30 July 2010


So in summary, we obviously had a great time down in Virginia and North Carolina. I was able to find 9 new ABA birds (*) and Ashley was able to add at least twice that. Secondly, I was able to add 12 new ABA photo birds (P) which is an up-and-coming hobby of mine. Although we didn't actually keep a trip list through most of the trip (we were focused on targeting certain species), I'll put up a quick trip list here:

Canada Goose
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Northern Bobwhite
Common Loon
Black-capped Petrel(*) (P)
Trindade Petrel (*) (P)
Cory's Shearwater (*)
Great Shearwater (P)
Audubon's Shearwater (*)
Wilson's Storm-Petrel (*) (P)
Band-rumped Storm-Petrel (*)
Brown Pelican
Double-crested Cormorant
Green Heron
Tricolored Heron
Little Blue Heron
Snowy Egret
Great Egret
Great Blue Heron
Glossy Ibis
White Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Black Vulture
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle
Cooper's Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
King Rail
Clapper Rail (P)
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Black-bellied Plover
Semipalmated Plover
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
Lesser Yellowlegs
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Ruddy Turnstone
Semipalmated Sandpiper
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Pectoral Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Long-billed Dowitcher
Laughing Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Sandwich Tern
Royal Tern
Caspian Tern
Forster's Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Common Tern
Least Tern
Black Tern
Sooty Tern (*)
Black Skimmer (P)
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Eurasian Collared-Dove
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Common Nighthawk
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Red-cockaded Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Acadian Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Fish Crow
Purple Martin
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Chickadee
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch (P)
House Wren
Carolina Wren
Marsh Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
European Starling
Prothonotary Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Pine Warbler (P)
Kentucky Warbler
Hooded Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Swainson's Warbler (*) (P)
Common Yellowthroat
Summer Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Bachman's Sparrow (P)
Chipping Sparrow
Saltmarsh Sparrow (*) (P)
Seaside Sparrow (P)
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Blue Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Common Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Orchard Oriole
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

= 138 species

Virginia - Part 3 of 3

The last day before we flew back home out of Norfolk, we toured the Great Dismal Swamp NWR again. This time through, I was able to focus more on butterflies. It was great!

Here is a SOUTHERN PEARLY-EYE. Strangely, I only had one of these.

I didn't see a ton of these (which I thought was odd) but here is a CAROLINA SATYR:

Nothing special here, just a LEAST SKIPPER on a Passion vine flower:

Because it was rather uncommon and local, I was happy to find this YEHL SKIPPER:

I'm not sure on this butterfly. Any ideas? I think perhaps SOUTHERN BROKEN-DASH:

Ok, I don't know flies but this thing was freaking huge! I likely took this picture and then took off running...

Here is a pair of ZABULON SKIPPERS (male on the bottom, female on top):

Here is a below view of a PALAMEDES SWALLOWTAIL with an above view of a SPICEBUSH SWALLOWTAIL. They were gathered with a dozen or so Eastern Tiger-Swallowtails on the road.

Perhaps my favorite butterfly of the trip, the rare and local CREOLE PEARLY-EYE was surprisingly common at this location:

Of course, I DID keep an eye out for birds here and there though. Here is a grainy picture of a PROTHONOTARY WARBLER:

North Carolina - Part 2 of 3

When we finally crossed over into North Carolina, we aimed for the OBX for more birding and some time along the beaches.

Along the beaches in places like Nags Head, Kitty Hawk, Pea Island, and Bodie Island, we found many species of terns, shorebirds, and plenty of vacationers.

The most common bird we found along the beaches were the ubiquitous SANDERLINGS:

Not the most common shorebird but still very findable, there were several flocks of WHIMBREL along the beaches. I couldn't help myself from taking pictures of these small curlews, a relative of my study species:

Here is a GULL-BILLED TERN that zipped by:

Continuing on the theme of terns, we were surprised by the diversity (we ended the trip with 9 species of terns)! Here's a CASPIAN TERN:

Yep, if I wasn't scoping something or taking pictures along the beach, I was probably standing around like that, clearly lost and out of my element.

I'd be lying if I said the beaches only had birds. Here are some other random things I took pics of (no, I don't know the names of either):

Still singing plenty despite the 110+ degree heat indicies, there were many EASTERN TOWHEES seen throughout our trip:

... and PLENTY of herons and egrets. Here is a LITTLE BLUE HERON dancing it up:

...and a TRICOLORED HERON flying by at one of the marshes:

Any time we were around pines throughout our trip, the little southeastern BROWN-HEADED NUTHATCHES were not hard to find (in VA as well). Turns out, this was a new photo bird for me:

Another bird that was abundant throughout our trip were PURPLE MARTINS. I figured I might as well take a pic of one:

When posing in front of a lighthouse (yes, it's under construction), best to look like you've escaped an institution:

A really neat part of North Carolina that we both enjoyed birding was down at the Croatan National Forest. Here, we easily found the endangered RED-COCKADED WOODPECKERS and BACHMAN'S SPARROWS, another new photo bird:

Down the road from the NF, we had really good luck with birding a particular piece of roadside. The warbler flock included WORM-EATING WARBLERS, SUMMER TANAGERS, PROTHONOTARY WARBLERS among many others. Included in that flock was a pair of BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHERS:

Perhaps the biggest attraction for me with North Carolina was taking my first ever Atlantic pelagic birding trip. This is one of the only ways to see a suite of oceanic birds and so we boarded the Stormy Petrel II for a full-day of ocean birding with Brian Patteson and crew.

Once we got out into the warm-watered Gulf Stream (which took a couple hours), the bird diversity started to pick up. The first couple species we spotted were AUDUBON'S and CORY'S SHEARWATERS. Here's a CORY'S SHEARWATER that Ashley snapped a picture of:

Unlike many of the seabird species, GREAT SHEARWATERS were actually quite tame and landed right next to the boat (literally, within 2 feet). Here is one that was too close to get a good picture of!

Another common bird out in the warmer waters were WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS:

After a bit, we started seeing BLACK-CAPPED PETRELS arcing back and forth a little further out:

The clear highlight of the pelagic trip came a bit later though. Over the intercom Brian shouted "TRINDADE PETREL". All heads, even those which were usually angled down over the back of the boat, whipped up and got on the bird. A true rarity, this was the first TRINDADE PETREL that Brian has had this entire year. I was able to get a very poor photo of the bird as it arced up past the boat:

Unfortunately, the high seas, wind, salt spray, and my never-ending sea-sickness kept me from being a super-active birder on this trip. I'm still happy I did it though! I got off the boat with 7 more ABA birds!

In case any of you think you would go crazy after so much birding... you're right, we needed a break. I think Professor Hacker's had the answer!

I'm not even kidding... putt-putt was in store. With a course like this, who could resist??

Well, here Ashley is winding up for one of her precision-putts. We won't say whether or not the ball actually went in the hole:

Where was I during this whole ordeal? Well, I found some props in one of the golf tunnels that gave me something to doo doo:

A quick snapshot of the two pro golfers:

How did we have so much energy for all this birding and golf? Well.......

Virginia - Part 1 of 3

It's about time I put up some pictures from our recent trip to VA and NC, right? Alas, here are some from our first couple days in eastern Virginia. We spent our first couple days there along the coast targeting a few species. For me, the target was SALTMARSH SPARROW.

Our very first stop of the trip, Arbuckle Neck Rd., provided excellent looks at SALTMARSH SPARROWS. We got to enjoy them singing as well, all-in-all, a very new experience. Here is one that perched up briefly:

Another bird that was common in these marshes was SEASIDE SPARROW. These guys, however, had no issue with perching up:

We also enjoyed many other birds that we hadn't seen yet that trip including Clapper Rails, Royal Terns, as well as this BLACK SKIMMER:

There were some neat butterflies around these marshes as well. Very appropriately named, here is a SALT MARSH SKIPPER perched on some of the odd saltmarsh vegetation:

But before long, the biting bugs pushed us to the brink of insanity and we headed back. Not before this parting shot of one of the many SEASIDE SPARROWS however:

Later, we went over to Saxis Bog. We stirred up more SALTMARSH SPARROWS including this guy that was perched up singing:

The roadsides near Saxis were loaded with butterflies. Here is a DELAWARE SKIPPER that was mixed in with dozens of Salt Marsh Skippers:

Near Saxis, we called in this CLAPPER RAIL. Neither Ashley or myself had seen one at such close range:

Later yet, we went over to Chincoteague Island to see what birds were around. For example, this flock of WHIMBREL flew over:

I couldn't pass up taking more pictures of BLACK SKIMMERS though, including this one that snagged a pretty decent fish:

Hardly a couple minutes went by without an OSPREY seemingly flying around somewhere:

One of our last stops in Virginia was the Great Dismal Swamp NWR. Here, my sole target was Swainson's Warbler. For this, we headed down Jericho Lane:

...and yes, we managed to find a couple SWAINSON'S WARBLERS, even around mid-day! I managed a grainy shot of one, even:

19 July 2010

SW Iowa

Ashley and I went down to SW Iowa to work on some BBA blocks. On top of that, I had a couple target state birds in mind. Turns out, it was a very HOT ordeal (heat index above 105) but worth it in the end.

Our first stop was in Council Bluffs to see the LEAST TERNS. It wasn't hard, there were 20+.

Many parts of the state are still under a lot of water, including this road:

At Rapp Park north of Shenandoah, the NEOTROPIC CORMORANT is still present. This bird has been here since April, I believe:

Also in Shenandoah, the WHITE-WINGED DOVE nest is still active and producing. Most recently, there are 2 chicks on the nest with the adult.

Later that night, we successfully found both CHUCK-WILL'S-WIDOW and WHIP-POOR-WILL'S near Waubonsie State Park. In fact, the WHIP was a new ABA photo bird:

The next morning, we worked on some BBA blocks in Fremont county. Our best block, although mostly agriculture, yielded 50 species in less than 2 hours. Highlights included:

Loggerhead Shrike (5)
Blue Grosbeak (3)
Black-billed Cuckoo (1)
Northern Bobwhite (1)

And you know me, anytime I see a dragonfly that even I can identify, well, I get excited. Here is one of the many TWELVE-SPOTTED SKIMMERS we saw:

Although this didn't happen this weekend, you know you're in the midwest when you see a funnel cloud forming over the interstate!