Adam Welz's Weblog

Great Blue Heron, Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY, USA, 23 Oct 2010

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding, nature & environment, photography by adamwelz on October 24, 2010

Early morning, 23 Oct 2010: Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, on the edge of Prospect Lake in Prospect Park, Brooklyn NY. ©Adam S. Welz

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Great Egret, Cape May NJ, 4 October 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding, photography by adamwelz on October 8, 2009

I was standing on the hawkwatch platform near the lighthouse at Cape May, New Jersey, a few days ago, when this bird emerged out of the fog — a Great White Egret, from the Great Whiteout. There were no migrating raptors about.

(*I grew up calling this bird the Great White Egret. Now most people just call it the Great Egret, Ardea alba.)

Great Egret D3A_0897DxO720

Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull, Popham Beach, Maine, 8 Aug 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on September 5, 2009

I’m slowly accumulating clear record shots of North American birds. Here are a couple of gulls that are common in the northeastern USA — but rare vagrants back in South Africa!

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), Popham Beach, Maine, USA, 8 August 2009

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis), Popham Beach, Maine, USA, 8 August 2009

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus) Popham Beach, Maine, USA, 8 Aug 2009

Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), Popham Beach, Maine, USA, 8 Aug 2009

Eastern Screech Owl release, Central Park, New York city, 18 July 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 19, 2009

Hi All

had a fantastic time in Central Park on Saturday with a gang of New York city raptorphiles releasing 5 pint-sized Eastern Screech Owl into the park. They had been rehabilitated by Bobby and Cathy Horvath. Here are some photographs:

Cathy Horvath with one of the young grey-phase birds before release:

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Two more grey-phase ESOs. Note Bobby Horvath’s slightly munched hand on left — they may be small, but they have teeth sharp beaks and claws:

720 ScreechOwlNYC18Jul09-7229

Me and ‘my’ owl — the one the Horvaths gave me to release. Cathy on bottom left of frame. It didn’t seem to want to fly off in any hurry and sat on my hand for quite a number of minutes while everyone took pics:

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Because the bird did not want to fly, I decided to put it on branch, from which it immediately flew:

720 ScreechOwlNYC18Jul09-7276

Here it is a coupla minutes later near-silhouetted in a bush next to the path. I really like its unevenly-sized pupils!

720 ScreechOwlNYC18Jul09-7290

Here’s a pic of the rufous-phase adult that Bruce Yolton released with a green tinge all over everything — the light really is green under that summer deciduous canopy in North America…

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…and another of the same bird a little later:

20090718_ScreechOwlNYC-7463 720

What a great thing to do on a Saturday afternoon! You can see more pics of the release at

http://yojimbot.blogspot.com/2009/07/if-you-love-it-let-it-go-part-2-screech.html

and

http://urbanhawks.blogs.com/urban_hawks/2009/07/eastern-screechowl-release.html#more

and

http://www.fotoportmann.com/blog/2009/07/20/eastern-screech-owls-release-central-park/

Cheers

A

Malachite Kingfisher, Intaka Island, Cape Town, 3 May 2009

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on May 4, 2009

Hi All

I see there’s still a trickle of visitation to this site even though I haven’t added a thing to it since late last year. I’m a little wary of blogging because it can mean a lot of time in front of the computer (I already have too much of that) and because my blog entries are usually written in one unedited go they’re not always highly readable — when you make most of your living from writing, as I do, that combination can be hazardous.

Nonetheless, because there are interesting things in the world that don’t always merit proper ‘stories’ (like little birding adventures) I’ve decided to carry on here. I can’t promise to be reg’lar as a geezer on All Bran Flakes but I will continue sticking things into the Web-ether.

Yesterday, late morning, I decided to flunk off to Intaka Island, a small bird sanctuary here in Cape Town near the truly horrendous Century City shopping mall. The weather was fantastic, and the bright, low winter sun made everything pop out wonderfully.

While I was sitting at the Painted Snipe spot a Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata) appeared close by. These are fairly common tiny kingfishers that like to fish from reeds or sedges low over shallow water. I usually see them zipping past in low, slightly undulating and very fast flight, their outrageously iridescent blue backs giving them away along with their clear ‘peeet’ call (a little like the call of the Malachite Sunbird, strangely enough).

malachite-kingfisher-shadow-intaka-4-may-09

The bird was very good at positioning its head so that the sun did not directly shine in the surface of the eye, presumably to avoid flare and thus see into the dark water more effectively — getting a shot like this, with a little eye-shine, meant waiting for it to look up at passing birds.

I could see that this bird had been ringed on the right let, I’m not sure by who, and I remembered from my teenage ringing days that we had to fit them with extremely narrow rings because the tarsus (lower leg) of this species is so short. They also have fused middle toes, as far as I remember — their feet are thus optimised for perching, not hoping, walking or handling anything.

Anyrate, my little Malachite flew around a bit from perch to perch and occasionally splashed down (sometimes successfully) after something like a tadpole or whatever. Sometimes it faced away from me, making its ‘false eyes’ on the back of the head quite obvious. Many species have marks like these, presumably to make predators think twice because they’re ‘being faced’ or ‘seen’.

malachite-kingfisher-intaka-back-3-may-09

You can see from this picture that the moniker ‘Malachite’ is a bit of a misnomer. The bird is far more a royal-type blue. The malachite-ish bits, on the head, are more like a deep turquoise. I’m a sucker for iridescent birds like this no matter what their colour, but perhaps we should think of a better name for these guys?

Sometimes the bird would lurch forward, as if to dive down to a fish, but suddenly change its mind and not let go of the restio it was perched on. For a few seconds it would be tipped forward like this, feathers ruffled out, until it settled back. I have no idea why the feathers get puffed out like this as it’s about to dive: simple excitement?

malachite-kingfisher-lurching-intaka-3-may-09

You can see the ring in this photo.

After about fifteen minutes another Malachite Kingfisher appeared on the scene, resulting in some piscivorous disharmony; the birds could clearly not share a fishing spot, and every time the ‘first’ bird would try to move a few metres to stay out of trouble, the newcomer would attack it. Here’s the beginning of a sortie:

malachite-kingfisher-intaka-4-may-09

and, a fraction of a second later, we have contact (ouch)

malachite-kingfisher-fighting-intaka-4-may-09

This photo was pure luck — my manually-focused old Tokina 300mm was just in the right place at the right time. What surprises me about the image is that you can see how serious the attacking bird is. This is no playfight or territorial show-conflict. It seems to want to impale the other one on its bill! The attacking bird’s eye appears strangely white because it is protecting the surface of the eye with its nictating membrane, or ‘third eyelid’. This is a membrane that birds have that can be flicked very rapidly across the eye (transversely) to clean or protect the cornea. Sometimes I wish I had them, like, hello darling! flick, flick, whoa…

The pictures were photographed using a shutter speed of 1/1,600th of a second, very fast, and its a testament to the speed that this all happened at that the two pictures immediately above this text are slightly blurred. Many birds flying along at normal speed would be rendered more sharply at this shutter speed. It’s amazing to me that not only did the attacked bird seem able to get a defensive foot out, but it also managed to fly out of its perilous position without braining itself on the surrounding vegetation. They must have incredible avionics!

Until next time…

Adam

African Penguins watch the sun go down, Boulders Beach, Simonstown

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on October 15, 2008

Hi All

have been rushed off my feet for ages now — no time to blog! Just have time to put an image up before hitting the sack. Will be taking time off round December and should be able to blog then.

Here’s an image from the African (aka Jackass) Penguin colony at Boulders Beach, Simonstown, about a 45 min drive from my house. (Photographed 13 Sep 08)

Look after yourselves!

Adam

back in Cape Town – some birds @ Intaka Island

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 24, 2008

Hi All

I’ve been back in Cape Town for a few days – just long enough to realise how exhausted I am!

I’ll be carrying on with this blog, with more pics and observations from my mega-trip to the USA and, of course, the same from South Africa and everywhere else.

Don’t have time to write much now but you can have a quick squizz at this picture I took a few hours ago at an artificial wetland called Intaka Island, here in Cape Town. This bird is called a Sacred Ibis because, yes, the Egyptians used to worship them. They’re rather common around Cape Town, but were unknown in these parts until a few decades ago. Humans changed the habitat to suit them by making farms and fields in the landscape, and they colonised the area by themselves by moving down from the north. They like feeding in soggy lawn areas and mucky barnyards.

Hope you’re all well!

Adam

USA ’08 trip: Bird list

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 20, 2008

Hi All

am back in Cape Town and slowly getting my head into what I need to do next.

So as to bore you all backwards, here’s my bird list from my nearly 3-month trip to the US. I did not spend that much time seriously birding as I had work to do and people to see, but nonetheless managed a fairly respectable total of 281 species (free-flying wild species positively identified by sight, including 4 introduced species). In addition, I unambiguously heard but did not see (or did not see well enough to see well enough to confirm field marks) another 4 species (Ruffed Grouse, Wood Thrush, Clapper Rail, Warbling Vireo) and saw in the hand (mist-netted) 2 species which I did not see free-flying in the wild (Yellow-breasted Chat and Swainson’s Thrush).

I haven’t gone through all my notes, so I may have missed a species or two, but will edit the list appropriately if I find extras. There’s at least one Phalarope I still have to ID from some poor photos, and I have a sneaky feeling about one or two more shorebirds buried in the notes. With the species I saw during my shorter trip last year, and when I lived in Alaska in 1991, I have well over 300 species on my US list now, but probably not yet 400. I’ll work out my total USA list sometime (perhaps never) and post it.

I birded in California, Alaska, Texas, Michigan, New York, Connecticut and a tiny bit in New Jersey. Big dips (birds I wanted to see, looked for, but missed) include Greater Roadrunner, American Woodcock, Upland Sandpiper, Blackburnian and Cerulean Warblers. Next time!

Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Eared Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark’s Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Least Grebe
American White Pelican
Brown Pelican
Anhinga
Brandt’s Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Neotropic Cormorant
Least Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Great (White) Egret
Snowy Egret
Little Blue Heron
Tricolored Heron
Cattle Egret
Green Heron
Black-crowned Night-Heron
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
Glossy Ibis
White-faced Ibis
White Ibis
Roseate Spoonbill
Mute Swan (introduced)
Trumpeter Swan
Gtr. White-fronted Goose
Snow Goose
Canada Goose
Brant (Goose)
Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
Wood Duck
Mallard
American Black Duck (poss hybrid w Mallard – many seen, none absolutely sure 100% Black)
Mottled Duck
Northern Pintail
American Wigeon
Eurasian Wigeon
Northern Shoveler
Blue-winged Teal
Green-winged Teal
Greater Scaup
Harlequin Duck
Long-tailed Duck
White-winged Scoter
Surf Scoter
Common Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Bufflehead
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Black Vulture
Turkey Vulture
Osprey
California Condor
Mississippi Kite
Cooper’s Hawk
Northern Harrier
Harris’s Hawk
Red-shouldred Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Swainson’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Crested Caracara
American Kestrel
Plain Chachalaca
Wild Turkey
California Quail
Common Moorhen
American Coot
Sandhill Crane
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black Oystercatcher
American Oystercatcher
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Greater Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Willet
Whimbrel
Marbled Godwit
Black Turnstone
Sanderling
Dunlin
Western Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Baird’s Sandpiper
Short-billed Dowitcher
Wilson’s Snipe
Black-legged Kittiwake
Bonaparte’s Gull
Laughing Gull
Mew Gull
Ring-billed Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Glaucous Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Thayer’s Gull
Western Gull
Heermann’s Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Black Tern
Caspian Tern
Common Tern
Forster’s Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Arctic Tern
Least Tern
Black Skimmer
Pigeon Guillemot
Marbled Murrulet
Feral Pigeon (introduced)
White-winged Dove
Mourning Dove
Inca Dove
Common Ground Dove
White-tipped Dove
Red-crowned Parrot
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Groove-billed Ani
Eastern Screech-Owl
Barred Owl
Lesser Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk
Common Paraque
Chimney Swift
Vaux’s Swift
White-throated Swift
Anna’s Hummingbd
Rufous Hummingbird
Allen’s Hummingbird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Black-chinned Hummingbird
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Ringed Kingfisher
Green Kingfisher
Red-headed Woodpecker
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Acorn Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Ladder-backed Woodpecker
Nuttall’s Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet
Eastern Wood-Peewee
Pacific-slope Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Black Phoebe
Brown-crested Flycatcher
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Couch’s Kingbird
Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
Great Kiskadee
Loggerhead Shrike
White-eyed Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Blue Jay
Steller’s Jay
Green Jay
Western Scrub-Jay
Gray Jay
Black-billed Magpie
American Crow
Northwestern Crow
Fish Crow
Common Raven
Horned Lark
Tree Swallow
Violet-green Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Barn Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Cave Swallow
Purple Martin
Oak Titmouse
Tufted Titmouse
Black-crested Titmouse
Chestnut-backed Chickadee
Carolina Chickadee
Black-capped Chikadee
Brown Creeper
White-breasted Nuthatch
Bushtit
Marsh Wren
Bewick’s Wren
House Wren
Carolina Wren
American Dipper
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Varied Thrush
American Robin
Hermit Thrush
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
Brown Thrasher
California Thrasher
Long-billed Thrasher
American Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
European Starling (introduced)
Orange-crowned Warbler
Blue-winged Warbler
Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Golden-cheeked Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-Throated Gray Warbler
Yellow-throated Warbler
Kirtland’s Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
American Redstart
Prothonotary Warbler
Worm-eating Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Hooded Warbler
Wilson’s Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Ovenbird
Western Tanager
Scarlet Tanager
Dickissel
Indigo Bunting
Painted Bunting
Northern Cardinal
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak
Eastern Towhee
California Towhee
Spotted Towhee
Olive Sparrow
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Lark Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Seaside Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Baltimore Oriole
Orchard Oriole
Altamira Oriole
Eastern Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Common Grackle
Great-tailed Grackle
Boat-tailed Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Bronzed Cowbird
American Goldfinch
Lesser Goldfinch
House Finch
Purple Finch
Common Redpoll
House Sparrow (introduced)

Photos will be posted as I get around to going through them.

Cheers!

Adam

Houston frounce-infected Red-tailed Hawk babies: Update

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 11, 2008

Hi All

just got of the phone to Cathy Horvath – and heard some good news.

Hous (aka Houston 1 or just plain Houston), the young Red-tailed Hawk who was fostered in with the Astoria/Triborough Bridge Red-tails, is standing and ate by himself yesterday. I filmed this incredibly sick bird being recaptured a few days ago and in such bad shape that I doubted he’d even make it though the day alive. His frounce lesions were huge, he was extremely skinny and so weak that he lay on his side in the carrier.

Here’s Houston 1’s mouth on 5 July, the recapture day. The frounce lesions are the disgusting cheesy growths in his mouth. Note also the discoloured tongue. Bobby’s ‘caption’ for this photo was “In addition what you can see in his mouth there is much more down his throat , under his jaw, and in his crop that we can feel which makes his case much worse than Hous ” 2 ” . This is why he is so thin presently. He has a hard time swallowing anything solid so Cathy is mixing him up a meal in a blended smoothie type which is tubed into his crop. He’s also getting flagyl, sprartrix, and baytril .”

Houston 2 is also in much better shape. The frounce lesions have almost gone, is eating alone, and jumping around in the cage. The multi-drug approach seems to be working.

Both birds are not yet out of the woods, but for now it’s looking good.

Cheers

Adam

PS You can read more on the Astoria hawk saga at http://palemaleirregulars.blogspot.com/

two young Harris’s Hawk, Santa Ana, TX

Posted in ALL BLOG POSTS, birds & birding by adamwelz on July 10, 2008

but the birds are. I’m still running around in New York frantically trying to finish my film, hence the dearth of recent blog posts, but I’m feeling guilty about it so here are two recently fledged (i.e. still screaming and curiously un-scared of people) Harris’s Hawk. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, 28 May 2008. One of my most special finds of my trip down there.

Hang in there – I’ll have more words and images up late next week.

Adam