Sunday, December 16, 2007

Long Billed Murrlet in PA

On Friday, there was a rare bird alert that a long billed murrelet, a bird with a typical range in northern Asia, was seen in the Lake Nockamixon state park outside Allentown, PA. Eric and I drove out there Saturday afternoon, but when we got there, it was no where to be seen. We chatted with a guy who had drove there from Baltimore, and he said that a long of people had been there looking, but it hadn't been seen all day. This guy wrote about seeing it in his blog - The Birdchaser.

The best part of the story is that apparently on Saturday morning, someone told the state park ranger that some hunter had shot the bird. So the ranger had to check to check every hunter that had come through that day to make sure they didn't have the murrelet tucked away in their loot. It seemed to be a false alarm, although no one had seen the bird alive all day. I think it's a goner. Someone's having murrelet soup for dinner tonight.

Long billed murelet in happier times:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


My brother and I saw a great blue heron at Claypit Pond in Belmont, MA. I'm pretty pleased with my digi-scoping (putting your camera up to a regular scope eyepiece) results.

Great blue heron:

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Northern Saw (part IV) whet owl sighting

My dear friend Jodi Hildebrand had put me in touch with some screenwriters, Luke Matheny and Rob Meyer, who she knew from her work and were looking to do research on a script they were writing about teeange birdwatchers. We met up in Central Park the other day, and we had a very sucessfull birding day. Luke and Rob had never been birdwatching before, which made it way more fun and exciting to see and identify birds. Plus, I got to feel extra knowledgeble. Like the time my mom, my brother and I were candlepin bowling, and we felt really confident about how the league team playing at the same time was hardly better than we were (then we realized it was a league for mentally handicapped people).

I thought the highlight for me had come early with a good sighting of a pair of male and female eastern towhees, but just like bowling with retarded people, it only got better. We spotted several middle aged women and a young boy huddled around the bushes between the bike path and the lake. We asked them what they were looking at, and they pointed to an owl sitting in the bush, only about 6ft away from us. We identified it as a Northern Saw-Whet Owl, which is a bird I've never seen. In fact, I've never seen an owl in the wild period. So this was very exciting. Later that night, I checked the NYC Bird Report website, and found that this bird had not been reported all year.

Rob got some excellent pictures:

Northern saw-whet owl

Yellow-bellied sapsucker

Black capped chicadee

Sunday, August 19, 2007

American Goldfinches

I saw my first American goldfinch of the year on Martha's Vineyard last week. I was so charmed by this little fellow's attitude that I did a painting:

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Rare African Heron in Brooklyn!

On Sunday at Jamaica Bay, a fellow birder told me that a western reef heron, which is an African species, was sighted last week off the Belt Parkway between Coney Island and the Verazzano Bridge.

He kind of dissed me by asking if Amy, Eric and I were looking the swans, which is kind of like asking if you like Andy Warhol. We had our tripod set up and were looking out over the pond at Jamaica Bay. "No," I informed him, "there's a yellow-crowned night heron." Then he asked if I had seen the reef heron. I asked what a reef heron was. He laughed and made like I was crazy. "How could you have not heard of the reef heron?!" He then explained that it's from Africa. Sorry I'm not up to snuff on my middle eastern waterfowl, bro.

Actually, I guess he was assuming that I had seen any bird alerts that past week, as there had a lot of messageboard posts and rare bird alerts out about it. Apparently a lot of people had come to see it at the Coney Island Creek near the Home Depot Parking lot. Here are some pics from

Unfortunately, Eric and I went down the Monday afternoon, and the bird had not been sighted all day. We didn't have any luck either. Well, back to cutting for me, eh?

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Apparently magpies are as common as pigeons in Sweden. In honor of my favorite Swedish pal, Magnus coming to visit today, here's some pictures of magpies:

Sunday, May 06, 2007

My lunch date

On nice days, I like to enjoy my lunch at a spot in Central Park right where 6th Ave hits the park, and there's a narrow strip of the pond that is opposite the nature preserve. I hadn't been there for a while, but this week I saw a green heron, only about 4 yards away, perched out on a branch over the water. I hadn't seen anything interesting that day, and I was just giving up and walking back, when I passed him. It was so nice to have that wonderful feeling of getting totally surprised by a new bird you didn't expect to see.

He was there when I came back the next day. I sat on a bench eating my lunch and watching him catch his. He kept trying to creep out onto branches hanging over the water that were a little too thin for him, and was falling and slipping all over. It was pretty adorable.

Here's a link to a really good site of a high school art class's paintings of birds:

Birds at
the Olentangy River Wetland Research Park

Monday, April 23, 2007

Weekend birds

Friday: Central Park
nothing interesting.

Saturday: Prospect Park
a few hermit thrushes. Best thing I saw was an adorable bunny rabbit!

Sunday: Central Park
A loon in the Resovoir, which was embarrassingly enough the first time I have seen a loon. Ever. Anywhere. Also some ruby-crowned kinglets, which embarrassingly I couldn't ID and had to ask a fellow birder.

Keeping it real:

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Van Cortland Park

I've been meaning to go to Van Cortland Park in the Bronx for a while, and when I finally did, it was even better than I expected. I didn't see a single person the entire time; it's a real wilderness. Perhaps a little scary. TONS of used condoms and drug baggies in the parts closer to the entrance. I have a feeling it's a pretty cool late night party scene, right?


Mallard Duck
Red Tailed Hawk (70% sure)
Downy Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Rusty Blackbird
American Robin
Dark Eyed Junco
Tufted Titmouse - my new favorite lil guy
Field Sparrow

Tufted Titmouse

Intrepid birding:

Monday, March 05, 2007


I saw 52 species of birds in Buenos Aires. My fantastic guide, Alex Earnshaw helped me identify them. Unfortunately, not many of my pictures came out very well.

Here's me:

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Guess where I'll be next week?

I just found out today that I'll be going on a business trip to Buenos Aires next week for 8 days. As soon as I heard I'd be going, all I could think about was all the birds I could see. I really never thought I'd ever go to South America. I have a lot of mixed feelings about travel - I kind of hate it a lot. And not in the "I hate airplanes and packing" kind of dislike of travel. More that I don't enjoy being far away from home, and though I enjoy the idea of learning about new places and seeing new things, it doesn't always offset the feeling of isolation and confusion I feel in a foreign country, especially where I don't speak the language.

However, there are some additional factors for this trip I am weighing in - for one, it will be summer in Argentina, which is great. On the other hand, I remember the only other business trip I've been on to Miami a few years ago, where I was very lonely had nothing to do myself in the evening after work. I ended up eating dinner in a restaurant at a table for one and then Harry Potter by myself in the theatre. I remember actually thinking how I now understood why businessmen get hookers - they're just lonely.

Of course, the thing that I immediately thought about was how I would be able to see South American birds that I never dreamed that I would ever see. PARROTS. Would I really see parrots? I realized I actually knew nothing at all about South American birds, or Argentina.

I bought a book on - Birds of Southern South America and Antarctica. I think this'll help.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Overly ambitious

In Alaska, an eagle carrying a deer head flew into powerlines and blew out the power for 10,000 people in Juneau. I really like that the headline of this article is "Overly ambitious eagle knocks out power."

Ambitious! Like the eagle was thinking to himself, "I know I can do it - I just have to put my mind to it! If I believe it, I can achieve it!!!!!!"

Saturday, January 27, 2007

New friend

So I know this is off topic, but lately I've been thinking a lot about how much I like raccoons. I think I may elevate them to Very Liked Animal status, along with sea lions, cats, and black crowned night-herons.

I really like that Wendy's commercial where the raccoons steal a car and take it through the drive-thru. Also the part in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle where the animatronic raccoon gets in the car and bites Harold. Animatronic raccoons are AMAZING.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

South Island Kokako.... EXTINCT!!!

Aw, sorry, lil' buddy.

I saw this article on South Island kokako declared extinct.

Call me a pollyanna, but it seems a little soon to ring the death knell. Maybe that's a little wishful thinking, but I mean, it's happened before.

Here's an article from a few years ago on the NZ Nature Co site:

"Searchers, Ornithologists and volunteers spend more than 100 days in the field each spring and summer, visiting a range of promising locations throughout the South Island and Stewart Island. Although no unequivocal evidence was recorded, a number of clues were gathered which combine to build up a picture of a species that remains elusive but alive:

  • A number of kokako-like calls were heard, many of which were noted at places where reliable reports of kokako had already been received.
  • A distinctive, unidentified moss grubbing was found in several places where kokako had been reported previously.
  • At one site, a kokako-like bird was briefly glimpsed, although it was not positively identified.
  • A large number of new reports were received – many of which are very promising and require further investigation.

"It is becoming progressively more difficult to offer alternative explanations for our findings", said search leader Rhys Buckingham. "While the South Island Kokako is clearly a secretive and unpredictable bird, we consistently find signs of their presence."

"What is most interesting is that we keep uncovering evidence at those sites where reliable reports of Kokako have already been received. There is a very strong correlation between our findings and known historical information."

The site also lists all the places where evidence of the kokakos was most recently found. It seems to be from around 2000. List of evidence.

There aren't many photos of the kokako on google image search, and apparently that's because the bird is so elusive that it's barely been photographed. The first image that comes up is of a man with binoculars, looking for the bird. It's from a website for a radio show where this guy is interview.

The guy is named Rhys Buckingham, and after googling his name, I learned that he has some Buddist books on his wishlist and also made a review of a Bright Eyes album he bought on Amazon. According to Amazon, his birthday is in two days. Do you think I should buy him one of his books? What a nice treat that would be for him.

Here is a link to the radio show he is interviewed on: Looking for the Grey Ghost - .mp3".

I'm kind of hoping that Micky especially will enjoy this podcast.

South Island Kokako

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Jamaica Bay

Amy Hunt and I made a trip to Jamaica Bay on Sunday to impress the other birders with my new scope. Unfortunately, we showed up on a day where there seemed to be some sort of club meeting for bird photographer, and they all had HUGE photo lenses on tripod.

A lot of northern shovelers, hooded mergansers, northern pintails, black ducks, american coots, etc...

More importantly, Amy bought an adorable stuffed mourning dove at the gift shop:

Amy's new soft friend:

Check out the big camera in the background:

Ducks in the background: