Carolina Young Birders

To gather, inspire, and empower the generations of birders to come

Welcome to the Carolina Young Birders Club Blog!  All members are welcome to post pertinent information about birds or birding in the Carolinas region!

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Yellow Rails & Rice

Posted by Matt on November 12, 2016 at 8:25 AM Comments comments (0)

AHY Yellow Rail in hand

 

This past weekend, two Carolina Young Birders members, Jack Rogers and myself, Matt Janson, helped facilitate the Yellow Rails and Rice birding festival held in Jennings, Louisiana. We arrived late Wednesday night in Lafayette, where we would be staying the next four nights. Jack had met Dr. Steve Cardiff, an ornithologist at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge over the summer who mentioned needing volunteers for the festival and thus Jack said that we would be glad to help. My graduation project about saltmarsh eutrophication also required volunteering hours, so this event fit the bill.

 


Rice Combine Harvester

We got up Thursday morning and drove to Jennings, and soon after coordinating with the other facilitators we were out in the rice fields of farmer Kevin Berkman. He and his brothers have been growing long-grain rice in the Thornwell area of Jefferson Davis Parish for years. The rice field experience is certainly the highlight of the festival for many participants, because for a short time of the year during fall migration they are home to perhaps the easiest to see Yellow Rails in the world- this notoriously elusive species uses the rice for shelter, and when the fields are harvested they flush into nearby sloughs and neighboring uncut rice fields. One way to get some of the best views of Yellow Rails, in addition to multitudes of sparrows and swallows feeding on disturbed insects as well as King, Virginia, and Sora is to ride the combine harvester.

Yellow Rail

Researchers from Louisiana Audubon and students from Texas A&M also put up mist nets around the rice fields in order to catch the birds flushed up by the combine. They banded Swamp, Savannah, and LeConte's Sparrows, Marsh and Sedge Wrens, Virginia Rails, and geotagged Yellow Rails so researchers can get a better idea of their habitat requirements in Southwest Louisiana after the rice fields are cut (and later flooded to provide habitat for waterfowl).


The next day, the birding started a little further afield before we returned to the Berkman farm for more harvesting. Just birding in the vicinity of the rice farms in Jefferson Davis Parish was quite productive, turning up several Barn Owls, Crested Caracara, Franklin's Gull, Ross's, Snow, and Greater White-fronted Geese, Peregrine Falcon, American Golden Plovers, American Avocets, and a multitude of other shorebird species. After some more cutting of the rice fields, which was less productive for rails but did turn up a Cave Swallow mixed in with the more numerous Tree Swallows, Jack and I took a group of festival participants to the nearby Lacassine National Wildlife Refuge in neighboring Cameron Parish. Target birds here included Vermillion Flycatcher, Neotropic Cormorant, Lincoln's Sparrow, Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga, and Black-bellied Whistling-Duck, all of which we got great views with ease. With a little more patience, we were able to pick out the more local Fulvous Whistling-Duck, eventually locating a mother perfectly camouflaged in the reeds with her five ducklings.

Vermillion Flycatcher

Neotropic Cormorant

 

Lincoln's Sparrow

 

Saturday was sure to be a birding bonanza with a comprehensive tour of the Cameron Parish coast planned. The day started off auspiciously well with a Black Rail growling in the Spartina at Broussard Beach near Cameron, complemented by Snowy Plovers, Long-billed Curlews, and both species of pelicans on the Gulf's shores. A few miles to the west, another patch of salt marsh rewarded us with stunning views of Nelson's Sparrow (interior subspecies), Gulf Coast subspecies Seaside Sparrow, and Gulf Coast Clapper Rail. A Franklin's Gull and a couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls rewarded those patient enough to comb through the large flocks of gulls and terns on the beaches. We continued west along the Gulf of Mexico from Cameron, approaching the Texas state line and nabbing several Southern specialties such as White-winged Dove, Reddish Egret, and White-tailed Kite.

 

Gulf Coast Clapper Rail

 

Gulf Coast Seaside Sparrow

 

Interior Nelson's Sparrow

 

 At this point in the afternoon, ominous clouds were coming up the coast and the birding had slowed, so Jack and I decided to try for a stakeout pair of Great Kiskadees in Sulphur, not terribly far out of the way. After coping with an inexplicable traffic holdup in rural Calcasieu Parish, we made it to the Hidden Ponds RV Park where the first state record of Great Kiskadee showed up a couple of years ago, only to be followed by the second state record! This year the pair nested, and perhaps a local population will take hold in the Sulphur area. With a little patience, eventually located this raucous and vibrantly-colored flycatcher, despite the valiant attempts of talented starlings and mockingbirds to get us to follow the source of the kiskadees call note to themselves!


Great Kiskadee

With enough sunlight left before the festival finale in the farming community of Welsh, we naturally decided to squeeze in a little bit more birding north of the town. This foray picked up better looks at Inca Dove, Crested Caracara, Vermillion Flycatcher, Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, both teal species, Marbled Godwit, Long-billed Dowitcher, Stilt Sandpiper, Western Sandpiper, Black-necked Stilt, and American Avocets. We examined flocks of Brown-headed Cowbirds for one of their stray Bronzed cousins, but in vain. At last as dusk fell we filled our hungry bellies with crawfish etoufee and other culinary specialties of Cajun Country in Welsh and said farewell to our new friends as we departed for Lafayette. This area of Southwest Louisiana is a hidden treasure for birders. Lacking the national renown of Texas or Florida, this quiet agricultural region provides many of the same Southern birds typical of those states with far less traffic and hassle! And if you want to lay your eyes on a Yellow Rail- there's no better place to do it, as the Louisiana state legislature recently designated the sleepy hamlet of Thornwell as the "Yellow Rail Capital of the World". In addition to visiting and supporting the local economy, birders can make a conscious choice to purchase rice, a staple food for many of us, that is certified grown in Louisiana.

 

Long-grain Rice

 

Rice farms here provide habitat for Yellow Rails when they are drained in fall, thousands of waterfowl in winter when they are flooded, and Whooping Cranes and other wading birds in spring when they forage on crawfish, frogs, and invertebrates living in these man-made wetlands. Farmers are also under pressure to convert their fields to sugarcane due to the market prices of rice falling and sugar rising, although sugarcane provides no such habitat benefits to birdlife.

 

HY Yellow Rail in hand portrait

Thanks for reading about our trip to Louisiana- Laissez les bons temps rouler!

 

As a side note, the Carolina Young Birders Club and the Carolina Bird Club are gearing up for the annual winter meeting. Mark your calendars for January 27-28 in Nags Head, NC- its sure to be a fantastic meeting as we weather the winter chill in exchange for some great birds.

Camp Cascades

Posted by Martina on September 23, 2016 at 8:25 PM Comments comments (0)
Hope everyone had a great and bird-filled summer! The CYBC certainly did! This summer, four members (including me!) attended Camp Cascades, a young birder's camp.

 

 

Pigeon Guillemot

Camp Cascades is one of the many young birder's camps available to young birders between the ages of 15 through 18. This camp is infrequently run by Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, the last one being run in 2012. Cascades is held in western Washington state, with a few days on Whidbey Island, and the rest of the camp held in the beautiful Mount Rainier National Park. It was an exciting 12 days of birds, friends, and fun! We had four excellent camp leaders- Barry Lyons, Michael O'Brien, Louise Zemaitis, and the founder of VENT himself, Victor Emanuel!

Three of us- Jack, Evan, and I- flew out of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport on July 30th. We actually were all on the same flight, destined to arrive in SeaTac around 10 am local time.

 

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As soon as we arrived, we found the chatty group of young birders. The great thing about birders is that we're willing to talk about anything, in a way that makes it seem like you've been friends for years. Most of that morning was spent getting to know each other as we waited for a few stragglers. Once the last people showed up, we loaded up in the vans and we were off to Whidbey!

 

Whidbey

 

Whidbey has beautiful rocky beaches, with large logs of bleached driftwood littering the shore. Among the strands of rotting kelp and driftwood, we found a few dead Rhinoceros Auklets. In recent months, there have been die-offs of these handsome birds and their close relatives, the Cassin's Auklet. While it was a bit sad, it also provided a great opportunity to see up close the "horn" of the rhino!

 

Photo: Marky Mutchler

 

There were also some great cliffs, where Pigeon Guillemots made their nests. Off the bat, people started getting lifers. Heermann's Gull, Pelagic Cormorant, Harlequin Duck, and other Pacific seabirds were seen. In the coastal scrub, White-crowned Sparrows of the subspecies pugetensis chipped insistently.

 

White-crowned Sparrow (Pugatencis ssp)

One thing you'll notice about the Pacific Northwest- lots of unique subspecies. The dark, lush coniferous forest has created many darker forms of familiar birds, including Song Sparrow, Downy Woodpecker, and, my favorite example, Great Horned Owl. We observed a young Great Horned very well, and the blend of sooty grays and blacks made it stand out from the normally warm tawny owls we see here in the Carolinas. This young one was a stunner, and we had crushing views of it.

 

Great Horned Owl (Pacific ssp)

We also explored some of the forests on Whidbey, locating some great forest birds, such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Red Crossbills (mostly type 3, Douglas Fir), Chestnut-backed Chickadees, and the ever-present Brown Creepers. Bushtits, Bewick's Wrens, and Pacific Wrens were around as well, skulking in the dense foliage. Banana Slugs were a delight to find!

 

Banana Slug Close Up

 

One of the highlights of the trip was a boat trip to Protection Island, a crucial nesting site for thousands of auklets, guillemots, murres, and other seabirds. We took a ferry to Port Townsend, officially on the Olympic Peninsula. Conditions were foggy, but we still saw some birds flying in and out of the mist. Many alcids were around, especially Pigeon Guillemots and Rhinoceros Auklets. Common Murres were less common, but their bulky size made them easy to identify in the mist. Marbled Murrelets were seen as well (but, of course, I managed to miss every single one!), but none of these birds were the reason for our trip. Protection Island is also home to a few pairs of Tufted Puffins, a regal member of the alcids. We were rewarded with a stunning adult that stayed with us for a good 20 minutes!

 

Tufted Puffin Profile

 

After that boat trip, we explored some local areas, including a kelp-filled beach. The air was filled with the stench of rotting kelp, but we stuck it out to watch a fresh juvenile Western Sandpiper feeding on the insects attracted to the kelp. Definitely one of the prettier shorebirds!

 

Hatch Year Western Sandpiper Profile (2)

 

Whidbey was a whirl of birds, and we saw many more than I wrote about, but to keep this post a bit shorter (if that's possible, haha!), I'll have to fast forward to Mt. Rainier. At 14,410 feet, this is the tallest peak in Washington, and second tallest peak in the Lower 48. The cool mountain air was a welcome relief from the heat of the Carolinas, and we reveled in it. During a few nights, the temperature dropped into the 30s! Rainier is filled with huge old-growth forests, and with these forests we found new birds. We found Varied Thrushes, American Dippers, Hammond's Flycatchers, and a lot more! However, the highlight of our stay on Rainier was, by far, the Skyline Trail. This trail winds through the spectacular subalpine and alpine meadows, in full bloom in August. I, being a wildflower nerd, was in love with the huge masses of blooms that surrounded us. The area was also full of other unique creatures, ranging from mammals to butterflies. While we lacked constant action, the birds we encountered were definitely quality birds- Prairie Falcon, Mountain Bluebird, Cassin's Finch, and Calliope Hummingbird.

 

Mount Rainier Lousewort (Pedicularis rainierensis)

Mount Rainier Lousewort, an endemic flower found only on Mount Rainier and Mount Baker.

Beargass (Xerophyllum tenax)

Beargrass, a distinctive flower commonly found in subalpine areas. It's actually in the Iris family!

Showy Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium pulcherrimum)

Showy Jacob's Ladder

Mt. Rainier

One of the many meadows we saw. Photo by Jory Teltser.

Cascades Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrel

This little critter had a fun, tongue-twisting name- the Cascades Golden-mantled Ground-Squirrel, found only in the Cascades.

Hoary Marmot

We also enjoyed views of Hoary Marmots.

The true highlight of this hike was the crushing views we had of Sooty Grouse. We first encountered a dustbathing male-

Male Sooty Grouse Dustbathing (3)

But soon after, we encountered a female grouse with 3 chicks!!

Female Sooty Grouse

Female Sooty Grouse

Sooty Grouse Chick in the grass

After that epic hike, we went east of the mountains, on the drier slope. Here, the lush green firs and spruces are replaced with Ponderosa Pines, adapted to the drier climate. In many ways, the Ponderosa Pine forest is very similar to our Longleaf Pine forests. They both are dominated by a single pine species, require fire to thrive, and are full of similar birds! We picked up many new species, including many woodpeckers- great views of Lewis's, and 2 sapsuckers- Williamson's and Red-naped. The highlight for many was a female White-headed Woodpecker!

White-headed Woodpecker

After we said goodbye to the beautiful vistas of Rainier, we headed back to Seattle. We did a final tally-up- 163 species!

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Group shot at Panorama Point on the Skyline Trail. Photo by Louise Zemaitis.

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CYBC group shot!

It was an amazing experience for sure. A big thanks goes out to the Carolina Bird Club, whose scholarship helped one of our young birders attend this camp and of course, Victor Emanuel Nature Tours for running this camp!

Prothonotary Warbler Banding at Francis Beidler

Posted by Martina on May 5, 2016 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)
Francis Beidler Forest

The CYBC was graciously invited by the team at Francis Beidler Forest to band Prothonotary Warblers and to explore one of America’s oldest cypress-tupelo swamps. Four young birders were able to make it. We were led by Matt Johnson, Education Manager at Francis Beidler, who took us on an excellent boardwalk tour. Even before we left the Audubon center, we were greeted by male Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and the songs of Red-eyed Vireos, Northern Parulas, and our target birds- Prothonotary Warblers.


Francis Beidler is ancient. It’s actually located in the Four Holes Swamp, a blackwater river. I found it similar to Congaree National Park, but the main differences between the two locations is that Congaree is a floodplain, while Francis Beidler has actual water flow. The swamp was never logged, and SC Audubon has done an excellent job of preserving it and making human impact minimal. Matt showed us an ancient Bald Cypress that was at least 900 years old, and that wasn’t even the oldest tree there!


Matt is in charge of Project Protho, a project to document the migrant and breeding Prothonotary Warblers. By putting color bands on the birds, visitors can document the birds as they visit. You can read more about the project on South Carolina Audubon’s site: http://sc.audubon.org/conservation/what-project-protho


Male Protho

The swamp was ringing with the sounds of Prothonotaries as we started the boardwalk tour. We soon spotted an unbanded male singing persistently. He responded a little to our playback, so Matt decided to see if we could catch him. We set up the mist net along the boardwalk. The net is custom-made to fit the sides of the boardwalk, so it was a quick setup. There was also a hand-carved Prothonotary Warbler decoy and a speaker to play the song. 

PROW Decoy

Unfortunately, this male wasn’t interested enough to fly into the net. We left him alone after a few minutes of playback. However, he did get very close and we got some great views!

 

Prothonotary Warbler

One of the highlights for me, personally, was the amount of snakes we saw. Despite my best efforts, I rarely see snakes, but at Beidler it was impossible to miss any snakes. Many enjoyed sunning on the many fallen logs throughout the swamp. Brown Water Snakes were the most common species we saw. We also saw two Cottonmouths and a Banded Water Snake.

Brown Watersnake

It wasn’t long until we heard another singing Prothonotary. We found him quite easily- no bands! Matt quickly set up the net. He was responsive for sure, but would he fly into the net? We anxiously watched as he buzzed the top of the net, flying low but not low enough. Finally, he hit the net and dropped! Matt scrambled to untangle him and started to process him.

Untangling the ProthonotaryIMG_5289
Banding the Prothonotary

He was first banded- one metal USGS band and 3 colored bands. Reading his bands from lower left to upper left, and then upper right to lower right, he would be aluminum (USGS band), split red/blue, white, blue.

BandingWing Chord MeasuringTarsus Measuring

Unfortunately, when weighing him, he managed to wiggle his way free and flew off into the swamp. Luckily, we had all of his data recorded, but it was a little disappointing. He obviously was a little ruffled as I watched him preen his feathers back into shape!


It was a great experience overall! Hopefully in the future we'll be able to head down and band some more Prothonotaries. Thanks again to Matt Johnson and the team at Francis Beidler for inviting us!

Prothonotary Warbler

Here's our eBird checklist, by the way: http://ebird.org/ebird/ybn/view/checklist?subID=S29007544

 

Birding the Last Frontier

Posted by Matt on August 21, 2015 at 7:15 AM Comments comments (1)
Arctic Tern

As summer winds down, and young birders begin to head back to school, now's a great time to reminisce on the summer birding adventures we all had during the summer.  But the conclusion of summer also means that the activities of the Carolina Young Birders Club are picking up- simply check out our Events and Field Trips page: http://www.carolinayoungbirdersclub.org/events-field-trips.  With a couple trips to Orangeburg for shorebirds, and then heading up to the Blue Ridge for raptors and warblers, enjoy the yearly autumn migration spectacle with the Carolina Young Birders Club! The Carolina Bird Club is also hosting one of their seasonal meetings this September in Hickory.  We hope you can join us.  

Oh yes, back to what I was saying.  This past June I was fortunate enough to finally travel to Alaska for a birding tour after saving my money for a year. America's largest state is wild and unpopulated, with millions and millions of acres to accomodate for the yearly blossoming of birdlife every summer.  A premier birding destination, Alaska combines boreal, tundra, and oceanic species along with Siberian strays and localized Bering specialties.  Flying into Anchorage, and hitting some of the urban hotspots in Alaska's largest city, the next day we took the long (all distances in Alaska are big!) and very scenic drive down the Kenai Peninsula to Homer, a seaside town well known for it's status as hub of the Halibut fishing industry. Alaska Railroad

 Located on Katchemak Bay, Homer is framed by the gorgeous Kenai Mountains, draped in glaciers and rising 4,000 from the Pacific. The next day, we motored into the calm waters of Katchemak Bay looking for seabirds, with the prime target being that declining Alaskan specialty, the Kittlitz's Murrelet. Common Murres were tame, as we picked through their flocks searching for one of their Thick-billed brethren (to no avail).

Common Murres

 Eventually, at the mouth of the Grewingk Glacier, we noted both Kittlitz's and Marbled Murrelets, at one of the best places to see the Kittlitz's, as they prefer the areas near glacier mouths, which deposits nutrients and sediments feeding plankton and larval fish that make up their diet. In addition, we were treated to great views of Tufted Puffin, Pelagic Cormorant, Surfbird, Black Turnstone and of course Black-legged Kittiwakes. 

Black-legged Kittiwake harassing Pelagic CormorantGull Rock with Black-legged Kittiwakes & the Kenai MountainsBlack Turnstone & SurfbirdTufted Puffin

Heading north back up the Kenai, we decided to stop in a boreal forest habitat where we nabbed Varied Thrush, Townsend's Warbler, Gray Jay, Pine Grosbeak, and (especially exciting for me, it having been my nemesis bird-) Boreal Chickadee.

Boreal ChickadeeVaried Thrush

  Staying the night in Anchorage, we birded a little around town before heading up into the alpine Tundra near Palmer- at 3,500 feet Hatcher Pass would be our highest elevation of the trip.  Searching the creekside rigorously, we "dipped" on American Dipper, but heading straight up the mountain on the gravel road, we were treated to spectacular views, snowfields, Golden-crowned Sparrows, American Pipits, and, with incredible luck, a Rock Ptarmigan 

Rock PtarmiganGolden-crowned Sparrow

The next couple days included the drive north to Fairbanks, and then back south again to Healy, near Denali National Park.  On our last full day in "civilized" Alaska (the part in which you can reach the rest of America by road), we began in Denali, with special views of Golden Eagle, Harlequin Duck, and Willow Ptarmigan at Savage River.  The Willow completed my ptarmigan "slam". 

Willow Ptarmigan

Thus began the long drive back to Anchorage, for our flight the next day left to Nome.

Nome is located on the western edge of the Seward Peninsula, only about 170 miles from Russia.  The flight from Anchorage took about two hours.  The Nome area is home to a multitude of tundra birds who arrive for a few weeks every summer to feast on the explosion of insects and raise young.  Long-tailed Jaegers, finely dressed in breeding garb, were abundant, as were Red-throated Loons.

Red-throated LoonsLong-tailed JaegerLong-tailed Jaeger

Later, we travelled the 70 mile gravel highway to the Inupiat community of Teller, home to about 250 natives who still lead a subsistence lifestyle.  In the lagoon at the town itself, we were treated to an unexpected surprise: a male Spectacled Eider.

Spectacled EiderSpectacled EiderSpectacled Eider

Our last two days in Nome, as we wrapped up our grand tour of Alaska, were filled with other lifers as well, including Arctic Warbler, Gyrfalcon, Bristle-thighed Curlew, American and Pacific- Golden Plovers, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Shrike, and Wandering Tattler. 

Overall, I felt incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to bird such a beautiful state with an awesome avifauna to boot!

Double Rainbow

Hope everyone had a great summer.  Can't wait to see you around on some of our CYBC events and field trips this coming year!

Matt Janson

President

Charleston Trip

Posted by Martina on June 12, 2015 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (1)

The Carolina Young Birders Club had a two-day trip to Charleston, SC for some early summer birding, staying at Jack's house. Four birders attended- Ian, Matt, me, and of course Jack. The Charlotte birders arrived on the evening of the 9th, braving bad weather to arrive at Jack's home. We tried looking for some Chuck-wills-widows in his neighborhood, but no luck.

 

The next day we got up early to head down to Bear Island WMA. As we headed down the refuge road, Matt's car started smoking- popping the hood, the engine was sizzling. Something was obviously wrong with it, and we left it to cool as we tried to bird a bit. We did have good looks at Painted Buntings, male Summer Tanager, and a Least Bittern.

Summer Tanager- Jack's photo


 

Ian's photo

After a while we thought Matt's car was fine, so we drove to the end of the main road, where the refuge ends and the private land began. There I got my 300th life bird, a Gull-billed Tern flying quickly over us. We also had Least Bitterns, along with other egrets and herons. Two Mottled Ducks flew in, which made me glad that the Gull-billed had flown in- they were #301 on my life list. A small kettle of Mississippi Kites soared above us.



 

As we drove back, Matt's car started the smoke up again, and we made it to the ranger station. A huge cloud of white smoke billowed out from the engine... it was obvious that we wouldn't be using his car anymore.


Luckily Ian's car was fine and while we waited for a tow truck, we headed to Donnelley WMA. There we saw many Common Gallinule chicks, Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks (which were very tame), and a Purple Gallinule, along with a good-sized gator.


American Alligator- Ian's photo


We took Matt back to Bear, but not before we got him another lifer (the Purples were for him)- a distant, brief look at a Swallow-tailed Kite. We birded at Bear a little bit longer and made sure Matt's tow truck arrived before we went back to Donnelley. (Matt did have to leave that day, but it was much earlier than expected!) Jack, Ian, and I were luckier with the gallinules and whistling-ducks this time; we had a total of four Purples (3 adults, 1 fuzzy coal puff of a chick) and 6 whistling-ducks which gave us fantastic views.


All the above are Ian's

 

After that, we went to Folly Beach to search for a few more lifers. It seemed quiet at first, but we were rewarded with three Wilson's Plovers, two males fighting for a female.


One male was had a silver band a sea-green flag with 'AAL' on it. He was victorious over the other male and ran off with the female.


Jack's photo


Jack reported this to Chris Snook, who replied that, so far, this is the oldest Wilson's Plover known! 


 

We also had quite a few Sandwich and Least Terns, along with an American Oystercatcher that could have been on a nest (or just resting- it was hard to tell).


Sandwich Tern- Ian's photo

 

As evening set in, we checked out Pitt Street for Clapper Rails and Marsh Wrens. We were rewarded with amazing views of Clapper Rails-


Jack's photo


Ian's photo


and a neat subspecies - "Worthington's" Marsh Wren.


Jack's photo

Some other notable birds we found there were Black Skimmers, Black-bellied Plover, and our fourth plover species, Semipalmateds on the mudflats.


Ian's photo

 

Our third was just plain hot. We had gotten almost all of our targets and we decided to go get some easy lifers for Ian and I. We checked out Botany Bay and saw Painted Buntings at their feeders, much tamer than the one I saw at Huntington Beach SP.

Ian's photo

We had a singing Yellow-throated Vireo as well, which Jack thought was a bit odd. Our best bird was a single Common Ground-Dove on a wire over the fields, with Mourning Doves, which was a lifer for Ian.


Ian's photo

A pretty male Orchard Oriole gave us some good looks too.


Jack's pic


Ian's photo

After the oppressive heat of Botany Bay, we were too tired to go outside again, which concluded our trip. Special thanks to Jack for letting us stay at his house!

 

This will be the last (official) CYBC trip until late summer- check back here in August for upcoming trips!

 

Nags Head Recap

Posted by Matt on February 11, 2015 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Hi Everyone!  It sure has been a long time since our last post, but I thought now was a great time to break the drought and welcome in the New Year with this new blog post recapping our chilly but also fun trip to Nags Head.

In addition I'd like to take the time to thank Martina's detailed post to the blog last December, picking up some of the slack on keeping our blog at least partially up-to-date!  Remember, any members are welcome to post relevant topics to the blog!  Martina's post in particular really resonated with me as we explored some of her notes during the 6 hour ride to Nags Head! If only all of us could be such diligent note takers...

But getting back on topic, the Nags Head meeting was a great experience.  I hope more people will be able to make it to our next field trip as Martina and I were the sole representatives of the Carolina Young Birders Club.  Obviously it can be difficult for young birders to make overnight meetings with transportation and finance issues as well as family obligations.  However thanks to some CBC grants we are now able to provide some funding or perhaps transportation to future field trips. Please contact me at [email protected] or post to the forum for details.

We arrived from Charlotte late Thursday night and tried to get as much shut-eye as we could before the next early morning.  Everyone went their separate ways in the morning and various good birds were to be had despite the rainy, cold weather.  Several birders laid their glass upon the Iceland Gull at Wanchese Harbor on Friday, which was the last day it has been seen (much to my personal demise, who searched for this would-be lifer 4 separate times on Saturday!).  More found success at Jeanette's Pier ocean-watching, where a Little Gull and Dovekie were spotted.  The Harlequin Duck continued at another pier about 25 miles south in Rodanthe and a Green Heron was spotted well out of season on Roanoke Island, complementing the continuing adult Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the Nags Head Causeway.  The trip I was on managed to bag Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Orange-crowned Warbler, Fox Sparrow, Wilson's Snipe and Bald Eagle, plus numerous waterfowl, despite the downpour and treacherous conditions on the mud tracks that criss-cross Palmetto-Peartree Reserve on the Albemarle Sound in Tyrrell (prounounced TAIR-ull) County.  That evening everyone enjoyed Susan Campbell's authoritative presentation on wintering hummingbirds, which revealed the little known trivia fact that North Carolina actually has the second-most recorded hummingbird species in the U.S. after Arizona (of course).

The next morning, I led what was dubbed the "Young Birders Rarity Chase" but several participants of all ages joined us for this "wild" (and ultimately dissapointing) ride.  First stop- Wanchese Harbor, where we thought it would be easy to net the Iceland Gull that had been reliably seen there for the last few weeks.  Think again.  After about an hour of searching we decided our time would be better spent at Jeanette's Pier in Nags Head searching for the two rarities that had been spotted there yesterday.  However, Little Gull and Dovekie were not in the cards for us that morning as we battled 40 mph gusts, 8 foot swells, and a windchill of 13 degrees.  Hoping to add a few species to our anemic day list we made the decision to stop at the Bodie Island Lighthouse pond on our way to search for the Harlequin Duck in Rodanthe.  As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, a Bald Eagle flushed the thousands of Redhead, eliminating any chance of finding a rare waterfowl sprinkled into that flock, and the pond was almost completely iced over, leaving the birds in isolated pockets hundreds of yards distant from the observation platform.  Even the American Bittern could not be spotted at it's usual pool alongside the boardwalk; it's patch of water was frozen solid as well.  Could this day get any worse???  Heading south on North Carolina Highway 12, we tried to numb the pain with sightings of some hard-to-find shorebirds.  However, the Purple Sandpipers, of which I had personally observed 3 on Friday, would not produce on Saturday, although we were consoled by good views of the clown-like American Oystercatchers.  Continuing on through the sand dunes and with 20 minutes driving still to go to our destination, I decided that how the day was going we should at least check with Ron Clark, Vice President of the CBC and unofficial meeting commander to see if the Harlequin had been seen that morning by the Hatteras Island tour group.  Lo and behold, they had no luck when they stopped so we made an abrupt U-turn in the direction of Wanchese in a last-ditch attempt to find the Iceland Gull which would have been a lifer for almost everyone on my trip.  There, we explored both the west and east sides of the harbor but to no avail.  We had to return for the afternoon trips with a horrible track record, missing every single bird we set out to find!  Well, at least you can't say we didn't try- and conditions were certainly not on our side!  The afternoon was slightly better, as the wind calmed down and temperatures nudged the freezing mark.  A pair of Painted Buntings were discovered in Manteo, and the Green Heron made a reappearance, as did the Harlequin Duck at around 3:30 PM and even the birds we originally missed at Jeanette's Pier!  However, as of yet the Iceland Gull has not been refound making Friday the last day birders reported the bird.  Despite the miserable morning, for an evening consolation prize I got great views of a Sora at the Nags Head Causeway and a delicious buffet to boot!  Saturday evening was highlighted by the official tally with 189 species reported and an interesting program about sea turtle rehabilitation by the N.E.S.T. organization.

Despite the ups and downs throughout the weekend, overall everyone participating had a great time.  The next Carolina Bird Club meeting is May 1st and 2nd in Clemson, SC.  I'm hoping the CYBC can have a presence or even perhaps another field trip at this event, and hopefully a few more young birders will be able to attend!  If you have any other field trip suggestions, please e-mail me.

Cheers to a new year of great birding!

Matt Janson

Founder

Taking Field Notes

Posted by Martina on December 8, 2014 at 9:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Hey everyone! I've been thinking about making a blog post and might as well get around to doing it. I wanted to talk about field notes and notebooks, an idea inspired by one of the modules you have to take to become ABA Young Birder of the year! I don't really plan on signing up just yet, but maybe you will.


Anyways, I like the idea of keeping notes in a notebook and reflecting on them later (like for a long car ride). In my notebook, it's mainly checklists of birds after a trip, ready to submit to eBird. Sure, it's a helpful way of getting things done but other than small annotations (like 'H', 'flyover', and gender signs) it's not much in the way of notes. I also realized that despite my decent camera (300mm lens is less than perfect) I was using it to capture the birds in my memory. Sometimes I'll scroll through my Flickr page and remember when I saw this or that. 


How can I forget my face-meltingly amazing first looks of our mascot bird?


But, not everyone has a camera worth taking any good pictures, save digiscoping, so many people resort to field notes. I'm still researching this but from what I've learned, here are some tips:


-Don't worry about your art. Yes, there are many stunning bird artists out there, but not everyone is a Peterson or a Sibley. What you want your illustrations to be are legible (just to you or to anyone) and scientific. Show the bird's behavior. If it was a rarity or an unknown bird, point out the detail you saw. You want to draw it right as you're looking at the bird or immediately after; the mind can be a tricky thing. Since I don't have a guide to Europe, when we went to the island of Elba in Italy, I have scarce internet access to look up the handy list of Italian birds. I used the eBird Targets tool and sketched out the most likely birds I would see (which I only saw one of which, a European Shag). Or you don't have to sketch at all. It's your choice!


-Like I stated above, make your notes during or after you watched the bird. Sometimes your mind will play tricks, and it can lead to a false ID. Do you have that gut feeling of a Clay-colored Sparrow? Make notes about its facial pattern as you're watching it! Later on you will probably doubt yourself if you didn't make notes. If you're in an unfamiliar area, take notes of the calls too. 


-From what I've read, always include date, time, and location. Other pieces of info that are useful are weather, temperature, and habitat.


-Take notes on interesting behavior. Is that mockingbird raising its wings? Take note of it, give your thoughts. Field notes are basically taking notes of the world around you.


-Don't stop at birds! Notice some squirrels? Interesting wildflowers? Those are important too and it's great to learn the other organisms around you.


So go out in your backyard and start there! Watch your feeders and take notes! Sketch that Purple Finch and maybe even point out the differences from a House Finch! Or, if you go to a zoo/pet store/a place where captive birds are held, try sketching them too. They'll be easier than wild birds who will fly away never to return. And as always, practice makes perfect!


Have you taken field notes? Want to show any off? Have any more tips for readers? Comment!



Here are some useful links:


Young Birder of the Year Contest: http://youngbirders.aba.org/young-birder-of-the-year-contest

Alec Wyatt, Young Birder of the Year 2014: http://youngbirders.aba.org/2014/07/meet-alec-wyatt-2014-aba-young-birder-of-the-year.html

John Muir Laws Blog/Tutorials and Tips on Drawing Birds: http://www.johnmuirlaws.com/


Also, is anyone interested in a Young Birders Event blog post? I haven't uploaded any pictures on this site snce I'm way too lazy and my computer is too slow, but if you guys are interested in an in-depth experience... I also want to read Matt's various summer trips, even though it's a season late!


-Martina

Creating a Backyard Bird Habitat

Posted by Matt on October 28, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Optimizing your habitat for the birds is always a fun experience.  Frequently soon after your modifications you will witness a marked increase in wildlife activity in your yard.  Projects can range from free to expensive, requiring space or minute, and time-consuming to only a few minutes.

Birds need 3 major things which you can provide for in your yard, and if you do, will increase the numbers of birds seen!

Water- millions of Americans feed wild birds but few realize that water features will attract more birds, and species, such as warblers, that probably won't visit feeders anyway.  Water features can range from as simple as a recycled container filled with water to an elaborate set-up including a pond and waterfall.  Personally, I have a birdbath which admittedly don't keep filled as often as I would like.  I did however make a free dripper; the sound of moving or dripping water will attract birds from farther away.  The last several winters, I have been rewarded with a Hermit Thrush or two who make my backyard their winter home.  All I did was hang a milk carton that I had punched holes into the bottom, and then filled with water.  This is simple and free. 

Feeders- so many people, even those who have a passing or casual interest in birds, have backyard bird feeders.  Once again, you can make your own or purchase expensive, long-lasting, high-quality feeders from a specialty bird shop.  Feeders from big-box stores tend to break; you are better off making your own then purchasing one of those.  I have about a dozen feeders in my yard but you only need one or 2 to attract several species.  I feed a variety of foods in a variety of feeders to attract more birds- some species like sparrows prefer platform feeders, and bluebirds like mealworms, and woodpeckers love suet.  Creating a variety of foods and feeding situations will allow you to attract a variety of birds.

Shelter- if you have trees or shrubs in your yard, you may already notice that birds utilize these for shelter.  You might even have a birdhouse or two.  Birds ranging from wrens to Barred Owls will utilize nest boxes.  Installing these and native plants for cover will allow birds to feel safer or maybe even raise young while living in your habitat.

This is a handy resource for finding backyard birding related websites:

http://www.americanvisionwindows.com/complete-guide-to-bird-watching-from-your-window.php

Reminder: Nags Head Field Trip is on January 31st 2014.

Matthew Janson

President

New Logo

Posted by Matt on September 12, 2014 at 7:35 PM Comments comments (0)

Check out our new logo, designed by Evan Lipton of Massachusetts, on our new "Logo" page or on the homepage. Also, check out the Massachusetts Young Birders Club website, where Evan also designed their logo featuring a Bobolink: http://massachusettsyoungbirders.weebly.com/

Thanks Evan!

Soon we will hopefully get this logo on some t-shirts, water bottles, etc.

Matthew Janson

Carolina Young Birders Club

The Forgotten Ones

Posted by Matt on September 8, 2014 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (1)

As national media makes coverage of the centennial of the Passenger Pigeon's extinction on September 1st, and the general public is reintroduced to the pantheon of extinct North American birds, us birders always seem to recall the "forgotten ones": those extinct birds that seem to get no exposure nowadays outside of the birding community.  The Ivory-billed Woodpecker became a folk hero several years ago when it was "rediscovered" in the Cache River of Arkansas.  The Heath Hen story is a Martha's Vineyard staple- probably one of the few extinct birds with a gift shop named after it!  The Carolina Parakeet is celebrated as the northernmost parrot.  The Great Auk has both a journal and formerly a cigarette brand named after this antipodean penguin.  The Passenger Pigeon, of course, is the extinction branded into the American conscience by guilt.  Mass slaughter of pigeons at their nesting sites reduced numbers from 5 billion to none in a century.  But the Labrador Duck? This piebald sea-goer was probably never common.  It fed on molluscs living off the shores of New England and Atlantic Canada.  Their diet was a double-edged sword: it made the Labrador Duck distasteful, and unsuitable for hunting.  However, molluscs need pristine water conditions to thrive.  When the Industrial Revolution began, effluent from coastal cities was piped untreated into the ocean.  As it was, the Long Island Sound was the Labrador Duck's primary wintering area... by 1880 they were extinct.  The Eskimo Curlew was shot by the hundreds on their New England migration areas and the extinction of one of its primary food sources in the Great Plains, a grasshopper species, further depleted the Curlew's numbers.  The Eskimo Curlew was last seen definitivley in the 1960s but sporadic reports continue to this day.  The Bachman's Warbler had a similar fate.  Formerly an uncommon breeder in the canebrakes of the Southeast, there are still a few lucky birders alive who were fortunate enough to spy Bachman's Warblers while they were still around.  Wintering in Cuba, much of the Warbler's habitat was converted into agricultural areas, and in the southeast many canebrakes were converted into pine plantations. The last stronghold was I'on Swamp near Charleston, SC although the final confirmed report was in 1988 in Louisiana.  And the Dusky Seaside Sparrow (an extinct subspecies, like the Heath Hen) formerly inhabited marshy areas in South Florida.  A poster child for conservation in the 1980s, efforts to save the sparrow failed when a fire destroyed the home of the last colony of sparrows.  Now, even Dusky Seaside Sparrows are forgotten by most of the general public.

These are just North American examples of the Earth's "6th Great Extinction": one brought about by humans.

Matthew Janson

President 


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