Birding with pictures!

This Christmas I was blessed to receive a new camera.  No more iPhone pictures!!  Birding with a good camera allows me to identify birds easily.  A good photo allows time to study their characteristics or the ability to magnify for easier identification.  The photos attached are taken with my new Canon Powershot and are the birds that visited my backyard over the holidays. IMG_0270 Mr.Bluebird Hawk IMG_0198 Dark-eyed Junco IMG_0070 American Tree Sparrow

New Year’s Resolutions for Birding at Home

At this time of year many of us consider our resolutions for the new year.  I decided to use some of my key lessons from last year to identify resolutions for this year.  If you look in the archive you can find the entries that inspired these 2013 New Year Resolutions.

1. Learn more songs and calls of birds.  I want to enjoy identifying more birds by ear than last year.

2.  Put up a new Bluebird house

3. Introduce more people to the joys and rewards of birding at home

4. Add more plants to my garden to invite more types of birds

5. Recommit to logging more data about nests in my area for Nestwatch

Grey ghost

Nature’s Christmas gift to me today was spotting, what I believe to be, a Northern Harrier!!  Watching from our enclosed porch, the raptor cruised low over the field behind our house.  I had never seen a hawk fly low like this before.  It seemed to skim over the tall grass while hunting, absolutely beautiful!!  The single best indication to me that this was a Northern Harrier was the white rump at the top of a long tail.  Yep, another bird to add to my life list!!!

Warning: Winter bird feeder intruder

Spotted a large bird in the tree at the north end of our yard.  Using my binoculars I was able to identify it as an adult Cooper’s Hawk.  It sat in the tree, quite majestically, looking around.  The Cooper’s Hawk frequents the feeders in the winter, not for the seed that they contain, but for the song birds that visit them.  At this time, the feeders were empty as the hawk presence probably sent them looking for cover.  After a few minutes, the hawk flew away.

Cooper’s Hawk on the hunt

Today as I was working from home the flash of a large bird caught my eye.  I looked up, but, didn’t see anything at first.  I looked around at my other feeders and bird bath and there wasn’t another bird in sight.  Then I saw it!   It was a immature Cooper’s Hawk on the ground by one of my feeders.  It leaped into the bush just below the feeder looking for one of the song birds that may have taken cover there.  While it was doing that I grabbed my iPhone and positioned myself to take the pictures attached to this post.

After not having any luck catching his meal, the hawk perched on our porch and then on our tiki torch and looked around.  This gave me a good chance to take some pictures and identify the bird.  His tail was very long and narrow with white and brown bands with the tip being white.  The streaking on his breast was fine and his head was a lighter brown.

After a few minutes, he dived one more time (see picture) and again was unsuccessful.  Then he flew away.  It is truly a thrill to see this bird up close!!

It’s a party!

It was about 6:30 pm when I looked out and saw a number of birds on the southeast corner bird house in my yard.  They looked like they could be Bluebirds so I quickly grabbed my binoculars and took a look.  Yep, they were bluebirds!!  Not just one or two, but, four!  They were all perched on top of the house and they looked like young birds.  They looked this year’s fledglings because they still had some spotting and a clear ring around the eyes.  Their underparts were white with a washed out rust-brown.  I really wanted to get a picture, but, I was too far away for my iPhone to get a good picture.  Anyway, after just a few seconds, they flew away.    It was short, but, so sweet, just like a Bluebird!!

Getting restless

When the Canada Geese start flying in v-formation low over our house I can tell they are getting restless. This happened a few times over the weekend. They fly so low I can here the swoosh sound that their wings make as the fly by. The also tend to be very vocal as the encourage the leader at point. Shorter days and longer, cooler nights signal the winds of change are coming and the geese can feel it!

Finches are a favorite

If you listen carefully you may hear American Goldfinch fledglings calling for food.  They have been very noisy lately and very entertaining!  While I was working in my garden today, this little guy never stopped calling for food by flapping his wings and tweeting to his parents.  I was able to get close enough for a number of photos with my iPhone.  This was one of the best!

If you observe carefully you may notice that the male finches are losing their bright yellow summer coloring for the more subdued yellow/green feathers of fall.  It will be more difficult to tell the difference between the males and females.  Finches are one of my favorites because they are feisty, have a cute “sweeyeet” call and a loopy flight pattern that is fun to watch as they come in to feed.

Death by Glass

A peaceful breakfast on a beautiful cool, sunny morning was interrupted by the sudden flush of birds and the sound of impact as one of them flew into our window.  That type of disturbing interruption can only mean one thing – a hawk.  I looked out and saw a Mourning Dove laying helplessly on our porch.  At first, I thought it might only be stunned and was hoping that it would collect itself and fly away, however, when it began to convulse I knew the end was near and in less than a minute it was gone.  Shortly after that, the hawk arrived and landed not more than 15 feet from the dead bird.  I was hoping that it would take the Mourning Dove and relieve me from having to clean up the mess he caused, but, after a short time the hawk flew away without it.  By what I could see, I would say the intruder was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk, now I must go out and clean up the mess!

Summer of the Hummer

The has been the summer of Hummingbirds in my garden this year. I have worked tirelessly to choose the most colorful and nectar filled flowers to attract these amazing birds and I really succeeded this year! At anytime during the day, I can look out in the backyard at my garden and see one or more hummers busily collecting nectar or guarding their territory. All summer I was hoping for a close encounter with a hummer and on this day it happened!