Thursday, July 15, 2010

Manx Shearwater in the Bay!

Today Anthony Graves and myself headed out into Moriches Bay, leaving from the Carmans river, to check out "Tern Island".  When we got near the mouth of the Forge river, about 1/4 mile East of the William Floyd Estate, Anthony spotted something unusual bobbing in the water.  We headed over and sure enough it was a real anomaly for interior waters - a Manx Shearwater.  I had never seen a tubenose before (aside from during my jaunts around the Caribbean) and Anthony narrowed the ID down to an Audubon's or Manx.  Angus Wilson was the first to provide me with the true ID, Manx.  This is based on the curve of white feathers behind the eye and the white vent feathers.  Anthony and I were concerned that the bird was injured (why else would it be so far from the open ocean?) but when I approached with a net it quickly took flight and headed north toward the river.  If anyone is boating in the area, keep your eyes peeled.  I apologize for the poor quality of the image below - but the boat was moving and so was the bird and the lighting did me no favors.

When we arrived at Tern Island it was a real ghost town - not one Tern was seen on the island (just a few flying overhead).  We noted many eggs, some broken, some whole, some with a little yolk on the inside and wondered what had gone on here.  An e-mail to Shai Mitra confirmed what we hoped - that the birds had fledged (last week).  A trip to the closest island to the west where Terns had been seen nesting bolstered this opinion as there were no Terns seen but some eggshells were found.  Another "new" species for me was abundant at this island, the Seaside Sparrow.  I had once previously photographed a Sharp-tailed Saltmarsh Sparrow but never got a chance to get this species that doesn't spend a lot of time out in the open.  I'm glad I found one that wanted to comply.

And another:

Showing off it's favored habitat:

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Purple Martins, Waxwings and More

It's been awhile since I've done a real bona fide Long Island Birds post - so where we go.  Thanks to Mike Lotito for tipping me off to Wading River Ponds which is a most excellent location for photographing Cedar Waxwings, a species which I've seen on perhaps two or three other occasions.  Those photo ops left me wanting much more, which Wading River has fulfilled.  Also present were ducklings, a yellow warbler, a ruby throated hummingbird (no photos) and a belted kingfisher.  An excellent location, especially considering what an awful condition the ponds are in due to neglect and seeping septic systems.  The Town of Brookhaven, however, which "owns" about 90% of the ponds (the other 10% belongs to the Town of Riverhead) has a plan in place to replace the bulkheads and enhance the surrounding area to improve the quality of the pond for wildlife and residents.  (Above: Eastern Kingbird with prey)

Above/Below: Cedar Waxwing.  Notice how the beak is open - it was about 100* (at 5:00 PM no less) when these photos were taken, and as such the birds were a little hot.  They have their mouths open because they are "panting" similar to a dog when it gets overheated.

The bird in the photo below does not have its mouth open - this is somewhat of a guess, but based on it being quite wet, I'm guessing it is temporarily cooled by taking a brief bath in the pond:

Some ducklings to round things out from the Ponds:

There are two Purple Martin "houses" in East Quogue that I have been frequenting - they don't mind human presence (and in many ways depend on humans) and always seem to come back with awesome prey for their young ones.  Below: Male Purple Martin with a Red Admiral Butterfly

This female came back with a Red Admiral as well:

And here is a male with a big fat dragonfly:
A few fledgling barn Swallows made for cute subjects on Friday Morning:

These siblings weren't getting along well

Saturday, July 3, 2010

El Salvador

Ok, so I've finally gotten my act together (and gotten some free time) to display the photos from my trip to El Salvador.  I ended up with about 16 new species which was a little disappointing, but a washed out bridge meant we couldn't head to Parque Imposible which would have yielded many more.  Ironically, the most diverse location was the first hotel (Hotel Presidente) in San Salvador which had some extensive gardens and backed up to a natural area.  (Above and Below: Orange Chinned Parakeets)

Great Kiskadees were present in decent numbers as well:

A Spotted Oriole made an early morning appearance:

The Blue Crowned Mot-Mot (my main target bird) proved difficult to photograph, but saw them on a few occasions which made me happy.

A Yellow Winged Tanager was spotted a few times eating away:

What I believe is a Golden-naped Woodpecker hungout in the shade briefly:

The White-Winged Dove (which can be seen throughout the Southern U.S.) was also present in big numbers

Sadly, this Cinnamon Hummingbird was the only one I was able to photograph - and at a considerable distance:

Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures were also a major bird theme on this trip as they dotted the skies and roadsides.  Not a single raptor was seen in the week I was there which was a bit curious...

A 2 day stay on Isla de Meanguera of the coast of El Salvador had me seeing amazing numbers of Brown Pelicans and Magnificent Frigate Birds.  The Frigate Birds numbered in the thousands.

A male showing off:

Heavily Backlit, but you get the idea... this is almost full frame with just a 200mm lens.  I missed the ultimate shot - the bird nailing a fish at the surface about 20 feet from me because I "didn't think it would happen".  Lesson Learned.

Please forgive the quality - lighting was awful, but look at how many there were!

Pelicans Roosting:

Lastly, there was the White-Throated Magpie Jay.  A boisterous bird that flew in flocks and are quite a bit larger than our Blue Jay.

If you are wondering what book I used to help me ID some of these unusual birds, I relied on The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide.  While not perfect for El Salvador which lies North of Costa Rica, many of the species overlap and I would have been lost without it!