Monday, July 27, 2009

Barred Owls

Reier and I spend a fair amount of time in an off leash dog park in south Minneapolis. A family of Barred Owls has faithfully raised young there for at least five years that we know of. The youngsters are easy to identify from their parents - their feathers still have that "fuzzy" look, and the feathers on their faces have not completely grown in yet. They are adult-sized, and were at about 5-6 weeks old. They also can be heard making a low whistle, which is their food-begging call.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Steelers Here We Come!

Super exciting day today! When the Pittsburgh Steelers finish their regular season at Landshark Stadium against the Miami Dolphins - Reier and I will be there! Reier got us tickets this morning! And he was uber-smart - the tickets are lower level by the visitor's side! Can't wait till January 3!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Babies and More Babies

Banding this weekend yielded a good snapshot of the bird world, and how just about all species were in the process of having young, or raising them. One of the Cedar Waxwings had a brood patch, which you can see here. It was neat to see those waxy tips up close. In the first photo, Mark demonstrates one of the ways we can sex the birds - by measuring the "black" on the chin.

This Song Sparrow is definitely a juvenile - note the overall "messy" appearance and less prnounced markings under the chin.

This young Downy Woodpecker has a distinct pattern to the red on his head - it appears closer to the front of the top of the head, not the back.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


My friend Roberta looks after quite a few Eastern Bluebird boxes in the Eden Prairie, MN area. In the bumper crop years, she's had as many as 70. The cooler, wetter springs the last couple of years might have had a difference in the lower numbers she's seen lately. We went out on one day, and all of these bluebird boxes had chicks (or eggs) at different ages.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Osprey Banding

July means ospreys! The chicks are banded at 4-5 weeks old - older than Peregrine chicks are banded. The two chicks shown in this post are from the same clutch, but actually a few days apart in age. There are two bands put on - one is a color band, that is easier to read from a distance, and the other is the silver US Fish and Wildlife Service band. The chicks have orange eyes, which will turn yellow as they get older. Ospreys are interesting in their migration habits - the females usually leave to head south before the males do, they tend to go farther, and are less likely to return to the same spot they were hatched in than males. They also do not come back from their southern migration for 18 months on their first trip down. I included a few photos of the parents as they flew over. Can you see the dihedral (the "V") in the wing shape?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a . . . Killdeer

Aaaahhhh - nothing like a baby Killdeer that makes you want to hug them and squeeze them and call them George (little Looney Tunes reference for those of you old enough to remember.) I included an adult so you can see what they grow up to look like.

Now here is a baby that might take a glance or two to make sure you know who it is. Baby Horned Lark! The last is an adult for comparison. Young larks look almost like a cross between a starling and a robin, don't they?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Leucistic Robin

This is something you don't see all the time. Reier called me from a bike ride and told me about this leucistic robin. There are several differences between being leucistic and being albino; thank you to Wikipedia for the following, "Leucism is a general term for the phenotype resulting from defects in pigment cell differentiation and/or migration from the neural crest to skin, hair or feathers during development. This results in either the entire surface (if all pigment cells fail to develop) or patches of body surface (if only a subset are defective) having a lack of cells capable of making pigment. More common than a complete absence of pigment cells is localized or incomplete hypopigmentation, resulting in irregular patches of white on an animal that otherwise has normal colouring and patterning. This partial leucism is known as a "pied" or "piebald" effect. A further difference between albinism and leucism is in eye colour. Due to the lack of melanin production in both the retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) and iris, albinos typically have red eyes due to the underlying blood vessels showing through. In contrast, leucistic animals have normally coloured eyes." Now you can say you learned something today.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Misc Birds and Football

Happy 4th of July! We haven't checked in our Steelers for a bit. This is typically the quiet time. Training camp starts July 31, and really the main things to take care of now is to sign the draft picks. Eight of our nine have signed so far, so that is good work. Owner Dan Rooney is also sworn in as the US Ambassador to Ireland, and we wish him luck on that. His physical presence will be sorely missed in the halls of the main office, however.

On to birds - here is a miscellaneous bunch of cool birds that I had the chance recently to check out. That gorgeous one first is a Lark Sparrow. I don't often get the chance to see them. They are actually fairly good sized - about 6 1/2 inches from head to tail. They also have a flashy tail, with white feathers at either side.

Another species I was happy to see recently was Yellow-headed Blackbirds. Here is an adult male, female, and some youngsters probably not long out of the nest. It seems like it is harder and harder to find them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Extreme Koi fishing

I swear - none of the photos here have been Photoshopped other than some lightening and cropping. Was out birding with friend Roberta not long ago. Visited an osprey platform and was suprised to see the male bringing in - a goldfish (carp). It was very possible that the bird had just fished out a goldfish that had grown after it had been dropped in a lake. However, we were in a somewhat affluent part of town, so I suppose it was also possible that someone's koi pond or reflecting pool was missing a member . . . .