Sunday, January 30, 2011

More Winter Birding with Renee

There had been reports of a Lapland Longspur (click on link to see a photo by Dave Boltz of the bird in question, at Occoquan) so Renee and I decided to put the long underwear on again to check it out. It was positively balmy by our standards, only 27 degrees when we got out ot the car at the Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge, about 20 minutes south of my house.

There were lots of birders, but no Longspur in sight while we were there. Renee did find a wild turkey roosting in a tree (digiscoped pic below)

It was beautiful and peaceful. We walked to one of the river overlooks and scanned the ice and mud packs. We saw several eagles. Two were roosting in a tree on a little island well out into the river. I digiscoped a picture:

One eagle is at the very top, another is on the right middle part of the trees. A gull is flying by on the left side. The river was incredibily beautiful, snow and ice and all the shades of silver.

It was a great birding morning. We stopped for a light breakfast in the town of Occoquan (I recommend the Blue Arbor) and did a last bit of birding on the river in town.

Here's our list for the day:

Northern Harrier
Golden crowned kinglet
Bald eagles
Cooper's Hawk (I think)
Sharp shinned hawk (Certain)
Song sparrows (Renee says I should put this down twice, there were so many of them)
Savannah sparrow
Northern Flicker
Red winged black bird
Canada geese (one with a almost entirely white head)
Gulls. I'm terrible at gulls.
Red bellied woodpecker
Downy woodpecker (Renee saw these)
Carolina wren (heard)
Great blue heron--several

On the way to breakfast
Black vultures--about 30 of them roosting in light poles and a tree just next to Route 1)
Turkey vultures--flying with some BVs in the same area
White throated sparrows

Occoquan village
bald eagle
Black vulture
Great blue heron
Gulls--Greater Black Backed, Herring, Ring-billed

-- Posted from my iPad!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Omigawd it's cold--wait, was that a catbird?

My friend Renee and I had arranged to go birding this morning so she could try out my old scope with an eye to buying it. This had seemed like a good idea earlier in the week when we had planned it. Last night, when it was heading to 20 degrees F, it seemed less so. But, given our history of birding together, somehow appropriate. (Renee and I always do a Christmas Bird Count together. Some years, it's the only birding we do together. Last year, it was in the 'teens for the CBC and there was a foot and a half of snow on the ground. This year's CBC seemed balmy, being just under 30. Fred thinks we're both loony.)

So, when Renee arrived this morning promptly at 8:30, we packed the gear in the boot of her Prius and duly headed off to the Jackson Abbott Wildlife Refuge, a little park about five minutes away on Ft. Belvoir's piece of the local wetlands. Despite it being 24 degrees.

It was a short walk through the woods from the parking past the small frozen pond to the wetlands Not surprisingly, no one else was at Jackson Abbott. None of the usual dogwalkers, fishermen or friendly winos were there. Can't imagine why.

There used to be a platform to allow one to study the wetlands, but at some point this summer it was burned rather completely by vandals. Renee and I set up next to the remains of the platform. Here's Renee trying out the scope with the wetlands in front of her and the platform's skeleton next to her. (Click on either pic for a full sized, higher resolution view.)

In between bouts of shivering, we had a pretty good hour of birding:

golden-crowned kinglet in some pine trees to our left
two red shouldered hawks across the wetlands, digiscoped below:

an obliging song sparrow
a downy woodpecker
several white throated sparrows
many juncos
a crow
the ubiquitous canada geese, titmice and chickadees
blue jays (heard but not seen)

and the bird of the day as we walked back around the pond--a catbird, which Renee first spied in a brush with a bunch of sparrows but which I saw too. We are on the far western edge of the catbird's winter range, so that's a pretty good sighting!

(Renee, did I leave anything out?)

Our fingers were numb so we called it a day! I was hoping for some bluebirds, we see them often around the pond, but I'll have to settle for yesterday's sightings in our neighborhood.

-- Posted from my iPad!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Bluebirds aren't just over the rainbow!

Fred and I went out for a walk in the neighborhood today to enjoy the 1/2" of snow while it lasted, and saw three bluebirds hanging out in a yard a few blocks away!

We've not seen bluebirds in our neighborhood before, let alone in the winter, though we're not far from Huntley Meadows, where they are common. They were with a few house finches, which were what originally caught my eye.

So, I learned that they stay here year round (confirmed by the range maps in my birding app.)

A good winter's walk!