Thursday, January 31, 2008

Starting out the day at -22 F

Yes, the last day of our trip to the cold mid-west started out at - 22 F. The funny thing was that I had been expecting the worst (as I do much of the time) having gone to college up there but it turned out that the cold was not quite as biting as I had remembered. I guess that's what ten years will do for the memory. While it never did get that cold during the winters I lived in Maine (the temps did approach the mid-west cold at times and I worked out side) you never really feel like you are prepared for the temps that dip down below negative 10-15 F. I was happy to realize that it just wasn't near as bad I had been thinking it would be. After all as Tom Parsons says about folks who come to Cape May on vacation; (this is paraphrased) you spend your money to get here and make the time for the journey, no matter the weather you'll get out and do some birding. This is very true! It wouldn't have mattered what the temps. were, we were there to find some birds. About the only thing that would have kept us from our intended goal would have been if the wind had not cooperated. Temperatures that cold, with a slight wind, can be bad and lead to quick frostbite if you are not prepared. Strong wind in those temps. can be much more sever and potentially life threatening.

As I said before in my previous post, all three of us ended up with a life bird which signals a successful trip, in my opinion. Five life birds topped the group given that one of us had never been to this area before. My two life birds were enough to satisfy me. Though, the big dips of Three-toed woodpecker and Great gray owl really hurt. I cannot figure out how we missed the 3-toes as they had been reported with pretty regular frequency. So much for my college friends’ encouragement of "thee-toes have almost never been so easy." I guess the word to pay attention to is "almost!" The Great gray owls while a huge disappointment is not a huge surprise. After discussions (an outside source included) it was quite apparent that the freezing temps producing a good crust on the snow was probably the primary culprit. Since Great gray owls pounce on their prey through the snow, when the crust gets thick enough to hold up a grown man (me) for even a few seconds the owls cannot break through to hunt. Subsequently, they have to move to find better hunting areas. The kicker is that there is now a Great gray only minutes from where I was when I lived in Maine. "Oh well", I tell my self, "you have to leave a few for later." Not that this really eases the "pain" of dipping on a bird you've been wanting to see for so long but it helps.

So, below are a few photos from our last morning in Sax-Zim Bog. None of them are especially good (I forgot to load my photo editing software on the laptop and had to use a free net program) but I figured I'd share the few photos that I actually was able to take. I really did not anticipate the cold inhibiting the photo taking. While I was able to get a few good shots of a Gray Jay, I had to take the shots without gloves, which ultimately hurt. It was worth it though.

Now that this vacation is over and I have actually been able to catch up on some paper work (a necessary evil), I had a little while to take a quick walk before work this morning. Since I had an errand to run in Court House, I decided to take a quick spin at the Cape May NWR Schellenger Tract. There wasn't anything crazy out of the ordinary there today but it is a nice place for a quick walk. I've had adult male Cape May warbler there in the spring; in fact it seems that this may be a good place to check for a Cape May in late May as they have been seen there on numerous occasions.

Probably the best bird of the morning was a Great horned owl which flushed from its daytime hiding place. The bird flew in front of me down the trail and perched back in the woods at the top of a snag in full sunlight. What a view! I couldn't help wondering if this was the same individual which we saw at dusk fly across the road during our evening walk. The spot was less than a mile away as the owl flies.

All of the other usual suspects were in evidence as you will see by my list below. Tomorrow is looking like a great morning to do the morning exercises and or sleep in. It's supposed to be rather nasty with wind and rain, only to get worse as the day goes on.


(female Pine grosbeak)

(cooperative Gray jay)

(look for the Hoary redpoll with the Common redpolls; any guesses as to the species of the non redpoll)

(male Evening grosbeak; you just can't ever get enough of this bird)

(A Tail of Two Grosbeaks: Pine, male and Evening, female)

Location: Cape May NWR--Schellenger Tract
Observation date: 1/31/08
Notes: 2307 steps = 1.5 miles
Number of species: 28

Great Black-backed Gull 2
Mourning Dove 4
Great Horned Owl 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Blue Jay 7
American Crow 4
Carolina Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 7
Winter Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 4
American Robin 5
Gray Catbird 1
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 8
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 4
Eastern Towhee 6
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 25
Northern Cardinal 7
Red-winged Blackbird 15
Rusty Blackbird 6
Common Grackle 55
Purple Finch 4
House Finch 23

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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