Friday, May 30, 2008

Louis Peterson, Our Guest Photographer

Warren and Lisa are crazy for our good friends and neighbors, Louis and Vencka Peterson. As we previous blogged, they joined us early one recent morning for the monthly birdwalk at Fort Smallwood Park, Maryland. We had a blast...

But little did we know what a great shutterbug Louis is. He was kind enough to email us a few of his pictures (that's birdingcouple@yahoo.com, Louis!) recently, and we proudly share them with BC's readers.

Brown Thrasher



Eastern Bluebird



Beautiful Lisa-bird



Louis also took some amazing shots of Black-Crowned Night Heron when he and Vencka were down in South Carolina recently:


Wow!



More Wow!

Birdcouple is off in the morning to North Dakota for some bird surveys and the Prarie & Potholes Birding Festival. Posts on that soon.

Meantime, L & V, we will miss you!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

BC does the AT in PA

Lisa and Warren, and their 16-year-old, Adam, kicked off the '08 Appalachian Trail hiking season on Memorial Day with a 13.3 mile hike in Pennsylvania.

Check out Birdcouple's AT blog over the next couple of days for a full report.

Birding while hiking is interesting _ you can't stop for every bird, or you'll never get the miles done. That puts a premium on birding by ear, plus choosing which birds are particularly interesting and worth pausing a few moments for.

Adam got his life Prarie Warbler and Eastern Wood Peewee. Prarie Warblers were everywhere, in migration we assume. We had 5 or 6 singing, two seen. Also had good looks at Scarlet Tanager and Ovenbirds calling everywhere.

Speaking of calling, the AT is calling us back to the trail soon...

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Where Habitat meets Luxury...

Warren and I are still sighing with delight from hours of birding pleasure on the Keswick Estate.

This varied and bird friendly habitat is just a short walk ....... from the pampering that exists within Keswick Hall.

You might think that Keswick's award-winning and ultra-romantic restaurant might be enough. Or you might think Keswick's breath-taking view from the Horizon Pool might be enough.

How about the Arnold Palmer Signature golf course or the full service spa offering massage and body treatments?

Nope, not quite enough.

Add in the smell of pine and loads of birds calling.

Sigh. That, yes, that is enough.

The 600-acre estate with a mixture of fields, forest, streams and mature woodland must look like heaven to any bird powering over. The newly constructed nature trails led us through several different habitats, which led us to the variety of birds that enjoy each habitat niche. Indigo Buntings singing in a field.

Great Crested Flycatchers calling out their frog-like "CREEP" from the edge of the woods. Green Heron sulking in the back of a small pond. Wood Thrush melodies from the deep crevasses of the forest.

And, of course, we couldn't pass up the other creatures, such as this Common Wood Nymph who followed us down the Estate's Dogwood Trail.
As expected, we did find some non-native plants throughout the trails, but the trails seemed almost virginal compared to many we have birded.
And, although poison ivy is native, we were pleased to find very little of the noxious weed on and off the trails.
Even having lunch was a visual delight as we enjoyed the thoughtful and lovely touches of the Head Gardener, Amy Lewis. Amy is working on incorporating nectar plants to bring the hummingbirds to the guests.
Without a doubt, the highlight of the trip was a bird walk with some of Keswick's finest. There is nothing Warren and I enjoy more than showing people birds!
From Left to Right:
Amy, Cute Husband, Nita, Susan and Cindy.
Thanks Lovely Ladies of Keswick! Keep looking for that Yellow Warbler!
Our Keswick adventure continues in late June as we to add to the bird list in progress.
Note to Cute Husband: I think at least one dip in the pool is on the "to do" list for our next visit. Just one.
We can bird from the pool....

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Keswick Hall



We love this place, which Lisa first took Warren to on a surprise mini-vacation in February. Keswick Hall, and its associated club and estate, are located on 600 acres near Monticello, outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. The hotel is first-rate, the restaurant simply amazing... and the staff are smart and attend to your every whim. More important than all that to BirdCouple is that they seem to genuinely care about the environment that they occupy.



Development is being done carefully, nature trails are going in. Did we mention that they are an Audobon-certified sanctuary? And that they are beginning a composting program?



Birds, of course, are where BirdCouple comes in. We are working with Keswick to develop a list of birds that can be seen on the estate's woods, ponds and golf courses. We spent two days here early this week, walking every inch of the property (or so it felt like). We found birds of every description: raptors, migrating neotropics, field birds, shore birds, herons, woodpeckers. Our list, still in the works, is at 63. It includes this Eastern Towhee:

And this Pine Warbler. Our hope is to increase guests' and the staff's knowledge of the birds around them, their pleasure from the natural environment and -- who knows? -- maybe convert a few folks into dedicated birders. More soon, BC is off to do one more walk around the grounds...


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Fort Smallwood Park never disappoints

We think it is, too! Fort Smallwood Park, in northern Anne Arundel County, used to be a rough spot ... drag races, tire dump, drug use... you get the idea. In April 2006, it was taken over by Anne Arundel County Parks and cleaned up. It's an amazing place, where rare birds show up with regularity, and many species that can be seen nowhere else in the county (and rarely anywhere in Maryland) can be found.

It's also home to the Fort Smallwood Hawk Watch , run by the indefatigable Sue Ricciardi.

We thought it would be a great place to introduce our dear friends Louis and Vencka Peterson to the joys and challenges of birding. They were game, and we had a lovely morning walk, led by Ranger Matt Gray. (Matt's a great birder, good guy and his bird list for the park is in excess of 200).

Fort Smallwood didn't disappoint. We had Scarlet Tanager, Wilson's Warbler, American Redstart, three Black-Crowned Night Herons, Great-Crested Flycatcher, Broad-Winged Hawk, Orchard Oriole and much more....



BirdCouple will post Louis' pictures soon. Meanwhile, we are off to Keswick Hall in the morning to help do a bird survey of the property.
TOO MUCH FUN!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to Gretchen and Shirley, the two best "moms" in the whole world. We had a bit of drama as we began to prepare Mother's Day brunch here at the Love Nest this morning. BirdCouple went down to the stream to check on the birding action and, when we got back, the power was out. No oven. No coffee. No water.



BirdCouple knew what to do. Bacon and frittata were cooked on the grill. (The glass dish holding the frittata shattered, but most of it was saved.) Water for instant coffee was heated in our JetBoil propane mini-stove we take hiking. Just like camping! And Shirley and Lisa's parents (Gretchen and Tom) had a good time.



Shirley is our guest photographer today. She shares these photos from her recent South American cruise, where she saw Gentoo Penguins on the Falkland Islands. (BirdCouple is very jealous).






She brought us a gift, because we don't have enough bird decor at the Love Nest:


Thursday, May 8, 2008

Schoolhouse Pond - 100th Species!


For the past four years in all seasons, Warren has birded Schoolhouse Pond, a lovely body of water located in the middle of Upper Marlboro, Maryland, the county seat of Prince George's County. It's a convenient stop-off on his way from Annapolis to work in Washington, DC each day. On Wednesday morning, he heard an Ovenbird singing from the forest understory ringing the pond. It was the 100th species of bird he has seen or heard at this amazing little environment.

Along with fish, turtles, squirrels and lots of other creatures, Schoolhouse Pond - across the Street from the PG County administration building and just a few miles from the Washington Beltway - provides habitat for neotropical migrants, wintering waterfowl, raptors, gulls, shorebirds and more. It's a small reminder of what even a tiny piece of habitat can hold.

Without further ado, here they are:

European Starling
Northern Cardinal
Canada Goose
Mallard
Northern Mockingbird
Northern Shoveler
Ring-billed Gull
American Coot
Tufted Titmouse
Downy Woodpecker
White-throated Sparrow
Great Blue Heron
Red-winged Blackbird
American Crow
Northern Flicker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Gadwall
Osprey
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Turkey Vulture
Mute Swan
Laughing Gull
Wood Duck
American Goldfinch
Carolina Chickadee
Red-breasted Merganser
Barn Swallow
Chimney Swift
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Gray Catbird
House Sparrow
White-eyed Vireo
American Robin
Northern Parula
Mourning Dove
Common Grackle
Eastern Phoebe
Blackpoll Warbler
Rock Pigeon
Black Vulture
Cedar Waxwing
Song Sparrow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Blue Jay
Great Egret
Double-crested Cormorant
Belted Kingfisher
Dark-eyed Junco
Carolina Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Brown Creeper
Bald Eagle
Pileated Woodpecker
Hermit Thrush
Winter Wren
Brown Thrasher
Green Heron
Spotted Sandpiper
Yellow Warbler
Eastern Towhee
Red-eyed Vireo
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Hairy Woodpecker
Great Crested Flycatcher
Common Yellowthroat
Palm Warbler
Red-shouldered Hawk
Pied-billed Grebe
Killdeer
Tree Swallow
Wilson's Snipe
Barred Owl
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Prothonotary Warbler
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Magnolia Warbler
White-breasted Nuthatch
Swamp Sparrow
Hooded Merganser
Eastern Bluebird
Ring-necked Duck
Cooper's Hawk
Brown-headed Cowbird
Lesser Yellowlegs
Solitary Sandpiper
Semipalmated Plover
Indigo Bunting
Acadian Flycatcher
House Finch
Cackling Goose
American Herring Gull
Fish Crow
Green-winged Teal
Field Sparrow
Blue-winged Teal
Ovenbird




Sunday, May 4, 2008

BirdCouple's Very Big DC Day

We felt like beginners....


BirdCouple considers ourselves to be pretty good birders, but we were awed by the birding skills of Gregory Gough of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and Scott Baron, whose ear for birdsong is one of the best we've ever come across.

The plan was to do a Big Day at the height of May's spring migration, encountering as many birds as possible, having fun and raising a little money for conservation. Birdcouple had another goal of our own: beating our single-day record of species seen, 83.

We awoke at 2:45 a.m. (ouch!) and drove to Rock Creek Park to hook up with other birders and try for some owls, and then raced around DC birding hot spots until we could bird no more. And here are the birds that we saw, heard or both:

American Robin
Barred Owl
American Woodcock
Mourning Dove
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Towhee
Northern Cardinal
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
Carolina Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Wood Thrush
Great-Crested Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Red-Eyed Vireo
Chimney Swift
Blue Jay
European Straling
American Goldfinch
Carolina Wren
Scarlet Tanager
Baltimore Oriole
Black and White Warbler
Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Black-Throated GreenWarbler
Ovenbird
Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
Yellow-Rumped Warbler
American Crow
Downy Woodpecker
Song Sparrow
Louisiana Waterthrush
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-Winged Warbler
Orchard Oriole
Kentucky Warbler
Greay Catbird
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Cooper's Hawk
Yellow-Throated Vireo
Common Yellowthroat
Fish Crow
Yellow Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Eastern Bluebird
Indigo Bunting
Brown-Headed Cowbird
Veery
House Sparrow
Blackpoll Warbler
Hairy Woodpecker
Mallard
Wood Duck
Eastern Kingbird
Common Grackle
Barn Swallow
Palm Warbler
House Finch
Black-Billed Cuckoo
House Wren
Rock Pigeon
Ring-Billed Gull
Double-Crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Canada Goose
Red-Winged Blackbird
Northern Mockingbird
Greater Black-Backed Gull
Osprey
White-Throated Sparrow
Brown Thrasher
Northern Shoveler
Horned Grebe
Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
Killdeer
Eastern Phoebe
Northern Flicker
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Rose-Breasted Grosbeak



Not a lot of time to take pictures on a Big Day, but we could not pass up this beautiful Rose-Breasted Grosbeak male in breeding plumage..

To continue our sightings:


Turkey Vulture
Ruddy Duck
American Herring Gull
Common Loon
Warbling Vireo
American Black Duck
Tree Swallow
Purple Martin
Belted Kingfisher
White-Eyed Vireo
Red-Tailed Hawk
Bald Eagle
Sharp-Shinned Hawk
Yellow-Billed Cuckoo

For those counting, that's 92! By the end of the day we were quite proud:



And tired!