Monday, August 5, 2013
Over the past months I have really been restricted on things I can do in my spare time. But even given that I think I have found a new obsession other than birds. In honesty I am trying my best not to get sucked in but I am not sure I am strong enough to stay away from the MOTHS!! Seems crazy doesn't it but it started some time back when I first noticed a moth in my garage that had flown in. It was enormous and appeared furry. Well I grabbed my butterfly net and set out to catch him. I did and I have been hooked ever since. Fortunately I don't hunt them just yet. I wait for them to show up on my doorstep literally. They come to the porch light and I go out and try to get a photo of them. Most of the time I fail but at times I get lucky. I wanted to share a few photo's I have taken over the past two months. All these photo's are taken from my Samsung Galaxy lll
It's been a while. Life can get quite busy. Finally had some time this morning to get out and look for some birds. What I got was not exactly what I was looking for. I decided to check a particular property I have been using while participating in a three year study on birds that breed in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. If you have been here on this blog from the beginning you would be aware of the many physical changes that have been taking place to this particular property located off of route 51 in Pineville, NC. When I first came across this property some 6 years ago it was so different than today. In the name of progress the property had been sold to a developer who has done just that. This will be the first year since finding this property that the Grasshopper Sparrows were unable to breed. I had them on territory until mid June but the roads and the homes going up just pushed them out. Today I had none on property. This is the second time in a month that they have not been seen leading me to believe they moved on. Perhaps they will get one brood in instead of two. A real loss for them and for me. I walked for over two and half hours today with a heavy heart. They were a part of my life and I enjoyed walking the fields edges watching for them feed their young and doing what they do naturally. With that being said I did have some interesting sightings. I saw an extremely early Magnolia Warbler. It worked a small tree foraging allowing me to view him for just about 20 seconds in totality. More than enough time to be sure of my identification. I had three Solitary Sandpipers on a mud flat feeding at a high rate of speed. A number of birds filled the air with their songs and a few made themselves visible. One particularly that stuck out was the three Red-headed Woodpeckers. One adult and two juveniles, which means another successful year for these woodpeckers. After losing so many of their holes to starlings and bluebirds they just keep coming back despite the many set backs every year. I did not ge many pictures of the birds. They were extremely uncooperative. Which was fine since I did get a few shots of some unusual characters that were found along my walk. I hope you enjoy their photo's.
Friday, May 10, 2013
The Yellow-breasted Chat is one of my most favorite birds. From it's tropical appearance to it's quirky calls makes this bird a true classic in my book. I look forward to this birds arrival every year. There is another reason I find this bird so interesting. You see they classify this bird as a warbler and this bird seems nothing like any other warbler I have ever seen and I suspect sometime in the future it might just get a change of status. So I thought I would go over how you might be able to recognize this particular species if you were out and about and came across one of them. First I will tell you an adult Chat is a mid sized songbird with a long notched tail. It has an all green back and a bright yellow throat and chest. It's belly and under tail color is white. When you look at a chat you will notice a white eye line that starts at the bill and goes just beyond the eye itself with a bright white semi circle under it's eye. Some describe the eye markings as looking like spectacles. This birds song is a collection of whistles, cackles, mews, catcalls, caw notes, (<crow like) chuckles, rattles, squawks, gurgles, and pops. It's call is a sharp "CHUCK.!!" You can listen to it here, just look at the left side of the page below the headers: Chat song link. So this a pretty conspicuous bird but don't think that it's going to be all that easy to see. It tends to skulk around inside shrubs as a rule where it is usually found feeding. One good thing about the Chat is that they like to be heard and because of this one can often be found sitting on top of one of the tallest tree's or bushes in the area. Whether it's your first sighting of this bird or your 1000th they always leave a great impression. Here is a couple of photo's of one I saw just this past Tuesday.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
While surveying a property for a breeding bird atlas in Pineville, North Carolina I found this pair of Eastern Kingbirds in the same tree for the third year in a row. Each of the past two years she had successfully breed filling the fields both years with 5 youngsters with what seemed like an almost endless amount of grasshoppers. This year will be different since most of that habitat has been lost. Another major food source will have to be found. With such a wide variety of insects available the menu will have to be more diverse. I hope she has continued success. The photo seems very close but in reality it is about 45 feet in the air and I am standing about 75 feet away. I like how this year she cleverly hid the nest inside a large group of pine cones. This nest took almost two weeks to complete and the female is the only one who builds. The male stays close buy but seems more interested in watching than actually contributing to the task. Last year I had two separate successful nests of Kingbirds and it was a huge treat to watch over 10 of them feeding in one field at one time.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
As of the time I am writing this I have seen 14 nesting raptors. The breakdown is 2 Great Horn Owl nests, 4 Red-shoulders, 5 Red-tailed Hawks, and 3 Barred Owls. The one thing that is most amazing to me about all of these birds is that some started nesting in the end of February and my latest nest was a Red-shoulder just about a week ago. Seeing so many raptors is not an easy thing to do and takes staking out trees all through fall finding previous nesting sights and then checking them at later dates to see if they are being reused. That is exactly how I found 11 of them this season. Two old Red-shoulder nests were re-purposed and used by Great Horned Owls. Here is a photo of the latest Red-shouldered nest that was found just behind the Pineville Toys r Us. No worry of being seen any longer since the tree's have filled out. Even knowing where it is makes it near impossible to see.
Thursday, April 18, 2013
I went to Beatty Park today to see the Great Horned Owl chicks. Oh how they have grown over the past few weeks. I have purposely stayed away hoping not to add to the daily stress they are subjected too. I am so happy to say it looks like it's been a successful year for them. When I arrived I could see the nest was almost completely obliterated. It was obvious that the two very active chicks have been trashing the place. It was less than half it's original height and width. What I also noticed was they were not on it! They had moved out onto a limb about 12 feet from their home. The two of them stood up against each other the entire time. I wondered if this was a tactic to make them seem much larger giving added protection from would be predators. I was sure Mom was some where nearby but I was not able to find her. The tree's are leafing out and making even finding the owlets difficult. I had to change my location to view them at least five times until I could find a clear view of them. I decided to take a few photo's. At times one of them seemed more than a bit annoyed with my very existence. I wasn't deterred I have a 15 year old at home!
Thursday, April 11, 2013
|Male and Female Purple Martins|
Today while doing my Breeding Bird Survey I came across a new bird for my zone. I was driving through a heavily populated part of town. I had my windows down when I started hearing a loud call that sounded somewhat familiar. It didn't click with me till I had gone a few more blocks. I stopped abruptly and turned around. When I did this I looked up and I saw what appeared to be at least 8 Purple Martins flying over a number of houses. I drove quickly up the road and came to a stop. I watched as they fed for a while and then I saw two of the birds peal off and go down into a backyard. I drove up a bit further and parked. I walked up a bit further and that's when I saw it. A 14 gourd Purple Martin house was in front of me. There were a few birds coming and going. One was discharging some material that was already in a nest. It looked like the same kind of material that was in the gourd below. The difference was this one was occupied by a House Sparrow. I was starting to get the picture. The Martins were evicting a House Sparrow. I watched a male House Sparrow try to come into the gourd as the current occupant fought him off. Then making a quick dart in came back out discharging more dead grass material. This went on for nearly 15 minutes when I realized there was two Purple Martins in this nest at the same time. I guess they were claiming this gourd as there own. At the time of my leaving I saw two House Sparrows inside the gourds filled with grass while all the others seemed empty except for the coming and going of Purple Martins. I am not sure if all the gourds are being used but I counted 3 Martins sticking out of the gourds and 13 flying at one time. Was that everyone? Will everyone stay? I couldn't tell you. I am not even sure if they have all returned yet. I plan on making a stop on Saturday to see if I can talk with the home owners. I believe this is not the first year these guys have been here. By the look of those gourds and the multiple colors of paint coming through on the pole, this structure has been around for a rather long time. Can't wait to see what happens and especially happy for a new breeding bird in my final year of this survey. As a point of interest I should tell you that there are 14 gourds on this metal tree.
|This shot is directly after this male fed this young one a big bug.|
|This is one of two gourds occupied by House Sparrow|
Wednesday, April 10, 2013
This morning I met with someone I had just met via the internet a few days prior while sharing information about birds. He was telling me of a possibility of a pair of Green Herons that might be nesting in a secret location he often goes to take photos. Hey I get it. I have a number of places like this. It turns out it is a wonderful place. Large body of water. Great habitat for many types of wildlife. We saw Beavers to Warblers. It was good morning of birding. Unfortunately we did not see our target species. But we did finish the morning with 37 species of birds. Not bad for under a two hour walk. But the most unusual bird I found on this outing was Common Snipe. The funny thing is that I found them before meeting up with my gracious host. They were in a small retention pond a short distance away that I discovered on my way. I didn't get a picture of them all unfortunately. The moment I was closer than 200 feet they took to flight and hid in the deep grass. I did manage to fire off a couple shots which always makes me happy. Seeing them is awesome but getting a pic is the icing on the cake for me.
|Common Snipe in the reeds|
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
Monday, April 8, 2013
Last week while out and about I stopped off at a previous nesting area to find two pairs on nest in Charlotte, NC. Last year I only remember one pair at this location so it looks like the neighborhood is growing. The new nest is much higher and more difficult to see. I find it amazing that these herons are thriving in a busy neighborhood living directly above the road. As humans we worry about the cars below and the long fall to a hard service but obviously there getting something in return or they wouldn't be here. Could you imagine if you had these beautiful creatures to view on a daily basis as they rear their young. That would truly be special.
Matthews I saw a small butterfly fly by me. At no more than a meter away and with non assisted eye help I quickly said that's a Pine Elfin. My daughter just looked at me like I was crazy. So I turned to watch it and it landed about 25 feet away. Even at this distance I could see the top of the wing was black! That tells me it's not a Pine Elfin but for the life of me I couldn't even think what it was that I was seeing. So I ran over to where it had landed. Fumbling with my phone and clicking my photo app I dropped to my knees and began to take a picture. My screen was catching a glare from the sun and I wasn't sure I was getting a good photo. But I clicked off two shots and then I started to realize the world around me had stopped. I looked to my left and a car was stopped while a gentlemen glared at me with a look of disbelief and wonderment. I looked right to find my daughter was inside the car hiding. You see Dad is an embarrassment in public. People on the sidewalks had stopped walking and were staring and two folks were pointing at me while they snickered. I didn't care, I was discovering a new butterfly. One I had never seen before. I went to take another photo when it picked up and flew away. The wind was heavy so it's flight was erratic or so I thought. I jumped in the car and started to review my pics on my phone. They weren't wonderful but good enough. All I kept saying to my daughter is this is some kind of Elfin perhaps a West Coast species!! Again the look of so what ! I laughed and she said Dad can we hurry I'm late to meet Morgan. Really Andrea? I just found some rare butterfly and that's all you can say! She said oh I'm sorry, Please can we hurry!! Point missed. Well I eventually ended up at home and consulted two butterfly books. It gets more serious at this point. I start sending out emails asking for help. Well an hour goes by when I see I have a response from one of the best butterfly guys in the Charlotte area. He confirmed it was a Pine Elfin. He said if you look carefully you will see that most likely a bird has clipped the right wing and what I am seeing is the inner wing color from the opposite wing. Well I sent the photo from my phone to my computer. I blew it up and sure enough that is exactly what it was. Okay so I didn't discover a first record for the East Coast but all in all it's not that common a butterfly for my area. This particular butterfly is found in Pine Barrens. It is within range and a early spring migrant as well. So really not so rare but it is the first one I have seen in North Carolina!! So it's a state butterfly for me. So I did a little celebration dance in his honor. But the reason I am writing about this is two fold. One thing I do is write about the flying things and butterflies fit that description. But mostly because of what I found out tonight. My daughter was taking a photo of me on my knees while in the parking lot taking the picture. She no doubt found this humorous as well as embarrassing. She won't own up to what she did with the picture but no doubt it went out via social media with a caption like," So you think your parents embarrass you? " No doubt she has the sympathy's of many of her friends. So I felt compelled to show you the picture of the Pine Elfin in disguise (clipped wing) and a picture of me in the parking lot taking the photo.Maybe you can have a laugh as well.
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
|Male Hooded Merganser|
|Two Female Hooded Merganser with Male|
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
Fast forward to March 18th when I read an email from Lee saying the bird is back. It's late afternoon and I can not get up to where he lives. Life is inconvenient like that sometimes. So I planned to make an early morning run at the bird the following day. I arrived at 9am and waited hour after hour for the bird to arrive. A few birders arrived also interested in seeing the bird but to no avail the bird never made it's presence known to any of us. I had to leave at 1:15 in the afternoon and once again I am Lark Sparrow-less. About an hour later I received a call from one of the previous gentlemen saying he was heading back. I wished him luck and he said he would let me know if it was seen. About an hour and half later I'm going through my smarter than me phone when I see an email titled, " Lark Sparrow YES" written across the subject line. I have to tell you I was thrilled to hear the news. So with the fear of rush hour traffic in my heart I headed back to Lee's home. It's just about 23 miles in each direction. I am on my third attempt which puts me at just under 150 miles of driving to see this non life bird. But it is a County Bird!!! Not only that but this is a rare bird on the East Coast, no less inland under a feeder. Just for the record I and a number of others have never heard of a Lark Sparrow that hangs out around feeders. It's just not were you would expect to see one or for such a long period of time. So off I went and I arrived around 5:30 pm. I waited outside for a while until Lee's wife saw me and graciously asked me if I wanted to wait inside. It was only a few minutes when Lee's wife yelled to her husband, " There He Is". We were all excited and I needed to take a photo. My pictures are like trophy's to me. I get to look at them and relive everything about that particular bird. I could see him from their kitchen but my pictures would not come out well at all if I took them through the glass and screen. So they led me out the front door so I would not disturb him and I came back around the side while using one of their vehicles as a blind.
I spent the next twenty minutes taking pictures of the Lark Sparrow . I had called over the neighbor so that she could see what all the hoopla was about. Well finally I have my bird and a few pictures of him as well. A small celebration and much talk ensued and before I knew it the time was 7pm and I was just getting loaded up to head home. I have to say the family that is hosting this bird are extremely kind people and Lee is turning into a bit of a bird guy as of late and has expressed a NEED to get out and look at more birds. Well it looks like another guy has been bitten by the birding bug! I only hope he knows what he is getting himself into...
Sunday, March 10, 2013
Thursday, March 7, 2013
About two weeks ago I was out on a property in Mecklenburg county that a birding buddy of mine has as part of a Breeding Bird Atlas. He was out of state and I thought what he doesn't know won't hurt him. Of course, I say that jokingly. Actually, I had an appointment not far from there and it was postponed and I wanted to kill some time and have a look to see what might be around. I did not have much time and only brought my bins since this was just a short visit. While walking one of the pathways I came across a nest that just last year held a family of Red-shoulder Hawks. But what I found was more exciting this time. The nest had been taken over by a Great Horned Owl. I wasn't making up that he was out of town. I so badly wanted to tell him but I just couldn't spoil the fun and excitement he would have when he returned. I told my wife I can't wait for him to find it on his own so we can finally talk about it. Well you guessed it. Just a few days after his return I received an excited phone call. I could see his smile in his voice. He was so your never going to believe what I found today and I exploded Great Horned Owl on the Red-shoulder nest!!!!! I was a bit excited as well. I couldn't hold it anymore and explained what had happened. We talked about it for a while. Some time has past since that conversation. Two days ago we had this really terrible storm. I wanted to photograph the owl if it was still on the nest. I'm not the type to hound a bird on the nest. As a matter of fact, I didn't even photograph the previous occupants because she always seemed so fixated on our presence. Normally this is a high traffic area used by many including dog walkers and screaming children. Fortunately it has been cold keeping most folks including the dog walkers at bay. But yesterday when I arrived I did not see the Owl on the nest. I was guessing one of two things happened. She had abandoned the nest or maybe she was just so hunkered down that I just could not see her. The wind was gusting to better than 25 miles per hours. I left the area and returned home.This morning my phone rang and it was Dennis and we were talking about the Northern Lapwing that is in North Carolina when I interrupted him and said lets go see if the Great Horned Owl is on nest. He agreed quickly and we were both on our way. We are both kind of easy like that when birds are concerned. As we were walking in I asked Dennis if he wanted to see the Morning Dove nest I had found just yesterday. So we looked at it and thought of how they will nest anywhere. This pair chose a squirrel nest. She was completely swallowed by this huge pile of leaves but you could still see her head popping out the top. Her mate was there yesterday on the branch just three feet away. After we were done with our little detour we continued on to the nest. Before I knew it we where a few hundred feet away and Dennis said, "There she is on the nest," and sure enough she was in plane sight. We stood about 200 feet away. We talked while I clicked away. She was not even concerned with our presence. I will post one photo and two links if you would like to see more or watch a very short clip with sound while sitting on the nest. The links are below the photo.
My Youtube Account
My Flickr Page
My Youtube Account
My Flickr Page
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Well there is no two ways about it. The winter of 2012-2013 has been exciting. Norther Lapwings being found in groups up and down the East Coast. That must have been some storm to carry those birds from Europe to the United States. That is a massive distance between shores. Both Massachusetts and New Jersey both share the title with three being seen in each state. One has to wonder if they just moved down or if they are different birds. But there are still three other states with records and North Carolina joins them as of a couple of weeks ago. I really thought when this bird was originally found that it would be a one day wonder. But day after day and week after week it seemed content to feed where it was. I had wanted to go to see this bird. It would not have been a life bird but certainly a state record and a first for me in my new home state would be nice. But as life has a tendency to do well it just never seemed like I could find the time. By miracles of miracles I found out I had the day open late the night before. I decided it was now or never so at 7:20 that morning I headed towards the bird. I arrived around 10:15 and I was a bit distressed when I saw no one was on location. I took my scope out and began to look. I was there but a just a few minutes when I hear a very quite car pulling into the lot. I think it was a Prius running on electric at the moment when I heard my last name called. I turned around to see a fellow Mecklenburg County birder. Jeff had been there for many hours at this point and told me that had I been there twenty minutes before I would have seen it but that the farmer took the backhoe through that section and the bird flew over the hill. I can't tell you how many times I have heard if you had only been here some short time ago you would have seen the bird. I can't be the only one that this happens to all the time? Can I? He was done and late for his day and said his good lucks and was on his way. I waited but a few minutes when another group showed up. We were talking and they told me a birder was going around to another location to see if the bird could be seen from a different location. In a matter of minutes he was set up and looking at us. I gave him the thumbs up or thumbs down sign while both of us were looking at each other through our scopes. What I saw next sent us all packing and running for our cars. He gave us the thumbs up. Upon arriving just minutes later we had our bird in our scopes and enjoyed watching it feed for about an hour. I made jokes regarding how impossible it was to take a photo at this distance but we all tried. The distance was just too great. I zoomed my Swarovski AT80HD up to 60 times magnification and placed my S95 Power Shot over the eye piece in anticipation of what might get captured. I have never done this before. The bird is nearly 400 yards away and stands about a foot tall. You do the math. Not going to be all that impressive but I did get a few that if you squint just right and have a vivid imagination you just might be able to tell what your seeing. Don't worry I will supply a link of what one really looks like in case you might never have seen one.
Here is that link I promised. Northern Lapwing Photo Page
Here is that link I promised. Northern Lapwing Photo Page