Monday, February 20, 2017

Can You See The Greenie?

A few years ago I was walking around the little pond in our neighborhood when I heard an odd "Skeow, skeow, skeow" (click here to listen). Searching in the direction of the sound, I squinted across the pond into a large tree, and began the task of trying to determine what was hiding there. I took random photos of the tree with my iPhone, and hoped I could find the source of the sound once blown up on the computer. Can you spot the mysterious caller?

"Skeow, skeow, skeow" goes the mystery bird.
How about now? Adult Green Heron
I never did see this Green Heron until I returned home. I could not believe there was such a little heron!  How cute and funny looking... Jerry and I were determined to see him again, and this time take a better photo. Little did we know that this would be easier said than done.
Greenies lurk around the brushy edges of water, and quietly wait for a fish, frog, or some other tender nibble to swim by. Once they spot prey, they transform into an efficient dinner catching machine! Out snaps a long neck and in a heartbeat it retracts. Where did all that neck come from?
Lurking - Juvenile Green Heron

He Spotted Me! Juvenile Green Heron


The two photos above show a juvenile Green Heron. Notice the streaks on the neck, lighter greenish color, and the spots/speckles along the wings. Once they become an adult their necks will be a beautiful, dark rufous color, and have a more solid green color along the wings and back. The legs on an adult are also a bit darker in color than the juvies. There is also two examples below of 1st summer coloration, and the main difference is less streaking in the neck from the juvie, and the wings lose the spotting that the juveniles have.


1st Summer (wing feathers are "outlined" vs spotted)


1st Summer
Adult (solid rufous neck, and more solid, rich overall color)

I hope you will spot a Green Heron this summer, and if you're lucky he won't spot you first!
For more information about this neat wading bird, go to: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Green_Heron/id 
I would love to hear about any birds you might find, or experiences  you might have. Feel free to comment or ask questions on any of my blog posts. Thank you for reading, and I hope you continue to enjoy.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Sandhill Crane

North America is home to two species of crane; Whooping, and Sandhill. Every year the Sandhill Cranes fly over my home and land in a small farming community about 7 miles away. A few weekends ago there were over 13k! The first year I saw them was with my friend Janet. She and I drove the few miles into the country, and sat in awe at the sight of 8k in a field. We listened to their "Rattles", and watched as they rested, fed, socialized, and practiced their dancing skills.
Sandhill Cranes Resting At A Local Pond


 I was so overwhelmed with the sights and sounds of this large group, that it wasn't until the following year I could truly appreciate the subtle beauty of them. With amber colored eyes, bright red foreheads, and feathers that run a spectrum of grays, and golds, they are a stunning bird to watch. Graceful and peaceful they routinely "hop" from one field to the next.

A Trio Of Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Crane

Every year people will ask me if the Sandhills are back, and I tell them it is a day today affair. I have found, and been told, that Sandies like to move when ever their little crane hearts desire. Routinely they will fly south, only to return north a few days later, and vice a versa. How do you know when they finally are moving on for good? After they congregate, and rest, they will fly up into the sky and start what I like to call a "Sandhill Tornado". The cranes will start to fly in circles as they gather altitude other cranes join in from different fields below. Eventually there will be hundreds, if not thousands, and they resemble a cyclone-shape until all at once they shoot off to the North.


The Start Of A Sandhill "Tornado"
 I know many folks will never see a Sandhill, and they might point out that my blog is titled "Everyday Birding", but part of enjoying birds is taking advantage of what might migrate through your local area.  As I am typing this there is a "tornado" of Sandies flying over our home. Their calls are wafting down into my office, and I think, "Goodbye... See y'all next year Sandies!"

Sandhill Cranes

Monday, February 13, 2017

The Downy Woodpecker = Two Thumbs Up!

Woodpeckers are always fun to watch. There are 22 different species in North America, and I am lucky enough to have 7 of them visit my backyard. One of my favorite of the 7 is the Downy Woodpecker. The Downy is the smallest woodpecker at roughly 5-6" long. The male and female Downy both look the same except for the male has a little red cap on the back of his head. They have a high-pitched whinny (link below) that is unmistakable, and like all woodpeckers a drum that they use mainly in breeding season to establish territories. Nothing like hearing the drum of a any woodpecker on the roof of your house! Downy Woodpecker Sounds

Two Male Downy Woodpeckers Vie For Territory

Female Downy

We have had a female Downy bring her fledglings to our feeders for the past four years, and I am always thrilled to see them. She keeps returning to our humble tree line, because of the availability of good cavity nesting sites as there are quite a few dead and half-dead trees for her to choose from. Several years ago one of her fledglings, a little male, was quite enamored of me, and would always fly to the brick wall or one of my houseplants and watch me drink coffee. His mom didn't seem to mind, and sometimes she would join him on the side of the house. It was always amazing to watch the tiny momma Downy take care of her babies while navigating this great big world. She was such a good momma, and I hope to see her again this year.

Momma Feeding Male Fledgling

Curious Little Male Fledgling On Ficus Tree

Downy Woodpeckers love to eat black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts, and suet. Most feeders will accommodate a woodpecker, but you can also buy specialty feeders that have a "tail prop". This allows the woodpecker to steady itself with it's stiff tail. They use their tail to help propel them up and forward when climbing trees. You will notice in my photos how the tail is always pressed against whatever object they are holding on to.

This little female visited us last winter and early spring. She was such a messy little thing! Her face was always plastered with suet, and grime, and even though she had a place with water to clean up she never did utilize it. I dubbed her "Little Miss Messy Face". She finally decided to clean up a bit, and enjoyed hanging out on the side of our house.


Little Miss Messy Face

Little Miss Messy Face

I hope you are able to see Downy Woodpeckers in your backyard, or out on a trail. They are a joy to watch and too cute for words! Listen for their whinny, and for the peck, peck, peck of their beak on tree, and you won't have far to look.

Little Miss Messy Face Finally Cleans Up