Saturday, November 5, 2011

Watercolor Continued

Art By Me


Heritage Park Birding

Today was the last NRV Bird Club trip to Heritage Park for the year, and a chilly morning it was.  We started off in the parking lot with about 50+ cedar waxwings warming themselves in the sun.  They were positively glowing and made for a spectacular start to the morning.  It was one of those moments that made me realize how badly I need a good camera.  There were an abundance of white-crowned and white-throated sparrows nibbling the seed that we'd set out for them.  I must admit I am quite fond of the mournful "Oh sweet Canada, Canada, Canada" song and I am glad it will accompany me through the winter.  I saw my first Dark-Eyed Juncos of the season at this lower elevation (I saw some up at Mountain Lake last weekend but that doesn't count).  They are another winter favorite of mine.  I'll never forget the time a little junco visited me at my window for several days one winter during my childhood.  I, of course, named him and thought he would continue to visit me every winter thereafter.  Birding is a lesson in disappointment sometimes I suppose.

We also saw 3 Yellow-Rumped Warblers, which were lifers for me.  Sometimes when commonplace birds are lifers it makes me realize how inexperienced I am.  I read all these bird blogs, I listen to podcasts, I study my bird books, I religiously check the listservs, but as many times as I've read a bird's name, it does not make up for the actual experience of getting out there and seeing it with your own eyes.

Thanks to Surner Birding for the photo
  Some other highlights were the woodpeckers.  We saw 2 Downies, a Red-Bellied, several Flickers, and 2 Pileated (which I spotted, thank you very much :) ).  Always fun to watch, these pecking Picidaes seemed unperturbed by the sub-freezing temps.  We were hoping for some Swamp Sparrows, but we had no such luck.  Naturally, when I got home and checked my email, this was awaiting me:

Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana) (1)
- Reported Nov 05, 2011 08:00 by Bert Newmark
Heritage Community Park and Natural Area - MED03, Montgomery, Virginia

It was pretty much what you'd expect from a near-winter birding excursion.  Two Red-Tailed Hawks flew past one another, avoiding the mobbing crows.  Some Brown Thrashers nearly thrashed one of our group leaders as he pished around their territory.  An Eastern Meadowlark shot by just slow enough for us to ID it.  Several black vultures landed in the trees and on the silo nearby our little group, giving us an excellent view of their white uric acid-stained legs and their goading little faces staring us down.  Vultures fascinate me, especially when I learned today that they will rip off the rubber on your windshield wipers and weather-proof door guards because it feels the same as ripping flesh.  These vomiting poop-stained recyclers are literally named the "golden purifier" (Cathartes aura), and aptly so.

Among the vultures were numerous amounts of Northern Mockingbirds.  Every single time we happened upon one, I made sure to double and triple check it for a hooked bill and an eye band.  I will find you, sir Shrike, just you wait.  Before this year is over, I will happily check the Loggerhead Shrike off my life list.  For now, however, I am happy just to get outside and enjoy the company of other birders.  Everyone in that group is so friendly and knowledgeable, it is a thrill simply to be around them.  They are happy to share stories and impart their knowledge and I've learned so much from them in the last year it's unbelievable.  I'm hoping to sign up for their Christmas Bird Count and see what all the hoopla is about.  It will be my very first one, and I am getting more and more excited each day.  Overall, it was a lovely (albeit freezing) morning and     I'm looking forward to the upcoming trips for this month.  Good birding, everyone!

Here is a lovely birding quote to keep you warm this November:
"Birding is hunting without killing, preying without punishing, and collecting without clogging your home." -- Mark Obmascik in The Big Year

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tennessee Warbler

I went birding at Heritage Park today and I saw a Tennessee Warbler.  It was pale yellow all over except underneath its tail, which was white.  It had a pale eyebrow stripe, dark eyes, a small bill, and light grayish wings.  Literally the only other thing it could have been confused with was a Yellow Warbler and I know it wasn't that, I made sure to mark down all the field marks.  I submitted it to eBird and I know they're going to email me and contradict it.  This happened over the summer with a Yellow-Bellied Flycatcher and I didn't argue because I wasn't the one to ID it, and my flycatcher ID isn't all that great anyway.  This little fellow, I am quite sure about, however.  I know it's late in the season and they're not incredibly common in Southwest Virginia, but I know what I saw and I'm sticking to it.  Too bad I don't have a camera... it'll have to go on my Christmas wish list I suppose. There's really no way for me to prove what I saw except with a picture, so I'll try to go back with a borrowed camera tomorrow, but I highly doubt it will be there.  On the bright side, there was a huge flock of Cedar Waxwings in a nearby tree that made for a lovely observation session.  That's the second flock I've seen in as many days.  I just love those little darlings.  I'm still shrike-less I'm afraid.  I've tried going to where one was reported, I've tried going to places where Shrike habitat is ideal, it's all just in vain. little Loggerhead friend will be mine.  Ah, the joys of list hunting.  I've wasted far too much time picking apart the details of a Tennessee Warbler for one evening; off to finish my chem lab report.  Please believe me, eBird, I did not make this decision hastily!