Sunday, September 27, 2015

Belle Isle this morning

Fall is here and it's time to begin birding Belle Isle again.  I went last Sunday morning and again this morning for a couple of hours.  When time is limited, as it was this morning, I typically just walk around the Nashua trail.

The parking lot near the handball courts had at least a half dozen cars because this morning it seemed that some kind of handball tournament was going on.  Courts 1, 2 and 3 were active with matches.

Entering the trailhead an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) was flycatching near the first bridge.  After that, along the zoo side of the trail, I spotted Northern Flicker ((Colaptes auratus), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) and White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinesis) all in the bare branches of a dead tree.  Following these too far to photograph birds, I came across a little group of White-throated Sparrows (Zonotrichia albicollis) - my first this fall - but still not suitable for photos.

The baby American toad (Anaxyrus americanus) above was the first photographable moving thing I saw this morning.

The little toad was followed by this stunning, recently emerged Monarch (Danaus plexxipus) butterfly.  I took several photos and then moved along, but was called back by a thrush call note.  I was focused on trying to locate the thrush and was ignoring the irritated chatter of a House Wren and another unfamiliar alarm note.  I turned around and saw ...

... this completely charming Ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapilla) perched out in the open.

In spring and early summer I hear Ovenbirds, and see them too behind leaves, on the ground, etc. but rarely, if ever, with a decent view to photograph. 

The bird never stopped giving it's alarm chip as it repositioned itself and looked around in clear view on an unobstructed branch.  The photos below are more pixelated unfortunately.  

Seeing this bird made me so happy.  One of my favorites!

While I was still taking photos of the Ovenbird, I was distracted by another bird who also seemed to be paying attention the the Ovenbird's alarm chips - a Black-troated Blue Warbler (Dendroica caerulescens).  I didn't get a photo, but she made a fleeting appearance in the 22 second video I took trying to record the sound of the Ovenbird's chipping.

There is a beautiful little bee on the left aster.

To cap off my hour and three quarters of birding this morning, another Belle Isle first for me, an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) perched in a dead tree on one of the islands in the little lakes along the road.  These photos are horrible, and I knew they would be, but I cannot recall ever having seen an Osprey on Belle Isle and I wanted to document it.

Belle Isle is changing.  More crowded.  Lots of events.  Last weekend there was a run; this weekend something with dogs or dog walking. Will see if this continues as the weather gets colder.  

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

2015 Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest

Entries for the 2015 Federal Duck Stamp

I was fascinated by this series of entries.  I would have been able to chose a single loser, but I'm not sure I would have been able to select a winner.

The winner, apparently, was entry #052.

Purchase at your local post office for $25 or you can buy from the American Birding Association ($4.95 shipping and handling fee) to make your birder's voice heard.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

How the hummingbird tongue works

From the New York Times on 09/08/2015.

Just the 1:11 second video - ScienceTake: The Hummingbird's Tongue

The video and article together:   The Hummingbird's Tongue: How It Works.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Unidentified vocalization

Around mid-week, Wednesday, August 19th, we finally got some rain.  It has been dry for awhile and my grass is brown and crunchy.  

The rain came at night, starting around 1:00 am and continued off and on, sometimes heavily, until morning.

I keep my bedroom window wide open and as the rain began I heard a loud vocalization that seemed mostly bird-like to me.  It awakened me - perhaps not fully - but out of habit I found myself running through familiar bird songs and calls in my head.  I could not match it with any.

I'm a restless sleeper.   Around 3:00 am I was reawakened by the rain coming down harder and I heard the call again. This time I was ready. I got my cell phone and made these two recordings from my 2nd floor bedroom window.  Unfortunately, the loud volume of the calling is diminished by the heavy rain.

I was focused on the vocalizer being a bird.  But yesterday - 8/29/15 - I went through a variety of frog vocalizations with friends.  While we couldn't match it up with any, this exercise made me be able to think more broadly and I've edited this post to consider non-bird vocalizers.

The first video is 10 seconds and the second video is 12 seconds.   Have your volume turned up.  Any help with the identification of this vocalizer would be appreciated.

Snowcap ... Back to the beginning of 2015

Every so often someone will ask which bird or birds are my favorite.  I never have an answer for this question when it's asked, but later when I think about it, I feel like my answer is flycatchers and shorebirds.

Nevertheless, on my trip to Costa Rica at the end of January and 1st week in February, I fell for the little Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata).  I really love its latin name.  So accurately descriptive.  

This is one constantly moving bird and good photos with a point and shoot ... well, forget it.  Doesn't matter - these are the best of the many I took.  

18 seconds of a tiny moving machine video below.

I think that seeing a Snowcap ranks as a must see experience.  Okay, okay so that's over the top ... but it's a great bird.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Baby Cedar Waxwings

Last weekend I was at my family's cottage pretending to read when I became distracted by a cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) in flight and chasing a largish insect.  In an impressive effort of determination the bird caught the insect several yards out over the lake.    

But it's mostly their berry-loving that brings them to my backyard.  For the past few days my yard has been visited by a large flock of juvenile cedar waxwings.  This morning a single adult flew in with the juveniles.

They've been attracted to my large pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) bush and, as of last night, had eaten all of the ripe berries.  There are still plenty of unripened berries and this morning the waxwings are back checking for more.  I also have purple berries on my arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) bushes.  I have several arrowwood trees that have mostly had disappointing yields of berry production. Nevertheless, this year there are some small purple berries on a few of the bushes.  I also have some plump berries on a couple of black choke cherry bushes that seem to have interested the birds.   

The running water in my pond-less (inaccurate name for such a moving water contraption because there is a small pond where the falling water collects) waterfall has offered a respite for them.  The past couple of days have been sunny and hot.  The water had become low and warm so I topped it off with some fresh, cool water.  I also keep a standard little cement birdbath full of fresh water for the birds that prefer this.

An adult bird has just flown into my flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) tree, which did not flower this year so has no berries (another disappointing tree in my yard).  If wishing to plant a berry producing dogwood, I recommend pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) which produces plump purple berries around mid-July.  I digress.  Cedar waxwings are such beautiful and, I think, overlooked birds.  I love their flocking, flight-style that makes their identification unmistakeable when they are overhead.  Their distinct lisping call note adds icing to the cake.

A northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) visited this morning, landing on a utility wire in terrible light, and seemed interested in dropping down but thought better of it.  I got three horrible photos before it flew off. The shape and structure of the tail is easily seen.

It's now 11:00 am and things have quieted down since I first came out. In addition to the waxwings and flicker, I've seen blue jays, downy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, robins, cardinals, goldfinch and ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Earlier, I heard a nearby eastern pewee give an abbreviated call and the distinct rattle of an overhead belted kingfisher.  Not bad for a teeny, tiny urban backyard.  Oh, and I cannot leave out the house sparrows.