Thursday, August 27, 2009

I still exist!

Me with a Red-shouldered Hawk.

First off, my apologies for not updating this for, well, almost six months. I don't really have an excuse, I've been around and had time, but I just never quite got around to it, and I'm sticking to that story.
Since the first day of Panama, I got sick on the second day, spent the rest of the trip in a state of semi-sanity, and ended up missing about 70 species of the trip, getting 336 of the ~410 species that we three people saw.
Since then, I've moved back from DC to my normal home, in Mass, and have worked an entire spring banding season, April 15-June 15, as well as many other things. After banding this spring ended, I worked an internship for the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA), doing surveys of pelagic (ocean-going) seabirds out on Stellwagen Bank, an underwater hill off of Provincetown, MA, that is about 25 miles long, like a 100' tall hill of sand. This geographical deformity creates an upwelling of nutrients at the edges that attracts birds, as well as whales. Because of the whale angle, I was working on commercial whale-watching boats based out of Plymouth, Captain John Boats being the company that I worked on. It was lots of fun, and I got to do 22 whale-watches this summer, which was quite thrilling. As well as seeing about 40,000 birds during those trips, I got to see whales on every trip! For anyone who wants to see whales, Captain John Boats guarantees sightings of whales, and it's $40 for a ticket. Highly recommended. Some pictures that I took during my time on the ocean this summer can be seen at:
Although I did go out on the ocean a lot, I also had lots of time for birding this summer, much of which I spent on Plymouth Beach, mostly looking at shorebirds and terns. One of the cool things about Plymouth Beach is that it is the second southernmost nesting site in the world for Arctic Tern, and, starting this year, the northernmost nesting site in the world for Black Skimmer! Black Skimmers are incredible birds, and the beach was graced with one pair of them this year, the first nesting north of Cape Cod in over 20 years, when they historically nested here on Plymouth Beach back then. Other great shorebirds have been around, and I'm up to 31 species of shorebirds (sandpipers/plovers, etc) for Plymouth County this year. Great birds. Pictures from this summer in Plymouth are at:
I also made a few trips out to Western Mass, which was amazing, some really cool birds breed out there, and the habitat is like you're in northern New Hampshire. Some of the better birds included Olive-sided Flycatcher, Common Moorhen, and Black Vulture, all very rare and local in Mass. As a matter of fact, they were all my second personal records ever for the state.
The birding highlight of the summer though would have to have occurred at my feeder in Manomet.
I was sitting at the computer, checking my email, and when I'm at the computer I have a view of the feeders. The birds flushed, from what I'm not sure, but for some reason I happened to glance over. I saw the usuals, but one of the doves had white bars across the wings and a squared off tail. My reaction was "Oh hey look, a White-winged Dove....wait, I'm in Mass, OH MY GOD thats a White-winged Dove."
It was the 7th documented state record of White-winged Dove for Massachusetts, and my 159th species for my yard. It was found on August 6th, it stayed for 7 days at my feeders, and was seen by over 30 different birders who traveled from around the state to come see it. Very cool. Some pictures of it can be seen at:

Now, I'm back working at Manomet Bird Observatory, bandin' birds and takin' names. I'll be working here until November 15th (started on August 15th) with Jess Johnson and Evan Dalton, the same two banders who I worked the spring season with. I also worked with Evan last fall here. Great people, good birders, and two of my closest friends. That still doesn't stop us from competing to see who can see more species in Plymouth County this year though..! I'm going to try to keep the posts coming more regularly, such as whenever I find an interesting bird, or if we band something cool. So far it's pretty much all Gray Catbirds, our bread and butter species here, but we did catch a Red-shouldered Hawk here the other day! Only the third banded here in 40 years, and a bit of a difference from our usual songbirds. For perspective, an average catbird has about an 88mm wing, and weighs about 37g (we are metric here). So about a 3.5 inch long wing and 1.3 ounce weight. Well, this hawk had a 337mm wing (13.25in) and weighed 515g (1.14lb)! Slightly different. The header picture is this individual.

I was supposed to be going on a two-day long boat trip last weekend, but it got hurricaned out, and therefore postponed to this weekend, but it looks like we're going to get pounded again! Supposedly 15-18' waves, 50-75mph winds, and 3-6" of rain in the Plymouth area. Should make for good seawatching from land. Sooty Terns anyone? I'll let you know how it goes.

Take it easy, and good birding,
Ian Davies
Manomet, MA