Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Big Sky, Small Things

Believe it or not there are other things to see at Hasty Brook besides birds.
There is the big sky, so blue it almost makes your heart burst.
A Meadow Frittilary (correct me please if I'm wrong) sampling the sweet clover.

Red Osier Dogwood with its ripe white berries.

Tall Buttercup. I have to love a flower called Buttercup.

A new life reclaiming an old one. There are lots of snags with many cavities in the woods.

A White-spotted Sawyer with its heart-shaped spot. Adults feed on twig bark and larvae mine dead and dying conifers.
I hope someone will be able to help me out on this small shrub. There are a few of them in the sunny area alongside the driveway. The soil there is sandy and well drained. It doesn't quite look like the well-established Serviceberry that grows abundantly in the bushy areas up there.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Hap's Help

I got help from frequent commenter Hap in New Hope on this little bird's id. I saw this young bird two weeks ago at Hasty Brook. Hap said it looks to be an immature mourning warbler. Another opinion from a local birder confirmed it. I wonder if I'll ever be skilled enough to id young or fall plumage warblers.
Fuzzy, but a different view.
Even putting aside the confusion of non-breeding plumages, I'm not sure that I can always tell that a bird is a young one. Does anyone have any general tips for aging birds?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Solitary Man

Last weekend Art and I took a drive while the kids were watching a movie up at Hasty Brook. We turned off the county road onto a minimum maintenance road that we'd explored before. After barely a mile we turned a corner to find the road under water. We stopped to look around a bit and see how deep the water was when Art spotted a bird walking through the shallow water far up ahead. I got my bins on it but couldn't get a very good look. As I was getting back into the truck Art whispered that it was flying our way. I got a few pictures and jotted down some field marks. I do not know shorebirds. At all. When I got home I looked through my field guides and thought I was pretty sure it was a solitary sandpiper- pretty sure. I emailed this picture around to a few people and Birdchick confirmed my id! One down, about 50 to go! Maybe I CAN learn a few shorebirds. The kids and I stopped into Half Price Books, my favorite used books store this afternoon and I found a used copy of the Stokes Beginners Guide to Shorebirds. I have two months before my Cape May trip. Maybe I can learn a couple more by then.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 15, 2008

Hummm...er Caption contest!

I put fresh nectar in the freshly scrubbed feeder at Hasty Brook last weekend and within minutes she arrived. She's not as flashy as the male but she seems calmer and less suspicious of me and my camera. Her tiny claws must be about the size of an eyelash.

This photo is begging for a caption don't you think? I can't tell if she's yawning or smacking her lips! Maybe she's blowing a kiss. Sneezing? Her eyes are closed!

I was excited to catch her sitting in a nearby tree, all fluffed up resting after her long drink.

She's rested long enough- BYE!!

Let's hear some caption suggestions! Sorry, no material or monetary prizes will be rewarded.
Just the praise and adoration of your fellow bloggers!
I'll be spending a week at the New River Birding and Nature Festival in West Virginia next April 26 through May 3rd and October 3, 4, and 5 I'll be in Milbank South Dakota for Doug Buri's Sparrow Workshop. If that's not enough, this morning I booked my flight to join Susan, Laura, and Kathi on October 23 for the Cape May Autumn Weekend!! I finally was able to track down my ticket credit from Northwest Airlines. I had cancelled my trip to Cape May on short notice last year due to my Mom's passing. Fortunately this year's Autumn Weekend falls just a few days within the 365 day window in which Northwest will allow me to use the credit. I have somewhat mixed feelings about being away from home on the anniversary of Mom's passing but she had so wanted me to take that trip last year and I think it will be good for me to be among friends.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sparrows in South Dakota!

I am not an impulsive person. At all. It's an old family joke that I can agonize over choosing something new off of a menu. That said, sometimes things come together, details and timing, and I believe I'd be a fool not to act. This morning I was looking at some pictures I took last weekend at Hasty Brook. Puzzling over my field guides I started out thinking it was a Lincoln's sparrow, but now I'm pretty sure it's a juvenile song sparrow. I struggle with sparrows. I love them- their songs, the subtle coloring, their behaviors. I was thinking that I've improved my warbler identification skills a bit this spring and summer and that I really needed to work on sparrows next.

Reading through my blog lists I came across Birdchick's post titled "Learn Your Brown Birds". I need to do that. A sparrow workshop? In October in South Dakota? I immediately checked my work schedule. My weekend off! I clicked on the link. Doug Buri is putting on a three day intensive sparrow workshop on October 3, 4, and 5 in Milbank, South Dakota, about 180 miles east of the Twin Cities.
A combination of field work and classroom instruction, a limit of 20 participants with two very qualified instructors, a chance to see some of the original northern tallgrass prairie- I was sold. I quickly emailed Doug Buri to see if I could reserve a spot. Within five minutes I had a confirmation email from Doug. I grabbed my credit card and made hotel reservations for the weekend. It all just fell together.
In less than an hour all of the details were taken care of. So on October 2 I'll pack my car and hit the road for a weekend of sparrows.
Can't wait!
Posted by Picasa

I See You

There were lots of terrific birds at Hasty Brook last weekend. A good many of my photos are not so great.
This ovenbird flew in to have a look, peeking at me through the leaves but he wouldn't show his whole beautiful self.
I think this is a female chestnut-sided warblers. Someone please chime in and confirm or refute my id.
Another view showing the wing bars. The eye rings give this little bird such a curious expression. I tried my mad pishing skilz again on this common yellowthroat but was not so successful as last time. This bird was a treat to watch. He was in a clump of ferns and tall grass nearby. I could see the grass wiggling as he hopped about down low, then he would pop up, grab an insect, and drop back down into the grass.
Serviceberries were ripe last weekend and flocks of cedar waxwings were gorging themselves on the fruit. We could hear the waxwings before we could see them. They would zip in and land at the tops of the birches, look about, then float down to brush level to eat the berries.

Roes-breasted grosbeaks gave them some competition for the berries. Both bird species had an awkward time of it when trying to get at the fruit at the tips of the branches. The birds' weight would pull the branch down and then bounce back up when released.

There were plenty of purple finches at the feeders. Check out this poor dude! He looked so tatty- he reminded me of "Baldy" our bald cardinal in the yard back home. Baldy gets a bad case of bird mites every summer and gets to looking pretty scary.

Monday, August 11, 2008

More Turkey Tales

It was a picture perfect weekend at Hasty Brook. I drove up Friday morning, Art and the kids would come up Saturday morning. The first thing I noticed driving up the dirt road toward our place was that the utility company had de-brushed the roadside under the power lines. It was a swath about thirty feet deep. As I turned the car into the driveway I noticed three brown lumps walking my way. I got out of the car to take the driveway chain down and the lumps kept coming. Turkeys! A large female and her two not-so-tiny polts(?). I slowly moved back to stand inside the open car door. It didn't seem they could see me or didn't find me a threat because the walked right up and stood, pecking at the grasshoppers right at my feet. Of course my camera was on the seat but I had my phone in my pocket so I slowly snapped a few terrible pictures. The turkeys were actually too close. By now the horse flies were really chewing my ankles so I shoo'd the turkeys along so I could get moving. They toodled off into the woods and I thought that was that. About an hour later after I had set up the camper I walked back down the long driveway, looking around at the changes from two weeks ago when I was last there. Under a stand of maples I found several turkey feathers on the ground and wondered if maybe the turkeys were using the maples for their night time roost. Back at the campsite with the feeders filled and my favorite camp chair set in the shade, my binoculars and camera in my lap and a TALL Malibu Rum with pineapple OJ in the cup holder, I glanced back toward the road and there they came. The sun was headed down and they were back lit but I could easily see the jumping grasshoppers that they were devouring. As the sun dropped lower I heard the female's wings as she flew up- into the maples! Can you see her?
Eventually after a few calls from mom, the two young turkeys flew up to join her for the night. Before the mosquitoes got too bad I spread some seed mix on the ground around the clearing- mostly white millet for the sparrows with some peanuts for the jays and chipmunks. I settled in the camper with a pile of blankets (it got down to 46 degrees over night!) and a book and went to sleep to the sound of veeries and hermit thrushes. I awoke at 0530 to a sound I'd never heard before. Slowly grabbing my camera I scanned the clearing- nothing. Then I heard it again, right out the window. The turkeys were back- right outside the window. Mom would call to the youngsters constantly, an ascending "yiipe". The really wonderful sound was the bubbling twitter of the two young birds answering her.

The rest of these pictures were taken through the window screens and are quite fuzzy.
"Wake up in there!"
The young birds were constantly in motion.

They seemed to enjoy the seed mix- especially the peanuts. They stayed in the clearing for about an hour and a half scratching at the ground, eating seeds and grasshoppers. They also ate some unknown red berries and drank from the dog bowl. I didn't see them again over the rest of the weekend but I'll be watching for them.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Summer Wood Warblers

I did get to see a few warblers two weeks ago when we were up at Hasty Brook. There were a few yellow-rumped warblers mostly hunting insects among the thick beaked hazelnut bushes. I did take a walk along the path down on the creek level. I covered myself in DEET, put on a cap and headed down the steps. The first thing I noticed was that there was NO breeze. No air moving at all. Within seconds the mosquitoes were everywhere. If I opened my mouth they'd fly in. They were in my ears and behind my glasses. I stayed long enough to quickly scan the trees. I got several good looks at a golden-winged warbler but the branches were too thick and my camera couldn't autofocus on anything. I'm too slow at manual focus on my Canon- that's yet another thing I need to work on. It's a very birdy area down there but the bugs beat me down in very little time so I scrambled back up the steps.Back up in the breeze it didn't take me long to locate this pretty male chestnut-sided warbler. He stayed in the branches over my head, darting in and out of the shadows.
He seemed quite pleased with his beautiful self and sang for all the world to enjoy.

I did pick up on another familiar warbler song but just couldn't get my eyes on the singer. I got out my Birdjam and played the song just to confirm the song id. In a flash the singer got louder. I played the song one more time and the singer called back, this time I saw a flash of yellow down low in the brush around a birch at the edge of the clearing. I was alternating between my binoculars and camera. I'd get a glimpse of yellow, bring my camera up- nothing. Finally I got a good enough look to confirm the common yellowthroat but he just wouldn't stay out of the brush long enough for a photo. He'd pop out of the dense brush just long enough to take a look around then he'd dive back down out of sight. You can see the little speck of yellow in the brush above.

I zoomed to the spot where he would pop out and waited. Snap! Got him!

I tried out my mad pishing skilz and VOILA! The (not-so-)common yellowthroat!
So pretty and worth the wait.
I've added a new section on my sidebar. There is a group of us (bird bloggers) going to the New River Birding and Nature Festival April 27-May 2, 2009 in Fayetteville, West Virginia. Julie Zickefoose describes her time at last year's festival here, here,and here. Mary from Mary's View tossed the idea of attending out there a while back. Mary's idea took on a life of it's own and now we are eight bird bloggers renting a cabin in the mountains of West Virginia! Some of us will attend for the whole week, some for half. It is guaranteed to be a good time. Good birding, lots of laughter and fun will fill my week. I am most excited to meet face-to-face many friends that I have "known" through blogging for the two plus years I've been at it. I'll be able to add to my Blogger Life List !
Check out the New River Birding and Nature Festival website. They have the 2009 festival information up. Think about joining us. There are all sorts of accommodations: hotels, cabins campgrounds. Read Katdoc's posts here and here. She attended the festival last year and recommends it highly.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Ooops- Siskin

I had intended to post this picture in the large format but I have such trouble editing posts in Blogger. Frequently when I put a post together I put the photos I want to use into a draft in Blogger and save them. Later I add the text. The problem arises if I want to make any changes. ANY changes. For example, if I put the photos into a draft on 7/30 and then add text and want to publish on 8/01, I have to change the date under "post options" before I publish. If I forget, the new post shows up under 7/31 and not as the most recent post. Or in this case, I forgot to change the picture size under "edit html " . So here's the problem: if I go into "edit posts" to make the changes I want ALL OF MY TEXT DISAPPEARS!!!
Here's my larger photo of the pine siskin.
She's so pretty.
I think it's worth seeing it in the larger format.
Thank you.
Rant over.

Pine Siskins Mixing it Up

A few weeks ago when we were last at Hasty Brook the predominant bird sighted at the feeders were goldfinches. Last weekend I bought one of those cheap thistle socks ($1.99) and brought some of my stash of niger thistle and hung it from a branch in a spruce tree. Within an hour this little bird showed up. I thought it was a Pine Siskin but couldn't get a look at any yellow and she wasn't talking! With identification help by email from Mike Hendrickson he confirmed that it was a Pine Siskin! Later that afternoon I heard the familiar call of the siskins.
Check out her slender pointed bill.

Soon there was a mob of siskins. Mike said that if there is an abundant food supply for them they will breed in northern Minnesota. According to Sibley they will feed "on buds and seeds of birches, alders, pines, and other trees. Also takes small insects." My new Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America states: "Flocks devour thistle seeds at feeders." They emptied half of this feeder in an afternoon!
The males seemed particularly feisty, jostling for position on the feeder.

The birds are a bit blurry but I liked the shadow on the sock

There is more yellow on these birds than I thought.

More siskins in motion.