Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December Birds

December has been a very active month in the bird world. At my parents' mid-town Savannah home, they are covered up with Baltimore Orioles eating grape jelly and drinking hummingbird nectar. My Dad put a dish with mealworms in the Christmas tree that was on the deck before being brought in for decorating. He was rewarded with some live decorations - eastern bluebirds and Carolina wrens.
Baltimore Oriole Male
Eastern Bluebird in the Christmas Tree

Eastern bluebird pair coming for mealworms
 At my house, I continue to enjoy regular visits to my feeder by as many as FOUR red-breasted nuthatches. Although they do eat peanuts and sunflower seeds, they seem to favor Nutrasaff - high in protein and fat with a soft shell.

Red-breasted Nuthatch Male
Today I went to the North Beach Jetties on the incoming tide. It was windy and a bit rough. A group of about 50 Ruddy Turnstones and 9 Purple Sandpipers had been feeding on the rocks. As the tide came in, they moved to the rocks close to where I was standing to try to get a little rest. I was able to get within 6 feet of them and they seemed to mostly ignore me. WOW?

Turnstones and Purple Sandpipers hang out on the rocks

Purple Sandpiper & Ruddy Turnstone

Purple Sandpiper


Monday, October 29, 2012

North Wind Doth Blow

At Savannah National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday and on Tybee today, the wind was blowing and the winter birds were present. At SNWR, the grassy areas were once again hopping with sparrows. I found Savannah, White-throated and Song. Also hopping about like sparrows were many Palm Warblers.

Savannah Sparrow
Palm Warbler

I saw a male northern harrier, many glossy ibis, small flock of shorebirds and even some duck –  blue-winged teal and ring-necked ducks.

Glossy Ibis, Blue-winged Teal Females, Common Gallinule

On the beach at the full moon high tide, the strong cold wind was churning up white caps at the north end. The flock of black skimmers on the beach was amazingly large - probably between 500 and 1000 birds.

White caps on Tybee North Beach - river side
Black skimmers on the beach and in the air!  

In the pines and wax myrtle along Polk Street I found a phoebe, pine warblers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, yellow-rumped warblers, ruby-crowned kinglets, palm warblers, and a pair of red-breasted nuthatches.
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Pine Warbler in the Pine

 Back at my house on Spanish Hammock, the first thing I heard was the nasal honking of a pair of red-breasted nuthatches. Much to my surprise and delight, they had found my feeders and visited regularly throughout the afternoon. Also in the yard was a hermit thrush, pine warbler on the feeders, and a pair of ruby-crowned kinglets.
Red-breasted Nuthatch likes Nutrasaff!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

GOS Fall Meeting and Home to Tybee Island

Western Sandpipers (I think!)
I went down to Jekyll Island on Friday for the Fall Meeting of Georgia Ornithological Society. I took the opportunity to attend a shorebird workshop led by Kevin Karlson and go out with him and others in the field the next day. We spent a lot of time working on telling apart western and semipalmated sandpipers. I learned that female westerns are larger and generally have longer beaks than male westerns, and the same goes for semipalmated sandpipers - females are larger than males. Westerns generally have a larger, rangier look and more block-shaped head. That said, when I returned to Tybee, I went out to check the beach at high tide and found lots of roosting birds. I think these are western sandpipers - maybe a smaller male on left and larger female on right, but I still have doubts and would welcome comments.

One fun thing was seeing all the roseate spoonbills. They were roosting in a tree at high tide and then came down to feed on a mud bar. Definitely seem to be expanding their range northward.

Roseate Spoonbills Feed on Mudflat
On East Beach at St. Simon's we found a piping plover that was banded. I sent a photo up to the University of Minnesota where Alice van Zoeren replied right away to say that the plover hatched in 2007 at Brevort, MI along the north shore of Lake Michigan in the upper peninsula. She was banded as an adult in 2009 at Gulliver, MI, a little to the west. WOW! Thanks Alice!
Piping Plover banded on Lake Michigan
Back on Tybee on Monday & Tuesday mornings, the nearly 9 foot high tide had lots of birds on the beach. There were 70 American Oystercatchers, 4 banded. Green CCY, Yellow N4, Blue CR & Vertical Red 6K.
American Oystercatchers rest on the beach at high tide.

The shorebirds were very cooperative with willets, black-bellied plovers and short-billed dowitchers posing side by side in good light.

Willets, Black-bellied Plovers, Short-billed Dowitchers.

Short-billed Dowitcher & Black-bellied Plover

More than 75 Caspian terns were patrolling
the beach fishing as well as resting on the sand.

In the songbird arena, on the way to the beach, I saw my first of the season yellow-rumped warbler as well as a white-throated sparrow. There were many gray catbirds feeding on wax myrtle berries. One surprise was this juvenile white-crowned sparrow!

What a great few days of coastal birding!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Birds on the Beach

I got out to Tybee North Beach both yesterday morning and this morning to take advantage of the over 8 foot high tide which pushes the birds up on the beach. At the point, there were birds massed on the beach as far as the eye could see. WOW! Every so often a walker or jogger would disturb them and a cloud of birds would fill the air. There were large numbers of royal terns, Sandwich terns, laughing gulls, ring-billed gulls, herring gulls, black skimmers, brown pelicans, and more.
One surprise was seeing at dozens of lesser black-backed gulls. I counted close to forty. There were also at least two great black-backed gulls as well as many immature and mature herring gulls.

Lesser Black-backed & Herring Gulls with a young Great Black-backed in front.
I was surprised to find both common and Forster's terns present. Am still working on getting this ID straight, particularly with breeding or alternate plumage birds. Once the Forster's has its black eye patch, I am fine. When the common has its dark carpal bar and white forehead with black nape I am fine. Here are a few photos for your perusal. Comments are welcome!

Common Tern
Forster's Tern

Common Tern Adult and Young
Common Tern adult left) and Forster's Tern (right)
Common Tern (front) and Forster's Tern (behind)
There were also many Caspian terns present - soaring about and squawking with that raspy voice of theirs.
Caspian Tern
 Also found two banded American Oystercatchers in the flock of 42. Red K6 was banded on Wolf Island NWR, GA Oct. 25, 2010. Yellow N4 was banded on Nantucket Island, MA in the summer of 2007. It has returned to Tybee every winter since.

As I was leaving, I spotted a flock of some 15 black-bellied plovers, some still wearing part of their fancy breeding costumes. With them were four short-billed dowitchers and a ruddy turnstone.

Then I found a single western sandpiper hanging with a group of sanderlings. Altogether it was beach time well spent.
4 Sanderlings and a Western Sandpiper

Western Sandpiper

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Coast International sits right next to Lake Hood - a lake where hundreds of float planes are moored at the edge of the water and take off and land constantly. Also plenty of birds to see there like Red-necked Grebes, Pintail Mama with chicks, Magpies, White-crowned Sparrows, Juncos, Bonaparte's Gulls and more. Savannah Sparrows were gathering nesting material and another surprise was a Spotted Sandpiper sitting on a fence post, then attempting to balance on the fence. It probably had a nest in a nearby ditch.

Lake Hood seen from the air.
Plane landing on Lake Hood

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-billed Magpie
Pintail Mother and Chicks

Red-necked Grebes

Savannah Sparrow on the Fence

Spotted Sandpiper

White-crowned Sparrow - Taiga West Race

Alaska 2012 - Hooray

Poor neglected blog...Having too much fun living my life to write about it. Will try to do better.
My Alaska adventure started on June 19th with a long day of flying - Savannah to Charlotte to Phoenix to Anchorage - arriving at 1:45 in the morning. No sooner than I turned on my phone but it rang and my friend and roommate for the trip Lainie Epstein was calling to say that she had just arrived and was at baggage claim. We met up and called the 24 hour shuttle to take us to the fabulous Coast International Hotel. It is 5 minutes from the airport with the friendliest staff. It was our home away from home as we stayed there on 4 different nights and stored luggage there when we took off for Nome, Barrow, and the Pribilofs.

Lainie Epstein - friend and roomie for the trip.
Stacy at the Coast International was the best!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nashville Warbler in Savannah

My friend who lives on Talahi Island called me a few days ago to report a warbler visiting her oriole feeder. It had no wingbars, was greenish with yellow breast. I thought it would be an Orange-crowned Warbler but when I stopped by her house this morning I found a this very handsome male Nashville Warbler. I rarely see this species on the coast so it was a thrill. Hope it sticks around for the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend.