Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

Monday, February 27, 2012

My longest visit from Fox Sparrows!

Back on January 14th around 7am that morning while throwing seed into the bushes in my backyard I spied a loan large reddish looking sparrow. Ten minutes of phishing produced no results and I walked away. A few hours later looking out the window from the second floor of the townhouse I saw what appeared to be the same bird but it was still far enough inside the bushes that I couldn't get a good enough view to make a proper id. Somewhere around 3 in the afternoon I again was outside looking intently when I decided to play a recording of a Fox Sparrow Singing. In a matter of moments a Fox Sparrow hopped up into a small tree located within the bushes and started to sing back to me. Not to be outdone a second one and then a third also popped up. I went to retrieve my camera but when I did come back no one was to be found. I looked around to find my local Coopers Hawk in her favorite tree about 100 yards away staring intently at me. I was feeling uneasy myself. She is a exceptional hunter and I have personally witnessed over a half dozen successful hunts. I knew my chances of capturing a photo was over and retreated inside. Over the past month and a half I have been seeing them from time to time and usually one or two at a time. I wasn't sure if all three where still around. Never having a camera handy to make the capture I wondered if I would ever get a chance. But today while on the third floor looking out I saw a Fox Sparrow in the open. My chance for a photo. I ran down to the ground floor and retrieved my gear and back up to the third floor I went. I set up my scope and camera and attempted to take pictures of a Fox Sparrow that would not stay still for a moment. I was lucky enough to see all three at one time once again. Two of them remained just inside the bushes not allowing me to take there pictures. Most of my photo's came out poorly but I thought I would share a few that were not so bad. So very strange to have them here this long during such a mild winter. I guess the food source (lot's of birdseed) was a good enough reason to stay.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Red-tailed Hawks Amusement Park...

While at the Concord Mall in Concord, North Carolina today I saw a Red-tail high in a tree across the street. There were sustaining winds of 15 mph gusting to about 30 mph. While facing into the wind it was as if the bird was screaming in defiance of the winds strength or maybe in anticipation of what would happen next. It lifted it's wings allowing the wind to fill them. She was launched straight up and backwards. It seemed like  she was out of control and at the mercy of the wind. She finally flipped herself around after traveling about 20 feet and became one with the invisible air current. She was off and out of sight in no time. It was exhilarating to watch. I can only imagine how it must have felt at that moment of lift off or the feeling of being pulled backwards or how it felt to harness the wind. To quote the title of a well known book, they truly are "The Wind Masters." 
 The Wind Masters was written by Pete Dunne and is a wonderful read. It takes you through the daily lives of all 34 diurnal raptors in North America and the experiences they may have while searching for food, rearing young or what it might be like to soar for hours powered by the wind. I remember getting my copy back in 2003 when it first came out and I devoured it in just 2 days.  Thanks to Cape May Bird Observatory I was able to get a signed addition from the great one himself. The topper is that it is illustrated by David Sibley! It's a must read!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

That groundhog doesn't have a clue!

On Saturday the 18th of this month I was at my favorite place to bird in Pineville, North Carolina. It was about 26 degrees Fahrenheit that morning. A bit cold by my standards but the birds didn't seem to care. When I arrived I was greeted by the songs of Field Sparrows from all directions. Males sitting up high singing away. I could hear a few Eastern Meadowlarks as well but it just wasn't warm enough for them at 7am. I walked the property to see various sparrows mulling about. I had a half dozen adult White Crowned Sparrows and three juveniles. Usually the juveniles out number the adults but this is the third winter I have have had White Crowned Sparrows at this location and mostly adults. Fly's in the face of what is to be expected but as I am finding out over a wide spectrum of events here in North Carolina  norms may have been incorrect based on lack of data. As the day warmed the birds were all up and singing. I saw three Meadowlark pairs flying together and doing what Eastern Meadowlarks do when courting. I had another 7 lonely bachelors singing there hearts out looking for there special someone. There safe date of breeding seems to be off as well. Not to be outdone a pair of Red-tailed Hawks landed about 100 yards away from me and decided they should copulate and start their breeding season as well. I'm not a voyeur but when a ten second event and such a rare opportunity presents itself you have to at least try for a an image. It was tough to get set and shoot so quickly but I did manage two trips of the shutter release with one fair capture considering I digiscope.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

51 species and a few highlights for the day.

 While out birding yesterday morning I was treated to 51 species of birds. I took photo's as opportunity allowed. Which was not often at all. I had a few highlights for the day. One would be the four Eurasian Collared Doves I had sitting on the wires in front of the Bank of America on 51 in Pineville, NC. This location is in front of the Carolina Place Mall and only a short distance from the breeding pair I had last year at the local Post Office. The Bluebirds where back in big numbers as well. Groups of 6 or more hunting at a time. Large groups of Grackles numbering about three hundred  and about two hundred and fifty Red Winged Blackbirds as well. I probably wouldn't have minded missing the Brown Headed Cowbirds but hopefully they will find their way into the dietary needs of the local Coopers Hawks. The most impressive part of the day was the displays of the local Meadowlarks. They were singing and displaying already. You should have been there it was a blast!
Eastern Meadowlark singing
Eastern Blue Bird

Carolina Wren

A very important place lost...

Yesterday I went to my favorite stop in Pineville, North Carolina. It's part of  a three year Breeding Bird Survey I have undertaken. I was aware that the land in question was to be developed at some point and thought I would be prepared for the eventual outcome. The economy had slowed and it seemed as if there would be many years before it would happen. It hasn't taken nearly as long as I had hoped and I was not ready to see this desolation. An incredible sadness has taken hold of me. Sitting down at the computer over the past two days and not being able to put my thoughts into anything less than what would be considered a rant. With over a hundred  hours already into this project as well as a part of myself I almost feel defeated. My father would often talk of love for land. As a hunter most of his life and a farmer on a small scale he always loved the outdoors and everything it offered. I have always had an appreciation for the outdoors but never really thought I would ever love the land as he had spoken of often. How could this one place mean so much to me. I don't own it. The only answer is that it became a part of me or I became a part of it. I walked this property weekly sometimes daily for almost two years. All seasons offering remarkable finds. I would arrive with what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders and within just minutes none of that seemed to matter anymore. Peace of mind is a rare commodity these days. For the first time in my life I truly have the understanding of what my father had spoken.

When I arrived on location two days ago I was greeted by three very large backhoes all busy and at work. Bulldozers on the move just plundering the fields where the Dickcissel, Eastern Meadowlark, and Grasshopper Sparrows had just breed the year before as did many generations before them. Trees and bushes plowed over, Orchard Oriole, Yellow Breasted Chat,  Blue Grosbeak all nested here. I could see them in my minds eye. What will returning here be like for them. They will have traveled thousands of miles back to there breeding grounds to find it no longer suitable for their needs. There was 28 species confirmed (nests viewed or feeding of young) breeding here if memory serves me correctly. With over 135 bird species seen on this property in the past year.

This land held the biggest group of Grasshopper Sparrow's in the Piedmont of North Carolina. I was able to confirm 17 breeding pairs. The high count for one day in August was 68 Grasshopper Sparrows! Which seems to be a very successful year of breeding from past data I have read on this species. I have not heard of any other place with this concentration anywhere within North Carolina. The Dickcissel that breed here were remarkable as well. There was 13 breeding pairs. This also is a very high count as well for this diminishing species. Both are endangered throughout their range as are most of our songbirds and grassland species. There is land that is not being developed at this time but as bad luck would have it most of that land was not desirable to the breeders to begin with. I can only hope they can be successful this spring in these area's that have not been effected or that they can find another place that will serve their special needs.

I took a few photo's of some of the breeding hot spots and what they look like now. Most of this has taken place in under a one month period. I could not take photo's of the men working and the latest devastation. I did not want them to have a reason to tell me I could not return. As it is I had to get special permission to walk the fields. I still have two more breeding seasons to finish this survey and don't want to jeopardize the usefulness of the data. This is after all the reason we do these studies. It shows the impact that developments like these are having on our environment. I only hope this study and the loss of this habitat will one day be used in the saving of land that is not only needed by the breeding birds but by all the animals that will live within it's many zones.