Saturday, November 7, 2009

River of Black Birds, Portsmouth, N.H. 11-6-09

5oo,ooo Blackbirds! That is my guess as to how many blackbirds there were and that is really a moot point because the experience of seeing that large a number of birds flying by is somewhat overwhelming. Everywhere you looked, it was blackbirds! This image was facing northwest-ish. It started out slowly, but that changed very quickly. There were three streams of birds - one north and south of our location and one overhead. That's not to say there weren't others; there were. They were scope range at best and more importantly, largely overlooked because of the distance to them. Plus there was an extraordinary number of blackbirds flying by at close range. The stream to the southeast was very large and dense, but you had to look through a scope to see it. Case in point. The image below shows birds passing in front of the moon . Not too far away, but in the lower left hand corner is a distant and larger group of blackbirds passing by that went unnoticed by me until I got home and was looking at the images on the computer. Image below is a 200% enlargement of the marked area from the image above.

This is an example of what it was like. It points out how hard it would be to try and get an accurate count of the total number of blackbirds flying in to the Great Bog roost area in Portsmouth NH.

Here is an image of the group watching the blackbirds flying overhead.

The dark pink area on the horizon in the center of the above image looked like this image below through my 400mm lens.
It was a life experience that is very difficult for me to put in words. Even the images don't convey the scope of the event. They do, however, offer fragments of a much larger picture. The image below is looking east and similar views were going on to the south and west when I recorded this image. The roost fly-in lasted about 45 minutes or so and the sound was impressive.What I would say, is that if this happens again next year, a trip down there to experience it first hand would be highly recommended. Who knows, maybe we could carpool next year!

I had a great time birding the coast of New Hampshire thanks to Steve and Jane Mirick, Len Medlock, Jason and all the others, and The River of Blackbirds is truly an unforgettable experience!

Thelma turned over 200,000! It happened at 4:20am about a mile west of Warner, NH.

Marv Elliott of the Rutland Audubon had the winning guess of Nov 4th. A special thanks to all 47 people that entered the Thelma Mileage Contest. Marv will be receiving a framed Red-tailed Hawk image from those taken at Mt Philo back in September. Again, thanks for taking the time to enter.

Peter Manship

images and story © 2009 Peter Manship All rights reserved

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Birding the New Hampshire Seacoast 11-1-09

The alarm went off at 3am! I really didn't want to get up, but I knew I had to get moving. I made it to Rye Harbor, NH by 6:30 and started trying to locate the Common Murre which had been reported on the NHbird list the day before. With an hour to spare I was hopeful of sighting the murre, but it was gone. I had to get going if I was going to meet up with Steve Mirick and the others by 8am. I was doing fine until I got to the Seabrook Harbor Bridge which was down to one lane for repairs and the light was red. I sat there waiting for the light to change; then a boat passed through the bridge and it was 7:55 when I finally got across. Too late, I thought, so I decided to wait at the Seabrook harbor parking lot. There was a Black-bellied Plover hunting for food. Here's and image of the plover:As 8:30 rolled around I noticed that there weren't any birders here. They must be starting somewhere else. No biggie, I'll bird the coast and eventually our paths will cross.
Here is an image of a White-rumped Sandpiper from Ragged Neck on the NH seacoast.On the north side of Rye Harbor State Park there were quite a few shorebirds working the wrack line (washed up seaweed, etc.). I settled in photographing the shorebirds when I flushed a sparrow that looked different. Couldn't relocate so I was returning to photograph the shorebirds when it popped up just in front of me. After photographing it I asked Denny Abbott if he knew what it was. Looking at the image "Ipswich" type Savannah Sparrow was his response. A life bird for me! Here are some image of the Ipswick sparrow: and some shorebirds - Dunlin preening:
A molting juvenile Sanderling: juvenile Black-Bellied Plover:There was a flock of about 70 Snow Buntings feeding in the parking area. I left Denny and headed north. I was hopping to find Steve and the Brookline Bird Club. Driving south again having not found them, I noticed a car approaching with a person waving out the window; it was Denny. "What's up?"
"I found the Common Murre right after you left, about 10:30 in the harbor," he said. I raced back to the harbor excited at the prospect of finding this rare bird. As I walked up to the edge of the seawall, there was a woman scanning the harbor. "Did you find the murre?" I asked.
"Nope, been looking for 10 minutes with no luck."
" I was just told that the murre is here." We doubled our effort. Not much luck, I decided to move down the road and we agreed to get the other if we found it. Well, she pulled in to where I was all excited. " I got it! " was all she said.
Back at Rye Harbor S.P. looking through my scope at this wonderful rare bird, when I hear, "You're too good to bird with me anymore!"
I turned and it was Steve Mirick and company. "Got the murre" was all I said. Steve promptly got the group and everyone was able to get great looks at the Common Murre, a life bird for most, me included. Here is an image I got from a mile away. Well almost.Here is a link to images of the Murre taken by Len Medlock. These are amazing images at point blank range from a boat that Len and Jason ( both of whom are great photographers) asked for to get a ride out to the bird. Enjoy!
How about this? Len Medlock doing the newest birding craze, "Tailgate birding." Here we see Len scanning off shore for rarities. As the day was coming to an end, I asked Steve if we could head over to see "The River of Blackbirds." Image below left to right - me with Steve Mirick and Len Medlock
Here is what Steve Mirick reported to NH Birds list about the river of blackbirds;
"200,000. For those who stuck around to the bitter end, we finished the day at the Great Bog blackbird roost and witnessed "The River" of blackbirds from the parking lot of the Target Store along Rt. 33 at the Greenland/Portsmouth town line. Today it started later than about 4:15 PM (EST) and continued non-stop until very late when it finished somewhat abruptly almost exactly at 5:00 PM. About 25 minutes after sunset! I really don't know how many birds there are in "The River", but today's flight was significantly longer than last night's and lasted about 40-45 minutes. Based on input from others, I decided to up last nights estimate of 100,000 to 200,000 birds tonight. There may have been more than that and Len seemed to think closer to 400,000 birds.....who knows? "
More info and images from the "River of Blackbirds" in a separate post. Plus Thelma turned 200,000 contest results in next post.

My list for the day,Total species seen 55, Life birds in caps:
Semipalmated Plover, Sanderling , White-rumped Sandpiper, Dunlin, Black-bellied Plover, Bonaparte's Gull,"IPSWICH" SAVANNAH SPARROW, COMMON MURRE, Common Eider, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Common Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon,Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, NORTHERN GANNET, GREAT CORMORANT, Double-crested Cormorant, Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Wood Duck, , American Black Duck, Mallard, Great Blue Heron, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, COMMON TERN, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Downy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Horned Lark, Snow Bunting, Pipit, Black-capped Chickadee, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, Brown-headed Cowbird, House Finch, House Sparrow, Common Grackles and other blackbirds - 250,000 to 500,000
Will post more about this later this week.

Good Birding
Peter Manship

© 2009 Peter A Manship All right reserved

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Yellow Warbler in November

Here are two images of what I think is a female Yellow Warbler (see the PS below). I saw it at Brilyea Access road yesterday afternoon. I was about 300 feet in from RT 17 looking for ducks when I saw a yellow flash. I was only able to get these two images before the bird took off.

I welcome any input about the birds ID.

P.S. As it turns out this warbler is a male Yellow Warbler thanks to Walter Ellison for the ID help. click here to read Walter's email describing this bird on Vtbird.

Good Birding

Peter Manship