Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Big Year ~ 2013 Birding Project

I'm gearing up for my next big birding project, my Big Year!  I will be getting out of my comfort zone of watching birds from my balcony and around my home for the most part.  Getting out in nature and trying to visit as many of the Great Washington State Birding Trails (GWSBT) as I can, and observing as many bird species as I can.  I hope to add a few birds to my life list of just over 90 birds.  I plan on recording my sightings in eBird, an online checklist program by the National Audubon Society and Cornell Lab of Ornithology that lets you track the birds you see, keep track of your lists, and share your sightings with the community.  I've got my GWSBT map in the mail and the app on my iPhone to help find the birding trails, the iBird app for identifying the birds, and the BirdLog app and eBird for logging the birds!  I'm hooked up!

Yesterday, I played around with the BirdLog app and tested it out.  On my trip to town, I counted 6 Red-tailed Hawks along highway 395 between Clayton and Spokane.  It's amazing how I can spot em', even while driving, although my kids get mad at me... "Watch the road mom, not the birds"!  So while I was getting my hair done, I entered my sightings in the BirdLog app.
After I got home and settled, I reviewed my entries and submitted them to eBird.  It was fairly easy.  Can't wait for next week when I start entering ALL the birds I see!  The exciting thing about my Big Year project, is that even if I have seen the bird species before, it's like seeing it anew, because I will get to count them and add them to my lists, and report my sightings.  Not only will I have a life list, but will have a year list, a yard list, and on location lists.  Lots of lists!

Oh how I wish I had better camera equipment to document my sightings.  I have a FujiFilm Finepix HS10 with a 30x zoom, which does help out in the field to zoom in on those far off birds.  The photo quality is not the greatest.  I really want to concentrate on taking better photos, and using more manual settings.  But that is hard sometimes when you are out in the field and have to snap a quick photo before the darn bird flies off!  At the very least, I should be shooting at a quick shutter speed to capture the action of my feathered friends. I'll be bringing my tripod along to get those steady shots.

Recently I have been posting my blog on Google+, which is kind of like a photo sharing social site. If you happen to belong to Google+, be sure to look me up!  I belong to several birding communities and get to see lots of beautiful nature photography.  This has increased the traffic on my blog quite a bit.  Earlier this month, I was excited to have almost 900 pageviews (since starting my blog in June 2010) and looking forward to hitting 1000.  Now, I have surpassed 1200 views from all over the world!  I added a view counter here on the blog.  It's right above my life list on the right ---->

Lots of great technology to assist my 2013 Big Year!  I'm ready!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Now That's What I Call S-N-O-W-!

Tomorrow is the first day of winter, but I think someone forgot to tell Mother Nature because she sent the snow a bit early!  We live in a snow belt and got dumped on here in Loon Lake over the last couple of days... 29 inches over night!  No worries about having a white Christmas this year.  But I am a little worried that I didn't get my Christmas shopping done, and we have family festivities to attend, and driving into town (we live about 30 miles from the big city of Spokane) could be difficult to say the least.  Only one of our cars has snow tires, two have 4-wheel drive and my poor husband's van has neither.  He had to stay home from work today because there was just too much snow this morning to go anywhere, and someone has to dig us out!

The poor pets are having a hard time getting around in all of this snow.  You would think our chow Cubby Bears would be better at it then our chihuahua Jack E. Cheez, but no... Jack's not scared at all, it's Cubby who is the pansy!

Even the cat Stanley Oliver is fascinated with the snow.  He hopped and skipped right out in the deep snow and over to under the picnic table.  Getting back he wasn't so bouncy.

Earlier this week, we didn't have quite as much snow, but enough to cover the ski docks.  There was one day that a Great Blue Heron spent most of the day roosting on the ski dock, sleeping as it snowed. 

This isn't the first time I've seen the heron out in a snow storm.  A couple of years ago, when the fish pen was in the bay over the winter, the resident Great Blue Heron named Bruchis would hang out daily.  Check out this video I took of Bruchis in a snow storm...

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Bird Lady Blog Activity

I've been reviewing my stats on my Bird Lady Blog and was excited to see I have almost 900 pageviews since my blog started in June 2010, 87 views last month, and 37 this week.  It's surprising to see the different countries my readers are from... the United States of course, Poland, Germany, United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, Latvia, South Korea, China, India, Guam, Philippines, Brazil, and South Africa. 

I'm trying to give my blog some badly needed attention, and with my new Great Washington State Birding Trails project for the new year, I hope to increase my posts and my audience.  Shooting for 1000 pageviews! 

To my readers, thank you for checking out my blog.  One thing I would like is to get more comments from you on my blog.  My faithful reader Jana D. always leaves me a comment :O) 

Thanks for stopping by!

~ Sherrie (Bird Lady)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Little Hawks & Birding Trails

*2/12/13 UPDATE:  I have discovered that American Kestrels are falcons, not hawks!

The cutest and littlest hawks are American Kestrels.  While I was searching for the Snowy Owl this week (see previous blog post), I happened to see an American Kestrel, but didn't get any photos of it, so I posted one from my archives.  Well today I went back up to Mt. Spokane High School to see if I could see the owl again and get some more pictures since I really only got one close up.   The owl wasn't there, so again I continued on towards Mt. Spokane thinking perhaps I would see the Red-tailed hawks that were out that day and could try and get some pictures of them.  But no, the Red-tails weren't out either.  I did see some American Kestrels though, and since I only have two pics of a Kestrel, I was going to get me some more!  This time, I had my sunroof opened, camera ready, no cars behind me as I was traveling down the road.  When I got close enough, I zoomed in, and off it would fly.  Usually not very far though so I would followed it the short distance, and again try to snap a photo, but by the time I would get zoomed and focused, it would take off again.  I managed to get a few shots, but not as close, or sharp, or as many as I would have liked.  As I was loading the Kestrel pics to my computer when I got home, I looked more closely at them and noticed that the little hawk I was chasing had a poor little rodent that it was trying to eat in peace.  It is in every picture I took of the bird!  I love seeing things like that when you finally get the time to look at the pictures in detail on the big screen. 

Here is the first picture I got, a silhouette of the American Kestrel, that made me think, what's he got there?

The next one clearly shows that the little hawk has a rodent for a snack, and I am interrupting the feast.  No wonder he kept flying off.

This pic below is a little clearer and shows how pretty these tiny hawks really are.

I decided that trying to take photos from the road was probably not the best or safest way to do this.  So I turned off on a graveled road that I vaguely remembered from the other day, but this time I read the sign better.  It was called Feryn Ranch Conservation Area and I drove over 1/2 a mile on the gravel road to the parking area to investigate.  I was surprised to see a sign that said it was part of Audubon Washington's The Great Washington State Birding Trail.  Palouse to Pines Loop
Below you can see more of the habitat... 168 acres of wetland, meadow, and fields with Ponderosa Pines.  I want to go back and do some hiking and see what other birds I can find.

Recently, my husband and I took a weekend trip to Leavenworth and while we were there we did some walking along the Wenatchee River and I remember it being part of the Cascade Loop.  Now I'm seeing the Palouse to Pines Loop.  I thought to myself, I'll have to do some research about these Loops when I get home, see if they are related and what they are all about. 

Come to find out there are 7 'loops' in The Great Washington State Birding Trail.  There are 51 birding trails that make up the Palouse to Pines Loop.  Feryn Ranch Conservation Area is number 5 in the loop.  The last trail listed just happened to be 51 Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, near Cheney, WA which I have visited twice with a friend of mine.  Last time we were there in Spring of 2010, we saw two baby Great Horned Owlets with their mamma in an abandoned Osprey nest.  Great sighting! 

The walk my husband and I took along the Wenatchee River in Leavenworth, WA I found out was part of the Cascade Loop, 15 Waterfront Park.  This bear warning was posted at the start of trail.

The autumn colors were at their peak at this time of year (the end of October), so the entire trip was full of the beautiful seasonal colors, and was one of the main reasons we went on this getaway.  I had hoped to get in more birding, but the weekend was rather rainy, and even here in these pictures, we are walking in the rain.

I also discovered that another park we stopped by on the way home from Leavenworth, Wenatchee Confluence State Park, was the 17th destination trail on the Cascade Loop

So already I have visited four of these birding trails, without realizing it at the time, with the exception of Turnbull, which I visited specifically to go birding and knew it was a recognized birding trail.  I'm off to a good start!

Now that I know about the Great Washington State Birding Trail, I have decided to start a new project.  I plan to start visiting these birding hotspots, and tracking all the birds I can find.  I recently signed up for eBird, and plan to also start recording my sightings through that at the beginning of the year.  After 20+ years of birding, I have only recorded about 90 or so different species of birds here in Washington, where there are 346 annually recorded bird species.  So my goal this year will be to get as many new species as I can and going out of my comfort zone and explore as many of these birding trails as I can.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the movie The Big Year,  Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman and Owen Wilson are bird enthusiasts who compete to try and become the world record-holder in a year-long bird-spotting competition.  2013 is gonna be my "Big Year"! 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Searching for Snowy

On Facebook the other day, my favorite news girl Shelly Monahan from KHQ6, wrote that she had seen a Snowy Owl across from Mt. Spokane high school.  I knew right away that I wanted to see that owl!  The owls must be following lucky Shelly, because she saw the Snowy owl more than once, and also had a visit from a Great Horned Owl.  She has told the story before about a Great Horned Owl killing their poor African Grey Parrot a few years back, so they don't much welcome the Great Horned.  I couldn't get to town the first part of the week, because I was suffering from a constant headache, but when Wednesday arrived, I felt good enough to go to town in search of my first Snowy Owl.  It's been awhile since I have had a new bird on my life list.

I arrived at Mt. Spokane high school right after 1:00 pm, which was the time Shelly had seen the owl before.  As I drove by the school, I was a bit disappointed that there was no owl.  But I thought it would be worth my while to keep going down the highway to see if perhaps the bird was exploring other territories.  A mile or two down the highway, I saw a Red-tailed Hawk.  A bit farther down the road, I saw another Red-tailed hawk, and another, and another, and another!  Five Red-tails in less than 1/2 a mile.  The last four were every other telephone pole!  Although it isn't uncommon to see 4 or 5 Red-tails in one trip along the highway, I have never seen so many so close together.  There was also a little American Kestrel in the same area.  They are the smallest and cutest little hawks.
From the Archives

Red-Tailed Hawks

American Kestrel
After seeing all the Red-tailed hawks and the Kestrel, I headed back towards the high school to see if the owl had possibly showed up.  I was out of luck though, there was still no Snowy Owl.  So I headed into town and ran my errands.  After I was done with my grocery shopping, getting gas, and more grocery shopping, I thought I would head back up to Mt. Spokane before I headed home to Loon Lake.  As I pulled up to the high school, I see in the short distance, an outline of a light colored bird.  If it was a Red-tail, it would be darker.  I think quickly, oh shoot, I don't even have my camera ready.  I quickly pull out my super zoom camera, get it turned on, zoomed out, sunroof window open, pull up right under the light pole, and snap a shot!  The owl quickly decided she didn't like that, and started to fly off.  I tried real hard to get a picture of her flying, but with no luck.  But when I looked back at the shot I had got, it was a good one.  I was happy with it, given it was such a quick flick!  And so excited that I had actually seen the Snowy owl, and could add this beautiful bird to my life list of birds.  You can see my life list on the right of my blog.   --->>>

The Snowy Owl
I pulled around into the school parking lot, and watched as the bird flew back onto the light pole across from the school.  Again, it flew off into the field and over to an outbuilding/barn.  As I watched, I saw the owl fly and land in the field, and could barely make out the white blob off in the distance with the zoom on my camera.  But I knew it was there.  I pulled back onto the highway and parked on the shoulder, hoping the owl would come back to the light pole.  It was perched on the tip of the roof of the barn, and I was able to get a silhouette of the beautiful owl before it got too dark.  I finally left with excitement in my heart and the exhilaration of a new life bird!  Thank you so much Shelly Monahan for the great tip!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Goodbye Osprey, Hello Fall!

I have to say that I am happy to see the Osprey go for the winter!  They showed up on the day the ice melted in the bay last spring, and stayed all summer long to raise two chicks, who stuck around until just the other day.  Finally, their incessant squawking is gone!  Day in and day out of these birds begging their parents for food, or begging each other as they got older and started catching fish for themselves.  It was fun watching the young birds attempt to catch fish when they were first fledglings and leaving the nest!  They weren't real good fishers at first, and the parents would leave them alone during the day, so that they would 'fend for themselves'.  I would watch them as I did my swimming this summer.  They would perch in the trees and complain about their hunger.  As they became better fishers, they would perch on various trees and eat their catch.  Many times, right in front of our patio, they would dine and then then drop their trash on our beach.  Lovely for my chihuahua to get ahold of a stinking fish carcus. As summer goes on, the sounds of the Osprey goes on until one day you realize you haven't heard the Osprey for several days.  I find myself wondering... where do the Osprey go for the winter?  Do they fly to the coast of Washington, where they can continue their fishin mission?  Or perhaps they fly way south to California or even Mexico?  Well, I think I will just have to go research it.  First I will try my iBird app to see if it tells me anything. 

iBird says basically, Osprey are known to live around large bodies of water world-wide, except in Anartica.  As the map above shows, they breed here in the northwest United States and in Canada.  They then migrate across the United States and winter along the coast of California, Texas and the most southern states.  Year-round residents are in Florida and in Mexico.  I'd like to think our summer resident Osprey travel down to the California coast, and enjoy the warmer weather down there, while we stay here in the cold and experience the nasty winter months.  Kind of like our other summer neighbors from California!  But we know that when the warm weather comes back around our way, our Californian neighbors, and the Osprey will be back in the hood, ready for another lovely summer!  For now, we will enjoy our lovely autumn colors as the leaves change with the seasons.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Best of Birding Adventures...

Yesterday I had one of the best birding adventures ever!  Let me start by saying that the very first bird that got me into bird watching was the Pileated Woodpecker.  I had seen this glorious bird when we lived in Suquamish (Poulsbo) Washington back in 1988.  It fascinated me then, and still brings excitement to me today.  So to my delight, when I was out walking this week I decided to go further than I normally do.  

So happy that I did, because I came across one of these magnificant Pileated Woodpeckers.  She was drumming away on a huge Ponderosa Pine a couple miles from my home.  The tree was a regular stop for her you could tell because the bark was missing from large areas on the tree. 

Of course, I slowed and quickly got my camera going on my iPhone.  I got some pictures, but none to write home about.  I thought it was a male when I was out there, but after reading up on my iBird app, determined it was a female because she lacked the red mustache.  She let me get closer than I thought she would.  Of course, I had my dogs with me and they were right under foot.  She flew off to a nearby tree, and we trotted on with our walk with that high that you get when the endorphines are running good, and you've just witnessed something in nature that stirs your soul. 

Cut to yesterday, me and the dogs are out walking again eager to beat my mileage from yesterday's record of 3.76 miles.  As we approach the area where the Pileated's Ponderosa Pine is, and there she is again, working away at that tree.  I move closer and closer until I am within just a few feet of this tree and this bird, my favorite bird!  I am able to shoot photo after photo, and videos too.  Such excitement, I can't even explain!  Like that feeling of holding the hummingbirds while they drink!  Experiences you won't ever forget.

We finally moved on and continued on our walk.  The longest walk yet.  A round trip of 4.33 miles!  All the way to Cedar Beau Bay at the south end of the lake.

When we got back to the tree, Ms. Woodpecker was still there. This time I was able to creep up to the tree within 2 or 3 feet.  I was standing on the edge of a block wall with the beautiful bird right there almost within arms reach.  I took lots of photos and a video and spent quite some time with her. 

Another walker with a couple of dogs came walking nearby and she flew off to a nearby tree.  I spoke with the elderly lady, who was 80, and we chatted about the woodpecker.  She told me she had seen some Cedar Waxwings recently, a once in a blue moon bird in this area, and exciting to see also (although I think it was probably a Bohemian Waxwing).  As I continued home, my heart was full with nature.  What a great feeling it is to have such great birding adventures to share!

Wonderful World of Walking

As part of my new healthy lifestyle modification, I have been walking in my neighborhood several times a week.  I have really been enjoying being out in nature while I work on getting more activity into my life.  The woods around my home is home to lots of critters and birds.  There are pathways that I haven't been on since my childhood around here.  My pet trio loves to come along with me.  Cubby Bears, the chow, is our security guide.  He makes sure there is nothing out there that is gonna hurt us.  The other day, Cubby sprang into action...  he went scavenging around in the bushes beside the road, and I could hear something else in the bushes too.  Sure enough, out springs a young buck, hopping through the forest and dashed across the road right in front of us!  Saved!  From a rouge deer on the loose!  That's my Cubby!

Then there's Jack E. Cheez, the chihuahua, my shadow.  He thinks he's tough, but gets scared of other dogs out there on our walk.  Jack has learned to hitch a ride with Grammy when we encounter stranger dogs. 

Stanley Oliver is our lake cat.  He loves to follow along, just like he was a dog.  He doesn't like the 'stranger dogs' either, and will hide in the woods.  Me and the dogs will continue on, and when we get back, Stan will still be in the bushes waiting for us.  A few meows, and he'll come hopping out and start following us again.  Lately, I've been leaving poor Stan home, because he really does slow me down.  Poor kitty, he has been real ticked about it.

I use the iPhone MapMyWalk app to log my distance and time when walking.  The upgraded version allows me to take photos within the app along the way.  So I thought I would share some of my photos from my walks.  Hope you enjoy!

This is the Great Blue Heron seen down in Cedar Beau Bay.

 This shot was taken to show how far we had walked that day.  My cabin is around the bend from that point across the bay!

Just another beautiful sunset in our bay.  I never tire of this scene, whatever the season, it is beautiful, peaceful, and best of all... my home.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Beginning of Summer 2012

Memorial Weekend 2012...

Here it is Memorial Weekend again, and 2012! Another long winter behind us, another anticipated summer in front of us! It is this time of year I especially enjoy the nature around me. Some excitement here recently, I wish I had some pictures to go along with, but sometimes I just decide to enjoy the moment, instead of missing much of it, because I am trying to get my camera and a picture snapped off before it ends. One of those moments happened yesterday morning, when my husband woke me up at 6 a.m. to tell me there was a moose swimming in the bay. Even I would get up for that exciting news. So cool to watch the young moose swim across the middle of the bay, headed out into the vast lake. It was right out in front of our cabin when it started, and we stood there and watched how quickly it swam out to the middle of the lake. Wondering where it thought it was headed? There was no land in the direction it was going! A neat early morning experience we have shared more than once before. We figured this was at least the 3rd moose we've seen swimming in our bay. Then there is also the moose rescued by my husband, and other moose sightings I can remember. The moose love to hang here in Moose Bay.

June 2012 - Frequent visitors

Today, when I was cleaning out the "storage" corner of our patio, a dear sweet hummingbird hit the large picture window where I was working and landed on the step. I went to see if it was okay, and it fluttered into the shrubs when I approached. I still wanted to check to see if it was okay, so I went around the other side of the bush, and the poor thing was hanging by a foot upsidedown. I reached in to see if I could free it's foot, and it got loose and flew off. I was happy it was able to flee, yet just a little disappointed I didn't get to see it a little better. It all happened so quick.  These little birds are so courageous, and not afraid of much.  In the past, I have been able to get some video footage of the hummers as they dine on my feeder hung on my "birding balcony".  So I will share that with you today...

A few days after the hummingbird incident, I had another little birdie hit our window. This time I was inside with the slider door open, and the birdie flew into the house and hit the window beside me. I got up out of my chair to see if I could find it, and it flew and landed on my husband's chair. It was a sweet little baby Red-Breasted Nuthatch! So darling! A family of six red's have been feeding at my suet lately. Four babies and the parents often visit for feedings. So cute to watch the babies flutter their wings for their share of the food. Sometimes the babies will stay up the tree a ways and the parents have to run back and forth from the suet to the baby. Other times, the baby will follow the parent to the suet but still wait for mamma or daddy to feed them. Then sometimes, eventually, they will start picking at the suet themselves.

1/2 of the family of Red-Breasted Nuthatches

I love it when families come to the feeders.  Here is a pair of Downy Woodpeckers coming to the feeder.  I know it was a male and female, but not sure if it was a mating pair, or possibly a parent with a baby.  You have to watch them for awhile to tell, and usually the babies act like babies.  Shivering, fluffing up, begging for food, etc.
A pair of Downy Woodpeckers
Another family of birds I've been watching is the Tree Swallows.  They arrive every year as soon as the ice melts off the lake.  This year, I am happy that a pair has chosen my balcony bird house for nesting.  It's been vacant for the last couple of years, when the swallows have taken up residency in my wooden bird houses, or the many other neighborhood bird houses, and any nook and cranny they can find!  When they nest in the balcony bird  house, it's perfect for picture taking when the baby birds emerge!  One of my best baby bird shots was from this bird house.  I even got the photo published in the Birds & Blooms magazine!  Here is a more recent photo of one of the parent Tree Swallows watching me and waiting to go into the balcony bird house.

Tree Swallow (the one nesting in my balcony bird house)
Also frequent visitors my bird tree are the Black-headed Grosbeaks.  This pair look nothing like each other.  The male looks like a Black-headed Grosbeak, but the female has very muted coloring and blends well into the background so she can hide and protect the baby Grosbeaks when she's on the nest.

A pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks
This song sparrow has the sweetest melody he chirps from the branch of my bird tree.  You can tell it is a song sparrow by the brown 'spot' on the chest.  You can many times hear them first, because their song is so sweet!  Next time you hear a lovely melody being chirped from the trees... look around, you may be able to spot one!
Song Sparrow
And one last visitor that I never get tired of seeing, the majestic Great Blue Heron.  No longer do we have a fish pen in the bay for the heron to hang out daily, but they still visit the bay frequently.  The wingspan on these birds is incredible!  I caught this guy, just as he was taking off from the neighbor's dock.  Since his wings are just out of the shot, you can't quite see the impressive spread.  But I love flying heron pics!
Great Blue Heron
So there is my blog update for now.  I'll try to be better at grabbing my camera to get some more wonderful bird adventures to share with you!

- Sherrie (Bird Lady)

Back to Blogging

I'm a little behind on my blogging, huh?  No posts for over a year! 

Well today, a friend from high school messaged me on Facebook to tell me her 9-year old son, Cameron, loved my bird blog!  He is fascinated with the birds here at Loon Lake, and likes looking them up in his bird book.  So this has inspired me to get to my blogging!  I have started a couple of posts this spring, but not finished them because I needed to process the pictures.  But no more waiting...

Mother's Day 2012...

My sweet children, Jillian, 20 and Beau, 16 gave me a great Mother's Day card and gift.  They know me well.  Both the card and the gift were owls!  One of my favorite birds!  Check out this sweet lil' fella...

I also picked up another cute lil' guy for my flower pots...

And this sweet chick...

My garden is not complete without some friendly birdies!

Thanks Cameron for following my blog!

- Bird Lady (Sherrie)