Over the past 2 weeks, Dave and I have gone birding 7 times. We’ve had an interesting variety of early spring weather conditions, including chilly 40s and rain in the 70s. Here are some of my favorite moments from the last two weeks. (I don’t have pictures from all 7 trips)
Palmyra Cove Nature Park (3/23/18): first of season Killdeer and Osprey. Also saw a Muskrat
Killdeer (Image by BirdNation)
Muskrat (Image by BirdNation)
Osprey with Goldfish (Image by BirdNation)
Barnegat Lighthouse State Park (3/25/18)
Common Loon (Image by BirdNation)
Purple Sandpiper (Image by BirdNation)
Palmyra Cove Nature Park (4/4/18):It started raining when we arrived, so we ended up walking in the middle of a short rainstorm. It was a really cool experience. There were still a lot of birds out, and by the time we finished walking the rain had stopped (29 species in total, including a first of season Palm Warbler and many Eastern Phoebes). We also had a chance to watch the Tacony-Palmyra Bridge open, found a goose egg, saw interesting fungi, and discovered a bunch of forest snails.
Tacony-Palmyra Bridge opening (Image by BirdNation)
Cove in low tide (Image by BirdNation)
Goose Egg (Image by BirdNation)
Canada Goose (Image by BirdNation)
Interesting Fungi (Image by BirdNation)
Snail (Image by BirdNation)
Island Beach State Park (4/6/18): Saw about 200 Northern Gannets and many Osprey. First of season Snowy Egrets and Laughing Gull
We are almost 3 days into spring and so far it seems like winter just does not want to let go. Here in New Jersey we’ve been hit with another nor’easter (or “Four-easter” as the news has been calling it). The last two days have been snow days for me, which of course I appreciate, but I really just want it to feel like spring.
All this winter weather has given me time to reflect on my winter birding this year. I’d have to say that this is probably my most successful birding winter to date. In January I started a “Year List”, where I write down each species I see for the first time in 2018. From January 1st to March 8th I have observed 81different species. A lot of people don’t realize that there are still a lot birds around in the winter (especially waterfowl), but even I didn’t realize how many there actually were! 5 of these 81 species were life list birds for Dave and I. Here are some of our 2018 winter birding highlights:
2 Snowies at the Brigantine Unit of Forsythe on February 25 when our camera died (so just bad cell phones pics of them).
1 this past Sunday, March 18. It’s probably one of the same Snowies from February, but this time our camera worked! Dave a got a pretty decent shot for how far out the bird was.
Snowy Owl 12/24/17 (Image by David Horowitz)
Snowy Owl 3/18/18 (Image by David Horowitz)
This year’s Snowy Mega Irruption certainly treated us well. I feel so lucky to have seen so many Snowies in one season!
In my past life (the non-birding one lol), I used to hate winter. In my new awesome birding life, winters are the best! So many cool birds to see, you just need to get on your cold weather gear and find them.
Now that spring has arrived (“supposedly” ha), I’m looking forward to seeing home many species I add to my year list.
What are some of your favorite winter birding moments of 2018? Tell me about them in the comments.
Our final destination on our winter birding vacation was Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. Prime Hook is located along the Delaware Bay and mainly comprised of saltwater/freshwater habitats, as well as some mature hardwood/pine forests.
We really didn’t get many pictures of birds that came out well since everything was pretty far out. It was a beautiful refuge though, so here are some pictures of the landscape.
Birds Observed (22):
Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Ring-billed Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gulls, Herring Gulls, Carolina Wrens, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Shovelers, American Black Ducks, Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, Red-tailed Hawk, Greater Yellowlegs, Great Black-backed Gull, Mourning Dove, American Robins, Northern Mockingbird, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrows, Red-winged Blackbird
We had so much fun visiting 3 national wildlife refuges in 3 different states in 3 days! Can’t wait for the next adventure!
Last year we went to Bombay Hook NWR, Delaware’s other national wildlife refuge. Click here to read about that trip.
We had a fantastic day exploring Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge at Virginia’s Eastern Shore.
Highlights: our very first Brown-headed Nuthatches! What amazing little birds! It was such a thrill watching these nuthatches flutter around the pines. Also Eastern Towhees and juvenile Bald Eagles. Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrels
Highlights: 2 North American River Otters! We even watched one battle with a female Northern Harrier. American Oystercatchers, Willets, our first Lesser Black-backed Gull, Snow Geese flying right over us
River Otter (Image by BirdNation)
American Oystercatchers (Image by David Horowitz)
Willet (Image by David Horowitz)
Lesser Black-backed Gull (Image by David Horowitz)
Snow Geese (Image by David Horowitz)
Other birds: Ring-billed Gulls, Bonaparte’s Gull, Dunlins, Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Grackles, Mute Swans, Northern Shovelers, American Wigeons, Black-bellied Plover, Great Black-backed Gull
Highlights: Assateague Lighthouse! The only birds were saw on this trail were many more Northern Cardinals.
Highlights: Tundra Swans, Chincoteague Wild Ponies at a distance
Highlights: Chincoteague Wild Ponies. A herd of them walked right next to my car. The horses were so close to my car, I could have literally reached out and touched them (of course I didn’t!). What a exciting experience! (Make sure to watch the video below to see them all walk by)
Wild Pony (Image by David Horowitz)
Ponies on Parade (Image by David Horowitz)
Other birds: Northern Pintails, Green-winged Teals, Canada Geese
It was an amazing day. We added 2 species to our life list (current total 192 for me), saw the Delmarva Peninsula Fox Squirrel, 2 North American River Otters, and got up close and personal with the famous Chincoteague Wild Ponies!
Have you been to Chincoteague Island and seen the wild ponies? Tell me about it in the comments.
To read about Part 1 of our vacation at Blackwater NWR, Maryland, click here.
Dave and I are on a weekend get-away to Chincoteague Island, Virginia. On the way to Virginia, we stopped at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Cambridge, Maryland.
Blackwater NWR is more than 28,000 acres of tidal marsh and mixed loblolly pine and hardwood forests located along the Atlantic Flyway. The refuge features a 4.5 mile wildlife drive as well 4 walking trails. Blackwater NWR has one of the highest concentrations of nesting Bald Eagles on the Atlantic Coast.
The first bird that we saw upon arriving into the refuge was an adult Bald Eagle. By the end of the afternoon we ended up seeing 10 eagles. We saw a mix of adults and juveniles. Bald Eagles don’t fully gain their adult plumage of white heads/tails until they are 5-years-old.
There were still many large flocks on wintering waterfowl. Hundreds of Tundra Swans and Snow Geese gathered together in the pools behind and next to the visitor’s center. Northern Shovelers were also very abundant. Other waterfowl included Gadwalls, American Wigeons, Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Black Ducks. Interspersed between the waterfowl were small groups of American Coots. Although they look duck-like, American Coots are not closely related to ducks. They are more closely related to rails.
Northern Shoveler pain (Image by BirdNation)
Canada Geese (Image by BirdNation)
Hundreds of Swans and Geese (Image by BirdNation)
We spent some time walking along the Woods Trail which consists of pine and mixed hardwood trees. This area is prime habitat for the Delmarva Peninsula fox squirrel. Along the trail we saw Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees, Brown Creepers, a Carolina Wren, and a Hermit Thrush.
Other birds observed included Great Blue Herons, Greater Yellowlegs, Red-winged Blackbirds, an Eastern Bluebird, Ring-billed Gulls, Red-tailed Hawks, and Tree Swallows.
After spending a lovely morning at Blackwater NWR, we made our way to Chincoteague Island, Virginia. After checking into our hotel, found Veteran’s Memorial Park (on eBird as Chincoteague Memorial Park.). From the park we could see Assateague Lighthouse across the water as well as about 8 of the famous wild ponies. At Memorial Park we saw Bufflehead, American Oystercatchers, Red-breasted Mergansers, Black Vultures, Greater Yellowlegs, Common Loons, various gulls, and a bunch of Turkey Vultures sunbathing on a house.
Tomorrow we plan on exploring Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge. I’m looking forward to see what we discover!
Today was my best friend Casey’s birthday, so I took her to Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, PA. We like visiting gardens together and have gone to Longwood Gardens for both their spring and fall exhibits. From now until March 25 there are two exhibits on display in the Conservatory: Orchid Extravaganza and Winter Blues. Blue is a rare color in the flower world, so the Winter Blues exhibit showcased blue hues. We had a wonderful time exploring the hundreds of lovely flowers and plants. We even saw a couple get engaged in front of the main display (it was like a scene straight out of a movie). Here are some of my favorite flowers of the day :
(Please note: I don’t know the actual names of a lot of these flowers. If you know the species names please let me know in the comments)
If you want to check out some of the other gardens Casey and I have explored, click the following links:
It’s the first day the Lunar New Year. Known as the Spring Festival, the Lunar New Year occurs on the second new Moon after the Winter Solstice. Although Lunar New Year is celebrated in many Asian countries, the most popular version of this celebration is Chinese New Year.
An important part of the new year is the Chinese Zodiac. The Chinese zodiac is a repeating 12-year cycle. Each year is represented by an animal and its characteristics. The 12 animals (in order) are: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Goat, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and Pig. 2018 is the Year of the Dog, and 2017 was the Year of the Rooster.
Luck plays an large role in Chinese culture. Many Chinese believe in surrounding themselves with lucky symbols and objects to increase their prosperity and joy. It’s said that you are unlucky during your animal year, but there are things you can do to increase your luck.
We have one bird in the Chinese Zodiac: the Rooster (last year’s animal). The Rooster is a lucky bird because it sound similar to the Chinese word for lucky, or jí. Roosters represent loyalty, courage, confidence, honesty, and being hard working. These birds also epitomize the Sun God, since they crow every morning when the Sun rises.
Here are a three more important birds in Chinese culture:
In Western cultures, the mythical phoenix rises from the ashes and exemplifies rebirth. However, the Chinese phoenix is not related to the Western one. In Chinese culture, the phoenix is the king of all birds. They are messengers of happiness and only appear in times of prosperity and peace. The phoenix consists of the wings of a golden cockerel, the head of a peakcock, and the body of a swan. The name of phoenix, feng hunag, means “male bird, female bird”. As a result, the phoenix represents the union of masculinity and femininity, or ying and yang.
The phoenix is often pictured with another important mythical Chinese creature, the Dragon. These creatures together represent the Emperor and Empress. This bird is also extremely docile and signifies high moral standards.
Cranes are one of the culture’s most favored birds, second only to the phoenix. They represent longevity, wisdom, purity, and peace. Two cranes together means a wish for a long marriage and a crane flying towards the Sun means social advancement or ambition. Cranes also signify authority, so cranes were embroidered onto the robes of Imperial officials. According to Chinese legend, cranes carry departed spirits to heaven.
Mandarin Ducks are said mate for life, so they represent long term love and marriage. They also symbolize happiness, especially if lotus flowers are depicted along with the ducks. These birds are very common on wedding gifts and cards.
The birds listed above are only some of the many important bird symbols in Chinese culture. If you like this topic, let me know and I can highlight some more of them.