Bikes and Birds

I birded almost every single day after going to Prospect Park that first time. I’m almost glad I didn’t go to Oakwood Cemetery; concentrating on one location allowed me to create a semi-complete list of birds found at Prospect Park. It’s a shame I only have less than two weeks’ worth of data. I think that next year, I’ll go during the school year, probably even during the winter. I think it’d be neat to create a year-round history of the park.

Also, I added a new bird to my 2009 NY State list every time I went there. I also left RPI with three lifers (Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Carolina Wren) on my list. I know, I’m slow. But that’s mostly because I wasn’t really able to go out often before college. Ah, freedom.

Also, apparently, no one in Troy birds or uses eBird. I recorded (on eBird) the first Chimney Shift (!) and Ovenbird in the county.

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And now, updates from MA:

My family got a plot of land at the Acton Community Garden. I’ve always wanted to grow my own food. I think that I’m also going to try to get a good history of the community garden, which lies right next to Icehouse Pond.

I’m working on a biking project this summer. My goal is to be able to ride to Great Meadows, have enough energy to bird there for a couple of hours, and ride back. I want to get to the point where I’m using the bike as transportation. It’s a 11.6-mile trip, not counting the biking/walking during the birding, which is not supposed to be bad, but I have zero biking experience, and I don’t want to be completely worn out before birding. I’m starting small– I did a very hilly 5.6-mile loop in the backroads in North Acton/Carlisle today, and it wasn’t so bad. The hills just kind of sucked, plus I think there’s something wrong with the gears on Tiffany’s bike.

I can’t believe I didn’t think to use the backroads last summer. The backroads open up so many possibilities! I just don’t want to ride on Great Road, where the speed limit is 40 mph. I also can’t believe that Great Meadows NWR is about 5.5 miles away from my house, and I’ve never been there. Unacceptable. I will remedy this this summer.

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Digiscoping by Binocular

I practiced digiscoping with binoculars today. I don’t want any more crappy pictures of cool birds, like the Red-bellied Woodpecker set I took on Wednesday. Digiscoping is basically shooting a picture through a spotting scope lens. You can take advantage of the magnifying power of your lens and the camera’s optical zoom to get high magnification. (Your final magnification is the power of your lens multiplied by the camera’s optical zoom. My binoculars are 8x, and my camera is 3x, so that makes 24x the highest magnification that I can get, which is decent.) Depending on your equipment, you can get some pretty high-quality images (and save a ton of money on telephoto lenses).

There are three huge challenges to this (due to my equipment) that usually don’t present with digiscoping in general. First, I’m using binoculars, and they have to be manually held to the camera. Second, my binoculars are out of alignment, so aiming is hard; what you see out of one barrel is not what you see out of the other barrel. Third, my camera is old and has a viewfinder instead of an LCD screen display, so I have to guess and set the binoculars to be slightly unfocused if I want a picture that isn’t a complete blur when using the 3x optical zoom.

View from my room. I practiced digiscoping on the lampost.
View from my room. I practiced digiscoping on the lampost.
Lampost at 8x
Lampost at 8x
At 24x. The aim is off because my binoculars are out of
At 24x. The aim is off because my binoculars are out of alignment.

Adventuring

I went to Prospect Park on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and did some intentional birding for the first time in about a year. We’re in the middle of spring migration, and I did get some good looks at a male Scarlet Tanager, a male American Redstart, a family of Red-bellied woodpeckers, and an Ovenbird. I think that this is the first time I’ve stalked down and actually located a bird. Of course, the fact that time wasn’t an issue (I’m stuck here for two weeks, help) was a plus. I suppose I could’ve just been lazy and checked off the birds I identified by ear, but I also (really) wanted to see them. I’ve made it a rule to not count life birds I’ve heard but not seen, unless the bird in question is an owl. But once I’ve gotten past the barrier of actually seeing a life bird, I’m allowed to count it by ear.

A real tree.
A real tree.
The south side of the park overlooks the Poestenkill River.
The south side of the park overlooks the Poestenkill River.
View of Troy and Albany.
View of Troy and Albany.
Red-bellied Woodpecker; digiscoped through binoculars
Red-bellied Woodpecker; digiscoped through binoculars

Prospect Park is no Mt. Auburn; I only saw a handful of species in a two-hour period, and I had to hunt them down as well. The good thing about birding in the city is that whatever park you’re at is probably going to be a “migrant trap” at at least some level. A city park is like an oasis in an asphalt desert, and will usually concentrate migrating birds. What’s good for birders is usually bad for birds.

I did a lot of planning for near-future trips to Prospect Park and Oakwood Cemetery that would hopefully increase my species count, but then my bike got stolen on Thursday. In broad daylight, too. I came back from Prospect Park at 9:00, and noticed that my bike was missing at around 4:00. I wasn’t the only one who had their bike stolen; apparently, someone was taking advantage of the lack of people on campus. Well, that just shot the trip plan to Oakwood, and possibly fall trips to the river to look for ducks.

I also went to West Hall a couple of times. I’m still working on getting The Lark back and trying to not completely screw Pathetique, which I feel is inevitable. I also tried my hand at the musical genre for the first time. I found and printed “Stars” from Les Miserables. This genre is a lot easier; it’s designed so that playing both hands at once is easier than playing them separately at first (if you know how the music goes, you can cheat and skip counting).

Crazy West Hall Dumpster squirrels
Crazy West Hall Dumpster squirrels