Welcome to Birdspix.com!

Welcome to the ongoing quest to photograph 700 or more ABA countable North American bird species. Of the 749 total species of birds possible to see in North America currently published to this site, the number of ABA “countable” species presently stands at:

                                                              716

NEWS & RECENT OUTINGS

Upcoming trips

May 13, 2016:  Santa Catalina Island, California
January 25 – 29, 2017:  Abisko, Sweden (Aurora Borealis)

Smooth-billed Anis nesting again at Loxahatchee

Smooth-billed AniLast year a pair of Smooth-billed Anis nested at Loxahatchee NWR in Boynton Beach, FL and this year they are nesting there again, although they have chosen a new section of the preserve for their nest site.

Purple Gallinule chickGreen Cay Wetlands is relatively quiet with a few lingering shorebirds. There is a family of Purple Gallinules with two adults keeping careful watch on four newly hatched chicks. The tiny chicks are black with pink legs and feet so enormous that they are equally as large as the rest of the body.

Very few migrants passing through Palm Beach County.


Smooth-billed Anis nesting again at Loxahatchee

Smooth-billed AniLast year a pair of Smooth-billed Anis nested at Loxahatchee NWR in Boynton Beach, FL and this year they are nesting there again, although they have chosen a new section of the preserve for their nest site.

Purple Gallinule chickGreen Cay Wetlands is relatively quiet with a few lingering shorebirds. There is a family of Purple Gallinules with two adults keeping careful watch on four newly hatched chicks. The tiny chicks are black with pink legs and feet so enormous that they are equally as large as the rest of the body.

Very few migrants passing through Palm Beach County.

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Thick-billed Vireo in Dania Beach, Florida

Thick-billed VireoFor the third time in four years a Thick-billed Vireo is being seen here in south Florida. The species is native to the Bahamas, but an occasional individual manages toBlack-whiskered Vireo stray across the Gulf Stream to the Florida coast. This one likes feeding in a favorite gumbo limbo tree at John U. Lloyd SP in Dania Beach and doesn’t seem at all fazed by the roar of the jets overhead taking off from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. A Black-whiskered Vireo is frequenting the same tree.

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Zenaida Dove at Long Key SP

Zenaida DoveFebruary 25:  Today we add no. 716 – Zenaida Dove, a Caribbean species not seen in the US since June, 2009. Accordingly, when this one was discovered at Long Key State Park south of Islamorada in the Florida Keys this week it caused quite a stir. I had made the long drive to this exact location last year in an unsuccessful attempt to see a similarly elusive Key West Quail-Dove, so I was somewhat wary of another fruitless trip, but Zenaida Dove (ABA code 5) is also such a rarity in North America that I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. This time I was fortunate to have Larry Manfredi along. If anyone can find a Florida bird, it’s Larry.

Zenaida DoveWe arrived at Long Key just after 8:15 AM and searched all along the oceanside section of the Golden Orb trail for the better part of two hours along with numerous other birders with no luck.  Finally, at around 10:15  the Zenaida Dove was sighted off the trail in dense brush and everyone was able to get at least an ID glimpse albeit a somewhat unsatisfying view through all the twigs. However before long, as has been its pattern for the past few days, the bird emerged out into full view onto the trail itself and remained in view off and on until we finally left just after noon. This individual, unlike last year’s reclusive Key West Quail-Dove, seemed uncharacteristically unfazed by the presence of numerous humans. Video.

Portuguese Man-o-warAlong the shoreline I spotted a curious blue object that first looked like some sort of water balloon but turned out Venus Flytrapsto be a beached Portuguese Man-o-war – a venomous jellyfish that, in numbers, is a well-known swimming hazard in south Florida and not infrequently a cause for beach closures. Besides the tranquil views of pastel turquoise/green water, Long Key also has extensive mangroves and some exotic plants such as these forbidding venus flytraps.

Bronzed CowbirdLarry has the distinction of having attracted not just Painted Buntings, but all three species of cowbirds (Shiny, Bronzed, and Brown-headed) to his backyard feeders, so I Shiny Cowbird - pairspent a few minutes there getting a few pictures although the afternoon light was suboptimal. It’s not often one gets to see a dozen or more Shiny Cowbirds (ABA code 3) in one place.

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Southern Arizona Bonanza

January 18 – 24:  I had for some time been contemplating a return trip to southern Arizona whenever the possibility arose for several rarities there. Such was the case last week and the Streak-backed Orioletime was finally right, so I flew from West Palm Beach to Phoenix on January 18 and drove straight out to Yuma, arriving there at 4:45 PM and heading without delay for Riverside Park along the banks of the Colorado River to look for a Streaked-back Oriole that is wintering there this year. There I met up with Arizonan colleague Matt VanWallene who was already photographing the Oriole when I pulled into the parking lot, but as soon as I got out of the car, after the briefest glimpse, off flew the oriole which predictably wasn’t seen again for the rest of the late afternoon.

Turns out it didn’t matter. We were back at the park bright and early the next morning and the oriole (trip life bird no. 1) obligingly made its first appearance at 8:05 AM, after which it remained in view off and on until we finally reluctantly tore ourselves away about an hour and a half later having taken a couple of hundred pictures.

Ferruginous HawkWe then made a twenty minute stop at an agricultural area south of Yuma Airport to scan some fallow fields for Mountain Plover, and although we didn’t find any plover we admired a nice Ferruginous Hawk, a particularly beautiful raptor I had previously photographed only once before in central Oregon.

There had been reports of a Ruddy Ground-Dove at a location only a mile from the I-8 exit in Wellton, a small town thirty miles east of Yuma, so Wellton was the next stop. TheRuddy Ground-Dove pair location turned out to be a fenced-in yard that featured a pond with an adjacent dense scrubby tree with a flock of about twenty Inca Doves. After a few minutes of scrutinizing each dove for an odd one, Matt finally picked out a Ruddy Ground-Dove (trip life bird no. 2) hunkered down on the ground in deep shade and dense cover. While we were trying to get enough of an opening for any photo at all, the doves edged about just enough for us to realize there was actually a second Ruddy Ground-Dove keeping company with the first.

We spent about forty-five minutes with the doves and then it was on to Catalina State Park located two and a half hours to the east and twenty miles north of Tucson. Here we were Rufous-backed Robinlucky to find, within just fifteen minutes, our next target species – a Rufous-backed Robin hanging out in its favorite spot in the grass under a Hackberry tree between the main parking lot and the wash. Fortunately there was just enough late afternoon light to get a few decent photos of the robin (trip life bird no. 3). This made a most unusual three life birds in one day – all three Mexican rarities. I had planned to stay overnight near Catalina SP in case we failed to find the robin in the afternoon, but now there was no reason to do that, so Matt returned home to the Phoenix area and I headed south to Green Valley.

Long-eared OwlIn the morning (Jan. 20) my first stop was at a location south about thirty-five miles in Rio Rico to look for a bird that had eluded me for ten years. Here I was finally able to cross paths with a group of Long-eared Owls (trip life bird no. 4) – a magnificent but extraordinarily difficult species to even find, let alone photograph. Seeing any owl is always special, but the Long-eared was one of only two remaining North American owls I had never seen and was therefore an especially memorable experience.

Green-tailed TowheeAfter Rio Rico I took the short cut north of Nogales over to route 82 and then north some twelve miles to Patagonia, which I had visited twice in prior years. First I made the obligatory stop at the Paton house – famous for its variety of in-season hummingbirds. Even though it is not in-season in January, the yard and environs always have a nice variety of other species such as this Green-tailed Towhee. I called local guide Matt Brown whom I had met in Gambell, Alaska a few years ago and he graciously offered to meet me the following morning (Jan. 21) to look for wintering Baird’s Sparrow in the San Rafael Grasslands, and hopefully Montezuma Quail somewhere. I stayed overnight at the Spirit Tree Inn, and Matt VanWallene rejoined me there early in the morning where together we met up with Matt Brown.

Eastern Meadowlark - Lillian's raceThe San Rafael Grasslands is just a few miles from Patagonia down Harshaw Road and we were all there shortly after sunrise, but we never did find a Baird’s American Kestrel - female with mouseSparrow (I had previously seen one on territory in North Dakota). The grass was tall and the sparrows mostly hiding and not perching on the barbed wire fencing as they sometimes do. We did pick up the pale “Lillian’s” subspecies of Eastern Meadowlark, and got some very close-up views of the many American Kestrels perching on the fenceposts – one of them holding an intact freshly caught mouse in its beak.

Dusky FlycatcherI happened to ask Matt Brown if he might know where to look for a Dusky Flycatcher (trip life bird no. 5) – not a rare bird at all, but the only Empidonax species I had just never come across on prior western trips). Matt knew just where toWhiskered Screech-Owl look and he found one easily enough at Patagonia Lake State Park, readily identified by its characteristic upward tail flicking. I wasn’t sure they were year-round in the area, but Matt’s expertise prompted me to ask also about Whiskered Screech Owl – after the Long-eared now my only remaining unseen North American owl species. Accordingly, we set out after dark along the Harshaw Road and at the third stop Matt located not just one but two cooperative Whiskered Screech-Owls which we were able to readily photograph in the beam of his light. Trip life bird no. 6.

Hepatic TanagerFriday morning, Jan 22, we engaged local guide Laurens Halsey for a visit to the Sinaloa Wren stake-out spot on the grounds of Fort Huachuca. There were lots of good birds there, including a pair of Arizona Woodpeckers, a pair of Townsend’s Warblers, a Hammond’s Flycatcher, and a beautiful male Hepatic Tanager, but although we searched for four and a half hours the Sinaloa Wren never made an appearance this day. We spent some time in the afternoon just driving through promising habitat hoping to come across some Montezuma Quail somewhere – now the last remaining target species for the trip – but alas no quail.

Black-capped Gnatcatcher femaleAfter overnight at the Comfort Inn (very nice) back in Green Valley, we spent Saturday morning (Jan. 23) hiking up lower Florida Canyon where we found Black-capped Gnatcatcher easily enough but managed to miss the known pair of Rufous-capped Warblers. These are two more Mexican species uncommon in the US, but I had seen both of them before. Because Long-eared Owl would also be a life bird for Matt, we returned to the owl site where it did take some time, but we split up and in the end each managed to come across a group of Long-eared Owls though today they were not readily photographable.

With just Montezuma Quail left to find, we devoted the rest of the day concentrating along Ruby Road on the way to Pena Blanca SP. The Pena Blanca Canyon Road (best to have a four-wheel drive, high ground-clearance vehicle like Matt’s) has some of theMontezuma Quail most promising habitat in the entire area for quail. We would stop the car periodically and listen quietly in the dead silence for any rustling of leaves. At the third such stop Matt suddenly grabbed my elbow, pointed to the base of a tree on his side of the car and whispered “start shooting – NOW.” And there they were – Montezuma Quail, perhaps seven – sidling nearly invisibly through the tall grass until two emerged and one paused ever so briefly in the open. Then just as suddenly as they had silently emerged, they melted back into their surroundings and disappeared. They are such will-o-the-wisps, so perfectly camouflaged and in view so fleetingly, that without a photo one might later wonder if they had only been imagined. Trip life bird no. 7.

After a final overnight in Green Valley, I spent the morning back at Catalina SP trying to get some better photos of the Rufous-capped Robin, but it was Sunday and the park was crowded with people, many with dogs, and even some people on horseback – hardly ideal conditions for bird photography. A few other people and I did briefly spot the robin in the tall grass a few times, but no photos were possible today, and by 1 PM it was time to head for the airport. The seven newly photographed ABA species bring the total for birdspix.com up to 715.

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Western Spindalis in south Florida

Western Spindalis (black-backed race)December 3: For the past few days a black-backed race male Western Spindalis has been observed at Markham Park in Sunrise, FL. The bird is keeping company with a group of Spot-breasted Orioles,Spot-breasted Oriole another south Florida specialty. Western Spindalis is casual and rare in the US, although one is seen in south Florida every other year or so. The black-backed race predominates in the southern Bahamas and the green-backed race in the Northern Bahamas. Since it is a casual visitor from across the Gulf Stream, the species is usually seen close to the coast so it is quite unusual for this individual to have been discovered some twelve miles inland.

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Common Shelduck in Meriden

Common ShelduckNovember 25:  A solitary Common Shelduck is currently hanging out on Hanover Pond in Meriden, CT. It can be anywhere on the pond but on occasion has flown in to within 30 feet of the parking lot. This is a Eurasian species, extremely rare in North America, but the provenance of this bird is unknown so we will not be counting this as an ABA species for the time being, although that could possibly change.

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19 Responses to Welcome to Birdspix.com!

  1. Barbara Johnson says:

    Nice going John; I bookmarked the site so I’ll be checking your
    progress from time to time.

    Best,
    Barb

  2. penny solum says:

    Congratulations John on this excellent new presentation of your
    fine photography and travel details! I’ll be a regular visitor to your site,
    with pleasure!!!
    warmly,
    Penny

  3. John Gerke says:

    Nice job with the web site!

    I added our 141st yard bird the other night when I heard Trumpeter Swans flying over headed north.

    Enjoy your south Texas trip!

    John and Anne

  4. john gentile says:

    Hi John;
    Beautiful site. You really found your call.
    Hope You’re all well.
    John

  5. Gina Nichol says:

    John,
    It’s amazing what you’ve done in a few short years. The new site looks great! Thanks for sharing!
    Gina

  6. Manny and Thelma Myerson - friends of the Leshems in The Cascades says:

    Congratulations.
    Wonderful bird photos.
    Wonderful web site.

    With SLRs, both Thelma and I enjoy photography locally.

    Manny (also retired MD)

  7. Jody Stout says:

    Enjoyed this site very much. Have added it to my favorites. Looking forward to the Alaska pix. I have friends, Robert and Carolyn Buchanan that travel with Kennan and Karen Ward taking pix of Polar Bears and Eagles. They spend most of their time in Alaska. Told me about the eagle lady and her live feed of “the feed”. Sad to learn she had passed. If you ever trip acros the Buchanan’s on your journeys, sy ‘Hi’ for me please. They are huge supporters of Polar Bears International.

  8. Wade and Melissa says:

    We would like to thank you for your help and this wonderful site. Your site is a valuable source of information for us as we expand our Birding hobby. Good luck in May, we know what you are going for, as we will be there for the whole month and hope to get a shot of the little guys also.

  9. Lauren says:

    Hi I am a third grader at North Trail Elemantary school and I am Working on a bird project with one of your pictures on it. My teacher said it turned out better than she thought it would so more people will be looking at it than usual and your picture was the best I could find. So can I please use your picture? We will not be selling anything.

    • john says:

      Please let us know your name, a little bit about your project, and exactly which picture it is that you wish to use.

  10. James M Oates says:

    may 1, 2005 photo of laughing gull on i-bird has red legs & incomplete hood-did you hear it laugh? tail could have more white spots in it for a franklin’s?

    • john says:

      I believe the photo to which you refer is that of the full breeding plumage Laughing Gull taken at Chincoteague, VA. It was seven years ago, so I honestly couldn’t tell you if I had heard it “laughing” or not, but Laughing Gulls are very common there and there were many dozen present. Franklin’s Gull in that location would be exceptional. The gull in question has a heavy bill, downward pointed at the tip, and almost no white on the wing tips. If you look at the Franklin’s Gull photos on birdspix.com, note that the bill is much more delicate, and the white on the wing tips is unmistakably pronounced. Also breeding plumage Franklin’s shows a delicate pink blush on the belly, that Laughing Gull lacks. The apparent shape of the black hood in a given photo has more to do with the posture of the bird when that particular picture was taken.

  11. Paige Rothfus says:

    Greetings, John.
    My name is Paige Rothfus and I was wondering if the photos on your website are ok for use in an app for iPhone and Android?
    I am making an educational app that lists birdsongs and I was hoping to provide photos of the birds with the clips to make for easier identification.
    I can credit the photos to you if would like. If you have any questions about my project, do let me know!Looking forward to hearing from you,

    Paige

    • john says:

      Many of my photos already appear on the popular app IBird Pro. I would need to know a lot more details about what you are planning.

  12. I have created a free online ‘Birds of Vancouver Island’ that requires a photo of a juvenile Tree Swallow of which you have an excellent example. The ‘book’ is found on my website and I was hoping that you might contribute said photo.

    Pat

  13. Dickson says:

    Great site, really impressed with what you have seen and photographed. Great goal! I’m definitely going to have to build a blog and share. Thanks again for the trip out to S.T.A.-5 today, great day of birding and photographing. Definitely get in touch with me when you want to come out my way, also hope we can get out again while here in your area for some more birding.

  14. Carol says:

    John: A pleasure to have spoken with you as you were photographing gnatcatchers on the Florida Canyon trail in southern Arizona on January 23rd. Thank you for sharing your blog and excellent photos. Best wishes, Carol H.

Please comment, we'd love to hear from you!