12 Days of Birding

I suppose it began with renditions of “Merry Schismus” and “O! Schismus Tree” during lab meetings earlier this month, but trudging through an empty Liberty State Park today on our annual Lower Hudson Christmas Bird Count, I began to sing the following in  my head.

Sung to the tune of “The 12 Days of Christmas” (or not,  if you’re ill-favored like me) because there weren’t enough birds in it already. 


 

On the first day of CBC,  Audubon sent my way: a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

saw-whet

On the second day of CBC, Audubon sent my way:  two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the third day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the fourth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the fifth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the sixth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the seventh day  of CBC, Audubon sent my way: seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers’ Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the eighth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the ninth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the tenth day  of CBC, Audubon sent my way: ten Ring-necked Pheasants, nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the eleventh day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: eleven Piping Plovers, ten Ring-necked Pheasants, nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers’ Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the twelfth day of CBC, Audubon sent my way: twelve Pileateds, eleven Piping Plovers, ten Ring-necked Pheasants, nine Cedar Waxwings, eight Northern Pintails, seven Orange-crowned Warblers, six Hooded ‘Gansers, five Goldeneyes, four Mockingbirds, three Moorhens, two Coopers Hawks and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

On the 13th day of CBC, Audubon  sent to me frostbite, warbler neck,  blisters, and a runny nose so the song ends here.


 

Please do add your own verses and variations in the comments!


 

Image sources: Pileated Woodpeckers, Piping Plovers, Ring-necked Pheasants, Cedar Waxwings, Northern Pintails, Orange-crowned Warblers, Hooded Mergansers, Goldeneyes, Northern Mockingbird, Common Moorhens,  Coopers Hawks, and a Saw-whet in a pine tree.

Of Thee I Sing!

Rather it would be more like squawking if truth be told. But nevertheless, Liberty has been the theme of the month.  At the beginning of the month, I joined Montclair’s final ornithology trip to Culver’s Lake/Walkill River National Wildife Refuge where they surpassed my year’s record of 119 species with 124 for the semester.  At Culver’s Lake I picked up American Widgeon (I went 342 days without seeing one?!) and Common Goldeneye.  It was cold, occasionally bitterly so.  (Year species 192 and 193).

After lunch we found ourselves on Liberty Loop at Walkill.  Parts of it were in NJ, parts in NY.  We tramped about the loop in the declining winter sun.  The class picked up White-Throated Sparrows, heard but ne’er saw the Downy Woodpecker.  We were treated to beautiful views of gliding Northern Harriers and we all added a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk to our lists (194).  I opted not to bring my camera because I didn’t want to hold up the class progress, but hopefully I’ll be able to snag a photo or two to retroactively post. Further into the loop, along a wooded stretch we watched a Cooper’s Hawk sitting inches above the ground in a boggy area.

The sun sank further and the prize of the day remained elusive:the Short-eared Owl. John frequently scanned every hummock, but I held out for an appearance just before sunset.  Hand in hand temperature and hope dropped as we walked north along the western edge of the marsh and the light disappeared.  We turned towards the last stretch into the parking lot when the group lingering behind called loudly enough to capture our attention.  Out over the southern edge of the marsh (where we had been 30 minutes before!) a brilliant show of swooping, graceful wings danced on the horizons. (And yes, there are multiple horizons.  First there is the marshline, then the treeline; both are vital reference points).  From our vantage point we were witness to 5 Short-ears hunting at twilight (195).  Against the marsh and the trees, they looked like white; dancing against the sky, their silhouettes turned black.

Fast forward a week: Christmas Bird Count!  T’was very exciting to be invited to participate!  I had friends who were doing the count on Saturday (the day of the horrible snows), but I lucked out weather-wise with Sunday.  It started off bitterly cold (two hours in, I was more concerned about whether or not I had the first case of frostbite; couldn’t tell if my feet were just cold or cold and wet), but when the sun grudgingly appeared, my feet reached a tolerable temperature.  There were seven in our party tasked with surveying Liberty State Park in Jersey City.  The group was associated with Rutgers Newark of which I have previously posted.  We had a record 64 species, and a record low number of individuals due to really low counts of Canada Geese and Brant.  We were treated to nice views of Horned Larks and my best views yet of Snow Buntings.  We searched for owls in the conifer groves, but it was not meant to be!  I had a definitive Greater Scaup (196) and my first looks at a tricksy Long-tailed Duck (197)!  Away from the open water we picked up Rusty Blackbirds (198) and I had my first views of American Pipit (199)! Which is a lovely bird, if only for the name (pipit!), though I’m sketchy on the identification as I was instructed to know it by it’s slender bill and just the way it walks.  It has a way.  Which if it doesn’t walk while you’re viewing it, doesn’t help!  We had a surprise lunchtime visitor of two Orange-Crowned Warblers (200.)  All the details of our count can be found here.

We did quite well!  And in creating my list just now, I realized I had a miscount and have officially achieved 200 birds for the year! Woo! I guess I don’t have to go chasing a Snowy Owl after all.  But do stay tuned, in case I do, and for other amazing news.

P.S. Winter banner was taken at the CBC looking towards NYC!

The Moment You Knew

Everyone has that moment of clarity when they realize their calling to bird.  When I figure out what mine was, I’ll let you know.  (We all have those moments, we just don’t all remember them!)  What I wanted to recall today was watching someone else’s moment.

At work we will frequently all run to one side, not because the building is listing, but because someone has just spotted a noteworthy bird.    We spent nearly a week determining whether our visiting hawk was a Red-Shoulder or a Cooper’s Hawk.  Every time the bird appeared, there’d be a run to the windows and a phone call to the lower offices to alert them as well.  This is what happens when you work at a nature center.

The only avian activity this week has been the woodpeckers.  Apparently there was a false alarm a few days ago regarding a Pileated Woodpecker sighting.  We do have them, but bird in question happened to be a Red-bellied Woodpecker.    So today, when the real Pileated made an appearance close to the center my co-worker was elated.   He was the one to spot it and had enough time to run inside to grab binoculars for a better look.    Standing in the cold sans coats, we watched a Red-bellied and Pileated systematically climb up the snags searching for grub.  When he walked in well after the rest of us, he was glowing and not from the cold.  In his future he perceived making plans and investments for a continued search for feathered friends.

Another birder is born!  Trips to the Meadowlands are closer than they appear.  Then Cape May, Hawk Mountain, and then the world!

In other news, “thesis” outline submitted to adviser!

New Visitors

Not too much birding this week with the snow, work and school, but there were two new visitors!  At the folk’s place where the only ducks I’ve ever seen are mallards and the domestic ducks that have cross-bred with the mallards, but I finally saw something new and different!  So exciting! Unfortunately, I was the only one in at the time to witness it.

Hooded Mergansers swim upstream in the creek next to the pond.

Hooded Mergansers swim upstream in the creek next to the pond.

Then yesterday at work, when I was supposed to be leaving for class, I was called into the office.  Truth be told, I was lured in by the sound of excited murmurs.   They happened at the same time.  Lo and behold the unidentifiable surprise visitor from yesterday afternoon returned.    Everyone was excited I was there to help solidify the identification.  Speculation was between a Northern Goshawk or a Rough-legged based on the field marks people picked up previously.  However, with my camera capturing the detail for better study, we settled on a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk.  [However, after receiving comments regarding the photo, it appears it’s actually a Cooper’s Hawk.] Still exciting!  Anyway, how awesome is it to wish to spend more time at work in order to see birds?

IMG_3248

Red-shouldered Hawk  Cooper’s Hawk rests in a tree near sunset in Tenafly, NJ.

Also, finalized “thesis” defense committee, have people who actually want to attend, and submitted data (again!) So progress!