Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fall in SD part 2

Reier had an observation as we were driving back - "how weird to see Snow Geese, Rough-legged Hawks and a Cattle Egret within an hour of each other?" He was right - the first two are pretty normal for SD this time of year. The Cattle Egret we found was not.

The concentrations of Snow Geese were a little higher than I am used to - more like what I see in the spring. What a sight and sound to see them all lift off out of fields.

Some of the best birding is done in the worst light, so we will just call these shots art-y, okay? The first one is of Sharp-tailed Grouse, who will often roost in trees, or be in there just as dawn breaks. The last shot is of a Rough-legged Hawk taking off after something furry on the ground.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fall in SD

Just got back from a trip to SD to visit my folks. It was unseasonably warm for a November few days. I will post a few of the photos I took.
Here is a male American Kestrel with a bug!

These next couple of shots are actually of two different birds - both Red-tailed Hawks. The first two are of the same bird - he was sitting in a field, and then flew away. See the red tail? Also see the very dark plumage?

This Red-tail is also very dark, but has a striped tail, indicative of a juvenile bird.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Banding November

I did not have high hopes for lots of birds today - I figured most of what we would get (if any at all) would be Juncos, Goldfinches and Black-capped Chickadees. Well - we did have 25 birds, but only one junco and no Goldfinches. The Chickadees were well represented, and we did get a couple of surprises.
Here is a male and female White-breasted Nuthatch for comparison. The male has the darker "cap", but that is only one mark to look at when you are sexing this bird. AND - if you happen to be in Ohio, for example, there is very little difference in the "caps", and you cannot count on that at all!

Here is a Nuthatch as friend Roger is placing a band on its leg. The pliers he uses has different sizes for the different sized bands.

This bird was a wonderful surprise! It was a female Hairy Woodpecker. She was banded - ready for this? - on almost the same week in November at the same location as we banded today - in 2003! Now, she wasn't the oldest on record - we know of one who lived to at least 15 years, 10 months - but learning this type of information is definitely why we band birds!
Here is her band - it is pretty worn from all those years! The numbers were actually a little difficult to read. It shows, though, that the bird was obviously not troubled by wearing the band.

Something Roger pointed out, which I am embarressed to say is something I had not realized before today, is how a Hairy Woodpecker does not have any barring on the white outer tail feathers. A Downy does - here are two photos for comparison. I have always focused on Hairys being about a third bigger than Downys, have much longer bills in comparison to their heads, and the two have different vocalizations.

Here is a shot of her wing - it was a very clean molt, with no retaining of brown in her feathers. (This often means signs of wear, or bleaching from sun, because birds often take two years or more to go through an entire moult.) Off she goes for hopefully more productive years!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Learning to Sing

One of the things that gets me through the upcoming winter season is thinking about the welcoming songs of birds heralding the coming springtime. It's tough work learning that, though - and learning which song is yours to sing. Check out this interesting article on song sparrows, and a new study on how they learn to do their thing,
And just when you are so bummed that all the species in the world are in trouble, scientists find that there are actually lots more out there than we ever knew about. A recent 24-hour bioblitz (which is basically a snapshot in time survey to find out what plants, animals, fungi, birds, etc are in a given location) in Yellowstone found 46 kinds of bees, 373 plants, 86 mushroom types and over 300 insects. Some of these were undocumented before.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back to the Real World

With the exception of a few songbird banding dates, most of the fall banding season is over for me. It does bring with it a sense of sadness, but also dreams of all the birds to band next year.

Here are a couple of recent stories that I found interesting. How about this one, where there is evidence of a few species of birds who breed in North America who have a second clutch just as they are getting ready to make the trip south. (Orchard Orioles, pictured here, are one species noted.)
Or this one, quoted in the BBC, where different species share a nest box.