Sunday, November 24, 2019

Life Bird: Golden-crowned Sparrow

     My mom wanted to hang out last Friday. I told her I usually go birding on Fridays. So when I offered to her to come find a rare bird with me, like the good sport she is she agreed. We drove out to Sayville, NY, east of where I grew up and staked out for a Golden-Crowned Sparrow.
     This is a bird restricted to the west coast, you find them no further inland than California, Oregon, and Washington, in the lower 48. So to see one on the East Coast is pretty exciting. There was one last winter just a bit upstate, in the cold of winter. I wanted to see it, but the drive was far and likely in snowy conditions. I passed. This bird, on the other hand, had to be seen.
     Mom and I wanted 2 hours before it showed up. The sky began to drizzle, but finally a troupe of white-throated sparrows moved in and with it came this Golden-crowned sparrow. In the conditions I also learned some more about my camera, specifically about how when you lower the ISO you get a lot of "noise." Well, heck, these pictures are god awful, but I'm proud of my mom for actually getting eyes on this bird and experiencing the magic that is birds. This little bird brought so much delight to observers seeing it for the first time ever, or even just the first time that day, confirming it still present in the area.
     Let's be real, the average sparrow to the non-birder is a little brown bird, nothing more, nothing less. But mom was able to see Fox, white-throated, and this Golden-crowned sparrow all at the same time and see the differences between them all. I told her there are a number of folks who would be quite envious of you for seeing this bird.
     I'm glad we got to see it together, she was excited that she saw 5 species of bird that day, the three sparrows, a Carolina Wren that she pointed out, and a northern cardinal. For me, this bird was life bird #374 and year bird #267. I am very content that I have already surpassed last year's year list by 10 species.
     I am trying to enjoy birding to the fullest at this point as my life is soon going to take a hell of a turn come May. So I am looking forward to some awesome birding trips this winter and cultivating a future mini birder in the warmer months of 2020.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Just some birds.

     On Friday I birded through Green-Wood Cemetery. Still trying to get a feel for my camera and practicing as much as I can. I want to be confident in using it as I am planning some winter bird trips of a lifetime and I want to capture all the birds in stills!
     I think I am doing okay.
One of very many chipping sparrows.
The native plantings that the Cemetery has put in near the big cathedral is just an absolute hit for seed-eating birds. Chipping sparrows blanket the ground, unseen, and then when you walk up the path dozens flush from the tall grasses.
A pair of hermit thrush by the Dell Water proved to be very tolerant. Usually I make eye contact with a hermit thrush and they take cover.
These two hopped up into view to and from the grasses below.
That tail, rufous in color, is a nice easy way to tell this is a hermit.

oh, henlo.

Across the Dell Water, this young red tail was hunting squirrels that were vertically climbing the same tree it was perched in.
Needless to say, this inexperienced hunter came up empty taloned.
The squirrel ran back up the tree and yelled its disdain back down at the bird, perhaps mocking its predator.
But this bird is so beautiful among the fallen autumn leaves!
That look.
I'm red-bellied woodpecker.
Sure, I'll allow you the chance to see my red belly.
Now go on, carry on....
And some of these little green babies before we part...
They were doing some minor structural work on their nest, gathering twigs from this river birch.

Look at that perfect pink tongue!!!
They would all come to the tree in shifts and then one by one bring back their haul.
Good job, little bud.
I have to work on my action shots.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Figuring Things Out

     I recently treated myself to a new camera, I had my sights on a Nikon d500 for a while and I finally gave in. I rarely buy myself something fancy, so I went for it. Except this new camera is more computer than camera. It has so many settings and fancy modes I had to figure out. I went out with it one day and every single photo was grainy. Then I went out yesterday and had the grainy issue again, before switching to another mode and my pictures became more clear. Then today, I *GASP* read the manual. I learned a lot and put that new found information to the test and I am so pleased with my images.
Having a little knowledge about what in the heck "ISO" is, I was able to adjust and get some shots of the wood ducks at Big John's Pond at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
I was originally using the multi-frame setting, but everything was grainy. I had always used a sports mode on my d5100, to capture birds as they moved, but even ducks that were floating still were grainy.
When I made this discovery of taking clearer photos, I spent wayyyyy to long taking pictures of ducks, and re-tracing my steps to get pictures of one of the exciting ducks I saw.

I spied some female green-wing teal, little did I know this stud was hanging out across the water. Again, game changer when I fussed around with the camera settings.
Even with my camera proffed on the sill of the blind and this bird sitting still, the other setting was all grainy.

I love sexy duck season.

Sexy ducks have to be extra on the lookout for predators.

A female green-wing teal dabbles in the water among the wood ducks.

This boi can't even get over his own reflection.
Teal bottoms <3
What a little darling duck!

Earlier I had seen a Eurasian Wigeon on the East Pond, so I back tracked over.
But first grabbed a test shot of this American coot having a snack.
Bird was far, but there he is.
A v sexi boi. 
Among American Wigeon, the Eurasian Wigeon sticks out with that rusty head and peach stripe. I was very happy to find him.

He was happy to see me too. I think?
After learning ALL the options within a setting, I practiced on the birdies at my feeder. Which are mostly and sometimes only house sparrows.
This fella made a fine subject,

I learned about how to set and change up the focal points and adjust how the focal points all work according to the setting you're in. So I took this is that burst frame mode, and ta-da! It is not grainy! Yay!

So when I heard it rained potatoes last night in Green-Wood Cemetery, I knew they would be a perfect bird to try out what I had learned. Mostly because they kinda just sit, like a potato.
These potatoes are American woodcocks the most peculiar bird, but also the best bird.

Front head on, their vision is not so great.
Since they spend so much time probing the soil they see better above and behind them.

They are also very cute.

I also love how their large eyes perfectly capture their surroundings. In Green-Wood they capture the trees and headstones.

While this bird had it's back to me, it can see me just fine!

I was delighted to see so many!

And you wonder, why are you all so hunkered down?

Because hawks.

This red tail was ready!
I saw a woodcock fly and have a red tail in close pursuit. Thankfully for the woodcock, who is not the fastest flyer, neither is the red tail.
Red tails are built for power over speed, so chasing a bird can be tough. It can be done, but it has to be well executed.
This is a young red-tail, so it may not have its style perfected.

And after a short rest, something grabs its attention.

And off they go!
That banded tail, lacking red is the easiest way to tell a young bird from a mature adult.

This little timderdoodle was in the spotlight under the shade of a low hanging pine.

Woodcock can be a challenge, often they see you before you see them. Their camouflage is superb and chances are you will flush one if you are not looking hard enough. Or even if you are focusing on looking specifically for woodcock, you will still accidentally flush one.

I love these little birds so much.

Before leaving, I met up with my friends and we visited the Dell Water and had this little winter wren come out, stomp around, and tell us off.
A perfect little bird to end this visit with and share with friends.
And also pleased that I am beginning to figure out this new camera.
A happy little afternoon!