I have had several non-birding days in the field as Christmas is here, the New Years, trying to re-find the gym etc., so in these days I have managed to just do some 'bird pondering'. This state of mind is one where I am sitting on the couch and thinking of what it is like to be a bird. I figure this can't be this odd considering I am a birder. Admittedly if I 'bird pondered' in front of non-birders, I would most likely be suggested to visit a mental ward for help but I know I can blog here 'pondering' as I am amongst other mentals.
First ponder....how does a bird fly in amongst leaves and branches and twigs and find that perfect spot to perch within the tree? I mean....I was just trying to hang a bird feeder the other day and managed to scrape my face up with a branch, let along fly into the tree. What special powers do they possess? We know from research that some birds possess the sense of sound related to echolocation such as a bat has. These birds, such as the oilbirds of South America where I have visited or several swift swallows emit a 'click' in flight so they know if they are getting too close to a wall or tree etc. But not so with Warblers, or Crows or the like. So how do they do it? Do they have the sense of sound that allows for echolocation to a minor degree? Or do they rely solely on the sense of vision and not sound? Not sure..... I suppose I will ask an expert at Cape May one of these days.
Pondering some more....I was thinking of ducks. Now these guys will nestle their head into their wings and sleep but depending on where they are in the floating flock, they might sleep with one eye open. How strange...one eye open. As humans, we can be in a state of lazy sleep where we awaken easily but surely I have never seen a person sleep with one eye open, even if that person is upset with me and wants to see what I am up to. But ducks do...why? Grabbing a good bit of research during my pondering phase is not unheard of, so I did just that. Turns out that we humans essentially see with a pair of eyes but we see thru a pair as 'one'. On other wards, you can't turn your right eye and focus on one item while your left is focused on another. But birds on the other hand do that to some degree. Ducks have two eyes and while they cannot see the front of their beak, since the eyes are situated on the side of their head, they can see backwards in some sense and to both sides .....allowing them to be aware of predators. Turns out they can also get some shut-eye but essentially closing down one of their eyes and allowing the other eye to remain open. So they sleep with one eye open. Ducks can also view 'upclose' out of one eye and 'zoom' with the other eye. Wow, ...what pondering that allows me to think of. I can be Steve Austin of the Six Million Dollar Man if I had those powers. So a duck in flight might actually sleep with one eye closed and concentrate either on their 'upclose' eye to stay even with the flight flock, or their 'zoom' eye to concentrate on distance.
Other senses such as Touch, Taste, Smell.....birds have em...and we don't have what they have. So finding food underground, distinguishing what is a pebble and what is an edible seed etc...all things bird do pretty well. They can also separate the wheat from the shaft in their mouth, sort of speaking as all non food is discarded while food is swelled. Hey, you want a good book? Try one that my daughters gave me for Christmas entitled Bird Sense, What is it Like to be a Bird by Tim Birkhead a British Ornithologist, a fascinating read which will only cause you to become an equally fascinating ponderer.
I am thrilled about the success of the 62nd annual Oceanville Christmas Bird Count. Over fifty bird watchers spend a cold day, out in the field, counting at least 119 species of birds for the 115th annual The National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count at, and in a 15 mile diameter circle around the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge Many Atlantic Audubon Society and DVOC - The Delaware Valley Ornithological Club members were there. Thanks to all who participated. ...All of the birders who hoped to join us, but were under the weather, or had prior obligations, we look forward to seeing you next year, on December 19, 2015. Mark your calendars now! The round-up afterwards will be at the Oyster Creek Inn again. Fourteen of us enjoyed great food and even better company, at the get together on Saturday. It was fun to hear the first date stories (birding dates, of course!) of two of the birding couples who were there, one of the first dates was ON a Christmas Bird Count, with an engagement the following year, on the Christmas Bird Count, if I am remembering the story correctly. We also heard stories from two reluctant participants who don't like Christmas Bird Counts, one of whom has since changed her mind, and stories of Christmas Bird Counters who were lucky to escape some CBC territories with their lives. We were very lucky to have a Stockton college student and a recent Stockton graduate along with us. Nick, of 1000 birds, found some nice birds in EHT. We had a surprise addition to the count, who found Golden eagle and Eastern meadowlark, and one birder join us all the way from NYC, and one from Philadelphia. Several of the count participant have been been doing this count for forty years. It is impressive to have such skilled birders out there with us. I am proud to be co-compiler of this count, and grateful that Ed Bristow trusted me enough to turn it over to me, and that Brian Moscatello was willing to take me on as co-compiler. I am only the fourth compiler to be associated with the Oceanville CBC.
National Audubon Christmas Bird Counts have been going on for 115 years, but today I participated in my very first one. Our group, Kris Arcuri, Al Marten, me, Becky Hedden and Ed Goldman who jumped in for the birding of Absecon Creek, started at 7 a.m. and birded the "Ed Bristow Route" which consisted of most of Absecon. Wow, I found some great birding spots I never knew existed and I practically live on top of them. I'll never go to Home Depot again without driving behind it, or pass by that medical complex on the Pike without pulling into their parking lot. While Al and Kris did most of the identifying, I helped spot and was the list recorder.
We saw 55 species of birds including Bald Eagles (2), a Harrier, a Peregrine Falcon, a Coopers Hawk, a Red-Tailed Hawk and a Sharp Shinned Hawk. We saw Green Wing Teal (4), which was a new bird for me, as was the Brown Creeper (1) and the Pied-Billed Grebe (2). We saw over 3,000 Brant! It seemed like they were everywhere. We were only stopped by the police once, but we had a sign in the car window identifying us as "Audubon Bird Count," so when he came across it parked in area where we probably shouldn't have been he knew we were o.k., and in his words, "not dumping a body in the marsh." He was really happy about that, thinking of the paperwork it would entail if that's what we were doing there.
We birded until 4 p.m. before the light faded, and we decided we had a long, cold day (35 degrees) and it was time to quit. We met with other birders from other Christmas Bird Count "circles" in our area at a local restaurant to hand in our checklists and compare notes. Together we counted 119 different species of birds in a 15 mile circle. Amazing! Now that I've thawed out and had dinner, I think it's time to make it an early night and fall into bed where I'm sure I'll dream of birds. Lots and lots of birds.
Today I determined was a Forsythe day..... Just down the road a bit with a spot of sun shining and the outside temperature in my car reading 52 degrees.... puuuuurrrrfect. I checked the tidal charts and low tide was set for around 11:30am so again, puuurrrrfect.....(to quote Cat-woman from Batman). I said goodbye to the computer, making it official in my eyes that I was officially 'off work', grabbed some water and my bino's and headed out the door. This was all set for a nice birding day.
Today was also a 'no fee' day at Forsythe since the refuge had closed Wildlife Drive from the dogleg to the end. But that was okay since low tide was going to allow me a chance to double back and perhaps see birds I missed.
Starting at Gull Pond.....I saw a group of ladies with a PA license out of their car staring at something so I meandered over. Two of them appeared to be from Stockton College and were obviously interested in birding. Now, I find that simply awesome. What a treat it is to see a younger generation paying their respects and interest to the environment and wildlife. If nothing else, that made my day and reaffirmed my belief that perhaps the environment has a chance.
As I peered beyond their line of sight I saw what they were looking at...a nice looking hawk in the trees a couple of hundred yards away. It was a bit masked between branches and was facing tail-end to us, so what the heck, I had all day so might as well wait it out and watch it fly off with the hope of affording me a better view to ID with. In the meantime, a couple of my favorite raptors; Northern Harriers flew by, swooped...dove...hovered over the marsh and then just disappeared. I like harriers.
It wasn't long before the hawk grew tired of perching and took off. It never neared me, but I could tell it was a red-shouldered which is fairly common around these parts. Cool...not a bad way to start my day.
Backtracking and nearing the entrance to Wildlife Drive I could see a flock of something, way off in the distance at it mirrored the Atlantic City Skyline of casinos. Now, in regards to 'flocks of anything'...have you noticed that we are not as privileged as in the past of seeing such huge flocks that block out sections of the sky? Sad to see that but a fact as all of us have read about the diminishing bird counts so to see this flock and large in number was a thrill. Sadly they were too far away to ID but I would guess snow geese given the numbers at Forsythe. .
So down the drive I went....admittedly nothing spectacular seen but nothing wrong with appreciating what is the 'normal'. For instance, next time you see some Northern Pintails, take note of the clean swatch of white they have and reminiscent of the Nike swash, or the pintail itself. Does anyone really notice that anymore or do we just call them pintails and move on?
Or....Buffleheads are cool looking black and white jobbies too with the male showing a clean cut between bottom halves. Or ruddy ducks look like those plastic yellow ducks one would give a grandchild...or even those hooded mergansers I saw with the regality of statesmen and women as toppers. But the highlight of my bird day had to be the snow geese. By sheer numbers, the snow geese made the top of my list today. Located on the return end of the drive, I stopped and rolled down my window....and eventually got out of the car braving the snappy wind that permeated my wool coat. The sound of a few thousand snow geese honking away is always a nice calling from nature. I wouldn't mind possessing human 'super powers' of knowing what animals/birds are saying or thinking. What are these guys thinking...who are they honking at and what are they honking? How far can a honk be heard? Can a bird tell which honk is friend or foe among their own kind? Not sure..... but surely I will wake up tonight with that thought and in a deep rem, I will no doubt in my mind at that time of the night, come up with answers to those questions.
A good day of normal birding......
Rainy day……might as well blog while I am in the mood, eh? Now….I saw that Becky was going to bird today and her comment on Facebook was that birds don’t mind the rain. hmmmmm
But my main focus today was to get caught up on ‘egads’….work. Since I work from home near the Mullica River area, I spend time going back and forth between the hot water to grab some tea, to my office, to the bathroom, to the stove to get more tea, and to the bathroom. A pattern emerges from my daily grind.
The good news in that cruelty of a work day is that ‘in those passing stages’ I walk by the window and there are always birds feeding right outside.
Again, making reference to Becky’s second comment this time to Facebook, that she ‘finally’ saw a brown creeper in her yard. Well….there was one in mine too. Just doing his spiral thing up the tree. Sadly I left my binoculars in the car and to retrieve them would chase this little guy away so I just observed in true Darwin fashion with my naked eyes.
But today, I saw some great little Juncos which the visual gently reminds me of Peter Dunne’s description on his future upcoming retirement as he wrote in the NJ Audubon publication. Simply put, he just wanted to sit and observe the juncos and chickadees, those little birds that don’t warrant the attention that others have bestowed upon them….Well, I had a flock of chickadees and juncos all over my feeders today. They flutter and flit and display such a knack for a birding community.
I haven’t seen a pine Warbler in my yard and every time I see a Goldfinch, the resemblance to them makes me wonder if I have my ‘yard first’….but no such luck graced me.
Although what was present were the dreaded squirrels. Now these guys have an equal right to live in my yard and I really enjoy watching their chase scenes, but come on….the age old war between feeders of bird and squirrel prevention is always ‘on’. Several times in my passing between my ‘work stages,’ I noticed a squirrel under my protective squirrel proof cone shaped dome bird feeder. But the dome itself has to be just the right height above the open food. Too high and squirrels and even larger birds such as our loveable starlings will sail on in, and too low of a dome and I notice the birds do not fit. Am I being overly selective to whom I feed? …. Should I just have an open immigration policy and invite all birds and mammals in to nourish themselves?
Well….no….. I have a selective feeding immigration policy and I moved the dome down. So far…no squirrels. Yeah!... But sadly, no birds either…… Another day will come tomorrow.
Well the time ‘down under’ has slipped to memory and photos as I returned from the 30 hour travel back to the east coast. As I sat/slept/turned in my airline seat and walked the airports for those 30 hours, I pondered….. what the ‘hour’s of travel would have looked like if I would have gone ‘west’ …west young man from Melbourne and over Africa and the Atlantic. Would I have shaved off a few more hours?
Hey…. my new bird species count for Australia topped off at 130, and you know what? That isn’t that bad considering that I married off a ‘daughter’. Simply put, what is more important?
A few highs…..well the hunt for the 12 Apostles in Australia was a ‘far out’ experience man. But let me share with you three birds and only three.
A true treasure were the ‘Goldilock’ rendition of the Tawny Frogmouths. Papa…baby, mama…or is that mama, baby and papa? Beats me.
Now, below are two birds and either of these could be the national bird of Aussie-land. The left has a song about it, ….do you remember how that goes? (Kookcaburra J ) ….while the second one is just a superb creature that manages to follow one around like the kid next door (Superb Fairy Wren).
So…what is the next great adventure. Well, surely you jest Batman…Forsythe!