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"!