Monday, September 28, 2009

I'm Back!

You may have not even noticed that I've been gone all September. It's the craziest month for me, and also my birthday month. Hooray!

Despite working so many hours and being busy with plenty of other things, I have still found time to go birding (it helps that I've made it part of my priority list). Plus I just never really stop, unless you count the times I'm indoors away from the windows, which tends to be depressing.

Now that it's autumn (my favorite) I have noticed a lot of nonbirders complaining about how there's "no birds." This fascinates and annoys me. I've still seen plenty! I even had a lifer, one that popped into view when I wasn't actively birding and while a local nonbirder was making his complaints to me. On September 19th, the bitterly cold morning it was, I was rambling along Betar Byway listening for the tufted titmice that began visiting the area around my birthday (September 8th). This old guy and his dog came along, and the guy said, "You won't be finding many birds today." Funny, because I count about 70 individual birds for that trip. But as soon as he said that, I saw a bird head pop up above the waterline of the Hudson River right behind him. I hoped so badly it was a pied-billed grebe. But the bird soon came up to swim around, and looked much bigger than grebes in photos...I was confused. And the long, odd-shaped bill and really dark body made no sense. The bird I was watching had fantastic diving and fishing skills...it'd stay under water for I swear almost a minute, go upstream while under, and come up with multiple fish. After swallowing that one, it'd go crazy fishing in a circle all around itself, grabbing up to maybe 4 to 6 more up it's in bill and swallowing them down. Too bad it probably didn't care or wouldn't understand me wishing I could give it a 10/10. I was fascinated later on to match it almost exactly with the illustration and field markings of a juvenile double-crested cormorant! It's apparently a fairly common visitor here on the Hudson, and I was most glad to make it's acquaintance that morning. I also got a bonus sighting (and hearing) of two red-bellied woodpeckers on the Betar Byway, the male flying right in overhead for about a half-minute to peer at me and call. I nearly squeed out loud.

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Also notable in my field notebook were the four red-breasted nuthatches I heard and saw at the Old Gick Farm parcel at Wilton Wildlife. I took the southern trail, which I had never been on before, and I will be going there more often as it's an incredibly beautiful, quiet place and I love the wetland that conjures up imagery of elves and faeries. There was nothing else too notable, just many of our common woodland birds (PLENTY of black-capped chickadees) but it was nice to have companionship of my familiar buddies while enjoying some late sweetfern and goldenrod. I also tested out my new way of 'pishing' which seems to work much, much better than the typical 'psshh' birders seem to use often. No, I'm not telling my secret.

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My feeders have been incredibly quiet, and after visiting here: http://wildbirdsunlimited.typepad.com/the_zen_birdfeeder/ and thinking, it's likely the birds here are just happy with what they have in the wild, considering that I live in the woods. In fact, the 80 or so common grackles that invaded the trees above the WFA house two days did not at all touch a single feeder. We do have one visitor...yup, one, on a daily basis, and he started only a week or so ago and is absolutely welcome here - a downy woodpecker. I love listening to his dog-toy-like squeaks and it's fun watching him diligently poke around the suet.

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I had a blast watching other people at the Adirondack Balloon Festival on Friday afternoon be absolutely amazed at the approximately 100 Canada geese fly over the airport while the balloons were being inflated. There were so many people with so much awe...I wondered if I saw even maybe one potential future birder being made. The geese came in, in that nice V-formation, and it appeared that the geese didn't quite know what to do with themselves once they saw what was going on down below, because they grouped together and changed direction a few times, before re-making the V and heading in the same initial direction. I figured the airport field is a typical landing spot for them and we had disturbed their landing pad that evening. I've also been seeing about 50-70 of them not too far away by Oneida Corners in two harvested corn fields, picking away at the ground.

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I had somehow forgotten that autumn does tend to bring the rains, and it's been killing my little free time I do have to go birding lately. This leaves me rather bummed on some days, although on Sunday I found it a good time to go traipsing around Wild Birds Unlimited in Wilton. If you have not gone, I recommend it. I've been there a few times. Just beware, you will want one of everything, and you may, like me, have to really stop yourself from wanting to squeeze all the little Audubon birds (I'll admit to doing this in the gift shop of the NYS Museum). Also, the people who work there are wicked cool (I'm just awkwardly shy sometimes), and I enjoyed sharing on Sunday with one of them that I love Sibley's guide. No they did not ask for any promotion in here, I just love that place and wanted to share, as people I've mentioned it to often say, "Where is that?" Then I happily give directions.

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