Monday, November 15, 2010

Hello, USA

Seeing two lifers on the day you land in a new country is cool. It happened when we'd stopped at a 'rest area' somewhere on the way to PA, after having picked me up at Newark airport. The ride was a long one (almost 5 hours), and these 'rest areas' provide you a nice opportunity to stretch a leg [even if you're a dog] when making long journeys on the broad and luxurious highways in the US.
One was a Tufted Titmouse. A small sparrow-sized bird with a 'tuft' at the back of its head, resembling Robin Hood with his pointed hat. But that's as far as the semblance goes. It's not a green bird and does not have blond hair. It's no good at archery. It's a dull colored bird with a gray back and a white underparts, but with a big black eye that stands out remarkably well against its white face, (perhaps giving it its name?)...

The one I saw was perched right at the top of an almost leafless tree. Without binoculars I was just about able to make out the slight 'tuft' but it was too difficult to make any identification. Thankfully I didn't have to strain my eyes for long because it soon descended upon a nearby bush giving a clear enough view for a positive identification. I had wanted to see this bird while in Canada near Toronto, since it is quite common in this region. I recall sitting in the Marriott hotel in Brampton looking up my Peterson's Fieldguide for common birds that I might see the next morning on a trip to a nearby conservation area. Not having binoculars ready did make the sighting somewhat disappointing, but I wasn't so bad, especially since it was a lifer! Having spent more than 2 months here in the US now, I have seen this bird many times since then, and the best view that I had was actually through my window in the dormitory building! (through binoculars ofcourse!) :)

The other one was a White-Breasted Nuthatch. Nuthatches, in general, are masters at navigating along branches and trunks, able to move in any direction with their strong and agile bodies, even more so than woodpeckers who can only move upwards along a tree-trunk using their strong tails as support. This one was on the same tree as the Titmouse had been a few moments ago although I did not get a good enough view of it that day. Nuthatches are even smaller than sparrows and this makes it very difficult to watch them with any level of satisfaction without binoculars. I could not tell if it was a male or a female, but it did remind me of that trip to Dandeli in the winter of 2009 when I'd first seen a nuthatch (Velvet-Fronted Nuthatches and Chestnut-Bellied Nuthatches). Since then, I did see this species more clearly again, guess where? From my window at the dormitory :)