Saturday, February 23, 2013

Red-breasted, Red-headed, Red-spotted, Red-winged, Red-tailed

Yesterday was a dreary day, snowing most of the day. Many of the birds used the feeders as a sort of refuge from the snowy weather. The Red-breasted Nuthatches used the suet to shield themselves from the snow, and were just kind of frozen there. The Pine Siskin roosted for quite some time on the black sunflower seed feeder that is under the eaves and clear of any falling moisture on my, as I like to call it, bird balcony.

Another bird who I haven't seen come to the balcony feeder, spent a good deal of time there while it snowed.  I had only seen the red-headed male House Finch once this  year, perched on my bird tree.  He stared me down as I took a few photos of him through the glass slider door.
Handsome House Finch
A male Hairy Woodpecker with a red-spotted crown, showed up in the hood a couple of days ago, and was back again.  Up until now, there was only one female Downy Woodpecker that frequented the suet feeders just about daily. So it's kind of nice to see a male and a Hairy for some variety. In the following picture you can see the size difference between the male Hairy on the left and the female Downy on the right.  They look very similar except for the body and beak size.

When I get away from home, it seems much closer to spring when I'm out and about, away from my snowy wonderland here on the backside of the lake. Today on my way home, I took the back roads and was able to stop and take some snapshots of some birds that remind me of spring. Like the Robin Red-breast (American Robin), I've been seeing more and more while out. Today, there were a dozen or more of robins hanging out with a 'cloud' of blackbirds. A few of them were Starlings, but then there were plenty of Red-winged Blackbirds staking out their territory in the small ponds with spent cat tails. I was able to catch this guy as I pulled up under him with the sun roof open. He started zinging and whizzing and showing me how big he was with his wings and tail all fanned out.
Red-winged Blackbird
Another bird I like to stalk with the sun roof open is the Red-tailed hawk. I always count the Red-tails I encounter along the highway and today was no different (I counted 11), except that since I was on the back roads, I could actually pull over and snap some pics! This hawk was sunning itself in the last couple of minutes before sunset. I got one quick shot in before it flew off (and one really fuzzy one after it took flight).
Red-tailed Hawk
Oh, and how could I forget, the last bird sighting of the day was a highway hawk, but not my typical Red-tailed.  It was smaller, with a long barred tail. I swung back around and did a u-turn to go back and check it out.  The little hawk flew off before I could get a photo, but I did get a good look. After I got home, I consulted my trusty bird reference book and it was indeed a Sharp-shinned Hawk. A new bird for 2013 and for my life list!

All the RED birds featured in today's post...

Red-breasted Nuthatch
(Red-headed & Red-breasted) House Finch
(Red-spotted) Hairy Woodpecker
American Robin (Red-breast)
Red-winged Blackbird
Red-tailed Hawk

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Duck, Duck, Goose at Riverfront Park

See something different about Bird Lady Blog? A new and improved format! I got a fancy new all-in-one computer with a 23" screen, and the old blog looked so puny and small. I didn't like it at all, so I updated to a new format.  The photos are a lot bigger and look much better on a dark background. Along with my new computer, I bought Photoshop Elements 11, an upgrade from my Elements 7.  These were the first set of pictures I downloaded, and I must say I'm loving the new version!  Hope you enjoy!

The other day I was in town and had some time to myself after meeting a friend for lunch. I decided to visit Riverfront Park in downtown Spokane to see what ducks and geese I might find along the river that runs through the park by the infamous Looff Carousel. I paid $2 to park across the street from the park for an hour. As soon as I entered the park, I could see quite the group of ducks and geese. I was able to get within a few feet of them and started snapping photos. They didn't seem to mind at all.

There was a lone Common Goldeneye in the group.  A handsome fellow indeed...
Common Goldeneye
About a dozen Mallards...
Half a dozen American Wigeon...
American Wigeon
Three pairs of Canadian Geese.  Notice the water droplets?
Canadian Goose
This bad boy was smoking a cigarette!
A cigarette smoking Wigeon
There was one strange looking brown-headed duck that I had to research when I got home.  After looking through my pics and looking online, I decided that it is a Mallard of some sort. Anyone seen one like this before?
An interesting Brown-headed Mallard
It can be quite challenging to identify wild and domesticated ducks and geese because they can interbreed, hybridize, and mutate.  So even after researching online, consulting my bird books and coming to a semi-conclusion of what the following geese are, I am not confident on my I.D. The more I research, the more I question my guess and I have changed my mind several times.

I believe the goose in the back is a Greater White-fronted Goose. I also thought the front goose was a Greater White-fronted Goose. Then I read something that led me to believe the front goose was perhaps a hybrid Greylag Goose. I found that the White-fronted Geese and Greylag Geese look a lot alike, so I'm not really sure what these three are. If anyone has any input on this, please comment.  The middle one, looks like the front one, but honestly, I can't find any pics that look just like this one, but I'd have to venture that it is the same as the front goose. All I know is that I'm really confused on goose identities! Notice the wattle on the front goose?
Greater White-fronted Geese or Greylag Geese or hybrids?
The goose in the middle is a Chinese Goose, closely related to a Swan Goose and African Goose.
Swan Goose or Chinese Goose with Canadian Geese

This boy was so handsome. No questions about his identity!
Mallard Male
Look what a cute duck butt this guy has...
American Wigeon preening
Just when it seemed Spring was not far off, we got a fresh covering of snow to remind us that we are still in the middle of Winter. Back to hibernation for this chickadee!

~ Sherrie (Bird Lady)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

New Yard Birds ~ Pine Siskin, House Finch or Sparrow?

After weeks of seeing the same old yard birds (Red-breasted & White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpecker, and Black-capped Chickadees), it's nice to get some new birds in the yard. I posted recently about the Brown Creeper that was new to the bunch. A few days ago, a sweet little brown and white streaked bird joined the yard gang. My first thought was Pine Siskin, but it is really difficult to positively I.D. a nondescript small brown and white streaked bird.  In the birding community these are called Little Brown Jobs (LBJ's).  I researched the Pine Siskin on my iBird app and in my bird field guides.  Clues that led me to to the I.D. were the pointy beak and notched tail. I did not however, see any yellow on the wings or base of tail, but it is not always visible on a perched bird. I recall the first time I saw Pine Siskins at my feeder, it was a siskin in flight photo that cinched the I.D. for me. Without seeing the tell tale yellow, I could not be 100% on the identity of Pine Siskin.

Cut to the next day, when much to my surprise I see a spry little red-headed bird scoping out the balcony feeder.  I did a double-take... Yes, I DID just see a red-headed bird, a new bird in the yard!  Yippee!  Now this one I was sure on the identity, it was a male House Finch.  But now I was more confused about the previous day's bird. Could the Pine Siskin have been a female House Finch? I spent some time consulting the field guides, Googling images of  Pine Siskins and House Finches and concluded it was indeed a Pine Siskin. Later I spotted a little bird outside the window in the neighbors Lilac bush.  It too was a little brown job.  But this one, I knew right away was a Song Sparrow, by the brown spot on it's belly.  But without the spot, all three birds look very similar.

Check out the updated lists on the new Bird Lady's Lists page. Here is the cute little Pine Siskin with Mr. White, the resident White-breasted Nuthatch.

Pine Siskin & White-breasted Nuthatch
JPEG edit

Pine Siskin & White-breasted Nuthatch
RAW edit

Photography Talk

Not the greatest of pics. I'm still trying to perfect shooting from behind the sliding glass door, with the tripod setup. It creates a less-than-ideal back lighting situation, and I just haven't got the settings down.  I did some reading online and in my camera manual and set my camera for spot metering, which should help when the background is brighter than the subject like it is in my balcony feeder setup. I will test it out tomorrow.

For the above pic, I was shooting in Shutter Priority mode with the shutter speed @ 1/256, f/6.5 This is an edit of the RAW photo, with some post processing done in Photoshop Elements 7. Honestly, I have been trying to do more of the RAW editing, but I'm not really happy with the results. Obviously, I still have lots to learn!

~ Sherrie (Bird Lady)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Exciting Sighting and a Few Views

Exciting Sighting... I like how that sounds... Ex-CIT-ing SIGHT-ing!  And by a Few Views, I mean Bird Lady Blog has surpassed 2500 page views!

Exciting Sighting

It started out as another trip to town and back with the family.  I usually drive because I get car sick easily when I don't. I was counting my Red-tailed Hawks along the highway like I always do. My Bird Lady Assistant (the husband) was not cooperating with me that day. He didn't want to press the record button on my voice memo app on my iPhone when I would see a bird so I could record the location and time. Something about him wanting the family to live.  You see the family thinks I should watch the road while I am driving, and I do, but I just can't help seeing the birds around me, even when I'm driving.  (Days later I listened to my recordings and hear his whole conversation about this because he forgot to turn the record button off.) We did our errands in town and then headed back to the lake, seeing along the way a couple of crows, over a dozen blackbirds, an American Kestrel, several pigeons, a gull, and 9 Red-tailed Hawks!  Hard to identify some of them when your driving and attempting to preserve the lives of your family riding in the car.

When we are almost home, off of the highway, not quite to our private road, I see something alongside the road. I blink a couple of times, slow down the car and could not believe what I was seeing!  A couple of feet from our car, there was a hawk feasting on a dead turkey.  We had seen the dead turkey along side the road a couple of days ago. Bird Lady Assistant (BLA) and my son Beau had the best view being on the passenger side of the car and later reported that the hawk was staring us down with a mad look on it's face because we were interrupting his meal. No sooner had I realized what I was seeing, the hawk flew up in the trees.  Of course I had to get out of the car so I could see what was going on. I assumed it was a Red-tailed seeing what I thought was some rustiness of a tail and a very dark back.  It was one big-ass hawk!  The turkey was well... dead, and there were feathers scattered about, and the poor thing's head and neck had been stripped and eaten and was just a thin resemblance of what it had been. BLA wanted to get going home, and there was a car behind us, so I had to leave, without even getting a picture.  I wanted to go back, but we had groceries to unload and it was almost getting dark.  Of course I can't post a story without some pictures, so I went back... a couple of days later, and the entire carcus had been picked clean.  I did take a pic, but it's a bit disgusting.  If you really want to see it, click on the 'cute' turkey pic to be taken to the 'disgusting' eaten turkey pic.  If you're squeamish, don't click on the photo below. 

Another sighting that was new to the yard this week, was a Brown Creeper joining the flock of winter feeders at the suet. While I was adding it to my lists, I decided to start a page on the blog for my lists. You will find it under the scrolling picture banner at the top of the page right after the Photo Gallery link. It's called Bird Lady's Lists.  This is where I will keep my updated yard list, 2013 Big Year list, and my life list.  One of my goals of the year is to get to 100 birds on my life list!  I'm sitting about 94 right now.  I think 6 new birds is do-able, don't you?
Brown Creeper
Also new on my 2013 Big Year list this week is the American Robin. These birds remind me of spring and with the news today that Punxsutawney Phil, the ground hog did NOT see his shadow today could mean an early spring!  I saw about 25 robins roosting in a tree, when I was trying to identify some blackbirds, who ended up being European Starlings. So I added both to the 2013 list. I don't particularly care for the starlings, but the robins, are such great birds.  I didn't get decent photos of the robins, since they were quite far away.  I barely could make them out with the 30x zoom lens and then magnified again on the computer.  They blended so well into the trees. I did discover that I really should not use the binoculars while out and about birding and driving around in the car. I have a real problem with motion sickness and migraines, and looking through the binoculars for more than a few seconds makes my eyes twist and gives me a horrible headache.  Nix the plan to get binoculars for the car. The photos I am sharing today are some of my past favorite robin eating berries pics that I've taken.
American Robin

A Few Views

This has been an exciting couple of weeks, participating in the Grow Your Blog party. Bird Lady Blog started with 6 followers, and as of today, has 46 followers!  I'm not sure about the exact view count before the party, but I'm happy to say we've got over 2500 views now!  I know we have about tripled our page views in about 2 months.  I have really enjoyed visiting all sorts of interesting blogs and look forward to getting to know my new followers better.