New Goals, Old Goals

An end of year New York Times tweet admonished, “Before setting new goals, evaluate the previous ones.”  So today I should begin by reviewing 2014’s resolutions. Last year, in what is no longer my shortest post ever, Renewed Resolve, I outlined my resolutions:

  • Continue working on warbler identification.
  • Work on identification by song.
  • Learning more about my camera and how to take better photos. (from Prairie Birder)

Camera Resolution

Considering I’ve uploaded 300 photos over the course of the year, that’s nearly 1 per day I have consistently worked with my camera, most particularly discovering it’s limitations.   I’ve gotten shots I’m happy with, shots I can live with, and shots that only belong in the trash heap.

I’ve also reached a point of frustration with the point and shoot, and the one I have in particular.  So I’ve decided to upgrade to a dSLR.  I haven’t decided which one (Canon or Nikon?), but I’m borrowing a Nikon currently and have rented a 500mm sigma lens for my upcoming trip to the Everglades (I depart tomorrow…. in 9 hours!), so continuing to work on photography will stay on the list.

Sanderling with a snack.  Taken with Nikon 3200 Simga 500mm. Sandy Hook. Photo taken on December 27, 2014.

Sanderling with a snack. Taken with Nikon 3200 Simga 500mm. Sandy Hook. Photo taken on December 27, 2014.

Songs Don’t Resonate for Me

I think any progress I made has been eroded by time.  This might need to be a life goal.   I did work on it significantly this year.  I can tell you that Tennessee Warblers have a three part (sometimes two) whereas Nashville have a two-part song.  What it sounds like?  Haven’t a clue at the moment.  To my ear, Hooded Warblers sound like they’re saying “Nice to, nice to meet you!” but to other birders that’s the description for a different warbler.  Chestnut-sided?

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.

Wibbly-wobbly with Warblers

Warblers and songs sensibly go hand in hand.  I had first looks this year at Blackburnian, Chesnut-sided, Hooded, Worm-eating, Kentucky, Cerulean, Bay-breasted, Grace’s, and Red-faced.  (The last two in Arizona.)  So it was a good warbler year!  I began to really explore two warbler hotspots: Garrett Mountain (New Jersey) and Doodletown Road (New York.), but then the season ended.   Think it needs to go back on this list.

Aptly named Red-faced warbler.  Miller Canyon, Arizona. Photo taken on June 16, 2014.

Aptly named Red-faced warbler. Miller Canyon, Arizona. Photo taken on June 16, 2014.

Therefore, after serious reflection and a strong need for sleep, I’m just going to keep my 2014 resolutions, thanks.

  • Continue working on warbler identification.
  • Work on identification by song.
  • Learning more about my camera and how to take better photos. (from Prairie Birder)
  • Submit at least 1 paper for publication

I will add one new resolution, however. I need to get focused and get at least one of the two proposed papers out from my Masters Thesis.  So this way I won’t feel so guilty when I miss birding to work on it….

Moments Like These

Tonight was the Annual Board Meeting.  I was collecting kindling from the campfire area when over the clattering of wood I heard a haunting wavering wallow.  My initial thought was wood duck, but it seemed too loud and too bold for a wood duck.  To me, wood ducks always seem surprised when calling out.  I’ve never heard wood ducks save for when I was right at the pond.  My second thought was common loon.  I’m familiar with the call of the loon from literature and television, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard it in person.  Not like what I heard tonight anyway.  (I did hear a loon birding on foggy August morning with a coworker, but this was far more harrowing a call.)

I listened with half an ear for the remainder of the night, but the night remained silent other than the wind winding through the trees and missile acorns thundering down.  I asked my boss if she had heard the call; she hadn’t, but suggested it was some species of owl.  Now y’all know I would love for it to be an owl, but nothing in the melancholic call struck me as owlly.

As soon as my duties were over, I scampered down to the pond, by which I mean I made my way down there over roots and giant steps with great caution.  Once at the pond I extinguished my trusty cellphone flashlight and melted into the night.

I lay down on the dock (because that’s what one does) and just absorbed the essence of the night.  The north wind blew the waves toward me and beyond, some time in the next few days those waves will find their way into the Hackensack River and then the Raritan Bay.  The insects sang their final songs of summer.  I imagined the swarms of late warblers, like a very tardy white rabbit, scurrying overhead; making their way south where food is more plentiful.  No birds mourned the passing of summer, but it was one of those perfect autumn nights.  The forest is fully steeped in autumn now, in sights and smells and it’s not more evident than when the rains come or the night cloaks the forest.

Early Morning Blues

I decided to walk myself over to Cushetunk Lake for a bit of birding by ear. (aka my binoculars were locked in someone else’s car!)

It was a very pleasant sunrise walk.  Solo birding is a different experience.  Because it’s based on your own inclination and there’s no distraction of company, you experience the world in a different way.  I had a very enjoyable hour, attempting to listen to calls and identity each individual.  Quite a number of blue birds!  No Belted Kingfisher or Eastern Bluebird to round out the blues mix, alas, but I did see a number of Blue Jays and a Great Blue Heron. I had luck identifying the American Crow, Blue Jay, Northern Cardinal, Carolina Wren, Tufted Titmouse, and White-breasted Nuthatch.

Lake Cushetunk:
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Mallard
Great Blue Heron
American Crow
Turkey Vulture
Mourning Dove
Blue Jay
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal

After visiting the dam, I headed through a patch of woods before wandering back.  Among the branches I could hear a symphony of unidentifiable wonders.I could identify the 16 mallards swimming and great blue heron fishing in the stream.

I also saw four deer and a swimming muskrat!   So cool!  Following my hour ramble, I was in a much better frame of mind.  As I walked back into the house, I surprised a Carolina Wren who nearly flew into me in its haste to book it out of there.  Now I’m mentally all ready to hit the road for a day of birding in….. Central Jersey!