Goldfinch
5. House Sparrow
6. Song Sparrow
7. American Crow
8. Sharp-shinned Hawk
9. Turkey Vulture
10. European Starling
11. Downy Woodpecker
12. Black-capped Chickadee
This morning I stopped at a local state park/lake and saw a few more:
13. Bald Eagle
14. Belted Kingfisher
15. Pileated Woodpecker
16. Eastern Bluebird
17. Rock Pigeon
18. Blue Jay
and then when I came home, I spotted #19, Northern Cardinal, at my feeders until the Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up and scared it away.
I've had a Sharp-shinned Hawk visit my feeders three Decembers in a row now! (It's the one whose photo is on this blog) I can only assume it's the same bird every year. I do look forward to its visit, but I may let my feeders empty so that the little birds stop showing up. That will encourage the hawk to move along. I know it needs to eat, too, but I enjoy seeing the little birds!
|I heard #200, Evening Grosbeaks, back on 11/11. I was hoping to see one sometime this year. They used to be found in our area decades ago, but they've moved farther north. Every so often, though, they travel farther South during Winter. People have been seeing them in PA this year (they like platform feeders). I didn't get a chance to see them, but I heard them singing at a local state gamelands.
I did three Christmas Bird Counts this year! It's a nation-wide bird count affiliated with Audobon Society usually held in December. On my second count, I spotted #201, Cackling Goose (while searching for a Barnacle Goose that was hanging around our area. I missed that one, though.)
I doubt I'll get any new species before the end of the year, so it's likely that I'll end with 201 species for the year, which is really awesome!
I don't think I'll get as many birds next year mostly because I'm not planning any out of state trips. I'll have to come up with some new birding resolutions for 2019!
|As we approach the end of the year, my new species really begins to slow (and I start to get excited about starting a new year over)!
A few weeks back, I saw #196, Dunlin , a really great bird for our area. It's not necessarily "rare," though rarely seen. It passes through during migration. It has only been report on Ebird three times in our county and my sighting is the first photograph of one!
The same day as the Dunlin, I saw #197, a Vesper Sparrow, briefly at Tuscarora State Park, which was also a lifer for me!
Last week, I went on a trip to see #198, Cattle Egret, that has taken up residence at a sheep farm outside of Bloomsburg, PA. They're not typically found in our area at all!
Yesterday, I saw another not often seen bird in our area, #199, Greater Scaup, a type of duck. I got a better look at it today .
I'm excited to see if I can reach 200 by the end of the year! My hope is that an Evening Grosbeak will stop by my feeder! They've been seen in the county (and all over Pennsylvania) recently! A lot of the Winter birds like this one are having an "Irruption" year, which means they're traveling farther South than typical due to lack of food. It's a good year to see Pine Siskins, Grosbeaks and Purple Finches farther South than usual!
Some cool photos I had recently:
Common Raven and American Crow in the same shot!
|Before I left for Cape May, I visited our local Hawk Mountain Sanctuary and saw #172, Peregrine Falcon.
In Cape May, I spotted 23 new species, mostly lifers! I highly recommend Cape May for any level of birder! Visit the Meadows, Hawk Watch Platform, the Cape May Birding Observatory and considering taking one of the birding by boat trips!
#173 - Black Scoter
174 - Laughing Gull
175 - Great Black-backed Gull
176 - Forster's Tern
177 - Semi-palmated Sandpiper
178 - Snowy Egret
179 - Savannah Sparrow
180 - Eurasian Wigeon
181 - American Wigeon
182 - Gadwall
183 - Pectoral Sandpiper
184 - Little Blue Heron
185 - Merlin
186 - Royal Tern
187 - Brant
188 - American Oystercatcher
189 - Black-bellied Plover
190 - Semi-palmated Plover
191 - Whimbrel
192 - Ruddy Turnstone
193 - Yellow-crowned Night Heron
194 - Boat-tailed Grackle
195 - Herring Gull
|(A slight diversion from my usual topic of birds)
Today is apparently Ask an Atheist Day! I'm not the most "open" person about my lack of belief in a deity, but I'm trying to show my support for a stance that gets a lot of flack and misunderstanding.
So if you have any questions about atheism, feel free to ask!
And if you're also an atheist, Hi! You're not alone!
|I plan a lot of my birding outings to coincide with my job, which takes me all over my county. I had a property inspection near a body of water. I left early so I could stop and watch for water birds. We just had what was left of the tropical storm pass through, so that can be a good time to catch migratory waterfowl. I was in luck, because I spotted #170, Great Egret , which was also a lifer for me!
I also got a photo of a very cooperative juvenile Spotted Sandpiper .
This morning I saw a new bird that confounded me for a bit. It looked similar to a House Finch but with some yellow on its wings. House Finches can have a yellow variant (they're normally a raspberry-red) but it also had darker streaking. I posted a photo on a bird ID FB page, and found they were #171, Pine Siskins !
Pine Siskins are one of my tricky species. I try to get them every year and mostly I don't see them. They don't typically stay in the same place year after year, they're mostly a Winter species in PA and they don't look all that distinct. When I submitted my sighting to Ebird, they actually flagged it as rare and I had to add a comment explaining my sighting! I think this pair just showed up early for whatever reason. Actually, I'm sure I had at least one of them yesterday feeding with a group of American Goldfinches. At the time, I thought it was a juvenile Goldfinch!
Some other photos from this week:
|I haven't written in quite a while. Summers aren't great for birding for several reasons. I don't like high temps, so it's hard to get out hiking. There are lots of leaves on the trees, so birds are hard to see, and we don't typically have a lot of new species going through the area.
Fall migration has started, though, so I've started back up birding!
Last week I spotted #166, Black Vulture hanging out with a group of Turkey Vultures. Then just this week the warblers started showing up again.
#167 - Nashville Warbler (Ebird is telling me this is a lifer for me, too! It's hard to keep track of which warblers I've seen!
I also got to watch two Osprey flying over the lake at a local state park. One Osprey was doing low circles over the lake, it would land in the lake, and then splash around. After doing it a few times, I was convinced it wasn't trying to catch a fish, but probably bathing! It was really cool to see, and there were also two Double-crested Cormorants in the lake. They were probably all migratory birds passing through.
I went on a Fall bird walk with a few fellow birders and my sister yesterday and I had two new species for the year, #168 - Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (a rare bird for this park, we heard it call clearly and when I went back to the park today, I heard them again and I spotted one briefly) and #169 - Acadian Flycatcher.
This past Spring I focused on Kinglets and Vireos, and I think next year I'm going to focus on Flycatchers. They look very similar, but their songs can set them apart, so it's really great to learn their songs!
Some other photos I got recently:
Great Blue Heron
I'm going to be visiting Cape May during the second week of October, which I've heard is a really great time to visit one of the best birding places in the US. It should be a really fun trip and I hope I see some awesome new birds!
|I spent the weekend at Sylvan Beach, NY and got one new species: #165, Common Tern. They're really fun to watch as they dive into the water!
I got some good photos of other birds while at the campground:
Green Heron in a tree
Belted Kingfisher in flight
Eastern Kingbird that catches its breakfast every morning from my Dad's dock
I could sit and watch the birds all day there!
|I'm working on my flycatchers!
Over the weekend, I spotted #163, Great-crested Flycatcher . Today I went on a guided bird walk at one of my favorite places, Ricketts Glen State Park. We saw lots of good birds, and one new one for me, Alder Flycatcher . The flycatchers tend to look really similar (experts even can have a tough time telling them apart) but most of them are distinguishable by their song.
I got a good photo of a Pileated Woodpecker today, too!
Other photos I got today:
This is the time of year I tend to switch over to other animals since birds are harder to spot and less of a chance I'll get new species. We did some yard work yesterday and I spotted lots of cool spiders and a neat slug!
|I bought a bird bath last week for my yard! Expert birders like to say that it will attract warblers and other birds who might not eat seeds.
So far, it's attracted more Grackles. I typically get one or two Grackles in my yard, and now I have five!
I guess most people consider them nuisance birds, but I find them really entertaining. One took a bath in the bird bath yesterday and really got into it! It was hopping around and splashing water all over the place! Today one almost lost its balance standing on the edge of the bird bath!
It's only the bigger birds that have taken a drink out of the bath, Grackles and Blue Jays. It might be too deep for the smaller birds, or maybe they just haven't noticed it yet. I could add some stones to the bottom of it for the smaller birds to step on, but then it's more to clean, so I'm not sure.
I added a second hummingbird feeder around the corner from the old one so maybe the males won't fight so much. So far, though, I've just seen one male go to both of the feeders.
The Robin seems to be doing well on her nest!
This week I also saved a Box Turtle on World Turtle Day and I spotted a female Scarlet Tanager and a female Common Yellowthroat that I think nests near my house!
Another fun week in birding! :)