January 31, 2008

Andrew & Noah on SNOCAP

January 17, 2008

Music: St Vincent

Thought I'd let you all know about one of my new favorite alt-indie-pop singer-songwriters. I was lucky enough to stumble on St. Vincent's Marry Me on iTunes last week. It's a great album. St. Vincent is basically Annie Clark; a super talented multi-instrumentalist with a fantastic voice and a unique approach to alternative music. She has a knack for making the bizarre seem believable. Some of the songs on Marry Me are very strange and her arrangements are often over the top but something about her delivery and especially her voice pulls it all together beautifully. She might have picked up some of that from touring with Sufjan Stevens but her sound is all her own. Check out her official site and her MySpace page for more info and some cool videos.   

January 10, 2008

Birds: Long Island

I got back yesterday from an amazing birding trip to Long Island. Jay McGowan and I had been planning this trip for several weeks and we had a big list of specific birds we wanted to get. Kevin McGowan, Jared Caster and Marty Caster also came. We left on January 6 and drove all the way out to Montauk where our primary goal birds, Barnacle Goose and Pink-footed Goose, had been seen since at least November. On the way we tried for a reported Townsend's Solitare at Oak Beach with no luck. We arrived in Montauk a little before 4:00 PM and couldn't find either goose in the failing light. We started the next morning at 7:00 AM and arrived at Montauk Point shortly after dawn. There were amazing numbers of Common Eiders (many thousands) and all three scoters flying past the point. Most were fairly far out but still an incredible experience. We were able to pick out several small groups of RAZORBILLS (Life Bird) as well as NORTHERN GANNETS, Purple Sandpipers, loons, ducks and a single Red-necked Grebe. We then headed back to Deep Hollow Ranch where we easily located the BARNACLE GOOSE (Life Bird) on the south side of the road in a flock of Canada Gees (that also contained a single Snow Goose). However, we searched the entire area thoroughly and could find no sign of the Pink-footed Goose. We decided to go to Ditch Plains and have another look at the ocean. Jay picked out a group of at least five HARLEQUIN DUCKS with several beautiful breeding plumage males quite close to shore. After a long time scanning through Common Eiders, Jared was the first to pick out an immature male KING EIDER, again, fairly close to shore. I eventually saw at least three (two immature males, one female) but Jay thought he had as many as six or seven. This was only the second time I've seen King Eider; the first being the female in Oswego Harbor several years ago. It was a challenge to separate them from the Common Eiders because they were always preening, making head shape difficult to judge. Not to mention waves and poor lighting. But it was a lot of fun. Sometime around noon we went back to Deep Hollow a third time for the Pink-footed Goose, again with no luck. Started to get a little pessimistic about this bird. After lunch we decided to try once more and finally, at about 2:00 PM (after roughly five hours of searching) we located the PINK-FOOTED GOOSE (Life Bird for all of us!) right where everyone had said it would be; on the hill side north of the road with a flock of a hundred or so Canada Geese. It was close and cooperative for about 20 minutes with great lighting for digiscoping. We all agreed it was a surprisingly good looking bird with wonderful shading on the head, silvery edging on the back and bright pink feet that stood out even without binoculars. Then without warning it flew off with a few Canadas and disappeared again. There were still a few hours of daylight left so we headed to Dune Road where we had distant looks at a SNOWY OWL but missed Monk Parakeet. On January 8 we started the day with a second try for the solitare at Oak Beach. After a few minutes waiting, Jay saw the TOWNSEND'S SOLITARE fly in from nowhere. It perched briefly on several trees close to the road and we all got some decent looks before it flew back to wherever it came from. The solitare was a state bird for me, Jay and Kevin and a life bird for Jared and Marty. A stop at Jones Beach didn't produce any rarities but we did pick up PEREGRINE FALCON, RUDDY TURNSTONE and a few other trip birds. Our last stop was at Sunken Meadows State Park where we had fantastic looks at an immature BLACK-HEADED GULL (Life Bird) foraging along a small canal near the parking lot. We eventually got him to come in with some Ring-billed Gulls and eat corn chip crumbs we threw off the bridge. The bird's legs and bill were extremely bright red/orange and we had good opportunities to watch the bird in flight (even heard it vocalize!). We ended the trip with 92 species and we saw almost all of the birds we tried for. I four life birds, six state birds and 53 year birds, bringing my 2008 North American year list up to 90 species.
Montauk Point
Scanning the ocean
Barnacle Goose
Townsend's Solitare
Pink-footed Goose
Pink-footed Goose
Pink-footed Goose (center) with Canada Goose (front) and Brant (rear)
Black-headed Gull (photo by Marty Caster)

January 04, 2008

Happy New Year!

I know all these text posts are getting boring but what can I say... I'm lazy.  Anyway, just wanted to get a quick post in before the weekend.  On Sunday I'll be leaving for a birding trip to Long Island.  Only be gone a couple days but it should be fun.  My 2008 North American Year List is currently at 37 and still missing a handful of easy birds.  Already have Iceland, Glaucous and Lesser Black-backed Gulls plus Pine Grosbeak and Shrike!  It's been a nice, quiet afternoon here.  Feel a little bad that I didn't get out at all but I got some stuff done and I think I'm mostly packed for the weekend.  Okay, guess that's all for now.  Bye!