Archive for April, 2012

One of the first semi-serious birders I encounter when I started out years ago was a Brit named Bob Trot, an interesting character.  I remember how he applied the classic characteristics of Type A and Type B personalities to birding. 

Like the typical hard driving Type A personality, a Type A birder rises at dawn, rushes to a nature center, races down trails checking off as many species as possible, then hurries to another hot spot to tally even more birds.  He will drive hours to spend five minutes ticking off a reported rarity.  His most valuable possession is his Life List, Year List, Day List.  More is better.  Type As enjoy accumulating ticks more than watching birds.

Bob was a Type B birder.  He felt you should find a good location and settle in.  Let the birds adapt to your presence.  Have a cup of tea and let the birds come to you.  He felt that the movement involved in constant rushing caused the birds to withdraw.  Being quiet, you blend in with the surrounding.  Birds ignore you and go on with their normal lives.  And you can get to know the birds.

There is some truth to Bob’s philosophy.   Consider the results from the annual Big Sit  – that is an event where participants stay within a 17 foot diameter circle and count how many different species they can see in one day.   Typical results for the Big Sit in Lenoir Preserve in Yonkers have seen upwards of 60-70 species.  I’ve been on many walks that involved driving great distances, hiking for miles through some unpleasant terrain and only tallying half the many birds.  Why bother?

Try to slot your birding friends into a Type A or Type B personality.  Most people are little bit of both.  But every now and then you encounter a pure Type A.  In that case, count be out.

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For most participants in my monthly BirdWalk last Saturday the most memorable sighting occurred near the end.  Standing under a tall tree, we looked up to see a Great Blue Heron perched on a branch about 25 feet above us.   Most people have never looked up at the underside of a heron.  Usually you see them at the water’s edge stalking prey. 

 It is hard to grasp the concept of a large bird with long skinny legs perched on a branch.   But it not uncommon.  Actually, herons (and egrets) nest in trees.   In fact, many of them nest within the same tree or group of trees in what is called a colony.   Once you have seen a heron colony or rookery, it is hard to forget.  But it is still surprising.  We expect shore birds, especially big ones, to be on the ground or shore.

Three other birds combine as the highlight of the Bird Walk – Palm, Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  Yeah, I know none of these are exotic, rare or particularly attractive….but they were the first warblers of the year.  The vanguard of exciting birds to come, the coming attractions, the heralds of the main wave of colorful warblers.  

Hurray for Spring!

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At this time of year the most common questions at the store asked with a degree of surprise is “Do we have hummingbirds around here?  I have never seen one.”

Yes, there are hummingbirds in Lower Westchester.  Many people have never seen one in their backyard; others see them every year.  Why the big disparity?  People who see them have the right habitat and are good observers.  Hummingbirds are tiny, fast, always on the move, and easily dismissed as another insect.  In addition, many hummingbirds are just passing through moving farther north to better habitat.  So they only appear in your yard for a brief visit.  The best way to attract them to your yard and encourage them to linger for a while is to provide a hummingbird feeder and a variety of nectar-rich flowers.

Hummingbirds arrive in Westchester in early May, although a few are seen earlier.  I haven’t heard of any sightings so far this year.  The following link shows a map with the location and date when they were first  reported in 2012.  Looking at the chart you can trace their northward migration.


Hummingbirds are fascinating birds.  Look for them soon in your yard.

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Color Counts

Color always beats basic black and white.  This axiom proved true for photography, motion pictures and TVs.  And I think it applies to birds as well.  Birders prefer to see the more colorful birds than the drab colored birds.  Bright colors are more attractive than streaky brown sparrows.

As I thought about colorful birds I wondered which birds are the most colorful and, therefore, the most popular.  Since birds come in hundreds of colors and color schemes in hard to compare them all.  So I decided to group them into a few different categories.

The first category, which I call Mono-colored Birds, consists of birds that are basically all one color.  This category would include Crows.  They are one color – black all over – but aren’t considered colorful.  The favorite and most colorful birds in the single color category are the N. Cardinal and the Indigo Bunting.  Even experience birders are awed by seeing either of these in brilliant sunlight.





In the second category, Two-toned Birds, are birds with only two basic colors.  Bald Eagles and Chickadees fit in this category.  Although they are popular their popularity is not based on their color scheme.   The top birds in this color category are probably the Goldfinch and Scarlet Tanager. 


I call my favorite color category is called Birds Colored by Pre-Schoolers.   This group includes Wood Duck, Painted Bunting and Harlequin Duck.  None of these have subtle, natural coloring.  It’s hard to imagine now natural selection and evolution resulted in their gaudy coloring.   But I like them and love to see them.






These are my favorite colorful  birds.  Which are your favorites?

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Listened to a motivational talk by a business guru on how to get rich.   He stressed that in any new business the first steps are the most important.

So I applied his theory on how to make a million dollars to the bird store business.     The first step, which is critical, is to start with three million dollars.

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There are many on-line cams that observe the activities of  many nesting birds.  Amoung the best is a 24-hour cam on the nest of Bald Eagles in Decorah, Iowa.  The camera has an excellent view of the nest and, with a zoom lens, shows in fine detail the nesting activities.

There are even recorded segments from previous dayd.  One actually shows the eaglet breaking out of the egg with excellent close up views.

Check it out.  It can be very addictive:



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