Monday, November 24, 2008

Missed one!

Another view of one of my winter visitors. Can't tell if this is the banded bird or not, from this perspective.

Friday, November 14, 2008

It's Winter Hummer season!

I already reported that I have two winter hummingbirds...both female Selasphorus Rufous/Allens.  I thought I saw a juvenile male one day too, but the look was very brief and I haven't seen him again, so I didn't count him.  But I've set up my birdcam to watch the feeder in the back and I now think I've had caught at least 3 different birds on camera.  And today, after reviewing the latest pics, I realized that one of them is BANDED!  The band is on her left leg.  Nancy didn't band here last year, but she did the two previous years, so this is likely a returnee!  I'm so excited!

Here are pictures of the three birds...  You can click on the picture to see a larger version (and then use Back button to return to the previous page).

This is the first one I got pictures of.  As you can see, she has white tips on her tail, with distinct dark bands next to the white.  In this picture you can see her left leg, and she is not banded.  We'll call her White Tips.

This is the next one to show up.  She has no white tips on her tail, and she has distinctly rufous coloring to the feathers on her back, especially toward the tail.  We'll call her Red Tail.

And this one....this is the one with the band!  I looked back at my pics and I actually had a pic of her on Oct 7, but I didn't notice til today that she has the band on her left leg.  Also, because of timestamps, I am fairly positive that she is a different bird than Red Tail -- her back and tail are much more blue green -- no distinct rufous coloring.

 We'll just call her Amazing!  :-)

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Jefferson Island Rookery

People know the famous Lake Martin rookery.... an area just outside of Breaux Bridge in south central Louisiana that supports thousands of nesting wading birds. It was a nature photographer's wonder world. The nests were within just a few yards from the road. The rookery mysteriously failed in 2005 and hundreds of nests were abandoned. The rookery has recovered a bit over the past couple of years but the birds have moved deeper into the lake, so they're not as easy to see and photograph.

Just south of Lake Martin there is another rookery. It's located near Jefferson Island plantation on Rip Van Winkle road near Delcambre (put that into your googler to find it). I visited it last year and it was allright...but this year was awesome! There were hundreds of birds...all the waders. I visited it twice during the season to see the birds at different stages. First time I saw White Ibis on the nest! Very very cool. Also has alligators, so once does have to watch their step...

Click here to see a panorama of the main islands of Jefferson Island rookery

And if you don't have a weak stomach, click here to see a gator having lunch

Gawky pink birds!

It looks like time for these teenager Roseate Spoonbills to leave the nest to me. Don't you think they look big enough to get a job and support themselves instead of mooching off mom and dad?

click here to see ==> Teenager Spoonbills

And some more Spoonbills for good measure

Fox kits -- how cute are they!

OK, so we'll get back to birds in a sec...

Wanted to show off these baby foxes... There was a park in Jackson Hole that was kind of sunken. There was a fence around it and in the bank that went down to the bottom of the park there was a den. And in the den there were foxes. Momma fox and 5 beautiful babies, fox kits. Such cute li'l kits.

Click here to see: Kits playing in the sun

Momma was letting them come out and play and practice hunting ground squirrels. One of the kits was a momma's boy. girl. kit.

Click here to see: Mom watching over them

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

A bird I won't see at home... Black-headed Grosbeak

A bird of the western states...we won't find this one at home in Louisiana.


The circle of life - Bear eats deer

So while we were in Wyoming, we saw lots of wildlife. Want to know how to find wildlife in the Grand Tetons? Drive along the road and if you see a group of cars...stop! There's bound to be something good to see.

There was a big group at this stop...and it was quite a sight. They said the mama black bear was teaching the cub to hunt. The cub was enjoying the meal...but the meal wasn't, ready to be eaten. Don't watch this clip if you're squeamish.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Visitors at the suet feeder

(Click on any picture to see a larger version -- click BACK in your browser to return)

I set up my Novabird Birdcam to watch the suet feeder for the past couple of days. I thought I knew which birds were eating the suet, but it was interesting to catch them in action. By far, the most common bird on the feeder was the Downy Woodpecker, both male and female. And there may be young'uns in there too as I saw them feeding fledglings just this week.

In this one I actually got a two-fer. I'd bet it's an adult and a juvie.

The Downies seemed to be the only birds that will share with other species. The Carolina Wren would dare to venture a bite when the Downy was on the feeder.

Got some neat shots of the The Red-bellied Woodpeckers too -- Daddy, Momma, and Junior! He looks like a Bald-Headed Woodpecker!

In this last one, you can actually see how the Red-Bellied WP got its name -- although it's still stupid! They should have called him the Red Mohawk Woodpecker, don't you think??

My Woodpecker entourage would not be complete without the Red-headed Woodpeckers! Aren't they great? Can you tell which one's the female and which is the male?

Yeah, I have no idea which is which :-P They might both be the same bird! If you said the female is the one with her mouth full -- shame on you!

The Creepy Grackles like the suet, too. If only they weren't so darn, well, creepy!

What are YOU lookin' at??

The House Sparrows are steady visitors -- often in pairs. These may be adults and juvies too, come to think of it.

And then the Daddy HOSP.

The Mockingbirds are feeding their babies too -- noisy, raspy little buggers.

But this guy was a surprise on the suet feeder! I didn't know Blue Jays cared anything about suet.

meep-n-meep-n-meep...That's all Folks!

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Spinning and waggling birds!

These were new birds for me...Wilson's Phalaropes. Love the way they stir up the mud to feed. They seem to use two techniques...

There's waggling...

And there's spinning!

Friday, May 02, 2008

Dickcissel sings

You can tell it's spring when even the shyest of birds hops on a post and sings his little heart out.

Here is the wonderful song of the Dickcissel

The elusive Clapper Rail

Rails are birds that are often heard and not seen. They live and hide and feed in the tall marsh grasses. In the spring, however, when they are feeding young, they seem to get more bold. Maybe they just have to get out of their comfort zone to find enough food to feed their large broods! A neat moment during the LOS weekend was seeing a pair of rails (probably King Rails?) try to move their brood of 10 chicks across the road! We stopped the car in the lane (it was not a busy road, thank goodness!) to watch them cross. One of the adults crossed, and a few of the chicks and then suddenly there was a car coming the opposite direction! The car didn't even slow down, but amazingly did not make pancakes out of any of the chicks. They all scurried back across where they came from though. It was a wonderful sight...and me without my camera!!!!

Here are some videos of Clapper Rails

Feeding young'uns (watch closely at the end for the fuzzy black chick!)

Why did the Clapper Rail cross the road?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Willet roll call!

Willets are common on the coast, working the shore. But evidently they have a protocol. It was quite amusing to see this Willet stand on a post and appear to call roll. He would holler and all the Willets in the area would respond.

One of the coolest birds ever!

The Scissor-tail Flycatcher is just one of my very favorite birds. What one earth possessed nature to give the bird a tail like this?? This is the closest I've ever been to one and I'd never seen the wonderful colors before. This bird was drying itself off after some brief showers. One of these days I'll get a great video of the bird flying and you can see that tail in action!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Peeking at a Woodpecker

One of my birding friends, Patti, sent me some fabulous pics of a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers that she found building a nest hole. She said the tree was very near the road and it might provide a good video opportunity.

We headed over there last Sunday morning. It was a great morning, cool and bright, and the birds were singing wonderfully. We found the spot and sure enough, there was the woodpecker, busy making the hole. Patti said that a few days previous the entrance hole wasn't even large enough for these birds to enter and now the bird was completely hidden inside! Obviously these are birds on a mission! We only saw one while we were there, and believe it was the male. He'd peck, peck, peck inside the hole and then spend several minutes tossing out wood shavings..ptooey. Seems like he'd need to stop and eat or at least take a water break, but he kept right at it.

The videos are a bit shaky as I was using lots of zoom and shooting with the video camera held up to the scope, which is hard to do and keep in the right place. Still, it's fun to see him up close as he works.

I'm going to try something new and upload the video to and link to it there. Let's see how this works...

First-of-Season Ruby-throated Hummingbird

The first male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird of the season visited my yard this year on March 8. He's all shiny and new, ready to impress the lady-birds! There's at least one female Rufous still around. I saw her sitting at the feeder this afternoon and he came up and challenged her. She just looked over her shoulder at him, shrugged, and kept on eating. Obviously there will be no hybridizing going on here :-)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Kissing Kestrels

Back in May of '06, I was in my office on the 11th floor of a building in downtown Baton Rouge when a movement caught the corner of my eye. It turned out to be a juvenile Kestrel (click there to see the blog entry) eating a house sparrow on my window sill! We got to watch him consume the whole bird, feathers, toenails and all. Last year I noticed the adult pair had returned but didn't see fledglings. This year, at the end of February, I noticed the pair was back.

They hang on out the antenna of a couple of buildings in downtown BTR, one of which is the building I work in. Because they are small birds, and far overhead, I'm sure they're not noticed by the folks on the street. However they can certainly distract me when I'm in a meeting on the 12th floor and one flies up and over!

Last Friday, when I left work, since I happened to have my camera and scope in the car, I decided to try to get some pictures. The parking garage is right next to one of the buildings that they regularly use. This put me perhaps 30-40 yards from the birds. I was able to observe them very well in the scope. In the hour that I watched, the male gathered four lizards for his lady bird and fed them to her. By the time, she got to the 4th (and perhaps there were others before that) she was full and just hung on the lizard for later.

Here are links to video of the Kestrels.

The first is a longer version which shows some close and longer range shots. The second is a shorter version which is more focused on the birds toward the end of the photo session (complete with lizard).

All of this is made even more interesting by the fact that American Kestrels are not supposed to nest this far south in Louisiana. I'll be looking for the nest in downtown BTR...maybe I'll be able to document the fledglings progress...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Caught in the act!

I aimed my birdcam at a hum feeder in the backyard for a few days after I noticed I might have a new hummer... I could swear I saw a male Rufous/Allen's! Two of them spent the winter with me last year, but neither returned this year. On Sunday though, I saw a little rusty male fending the ladies of the backyard feeder. So I set up the camera hoping I'd catch a glimpse of him. No luck. But I do think I have at least 3 birds using that feeder.

The first one I seem to be sharing with my neighbors the Piersons. The bird is banded and was caught and marked in their yard this year. They live about 1/2 block a way (as the hum flies). Not sure at this point if she's new this year or was a returnee from another year. (click on each picture to see a larger version)

The second one is not marked, and you can see a dark spot on her back where the feathers are imperfect. Her coloring seems a little rustier overall.

The third one has a perfectly feathered back, no mark on her head, and she's very uniformly green.

It might also be possible to tell the birds apart from the front by looking at their gorgets but I don't know that I'd be able to match the fronts and backs of the birds!

I am going to put the camera up at one of my other feeders tomorrow to see if I can figure out if I have more birds. I've found one thing that helps is that I put scotch tape over the ports on the side of the feeder away from the camera so they can't hide from me!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another rare flycatcher in Louisiana!

so we went twitching today. Evidently in Britain when you chase a particular bird it's called "twitching". We chased after the Fork-Tailed Flycatcher that was found in south Louisiana. I'm not sure if it's the second record or the fourth record, but either way, it's a bird that does not belong here. It's native to either southern Mexico, Central America, or South America. Apparently this one got going the wrong way, found a bunch of other flycatchers to hang out with and is visiting us for a while. It was found with 17 Western Kingbirds and a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Nice :-) Thanks to Winston, Karen, and Bob for making the twitching trip, and thanks especially to Bob for this nice photo.

Here's a video that shows the bird up close and personal

And some links to other pictures taken by Beth Wiggins

Monday, January 28, 2008

A tale of Two Flycatchers.

The First Flycatcher
Little Gray and Brown Bird

This past weekend was the Winter Louisiana Ornithological Society Meeting. The location was Alexandria, in central Louisiana. The standard protocol for the meetings include a reception and program Friday night, field trips on Saturday, and a banquet on Saturday night. Sometimes there are organized trips on Sunday morning as well. This particular meeting had several organized field trips with assigned guides -- actually more organization than I recall at other LOS meetings I've attended. So we signed up for Sat morning and afternoon and Sunday morning trips. And then the Gray Flycatcher came to town.

In the week before the LOS meeting, some astute birders in north Louisiana happened to notice a little Empidonax flycatcher that didn't quite fit the mold. Pictures were taken, discussion was had, and the conclusion was that this was a new State bird! A record--first Gray Flycatcher ever recorded in the state! The bird was located outside of Bossier City in north LA -- two hours beyond Alexandria for those of from Baton Rouge. How could we pass up the opportunity to see this bird?

Well, we couldn't. So my compadre Lainie and I headed out to see the bird on Sat morning -- foregoing the organized field trip. Took about 2 hrs to get there, and we spent another 2 hours locating the bird, filming the bird, and noting the other birds in the vicinity for the Winter Bird Atlas. Filming the bird involved entering the cow pasture, complete with suspicious cows, lots of cow patties and very damp fields. (I'm not sure permission has been obtained by birders to enter the property, so if you do, exercise caution and, whatever you do, don't leave the gate open!) The bird tends to work a short treeline -- sallying back and forth between small trees and even out to the field to perch on twiggy growth. He's being harrassed by Phoebes and Mockingbirds, but I saw him go after the Phoebe too, so it's a two way street!

Here's a link to a series of photos taken by the Boslers when they found the bird this weekend: Bosler's pics of Gray Flycatcher

I was also able to obtain some video of the bird. Now, something I failed to mention about the Saturday that we chased the bird was that it was COLD -- a very chilly, gray day. The landscape was very gray and brown...which made it very tough to photograph a little gray and brown bird! The camera doesn't seem to be able to distinguish the bird from its surroundings and focus on the bird. So...the videos are not great. There's one 2-second stretch near the end when the bird was only about 20 feet from me that's probably the best.

Video of Gray Flycatcher

The Second Flycatcher
A Bright Vermilion Bird!

The color vermilion is not used a whole lot. I'm sure people have trouble spelling it, and why use "vermilion" when "red" will do? Well, this little bird gives one a reason to use the word vermilion! There were dozens of Northern Cardinals in the immediate area of this bird, and I bet if he hadn't been there, people would have been impressed by the red birds. But the Vermilion Flycatcher puts them to shame -- he seems to just glow and reflect light! In fact, the homeowner who lives just across the street from the location he's chosen to over-winter remarked that she thought she'd been seeing a bit of contractor tape caught in the shrubs!

While this is not a rare bird, it's much more common in the southwest corner of Louisiana. According to the folks that found this bird, Vermilion Flycatchers have been found to overwinter in Central LA in small numbers. This one hadn't been reported yet though. If you want directions to find the bird, send me an email and I'll help you out...

And now...enjoy the
Video of Vermilion Flycatcher

And more finches!

I tried my new birdcam to capture pics of the Goldfinches. I made a couple of strategic errors. I now have 1908 pictures of Goldfinches from just over 1 day of photography! There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Lessons learned:

If you know you're going to get lots of pics (and I pretty much expected that they'd be there till the Thistle ran out!) don't set the exposure for every 10 seconds! The camera gives the flexibility for longer intervals...use it.

10 seconds is not really 10 seconds. It seems to take a pic every 12-15 seconds as evidenced by the timestamp. Interesting. Is it detecting the motion and then waiting 2 seconds to click the shutter? Or after it clicks, does it wait 2 seconds to reset its timer? Don't know how I'll figure that one out.

1900 pictures is a LOT of pictures to have to look through to find the "good" ones!!

Don't try to cheat and get too much on camera. I have two sets of thistle feeders and a hum feeder within view of the camera. Thought if I set it up to see all 3 (even tho I thought hum feeder was too far away for clear focus...and it is) I'd get some interesting shots. Instead I have 1900 shots that I wish were better composed. You can see most of one thistle sock on left clearly....and some of more distant socks on of frame is blurry hum feeder and a safflower feeders. I need to make up my mind where I want to aim the camera and don't get greedy!

Goldfinches start early and end early! They arrive shortly after dawn, but seem to quit feeding by mid-afternoon. The last pic with birds in it on Fri was at about 3:20pm. There was still plenty of light for another 2 hours (those feeders are on the west side of the house) but there were no pics. Things picked up again on Sat morning at 7:06a.m.

Goldfinches can go through a lot of thistle! Lots debris on the it Thistle hulls or whole seeds? Overflow birds will pick through it, so I suppose there's whole seed. Lots of waste. Thistle is pretty expensive, so I'm kinda glad I'm not feeding them this way year round!

I liked this picture because unlike most of the others, the goldfinches are all looking at the camera!