Sunday, December 16, 2007

CBC Northern Virginia

Yesterday there was an area wide Christmas Bird Count. I took part with my friend Renee who is a much better birder than I am. No pics, too cold, but we had a great day, including one new life bird for me--the redbreasted nuthatch! Renee is incredibly good at spotting birds. Here's the list:

redbreasted nuthatch
hermit thrush
2 pileated woodpeckers and a possible nesting site
red bellied woodpecker
yellowbellied sapsucker
northern flicker
bald eagle
golden crowned kinglet
song sparrow
white throated sparrow
red tailed hawk
blue jay
morning dove
American crow
Canada geese

Monday, June 04, 2007

Hawk Walk

Driving home a day or so ago, I noticed an osprey flying over a nearby ball field. We'd seen osprey there many times, and had never thought much of it as there is a wetlands nearby. This time, however, the osprey caught my eye as it flew to the top of one of the light posts over the ball field. As I tracked it, I realized there was a nest there!This morning, my husband and I combined our walk to check on the red-shouldered hawk with a walk down to the ball field, about 1/4 mile farther down the road. (It was hot and sunny, so we were glad it wasn't any farther!) We got to see an amazing show just as we got there. Two osprey were on the nest, and two others were trying to land on it but were being fended off by the two on the nest. About the time I got the scope and camera set up, the air show ended. All I got was this one picture of three osprey on the nest.
Our questions--were two pair trying to claim the same nest? Or was this the age old drama of the parents kicking the kids out of the nest? It seems quite late for nest building, and as a follow up, we haven't seen osprey actually on the nest since then, not that we've been hanging around the ball field full time.

While we were sitting on the bleachers watching, a guy pulled in and asked what kind of birds they were; he said that the birds had had nests there for about five years (shows how observant we are) and the kids playing ball enjoyed watching them. He thought the young had already fledged, so perhaps they were indeed the youngsters that we saw.

As for the red-shouldered hawk, we didn't see much, just a little fuzzy crown of the head and a stubby wing flap. But at least the hatchling is still around.

Northern Cardinal on Nest

Here's a picture from today--the female sat on the nest for several minutes at a time and would leave for several minutes at a time. I was able to get a few good pictures of the nest as the leafy branches were wet from yesterday's day-long rain. As they dried, they rose and blocked our view of the nest by the end of the day.
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Northern Cardinal Building Nest

This is definitely the year of the nest. We saw a cardinal building a nest in the crepe myrtle in our front yard, where we've had nests before. I spent a day, off and on, watching her build the nest. She would bring a new piece in, weave it in, then scootch down in the nest and wiggle, I guess to make sure it fit her right. She spent about a day or two doing this (it was well on its way when I saw her). The next day or two, she didn't spend much time on the nest. Then, today, she would come and sit in the nest for several minutes at a time, and then disappear for several minutes at a time. We can't see into the nest, so not sure if there are eggs yet. Here's a video of her building the nest.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Red Shouldered Hawk Nestlng

For the first time, we saw two nestlings at the red shouldered hawk nest (we think there were two). As I describe under the video (previous post), it didn't look like we were going to see much and we couldn't linger. But baby #1 soon popped its head up. It looked like the other one was visible on the left side of the tree trunk you can see in the pictures, but I never got a decent picture. I was lucky to get these. The way the nestlings were moving around, I hope they stay in the nest! The nestling facing the camera directly with its classic hawk beak right by that stick.

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Red Shouldered Hawk Nestlings

We stopped by the hawk nest on our way to the family picnic on Sunday. At first it looked like nothing was happening--no adults were there, when suddenly this little ET head popped up. Seriously, it reminded me of ET! Long neck, big head with eyes on the outside. The only thing that didn't look like ET was the impressive hawk beak. No doubt that this was a raptor! Hopefully we'll be able to get some better pictures soon.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Robin's Nest Update

Apparently the morning I took the robin's nest picture was the last day there was a robin on the nest--lucky shot! I haven't seen a robin on the nest since, but I have been enjoying watching young robins follow a parent around our back yard and noting the differences between parent and offspring, as noted in an earlier post. I love the time of year when the fledglings follow their parents around, acting universally babylike, at least for awhile--standing awkwardly near their parents, twitching their wings and squeeking loudly "feed me feed me".

Friday, May 25, 2007

Food for thought

Larry at the Brownstone Bird blog posted an interesting essay about common vs. rare birds. You can read it here. It got me thinking. I've found that birds I take for granted, like cardinals, are not common for people from other areas, and it always makes me look at them with new eyes. I think there is a difference between being a lister and a birder, and I want to be a birder--not just to have a bunch of checks on the checklist, but to KNOW the birds I see. This morning, not much was going on in my yard, although I did see the house wren again, so I took the time to watch an adult and a young robin "grazing" together and looking at the differences--the speckled breast, the dark cheek spot, the dark beak vs yellow beak on the robin. It gave me as much pleasure to note those differences as a new life bird would have done.

Of course, the competitive side of me wants to see more birds than anyone! Fortunately, I'm too lazy to be a chaser and go all over the world chasing birds like Phoebe Snetsinger (Birding on Borrowed Time) or the father in To See Every Bird on Earth by Dan Koeppel. Both great books, by the way. I highly recommend the Snetsinger book. Another great book on chasing is The Big Year by Pete Dunne. Pete is a natural storyteller. The book is as much a travelog as a birding story and I learned a lot about bird ids reading the book.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Yard Birds This Morning

I've decided to work a little harder birding my yard. If a robin could build a nest in plain sight and I never noticed, I need to look around more! So, this morning, before going out on my walk, I birded for a few minutes. It did give me warbler neck, as the trees are very tall and very close. I saw a red-eyed vireo. Even better, when I got home, I caught a glimpse of the red fox running through the yard and, just before I went in the house, I saw a house wren! Can you say lifer? Life is good.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Huntley Meadows Bird Walk - Nests

White-eyed vireo in the nest. Very near the board walk at Huntley Meadows. Canon 10D with 300mm lens. Hand focused due to all the branches in the foreground. Another white-eyed vireo was in a nearby tree singing loudly. We got good looks, but no good pictures of the other one.

Blue gray gnatcatcher nest at Huntley Meadows. I took about 20 pictures of her hoping she would look at the camera, and left thinking she hadn't cooperated. I didn't know I'd gotten one until I got home! These pictures were with the Canon 10D, Swarovski 65HD scope and 800mm adaptor.

Huntley Meadows Bird Walk

This pileated woodpecker worked in one spot for several minutes, but when I put my Canon 10D on the scope, he left. Murphy's Law, birder edition. This pic was taken with the Canon 10D and 300mm lens. It was a bit dark as it was early.

Least Sandpiper at Huntley Meadows. This and the Semi-palmated Plover in the next picture were taken at the end of the walk with the Canon 10D attached to the scope; Swarovski 65HD, 800mm adaptor.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bird Nests

I birded my yard this morning, something I don't do often enough. (It's sort of like "No one is a prophet in his own village." Why are other places always more attractive? I did see a blue-gray gnatcatcher in our front yard the other day.) I found this robin's nest in plain sight in the tree closest to our garage. What fun! I'll keep you posted on the progress of the kids!

Around noon, we walked down to the hawk's nest. For about twenty minutes, all we could see was her tail.
She seemed to shift around a lot, as if something under her was making her uncomfortable. We finally decided that was all we were going to see. So we took the camera off the scope, took the scope down, and started to walk away. We were 20 yards away when we heard the call of an incoming hawk and rushed back. From what we saw, we think it was a food drop off. For awhile, the hawk left in the nest kept looking down, as if watching the kids eat. Then she clearly began eating, tearing pieces off. Periodically she would give us the "hawk eye". I managed to get this pretty good picture of her before she settled down and all we could see was her tail again.

All pictures with my Canon 10D mounted on my Swarovski 65HD, 800mm adaptor

Hopefully more later!
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Friday, May 18, 2007

Hawk Nest Report

We checked on the Red Shouldered Hawk Nest that we've been watching and even though we can't see any nestlings, the behavior of the adults is entirely consistent with brooding nestlings--the adults come and go fairly often right now. We've read that towards the end, it goes down to ten minutes a day spent at the nest. Nothing worth taking a picture of yet, but we're going to keep trying. If we get some good weather, we might picnic down there so we can watch for awhile.

As an aside, there was a recent post on the VA Bird List that I subscribe to talking about the decline of American Kestrel numbers in Loudoun County, VA. I guess I was very lucky to see the kestrel that we saw on Monday. The survey taken over the weekend only revealed two in the county (although of course there could be more that didn't reveal themselves during the survey period).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Birding Topless

I know, another provocative title. My husband pointed out that I failed to mention the reason I was able to do so much birding yesterday while we drove is that we were in my Miata and the top was down. Great for birding! I highly recommend convertibles for all birders!

Naked Birding in the Car

Hah! Bet that got your attention. It should really read "Naked Eye Birding from the Car" but that wouldn't be as much fun. For those who get email subscriptions, I wonder if the word naked will get it filtered?

Anyway, we were on a road trip yesterday in Loudoun and Fauquier counties in Virginia, and I was birding on the go with no binocs (forgot 'em!!!!). Still, I had a pretty good day for car birds. Best was an American Kestrel, hovering over a field. It was a first for me in Virginia; we see them often in San Diego. Also: Canada geese, killdeer, great blue heron, red winged blackbird, mallards, mockingbird, American crow, common grackle, black vulture and turkey vulture soaring together, cardinal, barn swallow, house sparrow and two very bold catbirds at our starting point. My last best car bird, also in Loudoun County, was an Eastern Meadowlark last year. No pics today.

What's your best car bird?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Osprey at Dyke Marsh, VA

This osprey perches in this area quite often, probably the male associated with a nearby nest. He got into quite a little duel with a crow that was pestering him, then returned to the perch. Digiscoped with my Pentax W20 handheld to the scope, as was the video immediately following these two shots. Be sure to watch the video!

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Osprey at Dyke Marsh, VA

Video (no audio) of adult osprey, presumably male, at Dyke Marsh, VA. Click to play. Taken during the Sunday morning 8AM bird walk, using my Pentax W20 through the scope. More information about Dyke Marsh can be found at at the link at right and information about the weekly bird walk can be found I never tried to post a video before; great fun!


I think I forgot to mention the belted kingfisher we saw at Dyke Marsh today. Far away and backlit, but it's my best kingfisher picture yet. Pentax W20, handheld through the scope.
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Dyke Marsh Bird Walk Report

A cool and breezy day at Dyke Marsh. Kurt Gaskill led us on a very productive walk, though we had to work on it. We didn't spend too much time on the river--too windy and not much happening. Here's a picture of an osprey nest on a tug anchored near the Wilson Bridge (see Welcome to Maryland sign above the tug).

This great crested was neatly posed, but in the nature of birds, took off just as I snapped the pic.

In addition to the birds above, (both photos digiscoped with my Pentax W20 through my scope) we saw:
osprey (pictures to be posted later)
spotted sandpiper
downy woodpecker
orchard oriole
baltimore oriole
great blue heron
catbird (heard)
double-crested cormorant
barn swallow
chimney swift
yellow billed cuckoo (pictures below taken with my Canon 10D with 300mm lens)
yellow rumped warbler
black throated blue warbler
black throated green warbler (thanks to the fellow birder who pointed this out to our group!)
blue gray gnatcatcher
carolina wren (heard--really loudly!)

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Yellow Billed Cuckoo Dyke Marsh, VA

We saw or heard several yellow billed cuckoos on this morning's walk. This one cooperated enough that I got a few pictures. It was quite breezy, so there was a lot of movement. I was lucky to get this good a set.

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Great Falls, VA on Saturday, May 12

We were over at our friend Peter's house in Great Falls, VA for a car club event, and I managed to squeeze a few good birds out of the afternoon, which was also great from the car club point of view. A pair of great crested flycatchers were hanging out behind Peter's Garage Mahal. Here's one I digiscoped waaay up in a tree. The pair flew down and Fred and I watched as one sat on the top of a holly bush while the other scooped up as much fine mulch from beneath the tree as it could. Then they both flew off, but we couldn't see where they might be nesting. Digiscoped with my Pentax W20 against my Swarovski 65HD scope.

In addition to the fine flycatcher show, I got a nice look at a pileated woodpecker and an immature bald eagle flying overhead. Three really good birds.
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Saturday, May 12, 2007

Red Shouldered Hawk Nest--Hatched?

Fred and I went to check on the hawk's nest yesterday. When we got there, we could hear and see a hawk at the nest, but by the time we had the scope set up, the hawk had flown the coop, er, nest. When we scoped the nest, we couldn't see any sign of a hawk remaining on the nest (picture below). This was the first time we hadn't been able to see at least a bit of an adult's head or tail sticking out. We were there about a half an hour, and neither hawk returned to the nest, but we did hear one or both come to the general area, call several times as if checking in, and then fly off. Could the eggs have hatched? And now both parents are hunting? We're going to go back today and check. Will keep you posted!
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Friday, May 11, 2007

Weird day in blogtown

Day before yesterday, I did a Internet search on a birding friend to see if she had any of her digiscoping information online. I clicked on a likely post, which turned out to be one of my own blog entries! Very funny, except that the entry wasn't on my blog. It was on another blog. And, worse yet, a lot of my blog entries, 151 of them, were on this other blog, which had NO ORIGINAL CONTENT other than my posts. I wasn't planning on identifying the cretin because I didn't want to give him or her publicity, but to their credit, Blogger has taken the site down after my complaint. Of course, my compliant was a faxed 20 page document because Blogger said I couldn't just say that the site copied mine, I had to cite the links to the copied (purloined) material. I'm stubborn enough that I provided them all 151 links. You can do this stuff when you're retired.

Hawk Walk, Tuesday, May 8th

Fred and I were just taking a little walk and this likely juvenile Cooper's Hawk began soaring overhead just a bit west of our house near the woods. Very cool. We got good looks at it and I finally remembered to lift the camera and get a pic.

Brown-headed cowbird in a yard on the way to the red-shouldered hawk nest.

This is the nest. Notice how leafed out it is since we saw it in April. The eggs should hatch any time now. We must have found it almost immediately after they built the nest.

These violets found an interesting place to grow.
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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Huntley Meadows Bird Walk

As someone said, you can't have too many green heron pictures. Here are some I digiscoped at Huntley on Monday. Canon 10D, 800mm adaptor, Swarovsky scope

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Huntley Meadows Monday Bird Walk Part II

We had seen this Common Moorhen on the way out on the walk, but I didn't have my digiscoping setup (I was using the scope as a scope, imagine that). He was way on the far side of the main marsh and wouldn't cooperate and come out from behind the grass. I didn't get the focus quite right, but you can see the dark body and the red beak behind the grass.

I was a little luckier digiscoping this red eyed vireo in full song. "Here I am, over here, see me, where are you?"

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Monday Morning Bird Walk at Huntley Meadows

OK, I'm a day late posting. Deal with it. It was a brisk morning (44 degrees when I left the house) but sunny and the weekend long winds seemed to have died down for the most part. I got up bright and early for the Huntley Meadows Bird Walk. Well, I was a little late because I waited for the temp to get over 40. But it was a nice morning. One of the first birds we saw was this common yellowthroat who posed for awhile off on the edge of the marsh.

Next we had an indigo bunting who really posed for us. I had seen an indigo bunting at Huntley the day before, on my way home from the Dyke Marsh walk.

It looked like the eastern phoebes were building a nest under the boardwalk. This one kept flying under and then coming back out to perch on one of the tree stumps in the marsh.

The above three shots were taken with my Canon 10D with 300mm lens.
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