Sunrise Birding


(Baltimore Oriole, 8/27/16, Lake Roland Boardwalk)

If it wasn’t obvious, I do most of my birding at Lake Roland. This is mostly a matter of convenience, as it is right down the road from our house, and working out farther places on a 14 month old’s schedule can be challenging. That said, it’s a great place to practice my birding skills. However, I had been going mostly in the evening, and seeing the same assortment of 15-20 birds each time. I did spend some time looking for shore birds and spotted my first Killdeer, which was exciting, but these evening jaunts were really about Harrison, and spending time with him at Acorn Hill. I wanted to get more time focused on birds, and the answer was sunrise. Arriving at Lake Roland just as the gates open, around 6:30am, and spending about two hours on my own. So far, it’s been great, and I am seeing so many birds I either a) have never seen before or b) can’t even identify. It’s exciting.

The above picture is a Baltimore Oriole (one of three) spotted this morning. I am extremely happy with how that photo turned out, considering it was taken haphazardly with my Galaxy S5 through my binoculars.

Here is the full checklist of everything I saw (including entries for warblers I was unable to ID, as well as several flycatchers I could not make any ID on).

Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 8
Downy Woodpecker 6
Northern Flicker 5
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 3
Empidonax sp. 5
Yellow-throated Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 2
American Crow 11
Carolina Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Carolina Wren 9
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 3
American Robin 16
Gray Catbird 7
European Starling 1
Black-and-white Warbler 2
American Redstart 3
Pine Warbler 1
warbler sp. (Parulidae sp.) 6
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 12
Indigo Bunting 1
Baltimore Oriole 3
American Goldfinch 6

Included in that list is what was, until this morning, my current nemesis bird: the Scarlet Tanager. I did not expect to see them today, and was both happy and a little sad about it; happy to have seen them, sad that Nat wasn’t here as well. We’ve both been on the lookout for quite some time. Also included is a Yellow-throated Vireo. This was a challenging one to ID, though I am confident that I am calling this correctly. At first, I thought it was a Prothonotary Warbler (and actually there is a remote chance I saw both, but the only confident ID I have is the Vireo, so I will leave the Prothonotary off the list until I can 100% ID it another time) but as it fluttered between trees I caught a much better look, and saw the white wing bars. There was a clearly yellow, smooth head with dark wings as well. I was able to watch this bird for a solid 5-7 minutes, noting down everything I could, and made the final ID at home.

My plan is to do a sunrise bird-watch at Cromwell Valley tomorrow morning. We’ll see how that goes!

And, because I thought it was pretty wild, here is a clip I captured of a Great Blue Heron perched in a tree just off the boardwalk last weekend, around 6:30am.

Another fun thing that happened this morning was running into a fellow birder named Peter Lev. I’d seen his checklists on eBird many times, and we birded together on the boardwalk for about 15 minutes before it was time for me to pack up shop and head home. Nathalie and I recently applied to join the Baltimore Bird Club officially, and I am really looking forward to meeting more Baltimore birders, as well as taking part in their group bird walks.

And Harrison went down for an early nap, giving me time to write up this post. All in all, it’s been a great morning.

July Birding and into August, and Yes I’m Still Writing

Female Cardinal

(female Northern Cardinal, 8/5/16, Lake Roland)

Every now and again a bird sits still enough for me to get a half-decent photograph with my phone. That was the case with the above photo of a female Northern Cardinal at Lake Roland this past Friday.  I purchased a device that allows me to attach my phone directly to my binocular eye piece, which helps, and shows that it is possible to get good-looking bird photography with such a budget setup. In order to potentially snap photos of birds that tend to be farther away, or more mobile, I’m going to need something a bit more stationary. I’ll be experimenting with a binocular + tripod setup sometime soon.

As I’ve mentioned on this blog, one of my favorite birds is the Indigo Bunting, and I was able to capture a short video of one on Friday as well.

In July, I saw 65 unique species of bird, and upped my total species count to 80. Aside from a trip to my parents’ house in PA (where I added a Bald Eagle, Northern Parula, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and Black-capped Chickadee to my life list), everything I’ve seen has been close to home, which is fun. I like the challenge of trying to see as much as I can in Maryland. That Northern Parula that I saw in PA was also my first attempt at a video of a bird.

For August, I’m hoping to match or exceed the total birds I saw in July, which will require some effort to see some new species I think. I saw my first Cliff Sparrow yesterday, which is the newest new species on my list. I’m up to 42 in August so far, which might seem high for only 8 days, but I expect that number to hover around 45-50 for most of the month, as I spend most of my time at Lake Roland, and aside from some lucky sightings, I tend to see the same birds every time.

As far as writing goes, it’s happening, but it’s still slow. I’ve been enjoying every possible moment I can with Harrison, which pushes writing time to after he heads to bed. Most of the time, when he’s asleep, I’m already dead to the world, and I find that I’m squeezing 100-300 words a night, if that. It’s better than nothing, but I think I’m still in the adjustment period as far as writing and parenthood. Every time I think I’ve got that kid figured out, he changes course, which, really, is part of the fun. He really enjoys being out in nature, looking at deer and especially the dogs being walked. So, if you couldn’t tell by all the bird posts, H and Nat and I spend a lot of time outdoors these days.

But I do have two writing projects in the works that I might be able to blog about in the not so near future. Both I am really excited about.