Saturday, July 4, 2020

Great Black Hawk (Buteogallus urubitinga) - 03Dec2018

This Great Black Hawk in Portland Maine was ranked by the ABA as the "#1 craziest vagrant in 2018".  There was one other ABA record in TX but this particular bird was really out of range and unfortunately ended up meeting it's demise from frostbite later that winter.  I had a work trip in Boston and the call of this bad boy was too much to ignore so I made the excuse to visit my brother who happens to live in Portland.  After landing at the airport, I was looking at this bird 30 minutes later.

Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata) - 29Nov2019 and 17Nov2018

We get plenty Surf Scoters in NC but they are usually seen at a distance.  This Surf Scoter was at Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles.  If you ever have some time to kill while waiting for a flight at LAX, I recommend this spot.

Here are some NC pics from Cape Point.

Fun fact from the Cornell website:
Surf Scoters are “molt migrants,” meaning that after nesting, adults fly to an area where they can molt their flight feathers. They briefly become flightless before continuing to their wintering range, and molting areas provide some protection from weather and predators. These spots include sheltered waters from southeastern Alaska to Washington’s Puget Sound, and Quebec and New Brunswick.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) - 26Jan2020

I know I have better pics of Sharp-shinned Hawks hiding somewhere but I can't find them, so this one from Shackleford Banks, NC will do for now.  Accipiters are tricky to ID but a good cooperative Sharpie has a perfectly squared off tail as this one does.  Also, the head seems to stick out less form the leading edge of the wings than a Cooper's.  Sharpies are typically only seen in migration or winter in NC and usually are quick fly-bys.

Bank Swallow (Riparia reparia) - 04Nov2018

Bank Swallows are the most uncommon of the common swallows in NC and usually only seen in migration.  This particular one was seen on an epic fall day where I had Bank, Cliff, Cave, Barn and Tree working the same area. Note the band across the chest.

Baird's Sandpiper (Calidris bairdii) - 03Nov2018

Here is one species that always seems to be seen at a great distance for me in a field with heat shimmer.  One day I will crush one up close, but here is a placeholder from Warren Wilson College near Black Mountain, NC.

Yellow-billed Cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) - 12&14Oct2018

A fairly common breeder in NC, this is one more that is under appreciated and I have not done it justice in photos somehow.  Here is a placeholder pic from the Winston-Salem area in NC.

And one from Burnt Mill Creek in Wilmington.

Some cool facts from the Cornell Website:
"Yellow-Billed Cuckoos don’t lay their eggs all at once: the period between one egg to the next can stretch to as long as five days. This “asynchronous” egg laying means the oldest chick can be close to leaving the nest when the youngest is just hatching. When food is in short supply the male may remove the youngest bird from the nest, though unlike their relative the Greater Roadrunner, they don’t feed them to the older siblings.
Yellow-billed Cuckoos are among the few bird species able to eat hairy caterpillars. In the East they eat large numbers of tent caterpillars—as many as 100 in one sitting."

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Mountains back to Sea (16-26Jun2020)

We left off on the last post up in the mountains and the rain was starting to get pervasive.  The 16th was a total wash out but I did get one nice bird with some effort.  Melissa came with me for a drive to  one of my favorite corners in NC.  You actually have to drive into TN to get here.  Shady Grove Gardens at the Peak is a privately owned nursery that happens to host a nice grouping of Golden-wing Warblers.  The drive up there is half the experience.  Unfortunately it seemed to be closed, but fortunately you can see the warblers right at the entrance!

In the afternoon we tried for a hike around Bass Lake but it was raining Goldfinches.

Our last day we headed up to Lewis Fork Overlook on the Blue Ridge but it continued to rain... I thought I heard a Cerulean singing but after finally tracking it down it was an American Redstart..  Birding by ear is hard and I still get them wrong all the time.

So our final attempt was a hike up to the Flat Top Manor Tower.  Again it poured but I brought an umbrella.

Common Raven

I need to get a Wildflower ID book.

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

This poor Veery was soaked to the bone.

Dark-eyed Junco

With COVID still raging and limited restaurant usage I have pretty much cut my meat consumption down to 1 time a month and have not had any beef at all in past 4 months!  My wife loves cows.. as creatures not food and I am starting to see why.  They are so damn cute and sweet.  I probably will never be totally vegetarian but I am doing my best to make it the exception and not the norm.

My wife hates it when I slam on the brakes and do a U turn for a bird.  This Broad-winged Hawk was on the way back home near Dinkin's Bottom.

Part of the reason we left our mountains vacation 1 day early was the weather being better back home.  I have been taking walks on the beach to try and find the Reddish Egret that has been spotted off and on over the past couple weeks on the North end of Wrightsville.  So far I have come up empty but the beach has been gorgeous.

Green Heron

This is the new thing, motorized foil boards.  Kind of cool but I am getting kind of sick of people inventing all kinds of motorized or otherwise annoying equipment and bringing them on the beach.  First we had the motorized paragliders, then drones, then those pesky fat-tire bikes and now this.  At least they are not noisy but its still just one more thing cluttering the line up.

During the week I headed down to see the now famous Spoonbill that has been frequenting a creek in the area.

Roseate Spoonbill

Some more birds from an evening walk at the North End...

There are over 30 Wilson's Plovers this year with nestlings all over.

The light in the evening is conducive for rendering all species into exquisite portraits.

Eastern Willets are pretty when they keep their mouths shut.

But it doesn't take long before they break the silence and annoy the heck out of you.

Least Terns chicks are everywhere!

A slightly different pic of the same GBH, I can't cull such beauty.

Southern White Beach Beetle - I have seen these before jumping around on the beach but never paid them much attention.  Birding has taught me mindfulness and now I check out things I never would have looked at.  There is so much beauty out there, you just have to zoom in sometimes to see it.

Three gulls walk onto a sand bar. The barman tells them, "If you can sit in my basement for a day, I'll give you free beer forever." The Great Black-backed walks out after five minutes and says, "It's impossible, you got a swarm of flies in there." So the Ring-billed tries his luck, but can't take more than an hour. Finally, the Lesser Black-backed goes down. When he returns a day later, the others ask him how he did it. He says, "Easy! I took a dump in one corner and sat in the other corner!"

Sorry I couldn't resist that.

The Lesser Black-backed was surprisingly aggressive and stole the yummy fish head from the Great.

To the victor go the spoils.

Now for some gratuitous sunset pics with my iPhone which takes horrible pics.

Black Skimmer in the gloaming.  I think it was almost 9pm!

This morning I took the ritualistic drive up to Harker's Island at 5am and headed out on the first ferry to Shackleford Banks before the maddening crowds with no regards for a 6 foot buffer showed up.   Upon arriving to the drop zone I spied a Reddish Egret working the spot just to the north and started to get my crusher out.  By the time I got it out, took off the lens cap and pointed it in the birds general direction I noticed it had flushed and was out of photo range.  ARGHH.. I must be getting old.  No biggie, there will be more.  I trudged out into the mudflats and began exploring.  The light was ideal and I looked for appropriate subjects.


I spied my target bird in the distance after reaching for 45 minutes and proceeded to take off all my clothes and wade across an inlet to get better shots for my dear readers.  The things I do for my beloved followers.

Long-billed Curlew

Then it happened....

Rack up another bird species to the bird pooping list!

A damn boater pulled up to my private island and scared my bird up as well as embarrassed me since I was in my new Calvin Klein briefs which are well.... brief.

Back on terra firma or not so firma as it was muddy, I noticed a group of Common Nighthawks working an area over some red cedars.  There must have been some kind of insect hatch going on as they let me get real close and I spent some time crushing them.

Almost looks like a shearwater!

See the open mouth and the little bug it's about to swallow?

I could have spent all day crushing them but moved on.

Momma and baby horsie

Tricolored Herons can be great subjects in the right light.

Ahhhh what a great day!  I love Shack.  I swam a bit and got the 11am ferry back to Harker's just as the droves of people started arriving.  By 2pm I was back in my home and kicking back with some good eats.  Life is good.

Melissa played a great video for me and the boys today about privilege and race
If you have not seen it, take a peek.  Hope we can even the playing field in the years to come.