Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Quiz Bird #5

Photo by: Lauren K.

So to make this more of a challenge I've disabled automatic posting of comments so you can't peek a look at what others are saying (although you'll probably tell each other on chirptracker anyway!). You can comment and I'll eventually publish your comment, or email your answer to: lowiequizbird@gmail.com

Monday, June 29, 2009

Answer to Quiz Bird #4

FINALLY! Here's the way to identify the bird:

So here we have a raptor of some sort. The stocky stature, relatively
small bill and short tail are quite unlike any eagle, accipiter or
falcon, so we're left with the Buteos (and a few near-buteos --
Harris's and Common Black Hawks). The white head and dark eye of this bird is truly striking and happens to quickly limit our options. Only
Swainson's, Ferruginous, Rough-legged, the florida race of
Red-shouldered Hawk, and a few of the plethora of Red-tailed Hawk
plumages can show anywhere near this much white on the head.
Ferruginous and Rough-legged Hawks have feathered tarsi (the lower
part of the bird's "leg"), and our bird has bare tarsi.
Red-shouldered Hawk never shows a striking white head like our bird
(just a pale gray head), and should have a banded tail. This leaves
us with Swainson's and Red-tailed Hawks. Juvenile Swainson's (the
only plumage with a pale head), has a dark malar stripe, which our
bird doesn't. Swainson's Hawks also always have dark tails, quite
unlike the pale grayish tail on this bird. So that leaves us with our
familiar Red-tailed Hawk. Indeed, the silhouette of our bird is
quite similar to Red-tailed Hawk, but with some pretty wacky plumage.
Throughout most of Red-tailed Hawk's range, it's a highly variable
bird, with each individual looking a little different. This is
especially true in the Great Plains, where most birds have some
combination of the pale grayish tail, partially or mostly white head,
and white back that this bird shows. This bird falls on the extreme
pale end of Red-tailed Hawk, and is what is often called a "Krider's"

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Quiz Bird #4

This weeks quiz is brought to you by Ben G. we'll post the answer on Thursday evening or Friday morning.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Of storms and storm-petrels

Sunday I woke up with the rain pouring down and a cell phone that wasn't working. So naturally, I went birding.

Northern Gannets, Wilson's Storm-petrels, and Common Terns were abundant, but not much else of note was turned up (by me - Jason found an Arctic Tern and he and Len had a brief look at an alcid that was probably a puffin). The rain and wind postponed Seaside Sparrow plans for another day (probably many more days).

I like birding in storms. It feels pretty awesome to be tough enough to stand in the brutal rain and wind scanning for birds. I think it makes me value what I see a bit more too.

Unfortunately, it may not be the smartest thing to do when coming down with a cold. Today I'm completely knocked back. Hopefully it will go away before my excursion tomorrow.

Come back tomorrow for the weekly bird quiz - brought to you by Ben G. this week.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

I had to kill a bird today

(Warning: this post may contain images that may gross you out, disturb young children, or just make you really sad)

Sad but true; I had to kill a bird today. Well, I didn't kill it, my neighbor did because I couldn't stop tearing up when I tried.

To shorten the story - last night he found a fledgling Blue Jay that fell out of a nest. He tried to put it somewhere safe in the yard near a pile of sticks so that the parents could still tend to it etc. because he could not find the nest.

This morning while I was walking Olive he came over to me to tell me about it. I grabbed some gloves and camera to see what the deal was. When I found the bird it was in a very unfortunate position on its back, clearly injured, and being swarmed by flies. My heart sank. I called Steve M. and Ben G. to see if they had any suggestions. While I waited to hear back from one of them I attempted to help the bird perch to see if there was any chance it could make it.

Although it was not happy when I originally picked it up, it did not want to leave my hand once it realized I was not going to hurt it (a major reason why I couldn't bring myself to killing it in the end myself).

Finally I succeeded in getting the bird to an area where it was up and the parents could try to feed it. Before long things got bad though and the bird drowsed off and fell again. It quickly lost strength and I knew there really was no chance and that the right thing to do was to put it out of its misery (as my mother reminded me).

We dug a hole for it, humanly took care of the bird, and buried it in the garden so that it's body can provide nutrients for other forms of life; perhaps some pretty flowers that a Hummingbird will be attracted to.

It really broke my heart to have to do the right thing. I wanted so much for the bird to miraculously make a come back. I hate when the right thing sucks so much.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Red Sox Game

Off to the Sox game tonight against Atlanta. Hopefully we get some high five winning action. I'm not too optimistic seeing as Dice-K is pitching.

Until then I have no idea what I'm going to do. Maybe work on saving my camera and/or phone from the drowning death that ensued on Tuesday. Or maybe I'll just lay around.

Real exciting post. I know. Totally made your day didn't it.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Answer to Quiz 3

So making it multiple choice definitely made this one a bit easier. Fall shorebirds can definitely be tricky - just like fall warblers. But tricky just means fun. Also, you tend to see a lot more shorebirds in the fall as they lazily make their way south as opposed to the spring where they want to get north to get done what needs to get done (bow chicka wow wow).

So here we go then:

1. Dunlin - this non breeding bird may not look anything like the color seen in a breeding bird - but the thick, long, drooping bill should be enough to give it away. Overall it is a grayish brownish bird (usually a little more brownish tinge to the chest than the back).

2. Semipalmated Plover - I suppose you could argue that I cannot eliminate Common Ringed Plover from this picture. In which case I could go into some more detail. But for the basic part here there really is no other shorebird that has that chocolatey brown back and the little white around its neck. You can see another one in the blurry background of the photo that matches up exactly.

3. White-rumped Sandpiper - This bird is obviously a little bigger than the other two around it. Its wings are longer and it has a white superilicum. It is also more brightly patterned than the birds near it and the breast is not nearly as dingy as you would expect with a SESA.

4 & 5. Semipalmated Sandpiper - The back on these birds is much more uniform and scaley. There really is no rufous to the upperside (as opposed to Western). The cap is dark. The bill is relatively short and straight (longer and slightly drooped for Western)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hint for Quiz 3

OK this quiz seems to be tricking people a bit... So to make it a little "easier" I'm going to give you the species in the shot - and you need to match them to the bird:

Species: White-rumped Sandpiper, Dunlin, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover

ready... set... go!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Quiz Bird(s) #3

Photo credit: Jason Lambert

This week we'll have 5 birds to identify - they're numbered.  1 and 5 are a little hard to read but one is the front most bird on the left and 5 the front most bird on the right.  

A bigger version can be seen at http://picasaweb.google.com/lauren.kras/QuizBirds#5347923027621861586

As always you can post your answer to lowiequizbird@gmail.com 

Monday, June 15, 2009

Weekend Report

Between Saturday and Sunday I turned up 125 species. Not bad considering the fact that most of Saturday consisted of re-scouting the precise location of a bunch of birds for the Birders who blog, tweet, and chirp event. The rest of Saturday was spent socializing while birding before prematurely abandoning the event to head up north. There I experienced no moose but lots of rain. The rain dampened our plans so to speak, along with our clothes, and we ended up altering plans a bit and did not go any further north than Jefferson Notch.

"Evolution of the tent" (2009 left, 1970s right)

Now for some specifics:

Saturday morning at 4:30 I dragged myself up and out to hi
t some spots looking for birds. Part of my goal was to see if anything unusual was around while another part was to re-locate the birds I had scouted at various points the week before to ensure that I knew where they were most likely to be for the "Birders who blog, tweet, and chirp" get together.

I hit the coast before traffic got bad. Had the usual suspects off the coast ranging from Northern Gannet to Common Tern to Bonaparte's Gull. I found some Roseate Terns offshore but with the tide still pretty high there was no hope for any in the harbor. Inland I went.

Pease was no disappointment as I quickly found every bird I targeted there including Upland Sandpiper, Vesper's Sparrow, and Grasshopper Sparrow. Eastern Meadowlark, Common Raven, Osprey, and American Kestrel all showed off for me too. Since everything was going so smoothly I skipped over Chapman's Landing as I had success with both species of sharp-tailed sparrow a few times including the night before.

I nailed down the Gonet road (thanks Len!) and Main St. nest sites for Mississippi Kites. Numerous birds were singing and I picked up a few species of warbler and the nesting Baltimore Orioles. On a whim I decided to check the Waste Water Treatment plant in Exeter. I was already plenty late for the Plum Island event and I figured I might as well make my time worth while. However, the only bit of excitement was the Willow Flycatcher. A few months ago this bird called and we were unable to find it. This time it was wide out in the open showing off.

A few other stops, some wrong turns, and one iced coffee later I was at the entrance to Plum Island/Parker River NWR. I called to check in and got the report that they were running a bit behind but were working their way out. A few minutes later I was able to sync up with the group. Naturally, the group photo waited until I arrived.

A few willet's, 2 Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Least Bittern, 1 Bobolink later, and many conversations later we moved on to the next pull off. One step closer to NH. As Chris put it... "birding and socializing continue(d)". People got plenty of photos of Savannah Sparrow and Great Egret before moving on to pick up Least Tern in an unpleasant haze...Snowy Egret... Belted Kingfisher... and we were off the Island!

At this point Lunch was needed for most and more coffee and espresso was needed for me. And then... it was on to NH.

We skipped the coast - low tide had come and passed so finding a Roseate Tern would have been a matter of scanning groups of feeding Terns - and with weekend traffic on the coast - our group would have been too large to truly manage.

On to Newmarket we went. As expected a Kite was on nest when we got there. We patiently waited for another to swoop in but were disappointed. On to Chapman's Landing we went.

Chapman's Landing turned a bit frustrating with the harsh backlighting we were given. 4 Nelson's were moving around but none perched with their fronts towards us. Many more saltmarsh's were seen. Perhaps the most frustrating thing was this one Nelson's that perched up with its back to us and sang its little heart out without giving anyone a satisfactory look at the physical features you would associate with Nelson's.

Chapman's Landing can be a bit of a challenge in that you have Saltmarsh and Nelson's to deal with and chances are they hybridize with each other.

Here I abandoned the group (sorry!) because I was running late for dinner. I was tempted to speed but refrained during the 105 minute drive. As I was arriving at dinner I got a call from Chris saying that the group was at Pease safely and looking for birds.

Jason and his tent with a front yard

After dinner with Ben I headed up to the Jefferson Notch area to meet up with Len and Jason for our camping and birding expedition to celebrate Jason's 26th birthday! I had to set my tent up in the dark but I added some nice decor thanks to Dawn. However, I did finish setting up before Jason who was attempting to set up the super ultra dome 5bazillion complete with built in skylight. The hilarity of the situation cannot be fully recounted.

My button on my tent

After trying for Northern Saw-whet Owl in the rain and failing we decided to call it a night. A few short hours later we were disassembling the tents (still in rain) as we were told by a "reliable" source that the showers had mostly passed. We headed up to Jefferson Notch and began climbing. Not much was singing besides the 5+ Winter Wren and 17+ Blackpoll Warblers we counted (also had Magnolia and Black-throated Green). All of a sudden an unknown note came from the bushes. Excitement builded as we realized it was a thrush and then let down followed as we all turned to each other recognizing it as a Swainson's Thrush. Onward and Upward we moved.

Len may have had a tent with holes... but he was the only one with a pillow

We took our time in the rain (which was not seeming to end) and in the steeper sections I paired looking/listening/calling for Bicknell's Thrush with frequent breaks. Then finally, the moment we called, a bird whizzed right over my head. The three of us got on it and it began to sing... THAT'S IT! Bicknell's Thrush! Well before breakfast the 3 of us had secured a life bird and Len and Jason had secured fabulous photos. Before long a second bird appeared and we were beyond ecstatic. The whole thing was topped off with a Black-backed Woodpecker drumming in the distance.

I got photos of them getting photos of the bird

We headed down to the cars as the rain picked up. Turns out our "reliable" source wasn't so "reliable". A brief stop at Trudeau Rd. turned up Northern Waterthrush, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and a few others. Time for coffee and breakfast we decided. We joined up with Ben for some delicious food then headed back out in search of more birds. 5 river crossings later the rain was coming down harder than ever so we moved on to identifying trees.
Naturally in a complete downpour hunger sets in and you desire ice cream. So we had a lunch of ice cream. Then we spent quite some time discussing things and planning our attack. Then miraculously the sky cleared. We tried to mini-golf but it was closed... eventually we ended up having a real dinner/lunch and sampling some of the beer brewed at the Woodstock Inn.

Skies still clear we headed back to Trudeau Rd. Len attempted to call in a Black-backed Woodpecker:

And indeed.... we ended up seeing Black-backed Woodpecker (although not for another 30 minutes). We picked up Black Bear on the ski slopes, saw some toads, and quizzed each other on tree identification. And then... we headed home.

Friday, June 12, 2009


After work today I got my stuff together for the weekend.  Tomorrow I'm headed to the coast in the morning after re-finding a few birds to ensure their locations.  In the early afternoon I'll be joining a group of "birders who blog, tweet, and chirp" to look at some of the birds I probably take for granted.  

Target birds in southeastern NH are: Roseate Tern, Grasshopper Sparrow, Vesper Sparrow, Upland Sandpiper, Saltmarsh and Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and of course - Mississippi Kite.  

Afterwards I'm headed up north to go camping and search (again) for Northern Saw-whet Owl.  The following day I'll be celebrating Jason's birthday in style looking for year and life birds including Olive-sided Flycatcher, Spruce Grouse, Bicknell's Thrush, and Boreal Chickadee.

I'll post my results when I return :-)  Hope you also have a fantastic weekend!

Good Day of Work

Can't ask for much more than a beautiful sunny day, flat water, and scouting for rare plants (well... I guess I could ask for a Painted Bunting in NH).

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Answer to Quiz 2

Seaside Sparrow
Photo by Jessie K.

The very large bill, obvious white throat, and the overall dark gray color through the bird give this away as a Seaside Sparrow. It can be a bit confusing in that the supraloral is not bright yellow, but this can be explained by the age of the bird (hatch year bird). The fact that it is a hatch year bird can also be confusing in that this is not a plumage often seen or drawn.

The distinct streaks on the side with a buffy indistinctly streaked front and the over-all grayish tone place this bird in the "atlantic" population.

*For those of you interested this was not taken in NH, and yes, I'm still searching for my NH Seaside Sparrow*

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Quiz Bird #2

Send answers to lowiequizbird@gmail.com

Monday, June 08, 2009

Owling and more

After recent lulls along the New Hampshire coast I've been repeatedly taking trips up to the White Mountains, inland, and to the few Pine Barrens in the state. I'm pretty much sold that this is the area to be in New Hampshire right now.

I spent Friday in some random locations looking at salt marshes and attempting to find my friend Jessie some life birds including a Cerulean Warbler. While we did not see a CERW we did encounter some 14 life birds for her including Grasshopper, Vesper, and Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

I added Nelson's Sharp-tailed Sparrow to my year list at one of my research/birding sites. These little guys seem to be everywhere right now! We also picked out a probable nest for the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows.

Friday evening Jessie and I were treated to a mocking by 4 Virginia Rails before picking up Eastern Screech-owl for my year list. We had 3+ owls calling and 2 nearly took off our heads. An hour later we were in Concord where we met up with Jason to look for Northern Saw-whet Owls. While we fell short in that regard we added Whip-poor-will to our "almost killed by" list and to her life list.

Saturday I headed out in search of birds in the south-eastern part of the state. A slow morning led to a quick stop at the bookstore where I picked up a field guide to butterflies. I was warned that come summer I'd be looking at other things when the birding died down. And so I am.

In true "rare species loving fashion" I then headed back to concord to the Karner Blue Butterfly sanctuary. After locating Karner Blue #211 I spent some time looking at birds ranging from Common Nighthawk, Vesper's Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, and Pine Warbler. After a quick break for dinner I decided rather than drive home at a reasonable hour I'd attempt for the Saw-whet that was reported another time.

I headed out to the spot, watched the sun set and then began the search. My search turned up more Whip-poor-will's, 2 skunks, bull frogs, spring peepers, green frogs, etc. but no NSWO's. I headed home once again discouraged.

The following morning I decided to visit the famous MIKI's in Newmarket and spend a little more time looking at butterflies. Keeping true to my random style I ran into Jason and decided to head up north to Ossipee to check out the pine barrens. After seeing a few butterflies a call from Ben took us away to Church Bog along the Kangamangus Highway.

Goal species here included Olive-sided Flycatcher (for me) and Northern Waterthrush (for Jason). While we failed to see either of these species I was treated to a beautiful showing of Ledum groenlandicum (Labrador Tea) in flower and plenty of Sphagnum spp. to jump all over.

After scaring the boys with my love of plants we got back to looking at birds. The highlight were the Palm Warblers we stumbled into (first picked out by me I'm proud to say). Study of the birds confirmed our immediate suspicion that if these birds are around in June they must be nesting. Palm Warblers did not historically nest here so it was a rather exciting find (and a year bird for Ben who was in California when they moved through).

After dinner, Jason and I got back to looking for birds. The target bird again was Northern Saw-whet Owl... and again we fell short. The highlight of the night was the Barred Owl that came in to my whistling for Saw-whets. I suppose he wanted a snack but I guess I'm a little too big for his stomach.

I've learned a number of things this past weekend including the fact that I should probably keep a tent and a sleeping bag in my car at all points in time in order to encourage random road and owling trips.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

I wanna check you for ticks...

I was asked to blog a little bit about ticks.  To begin, I feel it is necessary to provide some musical accompaniment.  

On a more serious note, ticks really are a major cause for concern.  There are a number of tick borne illnesses (including the most famous: Lyme disease).  

So how on earth do you keep them off of you? 

I may not be the best person to ask as I have found over 35 ticks on me this year (different species but mostly the black-legged variety).  However, this was all pre-permethrin.  Permethrin (or Permanone as called by Repel with the active ingredient of Permethrin) is the best thing to use for tick prevention.  Unlike deet (a popular active ingredient in insect repellent) permethrin actually KILLS and REPELS ticks.  Most studys show that deet repels mosquitoes but does very little to ticks, while permethrin repels and kills both ticks and mosquitoes.  

Permethrin based products are pretty easy to use.  They're applied directly to your clothing.  It lasts about 6 weeks with regular washing.  While the makers suggest applying it to a full set of clothing I generally apply it to my pants and socks.  You also want to make sure you focus on key areas like the waist, ankles, etc.  It takes a few hours to dry so you have to think ahead a bit.  

Since using permethrin I haven't found a tick on me.  I cannot contribute this all to the repellent as ticks were out in greater hatch numbers earlier when I was only using deet.  

Just because you use permethrin does not mean you should stop checking yourself for ticks.  This should be regular practice for anyone who spends time in the woods, or even their yard if in a rural setting.  Inspecting yourself for bulls-eye rashes and being aware of the symptoms of tick borne illnesses (and mosquito borne illnesses) is also a must for any nature/outdoors lover.  

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Rare, threatened, and endangered....PLANTS!

Things are more exciting when they're rare threatened and endangered aren't they?  A lot of people seem to think so.  I'm pretty sure that this is the only reason why my research, centered around rare plants in tidal systems draws as much attention as it does.  (Well, OK, only other reason than my "rock star" personality.) 

Some of you may be saying "Huh? What are you talking about - I don't even know what you're doing.  Last thing I knew you said birds and now you're mentioning things that photosynthesize."   Others of you may be saying "Photosynthesize? What's that?! Now I'm confused."  Anyway, before more confusion occurs let me give some background (but don't worry - I won't use the big p word again):

Fieldwork in class - rocking the waders and nerdy vest

I just finished my second semester as a Master's student in Plant Biology at the University of New Hampshire.  While I am a passionate birder, I am also a passionate botanist.  I was interested in plants long before birds, mostly because they did not move and were therefore easier to identify (Since then I no longer believe that this makes them easier to identify because for many species of sedge things such as length of seed tail or length of achene beak are the determining factor and it may take weeks to allow species to develop fully.  Even then you still may be left in an ambiguous range of overlap.).

Necessary fieldwork equipment: hip-boots and a kayak.  Can't beat kayaking for work!

I work in the salt marsh ecology lab and my project centers on understanding rare, threatened, and endangered species in the state of NH.  Most of the species I work with are threatened or endangered in other states as well.  Currently, I am focusing on five species of plant; four threatened, one endangered.  My goal is to quantify the conditions that they grow in to answer questions such as: What salinity's do you find them in?  What is the soil like? Is there development around? Is there a certain pH? Do you find them with certain other plants? Do you find them in only certain places..... etc.

Forb panne in salt marsh - common area for rare plants - the out of focus flower is one of my study species: Seaside Gerardia (Agalinis maritima)

One of the beautiful things about science is that there are still so many unanswered basic questions! Answering these questions means that I spend most of my days in a marsh accessed by walking or boating.  It means I fall flat in the mud often (which is good because that's pretty much the only way to find one of the species which never grows more than an inch or two high).  It means I go through a lot of sunblock, iced coffee, and laundry detergent.

Another one of my study plants - not as striking as the former plant, but beautiful in it's own special way.  It's actually related to carrots!  (Lilaeopsis chinensis)

Why would anyone want to do research like this, you may ask.  Well, I have an answer for you.  Knowing the conditions necessary for the growth and development of these species is key to understanding how to protect and conserve the few remaining populations.  Additionally, with an understanding of such requirements, it may be possible to use plants that have been salvaged from impacted/developed/altered marshes as a source for restoration and mitigation work.  In other words, in a coastal wetland restoration we can use rare plants with a local genotype in plantings.  Restoration in areas of historic occurrence is of increasing concern as most of the species I am studying are probably in decline within the state.  There are many areas that they historically occurred which are now over-run with non-natives; prime target areas for a restoration project with a rare plant component!.  

Who funds these sorts of projects? Well that's a good question!  I spend a lot of my winter looking for funding.  I was lucky enough to secure 3 total grants and fellowships to support my summer work (woohoo food and housing!) and am waiting to hear back on one more application.  Fortunately, my supplies are relatively cheap (unlike molecular studies) as most of my purchases go to things that can be re-used (such as a salinity meter).  My shameless $ plug here must follow: if you know anyone or any organization who's interested in funding research like this, please pass the information on to me!  There's a lot of small bits of funding out there but it's scattered all over the place.

Salicornia bigelovii or Glasswort - this NH-endangered species could be a great source of fat for birds during migration in the fall

Having restoration opportunities that go beyond creating "typical salt marsh" provides habitat heterogeneity and diversity which supports a broader array of species... including BIRDS.  (Now you birders have one more reason to care!) A lot of restorations these days focus on creating simple salt marsh which may look good but may not support the species that historically occurred in a given area which may have been a tidal mudflat or a brackish riverbank marsh.  Learning how to re-create these habitats is critical for more effective restoration plans.  

We aren't trying to expand these species into areas they didn't historically occur.  We're just trying to make sure that some of the lesser known salt marsh species, which happen to be a bit sexy (in our twisted botanical minds), are preserved in the long term.  We're not restoring an area to100% rare plant cover - rather, we're trying to add another conservation component to projects.  

So, there's the basics - fire away with any questions.  And if you're in the area - keep your ears/eyes peeled next spring for my local presentations and thesis defense!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

And the answer is...

As a few of you have guessed this is indeed a female Bay-breasted Warbler.  While it may not be the best photo ever (forgive my simple canon point and shoot) it still shows plenty of features that make this a pretty straight forward ID as depicted on the photo.

A Blackpoll Warbler would be similar in size and shape but would look drastically different in the spring.  A fall bird may look similar but would show streaking... The female Bay-breasted does not show this streaking.  This bird is a 1st spring bird (coming out of 1st winter plumage) and is not quite yet an adult so it does not show a rufous wash on the flanks.  Therefore, as far as field guides go, it most closely matches the 1st winter female plumage as depicted in sibley.  

The lack of streaking, general greenish-yellow wash, the bright color on the sides of the neck, white around eye and the black eye line really add up here.  

Some birds guessed were:
Kinglet (which would have a much smaller bill, gray color, etc.)
Oriole (thicker bill, brownish neck, different shape, etc.)
Other Warblers (variety of easy reasons to eliminate the species suggested including a combination of  streaking, auricular color, tail length, etc.  )  

If you have questions about these - hollar away.  

Quiz birds will appear weekly on Tuesdays, answers will be given Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

Suggestions/photos for quiz birds can be sent to: lowiequizbird@gmail.com.

Until then check back for year list updates and stories.

Quiz Bird - Number 1

If you think you know the answer you can email the response 
to: lowiequizbird@gmail.com.  Answer will be posted in due 
time with key identification features.

Also if you want a hint such as location, time of year, etc.  email away! 

Monday, June 01, 2009

Cape-may Warbler

(Photo by J. Lambert)

Above is a bird that may seem confusing to many birders.  But it is in fact a drab drab drab female Cape May Warbler, and served as life bird for me.  How on earth do you pick this out you may ask? (or may not ask if you have your Sibley memorized!)  

Here are the things that stood out to me:
1. Sharp, decurved, dark bill.  
2. Greenish-yellowish Rump
3.  The sides of the neck are rather pale
4.  The bit of yellow on the face
5. Overall a gray-ish blurry streaked bird.  Finer streaking would point elsewhere where as the blurry streaking really forces the issue here.  

Sibley depicts this although the bird drawn has more drasticly edged coverts.  Studying birds like this is important so that if you stumble on a drab bird you still know what to look for and what you're looking at!

While I did not post this bird in this mechanism I'm going to attempt to start to post confusing quiz birds so we can all learn a bit about different plumages and things to note.  I bet you can't wait for Fall Warblers!


The Year List

In December I downloaded a simple excel spreadsheet from Steve M. to track how many species I would see in NH in 2009.  All you had to do was put X in the column and it added it up for you.  I thought to myself "hmm at 250 you should be proud as that is more you've ever had in a single state, and at 265 should be your goal as that would be a good year".

A few people announced their attempt to go for a "Big Year" and break the NH year list record set in 2003 at 280.

One month later I arrived back in the state and was promptly 100 species behind everyone else.  Another month passed and I was within 5 species of the 4 or 5 top lists in the state.  Everyone was joking about their competition and my name was never mentioned.  Fair seeing as I've never really been much competition for birders.  However, it was at that moment I decided to at least give it a good effort this spring and see what happened.

Three months later and the results are shocking.  I've already achieved my "lazy birding goal" of 250 species.  The highest total ever recorded by the end of the month of May.  I've added 50+ life birds to my list, and worked my rear end off.  I've birded before school, after school, at school on lunch breaks.  I've birded in the north, at the coast, and in the middle of the state.  I've birded at waste water treatment plants, at McDonald's, and on the ocean.  I've been rained on, sleeted on, hailed on, and snowed on.  Sometimes in the same day.  

And I'm loving every minute of it.

At this point everyone sees me AS the competition - and it will probably be a large disappointment if I don't break 280 species (although at least one other individual is also posed to break the 280 this year).  However, whether or not I come out on top I still will have found this experience to be valuable. 

Doing a big year in a limited area forces you to learn about birds.  Where to find them, when to find them, when they arrive, when they leave, when to expect which rarities, etc.  This information is not readily available.  Sure there are lists of arrival dates but not much detail is given.  Most of my information has come from two main sources: Steve and Ben.  Without them I'd still be around 200-220 in the state.  And without Ben coaching me based on weather patterns and historic experience I'd be at 235 - 240.  Without birding every day, being a grad student, or living where I do I'd be at even less.

I have a lot going for me this year: Help, a Field Job, and Being Young... but I don't have the experience the others boast (though the "help" often helps to negate this a bit).  

I don't know if I'll set the record this year.  I don't know how long it will stand if I do.  But what I do know I want to try to do my best to bird as often and as hard as I can while learning as much as possible.

I've come a long way in a year, an even longer way in two years, but this year isn't the end of that.  This time next year I want to smile and know I've come just as far in those 12 months as I have previously in that time.  

Its not just about a list, a number, or a record.  Its about the birds, seeing them with your friends, meeting new people, teaching each other, and learning a little more about this crazy planet.  

From here on I will attempt to re-tell some of my experiences searching for birds in the past 5 months and to keep you updated on plans and results of future expeditions.  

PS - Goretex if you would like to sponsor me I'm all for it considering you're the reason I haven't died from hypothermia or pneumonia yet