Birding around Richmond, VA

As you might remember from my last post that we went east from Oregon to Brooklyn to visit our son and his family. We actually have two sons that live on the east coast with our oldest son and daughter-in-law living in Richmond, VA. So, as part of our journey east we stopped to visit them as well, and of course took several birding excursions. Unlike my youngest son in Brooklyn who has no interest in birding (he will teach our grandkids common bird names but it will be up to me to get binoculars in their hands) my oldest son is a biologist like me and we have birded together many times. The photo below shows the two of us working the birds at Hunn Nature Park during our visit.

The star of the show during this trip was the prothonotary warbler, which were abundant at a place called the Pony Pasteur. This was exciting for me since it was a life bird (hard to come by these days).

Anyway, enjoy a few photos below from my Richmond area excursions!

  • Prothonotary Warbler

Traveling with eBird!

This past June my wife and I traveled to Brooklyn to visit with our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids. If you know me you know that I never go anywhere without my binoculars and as we were nearing the end of our trip I took one last walk along the lake in Prospect Park and spotted an alternate plumage pied-billed grebe. Did not think much of it as here in Oregon pied-billed grebes are a dime a dozen. It was sitting still so shot MANY photos of the bird (see below) hoping it would drift a bit closer (did not recall ever getting a good photo of a pied-billed grebe). Anyway, entered it into my eBird list and that was that.

Apparently not. About a week later I got an email from the eBird coordinator for Brooklyn asking if I was really certain about what I had reported seeing? He continued saying that pied-billed grebes are not seen in the area this time of year (June). I responded by telling him that I had good diagnostic photos if he was interested in seeing that and that this species is common fodder in Oregon. He asked if I would update my list with a photo, which I did, and sent one directly to him as well. He thanked me and let me know that my sighting was on the second on record for Brooklyn in the month of June. The moral of the story is never assume a bird common to you is common elsewhere when you are traveling.

Below are a few other photos from my exploration of Prospect Park. Cheers!

  • Great Egret

A Wonderful Day in Manitoba!

For the past five years I have traveled to the Interlake region of Manitoba to study red-sided garter snakes.  Studying snakes is a bit of an odd thing for me since I have devoted my life primarily to understanding the biology of hummingbirds.  How I got involved in red-sided garter snake work is a long story that I won’t go into here (ask me if you are interested), but if you know me at all you know that rarely go anywhere without my binoculars and Manitoba was no different.

Typical Interlake Habitat.

Since my snake work this year was done outdoors I always had my binoculars at my side.  Having the binoculars so near is a bit dangerous as there is a real risk of distraction from the work, but I had them there nonetheless and was glad I did!  Before I explain why it is important to mention that the weather in the Interlake region of Manitoba during the month of May can be a real mixed bag.  In my five years I’ve encountered everything from snow storms to mid-summer conditions.  This year however was particularly warm.  Never donned my heavy coat and wore short-sleeved t-shirts on all but a couple days.  The trees, which in previous years might barely achieve bud break during my stay were significantly leaved out and insects abundant presenting a true feast for many fun species of birds.

Alternate plumage male palm warbler!

I saw a lot of good birds on this trip including the American woodcock and the blue-headed vireo, both life birds for me.  That’s not, however, what I want to talk about.  I want to talk about one incredible hour of one day that became a bit of a warbler bonanza.  During this hour the trees and shrubs surrounding my study location became inundated with warblers.  I identified six different species.  Don’t get me wrong.  I know that what I saw pales in comparison to the numbers one might see during “fallout” in the south.  But these birds were not only present but decided to put on a photo session that had a couple of us shoot pictures for an entire hour!  I have not experienced anything like this before.  In turn yellow-rumped, palm, black-and-white, Nashville, Tennessee, and finally blackpoll warblers marched to the stage to strut their stuff.  I personally shot more than 500 pictures (got to love digital!).  It was one of those experiences I will never forget.

If you enjoy birding I would encourage you to consider the Interlake region of Manitoba. It is a true undiscovered country that possess quite a diversity of species this time of year.  The land itself is beautiful (as long as you do not need mountains for enjoyment…but I can see beauty in any natural landscape) and the culture interesting. Further, traveling there will not break your bank.