Saturday, February 28, 2009

Bird on a Wire

I didn't do much birding today which is a first! I am feeling kind of rundown and sick of the cold weather. I did see this red tailed hawk on a wire as I was driving around. I was able to get fairly close to it without spooking it.
I love the picture below and wish it came out better. The hawk stared at me for a few seconds before turning its head and looking forward again. What a rush! To make eye contact with a creature as magnificent as this!
Finally it flew off to join its mate. I watched the two of them flying around for a while in awe.

Have a great Saturday everyone. I am off to sleep for a while.

Friday, February 27, 2009

My Backyard Today

My backyard was very busy today. The blue jay above uses this tree to perch upon to search for peanuts.
The goldfinch shows off a little more yellow this week as he eats thistle.

The house finch takes a moment to pose for a picture.

The mockingbird sits on top of my brush pile and surveys the scene.

A lone crow lands on my neighbors branch.

Squiggy comes for breakfast and never leaves.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Peregrine Peek-a-Boo

My skywatch post is the post directly below this one. I had to post this today to show my co-workers tomorrow. ;o)
The maintenance man to our building called me this afternoon to tell me that one of the peregrines was on the ledge of our building and to get up there quickly for a photo opportunity. He was able to get some really good photos of one yesterday and told me they have been spending a lot of their time on the ledge over the past couple of days. I ran up there of course and there was one of the falcon's sitting on the lower ledge showing only its face.

I so wanted it to get up on the ledge where I could get a full body shot but it didn't want to cooperate. I will be going up there next week to see if I can get both of them in a close up! The falcons won't nest here because there is no shelter. They will come up here to catch the rays and look for pigeons though! Tim (the maintenance man told me he has even found pigeon carcases on this ledge so I am guessing they dine here as well.

On a sad note, my neighbor had a fire this afternoon while I was at work (not the neighbor I bird with). I got home this evening and sadly this is all that is left of their beautiful home. I sat there and looked at the house with tears rolling down my eyes. I can't even imagine your home burning to the ground. All of your memories, personal belongings, etc. gone in a day. Very sad indeed.

Skywatch Friday-Man Made vs Natures Own

An airplane that flys past my house every Saturday

A Turkey Vulture that flys past my house ever Saturday

I prefer that Turkey Vulture myself. I love to watch it soar in the sky and wish I could be up there with it looking at my tiny house with the air guiding me along. If only I had wings.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

House Finch Sings for me-First Time!

I decided to take a walk this afternoon after my computer crashed at work again (they supposedly fixed it, but it is worse than before). Anyhow, while walking in the small park in downtown Worcester, I could hear the sound of a bird that almost sounded like a goldfinch, but a little different. I used my ears to guide me to the bird and this is what I saw.
One lone little male house finch having a party of his own on a crab apple tree. I was very close to him and I don't think he ever noticed me. In the picture above, he is eyeballing the crab apples above him to see if they look any better than the ones below.

He looks to his left to see if those are appealing.

Then he looks at the ones right below him to size up their appeal.

Unable to resist the temptation, he takes a bite.
The song was so cute, that I couldn't resist trying video for the first time. It came out all right, but is a little more challenging than I thought it would be. The video is 30 seconds long of which the last 4 seconds or so is a video of the ground. I forgot to shut my camera off when I took it away from the bird and hence the grass footage. HA! If you want to hear his song than play the video.

Very cool. I never knew the house finch had such a sweet song. I also never knew house finches were in our downtown area. Every week I am going to try and get outside during lunch to see if I can find another new species to add to my downtown bird list!

Morning has broken like.......

Way back in late October, I was complaining about how dark it was outside before I had to venture off to work. I missed the days I could look at the bird feeder activity in my yard before hitting the road. Now it just starts getting light here about 6am and by 7am the sunlight hits the feeding section to my yard perfectly. I always wish I could go to work a little late to take advantage of this sun that only stays in this position for about an hour.
The goldfinches and the juncos are always the first to get to my feeders every morning. I love taking photos of goldfinches. Their color and slow demeanor is just screaming to me for a photo.

And of course the many squirrels I get in my yard who all fight over the coconut feeder. I am convinced they come to my yard right at this time because they know they will be bathed in sunlight as they eat their breakfast.
Spring is indeed on the way, despite what the temperature says.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Peregrine Falcon Update-Week of Feb 23rd

Not much of an update this week. The pair have been hanging around the spot I am hoping they decide to nest in. I think this is the female above. She was flying from one building over to their favorite hangout place. It was incredibly cold on the 6th. floor to the parking garage I chose to take these at. My fingers were so cold that they ached with pain. I didn't care though because I have been dying to get better closeups of the falcons in flight.
While I was up at the parking garage a few people parking their cars asked me what I was doing out of curiosity. I pointed them to the falcons and they were shocked that they work downtown and never saw them before.

I now have all of the maintenance men, parking attendants and security guards calling me whenever they spot them to give me an update. The falcons are generating a ton of interest and all of us are eager to see where they will make their home for the summer to have their babies.

My guess is that I will know for certain next week where they decide to roost. I am just waiting for the male to start doing his aerial mating ritual which he has yet to do. I guess he didn't get the email that spring is near and he better start courting his woman. She may be the only falcon around but he shouldn't be taking it for granted that she will want to spend another year with him without any romance. ;o)

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Path Well Taken

I am truly starting to believe that everything happens for a reason. Birding to me has always been about song birds. How I love them all. They are colorful, tiny and sing the most beautiful songs. I could spend hours watching them and often do. As most birders know, many of the song birds we love so much are not around as much during the winter. This has been frustrating to me until I decided to open up my eyes and see what else is out there. In the past two weeks I am paying more attention to birds of prey and water fowl.

I am really starting to enjoy looking at the various mergensers that live within the Blackstone River. I find most of them along the bike trail I go to almost every weekend. The one above was swimming by herself as I watched her totally transfixed by her graceful swimming and the gentle ripples of water she made with each splendid stroke.
The male hooded mergenser is such a beauty. I watched a group of them on Sunday morning appreciating all of their colorful feathers and markings. As I watched, my thoughts started wandering and crept into my mind. I have used this bike path since it first opened which was approximately 4 years ago. In the past, I would lace up my sneakers and run the length of the path with a timer to see if I could break my record each time I ran it. I would use various points of the river as benchmarks on progress and measurement.

Were the ducks here all of this time and I had just never noticed? How could I not have seen a bird as lovely as this even if I wasn't into birding? It didn't take me long to get my answer........ I was too busy running miles, projects, schedules and responsibilities to pay any attention to much of anything. I watch the ducks fly off and feel somehow cheated of the first half of my life by my own doings. All that time there was so much out there for me to see, but I never thought to open my eyes.

The bike path to me is no longer a running track. Most of the people who use it are walkers, runners or bicyclists. We all know each other by now and nod our polite hellos as we pass but they all leave me far behind. I am the one who has noticed the beaver dam over where the heron will build her nest. I am the one who noticed a new bulb flower growing slowly in the corner near the pine tree and I am the one who notices the mergensers swimming gracefully along the river.

I guess it's true what they say about one choosing ones own path in life. Many of us use this same path every day, but for our own various reasons. I walk along the Blackstone River happy that I have finally found true happiness. It is indeed the path well taken.

Bird Photography Weekly-Red Tailed Hawk

This photographic opportunity was ironically enough handed to me. I spent most of my Saturday morning in some woods in Grafton, Massachusetts trying to get some decent photos of a red tailed hawk that kept soaring past me, but not so much that I could take a worthy photo.

I finally gave up, got in my car and was driving to my next destination when suddenly I could see a car full of people pulled over on the side of the road with their fingers pointing toward the sky. I looked up and noticed the hawk was going toward the direction of the elementary school and immediately followed. It sat long enough for me to turn on my camera, unroll my window, zoom in just a tad and then click. I was going to zoom in a little more and it flew off. This prompted me to put my car in park ,get out of my car and attempt a couple of more photos in flight before it took off. It was exhausting and very quick so I couldn't keep up with it.

While very happy with my first photos of a red tailed, I do wish it would have sat still a little longer for me so I could get a few more pictures. Do hawks ever sit still? Such gorgeous birds!!

For more great bird photography pictures go to Bird Photography Weekly over at my sidebar.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Painting the Town Red!!!

Check it out all!!! The red winged blackbirds are back!! What I find very odd is that I was out birding all day yesterday and didn't hear one at all. This morning I go to the wetlands across the street from me and all I could hear were blackbirds. How I missed that sound. I sat there for about 20 minutes just listening to them and their call. The funny thing was that I couldn't see them. I was lucky to get the couple of photos that I did. The one above was so far away I had to zoom to full capacity which made the photo a little fuzzy unfortunately. Have no fear though, in two more weeks I will get fantastic photos because we get dozens of them in my area. I am hoping they discover my feeders for better photos!
A lone male cardinal. I have not had the opportunity to take a decent cardinal photo with my new camera. They have been extremely skittish this year and have impeccable hearing. Once I get close enough for a photo, off they fly!

Finally, a red tailed hawk. I was driving down the street and saw this one on the side of the road, perched on a branch. I pull over to the next side street and get out of my car hoping for at least one photo. I got the one photo and off it flew before I could zoom more or use my flash.

This is my second red tailed hawk sighting this weekend. I have some fairly good red tailed pictures (at least for me anyway), that I am saving for tomorrow. I have found my new favorite hawk. They have really sweet faces!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Sunny Saturday for Birding

Today was sunny and in the upper 30's which makes for perfect birding weather. I took full advantage of it and started out my day fairly early. I went to my usual places and decided to focus on and photograph my every day birds versus obsessing over the lifers I have yet to see. I have been so fixated on putting another check on my list lately that I have somehow lost sight of why I started birding in the first place which is to appreciate birds.

I decided to give the simple crow his time in the spotlight and took a few photos of one standing hawk guard. Many people don't care for crows much but I happen to really like them. They are comical and extremely intelligent. I can spend hours watching them communicate with one another, play on tree tops and stalk hawks. They are also one of my best way of spotting hawks. Once I hear a bunch of crows crowing, I know a hawk can't be too far away and get my camera ready.

The pretty robin up in a tree. I actually can't believe how well this photo came out because green wire fencing was between the both of us. I used manual focus to concentrate on him and that softened the fencing. The ground is starting to thaw so I actually saw a couple of robins on the ground today searching for worms. I was hoping they succeeded as I am sure they are sick of berries by now.
My nemesis bird the great blue heron. It actually struck a pose for me today instead of yelling at me a taking off like she normally does. I have never seen it out of the water before and found it odd. I am wondering where it is going to make its nest. My guess is around this area of the river because it is there every time I pass by it.
A ring billed gull? walks on ice. These gulls are smart little critters. They all flock around the ice fisherman in hopes they can get some scraps of some sort. There were literally dozens of them out there hoping for the fisherman's success.
Lastly is my weekly bird I am not sure of. I am guessing a female hooded mergenser but the red breasted mergencer looks very similar in my Peterson guide. Can someone please confirm to me that this is a hooded? Thanks.

It looks as if I will be doing most of my birding tomorrow from my kitchen window. We are supposed to get snow!!!! Arrrggg!!! Just when it was all starting to melt. Enjoy your Saturday everyone.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bird Fight, Flight & Feathers

FYI: Very cool story alert that I got from Yahoo News on my sidebard. A NYT story on people helping Whooping Cranes migrate. AWESOME STORY! Cool Bird Story

Today was the day that old man winter decided to come back and remind me spring is still a little while away. The wind blew fiercely as I went about filling up the feeders. I knew it was going to be one of those days when I looked over at my neighbors tree and saw about 50 starlings on it and eye balling my feeders. With no will to fight them, I went back indoors and decided to watch

The starlings came and the feathers flew. They love my suet and will fight to the death to get a piece of it. The picture above is a good example of the type of war fare the starlings are capable of in my peaceful back yard. The others perch upon the green fencing directly behind the suet feeder. I put that up as a deterrent to neighborhood cats getting to the birds. I have the regular fencing up there too and wanted to get rid of the green wiring but it is frozen solid into the ground!! It looks like I am stuck with the convenient perching spot for the starlings for the time being.

While this goes on the other birds watch along with me. I often wonder what they think of the fighting and the starlings in general. Do the starlings annoy them just as much as they do me? I am guessing the answer is yes.

Finally this little goldfinch is brave enough to fly to the Nyjer feeder for a little breakfast. I have to laugh seeing all of the finches on the tube feeder. They will take a little nibble of their meal and then turn their heads to watch the fighting. The gold finches make me smile every time I see them. They are such optimistic birds with their subdued mannerisms and cheerful call.

The junco watches too and is a little hesitant to go join the others in his flock who are directly below the starlings. The juncos know with all of that fighting, that suet crumbs will fall to the ground for a convenient meal.

The mockingbird on the other hand could care less what the starlings are doing. It goes about its business and has recently discovered my bird bath. If the starlings do decide to give this bird an attitude, he is a force to be reckoned with and will fight right back. He didn't want any part of that today though and spent most of the afternoon with his lady friend on my privet tree.

The woodpecker watches and is obviously annoyed that the starlings have decided to hijack her favorite suet feeder. She waits patiently for her turn and nibbles on peanuts in the coconut feeder instead.

Tomorrow will be worse. The starlings are at their most obnoxious right before a snow storm. They remind me of the folks you see at the grocery store stocking up on bread, eggs and milk before the first flake falls. We are expecting snow this weekend and the starlings will know this and take over my yard. This is why I will be birding elsewhere. Time to make more suet I guess.

Does anyone know when starling flocks start thinning out some? Right now a flock of 10 of these birds would be like heaven to me. I cannot handle the amount I am getting right about now. Spring cannot come soon enough for me.


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