Wednesday, January 21, 2009

An amazing little hummingbird!

Hello, Beautiful!

There's the band! This little female Rufous hummingbird was first banded in my yard in the Winter of 2005-06! That means this bird is not only at least 4 years old, but she also has managed to find her way back to my yard from the west coast for 3 years in a row!

Nancy looks her over and takes measurements.

Rufous hummingbirds molt during the winter. One of this little gal's tail feathers came out while Nancy was checking her! You can see it in the next picture. Yes, I kept it :-)

Nancy checks her for fat. How embarrasing :-P

Nancy marks her with water soluble paint (Liquid Paper) so we can tell she's already banded. And I'll be able to tell her apart from any other hummers in my yard!

And then -- the Release! Hard to describe what a hummingbird feels like in the palm of your hand. Kind of like a feather with a heartbeat! Hopefully she wasn't too traumatized and will stick around for the rest of the winter...

Monday, January 19, 2009

The elusive Vermilion Flycatcher and a Bald Eagle nest!

Spent a few hours at Sherburne South Farm today, trying to capture the Vermilion Flycatcher on video. I did actually see the male Vermilion Flycatcher...for about 13 seconds...and then I looked away to get my camera out and he took a hike. I circled that entire pond, including walking the length of the boardwalk, and never did relocate him. His lady, however (and it may be presumptuous to assume they're a couple) was much more cooperative and I did get some video of her.

To see her, go to --- look for FemVermFlycatchJan09.wmv

Other than that, the highlight of the day was the sighting of a Bald Eagle nest near the entrance to South Farm. It's probably a quarter mile from the road, so scoping is necessary. I observed one of the Eagles bringing food in as I was entering the property in the morning, and then again as I was leaving in the afternoon. I could see the head of the partner on the nest, but it appears to be a deep nest, so it will be difficult to see nestlings or fledglings (if they are fortunate to have any). Still -- quite a thrill!

For the eagles, go to -- look for SFEagleNest_011909.wmv

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chasing rare birds...

Photo by Greg Lavaty

One of the fun things about birding is trying to find birds you've never seen before. When you first start birding, this is easy. Just about every bird you see is going to be new! But after a while, it gets more difficult, and usually requires travel, as different birds are found in different places. I've really enhanced my life-list with my recent trips to California, and I'm sure I'll continue to do so.

But every once in a while, a bird shows up at home that is unexpected. This is a real treat! Last year there were several state record birds in Louisiana. I got to see a couple of them (Gray Flycatcher, Fork-tailed Flycatcher). There are a couple more special birds hanging around right here in the Baton Rouge area, and I was lucky enough to see two of them today.

The first was a Broad-billed Hummingbird. This bird is native to Mexico and Central America. Normally the northern most part of its range is southeastern Arizona! So for one to come this far east is pretty unusual! This particular bird is an immature male, but it's molted into most of his adult plumage by now and is looking pretty spiffy!

Click here to see a video of the Broad-billed Hummingbird

Photo by Greg Lavaty

The second rarity is an Ash-Throated Flycatcher. It was spotted close to the Capitol Lakes in Baton Rouge during the Christmas Bird Count. Now, if I had seen this bird, I would have called it a Great-Crested Flycatcher because I'm familiar with them, this bird looks an awful like one, and the GCFC are found in this area. Yes, I know they migrate...but like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the occasional Green Heron or something I would have just figured it had decided to hang around for the winter. It's a good thing someone other than me found it! The Ash-throated Flycatcher is normally found in the west --the closest to us is West Texas -- but is a "rare but regular vagrant" to the east. I think if I had paid attention I would have figured out that it wasn't a Great Crested Flycatcher because it certainly didn't act like it. It stayed low to the ground for the most part -- GCFC are almost always up high. It even hopped along the ground at one point! It was quite entertaining to watch as it foraged. It tried to intercept some berries from a tree being guarded by two mockingbirds, but they weren't having any of it -- it was chased off repeatedly.

Click here to see video of the Ash-throated Flycatcher!