Sunday, June 16, 2013

Birding Cape Cod

In Cape Cod, there is a Dunkin' Donuts on every third block.  In Cape Cod, people say "wicked" non-ironically.  In Cape Cod, the sun rises at 4:30am (no lie).  I was fortunate enough to spend 5ish days in Cape Cod recently for my roommate's wedding, and while birding was obviously not the main priority of the trip, it was always going to show its ugly little face.  Early mornings, after the sun was up, but before the rest of the house had awoken, I was able to sneak out here and there and look at birds.  Most trips were solitary and short, but I was able to both meet up with my birding mentor, Jake, and his family for a hike around Sandy Neck, and dork out on a boat during a whale watch.  Here are some pictures.

Red-throated Loon - As I pulled into the parking lot of a beach side restaurant to meet Jake for dinner, he called me to tell me this bird had just flown in 100 yards down the beach.  I ran/walked to pick up my first life bird of the trip.  Complete stunner.
Diamondback Terrapin - Jake's daughter found this dead baby turtle in a small oasis of water.  As beautiful as it was, the poor girl was heartbroken about it.
Tree Swallow - looking pretty snazzy in the sun.

A big group of us drove up to Provincetown for what turned out to be a pretty unproductive 4 hour whale watch.  We only saw one species of whale, Fin Whale, and not much more in birdlife.  I'm appreciative that I was able to get on several Northern Gannets of different ages, but we didn't see much else bird wise, and what we did see was just too far off to identify (probable Sooty Shearwaters, one probable Great Shearwater).  I had to keep reminding myself that I was on a whale watch, and that any request to pull in closer to the birds would probably not be well received.  Still, the whale was pretty badass.

Fin Whale
Northern Gannet - This was a life bird for me, and I was able to see several birds of differing ages and plumages.
Common Eider - these birds were hanging around the pier when we got off the whale watch.
Another life bird for my trip, and the only one that let me crush it with the camera.
I was able to sneak out one morning to West Dennis Beach, a two mile looped walk with nesting Least Terns, Piping Plovers, and Willets.  It was a quick hike, but I was rewarded with a shit ton of awesome birds that were more concerned with getting down than worrying about the red-headed nerder.

Semipalmated Sandpiper - showing the semipalmated feet.
Piping Plovers - Although they are arguably the most adorable birds on the planet, they weren't above a little agro here and there.
Piping Plover - actually standing still for 2 seconds. 
Willet - looking snazzy in its alternate plumage.  This was actually a life plumage for me, as were the multiple alternate plumaged Common Loons I saw. (credit to Seagull Steve for the concept of life plumages.)
Horned Larks - this is a shit picture, but the fact that I was watching Horned Larks chase each other over the fucking Atlantic Ocean just completely blew me away.
Least Tern - I could spend days watching these birds (or any tern species) fly around so acrobatically.
Least Tern - they must have been nesting within 20 or 30 feet of the shore.
Between my small little dedicated birding jaunts, I was still able to see some cool things that I wouldn't normally expect to see in central Texas.  In total, I picked up eight life birds on the cape: Red-throated Loon, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Eider, Northern Gannet, Saltmarsh Sparrow, Prairie Warbler, White-winged Scoter, and Mute Swan (not ABA countable in Texas).  Good times.

Great Black-backed Gull - After seeing them, the stories I've heard about them eating Dovekies and Boat-tailed Grackles makes sense.  These things are fucking enormous. 
I'm definitely not a larophile, but I'm pretty sure this is a 1st summer Great Black-backed Gull.
Hairy Woodpecker - this bird is obviously a Hairy, but there are hints of spots on the outer left tail feathers.  The right side was completely white.  I thought it was pretty interesting.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Quick pictures

Too busy for narration; here's some cool shit I've seen lately.  Cape Cod post to follow...soon?

Alder Flycatcher 
Powdered Dancer 
American Redstart
Magnolia Warbler
Cliff Swallow 
I thought these were cochineal, but I'm not sure.
Bordered Patches - gettin' down.
Eastern Screech-Owl
Pretty obliging.
American Coot
Red-tailed Hawks successfully nested and bred on the tower at my hospital.  I'm the only person excited about this.
Also, this is what I've been listening to while "writing" this post.  I think your life will be better if you listen to it as well.