Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Dick Dick Dick cissel sweet! You sound just like this Male Dickcissel pictured below!


Male Dickcissel Singing




   On June 4th I took a drive to a spot off Haegler Road in Monroe, North Carolina. My goal was to see  Dickcissel which were previously found and reported. When I arrived all I had to do was lower my windows in the car to hear multiple Dickcissel calling and chipping from all around me. I pulled over in a parking lot around 8:15 that morning and was treated to three of them at one time. Two males singing their hearts out and a female flying just a short distance from one of the males calling back at him. I grabbed my camera gear and started to take some pics. I was almost neglecting the other birds around me.  I love Purple Martins but for some reason I didn't bother to take there pictures even though they were just 20 feet away on the ground. I was caught up with Dickcissel fever. It's been a couple of years since I have seen one and I just love this bird so much I was completely distracted. I took some video at a great distance and it was a bit fuzzy but this male was singing his heart out and I didn't want to approach him and cause him to fly away. So that's my excuse for my poor video but great sound capture. 
     I did however get to watch a pair copulate!  No doubt about breeding here for sure. It is a wheat field so most likely they will be gone before harvest time. But there is another small problem and that's the  Hessia Fly infect and destroy wheat fields. They are numerous here and this can adversely affect the crops.  If sprayed to combat this problem I fear there could be a problem with the type of chemicals that they use. That remains to be seen. I personally feel it's too late to spray but never underestimate a farmer trying to get his crop to market.

     I took some photo's and want to share them with you. These show the male and female that copulated. No I don't have a picture of the actual copulation but I did try. The problem was that the male mounted her and was off in under two seconds. I didn't have time to even push the shutter release. lol  But that is more her problem than mine. Yes, I know that's a typical male response.  Take a look and a listen to these Dickcissel. Pretty cool little bird don't you think!  Youtube Video of a Male Dickcissel singing. 




Female Dickcissel



Monday, May 19, 2014

Cats are not outdoor animals! Why can't people get that in their heads?

     Let me start with I am a Cat owner. Both are rescues and a joy to my wife and my daughter. I also enjoy their company as well. They bring a certain balance to our home and we love them as members of our families. They can bring harmony to our homes but we do have responsibilities that go along with being good pet owners. Besides feeding them and grooming them we have other things to think about.

     The biggest responsibility/problem of caring of a cat is the problem of  waste. Cats are not dogs. They need a place to emit waste within your home. They need litter boxes. Some cat owners feel that they don't like the smells and efforts needed in maintaining a litter box and think it's okay to let their cats to roam freely eliminating their responsibility of picking up after them as well as having to deal with the odors sometimes associated with a box.  This is not acceptable for many reasons.

     First there is the distribution of the animals waste which can cause disease and parasitic infections of your neighbors and their children. Cats love sand to emit their waste and on countless times we have found neighborhood cats using sand boxes as their personal bathrooms. Children then play in their boxes allowing everything from ringworm to more serious intestinal diseases. In rare occasions death has even occurred.  I hope I have your attention. I know you have no children in your neighborhood or sandboxes so of course it's not a problem in your neighborhood, right?

     Wrong again people. Human problems are small by comparison as to what I am about to tell you next.  Allowing cat's loose into the neighborhood does have serious affects on our environment. Cat's are killers and do so regardless of need for food. They can destroy Eco-systems  in a short period of time. Their indiscriminate killers. If it moves they have a need to hunt it. From bugs, amphibians, lizards, birds... the numbers are astounding. It has been projected that feral cats will kill between 1.3 Billion to 4 Billion birds each year. That was no typo folks. That's BILLIONS of Birds being killed every year!!  Which leads me to the story below.

     This morning I was just starting a birding walk in an area I have been doing a breeding bird survey over the past four years when I began to see kitty paw prints in the dirt. Normally I will see raccoon, rabbit and even coyote prints all over the place.  It's very unusual to see this here. I thought it was strange but with all the new homes going in I guess there are irresponsible cat owner that lets their cat out and about. I became concerned immediately and for good cause. This is the same area where I have seen the Killdeer and the three babies feeding over the past week or so. I continued a little further when I saw something that made me extremely mad. The adult Killdeer (below) was lying dead in the middle of a dirt road just off to my right. I walked up to it and picked it up. She was cold and wet so most likely it happened yesterday evening. I noticed bite marks in and around the chest area.  A small pool of blood had formed around it's bill and was dried in place. I looked around and sure enough cat paw prints all over the place. I placed her down and looked for the young.  I could only find one. The little one just ran into the tall grass and disappeared. I fear without Mom to look over him he too will not survive. Some may think it worry some that I placed her on the ground and took her picture. I did it for the impact of the outcome. I did it so you the cat owners can see what you are doing when you let your cat's outside. This cat wiped out an entire family of  Killdeer. That's four less birds that will never reproduce. Forward this to your neighbors if they do this. Let them see what there behavior is doing. If they still don't care and you feel you must do something then please pick up your phone and call animal control.

     It makes me sad that this happened and is happening all over this country daily. Please help stop this craziness. Be good pet owners. Be good stewards of our environment. Don't let your Cat's outdoors.


A bird that makes you happy when you see him..

Indigo Bunting

      The Indigo Bunting is one of the more stunning colored birds you will see in North America. That Blue makes you think you have traveled to a Caribbean Island. If you had one of those tall yummy drinks you might just think you were.  Their soft melodic song they sing is very enjoyable to listen to as well. I watched this bird for nearly 10 minutes but he never did give me a full look. 

       During my walk this morning I had a few surprises. As I just entered the field, no more than one hundred feet in I heard a Northern Bobwhite calling. The Bobwhite is a quail. He stands about 9 3/4 inches tall. He has a short legs and a short tail. His color can range from a rusty brown to brown black and white. He sports a partial mask with rust striations that run down their flanks.  It has been a while since I have either heard or seen this bird. I turned my camera on and decided to record his song in video mode. I couldn't see him but he had already called about ten times at this point. I wasn't expecting to see him since the grass all around was about twice as high as he would have stood. I was kind of hoping but after four plus minutes of recording all I had was his voice captured. Where they came from I can't be sure. I have only seen and or heard them a handful of times on this property. Given the amount of Hawks that call this land home I can't imagine these newer arrivals will last very long at all. Nature can be brutal and of course survival of the fittest is the standing rule.

Down by the pond it was very buggy. Which I guess was a good thing for me and the swallows. I saw Northern Rough-winged, Barn Swallow and three Cliff Swallows as well. Chimney Swifts were mixed in for good measure as well. I did not get any pics of the swirling swallows but really did enjoy them as such good range.

Going to try and make another run that way this week and see what I find. As the land is quickly being consumed by homes.  I might have another year to bird this once wonderful place and don't want to waste the short amount of time before it no longer exists at all.
    

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Newly fledged birds and a difficult ID


Male Orchard Oriole

     Just two days ago I was out looking for some late migrants or new arrivals when I started to see many new comers to this world.  While walking a field I came across a Killdeer making such a fuss. I knew young ones must be around. I certainly did not want to upset them but having no idea where they may be I continued walking but with extreme care of where I was placing my feet. In less than twenty feet I came across four brand new killdeer looking up at me. Mom was losing her mind so I quickly left the area without taking any photo's. No picture is worth that kind of upset. They will be up and about in a matter of days and in a week or so I will get plenty of those.

     As I continued my walk deeper into the field I came across Field Sparrows feeding their young. I must have counted at least 5 youngsters being tended too by their parents. I also started to notice I had newly fledged Orchard Orioles flitting about eating their fill. I was very surprised to find them this early in the month.  This is kind of early but it has been a strange spring. I ended up coming upon a pair of Orchard Orioles still on the nest. I was lucky enough to get a photo of the male. I have enjoyed many years of watching them fledge and hopefully will get to see this group take to flight in the near future.

     I had a challenging identification to make that day as well. I saw this fuzzy bird with it's back to me. It was about 120 feet or so away from me with the sun in front of it. Making the bird basically colorless and mostly dark. It had it's head down in it's chest and was preening. It appeared as if it had taken a bath. The feathers where very dark in color as well as the lighting being off. It was perched in a small pine on the edge of a field. At first I was completely perplexed. It took a moment to adjust my thinking. I had no color or head and it is back lit. I decided it was time to go to that dark place in my mind. A little trick I learned some 20 years ago would hopefully serve me well again. So often when I first started to bird I relied solely on color but all to often the birds moved too fast or the lighting was wrong. So I made up a game. I would watch every regularly seen bird and silhouette them. I would disregard their color entirely and just watch their shapes. While sitting, flying, walking or feeding I would just watch shapes and movement. Some time later I found out I wasn't the only one who does this and that folks call this the gizz of a bird.  It was at this point it came to me almost instantly. It was a recently fledged Eastern Meadowlark. Within just about a minute the bird pulled it's head out from under it's wing and chest and flashed me the profile that removed even the slightest doubt I had about my id. Challenges like this is what makes me love2bird.  I think this was certainly the highlight of this trip for me. I'm going to post the original pose I saw and the one that shows what I saw when he lifted his head. The pics are not that good but will give you a good look into what it was I was seeing at the time.


    
juvenile Eastern Meadowlark

juvenile Eastern Meadowlark


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Six Mile Creek Greenway holds many surprises.

Barred Owl
     Two Saturdays ago my wife and I were walking one of the many greenways here in Charlotte. This one is called Six Mile Creek.  I was thrilled to be out with her and we were rewarded when she found this Barred Owl. The best thing about finding this owl was sharing him with a young lady and her Mom. Neither had ever seen a Barred Owl in real life and were exstatic when we shared this view with them through my Swarovski HD 80 scope. I use this scope to take pictures with a small digital camera that attaches to the eye piece. It is called Digiscoping. This particular owl was nearly 150 feet away and about 40 feet or so high. Come to find out she is a teacher from a local school and wondered if I would come to the classroom to give a talk. I gave her some information and hope that I do get the call since sharing the birds is very important to me, more important is that future generations need to learn about the birds and our environment. Or their children may not have these many beautiful animals to look at in the near future.

This trail is only one mile long and at the end you have a little swell out that allows you to turn around and walk your way back out. But what this greenway holds is something you don't find that much of around here. That is plenty of trees that not only hold many birds but cast shade on the floor below allowing other types of birds that are not tree dwellers but floor dwellers, a place to be at the same time. The pathway is no more than 25 feet away from the stream bed which runs the entire length. Allowing a place for the birds to drink, bathe and hunt. Many birds call this greenway home. But don't overlook those migrants in the springtime. Warblers especially like this habitat. I have seen as many as 15 warblers here in one day this May alone. No less being famous for once holding a Swainsons Warbler some years  ago and possibly one as recent as a week ago.  I was not lucky enough to find this bird the day after it was reported. You can't find them all. While I was going through my records of birds seen during different seasons at this location I come up with 79 species seen here by myself alone. I can't speak for those that have lived here forever but that's not bad for a greenway I have birded maybe 6 times a year for the past 5 years.  So if your in the area and want to have a tranquil birding experience this is one of the places you need to make a stop at.

Back in the perverbial saddle once again!

     It's been such a long time since I have found the time and need to post. Life can get busy at times for sure. But with Spring here and all the birds coming back from there winter homes I have found myself outdoors more enjoying their return. I just completed a spring count with two other birders a couple of weeks ago. We had over 90 species seen in one day!  That number is more impressive when you consider we had so many misses of common species that should have been at multiple locations we have covered in the past.

      Just yesterday I made my way down to my once very special spot on Miller Road in Pineville, NC.  The construction continues and they have completely destroyed the grassland areas that had once held many grassland species before. Most of which can no longer be found any longer. Sadly in the name of progress we destroy our natural worlds. Ruining them for future generations of people to enjoy but more importantly is the destruction of habitats that will restrict if not hasten the demise of their very existence.

      I can tell you this has been a large reason for my shrinking back time spent in the field. I have often felt demoralized by the things I see daily with our natural world. Today it hit me that I need to get more involved in fighting for public lands and for the habitats that are necessary for the natural world around us. I'm not sure how I am going to accomplish this. I started looking into groups just a bit ago. Figuring out how I can do this within my time constraints will be the hard part. But I am definitely not going to let these actions steal from me what I find so important.  So I will update some of my posts with my progress as well as starting to post pictures and stories that I enjoy to take and share. I took this kind of artsy shot yesterday while watching this Solitary Sandpiper feeding in the mud of a fresh water pond. There was seven of them mixed in with some Greater Yellowleg's, Lesser Yellowleg's and a handful of Least Sandpipers.

Solitary Sandpiper

Monday, August 5, 2013

Moths, What can one say? Simply put they are beautiful!

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 




















A hot day in August

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.


Common Buckeye

Halloween Pennant

Common Whitetail

Friday, May 10, 2013

Time to chat about the Chat

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.

Yellow-breasted Chat

Yellow-breasted Chat


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Eastern Kingbirds make it three years in a row!!

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.


With Spring comes new life and hope



Grasshopper Sparrow
 Just yesterday I spent three hours on one of the properties I am conducting a breeding bird atlas. I have really enjoyed watching all the grassland birds especially. Over the years I have truly been fortunate to see so many of them breeding and yesterday I had many of them on territory and singing their songs of their time of renewal. There is a sadness to this unfortunately. The hundred acres or so is being consumed by urban sprawl. The property is being developed and almost daily a new house goes up or a new road gets cut in destroying the habitat that is so desperately needed by this group of birds. This very well could be the very last year that some of these birds get a chance to breed in this once amazing place. This has been a great source of sadness and every bird now means more to me than ever before. I know of no other place in this area that has had so many breeders and such great variety. But this Spring brings hope for future generations of those that can still find a tiny spot on this property in which to breed.

Blue Grosbeak


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A great breeding year for Raptors in the Charlotte area ! !





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

Great Horned Owls are just days from fledging!




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

Purple Martins in Pineville, North Carolina

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.


Purple Martins


This is one of two gourds occupied by House Sparrow

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Green Herons 0 Common Snipe 7


Common Snipe

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

Mc Alpine Park


Barred Owl

This park nestled inside Matthews, NC is one of my favorite places to come at almost anytime of the year. Today I headed out in search of migrants on their way north. Well I will say the warblers are not quite in just yet. Although there were nearly a hundred Yellow-rumped Warblers bouncing all about. Big numbers of Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. They were everywhere today.  Newly arrived over this past week there numbers where strong. I estimate their had to have been between 35 to 45 strong. That is considerable. But my surprise for the day was Blue-headed Vireo. I had around 20 of them! This is my all time high count. One White-eyed Vireo put in a showing as well. Eastern Phoebes have grown in large numbers as well. I had at least 20 of them. Let's not forget the sparrows. Unusual for this park is Savanna Sparrow but I had at least 9 in one small area. Other sparrows seen where Field, Song, White-throated, Chipping, Junco, and Eastern Towhee. That's seven sparrows for this park and that is really good. One nice surprise was a Barred Owl. I wasn't in the park but maybe ten minutes when I saw a beautiful tree with many large openings in it. I started looking around it for evidence of an owl but there was none. But as I turned around from the tree to head back to the trail I saw the Barred Owl sitting about 15 feet in the air no more than 50 feet away. With no camera equipment with me I continued on. But on my way out I found him in the same tree about 30 feet in the air and thought I should try to get a picture of him. After all at least a hundred people had walked under him over the two hours I was in the park so I was sure I would not bother him if I made it quick. So back to the car I went  to gather my gear and this is one of the pictures of him or her. The migrants are coming. So let's get out their and see em folks!

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Yellow-crowned Night-Herons are back !



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.


My first Pine Elfin since coming to NC 5 years ago

A few days ago I found myself carting my daughter about. She had a top she had just bought a few days earlier that was missing a button hole on one of the sleeves. So after leaving the JCP store in
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

A very ducky day at Colonel Francis Beatty Park



Male Hooded Merganser
 Monday morning I received a call to see if I was interested in checking out a few Scaup at Beatty Park.There was a suspicion that one was a Greater which is not exactly common inland. We mostly get Lesser Scaup as a rule. Upon arriving, there were various ducks on the pond. Shockingly good numbers as well. The Blue-winged Teal were in good numbers and not far away at all. A pair of Wood Ducks sat on shore and scurried into the heavier brush when they were made aware of our presence. All this while two pairs of Hooded Mergansers circled about. As we looked further up the pond  we could see a large group of Ring-necked Ducks. I think there were 29 of them. A single Pied-billed grebe crisscrossed through them as they swam. It was really a good day for this spot. Of course the regulars were out and about. We saw a bunch of Canadian Geese and Mallards all over the pond as well. But the funny thing about all these opportunity's to get some good pictures is that I did not have my camera with me. Laughable, I agree. I had only one thing in mind earlier and that was sorting out the blue bills. Well here is the funny thing about that . They were already gone! Not a thing to look at there. So we took a walk around the park checking on sparrows. We had a good variety. It was getting later and decided it was time to leave.Upon returning to the car I couldn't help thinking about all those photo opportunities missed. So I grabbed my gear and headed to the pond. There is a saying for what came next. A dollar short or a day too late. Well it applies here. All the ducks but the Hooded Mergansers had moved out of camera range. The Hooded stayed on the other side of a cove about 250 feet away. Even at this distance it's starting to get a bit far but I figured I might get one or two shots I would be happy with. Fortunately that is what happened and so I will share those two photo's with you here. I almost forgot. While scoping out the ducks I found a first of the year Louisianan Water-thrush ! Pretty early for one of those guys for sure. So I walked back up to the car and packed away the gear happy to be leaving for my warm home when I see an adult Bald Eagle planking along out over the parking lot. I ran for my camera but it was packed away and before I could even free hold and shoot he was heading back to the pond. I sat a moment and thought. Maybe I will go back to the pond again and try to capture an image. It was at this point it started to snow with a little sleet mix. That was the game changer for me as I headed for the warmth of the car. It's terrible getting older. In my younger days I would have been back out there in a flash. So all and all a great bird day at Colonel Francis Beatty Park! If you have a chance to visit it is a really great place to bird just about any season!

Two Female Hooded Merganser with Male