Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Winter Bird Highlights

What? Is it really time for winter bird highlights? When we lived in upstate New York it was time for tapping the maple trees, not compiling bird records. But since it feels like spring already, (especially today; it's about 65 degrees) with the daffodils and pears and cherries blooming, I might as well do it. This winter as been the weirdest one in a long time, with snow in November here, and no snow up in New England for a while. Bird reports have been just as strange. The Snowy Owls have been moving south; the GBBC had around 600 reports in 29 states. And Whooping Cranes have been reported wintering in Indiana and of course in north Alabama, where Operation Migration's flock is wintering at Wheeler NWR. Altogether, the winter of 2011-2012 has been memorable to many birders. The rarities are still coming. The Painted Redstart is still near Ocean Springs, Mississippi (on the Gulf), and a Pink-footed Goose has been spotted in Maryland and places near there. This last one is especially weird. Pink-footed Geese are extremely common in Europe and Asia, and are hunted for sport. But in North America, a Pink-footed Goose is something to wonder at. Dickcissels are moving east, with lots of sightings in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and other places throughout New England. The sightings here in north MS have also been unusual. In the Memphis Chapter of the Tennessee Ornithological Society newsletter, I saw reports of Red Crossbills, a Short-eared Owl, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, and more. But birds in my yard have been pretty much normal. In December, though, we did have our first flock of House Finches since we moved to north Mississippi. Also, I have confirmed that mystery hawk as a Red-shouldered. Why was it so hard? It seems obvious that it wasn't a Broad-winged now. Sometimes, I just need to stop and look closer, I guess. To find more info on how birds are doing, click here. It's a link to a part of the eBird website where you can view maps of data. If you click on "Line Graphs", it will ask you to enter a species name. Once you do that, you can see how that species is doing in a location. You can actually enter more than one species, and see how each of them is doing. You may already know this, but just in case, I'm telling you. 

Also, I took some photos yesterday that I wanted to share. Here they are:

 Northern Mockingbird.

Cherry blossom in the sunset.

Experimenting with shadow photography.

My trusty Bushnell Spotting Scope. (Looks cool in black and white :)

The pear trees along our neighbors' driveway.

Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds.

The sunset. My camera was running out of batteries, but I couldn't resist taking this photo.

So I hope everyone's year lists are nice and long already and they're having a great winter/spring!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count Day 4

Today was the last day of the GBBC! I was a little too tired to get up at 6:30 again this morning, so I slept in until about 8 like I usually do. I had my online Latin class at 11:00 and archery league at 1:00, so today was pretty busy. I did get some birding done in the late afternoon, though. I got 19 species today; making my GBBC total 40 species. I also got an email from eBird (a bird sighting database) asking me for proof for the hawk I've been reporting as a Broad-winged Hawk. They think it is more likely to be a Red-shouldered Hawk, and now that I compare the two more closely, I can see it does look like a Red-shoulder. Here's a photo. What do you think?

 It's not a great photo, but it's the best I have. But just in case you need it, here's another one:

And it's almost the same as the first one. :) Oh, well. I didn't get too many angles. The hawks have been here all winter, and that should mean they're Red-shoulders. But I'm confused by their calls. In my iBird app on my iPod, it sounds like a Red-shoulder. On the Maculay Library from Cornell, it sounds like a Broad-winged. I'll try to figure it out. In the mean time, maybe you can tell just from the field marks?

Thanks and happy trails,


Sunday, February 19, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count Day 3

Okay, I've got to go fast. Today it rained in the morning, so I didn't really get much of an early start. I did, however, get a lifer today. A handsome male Pine Warbler, which I am SO glad I got. It was kind of embarrassing sometimes to say I didn't have it yet. I only got about 15 species today. Oh, well, there's always tomorrow. (The last day of the GBBC!) AND (I'm not done yet:) I decided today that I am going to make a new page on my blog for bird jokes. That's right, bird jokes. I found some really good ones today. Be looking out for it! Oh, yeah, I took some photos:

 A nice male robin. He looked almost like he was posing for me. He kept lifting his head like in this photo.

And the robin wasn't the only thrush around. This male E. Bluebird sat around for me to photograph. He actually stuck around for quite a while.

Until he noticed something. And I noticed it too. It wasn't a bug. It was....

A Pine Warbler!! (I know, kind of a lot of drama for one little bird. But I'm a birder. What did you expect?) He didn't let me get too close. He was hanging around with 2 or 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers. Here's a photo of one of them:

I think he's a male. (You can see why some people call them "Butterbutts":) But then I noticed.....

Some grass. :) But I thought the backlighting was pretty. It made it look so green and lush.

On that note, I conclude my post. Oh, yeah, one more thing. I want to work on my portriat photography. Anybody have any tips?

Thanks for reading! How goes the bird counting?


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count Day 2

So, today started out cloudy and cold. (40 degrees. Scoff away, Northerners :) I went out in the yard at about 7 AM, and spotted 21 species, starting with about 400 grackles and other assorted blackbirds. Then I noticed mallards on the neighbors' pond, a cardinal on the feeder, etc. It was pretty much the norm; a chickadee here, a bluebird there. The only kind of unusual species by our yard's standards was 25 Cedar Waxwings. But it was spoiled a little bit by the fact that I saw some yesterday. :) oh well. It's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow, (maybe even snow!) so I probably won't be seeing much. But you never know what you'll see in just a backyard, right? So I'll do my best and maybe I'll see a little more than chickadees and titmice. And the GBBC itself seems to be doing just fine, according to the map on the website. Warmer temperatures and a lack of snow seem to be making an effect across the country. How's your GBBC going?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count Day 1

Today was the first day of the GBBC!! It started with me getting outside at 6:30 in the morning, and birding for about an hour. In that hour I got 23 species, including 500 Common Grackle, 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler, 2 broad-winged hawks (why are they not in central America?!) and 10 Cedar Waxwings. Then I came in for oatmeal and orange juice. :) My favorite. Also, I think we may have nighthawks in our yard, because one of our mockingbirds was imitating one.

Then, after lunch, we all piled into our van and drove to the Lucius E. Burch Natural Area near Shelby Farms Park. The first species I spotted was two mallards swimming in a nearby pond. Then we ventured down the woodland trail that led along the Wolf River. Though my brothers were rather loud, (scratch that; really loud) I was able to count Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Belted Kingfisher, Northern Flicker, and a lot more. I spotted a little grayish bird that might have been a kinglet, but my brothers scared it away before I could get a good look at it. Oh well. Then we looked over the Ducks Unlimited Wildlife Viewing Area and counted about 15 Mallards, 20 Canada Geese, 6 Gadwall, 12 Killdeer, and 1 Song Sparrow. I wasn't able to get a lot of photos, but here are some of them:

Northern Mockingbird. Taken in our yard.

Eastern Bluebird. Taken in our yard.

Downy Woodpecker. Taken in our yard. What you looking at?

Canada Geese. Taken at the Ducks Unlimited Wildlife Viewing Area.

Red-bellied Woodpecker. Taken at the Lucius E. Burch Natural Area.

And here are some other photos taken along the way:

Today's sunrise in north Mississippi.

Cool clouds over our yard.

A snake (what kind??) on the banks of the Wolf River.

The Wolf River. It isn't very big; it's more like a large creek than a river.

Okay, one more thing. I really want to know why our Broad-winged Hawk pair hasn't migrated south. They've been here all winter. Is it because the winter's been so mild? What do my readers think?

Hope your GBBC going as great as mine!! Good Birding, everybody!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Great Backyard Bird Count

Just wanted to remind everyone the GBBC starts tomorrow, Feb. 17 and lasts until Feb. 20!

Find details here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day!!! I took some photos of my mom's roses for this post:

And, for the fun of it, some bird photos (couldn't resist :)

I found this handsome Broad-winged Hawk in our yard. You can see he's sticking out his leg. I'm not sure why :-/. Do any of my readers know?

This is a kind of bad photo of a Yellow-rumped Warbler. But it was the first one seen in our yard!

I hope y'all are having as great a Valentine's Day as we are down in MS!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Duck Watching at Shelby Farms Park

This week I was able to get in some birding at Shelby Farms Park for the first time! The park is huge, but I only birded one of the medium sized lakes. It was convenient because it was right next to the playground so I could bird while my brothers played. Shelby Farms is especially good for duck watching, partly because of its many lakes, and partly because every year the Shelby Farms Park Conservancy floods a nearby cotton field every winter for waterfowl. We stopped by the field, but the parking lot was too far away for me to make out more than some Canada Geese and Common Mergansers. Shelby Farms is also the home of the world headquarters of Ducks Unlimited, a duck conservancy company. Most people think it's a duck hunting company, since a lot of people in Memphis go duck hunting right over the river in Arkansas. And it is--only they're more about duck hunting the humane way. :) I myself (humanely) hunted some ducks. Here are some photos:

 Some Mallards. There were a lot of Mallards.

A female mallard. I was surprised how close she let me get to her.

I like this photo. I think the reflection adds a nice effect. :)

Some American wigeons. They weren't as friendly as the Mallards, and I wasn't able to get a good photo. There were about 12 swimming around and mingling with the Mallards.

There were also some Ring-necked Ducks swimming around in the middle of the lake. At first I thought they were Lesser Scaup until I saw the rings on their bills. I think they should have been named Ring-billed Ducks instead. :)

Now here are some photos of the lake and the trails around it:

There were a lot of pine trees around the lake. That's probably why it's called Pine Lake :).

Shelby Farms is a really fun place to go, with running trails and a natural area and a playground. It's also really big, like 3 or 4 hundred acres, I think. It looks like a good place for warblers, flycatchers, and vireos in the springtime, so I'm looking forward to when it warms up again!

~Katydids and Bluebirds