Spring time is time for NestWatch

It was a cold, long winter, but, spring has finally arrived!! The yard is like an emerald carpet and the the buds on the trees are starting to bloom. This also means that NestWatch is in full swing and that means looking out for and reporting on the nests in and around my home. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology uses the data provided by myself and other “citizen scientists” to learn about and help birds. I look forward to it each spring. Last year we had a barn swallow nest right above the front door of our home, a Bluebird nest in my sparrow resistant bird house and a Northern Mockingbird nest all within 80 feet from our home. What species will want to nest close by this year? I can’t wait!!!

Bluebirds in Winter

I always wonder what the Bluebirds in our area do after the nesting season ends.  In the summer, I hear them around in a nearby tree while Im walking the dogs or while I’m working in the garden, however, I usually don’t see them in the yard.  When fall comes, they seem to come around again, checking out my Bluebird houses as a potential roost or mealworm feeder.  In the winter, I have been fortunate to have 5-10 Bluebirds visit my mealworm feeder every day.  I hope this winter will be no different.  I am so looking forward to Bluebird watching this winter and capturing some great pictures of these sweet birds.

Another Life Bird – Spruce Grouse!

I was driving home from work earlier this month and along a road I travel twice each day I saw a bird that I have never seen before, a Spruce Grouse!  The road is a two lane road with small working farms and fields.  Near the end of the road there is an area of dense woodland and just off the shoulder on the driver’s side was the bird.  I had a good look at him as I approached and drove by.  I tried to imprint what I was seeing so I could look it up as soon as I got home – oh how I wish I could have stopped and taken a picture!!   Anyway he was gorgeous, a good sized bird over a foot tall.  He was standing perfectly still as I drove by.  He was spotted black and grey, eye comb was red with tail that was black with white.  I knew that he had to be some kind of grouse and I quickly found him in my field guide.  I understand from my master birder that this was truly an amazing bird to add to my life list.

Just sit and watch!

Over the last couple of days I had 30 minutes here and there where I was able to just sit down and watch the birds in my backyard.  It’s amazing that what you can see if you just listen and watch!!  In the last two days, I saw a Yellow Warbler in our Dogwood, a Baltimore Oriole on my neighbor’s pine tree, a pair of Eastern Bluebirds, a pair of Northern Mockingbirds, numerous feisty American Goldfinches and so much more.  I need to do more of this!!

Checking out the Accommodations

Bluebirds are back and looking for nest boxes to build their nests.  Its been a couple of years since I had a pair make one of my bluebird houses home.  The lack of a Bluebird nest could be caused by the House Sparrows that compete for the same space – despite my efforts to clear out their nests.  It could be the Northern Mockingbirds that nest close by and chase the Bluebirds out of their territory.  Whatever the issue, I’m trying a new strategy.  I have removed most of my feeders, excluding the mealworm feeder to keep the bird traffic down in the yard.  I have replaced the current mealworm feeder with one that the Bluebirds can enter, but, the entrance is too small for the Mockingbirds.  I have also added a House Sparrow resistant birdhouse and installed that about 5-10 feet from the other birdhouse in the yard.  So far I have been rewarded with a pair checking out the new accommodations!!IMG_1621 IMG_1615

BirdingatHome on the Road

Osprey in Florida Target Parking LotSand Hill CraneFlorida Duck

Just got back from vacationing in Florida.  I took my camera, field guide and with open ears worked on my life list.  My life list is my list of birds that I have identified in my lifetime as a birder.  The new species that I was able to add this time was the Osprey.  I identified them in a Target parking lot of all places, north east of Tampa.  They had built their nest on one of the lights.

 

 

Check out the head study of the Sand Hill Crane I captured while playing golf and the duck in a pond.  Enjoy!

Wow!! An American Kestrel

American KestrelBirding at home is all about watching and observing what’s outside your window.  I was sitting next to the window over the weekend and something caught my eye.  I looked out and in the distance over the field a bird was hovering over something.  I watched it fly to one of the small evergreens in field and perch on the top.  I ran and got my camera because I couldn’t identify what type of bird it was without a closer look.  While I was setting up the camera, the bird flew to another evergreen even closer than the first one.  I was able to capture the shot below and identify it as an American Kestrel!!  This is a beautiful bird of prey – a falcon.  Another bird for my life list!!

Migration has started!!

Over the last three days I have seen many signs of spring migration.  It started with wave after wave of Canada Geese filling the skies and gathering in old corn fields from last year.  Then I saw my first American Robin of the year and many Red-winged Blackbirds near my feeders.

Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk

This winter I have had a number of opportunities to photograph hawks as they check out our bird feeders for a snack of the “winged” kind.  I have found it a real challenge to tell the difference between the Sharp-shinned Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk.  They are so similar!  The field guide indicates that the Sharp-shinned Hawk has a more squared-off tail, while the Cooper’s Hawk tail is longer and rounded at the corners.  The Sharp-shinned Hawk’s crown is similar to the back in color, while the Cooper’s Hawk appears to have a cap, darker than the back color.  I think I finally figured it out, thanks to the ability to study the differences in these photos I took over the last few weeks.

Note squared-off tail

Note squared-off tail

Note cap on crown
Note cap on crown

 

Peek a Boo

The Bluebird pair that visit my feeder frequently stopped by for a mealworm dinner at the end of the day today.  I love the way the male stands guard while the female helps herself to the mealworms first.  Bluebirds are tolerant of humans and the female poked her head out of the feeder and posed so I could take quite a few photos of her.  This photo was my favorite.  I really hope they stay around through the spring and check out my new Bluebird house!!

Female Bluebird peeking out of my mealworm feeder

Female Bluebird peeking out of my mealworm feeder