Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ivory Gull in Grand Isle, VT

Today Peter and I chased an Ivory Gull in Vermont. The rare Arctic gull is apparently only the 5th to ever be recorded in the state. When we first arrived at the lakefront where the bird had been reported, visibility was dismal, since it was snowing pretty hard. We searched along the shoreline, then decided to head back into Alburgh to grab sandwiches and wait for a lull in the snow.
Best "close-up" I managed
Ivory Gull on the lake
Our timing couldn't have been better because when we arrived back at the bridge, the snow had stopped and the bird had been spotted again. We got on it from the road, and when it was clear it wasn't going to move, we headed down onto the lake.
That's right, on foot, it was frozen solid enough for ice fishermen to drive their trucks out, so we walked right out to get a better look.We got great looks at the bird via scope, bins, and our own bare eyes, but couldn't go too much closer for fear of thin ice, so my shots aren't quite within range. Nevertheless, another amazing sighting for the wonder duo of the VLS birders :)
Birders watching the gull out on the ice.
One of the gentlemen we met while looking at this gorgeous bird mentioned a young birder from Ontario who was currently birding around Newfoundland. That sounded familiar, and when he mentioned the birder's name - Brandon Holden - I realized I had met him on Yahoo Youngbirder years back, and had checked out his awesome bird photography in the past. Here's a link to the amazing shots he's getting up there. Small world.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Portsmouth, New Hampshire and Kittery, Maine

After the pelagic, we birded around the Portsmouth, NH and Kittery, Maine area. We drove across the bridge and border to Maine, where we walked around Fort Foster Park. We walked out on the pier that we had seen from the harbor where we began our pelagic, over in New Castle, NH.
Lighthouse in New Castle, NH, shot taken from Maine
Pier at Fort Foster Park
Pier railings
We then headed toRye, NH where we birded at Odiorne Point State Park. The sun was setting, and it was kind of magical time of day. Our coolest sighting there was definitely the red fox we found snoozing on a rock not far off the trail.
Red Fox!!
I found a great vantage point to relax and contemplate the day's events
Peter scanning the water for interesting ducks

Jeffries Ledge Peglaic, NH

Yesterday was my first pelagic in the Atlantic Ocean. We went out of New Castle, New Hampshire, near the Maine border. A bald eagle flew over the boat as we all boarded and got the safety talk prior to departure. The water was a bit choppy to start, but calmed down to as near to glassy conditions as could be hoped for in the middle of winter. It was sunny and gorgeous out. We saw great cormorants, white-winged and surf scoters, long-tailed ducks, common eider, and American black ducks as we pulled out of the harbor.
Common Eider
The goal of the trip was definitely alcids, which is different from the pelagics I've been on out of CA, where its slightly more directed at tube-noses.
Common Murre
In fairly quick succession we got common murres, the more uncommon of the two murres likely, razorbills, and a dovekie flew straight by the boat. We got great looks at a cooperative murre swimming maybe 20 yards from the boat. The excitement was high, as black-legged kittiwakes and northern gannets were spotted with a mixed-gull flock containing predominantly greater black-backed gulls.
Atlantic Puffin
We then hit a quiet period, so after a while we decided to jog back to the area where we'd been having luck with birds before that. We saw two dovekies on the water that had clearly gorged on food because they could barely fly, and allowed us to get fairly close before picking up and flying a bit further out. We snuck up a few times before they tired of the game and took off.
Diving Puffin
The highlight of the trip for me was definitely Atlantic puffin! We had a gorgeous adult with that bright colorful bill - what an awesome bird. Our second was a young male, very dusky and sooty looking, but he was fairly cooperative, giving us good looks. Our last puffin was another colorful individual, who was fairly leery of the boat.
Black Guillemot
Great Black-backed Gull
As we motored back to the harbor spirits were definitely high. It was one of the best pelagics I've been on in terms of weather, and the birds were rockin'. Definitely worth getting up at 4am to drive to the coast from land-locked Vermont!
Surf Scoters
Here's a link to the photo gallery from another birder aboard the ship with much a better camera and more experience than me!

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Hampshire Winter Pelagic

I'll be going on my first East Coast pelagic trip off the coast of NH tomorrow!

Friday, February 05, 2010

Obama - Working for the Environment

This article lays out what the Obama administration has done, rather quietly, for the environment. Some of the things listed by the article include:
  • Increased gas mileage standards for cars and light trucks 40 percent, from today's 25 mpg to 35 mpg by 2016. The announcement in May came as part of Washington's bailout of Detroit.

  • Blocked Bush administration rules to open the California coast and 77 federal sites near Utah's Arches and Canyonlands national parks to new oil and gas drilling.

  • Begun a process in December in which the Environmental Protection Agency will, for the first time, restrict the amount of greenhouse gases industry can release.

  • Signed a bill in March establishing 2.1 million new acres of federally protected wilderness, the largest wilderness bill since President Bill Clinton signed the Desert Protection Act in 1994. The bill bans logging, mining and road-building on federal forests and deserts in nine states, including portions of Joshua Tree and Sequoia national parks and ancient bristlecone pine forests in the eastern Sierra.

  • Announced tougher new national smog standards from the EPA this month.

  • Reversed Bush administration rules allowing more snowmobiles in Yellowstone and fewer federal agency reviews of endangered species.

  • Issued EPA rules requiring large U.S. ships to cut soot emissions by 85 percent.

  • Signed a stimulus package that included more than $50 billion in funding and tax credits for renewable energy projects. It includes billions to weatherize federal buildings, provide grants to companies building solar and wind farms and fund research on biofuels and other technologies.