Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Evening and Office Birding

I did a little birding after work today and decided to hit the cemetery in Millbury after going to St. Philips to check to see if the Merlin was still there or decided to hightail it out of town after last nights cold front and sure enough he was a no show. Right the minute I stepped out of my car at the Millbury cemetery, I could see small birds flying in and out of trees. It was about 45 minutes before the sun would set and the birds seemed to be frantically trying to get their last meal in the day similar to a bunch of drunks for a drink right before last call!

One of the first birds I saw was the Chipping Sparrow above who was part of a flock of about 10 others. While the picture didn't come out all that great I wanted a record shot for myself as it is transitioning to non-breeding plumage.
There were also a lot of Yellow-rumped Warblers there too. This bird actually threw me off a little as I was going through my Peterson Guide because while he showed the brownish head and white eye-ring for non-breeding Yellow-rumps, (page 353), he didn't show the brown cheek the bird has (page 337), as that is part of its breeding plumage. My guess is that this bird is still transitioning and that will be next to fade. This is my first time trying to use my field guide on my own to identify the fall warblers so if I am wrong, please let me know.
Another shot that will show some of the yellow on its sides.
And one more just because!
I have made a discovery from my office window the past few days and it has to do with the dozens of Rock Pigeons that hang around City Hall during working hours. Now for the most part, these birds are fairly lazy and spend most of their time either perched up on building ledges or over at the park eating bread from well meaning folks waiting for their bus. On occasion, they just want to fly just for the heck of it and I can tell when they are flying for fun as they will always land on a ledge. They have a different way of flying when feeling threatened and it is rather chaotic to see and many times in the past, I would look out the window and sure enough, one of the Peregrines was looking for a little lunch and they certainly didn't want to be on the menu!!

Anyhow, if I happen to see this behaviour, I take out my bins and scan the skies to see what it could be that could be causing the obvious distirbance. In the past, the bins only have to go so far up the sky because the Peregrines are never that far up as they are hunting for prey and not riding thermals. This time though, I decided to put my bins up a little further and a little wider. What was amazing was 9 times out of 10, there was a bird way up in the sky riding the thermals! (even TV's so I am not sure if this is related or just a coincidence)

The birds were more likely than not, tiny specs in the sky, similar to when you are hawkwatching outside, so it gave me the opportunity to practice while at the desk. How cool is that!! One minute you are working dilligently on a spreadsheet, and the next minute you are watching a Red-tailed Hawk flying into a cloud with grace and style!!

Anyhow, I did mange to get a series of lousy photos of one bird in particular who was actually low enough that I could get a focus on it, but not low enough so it could be a decent picture. When I first put my bins on the bird, I assumed Turkey Vulture as I got gotten 4 of those today so they are fairly common to see as I have found out recently. What struck me about this bird though was that the wings were slightly bowed while soaring. Yes I have seen pictures of Turkey Vultures doing this on occasion, but never experienced it w/ my own two eyes. So is it a Turkey Vulture? Not completely convinced here........Enlarge the picture and tell me if you think this birds head looks white to you??
Look at another picture I took and notice the bow is still downward. If you own the "Hawks from Every Angle" book take a look at the Bald Eagle picture on page 130 under "bowed".
Could very well be a TV and wishful thinking on my behalf, but I thought i'd put it out there.

I also saw some Red-tailed Hawks riding the thermals and the most interesting thing besides the picture above was seeing two buteo type birds riding a thermal and gaining terrific altitude. When I say buteo type, I mean solely by the way they were flying which was lazy circles drifting upward. The wing shape did appear buteo to me from what I could see, but am not experienced enough to say that w/ confidence as they were too far away. Sure enough one other joined, and then another for a total of four before they disspeared from my view. I can confidently say they were not gulls and I can't see them being Red-tailed Hawks as why would they form a kettle if they are not migrating, so perhaps they were Broad-winged Hawks?? Will never know for certain but thought it was note worthy.

Last but not least, I just want to say that gulls are impressive flyers! I had never noticed it before this week but these birds are masters of taking advantage of thermal lifts. I was able to observe this a couple of times this week and thought they were falcons at first due to wing shape. It didn't take me long to realize they were gulls though as you could tell by the shape and color once you got your bins focussed nicely on them. They even form small kettles at times!

Take care all!


Kelly said...

...sounds like you're really getting into (and getting good at) studying those high-flying hawks and other birds. Being able to study them out of your window at work is a bonus!

Dale Forbes said...

I have just started a "work list" at my new job. I have a scope and a pair of binoculars in my office and the fur trees surrounding the factory sometimes has some cool stuff. I have seen a golden eagle from the premises before, but that was before I started working there, so it doesnt count ;-)

Happy birding

Patrick Belardo said...

Shape looks sort of like an Osprey. Also, I don't think your first bird is a Song Sparrow.

Kim said...

Thanks Patrick. Yes, I know that's not a Song Sparrow and I just now realized I called in one but meant to call it a Chipping but most have overlooked it when I was reading my post before publishing. I had a friend tell me the same thing so I came to check to see what I called it! Too many birds on the brain I guess.

matthew houskeeper said...

I notice that the leaves are really changing already where you are. It hasn't happened here yet, but it is only a matter of time.

Kim said...

Kelly, it is fascinating "stuff" I tell you and there is so much to learn so it seems to have piqued(sp) my interest just a tad. ;-)

Dale, I can't even imagine bringing a scope into work. I hide my bins in my purse the way a boozer would his scotch for a little taste after his Pastrami and Rye for lunch. HA!! Was actually thinking myself of what my work list can look like now that I have discovered this. Cripes, I was happy with the Peregrine, Mockingbird and got totally excited to get my first Blue Jay a month ago, this takes it to a whole new level!

Patrick, I am just getting around to looking at the photo again and I totally see what you mean by the "w" shape that is similar to an Osprey. The 1st lousy pic I have even has a white head it appears but the shape of the head looks too stout for an Osprey. I am racking my brain here trying to figure out what location that bird was in (believe it was way past the Registry of Motor Vehicles) and can't think of any water channels the Osprey would follow for migration in that vicinity as I assume an Osprey would chose his migration route based on water availability?? Anyhow, over analyzing and thinking out loud here but what else is new!

Matt, everyday the leaves get a little prettier. Just wait a week or so and you will see it in CT I guarantee!


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