Welcome to Birdspix.com!

Welcome to the ongoing quest to photograph 700 or more ABA countable North American bird species. Of the 718 total species of birds possible to see in North America currently published to this site, the number of ABA “countable” species presently stands at:

                                                              686

NEWS & RECENT OUTINGS

Upcoming trips

August 31                Salton Sea, CA
September 1 – 5      San Diego, CA (pelagic)

Birding the Adirondacks

June 27-29:  Back in June, 2012 I had made a solo trip to New Hampshire for a Saturday morning van excursion partially up the Mount Washington Road ostensibly to look for Bicknell’s Thrush. The outing started just after 6 AM (late for Bicknell’s) and in its entirety consisted of spending less than an hour at one single, all-or-nothing, roadside spot at about 4000 feet, and although the group did get to hear Bicknell’s song, it was a major disappointment having made such a long drive only to be offered what seemed like an inadequate and rather perfunctory effort in lieu of the far more persistent kind of search generally necessary to actually see this elusive species, let alone photographing it. So I resolved to try again at a future time, but definitely somewhere else and certainly not under such imposed constraints.

A bit of research led me to the Lake Placid region of New York’s Adirondacks, where Joan Collins offers the unique opportunity to drive up Whiteface Mountain before sunrise. Sunrise on Whiteface MountainJoan picked me up promptly at 4 AM at Ledge Rock in Wilmington and, treated to the early “morning chorus” all the way up the Whiteface Mountain Road, we were at 4000 feet just as the red ball of sun first peered over a distant ridge. Bicknell’s song isn’t hard to locate, as the birds are actually quite numerous on the mountain, and in fact we spotted one almost right away perched at the top of a small balsam fir, but it was not light enough yet for photography. The temperature was 52 degrees, but it soon began to warm up  - good for comfort, but very bad for black flies! These things are voracious, relentless, and, unfortunately as it turned out, present in dauntingly large numbers in all the good birding habitats – and while DEET does help, even it is not 100% effective against these nasty little critters. Bicknell’s comes at a cost.

Bicknell's ThrushThe road here does not open to the general public until 9 AM, so there was no traffic and we were free to stop anywhere and just hop out. Amongst the chorus of Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, White-throated Sparrow, and others, we could pick out Bicknell’s on both sides of the road at more than a half dozen spots, and got fleeting glimpses of several more individuals, but most remained concealed. At last, at exactly 8:12 AM at 3943 feet, after several “just missed” chances for photos over more than four hours of perseverance, a Bicknell’s flew across the road, and instead of disappearing into dense cover as usual, to our amazement flew up and landed at the very top of a dead snag. Here it sat for several minutes, in perfect light, singing its alternate one syllable call/song.

Joan knows the Adirondack area so well that she can provide visitors a reasonable chance of finding whatever the desired species might happen to be, and I was hoping to somewhere find a Ruffed Grouse since the only one Dan Logan and I saw in northern Maine in October, 2012 flushed before we could stop the car in time. We planned to look for the grouse in the Tupper Lake area after checking out some spots for certain other species along the way. Black-backed Woodpecker - female with male chickAlong Franklin Falls Road we made a stop at an acre-sized area of tall grass and second-growth vegetation that sits between the road and the forest – a perfect spot for Mourning Warblers – and sure enough, we heard a total of five on both sides of the road and saw two flying, but unfortunately none ever perched in the open and there was no photo op. Next was a woodland section off Moose Pond Road where we observed a male Black-backed Woodpecker chick looking out of his nest hole, patiently waiting for his mother to return with lunch (Joan has since told me that this chick fledged the following day). In Bloomingdale we stopped at a farm to enjoy the comings and goings of a colony of Cliff Swallows nesting under the eaves of an outbuilding. On Middle Pond was a female Common Loon with one chick, while the male flew the length of the lake overhead  several times before coming in for a skidding landing.

Common Loon & chickFinally we found ourselves on the remote dirt roads of the Adirondack Preserve near Rock Pond. After just ten minutes we arbitrarily went right at a fork in the road, but as we trundled by I got a fleeting glimpse of something some hundred yards up the left fork, so we backed up and not only did the “something” turn out to be a Ruffed Grouse (with a chick), but we nearly backed over a second grouse chick in the middle of the fork. It seemed odd that the chick was so far away from the adult, so we wondered if perhaps there were actually two families andCanada Warbler we just weren’t seeing the closer adult, but that remained unresolved and of course both birds scurried into cover before we could react. I was kicking myself at not having been quicker on the shutter and thereby missing this bird yet again, but the opportunity was indeed missed and there was nothing for it but to continue on. We got an unusually close look at a beautiful cooperative male Canada Warbler, and a more distant look at a family of four raucous Gray Jays which frolicked in the canopy above us but would not come down, even to accept our offering of raisins.

And then, at last, after some forty-Ruffed Grouse - femalefive more minutes, another dark shape in the road – adult Ruffed Grouse with another chick. This time I leaned out of the window and wasted no time with the camera, but this family turned out to be less skittish than the first one and we were able to observe mother and chick for a full minute or two.

Miracle on iceThe species count for the day came to 67, including 17 warbler species. All in all it was a perfect weekend – two difficult new species, perfect weather, beautiful scenery, excellent dinner at The Hungry Trout restaurant, and a chance to see the site of the 1980 winter Olympics, including the Lake Placid Arena where the nostalgic “miracle on ice” happened all those years ago. And thanks again to Joan for her congeniality as well as her expertise.


Birding the Adirondacks

June 27-29:  Back in June, 2012 I had made a solo trip to New Hampshire for a Saturday morning van excursion partially up the Mount Washington Road ostensibly to look for Bicknell’s Thrush. The outing started just after 6 AM (late for Bicknell’s) and in its entirety consisted of spending less than an hour at one single, all-or-nothing, roadside spot at about 4000 feet, and although the group did get to hear Bicknell’s song, it was a major disappointment having made such a long drive only to be offered what seemed like an inadequate and rather perfunctory effort in lieu of the far more persistent kind of search generally necessary to actually see this elusive species, let alone photographing it. So I resolved to try again at a future time, but definitely somewhere else and certainly not under such imposed constraints.

A bit of research led me to the Lake Placid region of New York’s Adirondacks, where Joan Collins offers the unique opportunity to drive up Whiteface Mountain before sunrise. Sunrise on Whiteface MountainJoan picked me up promptly at 4 AM at Ledge Rock in Wilmington and, treated to the early “morning chorus” all the way up the Whiteface Mountain Road, we were at 4000 feet just as the red ball of sun first peered over a distant ridge. Bicknell’s song isn’t hard to locate, as the birds are actually quite numerous on the mountain, and in fact we spotted one almost right away perched at the top of a small balsam fir, but it was not light enough yet for photography. The temperature was 52 degrees, but it soon began to warm up  - good for comfort, but very bad for black flies! These things are voracious, relentless, and, unfortunately as it turned out, present in dauntingly large numbers in all the good birding habitats – and while DEET does help, even it is not 100% effective against these nasty little critters. Bicknell’s comes at a cost.

Bicknell's ThrushThe road here does not open to the general public until 9 AM, so there was no traffic and we were free to stop anywhere and just hop out. Amongst the chorus of Swainson’s Thrush, Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, White-throated Sparrow, and others, we could pick out Bicknell’s on both sides of the road at more than a half dozen spots, and got fleeting glimpses of several more individuals, but most remained concealed. At last, at exactly 8:12 AM at 3943 feet, after several “just missed” chances for photos over more than four hours of perseverance, a Bicknell’s flew across the road, and instead of disappearing into dense cover as usual, to our amazement flew up and landed at the very top of a dead snag. Here it sat for several minutes, in perfect light, singing its alternate one syllable call/song.

Joan knows the Adirondack area so well that she can provide visitors a reasonable chance of finding whatever the desired species might happen to be, and I was hoping to somewhere find a Ruffed Grouse since the only one Dan Logan and I saw in northern Maine in October, 2012 flushed before we could stop the car in time. We planned to look for the grouse in the Tupper Lake area after checking out some spots for certain other species along the way. Black-backed Woodpecker - female with male chickAlong Franklin Falls Road we made a stop at an acre-sized area of tall grass and second-growth vegetation that sits between the road and the forest – a perfect spot for Mourning Warblers – and sure enough, we heard a total of five on both sides of the road and saw two flying, but unfortunately none ever perched in the open and there was no photo op. Next was a woodland section off Moose Pond Road where we observed a male Black-backed Woodpecker chick looking out of his nest hole, patiently waiting for his mother to return with lunch (Joan has since told me that this chick fledged the following day). In Bloomingdale we stopped at a farm to enjoy the comings and goings of a colony of Cliff Swallows nesting under the eaves of an outbuilding. On Middle Pond was a female Common Loon with one chick, while the male flew the length of the lake overhead  several times before coming in for a skidding landing.

Common Loon & chickFinally we found ourselves on the remote dirt roads of the Adirondack Preserve near Rock Pond. After just ten minutes we arbitrarily went right at a fork in the road, but as we trundled by I got a fleeting glimpse of something some hundred yards up the left fork, so we backed up and not only did the “something” turn out to be a Ruffed Grouse (with a chick), but we nearly backed over a second grouse chick in the middle of the fork. It seemed odd that the chick was so far away from the adult, so we wondered if perhaps there were actually two families andCanada Warbler we just weren’t seeing the closer adult, but that remained unresolved and of course both birds scurried into cover before we could react. I was kicking myself at not having been quicker on the shutter and thereby missing this bird yet again, but the opportunity was indeed missed and there was nothing for it but to continue on. We got an unusually close look at a beautiful cooperative male Canada Warbler, and a more distant look at a family of four raucous Gray Jays which frolicked in the canopy above us but would not come down, even to accept our offering of raisins.

And then, at last, after some forty-Ruffed Grouse - femalefive more minutes, another dark shape in the road – adult Ruffed Grouse with another chick. This time I leaned out of the window and wasted no time with the camera, but this family turned out to be less skittish than the first one and we were able to observe mother and chick for a full minute or two.

Miracle on iceThe species count for the day came to 67, including 17 warbler species. All in all it was a perfect weekend – two difficult new species, perfect weather, beautiful scenery, excellent dinner at The Hungry Trout restaurant, and a chance to see the site of the 1980 winter Olympics, including the Lake Placid Arena where the nostalgic “miracle on ice” happened all those years ago. And thanks again to Joan for her congeniality as well as her expertise.

read more »

Northern Goshawk

June 11:  This afternoon I made a second visit to a known spot north of New Haven, CT to look for a Northern Goshawk after having missed this species there last month. It turned out to be one of the most adrenaline-producing experiences I have had in the field.

Northern GoshawkGoshawks are uncommon, secretive, and are well known to defend their territory fiercely against all intruders, including a passing human, so due caution was in order. After coming up empty last time, there was no guarantee a Goshawk would even be present, but if it was I didn’t want to disturb it.  I made a few trial exposures and chose camera settings of shutter speed 1/160 and ISO 800. My plan was to proceed along this woodland trail very slowly, although not with completely silent footfalls so that, if present, the bird would be able hear me approaching from a distance, much like one purposely makes noise in bear country so as not to inadvertently surprise a bear. I planned to stop at the first warning call, try to spot the bird, hopefully get photos, and then simply unobtrusively withdraw back out from the edge of its territory. Things don’t always go according to plan.

All was quiet for about an hour, but suddenly, from somewhere high up and not too far ahead, a shrill ki ki ki ki ki pierced the solitude. I froze in place and, guided by the sound, finally spotted an adult Goshawk perched in a tall conifer, although largely shielded by branches and twigs. As I tried to position myself to get a clear angle for a photo, the bird took off directly toward my spot, missing me by no more than two or three feet and alighting on a more open branch on the opposite side of the trail.  Quickly I snapped a few photos. I figured I must have just entered into its territory, so I began to slowly retreat back up the trail, expecting to leave it well behind, but the bird came at me again. Once more I retreated, and once more the Goshawk swooped. Each time it landed on an open branch, so a single burst of photos was possible, and it was a good thing I had preset the camera as there was no time to fumble with it now. No amount of retreat seemed to satisfy this bird, which apparently regarded this entire woodland as its sovereign territory. I had long since gotten his message, but this bird swoop-chased me nearly three hundred yards – almost back to the trailhead.

Some years ago I was buzzed by a Red-shouldered Hawk in Florida when I had inadvertently ventured too close to its nest, but a few steps away was all that was necessary to placate the Red-shouldered. Not so with a Goshawk. This is one magnificent, fiercely determined, single-minded creature, and he leaves no doubt that you are not welcome anywhere in “his” woods.

The first of these two YouTube videos shows an experience identical to my own, and just how spooky it can be alone out there when there is a Northern Goshawk in the area. The second shows the Goshawk’s astonishing flying maneuverability and why it is so hard to escape its pursuit. Listverse aptly names the Northern Goshawk the third most ferocious animal species on earth.

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Meshomasic State Forest revisited

June 9: Tried again unsuccessfully for Eastern-Whip-poor-will photos from 8:20 to 9:00 PM this evening at Meshomasic State Forest. Easily heard two Whip-poor-wills calling and

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A chance for rare ducks

Barred Owl fledglingJune 4: This morning the New Haven Bird Club conducted a walk at White Memorial in Litchfield, one of Connecticut’s most well-known birding sites. The 4000 acres here includes many different habitats, from wetlands to mixed deciduous and conifer forests. The species count totaled sixty-nine including both singing Willow and Alder Flycatchers, with the morning’s highlights being a fledgling Barred Owl and a Pileated Woodpecker chick peering out of its nest hole.

Baikal TealThe afternoon featured a specially arranged tour of the nearby Livingston Ripley Waterfowl Conservancy, a unique Falcated Duckfacility founded especially to husband and breed mainly rare or threatened ducks, geese, and swans. Here one can study the habits of some elusive species one might otherwise never get the chance to see in the wild, such as Baikal Teal, Falcated Duck, Whooper Swan, Spectacled Eider, and many others. I had seen a few Spectacled Eiders in Gambell and Nome in 2012,Whooper Swan on nest but at that time of year (early October) they were just fleeting distant in-flight views. Here these exotic-looking Spectacled Eiderducks, in their full breeding plumage, can be fully appreciated up close. The facility is open to the public on weekends and is well worth the trip.

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Eastern Whip-poor-will

Eastern Whip-poor-willMay 31:  On the third visit to Meshomasic State Forest in Portland, CT, two Eastern Whip-poor-wills were observed at dusk by the roadside edge. I tried the same technique used to photograph Common Poorwill last year in Arizona, but while the Poorwill would remain motionless for minutes in the car headlights, no such luck with the Whip-poor-wills which are easily spooked by the light or by the approach of an observer. I managed one poor shot, just good enough for a record but not much else. It’s a bit of trial and error and will require the judicious use of a light just bright enough to allow focusing the camera while at the same time not spooking the bird.

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More Springtime in Connecticut

Canada WarblerMay 23 – 27:  As the last of the migrants pass through and the resident species settle in for breeding season, my focus,Willow Flycatcher besides simply enjoying the “morning chorus,” becomes trying to improve on the photos I have of any given species. Hammonasset State Park this spring has seen especially good numbers of Canada Warblers, allowing for “best of species” photos for this migrant, a particularly fidgety warbler that is in constant motion and never seems to sit still. All along the Willard Island trail the “fitz-bew” chirp of numerous Willow Flycatchers rings outKilldeers mating from perches on the tall reeds at the edge of the marsh. Killdeer also are abundant here, and a pair of adults already tending one pair of new chicks, seemed intent on wasting no time producing another brood.

Wood Thrush on nestAt East Rock Park in New Haven I happened to spot a Wood Thrush fly into a shrub, and was thus treated to the rare view of a female sitting on her extremely well-concealed nest, no more than four feet off the ground, but nestled into the very center of the shrub such as toRose-breasted Grosbeak render it virtually invisible from every direction. Meanwhile the colors of the myriad migrant warblers were complemented by Baltimore Orioles, Indigo Buntings, and the always endearing Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Dunlins are numerous along the shore in fall when they are an unexciting drab gray, but along the Guilford/Madison line, where the boatDunlin ramp road is always worth a visit for Salt Marsh and Seaside Sparrows, I found a striking springtime specimen resplendent inWillet brilliant full breeding plumage, as well as some in-flight Willets showing off their distinctive wing pattern.

Hartman Park in Lyme is one of the most reliable Connecticut spots for nesting Cerulean Warblers. They are easy to hear but hard to see, as Cerulean Warblerthe mature trees are very tall here and this bird tends to remain high in the treetops such that photos are more often than not by necessity looking up from below. I’ve had better photos of them in prior years.

House WrenFinally, at a nursery in Clinton, a singing House Wren – a common species to be sure, but an unusually aesthetic setting.

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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. Penny Spiwack says:

    Thanks for the on-going great education!

  6. Ms_Selena says:

    Oh my gosh! I love this website. This is so cool. I’m thrilled because I love birds, and this page/website is filled with so many birds that I have never seen before or heard about before. It’s going to be an amazing new experience for me.

  7. 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

  8. 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)

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

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