Thursday, April 29, 2010

Big Migration Push!

My neck hurts...

Here we are, at the end of April, and birds have been sparse. Until this morning! Birds everywhere. I was planning on getting more things done but that would prove difficult as every step outdoors lead to a new discovery. Bird sound was all around the house beginning at dawn when I filled the feeders and small birds were cruising from limb to limb.

It was almost hard to ID certain birds as they moved so quickly but I jotted down all of the locals and then thought of getting to the others soon. Then, my wife reported a bird she saw as she stepped out back for a minute that was very 'cute' and tried to describe it. I couldn't track it back down but then soon discovered 2 female Black-throated Blues by the back fence. Had to be them.

I later went out and photographed a male overhead.

Black-throated Blue Warbler

Unfortunately, most birds were only seen for underneath as they fed high in the oaks. There were Worm-eating Warblers (that don't eat worms, BTW), Red-eyed Vireos, Palm Warblers, and very many others I was chasing from yard to yard.

Eventually, I did get some shots of the Blackpoll Warblers moving about like this male.

Blackpoll Warbler

Then I got a shot of its launch into space searching for more food.

Blackpoll Warbler

And what is that creeping along the branches? Why, a Black and White Warbler, of course. They are easily ID'd by this feeding behavior.

Black and White Warbler

Back at the kitchen feeder, the web cam caught some other birds feeding down low. Like our bright male red variant House Finch.

House Finch

Sneaking in through the shadows was one of the gregarious Titmice who only paused for a quick bite and then bolted for the trees.

Tufted Titmouse

Then the female House Finches showed up.

House Finch

Though fairly drab, as female birds typically are, they are very nicely plumed.

House Finch

Later in the day, I paused from some yard work and settled into a chair out back and began scanning the trees again. Against the blue sly and green oaks I saw a sudden flash of red. Huh? Other than Cardinals, we do not have red birds in the yard. I had a hunch but had to get a shot to be sure, the bird being so far up in the canopy.

I rushed into the house and shouted what I thought it was and it turned out to be true. A Scarlet Tanager!

Scarlet Tanager

A first for our yard records! Scarlet Tanagers are unmistakable with their bright red forms and black wings. I have only seen them at Fort DeSoto and Mead Garden. This was a real thrill.

Scarlet Tanager

Down at ground level, I paused to get a shot of the Walking Iris that are blooming like mad in the shade. They are blooming every other day in great profusion.

Walking Iris

Over at nearby Lake Lancaster, breeding plumed White Ibis roam the lake's edge.

White Ibis

Up in the oaks lining the lake, Blackpoll Warblers and Palm Warblers cruise for snacks. Birds everywhere!

Western Palm Warbler

I won't post a full list but the remaining bird I didn't get a shot of was a Hermit Thrush which showed up in the yard just before sundown.

Whew! What a day!! I have never seen so many different species of birds moving North in our yard ever. It was a very interesting day but a sad reminder that all of these beautiful birds will soon be gone for many, many months to start a new cycle again. Now we have to settle into the approaching Summer and just our local birds.

Though I love them just as much.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Some Gathered House Finches

Not wanting to just post shots of finches from the BirdCam everyday, I decided to just compile a few of my favorites from the last few days and group them together. The first one, though, was taken from the front door where they have also been feeding voraciously lately.

House Finch

Back at the BirdCam, this pair wonders where all the seed went. I blame the squirrels...

House Finch

The yellow variant pair stopped by a couple days later and fed for quite a while.

House Finch

I can't get enough of this yellow bird for some reason. I love when he drops by.

House Finch

Maybe we will see the orange version again this year. Still awaiting the babies to join the fun!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Another White-winged Dove Shot

"Let's see if I can just stare this thing down..."

White-winged Dove

The BirdCam catches another photo booth shot of our continuing White-wings!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Farewell, Kitty

Catbirds are using the back fence as their play area. Sometimes they are along the deck or out front, but for now I can listen to them calling all morning and popping out the take a quick bath before heading in the bird bath.

Gray Catbird

This blurry, distant shot may just be the last of the season as these birds usually leave right at the end of April. We shall see.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Next Red-wings Fly-in

You can't miss the call of incoming Red-winged Blackbirds. Their loud, metallic call arrives a bit before they appear. They usually only come to our house during breeding season when they are rearing chicks over at the Greenwood Wetlands. Sometimes the females bring the juveniles over for a few days to fill up and then are gone until the next year.

Right now, the males are foraging one or two at a time. Like this gorgeous specimen that showed up today.

Red-winged Blackbird

Not far behind was the 'scalped' bird that showed up on the 8th and I posted about here.

Red-winged Blackbird

He seems to be healing up some. So, he seems to have survived whatever happened back then.

The two males fed for a while and then departed, leaving the backyard quiet again for the next hour or so.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

White-winged Dove and Friend

We have had at least 3 White-winged Doves visiting this season. Most ever recorded before was a grand total of one at a time that remained for maybe two days. These doves are still showing up nearly every day.

I took some time to get some shots straight from the kitchen window instead of relying on the BirdCam to make sure I got some better clear shots.

White-winged Dove

I always get so fixated on verifying the white edges on the wings that I often forget how cool their face colors are. Just hard to get close shots outside as they are so skittish.

White-winged Dove

Soon, the dove allowed one of my favorite birds to share a meal.

White-winged Dove, House Finch

Love those yellow variants!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lots of Ducklings

Spotted some Wood Ducks with babies on the way home last night so I figured I would swing by in the morning to try and get a few shots.

Not disappointed.

Wood Duck

So cute in the morning light. Wishing them well. It has been a while since I have noticed the Wood Ducks leading young around. Nice to see again.

Farther down the way, there are a lot of Mallard young.


I love this time of year.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Oddly Plumed House Finch?

No, not this one. This is one of our bright red males. There are several that vie for space at the feeders. It was nearing dark and we had a light rain but those colors still stand out even in low light. All of the below images were taken through the kitchen window.

House Finch

Soon after that sighting I noticed another bird fly in. The colors didn't seem to match a House Finch out of the corner of my eye so I ran for the camera, again, and started snapping away.

All of the House Finches I have ever seen have been uniformly colored down their backs. This one has very dark primaries and it continues down the tail.

House Finch

Even with the flash lighting up the bird, you can see the darker lower half.

House Finch

A male joined our new bird and it is a good comparison shot for how I think a finch 'should' look.

House Finch

Pretty odd to me. Still a cute little visitor.

House Finch

A Cardinal interrupted the photo session and gave me a, "I think you are down here, my friend..." and with the rain picking up, I complied.

House Finch

If you have ever seen a similarly colored House Finch, please let me know!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BirdCam Motion and Optics

I usually scan through the hundreds of BirdCam images an weed them down to a dozen or so that I actually like. Too many squirrel and Mourning Dove backs and such. There are also a few images that one might not consider great but they keep drawing my eye back to them. Usually they are images showing birds in motion or some interesting lighting situation.

So, I will throw a few out here.

First up, a flock of American Goldfinches jockey for space at the thistle feeder.

American Goldfinch

Just recently, the House Finches have started to return in numbers. Baby Finches will soon be swarming the feeders but for now the parents are diving in for a meal.

House Finch

Besides the blurs, I have moved the cam so it faces the rising Sun but I didn't expect the rays that occur when birds arrive just after dawn.

Mourning Dove

Of course, once the Sun gets over the noon zenith, I can still enjoy a few regular shots. Just threw this one in since I dig Cardinals.

Northern Cardinal

I will keep sorting images and will post some of the more 'artistic' ones that stand out as we move along.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

White-winged Dove is Back

Seems to be another yearly occurrence.

I remember the first year I spotted a White-winged Dove on the back porch. It was a shock and pleasant surprise. I had first seen one in Winter Park up in a tree but once one lit upon our back deck, well, that was a whole different matter.

Since then we have a sighting at least once a year. I keep trying to recall exactly if they all are the same time of year (yes, I should check all of my records but I am tired) but it seems to be the case. Still, it surprises me to look out back and see those big white-rimmed shoulders pushing out the Mourning Doves from the tray feeders.

Only managed a few blurry shots but they confirm my sightings.

White-winged Dove

Always seems to be one at a time each year. Odd.

Later, the doves moved to the kitchen feeder and commanded that space. Below in the ground cover a Gray Catbird seems to shout, "Stop hogging the seed, dude!"

Gray Catbird

Then a little later the decks were clear for the House Finches to move in before dark. I really like when the yellow and orange variants stop by.

House Finch

I thought the BirdCam would keep me from looking out the window so much. Turns out I can't resist seeing the birds first hand.

Monday, April 12, 2010

More Goldfinch Shots

One of my favorite sights is when birds go on 'predator alert' in the back yard. No matter what is happening or where they are, all of the birds freeze and tilt their heads to the side and focus on the danger above.

The BirdCam caught such a moment at the Goldfinch feeder.

American Goldfinch

Once the hawk moves off, usually with the help of the Blue Jay troop, activities return to normal. Then we can have fun with captions. Like this female who could be asking, "Shouldn't we be packing to leave soon?"

American Goldfinch

"Didn't I tell you to finish changing your outfit!? Your Mom says it is almost time to leave!"

American Goldfinch

"Psssst. Hey, lady. Wanna buy some sunflower seed?"

American Goldfinch

Gonna miss all my Winter birds.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Goldfinches and Friend

Back to the Goldfinch feeder. With the males completing their molting I figure I might as well grab some shots before they head out. I love how striking the bird in the center has become. Even the whites really pop out.

American Goldfinch

Here is a nice female and male comparison.

American Goldfinch

As usual, there always seems to be a couple interesting shots you never expect. Like the Indigo Bunting making a cameo in the background!

Goldfinch and Indigo Bunting

Will probably keep the BirdCam here for a few days and see what unfolds.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Ready for the Bunting This Year

Last year I was crying in my bird seed about not being able to get good shots of the Indigo Bunting. I had to shoot through the kitchen window screen and that side of the house is shaded most of the time. Then I had the big idea. I can move the screen up and out of the way. Duh!

This year I was ready for a photo op in case the bunting showed up again. I got shots of it molting earlier and that process in nearly complete. Voila!

Indigo Bunting

If it would let me, I would watch it all day. Simply a beautiful species.

Indigo Bunting

He won't be here too much longer, however and I will have to find a new fix.

Indigo Bunting

Thanks for the poses, my friend!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Our Ghost and Someone's Been Scalped!

For the past few years we have a had at least one Gray Catbird hang around until late in the season. Some years there are more than one and I would like to think they are breeding somewhere in the back brush but I have never been able to confirm it.

Just when I thought this year's version had flown off it appeared on the back deck all quiet-like.

Gray Catbird

Seems to be the new routine. Stay out of sight all day and then pop out to grab a few snacks, a drink of water, and then back into the shadows.

Gray Catbird

It always gives me a little glance and hops around before disappearing.

Gray Catbird

Meanwhile, back at the kitchen feeders, a Red-winged Blackbird showed up. My oldest boy spotted him first and remarked that it had white on its head. I grabbed the camera to check and it turns out not to be white but feathers on the top of its head are missing!

Red-winged Blackbird

Seems like our little friend got scalped somehow.

Red-winged Blackbird

Appears to be healthy otherwise. We wish him a speedy recovery.