200 Bird Thursday – Week 8 (alcid beach)

murre

The bird of the week . . . and possibly of the year. (Photo credit: Joshua Malbin)

(WARNING: this post contains explicit language.)

The family alcidae of the order charadriiformes includes puffins, murres and razorbills, along with their diminutives – auklets, murrelets and dovekies.  Birders refer to this group in our familiar, corrupted Latin, as “alcids.” Alcids are unrelated to penguins, but share some of their features: black and white coloration, disproportionately short wings (though alcids, unlike penguins, can fly), strong diving and underwater swimming abilities and, in the case of puffins, a certain clownish aspect. These are ocean-loving birds that breed in colonies on remote cliffs and winter far out to sea.  Your best shot at seeing them is to hire a boat. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 7 (frostbite and monsoons)

bush terminal birders (2)

Extreme birding (photo credit: Chris Laskowski)

After putting my quest on hold last week, I was determined to make up for lost time. So what if Saturday’s windchill hovered around zero degrees (that’s Fahrenheit, folks)!  A group bird walk to Bush Terminal Park was on the schedule, and if the leader was tough enough not to cancel it, then I was tough enough to join it.

My expectations were modest. I figured we had a good shot at a Bonaparte’s gull (since everyone who is not me has been seeing them in recent weeks). If we were lucky, we might see one of the uncommon white-winged gulls (glaucous or Iceland) that have been hanging around. Maybe we’d catch a red-necked grebe.

So when did I give up even these modest expectations? Was it when we noticed the striking absence of common ducks (scaup evidently having more sense than we did)? Was in when the snow started blowing sideways? Was it when the wind knocked down one of our scopes? Continue reading

A week in New Hampshire

New Hampshire in early February is cold. It snows a lot (twice in the week I was there, with more on its way as we left). And every four years it teems with presidential candidates, campaign staff and media.  It’s not just easy to meet candidates in New Hampshire; it’s impossible to avoid them. Imagine sitting with friends in your hotel lobby, chatting companionably, only to look up and see Ted Cruz posing for a photo with the hotel manager.

Now that I’ve thoroughly traumatized you, let me add: New Hampshire in early February in a presidential election year is something everyone should experience at least once. Continue reading

200 Bird Thursday – Week 6 (New Hampshire primary edition)

No new birds to report this week. That’s not surprising, as I spent most of it in New Hampshire doing political work. (I packed my binoculars just in case, but was too busy to take them out of my bag. Birdwatching opportunities were limited to roadside red-tailed hawks and whatever happened to be visiting the feeders of Democratic primary voters, which did not, alas, include boreal chickadees, evening grosbeaks or crossbills.)

Birding posts will resume next week. Between now and then, look for an account of my New Hampshire adventures. Unfortunately, my working title – “The special hell of a Ted Cruz rally” – has already been claimed by another blogger.

200 Bird Thursday – Week 5 (Coney Island Winter edition)

imageThe two feet of snow dropped by the Historic Blizzard of 2016 had mostly melted by last weekend. Nonetheless, you’ll find no snark here on the Brooklyn Bird Club’s decision to cancel a planned Sunday excursion to “Brooklyn’s southwest coast” (starring the back of the BJ’s Wholesale Club) because of “unsafe conditions” . . . other than to say that I managed a solo trip to Coney Island that day without incident. Continue reading