Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cave Swallows

At Barnegat Inlet on Sunday morning the combination of fisherman and a westerly gale put a quick end to any birding intentions I had there. Heading south I went down Great Bay Blvd into Tuckerton WMA and found two previously-reported King Eiders at the end of the road fishing offshore. There was a moderate movement of many small flocks of American Goldfinch, which didn't seem to have any Pine Siskins mixed in despite the ongoing invasion.

My intention was to head further south to Cape May via Brigantine/Forsythe NWR to seek out Cave Swallows, however in the Tree Swallow flock at the start of the loop road I located 2-3 Cave Swallows - seen well, enough to eliminate Cliff Swallow which isn't present in November anyway. Brigantine didn't hold anything else exciting, and given the highly challenging birding conditions I gave up and headed home after a single loop around the impoundments, although not before looking at the Cave Swallows one last time.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Beware the range map

Cornell's site All About Birds is something that I often send people links to when suggesting ID's - I sometimes get "what's this bird" inquiries because of the websites that I run. But two things lately have illustrated that their range maps may be way out of whack.

A discussion on the email list TEXBIRDS about American Black Duck shows that their range map for this birds has it occurring all the way down into the lower RGV. That's nonsense, and there's only a handful of recent records for this species in TX.

Chatting to a friend about her finding a Peregrine Falcon on campus in Illinois led to the discovery of a large variance between Sibley's range map (which seems plausible) and the AAB map which seems to ignore the reintroduction of the Peregrine in the east.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Griggstown Preserve, November 2nd

Back again to Griggstown in search of Vesper Sparrows - no luck there, and the general vibe was that the sparrow numbers had dropped. However the weather was cold, partially overcast, and there was a good selection of raptors so these may have been factors. Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, American Kestrel and Red-tailed Hawk were around. There were good numbers of Eastern Bluebird and American Goldfinch, several flocks of American Robins and blackbirds overhead, a probable small group of Siskins, and the usual suspects:

Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
American Kestrel
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
House Finch
American Goldfinch

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Harris's Sparrow at Brandywine Creek SP in Wilmington DE

I took a little early morning jaunt down to Brandywine Creek State Park on the outskirts of Wilmington DE to look for the Harris's Sparrow that had been there since October 11th. After a little wait the bird came in and was quite cooperative. Photos at Harris_2008.html

This was only the second Harris's Sparrow that I'd ever seen, and the other one was many years ago (March 1999) at Wainscott on eastern Long Island. That bird was timid, but this one was the reverse, being relatively tame although disappearing for periods of time. Since there were no White-crowned Sparrows present this - our largest sparrow - was fairly easy to spot when it flew from shrub to shrub.