Loggerhead Shrike, 13 curves style!

As I drive around Sussex County, I’m always looking for vagrants/rarities. Western Kingbird, Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, Mississippi Kite, you name it and I’m looking for it. One species I never seek out, but is always in the back of my mind, is Loggerhead Shrike. Loggerhead Shrike is an uncommon vagrant/migrant in Delaware with only 10 previously accepted records for Delaware.

Bobby Wilcox and I were driving down Thirteen Curves Rd. when I noticed a bird with bold whit wing patches flush off a tree and I yelled, “Shrike!” I immediately pulled the car over and started telling Bobby about how rare to uncommon shrikes are in Delaware.I thought here were more records, but as it turns out there are only ten accepted records. Why not add another to it?

As you can see, there are only TEN previously accepted records by DOS, so this represents the 11th state record, pending acceptance of course. I think this photo, as well as epic shots from Chuck Fullmer (see below), will get the record accepted.

Loggerhead Shrike - Delaware

It looks like a Loggerhead Shrike, or LOSH, right? The records committee should accept it, right? I hope so! I mean, I know my photo is nothing EPIC, but Chuck Fullmer laid down this crushing shot.

That’s what a 600mm lens can do. Some day, some day, I will have something that will produce a photo like this. Chuck is awesome. Everyone should hang out with him! Also, if you have a boat and need it wrapped and stored, check out Pontoon Express!

Everyone likes boats, right?

Bar-tailed Godwit at Chinc – Twice!

During the month of August, I made the hour and a half drive to Chincoteague NWR, twice. The reason for both trips was to see the MEGA – Bar-tailed Godwit. The first trip took place on August 5th, where I met up with studs like Alex Lamoreaux and Tom Johnson as well as a dude doing a Big Year (you’ve all seen the movie, right?) and several other folks I’ve never met before.

Before I started the drive, Alex texted me that the bird was not refound, yet. I decided to make the drive anyway, just to meet up and bird with friends I only get to see every couple of months. When I rolled into the parking area at the Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center, I saw Alex and proceeded to shoot the you know what for about fifteen minutes. I then suggested we walk across the road to look in Swan Cove as I saw several large shorebirds in the pool when I drove in. We walked over and started scanning through the birds – “Willet. Dowitcher. Marbled Godwit. Hey, wait, what is that dowitcher-type bird with a bicolored bill? Oh man, that’s it!” We jumped for joy as we drooled at the sight of this European rarity. OK, so maybe we didn’t drool, but I know Alex was close. We watched the bird for over an hour and got exceptional scope looks.

Bar-tailed Godwit (ssp. lapponica) - Virginia

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 5 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

The second round ensued on August 24th. After a morning of bird surveys, Ben Zyla and I made the trek down to Chinc. Ben was looking to add the bird to his growing ABA year list. Again, we rolled up to the Tom’s Cove Visitor’s Center and started scanning Swan Cove. A few other birders were there and had already spent several hours searching for the bird. Discouraged and having no luck with the MEGA, Ben did what any sensible birder would do – look through flocks other than the flock of Marbled Godwits we stared at for what seemed like hours. Boom. He found it. The Bar-tailed Godwit was mixed in with a nice, tidy flock of Willets.

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 24 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Epic. Ben was stoked, as were the the rest of the bird nerds present. We watched the bird for an hour or so. It took flight several times and flew over to Tom’s Cove, then came right back. Eventually it decided to chill with it’s own kind – Marbled Godwits, and that’s when we hit the road back to Milton.

Bar-tailed Godwit (ssp. lapponica) - Virginia

‘European’ Bar-tailed Godwit and Willet at Chincoteague NWR, Virginia on 24 August 2013. Photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Two for two. I consider that a success. Until next time, bird hard my friends.

King Eider at Mispillion Inlet

Last Tuesday, Chris Bennett posted that he had a King Eider at Mispillion Inlet, AKA the DuPont Nature Center. He sent the report out around 2:00 PM, but I didn’t find out until Taj Schottland messaged me about an hour later. Luckily, Mispillion Inlet is only 25 minutes from my field house and Ben Zyla and I were on spot in no time. Chris was still there when we arrived and pointed us in the direction of the bird. Although distant and wrapped in heat haze, we had decent scope looks of our lifer King Eider!

King Eider at DuPont Nature Center (Mispillion Inlet), Kent Co, DE on 13 August 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

We think this bird is an adult male in eclipse plumage. Compare the bird pictured above (I know it’s a terrible photo, but for what it’s worth) to this immature male that Alex Lamoreaux of Nemesis Bird photographed in Cape May earlier this year.

According to eBird, this represents the first August record of King Eider for Delaware. In fact, there aren’t many records for the northeast in August. There are records from Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Maryland.

King Eider eBird Records for August. Credit – eBird.org

This is an exceptional sighting and is the only bird being reported in the east this month, August 2013. King Eiders breed in the arctic and winter along the northern half of the east coast and in southwest Alaska and the Bering Sea in the west. A quick look through eBird records shows about a dozen sightings, give or take, in Delaware, all-time.

It’s an unusual year for sea-dwelling waterfowl with Common Loons, Black Scoters, and Red-breasted Mergansers summering along the east coast. Some of these birds that are showing up now may have failed during the breeding season and dispersed early. Why do you think this is happening? Let us know in the comments!

Again, thanks to Chris Bennett for getting the word out quickly! Since the initial report, dozens of birders have twitched the eider. It is still being seen today, August 18.

Have a GoPro? Phone Skope has a setup for you!

Recently, Phone Skope released adapters for GoPro‘s Hero 2 and Hero 3 cameras. They have an adapter to give you a digiscoping adapter as follows – GoPro Hero 3 + Spotting Scope & Phone Skope C-2 Adapter. They also have an adapter for the GoPro Hero 2. Check it out on a Vortex Razor HD below.

Here’s a bit from Phone Skope on the product: “Simply attach our unique C-2 Pro Skope Kit to your GoPro and then you will be able to connect your go pro to most all optical devices!”

Check out this video on the installation of the adapter:

Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com for your smartphone digiscoping needs! They make an adapter for most smartphone and spotting scope/binocular combinations. Also, follow Phone Skope on FacebookTwitterPinterestYouTubeGoogle +, and Instagram!

What do you think? If you had a GoPro, would you use it for digiscoping? Let us know in the comments!

ABA Camp Avocet – Are you going?

Ruddy Turnstone at Cape Henlopen State Park, Sussex County, Delaware, on 29 July 2013. Digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

Next week, August 11th – 17th, the American Birding Association (ABA) is hosting Camp Avocet at Cape Henlopen State Park in southern Delaware. Cape Henlopen State Park is a great place to bird during fall migration. Shorebirds, terns, and gulls are plentiful, especially at The Point.

Osprey, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, American Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone, and Sanderling are seen in good numbers in mid-August. Least, Caspian, Common, Forster’s, and Royal Terns are common in Cape Henlopen as well. If you’re lucky, a Sandwich Tern may present itself. Songbirds like Brown-headed Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Chipping Sparrow, and Blue Grosbeaks are plentiful.

If you’re participating in this ABA Summer Young Birders Camp, you will not be disappointed. Check out this link for more information on the camp and to register: http://events.aba.org/camp-avocet/

Phone Skope Video Compilation!

Here’s a video compilation I made using iMovie for iOS. The video, Phone Skope Birding, is comprised of birds digiscoped with an iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter.

Be sure to check out www.phoneskope.com for your smartphone digiscoping needs! Also, follow Phone Skope on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, Google +, and Instagram!

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks in southern Delaware!

Black-bellied Whistling-Duck in Rehoboth, DE on 18 July 2013. iPhone photo by Tim Schreckengost.

A pair of Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks were first reported on July 15 at King’s Creek Country Club in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are casual vagrants in Delaware with eight previously accepted records.

Image provided by eBird (www.ebird.org) and created 31 July 2013.

Looking at eBird records (pictured above), Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks are common vagrants throughout the eastern half of the country. There was a single bird in northern Maryland during the same time the birds in Rehoboth Beach were present. Golfers at the country club said that there were five birds present, but birders only observed two, max. I was fortunate to see only one of those birds. It took me about a dozen tries and a few afternoons/evening of solid birding to find one. I think only three other birders were able to track down this bird.

 

 

Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks seek refuge in marshes in the southern US, feed on aquatic plants, grains, grass, insects, and mollusks, and nest in tree cavities.

During my visit, I watched the bird from a distance for about five minutes. It was not associating with the flock of Canada Geese directly, but outside of the golf course it most likely was. It spent most of its time feeding during my stay, but also started calling as I was leaving. It was doing a similar call to the recording below:

I was able to obtain a decent digiscoped video from a distance with my iPhone 4S + Celestron Regal M2 80ED & Phone Skope Adapter (Watch on 1080p for best quality).

This bird was gave me 388 for my ABA Year List and 199 for my Delaware Year List. I dipped super hard on it in southeast AZ and all of my searching/recon in southern Delaware paid off. It is a great addition to my Delaware Life List, which is now at 243. Here’s to hoping more vagrants start showing up in Delaware!

Literature Cited:

Andrew Spencer, XC102174. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/102174.

James, J. D., and J. E. Thompson. 2001. Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis). In The Birds of North America, No. 578 (A. Poole and F. Gill, eds.). The Birds of North America, Inc., Philadelphia, PA.

Sullivan, B.L., C.L. Wood, M.J. Iliff, R.E. Bonney, D. Fink, and S. Kelling. 2009. eBird: a citizen-based bird observation network in the biological sciences. Biological Conservation 142: 2282-2292.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/black-bellied_whistling-duck/id