Welcome to Birdspix.com!

Welcome to the ongoing quest to photograph 700 or more ABA countable North American bird species. Of the 753 total species of birds possible to see in North America currently published to this site, the number of ABA “countable” species presently stands at:

                                                              720

NEWS & RECENT OUTINGS

Upcoming trips

January 25 – 29, 2017:  Abisko, Sweden (Aurora Borealis)

Eastern Whip-poor-will

September 7:  The nocturnal Eastern Whip-poor-will is a notoriously difficult bird to see, never mind photograph. Its eponymous call is familiar to anyone who has camped in the woods, but it is not often seen, except perhaps as a momentary darting shadow. I have staked out Meshomasic State Forest in Portland, CT at dusk a number of times hoping to spot one at the roadside while there was still enough ambient light to photograph, but although they are numerous here, while there is still light they remain silent and invisible and begin to call only just when the last vestige of useful light has finally waned. They don’t become really active until it is actually dark.  Frustrating.

I well remember when in May, 2014 a migrant was discovered one afternoon sleeping in plain view at eye level no more than ten feet from the boardwalk at Green Cay Wetlands close to home in Boynton Beach, FL, but I only learned about it that evening, and when I so hopefully got there first thing in the morning it was already gone. Only a small handful of people had gotten to see it at all.

Eastern Whip-poor-willSo when Tina Green posted a perched Whip-poor-will at Sherwood Forest State Park earlier today, and since after eleven years of photographing I still had never managed a single decent image of one, it wasn’t much of a decision to drive the 55-minutes down to Westport where Tina was kind enough to meet me in the parking lot and point out the spot. The perfectly camouflaged bird had moved from its earlier unobstructed position just enough to now be partially screened by a fir branch, but from a different angle was still viewable in profile through just one small opening amidst the tangle of branches. How Tina ever managed to find this bird remains a mystery to me, but over the years she has consistently been one of the best in the state at repeatedly doing just that. Thanks, Tina.

Baird's Sandpiper (front) with White-rumped SandpiperEarlier in the afternoon at Hammonasset, small sandpipers were still around, with Baird’s, White-rumped, and Least all in the same rain puddle, and an unusual opportunity to capture the two long-winged small sandpipers directly side by side for a nice plumage comparison, Baird’s in front and White-rumped behind.


Eastern Whip-poor-will

September 7:  The nocturnal Eastern Whip-poor-will is a notoriously difficult bird to see, never mind photograph. Its eponymous call is familiar to anyone who has camped in the woods, but it is not often seen, except perhaps as a momentary darting shadow. I have staked out Meshomasic State Forest in Portland, CT at dusk a number of times hoping to spot one at the roadside while there was still enough ambient light to photograph, but although they are numerous here, while there is still light they remain silent and invisible and begin to call only just when the last vestige of useful light has finally waned. They don’t become really active until it is actually dark.  Frustrating.

I well remember when in May, 2014 a migrant was discovered one afternoon sleeping in plain view at eye level no more than ten feet from the boardwalk at Green Cay Wetlands close to home in Boynton Beach, FL, but I only learned about it that evening, and when I so hopefully got there first thing in the morning it was already gone. Only a small handful of people had gotten to see it at all.

Eastern Whip-poor-willSo when Tina Green posted a perched Whip-poor-will at Sherwood Forest State Park earlier today, and since after eleven years of photographing I still had never managed a single decent image of one, it wasn’t much of a decision to drive the 55-minutes down to Westport where Tina was kind enough to meet me in the parking lot and point out the spot. The perfectly camouflaged bird had moved from its earlier unobstructed position just enough to now be partially screened by a fir branch, but from a different angle was still viewable in profile through just one small opening amidst the tangle of branches. How Tina ever managed to find this bird remains a mystery to me, but over the years she has consistently been one of the best in the state at repeatedly doing just that. Thanks, Tina.

Baird's Sandpiper (front) with White-rumped SandpiperEarlier in the afternoon at Hammonasset, small sandpipers were still around, with Baird’s, White-rumped, and Least all in the same rain puddle, and an unusual opportunity to capture the two long-winged small sandpipers directly side by side for a nice plumage comparison, Baird’s in front and White-rumped behind.

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Hammonasset Sandpipers and more

Baird's SandpiperSeptember 2: This time of year is annually a good time to look for shorebirds in the rain pools at HammonassetBuff-breasted Sandpiper State Park in Madison, CT. The west-end pools are immediately adjacent to the parking lots and the birds are not bothered at all by slowly moving cars, so folks are being treated to some nice close-up views and photos.The past two days have featured a visiting Baird’s Sandpiper and a couple of Buff-breasted Sandpipers.

Least FlycatcherAt the east end, American Goldfinches are in the brush and small flycatchers are hawking insects in the low trees Eastern Wood-Peweeby the marsh edge near the picnic pavillion. I photographed a Least Flycatcher and two minutes later took some more shots of what I initially assumed was the same bird as it landed on the same branch in the same tree, but this one turned out to be an Eastern Wood-Pewee.

Osprey in flightFinally, one of the many Ospreys seen daily from our deck here in Westbrook offered some especially nice flight views.

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A Pair of Armchair “twitches”

California Scrub-JayWoodhouse's Scrub-JayJuly 7:  Each summer the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) issues its latest list of taxonomic changes which invariably include not only name revisions, but also some splits that create new species. This year is no exception, and our birdspix.com list is the fortuitous beneficiary of two such new species.* First is the split of the former Western Scrub-Jay into two species, California Scrub-Jay and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay*.

Leach's Storm-PetrelTownsend's Storm-PetrelNext, the former Leach’s Storm-Petrel is now split into three species – Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Townsend’s Storm-Petrel,* and Ainley’s Storm-Petrel.

Of the other changes, several affect species that may be seen in North America:

Green Violetear is split into two species – Mexican Violetear (Mexico to Nicaragua but seen rarely in the US as a casual), and Lesser Violetear (Costa Rica to South America).

The Puffinus genus of shearwaters has been split so that many of the North American shearwaters are now in the genus Ardenna. This affects Wedge-tailed, Buller’s, Short-tailed, Sooty, Great, Pink-footed, and Flesh-footed Shearwaters.

Sandhill Crane is now in a new genus Antigone.

Orange Bishop (not ABA countable) has had a name change to Northern Red Bishop.

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Spotted Dove at Santa Catalina

May 13 – 14:  A four-day trip to California for a weekend wedding in Santa Monica gave us a chance to make a two-day “twenty-six (it’s actually only twenty-two) miles across the Catalina Expresssea” excursion to picturesque Santa Catalina Island (the high-speed one-hour Catalina Express trip from Long Beach to Avalon. Nancy and I arrived in the late afternoon at the Pavilion Hotel, just a short walk from the pier and featuring a lovely garden courtyard from which,Spotted Dove on the way to the hotel’s gracious breakfast the following morning, I could already hear the call of the one bird I hoped to find on the island – Spotted Dove (ABA no. 718 for birdspix.com). Santa Catalina is presently the most if not the only remaining reliable place in North America to find this species.

We spotted the first Spotted Dove on top of a telephone pole at the corner of Tremont and Summer Streets, but over the course of the day we saw about seven and heard severalOrange-crowned Warbler (Channel Islands sordida subspecies) more in various nearby locations, including on the grounds surrounding the Nature Conservatory building past the ball field on Avalon Cyn Road.

Allen's Hummingbird (Channel Islands sedentarius subspecies)There were a few other species of note, including the Channel Island sordida subspecies of Orange-crowned Warbler, the sedentarious subspecies of Allen’s Hummingbird, and the Channel Islands race of Pacific-slope Flycatcher. One would never have guessed that the most commonPacific-slope Flycatcher (Channel Islands race) species seen would turn out to be Acorn Woodpecker. They wereAcorn Woodpecker conspicuous most everywhere.

If you visit Santa Catalina it is well worth renting a gas-powered golf cart, the island’s favored mode of transportation (there are hardly any cars). In three John & Nancy at Avalon, Santa Catalina Islandhours (the third hour is free) one can easily cover the entire Avalon area which includes some superb cliffside vistas, including the famous Avalonold round casino building and any number of good birding spots.

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Bridled Terns in the Gulf Stream

Bridled TernMay 7:  Finally got a chance to get out to the Gulf Stream off Miami to look for a Bridled Tern, a pelagic species I had managed to miss in the Florida Strait in previous years on two separate trips to the Dry Tortugas. The inimitable Roberto Torres led the 10-hour expedition of seven on his 33-foot boat out of Black Point Marina. Highlights of the outing were the surprisingly numerous (at least 75) Bridled Terns (species #717 forBarn Owl birdspix.com) and – of all the unexpected things to see offshore – a Barn Owl! Other notables were at least 10 Sooty Terns, 3 Common Terns (unusual for the location), 15 Brown Boobies, 3 Northern Gannets, at least 75 Audubon’s Shearwaters, lots of Magnificent Frigatebirds, quite a few migrating passerines, one Pomarine Jaeger, and even a pair of Common Nighthawks flying low over the water.

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Barn Owls and Common Nighthawks

April 30 – May 3:  I was privileged to host two good out-of state friends with whom I have enjoyed a number of previous outings – Bob Mustell from Missouri, and Matt Van WalleneEastern Screech-Owl from Arizona. The four days featured countless belly laughs and even a few birds. Unfortunately an uninterrupted spell of fair weather was greatly limiting the number of migrating passerines stopping over in southNanday Parakeet Florida, but a number of the resident species including Least Bittern, Gray-headed Swamphen, Eastern Screech Owl, Egyptian Goose, and several Psittacids including Nanday Parakeet usually provide ample life bird opportunities for visitors. Unfortunately neither the Smooth-billed Anis at Loxahatchee nor the Spot-breasted Orioles at Markham Park made appearances on the days we were there.

Common NighthawkOur most unusual experience was in a sugar cane area south of Belle Glade, which we visited in the late afternoonCommon Nighthawk hoping to see and photograph some Barn Owls as they became active. It was a few “peent” calls that first drew our attention to the many Common Nighthawks, which we soon realized were everywhere here, both in the air and perched at intervals on the two parallel sets of railroad tracks, allowing very close approach and great photo-ops in the glow of the evening Barn Owlsunlight. We were so fascinated watching several males doing their steep courtship dives punctuated by the loud whirr-like “boom” as they pulled up at the bottom of the dive, that we almost forgot about the Barn Owls that had drawn us here in the first place.

As it turned out, we were not disappointed and in the end got to see several flying Barn Owls including two that briefly passed by close enough for some rewarding photos.

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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.

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