May 1 2013

Big Year 2013 – April

April has been a big month – no new lifers (got a nemesis lifer in a Blue-winged Warbler on the last day at Palmyra) but 110 species for the month including 48 FOY birds. It’s starting to get good with migration coming into full swing. Continue reading

Apr 29 2013

Big Year 2013 – March

March was a good month in my Big Year quests. I got out a lot more than in February (5 trips despite a ridiculous work schedule) and it amounted to 6 new lifers and 9 new state birds, including a mega-rarity — Tufted Duck. The tally so far: Continue reading

Mar 30 2013

BotB VI: Wading Birds (Ibis, Spoonbills + Stork)

Ibis, Spoonbills & Storks
Family: Threskiornithidae
# of Ibis Species: 4
# of Spoonbill Species: 1
# of Stork Species: 2
# of Flamingo Species: 1
Species Seen / Photographed: 5 / 4

This selection of wading birds is known for their long legs and specialized bills, predominantly long and designed to dig into the muck to find their prey. More gregarious than many of the herons, they can often be seen in large flocks. Continue reading

Mar 12 2013

Big Year 2013 – February

After a strong start in January, February turned out to be a lot slower. I was only able to bird twice (both times at John Heinz NWR at Tinicum), and had limited opportunities to see new things. I only added 5 species to my year list but that included a new lifer – a long-sought nemesis, the Saw-whet Owl!. Continue reading

Feb 10 2013

Big Year 2013 – January

I decided that in 2013, I was going to do a “Big Year” – or rather a semi Big Year (I’m not going to be traveling all over the country to chase). My goal is to break my personal records for most species seen & most seen in NJ (205 & 150, respectively). And January is starting me off at a good pace.

Continue reading

Jan 5 2013

Birding 2012

It felt like 2012 was a really slow year for me birding-wise: too much work and not enough time to get out. But looking back I realized that while many of the totals were lower, it wasn’t a BAD year.

Long-eared Owl

Long-Eared Owl – Peace Valley Park / Doylestown, PA

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May 21 2012


This place looks good

Every spring we put out a number of bird houses and hope for a multitude of nests. You can always count on at least 1 House Sparrow nest plus at least one other random species. In the past we’ve had blue jays, cardinals (twice), Carolina wrens, house wrens, chickadees (twice) and robins. Plus we’ve had a number of other chicks who have come into our yard from nests elsewhere. Continue reading

Dec 29 2011

Chase’s dubious offer

We recently received a letter from our mortgage holder, Chase Bank, offering to reduce our mortgage interest rate by 1% with no fees. It even came in a next day envelope to help validate its importance.

Unfortunately, our previous dealings with Chase (they took our mortgage payment out twice last fall, leading to 4 months of ridiculous BS) made me suspicious immediately of their motives. Plus, I had heard the stories of fake mailings that purport to be from your mortgage company but in reality scam you out of you house. Two quick things that put me on guard. Continue reading

May 2 2011

BotB V: Herons, Egrets and Bitterns

Herons, Egrets & Bitterns
Family: Ardeidae
# of Heron Species: 4
# of Night-Heron Species: 2
# of Egret Species: 4
# of Bittern Species: 2
Species Seen / Photographed: 12 / 10

This group of birds are common visitors to most wetlands and watery areas in our country. Their large size and noticeable behavior makes them recognizable to even many non-birders. They run a wide variety of sizes from the smaller white egrets to the larger Great Blue Heron, and a range of habits from the open fishing habits of the GBH to the more secretive lifestyles of both species of bitterns. Similar in form, they represent a mostly common set of feeding habits, focused mostly on fish but taking opportunities for a wide variety of other prey including small mammals, reptiles, amphibians and anything else that gets too close to their large bills. Continue reading

Apr 26 2011

Unexpected Beauty

Unexpected Beauty

I was walking home from work when I heard a call that I didn’t recognize in my neighbor’s yard. I had heard the same call yesterday from our yard but wasn’t able to find it in the trees – kind of like a robin, similar to a cardinal but not quite. At the risk of looking like a creep, I tried to spy the bird from the sidewalk but a flash of yellow piqued my curiosity enough for me to step closer. But the bird was singing high in the tree, just too far to get a good look.

I asked my neighbor if he minded if I came back with binocs, and he was fine with it (though uninterested in the bird once he knew what I was looking at). Between the binocs and my camera, I finally figured it out – a dicksissel, an unexpected find and a lifebird. They are uncommon east of the Appalachians, and rare in NJ – especially in spring.

He was gorgeous – a broad yellow eyebrow leading to a thick bunting-like bill (but longer), and a deep yellow breast topped with a dark black bib surrounded by white flashes on the chin and on either side of the throat. The brown plumage on the back was accented by a rusty brown, accenting the already colorful bird.

I watched him singing that distinctive song for a while, admiring his vigor and the way he chased the male house sparrows into the bushes, and in one case into the dirt. He flew from the magnolia to a fence where he perched for a short time. Things got even better as it flew practically to me and offered me even better looks from only a few feet away.

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