Sunday, November 14, 2010

East End Birding-11/14/10

Scoping Mecox Bay

Today Seth, Stella Miller, and I (Brent Bomkamp) headed out east to try to pick up some early waterfowl, and although numbers were low overall we were not disappointed.

We started the day at Hook Pond where things appeared to be relatively quiet.  A few Hooded Mergansers, Gadwall, Black Ducks were on the pond, along with an American Coot, a Pied-billed Grebe, and a Belted Kingfisher.  Some flocks of Canada Geese were moving overhead and I managed to pick out a Greater White-fronted Goose from one of the groups as it flew to the east.  A few minutes later I spotted yet another GWFG heading in the same direction.  We guessed the groups were on their way to one of the large fields along Further Lane, and we caught up with them there.
Greater White-fronted Goose-11/14/10

Seth soon picked out three more, bringing the grand total to 5.  This is not unprecedented, as a similar sized group was discovered last year at the same locale, when small flocks were also seen at Belmont Lake State Park and St. John's Pond in Cold Spring Harbor.  As we watched the geese a small group of American Pipits flew over the field towards the northeast.

The next stop on our trip was Sagaponack.  Unfortunately the pond did not provide much in the way of birds, but there was a significant movement along the ocean.  Large numbers of dark scoters were travelling in both directions, with small numbers of White-wingeds mixed in.  Bonaparte's Gulls were also present in large numbers, something which we surmised due to their presence on both Hook and Sagaponack Ponds.  Red-throated Loons were having a good flight, with around 75 seen.

Sagaponack Beach

Mecox Bay

Mecox proved no more birdy than Sag, aside from a small group of Dunlin sitting on a small flat that had formed there.  However, while surveying the ocean side of the beach, Stella deftly located a Semipalmated Plover, a somewhat surprising bird this late in the year.
Semipalmated Plover-11/14/10

Just north of Mecox is a group of farm fields which have held many good birds in the past.  In the early '90s a Northern Lapwing spent some time there, and Cattle Egrets are almost annual in the fall.  Today was no exception, as at least three Cattle Egrets were loafing with the cattle at the Mecox Dairy.  While viewing the egrets a pair of Horned Larks flew overhead.
Mecox Dairy, Mecox, NY

When we arrived at Short's Pond in Scuttlehole, we were struck by the sheer numbers of geese on the pond.  A GWFG was here the day before, and chances were good for an unusual goose.  Also present was a small group of Pintail, some coots, a Green-winged Teal, and another Belted Kingfisher.  After tedious inspection, I evetually found a cooperative Cackling Goose.  It remained in the open for a while, allowing all three of us excellent views, and an opportunity to examine the nuances of this bird with the larger Canadas.

Shinnecock was cold and windy, but the birds made it worthwhile to remain outside.  As at Sagaponack good numbers of seabirds were offshore, with most, save for gannets, moving eastward.  Our first new birds for the day were a flock of Common Eider just inside the inlet.  Seth, after careful scrutiny of the hordes of Bonaparte's Gulls going by, skillfully picked out an immature Black-legged Kittiwake.  Unfortunately only Stella and he were able to attain views of the bird.  A small group of Boat-tailed Grackles was present by the Ponquoge Bridge.

After a delicious lunch at Orlando's in Hampton Bays, we stopped at Eastport Pond where good numbers of Aythya ducks were visible.  It provided all three of us with looks at our FOS Canvasback, 17 in total.  Also present were more of the expected waterfowl and a Belted Kingfisher.  Just as we were getting off the Sunrise Highway, Seth noticed a pair of Cattle Egrets.  This year certainly has been a banner year for the species, with at least 10 seen on Long Island, and even more throughout the northeast.

Our final stop was at Patchogue Lake for the previously reported Eurasian Wigeon.  The striking male was quite easy to locate, but also surprising were the large numbers of American Coot, 141 in total.

Highlights of the Day-
Black-legged Kittiwake
5 Greater White-fronted Geese
Cackling Goose
Eurasian Wigeon
Semipalmated Plover
7 Cattle Egrets
American Pipit
Horned Lark
Northern Pintail
Field Sparrow
Northern Harrier

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Long Island Hotspots '10

Long before people detect the approach of Autumn in the changing colors of the forest or in the nipping northerlies, fall migration begins for birds. The first group of birds to leave their breeding grounds is the shorebirds. By August almost all the Eastern species can be seen passing through New York. Flocks of thousands of plovers and sandpipers often stop on mudflats at places such as Mecox Bay, Cupsogue County Park, Jones Beach, and Jamaica Bay. The last especially is famed for its shorebird numbers and diversity. Later in the month more species from across the country appear, including American Golden-Plover, Western, Baird’s, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers, and Wilson’s Phalarope. Songbirds, despite having a more patent presence later in the fall, also begin to abandon their breeding grounds in August and wander beyond their normal habitat.

In September the coastal sites begin to fill with songbirds. The same warblers that passed through in spring and then often matched the hues of the newly-sprung flowers return in perplexing pastel shades that tend to again resemble the colors of the present state of the flora. The birds with Neotropical destinations, such as flycatchers, vireos, warblers and tanagers, evacuate the region first. Throughout the month they can be seen well in inland greenspaces like Prospect Park and Hempstead Lake State Park and along Long Island’s barrier beaches in parks such as Jones and Robert Moses State Park as well. By October the more local and slightly hardier migrants, like the sparrows, replace the Neotropicals in the same coastal habitats. Soon Chipping and White-throated Sparrows dominate the migrant passerine scene, but decent numbers of Clay-colored and Lark Sparrows, as well as Dickcissels, also visit these flocks annually. Something even more unusual is possible as wayward migrants from the West discover the Atlantic coastline and follow the normal commuters.

As the sparrow numbers peak in October, so does the quantity of migrant hawks. And the quantity is impressive and easily observed at places such as the Hook Mountain and Fire Island Hawk Watches. Hook Mountain is famed for viewing the concentrated passage of thousands of Broad-winged Hawks. Meanwhile, about a third of the raptors that pass over Fire Island every year are Merlin, with strong numbers of American Kestrel, Osprey, Northern Harrier, and Accipiter hawks showing as well.

The grand finale of Autumn is marked by the movement of seabirds. Sea ducks, loons, grebes, gannets, shearwaters, phalaropes, jaegers, gulls, and alcids migrate often unnoticed well offshore. However Black and Surf Scoters especially hint at the unseen migration offshore as thousands pass just within sight of land. One of the best places to see this spectacle is off Montauk Point. And like a salute to the dazzlingly colorful birds of spring, the rest of the ducks return to their favorite ponds, such as St. John’s Pond, Tung Ting Pond, and Lake Massapequa, and round off the diversity of Fall migration that can be seen on Long Island.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

A Bird’s Eye View, Book Review: On Thin Ice by Richard Ellis

As usual, my reading material pile is growing faster than I can keep up. Believe it or not, I now have 12 books waiting to be read, and am looking at them in dismay, thinking, “How did I ever let this pile grow to such epic proportions?” After all, I have had plenty of time on my hands! Now that it is too hot to bird or hike, I have been able to begin tackling “THE PILE”. The first book on the list was On Thin Ice by Richard Ellis. I attended a program given by Mr. Ellis at the Explorer’s Club this past winter, which was so interesting and engaging that I immediately booked him for our September program and bought his book. Although it had taken me some time to get around to reading the book it was worth the wait! Mr. Ellis is as impressive an author as he is a speaker.

On Thin Ice by Richard Ellis

Polar bears. Who doesn’t love a polar bear? Cute, fluffy and roly poly as cubs, majestic and beautiful as adults: they are the quintessential poster child for wildlife and not many are indifferent to them. When I picked up this book, I thought I knew all there was to know about ursus maritimus. After all, bears (especially brown bears) have been my favorite animal since I was 10 and I already own 30 books about these magnificent creatures. As I dug into this absorbing book, I found myself learning about the long (and for the bear, deadly) relationship between humans and polar bears. On Thin Ice offers a remarkable glimpse into the life of the polar bear, both past and present.

Ever since man first encountered polar bears, the big white bear has received the short end of the stick. Unfairly persecuted, hunted and harassed, early explorers killed, maimed and captured bears indiscriminately. It is painful to read these accounts of the suffering mankind has inflicted on polar bears. Ellis takes these accounts and stories and weaves them into a sad but intensely interesting timeline of history. Starting in the year 1056, we journey with Ellis until present day, learning about the natural history of this great bear along the way. We also learn the detrimental impact climate change is having on polar bears and their habitat.

Globally, there are 19 sub populations of polar bears. Alaska, Canada, Russia, Greenland and Norway all are home to these ice bears. Scientists have studied them for many years and thanks especially to the easily accessible population in Churchill, Alaska there is much we know about the species.

Polar bears are among the largest carnivores on earth, surpassed only by another bear, the Kodiak (Ursus arctos middendorffi), a subspecies of the brown bear. An adult female can reach 700 pounds, while a male can top the scales at 1500 pounds. Because they are only found in polar regions, polar bears are superbly adapted to their icy living conditions. Thick fur, covering even their feet (for traction), along with a layer of blubber (up to 40% of the animals weight can be fat) allows this predator to be the master of its domain and reign supreme at the top of the food chain.

Because their habitat is surrounded by water, these marine bears are excellent swimmers. On land, they might look large and ungainly, but don’t let that fool you. Like all bears, polar bears are capable of running at speeds up to 35mph. Of course, in order to conserve energy and prevent overheating, the bears do not spend their time running about. When you are the biggest and baddest in the neighborhood, you can afford to relax. So they spend a lot of time sleeping. They will wait, immobile, for hours at a breathing hole, biding their time until the precise moment a hapless seal pops out to take a breath. Then, with one powerful blow of their forepaw, dinner is served. An adult polar bear is massively muscled, strong and able to haul prey over 600 pounds. One swipe of that deadly paw can easily kill a 500 pound seal. Although they will take advantage of other food sources, such as beluga whales, sea birds and their eggs, young walrus and fish, their diet consists mainly of seal. Two species to be exact: the mainstay, ringed seal and to a smaller degree, bearded seals.

Mating takes place from March through June and the female bear then experiences what is known as delayed implantation. During this process, the fertilized ovum divides itself several times and then floats freely in the uterus until, after about six months, it reattaches itself to the uterine wall to resume development. If the bear has had a poor time of it and she has not put on enough fat reserves, the embryo will not implant. Only a pregnant female will hibernate and if the embryo is viable, the cubs will be born in their den between November and January and will stay with their mothers for a couple of years.

Ellis discusses the various populations around the world in great detail. It is fascinating to learn about the remarkable relationship that many native peoples have with the bear and to learn how human impact, most notably climate change, is pushing the polar bear to the brink. Because they are dependent on sea ice as a hunting platform, as the polar ice melts into the sea, so does the bear’s ability to successfully hunt. Polar bears are excellent swimmers, but that is not how they stalk and capture their prey. They do it by waiting on the ice for the perfect moment to grab their food source as it surfaces to breathe. Because of ice melt, seals have been forced to move into more inaccessible areas, thereby depriving bears of their prey. In addition, as our temperature warms, there is less snow for females to dig dens. Currently, there are only about 22,000 bears left in the wild, down about 50% in just 20 years.

After reading this book, I thought about all the "Global Warming Naysayers" out there. I thought, how can they deny this is happening? The Arctic is one of the regions that will show the results of climate change most rapidly. It is the perfect petri dish in which to demonstrate what is happening to our planet while the polar bear is an ideal specimen, illustrating with unfortunate clarity what happens to a species when the environment that it was superbly suited for undergoes a swift and severe change. No longer the dominant species in polar regions (for man has taken on that mantle and is thus destroying its habitat, livelihood and future), the polar bear now struggles to survive.

For hundreds of years, we have harassed, killed and conquered this remarkable animal. What we are inflicting on it now, through our impact on climate, is just the final indignity. We can change this. We must change this. The polar bear is not the only animal on the edge of extinction thanks to climate change. But, he is surely one of our most well known and beloved and thus, the perfect ambassador for why we need to take action now! It is not too late, but at the rate we are going, it will not be too long before it is. This is an important as well as entertaining book and I was captivated by it. I hope you will be too.

Stella Miller

Note: Richard Ellis will be our guest speaker on September 8, 2010 at the Cold Spring Harbor Library, 7pm. Please check our program page on the website ( for details about the program and to read his biography. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, July 29, 2010


David Yarnold To Join Audubon September 1

New York, NY, July 29, 2010 - EMBARGOED UNTIL 2PM ET ---The National Audubon Society today announced that David Yarnold has been named its new President and Chief Executive Officer, giving new momentum to efforts to connect people with nature and their power to protect it. A passionate conservationist, Yarnold currently serves as Executive Director of Environmental Defense Fund and President of Environmental Defense Action Fund. Prior to that, he was a Pulitzer Prize-winning editor at the San Jose Mercury News.

"David brings proven leadership in the for-profit and non-profit sectors to Audubon at a time when efforts to protect birds, habitats and the resources that sustain us are needed more than ever;" said Holt Thrasher, Audubon's Board Chair. "His leadership ability, his passion for conservation and grassroots action, his communications skills and his organizational expertise all make him the perfect fit for the Audubon of 2010 and beyond."

"David is a boundary-crosser, the kind of flexible thinker and values-based executive that a complex conservation and fundraising landscape demands right now," Thrasher said. "He shares Audubon's traditional passion for birds and its visionary understanding that helping people to protect them will safeguard our own future as well. I have no doubt that David will lead Audubon in expanding its reach to new audiences and elevating its conservation successes to new heights."

Yarnold has been at EDF since April 2005, where he is responsible for all operations, from programs, to development and marketing/communications. He helped expand EDF's innovative corporate partnerships work, focused on EDF's international programs, particularly in China, and helped the organization grow from $52M to $117M in revenue. He is also President of the organization's Action Fund, its political action arm.

"Audubon's mission has never been more relevant. From the grassroots to state houses to national and regional policy, its wingspan is unparalleled," Yarnold said. "I'm excited by the opportunity to work with a nationwide network of Audubon Chapters and Audubon Centers that combine local concern, knowledge and action to equal conservation that makes a difference on a grand scale. It will be an honor to lead an organization whose name has meant 'trust' and 'conservation achievement' for more than a hundred years."

Yarnold's San Jose Mercury News was consistently ranked as one of America's 10 Best Newspapers. His paper was called, "America's Boldest Newspaper" by a panel of international judges. During his time in San Jose, the Mercury News was widely recognized for its commitment to diversity and for its in-depth coverage of technology. He was also one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists for editorial writing in 2005.

"For me, going to Audubon is like going home. Community-based education and action that breeds broader changes has always been engaging and rewarding for me and those are the things Audubon does best," Yarnold said.

He will assume the Presidency of Audubon on Sept 1.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Exploring the Jungle of Panama- Part 3

Every day spent in Panama was filled with tremendous fun and adventure as well as A LOT of sweat, as anyone who has birded or visited the tropics can tell you. Generally when birding, it is best to venture out in the early, EARLY morning, remain indoors or near a pool for the afternoon hours which are often scorching, and then depart for some late-evening hikes in search of animals. When available, night tours are usually productive and worthwhile since a large portion of wildlife is active at night which inlcude many spectacular things such as owls, an array of insects, caimans, kinkajous, oppossums, nightjars, felids, and in Panama, night monkeys! When I disembarked on one of the night tours that the hotel offered, I didn't know exactly what to expect. Although there were no sightings of jaguars or night monkeys, we did get exceptional views of Common Pauraques(a species of nightjar), Oppossums, Spectacled Caimans, nine-foot American Crocodiles, fist-sized Tarantulas, Bats, and Capybara, the largest rodents in the world reaching a size of four feet.

We engaged in other activities as well. It was nice meeting a couple from the states, Jim and Arlene, and a man that tagged along with them named Larry. Of course when I met them, the only english-speaking birders around, I wanted to share my experiences with them. And as I did, they exchanged some of their wonderful sightings. Turns out, they were staying during the same time frame as my dad and I. Since we all bonded and liked each other, we decided it was only natural to go birding together. And birding we did. We traversed the rainforest, grasslands, and marshes sprinkled on the grounds of Gamboa. We picked up some fascinating creatures. Everywhere we turned there were animals, each one different in their own way. With my young, keen eyes and intuitive knowledge of tropical fauna and their awesome sense of humor and stamina, we ticked off 165 species of birds in a 8 day window. Now that number can be viewed in two different ways: high and low. Low in comparison to dogged birders traveling across the isthmus of Panama in hopes of ticking off as many species as possible from the high-altitude cloud forests to the humid rainforests of the lowlands and everything in between; and high in comparison to people who just manage to escape to a paradise like Panama and passively watch the birds. I could be placed in the middle. Although checking off the variety of birds was great, I did not just cross it off my list and move on, but rather studied their intriguing behavior and admired their mesmerizing plumages.

From every aspect you could possibly look, Panama is astounding. Anyone visiting this amazing country would leave happy because they can participate in practically every single hobby enjoyed by Homo sapiens. The multitude of tourists in the country can include but is no way limited to rugged hikers, mountain climbers, surfers, sport fishermen, birders, herpers, scenic-enthusiasts, ecotourists, researchers, and night-lifers. People like you can enjoy the myriad activities offered in Panama like the ones listed above by consulting your local travel agent. I was lucky enough to experience this dream-of-a-country for eight days. Now it's your time to get out and inquire more about Panama. Maybe in the near-future you can, too, enjoy the luxury of this stupendous country!

If you haven't already, read Parts 1 and 2 of my Exploration of Panama.
Also, feel free to have a look at the entire album of my Panama Pics by clicking the link below.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Invasive Species Pull

Wherever you live within the territory of the Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon Society invasive species are present -- be it the stands of Japanese barberry scattered throughout West Hills County Park, the Asian shore crabs found during a stroll along Long Island Sound, the abundant thickets of autumn olive at Stillwell Woods, or the smothering tangle of porcelainberry vines choking native plants at Target Rock National Wildlife Refuge.

Definitionally, invasive species are species that are not native to the natural communities (forests, fields, wetlands, shorelines, etc.) they have colonized and are having significant adverse ecological effects on these communities by outcompeting the native species found within them. Invasives have several advantages over native species that allow them to outcompete the natives: 1) they typically reproduce prolifically by setting seeds early and producing lots of them; 2) they prosper in a wide set of environmental conditions; 3) some produce poisons (allelopathy) that kill other plants; 4) they can modify the environment in ways that encourages further invasives; and 5) they lack the normal suite of predators, parasites, and pathogens that can keep them in check since they didn’t evolve within these communities. Most of the focus on invasive species has been on invasive plants.

One place where HOBAS has been working to control invasive species is at Shu Swamp in Mill Neck. This 65-acre preserve, owned and managed by the North Shore Sanctuaries (NSS), Inc. is well known, among other things, for its spring ephemeral wildflowers. These are species such as yellow trout lily, dwarf ginseng, red trillium, carolina spring beauty and others that bloom in early spring before the leaf-out of trees (taking advantage of unfettered sunlight) and then die back so by mid-summer they are no longer in evidence, hence their name. At Shu Swamp these species are threatened by garlic mustard and english ivy, two species that will likely reduce if not eliminate the spring ephemerals if left unchecked due to their rampant growth.

Out of concern for these beautiful native wildflowers HOBAS, on May 1st, joined with North Shore Sanctuaries and the North Shore Land Alliance for a “garlic mustard pull”. Volunteers walked around on the main trails of the preserve and pulled up all the garlic mustard they could find; much of the garlic mustard was growing amidst, or in close proximity to, the spring ephemerals. The May 1st date was picked on purpose as the plants are large enough to be easily pulled yet before the plants have had a chance to set and disperse seeds. We put the pulled plants into black plastic bags to ensure they would die; the bags were taken by NSS staff to dispose of. As for the english ivy, we cut down a number of vines that were growing up into the taller trees near the stream, threatening to choke them out.

HOBAS will continue to sponsor invasive species control projects, both at Shu Swamp and other parks and preserves, so stay alert for announcements of such activities in future newsletters, on the website and Facebook page if you would like to help in the effort.

John Turner

note: On June 19th, HOBAS also participated in a water chestnut pull at Mill Pond in Oyster Bay. This was a fun day, sponsored by the USFWS and Friends of the Bay!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Exploring the Jungle of Panama- Part 2

There were just so many things I did during my expedition to Panama. As you probably know, the birding was phenomenal! Panama has more bird species than any other country in Central America, even though it is merely the size of South Carolina. Currently, there are 972 species of birds recorded in Panama, that's about 100 more species than Costa Rica. Nevertheless, the best sighting of the trip was not of the famed avifauna, but rather a small mammal that packs charisma and charm. It also happens to be one of my all-time favorite animals: the Rufous-naped Tamarin. The number one "must see" of the trip, for me at least, was the Rufous-naped Tamarin, Saguinus geoffroyi. A tamarin is a type of monkey, more specifically, a callitrichid. Tamarins are widespread within the neotropics, but are centrally located in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest with small populations of Lion, Rufous-naped, and Cotton-topped Tamarins in Southeast Brazil, Eastern Panama, and Northern Columbia, respectively. I was lucky to see six adults roaming through the subcanopy in Metropolitan National Park. If that wasn't enough, two young were gripped onto the back of dad, holding on for dear life as father leaped from branch to branch. And yes, I did say father. Believe it or not, the males are the ones with the burden to bear of raising young in the tamarin family system. Females only do the nursing. That is one feature different from their close cousins of the family Cebidae and also unique among mammals altogether. Another interesting aspect of a tamarin's social group is the cooperative breeding system. The fraternal twins from previous litters help out mom and dad with the new young.

I spent a good hour watching this particular family of tamarins foraging in the understory and lower canopy within Metropolitan National Park. Metropolitan National Park is situated on the outskirts of Panama City, which reminded me of the chaotic island of Manhatten. That's one reason why I thought it would be best to travel there during the weekend as opposed to during the week when the city would be hustling and bustling with commuters. The majority of the park is comprised of tropical semideciduous forest, the only city in Latin America which has this type of ecosystem. With over 500 acres to explore, I came across many species of birds such as Double-toothed and Swallow-tailed Kites, Blue-crowned Motmot, Lineated and Crimson-crested Woodpeckers, Tropical Kingbirds(by far the most common flycatcher in the country), Black-chested Jay, Clay-colored Robin, and Rosy Thrush-Tanager.

After searching for birds and tamarins at M.N.P., we headed over to the island of Flamingo in the Pacific. We stopped at a few sites that seemed packed with birds. I must say, I have never seen so many Magnificent Frigatebirds and Brown Pelicans in my entire life. There had to be over a thousand of these birds. I never thought a Frigatebird would turn out to be, dare I say it, a junk bird! Besides the copious Pelicans and Frigatebirds, many other birds were present on the ocean and along the mangroves including Neotropical Cormorants, Royal and Sandwich Terns, Laughing and Franklin's Gulls, Great and Cattle Egrets, Green Herons, White Ibis, Semipalmated Plovers, and Western and Semipalmated Sandpipers. It was a bit weird to see some species that would be found in the Northeast at the time, but I had the same situation occur when I was in Costa Rica, seeing Chestnut-sided warblers, American Redstarts, Baltimore Orioles, and Great-crested flycatchers, among others, in the towering buttressed trees in a misty tropical setting. After lunch, we proceeded back to Gamboa where I relaxed a bit and rejuvenated for the night safari that I would be attending in just a few hours.

Read Part 3 for more of my adventure in Panama!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Exploring the Jungle of Panama- Part 1

I just got back from an astounding vacation in the tropics. How did I end up there? Well, it all started a few months ago when my parents gave me the opportunity to choose a present for graduation. Now, as a young birder and avid naturalist whose dream is to become a biologist traveling across the globe, I chose the perfect gift for myself: Exploring Panama. You see, my favorite place on planet Earth is the tropical rainforests of Central and South America. Since I was a little boy, I always dreamed about hiking through vast tracts of pristine jungle in search of monkeys, sloths, and gaudy birds. A couple years back, my dream came true. I was given a chance to go to Costa Rica. Now I had the opportunity to do whatever I wished. Instead of having a gigantic graduation party which would bring relatives from across the United States, I chose the option of revisiting the tropics.

At the beginning of this year, my dad and I planned, along with our travel agent, the journey that would take place in just a few months. I did my seemingly endless research and booked everything in my own head and simply passed all of my ideas and agendas off to my agent. Time flew. I began to get excited after the cue of realization came: AP Exams. Managing to get through them was not easy, but I did it. Before I knew it, my dad and I were off to Panama in a four and a half hour flight. The trip lasted eight days. Each day was filled with jam-packed fun and adventure. We left on May 22nd and came home the 29th.

Our first day in Panama: We arrived at Panama City International Airport in the early morning since we flew throughout the night. Jerry, a local guide specialized in history, picked us up and we headed over to our hotel, the Gamboa Rainforest Resort. Although a five-star hotel, GRR is situated on the outer periphery of Soberania National Park, a 48,287 acre park comprised of old-growth and second-growth rainforest teeming with wildlife. We checked in and headed off to our private villa away from the main resort. Our villa was off the beaten path, a feature my dad did not like but one that I loved. Birds, mammals, butterflies, and herps abounded just outside our window. From the overview, we could see the action of the Panama Canal, into the thick canopy of the rainforest, and the small lawns bordering the resort. I didn't let go of my binnoculars once during the trip. We went to many amazing places and met some dynamite people. Read Part 2 for the widlife sightings and more of my amazing trek in the Jungle of Panama.

Here is a small preview of what is to come:

To see the full album of all my Panama Pics, click the link below.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Environmental Advocacy 101

Okay. You have written your check, and mailed the contribution to your favorite conservation group. You smile, satisfied with yourself, knowing you have taken a step towards protecting the environment.

But, did you know that there is so much more you can do? Yes, conservation groups desperately need your money. But don’t stop there. As important a tool as your wallet is, your voice and your physical presence are just as vital.

Offshore drilling for oil. The assault on wolves and other carnivores. Declining species of birds worldwide. Climate change. Habitat destruction. More than ever the conservation movement needs you. And it has never been so easy to be an environmental activist. Every major organization has a website with a “take action” page or link. It is as simple as entering your personal information and checking the “remember me” button. Next, click on tabs and links that will automatically send your letter, fax or email to the proper government official. It literally takes under a minute to do this. You can request action alerts to be sent to your e-mail inbox, to keep you abreast of the hot issues. Reaching your representative is just a mouse click away, but in order to truly be effective, please remember to take a minute and personalize the subject heading and the first couple lines of your email This will ensure that it stands apart from the hundreds or thousands of other similar messages that legislators will get on the same subject. Online petitions are also signed in this way. Several years ago, when drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (“ANWR”) first came to the table, environmental groups gathered over a million electronic signatures. Your signature on these letters and petitions is an extremely powerful tool. If you would rather take the time to write a hand-written letter, just remember that since 9-11 the mail system in DC has changed and regular mail is neither timely nor assured to get there at all, so please either fax your letter to the appropriate office in DC or mail it to your legislator’s district office in your area. That way someone will surely get it and your voice will be heard.

Set up an appointment to meet with your local representative in his or her home office. You will probably meet with their staff, rather than the actual representative, but your message will find its way to its destination.

You can take part in marches and rallies. The energy at these events is almost indescribable; and the air is crackling with this energy, born from a common, united cause. Check the websites of your favorite organizations for information, including carpooling options.

Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper. Politicians pay attention to what their constituents’ opinions are on important issues and this is yet another way for your voice to be heard. Join a Facebook Cause or fan page or follow an organization on Twitter. Sign on-line petitions (Huntington-Oyster Bay Audubon started an on-line petition to help prevent the deaths of raptors at landfills across the country. As the number of signatures rose to almost 5,000, industry reps started contacting us, willing to address the issue!).

In addition, you can also volunteer your time and effort. Help the organizations you belong to with local events and issues. Staff a table at festivals, hand out flyers or volunteer to mail out newsletters. Volunteer to pull out invasive species at your local preserves, monitor nest boxes or other such activities. Join in with other like minded folks and have fun while making a difference!!! Check the websites of your favorite organizations for volunteer opportunities.

Perhaps the most important tool you possess is your ability to vote. Vote for politicians who share your ideals. The League for Conservation Voters has a wonderful website that contains the pro-environmental voting records of your representatives. This will help you with your choice of which candidate best represents your concerns. Remember to vote at a local level also, since these are the candidates who will ultimately decide the fate of the environment right on your doorstep.

Many people do not take these extra steps. One standard reason is time constraints. With the ease of the internet, there is no excuse for that now.

The next time you are debating whether or not to make the extra effort and write a letter, sign a petition, volunteer for a local group or attend a rally, remember that in today’s world of modern technology, it has never been easier to make your voice heard. And then, think about what Margaret Mead once said,

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.”

Indeed, YOU can change the world.

Spring Birding @ Sunken Meadow

A pleasant hike at Sunken Meadow State Park yesterday(4-24-10) from 7:45am-11:00am got me my FOS Yellow warbler and Common Yellowthroat; the former was singing at the edge of the forest and marsh along the Inner Marsh trail at the western end of the park. Calling from the phragmites in the marsh were 2 Common Yellowthroats. The only other warbler species seen included 74 Yellow-rumped warblers and 14 Palm warblers. Down at the cove near the footbridge(Field 3), 3 Northern Shovelers, 3 Green-winged Teal, and 2 Ruddy ducks were the only transient waterfowl besides the resident Gadwall, American Black ducks, and Mallards.

A quick look on the LI Sound produced 3 Common Loons, 2 Horned Grebes, 36 Brant, and 11 Red-breasted Mergansers. The passerines observed were high in numbers but not in diversity. The majority of migrant songbirds consisted of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Brown Creepers, Hermit thrush, and the four warbler species named above. The breeding birds are establishing territory and were quite easy to find: 6 Brown Thrashers, Eastern Towhees, and 5 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, two pairs which are most likely to nest. Foraging at the terminus of the Nissequogue River a ways East of Field 3 were 7 Great Egrets, 11 Snowy Egrets, Greater Yellowlegs, and from another observer, a Spotted sandpiper. 2 Savannah sparrows were feeding on the shoulder of the park road, only noticed after they started singing.

Other fauna present: Mourning Cloak, Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Muskrat, Painted turtles, and Eastern Chipmunks

Some pics of yesterday's outing...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunken Meadow SP- Spring Migrants

My early morning hike from 7:30am-10:30am today at Sunken Meadow State Park got me a few FOY birds. Highlights from this morning included 2 Northern Harrier (Gray Ghost and female) coursing over the Creek at the Western end of the park, a Wild Turkey foraging along the shoulder of the road, 12 Palm Warblers, 3 Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, 4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (also singing), and Barn Swallows gliding above the marsh. Other notable sightings were a Cooper's Hawk hunting above the canopy along the Inner Marsh trail, 6 Osprey, several Wood Ducks, 1 Hermit Thrush, 4 Great Egrets, 2 Snowy Egrets, 1 Northern Shoveler, and 2 Golden-crowned Kinglets. During this past week I had an exceptional encounter with a Red Fox along the Inner Marsh trail. The complete bird list is below.

Great Blue Herons
Great Egret- 4 on tidal flats at Eastern end of park
Snowy Egret- 2 on tidal flats at Eastern end of park
Wood Duck-11
American Black Duck
Northern Shoveler- 1 drake dabbling in Creek at Eastern end of park
Osprey- 6
Northern Harrier- 2, Gray Ghost and female
Cooper's Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Wild Turkey- 1
Great Horned Owl- 2
Belted Kingfisher
Tree Swallows- several dozen
Barn Swallows- FOY, several
Fish Crows
Golden-crowned Kinglets- 2
Ruby-crowned Kinglets- FOY, 4
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher- FOY, 3
Hermit Thrush- 1
Gray Catbird- 7
Palm Warbler- 12
Yellow-rumped Warbler- 81
Eastern Towhee
Song sparrow
Swamp sparrow- 6
White-throated sparrow
Red-winged Blackbird

Other fauna present included several Spring Azures, White-tailed Deer, Red Fox, Eastern Chipmunks, and breeding Alewives

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Birding @ Sunken Meadow SP

My trip to Sunken Meadow SP(Suffolk County) rewarded me my first of the year Red-shouldered Hawk. This particular bird was an immature and was perched along the stream down in the backwater of Sunken Meadow Creek. Pine warblers had a good flight last night. I had a total of seven individuals and the majority of them were singing too. The only other warbler species I could find was Yellow-rumped warbler, several throughout the park. Also in the backwater of the Creek I had 9 Wood ducks, 6 Green-winged Teal, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, 5 Eastern Phoebes, several Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Hermit thrush, and 5 Swamp sparrows. The expansive thicketed area a half mile in on the Inner Marsh trail produced a Brown Thrasher and only a few Eastern towhees.
The waterfowl that were on Sunken Meadow Creek seemed to have moved out since my last trip on Thursday. The only species on the Creek included Gadwall, 4 Common Merganser hens, American Coot, and a handful of Ring-necked ducks and Bufflehead.

I scoped the Long Island Sound from Field 3(eastern end of park) and saw 2 breeding-plumaged Common Loons and about 25 or so Brant. Feeding on the mudflats also at the eastern end of the park were 3 Great Egrets, 2 Great Blue Herons, and two dozen Tree Swallows. The Ospreys were very vocal today and on several occasions were seen bringing nice-sized catches back to the nest. Also doing good for themselves were the 5 Belted Kingfishers hunting on the Sound and in the marsh.

Other fauna present included 2 Mourning Cloaks, Spring Peepers, White-tailed Deer, Painted Turtles, and Eastern Chipmunks.

*All photos were taken today except for the Great Horned Owl which was captured on April 1, 2010