February 23, 2006

Snow People

Are these not the most coolest ever snow people in the world or what?!? The snow today was perfect and instead of shoveling the driveway Noah and I decided to build these guys. Unfortunately, within an hour Mr. Snowman had fallen over and met his demise, and by the end of the afternoon Mrs. Snowman had joined him. Oh well, nobody lasts forever...

February 20, 2006

Birds: Glaucous Gull? What Glaucous Gull?

Today I relocated what I believe to be the same white-winged gull I saw on 2/16/06 in Fulton behind the Hutamaki plant and I am now inclined to call this bird a 2nd winter ICELAND GULL after all. These are a few lousy photos I took this afternoon. The bill/head shape just don't fit Glaucous and structure is always more important than plumage in these situations. Still seems large for an Iceland but I’m afraid I have to take this one off my list. Beautiful bird though, regardless of what we call it. So, my new bird number 70 is a much less exciting Ring-necked Duck. Oh well, we all make mistakes I guess.

February 16, 2006

Birds: Glaucous Gull

What a beautiful bird! This afternoon I had my first GLAUCOUS GULL (above) since 2003. It was a beautiful, near adult-plumage bird seen near Lock 3 in Fulton from the parking lot directly across from the Fulton Savings Bank. Oddly enough, this is exactly the same spot where I had my Iceland Gull earlier this month. It had very little of the typical light brown markings of younger birds, and the back had some light gray like you'd expect on a normal plumage adult. Long, somewhat heavy bill was distinctly two-toned with a strong gonydeal angle. It was much larger than the Ring-bills, comparable to the Herrings but maybe a tad larger still. Head was a little more rounded than normal for a Glaucous, but I feel the ID is very solid. Strikingly pure white; actually reminded me of a Snowy Owl in flight (plumage wise). I took a bunch of photos but this was the only one that the camera remembered. This was year bird number 70 - quite exciting since in the 6 years I've been listing I've never been able to break 50 by the end of February. This bird just made my day...

February 13, 2006

Birds: Pacific Loon, Eared Grebe

This past weekend Sarah and I did a little extralimital birding around Cayuga Lake. We started at the Aurora Boathouse, Cayuga County, where we met Matt Young, Bernie Carr and some other folks who put us on an EARED GREBE (life bird). At first this bird was simply unidentifiable. It was way out on the lake and a bit wobbly-looking from the heat wave. However, as we watched the bird came in a bit closer and we began to pick out the distinctive field marks: pointed head, dark face, and odd compressed-looking shape to the body. Eventually it became clear that it was definitely a grebe and all the other species could safely be ruled out, thus making it my first life bird of 2006. We then followed Matt and Bernie around to the far side of the lake where we had the, juvenile?, PACIFIC LOON (life bird) that had been reported for some weeks from the Sheldrake area in Seneca County I believe. When we located the bird it was maybe a couple miles south of Sheldrake Point. We had excellent, prolonged looks at close range with superb lighting. The bill shape, plumage, overall proportions, etc were all easily seen. It was even joined by a Common Loon at one point for great comparison. I forgot my camera (stupid... stupid...) but you can check out Matt V's website: http://www.fickity.net/palo.html or the Cayuga Bird Club's website http://www.birds.cornell.edu/CayugaBirdClub/photobb.html for exceptional photos of the same individual. Both the grebe and the loon were unfortunately uncountable on my year list because they were seen outside of Region 5 but well worth the trip. On February 15 we went out for a couple hours before church and located a single LAPLAND LONGSPUR (life bird for Sarah) with a flock of roughly 100 Horned Larks and 20 Snow Buntings along the south side of Hunt Road, Onondaga County I think. The only new bird I’ve added to my year list was a very aggressive ICELAND GULL, seen in Fulton on February 6, bringing my current total to: 68.

February 09, 2006

Music: KT Tunstall & Rilo Kiley

Hello again. Since this blog is technically called "Birds & Music" I guess I'll write a music post for a change. So, lets start with KT Tunstall. Maybe it's just me but I find her name to be impossible to remember. Kay Tee Turnstall, Katy Tunsal, KD Turner, very confusing. Anyway, I first heard a little of her stuff from my friend Josh Wright a couple days ago and then this morning I found her album on iTunes. I got to say, I'm very impressed. Her tunes are catchy, original, well-played and just generally cool. I mean, it's definitely pop music, and at her worst moments she starts to sound a little American Idolish, but overall it's really great. Apparently she's been getting quite popular in Europe (she's originally from Scotland) and her album Eye to the Telescope is now available here in the states. It's very acoustic guitar driven, which is a little unusual for her genre, and despite some keyboards and vocal effects, it's got a very organic sound overall. Basically, Tunstall is a radio-worthy pop singer who actually has quite a lot of talent and is definitely worth checking out. Favorite songs: Under the Weather, Suddenly I See, Silent Sea.

Now, most of you probably already know about
Rilo Kiley. I was kind of behind the curve with these guys but their stuff has definitely grown on me. I actually got to see them live last summer when they opened for Coldplay at Darien Lake. Unfortunately the sound guys really messed up with their set; they were so loud the speakers were totally maxed out and crackling. We ended up cramming our ears full of napkins and it still hurt when the trumpet played. Anyway, these guys have a very interesting, almost retro sound. Fronted by red-headed singer and (I believe) primary songwriter Jenny Lewis, their songs are edgy, even a little uncomfortable at times, but defiantly unique. One thing I really liked about them live were their twin guitars, wailing away on extended solos in perfect harmony. Very cool. Their album gets a little soupy with a big string/horn section but when they played on Austin City Limits a couple months ago they reaffirmed my initial impression; these guys are unusually tight, well arranged alt-rockers with a very different take on your typical rock song. Favorite songs: I Never, Portions for Foxes, Does He Love You? FYI: Lewis has a new solo project out with The Watson Twins which I have not heard and know very little about, sorry.

February 07, 2006

Three Fall Woods

I love this pic. So for those of you who don't know, that's me on the right and my beautiful girlfriend Sarah on the left. This was taken by our friend Jon Rothwell who's a really cool guy and an amazing photographer. Check out his website: www.ofjonluke.com One more thing about this pic - it was taken in an area known as "The Three Fall Woods" which is this great stretch of undeveloped forest in Manlius, NY. Just the fact that there is some undeveloped land left in Manlius makes this a pretty special place. It's got paths, cliffs, caves, streams, waterfalls, all sorts of cool stuff. If you'd like to learn more about this area and the on-going effort to preserve it, check out www.manliusgreenspace.org Okay, that's all I have for now.

February 04, 2006

Weekend Birds

The past few weeks have been pretty slow bird-wise but this weekend was excellent. Yesterday, February 3rd, I took the entire day to do some solo birding, chasing some of my big year list misses so far. I started with an hour of standing around in the rain an Onondaga Lake Park calling for Fish Crows (with no luck). I then headed to Shop City in Syracuse where I did pick out a pair of suspicious looking crows on one of the large lights in the parking lot. They were a slightly smaller build with a somewhat noticeably hooked beak, and one of them would get really agitated when he heard the tape above the din of the traffic. Finally, after chasing them around for a while, he gave a very brief but distinctive call as he was flying away. So FISH CROW made my first year bird of the day. I’ve only seen a Fish Crow one other time, years ago with Bill Purcell at Onondaga Lake Park, so it was exciting (though I probably looked pretty strange, walking around in the rain, staring at crows with my CD player and little portable speakers blaring away). A quick stop at the pond on Meadowbrook Drive got me two male GREEN-WINGED TEAL. I then headed for the Thruway to case field birds. Lapland Longspur has long been a nemesis of mine. I saw one once with Mary Alice Koeneke on Point Peninsula, Jefferson County, but that was either 2000 or 2001 and it wasn’t a very good look. There had been a large mixed flock of Buntings and Larks reported from the Babcock Hill area, south of Utica in extreme southeastern Oneida County, and there were supposedly a few longspurs mixed in with them so I thought I’d try for them. When I arrived there were a few small groups of larks and buntings in the area, but finding a little brown bird in such an immense area seemed impossible. However, after a while I did flush what turned out to be a winter male LAPLAND LONGSPUR (Region First) on the west side of Mapledale Road just south of it’s intersection with Babcock Hill Road. It was a beautiful individual with strong facial markings, chestnut wings and nape, light bill, wing bars and heavy streaking. Click here if you want to see my very poor photos of the bird. Though surprisingly difficult to locate I had wonderful, prolonged looks at him through the scope. He would scurry, military style, up and down the rows and then switch rows without warning. That, combined with his amazingly well camouflaged plumage and poor lighting, made finding him extremely difficult, even at close range. Eventually he joined up with a second Longspur, probably a female, but there were no other obvious birds in the area. Today, Sarah and I headed to the lakeshore. We found a flock of roughly 20 WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILLS (Life Bird for Sarah) in some larches on the east side of Route 3 near Selkirk Shores State Park, Oswego County. Bill Purcell originally reported these birds but we had to walk quite a way in on the trail to find them. It was a brief but adequate look before they left the tree and flew out of sight. Shortly after seeing the crossbills a COMMON RAVEN croaked and flew overhead (migrant?). We picked up various odd year birds along the lakeshore, including Pine Siskin and my first American Robin at Derby Hill. At Oswego Harbor Sarah picked out a SNOWY OWL sitting on the breakwall, though we were unable to find any interesting gulls. The rest of the afternoon was fairly quiet. Over these past two days I’ve been to almost every county in Region 5 – Oswego, Onondaga, Madison, Oneida, and Cayuga. Didn’t quite make it to Herkimer but almost. My year list is now at: 67.

February 02, 2006

A Really Lame Holiday

Hello again. So, they tell me today is Groundhog's Day. Yup, groundhogs actually get a 'Day' now. Does this seem strange to anyone else? I mean, when was the last time we had a 'Vole Day' or a 'Squirrel Day' or an 'opossum Day'? Don't other furry little animals cast shadows besides groundhogs? This is just another classic (albeit, rodent related) case of social discrimination. Sure, the groundhogs are doing just great, but what about the woodchucks, or the poor neglected gophers? Nobody seems to think of them. Personally, this seems like a waste of a holiday to me. What's there to celebrate? You just can't throw a wild Groundhog's Day party. It doesn't work. Oh well, those are my Groundhog's Day reflections.
In other news, well, I guess there isn't much other news right now. My year list is at 58 which is starting to get kind of pathetic. I still need lots of ducks, white-winged gulls, Snow Bunting and Horned Lark. Don't have many half-hardies yet either. Hoping to go out tomorrow and add 5 or 6 birds. So wish me luck. If I see anything, I'll let you know.