Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Occoquan, Virginia & Occoquan NWR

Great Blue Heron & lunch? Occoquan Water Treatment Plant Dam, VA. We watched this heron struggle with this immense catch for quite awhile while some human fishermen looked on enviously. We left before he had figured out what to do with it.
Eastern Kingbird. Occoquan NWR. We enjoyed watching this kingbird periodically fly out and gnat catch. The white band on the tail was quite distinctive.
Northern Mockingbird, Occoquan NWR. May 2005. Not an unusual bird, but I liked the photo.
Possible 1st year Blue Grosbeak? Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge. Still trying to figure this one out. Any help appreciated. May 2005.
Possible 1st year Blue Grosbeak? Occoquan National Wildlife Refuge. Still trying to figure this one out. Any help appreciated. May 2005.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Monday Morning Bird Walk, Huntley Meadows, VA

Green Heron, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA. We got a good look at this heron, off the informal trail at Huntley Meadows.
Immature tree swallows, Huntley Meadows, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. The adult kept nearby, watching over these young'uns.
Pileated Woodpecker, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. This handsome fellow flew up while we were on the informal path at Huntley, then flew on and drummed very loudly just a few feet away!
White-Eyed Vireo, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA. The highlight of my morning until we saw the ovenbird. We stalked this vireo for about fifteen minutes. I only got to snap two pictures, and this one turned out great! Can you tell why it is a white-eyed vireo?
Canada Geese, Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. It was good to see the goslinngs everywhere.
Ovenbird, Huntley Meadows, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. We were walking in the woods along an informal path when this ovenbird walked across the path right in front of us! Life bird.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

American Goldfinches, backyard feeder, Alexandria, VA. The birds have been hitting the feeders pretty hard these days. Yesterday we had a ruby-throated hummingbird (finally!), a red-bellied woodpecker, a carolina wren, a gray catbird, a northern mockingbird, a brown thrasher (on the deck, not the feeder), the pictured goldfinches, and a pair of cardinals. Today, we've also had all of the above except the thrasher and adding mourning doves, a female house sparrow and a downy woodpecker. Both also pictured below.
Downy woodpecker, backyard feeder, Alexandria, VA.
House sparrow, female. Backyard feeder, Alexandria, VA. This female has been a frequent visitor to the feeder, but I seldom see any male house sparrows at the feeder.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Leesylvania State Park, May 9, 2005

Purple Martins, Leesylvania State Park, VA. We went for a hike to see the ruins of the Lee Mansion (Robert E. Lee's grandparents). These purple martins were on one of two martin houses near the Visitor's Center. On the hike we also saw two great blue herons, an osprey catching a fish, a white-throated sparrow (much to my surprise--I thought they were all gone!), a white-breasted nuthatch (who eluded my best efforts to photograph him), a downy woodpecker, a gray catbird, a mockingbird, a titmouse and a cardinal.

We also heard a great many birds that I can't identify yet. It's like learning a foreign language!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Blue-gray gnatcatcher, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. This is the same gnatcatcher nest that I published last week. This week, we saw the gnatcatcher fly into the nest. The eye of the gnatcatcher is just barely visible, center top, in the upside-down "V" formed where two branches meet.
Baltimore Oriole, female and nest, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. We stopped, coming and going along the marsh trail, to watch this female building her nest. She would fly into the nest and work from inside it for about five minutes. We could see the pendant nest moving and bulging like a sackful of snakes. She had emerged here to chase off an immature orchard oriole.
Baltimore Oriole, immature. Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. The bold black head is just coming in.
Song Sparrow, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. Not a very good picture, but we got a good look at the sparrow before it flew off.
Osprey in flight, Belle Haven Marina, Alexandria, VA. The sun shining through the feathers is just wonderful!
Eastern Kingbird, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. We saw several of these on our walk.
Canada Geese with goslings, Belle Haven Marina, Alexandria, VA. The first goslings I've seen this year.
Tree swallow, Belle Haven Marina, Alexandria, VA. The tree swallows are much more likely to pose--and very prettily, too. The group also saw a pair of bank swallows zip by on their way north, but I wasn't paying close enough attention to get my binoculars up in time. I'll know better next time.
Barn Swallow, Belle Haven Marina, Alexandria, VA. There were two of these, sitting on a rope "fence" in the marina, but they were so backlit that it wasn't until I got home that I knew what kind of swallow they were.
Baltimore Oriole, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. We got a wonderful look at this oriole and another as they flitted about the trees near the entrance to the Marsh and marina.
Fred and I spent a day in the Great Falls area. In the early afternoon, we were at a friend's house in Great Falls, where I saw (and heard)a pileated woodpecker and a red shouldered hawk. Then, we drove the short trip to Great Falls National Park, where we joined the crowds walking along the river. This heron was fishing just below the falls. Later, walking along the remnants of the Potowmack Canal, we watched a pileated woodpecker searching for insects in a fallen log near the path. When we left, he was still there.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Savannah Sparrow, Sandy Point State Park, Maryland
Canada Goose in flight, Sandy Point State Park, Maryland. May 2005. We were in the area of Sandy State, so took an hour to sit and watch the freighters come and go under the Cheseapeake Bay bridge.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Blue Jay, backyard, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. The blue jays have discovered my feeders and have been hitting them pretty hard. On the other hand, there haven't been many squirrels....
Gray Catbird, backyard, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. The best pic I've gotten of the catbird. They don't stay very still.
Gray Catbird, backyard, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. I liked the surreal quality of this pic taken just as the catbird took off. The birds seem to have a sixth sense of when I'm going to take a picture.
Downy woodpecker, backyard suet feeder, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. I've had both male and female downies at the feeder.

Monday, May 02, 2005

David Sibley Talk at National Zoo

My sister-in-law Peg invited me to join her at the David Sibley talk at the National Zoo, part of the International Migratory Bird Day celebration. We arrived early and joined the long line of people getting books signed while fellow backyard birder Madeline got us seats in the auditorium. There were so many people getting books signed that Sibley had to sign books again after the talk so that we could start only an hour late.

Sibley is about 44 years old, bespectacled and a somewhat hesitant speaker. His love for his subject comes through, though, and that love, his knowledge of his subject, his self-deprecating humor and the art that is the mainstay of his talk make for an interesting evening.

The child of an ornithologist, he drew his first bird at age seven, a "duck hawk" as it was known then. His slide show included that drawing as well as several other youthful sketches. He dropped out of college after one year to go birding full time. He quoted a friend as saying "there is a fine line between bird watching and standing around like an idiot."

Sibley toyed with the idea of doing his own field guide while in his teens, but it wasn't until he went to Europe and had to depend on a field guide to make IDs that he decided to press forward with the idea. After several false starts, he came up with the arrangement of columns and rows of similar birds on a page that became the Sibley Guide to Birds.

Of course, there was talk about the recent discovery of the ivory-billed woodpecker. Sibley opened the program with the comment that he might have to abandon the talk as he had come down with a condition that could only be cured by a trip to Arkansas. Later he called the discovery a "triumph of the amateur naturalist" while stressing the importance of amateurs. He said each endangered bird represents a threatened ecosystem, and in saving the bird we were also saving an entire community.

A page on the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker, formatted to fit the Sibley Guide to Birds (not the smaller regional field guides), can be downloaded from www.sibleyguides.com. On the website one can also find reprints of his column "Sibley on Birds", syndicated by the New York Times.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Spotted Sandpiper, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. May 2005.
Blue-gray gnatcatcher nest, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. You could barely see this beautiful active nest.
American Redstart, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. May 2005. An hour later, this Redstart was in the same place.
Wolf Spider, Dyke Marsh, Alexandria, VA. This beauty was in a sink in the ladies' room. I used a different sink.