Bombay Hook NWR 12/4/10

On December 4th, we drove down to Bombay Hook NWR near Smyrna Delaware.  Go to http://www.fws.gov/refuges/profiles/index.cfm?id=51550   for more information.  Also, visit bombayhook.fws.gov/.

To kick things off, this was the first time that I was able to take pictures with my new camera that I was given on the 2nd.  It is a Nikon D5000 with a 18-55 mm lens.  I am eagerly awaiting a larger lens so I will be able to take close-up shots of birds from farther away.

To start off our birding day, we were met by White-Crowned Sparrows at the front feeder at the visitors center.  This was the first time I was able to see an adult male White-Crowned Sparrow, which bears the white crown.  I described juvenile White-Crowned Sparrows in a previous post, and for comparison, females are very much alike.  The males don’t just have a plain white crown, but three white stripes on their crown, and two thick black stripes separating the white.  Also, they have thinner black stripes through their eyes in the same patterns as the other stripes.  They look very similar to White-Throated Sparrows, but they have a yellow color on the part of the white stripes on their heads closest to their beaks.  The White-Throated Sparrows have pinkish-gray beak, a white throat patch (as you could have guessed), a gray chest and stomach, a brown back and tail, and pink legs and feet.  The male White-Crowned Sparrows have gray cheeks, stomach, and chest, a yellow-orange beak, a tan back and tail, and pinkish-gray legs and feet.

Not a great shot for comparison, but this is a White-Throated Sparrow. Compare this to the White-Crowned Sparrow so you can have visual comparison between the two species.

The striking male White-Crowned Sparrow.

Personally, I enjoy birding from the car on the wildlife drive at this particular wildlife refuge because of the great variety of habitats that the drive goes through, marshlands, lakes, deciduous woodlands, farmlands, and open fields.  In addition to the wildlife drive, there are a multitude of trails off of the drive to provide good birding to someone who doesn’t want to bird from their car.

On the fourth, there wasn’t really anything spectacular to be seen, other than the lifer for the day, Tundra Swans.  Tundra Swans only come around this area in the winter time, but at first glance may be mistaken for Mute Swans (which stay in this area year round).  At a quick glance, the only way to distinguish the two species would be the bill color.  The Mute Swans have an orange bill, and the Tundra Swans have a black bill with some yellow at the sides.

My only lifer for today, the Tundra Swan

Here is a Mute Swan shot for comparison between the Tundra Swan (granted, the Tundra Swan pic isn't too great, but you will still be able to see the differences between bill coloration, etc.)

This is yet another great birding location, which year round bears a bounty of birds.  I thoroughly enjoy all of my birding experiences here, and I eagerly await my next visit.

Even though these guys are pretty common (the "Blue Morph" subspecies of Snow Goose), I still feel like I have struck gold. I have always wanted to see one!

Peace Valley Park 12/2/10

I’m just going to start off with this.  Peace Valley Park is VERY big.

Peace Valley Park is located just west of the center of Doylestown, Pennsylvania.  Visit their website: http://www.peacevalleynaturecenter.org/ for more information.  Birding this place is amazing…. just on a warmer day than when I went.

When we pulled into the Nature Center parking lot, we headed straight to the bird blind, but were stopped by some birds on the way (including Titmice, Chickadees, Juncos, and White-Crowned Sparrows).  We entered the bird blind an were immediately greeted by an overwhelming amount of birds.  It was amazing, the bird blind was like an aviary filled with hundreds of birds.  As we looked at every single bird, there was nothing uncommon to be noted…until when we were about to leave.  We stayed at the blind for so long staring in awe at the sheer number of species that we didn’t realize what time it was.  We were at the blind for about an hour and a half, and right as we were about to leave, there was an odd looking bird that we hadn’t noticed before.  I took a closer look, and it was a Pine Siskin!  The first lifer for the day!

Unfortunately, I couldn't get a better picture of my first lifer of the day, a Pine Siskin.

It was a shame, but I didn’t really get any good pictures before he flew away.  Pine Siskins look much like female House Finches when you compare both of their patterns, but have many things easily distinguishable about them too.  Some things that differentiate them from other species are their pointed bill, and the yellowish bars on their wings and tail.  They can be seen in this area in winter, but not at any other time of the year.  After we left the bird blind, we continued on a trail around the other side of the visitor center bordering a private property.  It’s a huge lake, but there proved to be no ducks, or any bird species on the lake for that matter, but then, in the distance on the other side of the lake, we saw gulls diving into the lake obviously for food.  And if there is food, there is probably other bird species there.  We took a drive to the area that we saw the gulls diving.  There were no birds to be seen, other than a HUGE flock of Canada Geese and a flock of about 30 Ring-Billed Gulls.

He (a Ring-Billed Gull) came very close to the car, a sign that he has probably been fed by people in the past.

As we scanned the water out towards the middle of the lake we noticed a flock of about 6 unusual looking ducks.  I took a closer look and got a couple of shots of them, and identified them as Common Mergansers.  Common Mergansers do not look anything like the Hooded Mergansers that I wrote about in a previous post.  The male Common Mergansers have a green head with a red bill, as well as a white neck, chest, and stomach, and a black back.  The females (which is the only gender that I saw) have a rust colored head with a pinkish bill, white neck, and gray on most other parts of their bodies.  Both genders have prominent, red feet.

Here are the female Common Mergansers, my second lifer of the day.

Again, this place is very large.  With so much space, there are bound to be rarities around every corner.  But that is for another time.

Yet another trail at Peace Valley Park.

A scenic overlook of the lake at Peace Valley.

A trail at Peace Valley on this lovely December day.