|In the winter geese, ducks and other water birds will seek open places in the ice in wetlands and ponds. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.|
So I was intrigued when I logged into e-bird recently to enter a list and noticed that they were featuring a new app called birdlog, which allows birders to keep track of field observations in real time and syncs with the ebird website. For $4.99 I thought it was worth a try, so this morning I downloaded the app and tried it out this afternoon during a short trip to Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, Massachusetts.
As I walked down the trail, heading toward the boardwalk, I noticed an impressive level of motion and birdsong evident along the path. From behind stone walls, inside brush piles, and along the bare branches of deciduous trees I saw several active White-throated Sparrows and brilliant red Northern Cardinals.
As I was enjoying this informal chorus of avian arias I saw something very large land on the trail ahead of me, just beyond the far edge of a wooden footbridge. I raised my binoculars quickly and confirmed my suspicions, as a Great Blue Heron came into focus. The bird was soon spooked by a loud group of people coming up from behind me, but it landed on a nearby rock sticking up out of the water. While much of the surface of the ponds was covered in a thin layer of ice, the heron soon made a rather ungraceful lunge for one open spot and managed to catch a bright green and yellow sunfish in its bill. It was thrilling to watch, and of course very surprising to see a Great Blue Heron still hanging around eastern Massachusetts. I've seen sporadic reports on e-bird of sightings, but I have definitely never seen one this late in the season before.
|This Great Blue Heron was an unexpected sight so late in the year at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, by this time of year most herons have headed to warmer climes for the winter. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.|
Out along the boardwalk I could see that most of the ponds were covered with ice. The resident Mute Swans were visible, along with two separate groups of Canada Geese, but aside from a small flock flying overhead I didn't see any ducks.
|Mute Swans are native to Eurasia but have escaped from captivity in the United States where they have established breeding populations. Mute Swans are known for being particularly aggressive. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.|
|Canada Geese make their way across a pond at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. Thin, uneven ice makes for tricky footing as these web-footed birds move about. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.|
Overall it was a great outing and I was pleased with the BirdLog app - my only concern is how much power it might draw from my phone, which could be an issue on longer outings, so I'll need to keep an eye on that. Otherwise it was a great asset in the field and as I think it will be a valuable tool as I attempt to tackle my Massachusetts big year in 2013.
In all I managed 18 species in about an hour and forty five minutes and got to enjoy the winter landscape. I don't think I could ask for much more.
Thanks for reading.
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.