Piering Back Through Time

August is often a quiet birding month. If you are fortunate enough to be by the seashore or along a flyway, you can witness the beginning of the migration season as shorebirds move through. Why do shorebirds depart so early?

Well here in New Jersey, we’re quite fortunate when it comes to shore birds!  We have our endangered Piping Plovers nesting on our beaches and the Ruddy Turnstones refueling on their migration, but oftentimes don’t realize the Ruddy Turnstone’s behaviors are more typical of their family (Scolopacidae). Many of the shorebirds migrate to the far northern reaches of this hemisphere. Not sure what marketing strategies they used, but it worked. “Experience Long Days in Short & Sweet Summers”?

Goodness knows I’d response to such an advertisement.  And the shorebirds definitely do.  Take a look at the two maps below.  Gleaned from the riches of the internet, on the left we have a generalized map showing the migration pathways of shorebirds between the polar reaches.  Most of our neotropicals (sciencespeak for summer birds found in the Western Hemisphere) prefer to spend their winters in more climates with a shorter commute.  However, the shorebirds hold most of the records for long distance migration (the way Kenya produces champion Olympic runners).

  • About ~1800 species perform long distance migrations (18%).
  • White-rumped Sandpiper flies 15,000 miles one way.
  • Bar-tailed Godwits Limosa lapponica fly 11,000 miles nonstop.

Now the map on the right shows breed locations for Snow Geese.  While not a shore bird, the map depicts the preference for extreme latitudinal breeding grounds also evidenced by dozens of shorebirds.  These habitats are rich with the food resources needed by the birds. So why do shorebirds migrate so early?  Long commute.

So back to birding here in the mid-Atlantic.  August saw me house-sitting once more in New York.   While house-sitting I had a few opportunities to go a birding hotspot in the county known the “the Pier”.  It’s not wooden nor is it like a boardwalk.   It’s a one-mile road once used for military purposes now converted into a paved and tree-lined walk into the Hudson River (that generally keeps your feet dry – bonus!). This is a nice spot for ducks, shorebirds, warblers, and some raptors depending on the season.  It juts out the western shore of the Hudson River as a signal to all weary birds they can find refuge here.  Just south of the Pier is a marsh which further extends sanctuary for these feathered friends.  It’s probably the best/only shorebird birding location in Rockland county.

There have been some enviable birds seen here.  Generally not by me.  But what I’m trying to build for myself is a solid working knowledge of the usual suspects at this site so I can find the fun ones.  So the remainder of this post is the dialogue in my head as I processed and assessed these images.   It’s like a note to myself for in the future when I forget what the shorebirds look it because it happens every year.

Mallard in flight. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 10, 2014.

Mallard in flight. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 10, 2014.

As I continue working towards improvement in bird photography, I’d like to focus on birds in motion.  (Some of this may need to wait until I get a functional camera).  I like this photo though despite the blur and shadow.   The mallards are around year-round, but I do want to try to remember to appreciate them!

Osprey on the prowl. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 24, 2014.

Osprey on the prowl. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 24, 2014.

Another fairly frequent visitor: the Osprey.  Usually if I remember to look up often enough and scan with the binoculars, I can find at least one Osprey.  Another in motion photo.  In this one, the M-shape that helps to identify the species is less evident.   I know some birders who strongly feel Ospreys must be observed for it to be considered a good day of birding.  Thus the 24th must have been a good day.

Least Sandpiper forages among large rocks at high tide. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 10, 2014.

Least Sandpiper forages among large rocks at high tide. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 10, 2014.

And to close with some photos of shorebirds.  Which is what one particularly seeks in August.   Notorious for traveling in large groups and looking like carbon copies, shorebirds can be very frustrating to identify.   I know when taking these photos in August, my focus was on photography rather than identification.

Least Sandpiper gazes out at the tide. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 24, 2014.

Least Sandpiper gazes out at the tide. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 24, 2014.

Both the above photos featured the Least Sandpiper.  There are three small sandpipers in the region collectively known as peeps.  Please don’t eat them, they’re not as sweet as they sound!  In fact I would argue the opposite of sweet is not bitter, but frustrating!  How often is a day of birding either characterized as sweet or frustrating?   The Least is the smallest peep, but when you’re lacking a ruler and distance is an issue 1/4 inch differences don’t help!

The most obvious give away are the legs.  Take a look at the two above: yellow.  Now if in deep water, mud, or shade or poor lighting (90% of all situations +/- 5.5%) the yellow isn’t obvious.

What else stands out to me?  There seems to be a bit more of an intentional eye line, the feathers have more of a rust color, the bill seems a bit shorter?

Semipalmated Sandpiper hunkers down to wait for better times, or tides. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 24, 2014.

Semipalmated Sandpiper hunkers down to wait for better times, or tides. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 24, 2014.

Now this fellow above is different.  Legs are darker.  No discernible eye line. More like an eye spot? Brown-brown feathers.  I’d say this is a Semipalmated Sandpiper.  Which I believe in the Mid-Atlantic region is the most common.  (Despite what my August collection of photos appears to indicate!)  Slightly larger, which I know from my bird guide and websites, not the photo!

Least Sandpiper scrambles at the water's edge. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 10, 2014.

Least Sandpiper scrambles at the water’s edge. The Pier, Piermont, NY. Photo taken on August 10, 2014.

Last and least!  The Least Sandpiper here again.   Note the rust-tinges, yellow legs, eye line.   Also, it seems that the upper breast, just below the neck region is also buffier than in other sandpipers (comparison not yet available).  Note that the Pectoral Sandpiper who is better known for this feature has coloration much further down and is a larger sandpiper.

I also just really like this photo.  It’s one in a series of 5 taken moments apart and all the others are just slightly out of focus with my autofocus.  Thanks, camera.

Additional Reading:
Ecological Studies and Environmental Monitoring at Bylot Island Sirmilik National Park.
Bird Migration. Wikipedia.

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Return to Doodletown

On a Tuesday towards the end of May I found a few free hours to run back up to Doodletown.  The day’s forecast threatened rain, so I hemmed and hawed most of the morning as to whether or not to go.

Eventually I decided a-birding I would go and arrived on site around 11.

It was a very different scene as this was a week-day morning.  Some operational work was taking place on the highway next to the lot which had a handful of cars – very different from the cars crammed along both sides of the road.

It was a quiet day.  I wandered slowly up the trail.  There is actually someone sitting in the graveyard – one of the new people I encountered (graveyard pictured bottom left).  There was also a large black snake that was at the graveyard as well.

The small, abandoned town of Doodletown actually boasts 3 cemeteries. Slightly bizarre, but when you consider the town survived for 200 years, maybe it’s not so strange.  The two photos pictured on the right show the road conditions.  Despite the fact this is a town, the buildings are gone.  I believe the state removed as many structures as possible when the town was closed to make way for the park.  Now only wildlife lives here.  Two of the other people I met here were researching ancestors who were buried here.  I was able to use my recently acquired knowledge to send them to one graveyard, then I found the other two.

The scenery at Doodletown. Doodletown, NY. Photos taken May 27, 2014.

The scenery at Doodletown. Doodletown, NY. Photos taken May 27, 2014.

One graveyard was closed to the public (but the other two aren’t).  The road to that one is pictured bottom right.  When I was exploring cementary #3 (pictured bottom left), I began hearing the call of a Yellow-billed Cuckoo.  I tracked the bird up the road out of town eventually until I could also hear a Black-billed Cuckoo.  It seemed as though they were taking turns.  One on each side of the road, lost in the thickets.

When I was exploring the remains of the ground for one house, I saw a speck on the tip of a tree.  Certain, it was only going to be a piece of shredded bark, I made myself view it anyway through the binoculars and found a new species for the year: Ruby-throated Hummingbird.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird waits and watches.  Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird waits and watches. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Not that you can tell it has a Ruby-throat from the photo.   Continuing down the road, I was hoping to find Pease Pond.  Since there were no cool herons in the large pond, I hoped perhaps they were taking refuge in a more secluded pond.  Pease Pond is fully overgrown now, but there was more active birdlife in the area.

I heard a call I was fairly certain was a Pileated, and then had my suspicions confirmed when it flew overhead.

Proof of the Pileated Woodpecker. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Proof of the Pileated Woodpecker. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

The clouds were beginning to roll in.  So perhaps that’s the reason I was finding more birds.  I next stumbled across a flock of song birds in and out of the trees as well as another view of the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. I had Cardinals, Blue-winged Warblers, and Hooded Warblers in and over the trees along the road.

Black-and-White Warbler sings. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Black-and-White Warbler sings something not so blue. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Heading back to the car towards mid-afternoon, I stopped to follow one more beguiling pathway, because that’s what one does.  Along it I heard a series of jumbled notes, and looking around this caught my notice:

Indigo Bunting. Some day I'll get it's song down. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

Indigo Bunting. Some day I’ll get its song down. Doodletown, NY. Photo taken May 27, 2014.

As I watched him sing, I was certain I’d remember the song, but for the life of me, I cannot recall it.  Maybe I will when I hear it again.

However, trip #2 to Doodletown was lovely!  I heard or saw 40 species all together which I am pleased with considering I was birding from 11am-3pm.

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Turkey Vulture
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Black-billed Cuckoo
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Wood Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Waterthrush
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole

Every Stranger is a Promise

After the disappointment of the Celery Farm, I decide to gamble on a late morning drive up to Doodletown.

Oh, Doodletown.

I’d seen it for weeks on the ebird reports of all the birds I was missing up at Doodletown.

“There is no better place in New York State to see both Cerulean and Hooded Warblers than Doodletown Road in Rockland County.” – Corey Finger, 1000birds.com

“Doodletown Road, along with it’s downhill neighbor, Iona Island, has been declared an Important Bird Area (IBA) by the National Audubon Society. A number of bird species deemed threatened or of special concern breed in this area. That’s how we found Doodletown, and why you might want to check it out yourself if you’re in the area.” – Mike Bergin, 1000birds.com

“This is where everyone goes to find their Hooded and Cerulean Warblers for the year. This area host many breeders and migrants. Best time is in May and very early June.” – Hudson River Audubon Society

“Other common warblers include Black-throated Green, Black-throated Blue, Chestnut-sided, Palm, Prairie, Yellow-rumped, Yellow, Black-and-White, Canada, American Redstart, Blue-winged, Common Yellowthroat, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Ovenbird. In all, 32 species of wood warbler have been seen.” – Rockland Audubon Society

Armed with such knowledge, teased with the daily reports, I was anxious to try my luck birding at Doodletown.  However, it’s a bit of a drive (all of an hour!), thus hard to squeeze in before work.  Saturday appeared to be my only opportunity in May.  So away I went.

The trail’s beginning is a unprepossessing break in the bushes leading to two trails: a wider trail and stream running down steep steps.  I opted for the steps and began making my way up the mountain.

Along the way up there are signs indicating the remains of a 200-year-old town.

The ruins of Doodletown. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

The ruins of Doodletown. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park, NY. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

The woods were loaded with both bird and birdsong.  I slowly made my way up the slope.  There were a few quick IDs by ear (Tufted Titmouse, Ovenbird). The signs were there: it had the makings of a good great day. I got on a Hooded Warbler and photos!

Female Hooded Warbler, first of three Hooded Warbler sightings. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Female Hooded Warbler, first of three Hooded Warbler sightings. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Continuing up the trail, I got an as of yet unidentified species, followed by a FOY Indigo Bunting singing on a sunny branch.

Unidentified flycatcher. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Unidentified species. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Indigo Bunting belting out the blues. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Indigo Bunting belting out the blues. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Just a bit further up the trail I hit the bird bonanza. It was a Canada Warbler that caught my eye, causing me to turn back and pursue the right branch of a trail.  As I stood there in wonder, I was joined by another birder who confirmed two of my IDs. While there I also witnessed a Magnolia Warbler, Indigo Bunting, American Redstarts, several Cedar Waxwings, and a lifer, Bay-breasted Warbler.

Cedar Waxwings dart back and forth. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Cedar Waxwings dart back and forth. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

After watching for nearly half an hour, I continued up the trail.   I opted to pick the trail on the right as right proved bountiful previously.  150 feet up the path I paused to decipher the songs.

Up close and personal with an American Redstart.  Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Up close and personal with an American Redstart. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

I was approached by another birder.  I forget what we began by talking about first, but we quickly turned to the Tennessee Warbler singing.  He inquired if I could identify birds by ear, and acknowledged the Tennessee’s song.  I responded that the Tennessee’s song has three parts (thank goodness for learning that on Thursday!).  After conversing for a few moments, he offered to accompany me further up the path.  Having birded there for 24 years, he knew to the patch and tree where to find particular birds and freely shared his knowledge.

Along the way he pointed out Cerulean Warbler calls, found one fluttering in the tree tops, and talking to other birders we learned there was a Kentucky Warbler.  So we went and listened to him sing for a while.  Steve, as I eventually learned his name was, continued to show me the lay of the land.

We talked birds and shop.  It turns out Steve is in the process of establishing Hudson Valley Nature Excursions.  We discussed conservation, mindset, and tailoring nature walks for each particular audience.

Bay-breasted Warbler sits next to a Cedar Waxwing. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Bay-breasted Warbler sits next to a Cedar Waxwing. Doodletown Rd, Bear Mountain State Park. Photo taken on May 17, 2014.

Doodletown Rd was a definite success which I look forward to repeating.

Tis the Season

Tis the season to attract a mate and get on with the nest building and brood raising. In some of the recent birding I’ve done through April, I’ve has the opportunity to locate where birds are intending to nest.  I’ve presented the photos of the Northern Flicker and the Red-headed Woodpecker previously.  But I haven’t had a chance to share a few videos I’ve recently taken. Namely, Raven at Nyack Beach (doesn’t that sound like a lovely book title?) or the Blue Jay of Garrett Mountain (it’s sequel).

Common Raven on nest. Click photo to access video. Photo taken on April 19, 2014.

Common Raven on nest. Click photo to access video. Photo taken on April 19, 2014.

Blue Jay on nest at Garrett Mountain. Photo taken on April 19, 2014.

Blue Jay on nest at Garrett Mountain. Photo taken on April 19, 2014.

*Unfortunately, Flickr and WordPress aren’t playing nice right now. It only took me about a week to give up on figuring out a workaround.*

Winging the Weekend

I had the entire weekend free of work so I made the most of it, birding 7 times.  Most of the birding was with fellow birders although Central Park was with my sister; she appreciated the turtles more than the birds.

Locations: Garrett Mountain Reservation, NJ; Clausland Mountain, NY; Rockland Lake, NY; Nyack Beach, NY; Piermont, NY; Central Park, NY; and Inwood Park, NY.

  • Waterfowl are mostly gone.  Buffleheads remained at Rockland Lake, but the rest have departed.
  • Warblers are slowly arriving: we had warblers at Garrett Mountain last weekend, but not this weekend; and in Central Park.  Palm, Yellow-rumped. and Pine have arrived.
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Swallows were spotted in multiple places.
  • Towees are back, Thrushes should return soon, hopefully.

Rather than recite what we saw where in fascinating, excruciating detail, I’ll just recap all 53 different species.

Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
Gadwall
Mallard
Bufflehead
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Green Heron
Black VultureTurkey Vulture
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Eastern Phoebe
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Tree Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted
Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Brown Thrasher
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Palm Warbler
Yelow-rumped Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow
A Great Egret gracefully stalks through the water at Garrett Mountain. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

A Great Egret gracefully stalks through the water at Garrett Mountain. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird at Garrett Mountain. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

Female Brown-headed Cowbird at Garrett Mountain. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

Unfortuantetly placed stick makes this Eastern Towhee appear irate!  Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

Unfortunately placed stick makes this Eastern Towhee appear irate! Garrett Mountain, NJ. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

At dusk this Brown Thrasher had a surprisingly vast repertoire for a Thrasher.  Clausland Mountain, NY. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

At dusk this Brown Thrasher had a surprisingly vast repertoire for a Thrasher. Clausland Mountain, NY. Photo taken on April 18th, 2014.

Tree Swallow claims the Bluebird nesting box. Rockland Lake, NY. Photo taken on April 19, 2014.

Tree Swallow claims the Bluebird nesting box. Rockland Lake, NY. Photo taken on April 19, 2014.

A Palm Warbler balances before jumping to the branch above. Central Park, NYC. Photo taken on April 20th.

A Palm Warbler balances before jumping to the branch above. Central Park, NYC. Photo taken on April 20th, 2014.

Views from Central Park, NYC.  Even the birds play tourist.  Photo taken on April 20th, 2014.

Views from Central Park, NYC. Even the birds play tourist. Photo taken on April 20th, 2014.

Hawks and Doves

Rather than being merely thankful during Thanksgiving weekend, I’ve spent the long weekend being productive and trying to get lots of work done.  While staying with my folks I’ve gotten some feeder  watching in , which is a nice change of pace (lots of doves and house sparrows!).  I did take a short break to go walk in the park behind us.  Unfortunately I didn’t grab my binoculars or my camera, so when a hawk flew into the tree across from my mother and I, completely backlit I could make out few details.  What I could make out was:

  • Large hawk (probably a buteo)
  • Dark brown back
  • White rump
  • Tail feathers may have had white edging

We were half a mile from open river,  perhaps 600 from the marsh as the crow flies. However, it was well forested.  The white rump typically screams Northern Harrier, but the coloring appeared too dark, and my sense is that they don’t go into wooded areas.

It could have been an immature Red-tailed with funky variation in color.  Probably was…

The other possibility I didn’t come up with until I arrived back home was Rough-Legged Hawk.  Per ebird, they’ve never been listed in my county, but there was a sighting last year about 5 miles south of where I was.   There was also one Rough-legged sighting 20 miles SSW on the same day several hours earlier and several sightings about 35 miles NW this weekend

Birding by Bike

As summer winds down and migration starts up, the birding has been low-key.  Early excursions into work yield about 20 different species each trip with minor variation.  Still, we faithfully arrive around 7 once to twice a week, just to verify the birding is less than exciting.

One of the nicest things about living in this region is that it’s fairly flat and pretty good for cycling. On weekends we easily get dozens to hundreds of cyclists riding past.   Many nights after work, I’ll pull out the bike and do a nine mile course along a creek, through a marsh, out into a river, past backyards, and a few forested patches.  The 9 miles is beginning to feel easier on the thighs.  If I focus on birds, I feel the ache a little less.  I entertain myself and my mother who frequently rides with me by identifying the birds scolding us and flittering across the path. Yesterday this course yielded a Wild Turkey.  Today was even more exciting!

The omen of good birding was granted by a Great Egret within the first half mile.  I spotted a Bald Eagle flying away into the distance as I cycled through one of the inner regional marshes, and in the riverine marsh I spotted 8 Least Sandpipers scrounging around in the mud.  Thank goodness for yellow legs, but not yellowlegs!   New for the state list and the year list, woo!

There’s talk of the Biggest Birding Expedition of the Season down to Brigatine for Saturday.  We’ll see if it actually happens.  It was supposed to be last Saturday, but that fell through.

In other good news, I finally found my camera charger and recharged the camera batteries,so hopefully there’ll be more photos soon!

Ducktales

The last week or so has been exceedingly busy.  Both my parents retired.  My sister and I organized a retirement party for them at the house and we did pretty much all the food preparation ourselves, so there was plenty of cooking and cleaning.  Then, we had family over to stay from out west.

However, on Wednesday, I did find some time for myself.  Wednesday evening, near sunset I decided to take a walk around the neighborhood.  My folks were at a retirement party and it was between thunderstorms.   Wasn’t birding, the intent was just to get some fresh air.   Just passed the townline I heard some unusual bird calls.  I was hoping quail (hope is ever eternal!).  When a lumbering vehicle drove past, it caused me to stop and listen more closely.    That’s when I realized the calls were coming from under my feet.

Ducklings trapped between the grating of a storm drain.

Ducklings trapped between the grating of a storm drain.

Three or four baby ducklings had washed down the storm drain and were swimming in the underground stream of storm runoff.  The mother duck was in the woods, frantically calling.   Heedless of the danger to myself I dropped to my knees and crouched at the side of the road where little shoulder existed on a blind bend.  The ducklings were doing their best to scale the sides of the drain, but having webbed feet rather than claws was preventing success.   I tried reaching in through the grating to scoop them in my hands and guide them upward, but the spacing of the grating preventing me from getting much past my wrist into the drain.   One little duckling made it to the bars, slipped before I could catch it, and fell back to the water.

I abandoned the walk and flew (if only!) back home to assess what duckling rescue equipment I had available.   Conclusion: I clearly need to assemble better bird rescue equipment.   I came up with a bucket (to hold the ducks), jewelry twine for lowering equipment through the grating,  a plastic basket pencil case I hoped would fit through the grating, and a plastic bag in case it didn’t.

I drove my car back to the site so that the car could shield me as I set to work.  As I pulled up, my headlights found one lone duckling standing on the white line of the road, with the same bewilderment seen on a face after emerging from some shelter after the storm.   When I parked, the duck turned and fled into the forest where the mother duck welcomed the wanderer back into the fold.

The plastic pencil case was too wide and inflexible to fit into the grating, so plastic bag it was.   I tied a stick to the bag in order to not lose the bag.   I put stones into the bottom of the bag to sink it into the water.  Conclusion 2:  I need to learn to speak duck, or universal bird language because the ducklings wanted no part of this bizarre contraption.  In fact they fled further into the storm drains.

One brave duck returned and bravely attempted to climb the sides again, even using the plastic bag and stick I provided for additional support.  As it neared the top, I was able to reach in and scoop it to safety.  I placed it in the bucket which it perceived to be Torture Round #2 until a time when it was safe to release it.

The rescued duckling.

The rescued duckling.

Now there was one last duckling, pitifully swimming around as night drew around us.  Having assessed the up did not work, this duck began exploring the canal looking for alternative means of escape.  I attempted to follow up above ground.  I would run to the next opening, peer in and listen.  Running back towards home, I accidentally spooked the mother duck off her nest as she raised her alarm cry when I drew near. At one point, I heard the little duckling approaching, but as this site was more challenging. I clapped and clapped to scare the little duckling back up the canal. It returned twice more to the first site, but had no luck scaling its way out and I had no luck with my stone-weighted plastic bag.  I played the call from all about birds hoping to draw it back.

I was here for nearly an hour, warily watching the traffic that sped past me, no one stopping, no one caring.  Not one word from the cyclists who biked by; not an inquiry from people out for evening strolls, much like I had been.  A cop car pulled near, watched a moment, turned around, and headed back to town.

Finally, night arrived and the little duckling fell silent.  So did all the other ducks.  With nothing more I could think of to do, I headed home.    Early the next morning I returned, and searched the gratings.  But I could see nor hear the little duckling.  Its fate unknown: Did it find its own way home?  Did it sail off down the storm drain and into the creek to have adventures on the high river?  Did a raccoon or some other critter have an appetizing meal?

The Merry Month of May

Was very busy!  I only submitted 24 lists, most of which were megathon outings from fieldwork for either kestrels or turtles because May has been a very busy month (as has June!)  In addition to the birding,  I worked extra hours every week, defended my thesis, completed my Masters Program, and moved!

May saw 32 life birds, 113 different species, bringing the total to 150 for the year.

Cormorants sunbathing after work.

Cormorants sunbathing after work.

Apparently I’m on a cormorant kick. Hopefully more posts as we settle into the month, including another kestrel research update from the most recent outing.