Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sausage Dogs

I love Richard Crossley's off-beat descriptions of birds in his fascinating new guide.  Pithy, colorful, and often a hilarious break from the clinical precision of Sibley and Nat Geo. Here's what he calls the Ruddy Turnstone:

"A bird with real character:  the 'sausage dog" of shorebirds.  Walks quickly, seeming to sniff around like a terrier, head close to the ground, looking for anything edible. ... Pocket battleship ..."

Sausage Dogs, Halibut Point State Park, Cape Ann, MA (Aug. 26, 2011)

Looking for anything edible
Good birding!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

How Well do you Remember Bird Colors?

As it turns out, I have lousy visual memory for colors.  That is, when I compared my color recall to that of others in the Bird Color Challenge at Cornell Lab of Ornithology.  As part of the development of its Merlin Project, an impression-based bird ID tool in the works, the CLO is asking birders to take a simple quiz on what colors they recall after seeing a picture of a bird for 5 seconds.  The quiz is addicting, and it builds a database of color associations for Merlin.

Have fun!

Monday, August 15, 2011


After the recent AOU shakeup in nomenclature, including the end of dendroica, comes the news that the AOU itself might be no more. Actually, any change that involves the inclusion of South American ornithological societies is a good one.  A new society with hemispheric oversight is being tentatively called the Society for Ornithology, or SFO. 

Meantime, we are on vacation in Maine at a pond with at least six loons (including one juvenile) but few other birds.  Perhaps because it has been raining for two days?  Once the rain stopped, though, a family group of Blackburnians began showing up regularly in the morning and early evening; very hard to see, but I did get one good look at an adult female feeding a juvenile.

Cedar Waxwings seem to love this area. Here's one shot from a nearby marsh.

Cedar Waxwings, Raymond Pond marsh, Cumberland County, Maine (full frame, click to enlarge)
There is no such thing as boring August birding!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Pelagic Birding

I'm new to pelagic birding, having been on a total of two, count them, two whale watching trips to date. Last Friday on what is now a summer tradition my family took the Seven Seas Whale Watch out of Gloucester. Like last summer, the whales were nearly 30 miles southwest, off Provincetown, which meant a long cruise and, hopefully, lots of birds. Well, we did have the long cruise, but it was overcast, windy, and choppy, with virtually no surface feeding going on, if the whales were any indication.  But they played by the boats and offered easy pictures.  Truly charismatic megafauna. My daughter just hung at the rail in silent awe. 

Have I mentioned that taking decent shots of whales by the boat is not hard?

All shots of a 30-year-old Humpback (click for full size)

What few birds we had (scarcely a dozen Great Shearwater, two Gannets, three Laughing Gulls, a Common Tern, a couple Cory's Shearwater, the usual gulls, and about a hundred Wilson's Storm Petrel) were maddeningly hard to photograph, as no one was feeding.  I got off with a couple half-way decent exceptions out of nearly 400 shots (half of them attempts to catch a WISP in flight).  It was my first pelagic with a longer lens, so a learning experience. Click all for full size.

Probably a first-summer Greater Black Backed, with missing P10

Great Shearwater

Herring Gull
Good birding!