Saturday, July 31, 2010

Great Egret

There were birds at my sisters that I didn't even know were in Minnesota as a kid. This Great Egret is an example. When I started seeing these here in Oregon I was trilled as I had never seen them before. Years later I return to Minnesota and find the flying around my sister's yard on a regular basis.

Eastern Phoebe

Another image from my sister's yard. They had quite a variety of birds. I saw several of these flycatchers. I have a terrible time identifying flycatchers as do many people, but I am fairly these were Eastern Phoebes. I based that on both its physical characteristics and the likelihood of there being in the region.
They were frustrating to photograph as they would never let me get very close and they usually had their back to me.

American Robin

As I mentioned a few days ago, there have been a lot of immature birds this spring and summer. Some can be a challenge to identify while other are obvious.
This immature American Robin was taken at my sister's homestead. Since Robins are so common, I've seen them in there immature state all my life so they are quite easy to recognize. Also, other than their spotted breast, they look a lot like a mature Robin.
This one was first sitting on a high-line wire along the road running past their property. It then flew across the road, into their yard and landed at the top of some dead branches.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Red-eyed Vireo

When I saw this bird while walking a path along Lake Carlos at Lake Carlos State Park in Minnesota, the first thing I thought was, it's a Red-eyed Vireo. I had never seen one before, but for some reason it has stuck in my mind since I was a kid.
When I first looked at the pictures on my computer I wasn't as sure, but tonight when I looked closer and lightened the image (the Vireo was in shadow and underexposed) its red eye revealed itself. That, along with the other characteristics all indicated a Red-eyed Vireo.
So, I have another new lifetime sighting!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Bushtit

Late Spring and early Summer has been interesting as there are a lot of young, immature birds. Many times they look different than fully mature birds I commonly see. For example, I took some pictures of a bird I was nearly convinced was a Orange-crowned Warbler until I realized that they were immature Common Yellowthroats.
The bird above did not fool me however as this immature Bushtit looks very much like a fully mature bird. I saw it a tree that was full of Bushtits. This one and another near it were behaving differently as they were quite sleepy and not flighty at all. The clincher for me though was the soft, yellowish corners of its beak. This is the remnants of the softer beak of a nesting bird.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Wood Duck

One of my birth families favorite parks to camp was Itasca State Park. During my stay with my sister and her family, we took a day trip to the park. One of the highlights of the park is Itasca Lake which serves as the source of the Mississippi River. I would imagine millions of people have had their picture taken walking across the stepping stones at the point along the lake shore where a small stream starts its thousand plus mile trip to empty into the Gulf of Mexico.
I have fond memories of camping there and hearing the eerie call of the Common Loon at night on the lake. While I only got one sighting of a distant Loon, I saw a few broods of Wood Ducks such as the one above near the shore.

Blue Jay

One of the birds I was hoping to photograph during my trip to Minnesota was a Blue Jay. I remember these striking birds as being quite common as a boy. Here in Oregon, Steller's and Scrub Jays are common, but we have no Blue Jays.
While I would have liked better ones, I did manage to get some pictures of a Blue Jay in the yard of my sister and her husband's homestead. It was perched in the shadows of a large tree along the periphery near a small creek.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Great Blue Heron

Fernhill Wetland is usually a good place to get close to Great Blue Herons and Thursday was no different. The Heron in the images above started out quite close to me, wading in the pond just off the service road. As usual though, it was not trusting enough to stick around for very long, but it didn't go too far, landing in the tall shore grasses just a short ways away.
I love capturing these huge, graceful birds fly and even more so landing. It's during the act of landing that you get to see their wings and tail fully extended and many times their feathers ruffled by the act.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Caspian Tern

When I saw this Tern circling the ponds at Fernhill Wetlands on Thursday, I thought it would be easy to identify as I remember seeing Terns like this as a youth. But when I started looking at my field guide I discovered just how many Terns look like this. Worse yet, the image above is the only decent shot I got although others where good enough to help with identification.
After studying the differences of the various Terns, the conclusion I came to is that this is a Caspian Tern. I based this on the following characteristics; relatively large size, short tail and a thick, bright red-orange, black-tipped beak.
Still not certain I was correct, I submitted this picture to Greg Gillson at Pacific NW Backyard Birder and he agreed with my conclusion. Greg is a wealth of birding information and has helped me identify birds in the past.

Friday, July 23, 2010

European Starling

This European Starling was sitting in a tree along the service road on the northern boundary of Kingfisher Marsh at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. This is the first time I have been at Jackson Bottom and not had to walk through some mud along this road.

American White Pelican

I'm back in Oregon and decided to spend some time at Fernhill Wetlands. It was a beautiful day, mid 70's and mostly sunny, and the ponds were active with birds.
I had seen American White Pelicans here before, but always far off in one of the inaccessible ponds. Today they were in the pond just north of the main Fernhill pond. They didn't make it easy for me however as they were leery of my presence, always swimming away before I could get too close. They eventually flew off leaving me only a handful of reasonably close pictures.
I continued on walking the service roads and eventually circled back towards the same pond. Before getting there, I saw them fly back in, so my hopes were up that I'd get a second chance.
Sure enough, they were still there when I arrived, but they were still a bit cautious. After slowly following them around for a while and getting a few good pictures, a few took off flying. However this time, instead of flying away from me, they flew over head, allowing me to get several in-air photos.
Based on the brown on the back of head of the Pelican in the photo above, I believe this one is immature.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Yellow Warbler

Today we spent the evening at Carlos State Park in central Minnesota. This is a park that my family camped at a few times in my early 20's, so it brought back some fun memories. We really didn't have much of a plan other than some wanted to swim, so when I saw a Common Loon not far from shore I spent a little time walking the nearby trail along the lake. It was surprisingly active with Thrushes, Blue Birds and Flycatchers to name a few.
Before we left, a couple of Yellow Warblers flew into a nearby tree. They were difficult to photograph as they were high in the tree and constantly moving. I assume the bird in the image above is a female as it does not have the brown stripes that would be more obvious on a male. I only got a couple of glimpses of the other warbler, but I'm fairly certain that it did have the stripes.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Chipping Sparrow

Today was my first full day visiting my sister Kathy to celebrate her 50th birthday. While we were waiting for the rest of the family to arrive, I spent some time now and then taking some pictures around their homestead. I found a couple of Chipping Sparrows in a tree in the SE corner that must have had a nest as they were there every time passed the the tree. They made an interesting quiet "chip" sound.

Update: Looking at this picture a little more closely, I believe this is a juvenile based on the soft looking corners of its beak.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Chestnut-backed Chickadee

It's the night before I fly to Minnesota to visit my family to celebrate my sister's 50th birthday and I am consolidating many of my pictures into a single folder both so that I can move them to my iPad and so that I can give them to her and anyone else who might want them.
When going through some pictures I took at the Audubon Society of Portland bird feeders back on May 1, I decided to work up a couple of pictures of a Chestnut-backed Chickadee I took but thought they weren't sharp enough to post. I had been a bit disappointed since these were taken at such close range. Upon looking at them again, the two that I posted above aren't that bad and they are a new bird for me. I think at the time I thought I might get some better ones soon, but unfortunately that hasn't happened.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Least and Spotted Sandpiper

I heard some Killdeers along the partially flooded service road along the north side of Pintail Pond at Jackson Bottom. This was the lowest I've seen the water on this road since discovering the wetlands. Soon you'll be able to walk its full length without getting wet.
Upon a closer look I noticed there were also Sandpipers, so I thought I'd see how close I could get. As I feared, they didn't let me get too close. But then I got the idea that I could step a step off the trail and semi-hide in the low hanging trees along the road. Maybe they would come back to the water they seemed so interested in just a few moments earlier.
Sure enough, after just a couple minutes, both Least and Spotted Sandpipers returned and I was able to get some decent shots of them.
It's nice when a plan works out occasionally.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Douglas Spirea

These Douglas Spirea were growing around the bird feeder area at Jackson Bottom. I've been learning a bit about wildflowers along with the birds. When birding is a little slow, I find that taking pictures of wildflowers and insects calms my trigger finger. :-)

Song Sparrow

Another Song Sparrow picture. I decided to post two different croppings of the same picture. Grrrr, Blogger washed them out a little again.

Dark-eyed Junco

Yesterday morning I dropped my daughter off at the Portland Japanese Gardens for a writing workshop. I thought it would be a good opportunity to try walking some of the trails at the Hoyt Arboretum why I waited since it was close by.
It's a very pretty place and the signs identifying the trees make for an interesting walk. However, the birds were fairly scarce. I suppose part of it is the time of year, but I can't help think some of it has to do with the fact that the trails seem to be a favorite of joggers. While I am all for exercise and for people getting out into nature, it does erk me a little when people use nature trails as personal tracks. It just scares the birds and disrupts the tranquility.
Oh well, I did get a great shot of a Dark-eyed Junco in the Winter Garden. I was there by myself for a while and this Junco was scavenging for seeds in the garden.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Summer Tanager

I saw a few Summer Tanagers at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park in Albuquerque. They were hard to get close enough to get a good picture. The two above are a couple of the better ones I took. I also got a few shots of a female off in the distance. The females look similar, but are a darker yellow color.
The male in the top image was singing away high in a Cottonwood tree and even though it is bright red, I had a terrible time spotting it. Once I did, it stuck around long enough to get several pictures, but the distance and lighting conditions made for poor pictures.
The bottom one is a better picture, but the Tanager was only there for a moment so I only got two pictures of it. I was closer and the lighting was a little better.
These are striking birds and it was a thrill to see them.

Friday, July 9, 2010

American Goldfinch & House Finch

American Goldfinches and House Finches are common visitors to the bird feeders at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Greater Roadrunner

When I found out I was going to have a couple of free days in Albuquerque I checked to see if there were any nearby wildlife refuges. It became apparent that the Rio Grande Nature Center State Park was the place to visit and one of the birds they mentioned as a regular is the Greater Roadrunner. How cool it that! It became my goal to get a picture of one.
On Friday, I spent about four hours at the park, but didn't see any Roadrunners. I was a bit disappointed as I was getting in my car to drive away, when there, right in front of my car, was a Roadrunner. Unfortunately it didn't stick around for very long and I only got one reasonable shot.
So I decided to give it one more try Sunday morning. This time I started around the parking lot and it paid off as I found a Roadrunner just outside the garden area. Though a bit weary of me, it didn't run off like the first one had and I was able to get many pictures of it. Mission accomplished.
The Roadrunner was an interesting bird. Of course, one wonders if it is anything like the caricature in the cartoon and actually there were some similarities. It runs around kinda like a chicken and has a call that is somewhat reminiscent of a "beep, beep". The thing that struck me the most though was its feet. It had large feet with thick toes very similar to the cartoon Roadrunner.
And the toes were arranged with two toes forward and two toes in the rear.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Barn Swallow

As I approached the Kingfisher Shelter at Jackson Bottom, I noticed some white bird droppings in the middle of the deck. Looking up at the underside of the roof, I saw what I suspected, a Barn Swallow nest.
There were about four young swallows in the nest patiently waiting for a parent to come with some food, so I sat down and waited along with them. Sure enough, it wasn't long before a parent swooped in, fed on of its young and then quickly took off for another bug hunt.
This reminded me of my youth on my grandpa and grandma's farm. I remember seeing these mud and grass nests in the barn and the swallows swooping around the yard catching bugs.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Cedar Waxwing

I spent Monday morning at Jackson Bottom Wetlands Preserve. I hadn't been there since May 29th. Time sure flies. Not much had changed since then. The water levels were about the same. They had mowed the paths recently which was nice.
When I got to Pintail Pond I noticed something I hadn't seen before. Along with the swallows flying over the water catching insects, there were Cedar Waxwings doing the same.
I thought it might be a good opportunity to get a close shot of one of these pretty birds as I figured that they would have to rest at some point. So I sat down and waited, but they wouldn't land on any of the tall grasses along the pond, instead flying to the nearby groove of trees. I gave up on them after awhile and walked the back path until I returned to the pond at the shelter.
I sat there for awhile watching the Waxwings waiting for an opportunity. Still no luck, but then I noticed that they were landing on a nearby tree so I made my way over there and got a few pictures. Not bad, but still not as close as I would like.
Finally, I noticed that they were landing on some tall, dead, woody weeds to take momentary rests. This is what I was hoping for and the results are above.
The bottom two pictures are a couple I got of them flying over the water. In the bottom image note that its beak is open in preparation to catch a bug.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cassin's Finch

Today my daughter Caitlin and I took a trip up to Mount Hood. We first stopped at Wildwood Recreation Area. It's a very beautiful park and we heard many birds. Seeing was a little more difficult with all the trees. I do believe I saw a Yellow Warbler though, but it was for only a moment. I've never seen one before, so I wish I could have gotten a better look. We also heard many Hermit Thrushes and saw a few too.
After Wildwood, we headed up to Mount Hood. My goal was to see a Grey-crowned Rosy-Finch, but unfortunately that goal wasn't met. However I did see a couple of new birds for me; Pine Siskins and Cassin's Finches. Both birds were hard to photograph as they both spent a lot of time under pine trees scavenging for seeds to eat which left them in the shadows for the most part. All in all it was a very fun day.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Damselfly

I assume this is a Damselfly rather than a Dragonfly based on its wings held together above its body. I took this shot while walking along the Rio Grande. There weren't any birds to take pictures of through this section, so I started to take pictures of flowers, insects and some lizards that liked to run along the trail ahead of me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Curve-billed Thrasher

When I arrived at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park on Sunday morning, my goal was to get another opportunity at getting some good shots of a Greater Roadrunner. I had gotten a few on my previous trip on Friday, but there was only one that that turned out adequate. The parking lot and surrounding area seemed to be the place to look, so that is where I started my morning.
I surveyed the parking lot itself first and when I was sure it was Roadrunner free, I ventured into the side garden and undeveloped area. It was there that I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of Curve-billed Thrashers. Another first for me.
They turned out to be only mildly cautious, one of the benefits of shooting in a public park. I was able to get many reasonably close pictures of them. They spent most of there time using their large beaks "trashing" around on the ground through leaves and soil. I assume they were looking for food, but based on the fact that I got several pictures of them with dried grass and roots in their beaks, they may also been building or mending a nest.