Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Mundane

You know who they are... those mundane everyday birds that make birders groan and curse. American Robins, Northern Mockingbirds, European Starlings, and Grackles are some of The Mundane, but gosh I love 'em.

We sometimes get tired of seeing "Red-breasted Yard Birds", but we forget to gripe about them in the late winter when they invade our yards. Instead of bemoaning their existence we look forward to the promise of warm days and spring. Sing, little Robin! Sing spring into being!
American Robin Male

I love Mockingbirds. Sorry, but they are one of my favorite birds. I know that breeding season is close when our resident bastards start bullying everyone from the feeders. They settle down after a week or two, and eventually the other birds will return, but until that time ALL of the food is theirs!
Northern Mockingbird
Common Grackles are annoying... they can be one step above European Starlings on the annoyance scale. Just like Starlings they will bring all of their cousins and closest friends to your backyard to feast. They make this awful sound, and look silly doing it, fluffing up their head feathers and sticking their necks out. I usually only see them at my feeders in early spring - just in time for the bastard Mockingbirds to run them off. They always have a comically serious look on their face, and their bright yellow eyes and iridescent feathers are beautiful... so I throw them something to nibble on. I can't let them starve!
Common Grackle Male

Finally- European Starlings. Wish I had better photos to share, but alas, I do not take photos of these awful birds! However, I do watch them and marvel at their winter plumage. I am fascinated by their feather's gilded edges, and the dark iridescent colors that change as they move across the ground eating everything in sight. I watch... then I get angry... then I bang on my back door to shoo them away from the feeders, scattering the other birds in the process. They only come around in herds when it is bitterly cold. While the hubby isn't looking I will throw them some corn or peanuts.
European Starlings in Winter Plumage
Not every bird can be a Snowy Owl, but they are still worth taking a look at. You might even find that you kinda like 'em!

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