Friday, March 30, 2007

Chipping Sparrows

I love chipping sparrows because they're so tiny and spunky. When they sing, their whole bodies vibrate with the effort. These two were foraging and occasionally chasing each other.

Spring flowers! Brought by... February showers?

Monday, March 19, 2007

Spring break part 2- Bosque del Apache NWR

The best thing about going to Albuquerque is going to the Bosque del Apache NWR (even if it is 90 miles away). I had dazzling memories of it from my last visit so I had high hopes for this trip.

It was unusually warm there this time (at least, a LOT warmer than the last time I went) and many of the birds I had seen last time were replaced by ducks (in breeding plumage!)

[Click on any of the pictures to view a larger version.]

This gives you an idea of the sheer volume of ducks on the lakes (the ones in flight were mostly Green-winged Teal). Ducks on the water- “Where’s everyone going?”

Northern Shoveler

Cinnamon Teal

I didn’t get the appeal of ducks before (probably because the one time I went to look specifically for ducks it was freezing and windy) but now I’m a believer. My absolute favorites are Ruddy Ducks. You have to love those stiff little tails (which makes me think of them as ‘rudder ducks’) and big white cheeks.


There were lots of Pied-billed Grebes around but they all pulled the sinking act on me when I tried to photograph them. This one sank just like the rest of them, but when I waited around, he came back up with a fish!

He seemed very proud of the fish and carried it around for a while before eating it.

Edit: this bird is NOT a Wilson's Snipe, but a Long-billed Dowitcher- thanks to the members of the Georgia Orn. Society list-serve for pointing this out.

Lifebird: Greater Yellowlegs! The first thing I thought when I saw him was “You’re not a duck…”

The sandhill cranes may have been gone, but there were still a lot of geese hanging around.

This was a flock of both Ross's and Snow Geese canoodling together- you have to click on the picture to see a larger, more focused version.

My introduction into the world of shorebirds wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t have a Mystery Shorebird. They are the fall warblers of the water. What is this guy!? He wasn’t very big, about the same size as say, a Spotted Sandpiper.

Note the intriguing white eyebrow visible in this shot...

Perhaps a Lesser Yellowlegs?

A flock of Western Meadowlarks flew by and settled into a ditch on the side of the road. It was thrilling seeing that multitude of yellow chests with the dramatic black Vs going by.

After much suspense, I finally got to see a flock, or 'bevy' as they say, of Gambel's Quail! They were rather elusive when it came to photos but I got a shot of this one sneaking coyly into the brush. They scuttled around and clucked indignantly.

As much as I enjoyed this trip, there were some characters that I missed seeing from last time. To honor their memory, I've resurrected some photos from '06.

American Avocets

I did get to see many Harriers, but I didn't get to see one having a roadside meal, like this female was last time. Maybe an immature red-tail?

White-faced Ibis: seen from blind

Virginia Rail: also from blind

And last but not least, 'Miguel,' a Yellow Grosbeak who was visiting a feeder in my aunt's neighborhood.

Until next time!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Spring Break in New Mexico- woot! Part 1: Rio Grande Nature Center

Spring break finally came, and unfortunately it has gone, but I had a rollicking time in between. My venerable aunt not only tolerates my birding bug, but feeds the flames. First stop: the Rio Grande Nature Center, which I soon found out was filled with ducks!

Ring-necked ducks!

Wood ducks- check out those hot eligible bachelors!

A female Hooded Merganser- she was on the market too!

The ducks looked peaceful enough, gliding serenely on the water, occasionally quacking irritably at most. But I soon saw their true colors when a staff member went in to refill their feeding platform- it was like a scene from The Birds.

They had no qualms about stomping on each other's backs to get onto the platform. It was like they hadn't eaten in weeks! This is the definition of the term 'feeding frenzy.'
There was an opening on the end of the platform but not for long- swooping in on the right is a female Mallard.

Other waterfowl I saw but didn't get to photograph were Cinnamon Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Bufflehead.

Ducks weren't the only attraction at the Nature Center. Behold the female Red-shafted Flicker. She stayed on the branch preening for a long time before finally flying off.

A female American Kestrel stopped me in my tracks when I saw her in a tree right in front of me. She flew off pretty fast but I managed to get a picture.

A pair of Greater Roadrunners were totally oblivious to people, which enabled me to get great looks at them carrying twigs back and forth, presumably to their nest site. One even dashed right up to me, I thought he was going to ask me for the toll to walk on the path.

Two Wood Ducks acting more like songbirds than ducks.
I also saw a Fox Sparrow in the brush around the feeders, which I later found out was an honor because it was only the second record of a Foxy in the Nature Center.
I spent my last day in New Mexico at the Nature Center helping out with bird banding, to brush up on the mad skillz I got last summer... did I remember any of it? To my relief, I succesfully extracted a Lincoln's Sparrow and a Bewick's Wren (everything except the poor guy's tongue- a toothpick had to be called in for that part). I guess it's like riding a bicycle- once you learn you don't forget. I wish I'd had my camera, because the Bird of the Day was a (previously banded) Swamp Sparrow! What a cutie.
Other birds seen:
male Cooper's Hawk
Spotted Towhee
White-throated Sparrow
White-breasted Nuthatch
Canada Goose (plenty of 'em)

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Down by the lake

Yesterday I went to a lake on the campus of my university- it's one of those places that you don't anticipate finding many birds beyond the local commoners but exceeds your expectations anyway. Kind of like seeing Cher at Pizza Hut (not that I would be too thrilled about Cher). In addition, there are always plenty of people/dogs around, which makes me even more amazed that in the midst of such chaos, I've discovered 5 lifebirds there (Green Heron, Wilson's Snipe, Yellow Warbler, Spotted Sandpiper, and Winter Wren). I can usually count on bluebirds, woodpeckers, phoebes, nuthatches, belted kingfishers, great blue heron, and hawks, too, and lately there's been a Pied-billed Grebe hanging around. Hey, obviously the birds think it's something special, so I'll keep going there too.

Spotted sandpiper going for a stroll along the lake. The way they walk, they look like they're being jerked along by a rather inexperienced puppeteer.

Back to the feeder- a cardinal waits his turn, it's getting competitive I tell you.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Birdfeeder drama continues

The plumpest patron at my birdfeeder- yes, I'm promoting chickadee obesity. He's getting competition, though- a male and female cardinal and a couple of house finches have forced him to reduce his former 20-minute-long seed sessions to mere seconds.

Monday, March 5, 2007

A historic moment and a chickadee

This is the historic and momentous moment of my first posting. Maybe I should explain who I am first. I am a college student, a female college student of legal drinking age nonetheless, who both stays up until 4 am doing rebellious college things AND regularly skulks around with binoculars stalking birds, even pishing if appropriate. There seems to be a generalization that birding is not a realm of people of my demographic and I want to prove that it can be, and not only that, but it can be cool. How this blog will help, I am not sure. I just like talking about birds, let's be honest here.

What about the chickadee part? Well, I'm very fond of chickadees, and so I put a birdfeeder up on the porch of my apartment where I can see it from my window. Sure enough, a chickadee has been a regular patron. Yesterday, he was gorging himself for an uninterrupted span of about 20 minutes, and the wind started blowing the feeder around pretty hard (it's just made of plastic), but he dug his heels in and hung on. It was hilarious-looking, like the birdfeeder was one of those whirly things at a fair. So today when I came back from classes and saw him back on the feeder, I decided to sneak up on him. He was so engrossed in picking the best seeds that I was only a few feet away from him before he noticed me and boy, was he mad that I'd tricked him. He was 'chick-a-dee-dee'ing at me from the tree outside the porch and if chickadees have curse words, he was using all of them.

A chickadee from my backyard.