Thursday, March 31, 2011

Northern Flicker - Suet Guard

I saw a Northern Flicker at my suet feeder this evening when I got home from work. I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures of it when a European Starling decided to challenge the Flicker for the suet. The Flicker, however, was having none of it!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Pine Warbler?

Another mystery bird from this past year.
I briefly saw this bird while walking along a trail at Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta, Georgia on November 19th. My best guess is a Pine Warbler. A few of the field marks that bring me to this conclusion are the following:
  • general yellow coloring
  • darker back and wings
  • distinct wing bars
  • white under tail coverts
  • distinct eye ring
  • pale striping on sides
  • clear yellow on throat
  • small dark area on the lores
Any feedback one way or the other is welcomed.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ash-throated Flycatcher

The images above were taken while on my trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico last June. This is another bird that had me confused.
The top image was taken while I was on the field trip with the local Audubon Society. I was told that it was an Ash-throated Flycatcher and I can now verify that by the brown coloring that wraps around the bottom of the underside of its tail.
The lower image was taken the day before at Rio Grande Nature Center State Park. I was only able to get a few shots from this angle and at the time I thought it might be a Brown-crested Flycatcher.
There are four Flycatchers that are very similar in coloration; the Ash-throated, the Brown-crested, the Great Crested and the Dusky-capped. All have gray heads, pale yellow bellies and rufous coloring on their primaries.
Though not certain, I believe the bird in the bottom image is also an Ash-throated Flycatcher. I base this on two things; the Ash-throated's range is strongest for Albuquerque and its throat is pale. The Ash-throated's throat is the palest of all four of the Flycatchers in question.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Virginia Rail

I lost the Sora in the Cattails after awhile, then refound it it further down the road; or so I thought.
I only got a few pictures of the bird at that point and there were few unobstructed views. To my surprise, when I viewed these last images of what I thought were more Sora pictures, I found that the last views I had where actual that of a Virginia Rail.

The two birds are similar in size and shape, but the coloring is different. The bill of the Virginia Rail is longer and thinner and more orange than the Sora. Its legs are orangish rather than green and the breast and belly peachy rather than gray.

Sora

I have to thank Jen at i used to hate birds for this find. A couple of weeks ago I saw a couple of cars parked on the edge of the road along South Quigley Lake at RNWR. I wasn't sure what they were looking at or for, but I didn't see anything. Then Jen posted some great shots of both a Sora and a Viginia Rail a couple of days ago. Based on her description I figured that the cars must have been watching for these birds.
So, especially since I have not seen either of these birds, I decided to make a trip to RNWR and see what I could find.
Success! I found both, although I didn't realize that the last bird was actually a Virginia Rail until I got home and looked closer at the images.
I was actually watching some Red-winged Blackbirds when I noticed something move down near the edge of the road near the waters edge. It wasn't very big, so a Sora or Virginia Rail wasn't what came to mind. I pictured larger birds, like a Coot. But there it was, a Sora, right below my door. I spent about 10 minutes following it along the edge of the water, trying to get a clear shot as it ducked in and out among the cattails and foliage.
All-in-all, quite a lot of fun.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cackling x Barnacle Goose?

About a month ago a Barnacle Goose along with a possible Cackling x Barnacle Goose was seen for a few days in the RNWR area. The Goose in the images above strongly resembles the Cackling x Barnacle Goose seen at that time. I saw it this morning amongst a large flock of Cacklers between markers 2 and 3 on the north side of the road along the auto tour.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Sandhill Crane

A few pictures I took of Sandhill Cranes during the OBO field trip I attended last Saturday.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Gray Jay & Clark's Nutcracker

I took a couple of days off from work since my daughter is home from college for Spring Break. We had planned to make a trip to Mount Hood's Timberline Lodge during Christmas break, but never made it, so we decided to go today.
The idea was to go snowshoeing to take in the sights and see if I could see any interesting birds. The sights were spectacular, even if it snowed most of the time, but the birds were scarce. That didn't surprise me, but I thought there would be more than three species. That's it, only three species. But I'm not going to complain as two were new life birds. In addition to seeing a few crows, we saw a single Gray Jay and three or four Clark's Nutcrackers.
The Gray Jay was first and I saw it very near the beginning of our snowshoeing adventure. It didn't stay around for very long, but I managed to get one reasonably good shot. Then that was it, no more birds until we were getting ready to leave. As were walked to the car some Crows flew over. Then one of the lodge's employees walked by and told us that there had been an accident on the road leading up to the lodge and that they weren't letting anyone use the road until it was cleared.
It was about then that I saw a bird swoop across the parking lot and land at the top of one of the pines. It turned out that there were a few Clark's Nutcrackers flying around the lot in what looked like an effort to scrounge for droppings around the cars. They are supposedly pine nut eaters, but they sure did look like they were scavenging. They would sit at the top of some pines then swoop down between the cars, sometimes perching on top of one as seen above.

The brave adventurers:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cattle Egret

Earlier this month I past my first year posting to this blog. That was also the one year anniversary of my bird photography hobby. For the first few months I didn't even keep a list of the birds I saw; I always meant to, but I was having too much fun taking pictures.
Then I started reading OBOL which inspired me to start keeping track of what I saw. As the year passed, the number of birds I photographed continued to grow. I was also lucky enough to be able to take some time to bird during business trips in different parts of the country (and Canada) which helped add to the list.
Late last Autumn, as I was approaching 170 species, I set a goal to have photographed at least 200 species of birds by the end of my first year. I am happy to report that I exceeded that by 5! The only species that I saw, but didn't photograph was a Ring-necked Pheasant. I got a glimpse of a rooster at Jackson Bottom Wetland Preserve last Spring, but it darted into some heavy grass before I could get my camera to my eye. One of the reasons for only missing one bird is that until about December, I didn't even own a pair of binoculars. I just used my camera. Eventually I got frustrated with the reach of my 300mm lens and bought a pair at REI so I could ID distant birds. But, I still don't used them that much.
Anyway, I was thinking about this yesterday and recalled that there were a few birds that I had photographed on those business trips this past year that I wasn't able to ID. I thought maybe it would be interesting to post those birds and see if anyone had any ideas.
So I started looking through the thousands of pictures I've taken (luckily I have been pretty good about keeping them organized) and discovered an interesting thing. My identifying skills are improving (I also now have a Sibley field guide)!
I took the picture above during a business trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico last June. At the time I had no idea what it was. I looked through my field guide and online for white birds, but had no luck. But when I found this image last night and took another look, I thought it looked a lot like a Heron. Sure enough, I found that a Cattle Egret is white, has a reddish-yellow shorter bill, shorter orange legs during the breeding season, a shorter neck and is the smallest white Heron. The kicker is the yellowish-orange coloration on its breast; another breeding season feature.
So make that 206 species in my first year!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Varied Thrush

I had a Varied Thrush scrounging droppings from my feeders today.

Purple Finch

Things are starting to heat up at my feeders. On Thursday I had my first Purple Finches. Better than that, it was also the first time I've ever seen Purple Finches. There have been times that I thought I had had my first sighting, but I ultimately determined that the bird was a House Finch.
This first sighting consisted of females and possibly juvenile males (notice the spec of red above the bill on the third bird from the left). I had to ask for some help identifying them as the yellow tinge through me off. The pictures didn't turn out very well as I was shooting through a window and it was a typical gloomy Oregon winter day.
Then, yesterday, I had just gotten back from Sauvie Island having joined the OBO field trip, when I notice something at the sunflower tube. It turned out to be a male Purple Finch. I shot through the window again, but there was a little sun peeking through the clouds, so the pictures are a little better. (I have to remember to clean that window!)
The male made another appearance today.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

House Finch - Mycoplasmal Conjunctivitis?

On Thursday I saw some female Purple Finches at my feeders and today I saw a male. I took some pictures, but they where taken through a window and from a distance so they didn't turn out very well. So after I saw the male Purple Finch I decided to go outside with my camera, hide behind a low fence I built around our patio and wait for it to come back.
No luck on the male Purple Finch, but this male House Finch showed up with a strange looking eye. As you can see above, its right eye is just fine, but its left eye is badly swollen and misshapen.
I did a quick search on the web and found that House Finches have contracted a disease called Mycoplasmal Conjunctivitis caused by the parasitic bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum. It was first discovered in the early 90's and is supposedly confined to the Eastern US. I'm not sure that the bird is suffering from this, but it seems a likely candidate.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Northern Shoveler

The water fowl numbers continue to decrease at RNWR. One of the ducks with the highest numbers still remaining are the Northern Shovelers.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

American Bittern

There was supposed to be some sun Monday afternoon, but it came and went as I was on my way to RNWR. Activity was pretty slow for the refuge. Water fowl and raptors were few and far between, but there a few hundred Tree Swallows flying over South Big Lake. I've seen them there now for a few weeks and the numbers are increasing. I'm not sure why they seem to restrict themselves to that body of water.
I did find an American Bittern near marker 10. It was right along side the road and slowly moved away. I love the feet and legs on these birds. Very similar to Common Moorhens.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Bushtit - At the Feeder

This past Christmas, Santa (that would be me) left me a bird feeder kit under the tree. I was pretty excited about it, imaging all the birds I would be able to watch from the comfort of my home. But once I got it out there, I realized that I'm gone from the house most of the daylight hours during that time of the year.
Also, I wasn't getting many birds at the feeders, so I moved the setup near the back fence as was suggested on one of the feeders. It reasoned that birds would feel safer if the feeders were closer to trees and bushes where they could quickly seek shelter. That did help, but now the feeders were further from view.
Today, I realized that the change to daylight savings time allowed me a little time after work to keep an eye on the feeders. Tonight I saw Bushtits at the suet feeder for the first time; as many as five at a time.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Killdeer - Love is in the Air

As I passed the entrance to Kiwa trail, I noticed a couple of Killdeers near the road along Canvasback Lake at RNWR. Killdeers are starting to be a common sight again and these seem to be getting ready for mating.
More than once, one of the Killdeers (female?) would settle down in a depression among the broken reeds and newly sprouting grass. As the probable female settled in at one point, the probable male moved in and stood along side. The following sequence of pictures illustrate how the female raised up her hind quarters while sitting on a possible nest.
I did not see the male mount the female as seen in many pictures on the web, but then it seems a bit early to be starting a family, though I couldn't find any information about the typical breeding period of the Killdeer.

The Heron vs. The Snake

Just before I reached the end of the auto tour at RNWR on Friday I noticed a Great Blue Heron to my right. A snake was dangling from its bill. I've watched Great Blue Herona catch fish and rodents, but this was the first time I had seen one with a snake.
The snake, however, wasn't going to give up on life as easily as the fish or rodents as it located a reed with its tail and wrapped it around it as tightly as it could.

The Heron pulled repeatedly as hard as it could, but the snake was not giving in.
After a minute or so of pulling, the reed finally gave in and snapped.
The Heron, thinking it had succeeded, tried to swallow the snake, but the snake still had a hold of the reed. Since the reed was at a right angle to the snake, it blocked the last bit of the snake from sliding down the Heron's throat.
The Heron continued to work at swallowing the snake, maneuvering the reed around to the front of its bill.
And around to the opposite side of its bill, slowly working the snakes grasp further down the reed.
Until the snake finally lost its battle, the reed fell to the ground and the Heron swallowed the snake down. I wonder what it feels like to have a snake wiggling around in your stomach? :-)
To watch a video of a similar experience, check out this YouTube video taken by local photographer Dennis Davenport.