Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Peregrine for Susan

There was a peregrine falcon education bird at Carpenter Nature Center from the Raptor Center on Saturday. This was Art's first look at a peregrine. Of all the raptors we saw Saturday, this bird impressed Art the most. He really loved the steel blue-gray on its back and the dark eyes and facial mask.
He said he didn't expect the peregrine to have so much strong color. He like the striped pant-legs too.
We were both fascinated by the bone cracking and crunching as what looked like a chunk of starling was munched.
Is it a male or female Susan?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Very Good Weekend

Today is my birthday. I missed Dad and Mom and Phyllis terribly this morning, thinking of all the phone calls from them over the years. Mom and Dad always sang Happy Birthday together on the phone, them Mom would remind me of what time I was born. Dad would call me "Lynne-deree". Phyllis would call too and seriously sing her version which would always throw me into fits of laughter because Phyllis had a pretty awful voice.
She'd tell me
"Happy Birthday Lynne-binn".
My family is big on nick-names.
A few tears, but mostly smiles remembering.
I didn't work this weekend so we had planned to spend my birthday weekend up north at Hasty Brook but John got a last minute invite to spend Friday night with friends that he hadn't seen in a while and packing bedding and food for just one night seemed like too much effort to me so we stayed home. Saturday morning I got up early and read some blogs over my coffee and I saw that Ecobirder was going to be at Carpenter Nature Center on Saturday as a volunteer for the Raptor Center. They were going to have a raptor release and have various education birds on display. My sweet Art gassed up the car and drove me down there. One of my favorite education birds was this broad-winged hawk. I've seen them in flight before but never this kind of view.
This bird had just finished bathing.
They are quite a bit smaller than I had thought. It's hard to get an idea of size when they're in flight.
Is this not an exquisite face?

I saw so many birds and took zillions of pictures- enough for several posts. It was a wonderful gift from Art that he went along with me. He followed me patiently while my eyes sparkled taking in the sights of these fabulous birds.
He even carried my bag.
Thanks Art.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Gulls, Gulls, Gulls!

Art joined me on a birding trip! We headed up to Hasty Brook Fiday night to camp for the night so we could be in Duluth by 0730 Saturday morning for a pelagic trip on Lake Superior.
Mike Hendrickson put the trip together. Maybe you remember that Deb from Sand Creek Almanac and I went on the same trip last fall. The weather Saturday was much nicer, although still pretty windy.
A little while into the trip Mike set Art up to do the chumming- tossing popcorn and day-old bread into the water to attract the gulls. Not being a birder, Art stuck out by being the only one without binoculars hanging around his neck. He was glad to have a job.
It didn't take long at all for the gulls to show up.
Mmmm... popcorn.

I was soon able to pick out the immature Herring Gulls from the more common Ring-billed Gulls. This one snatched up a piece of tasty bread.
Herring Gulls are bigger, and bulkier than Ring-billed Gulls.
Bombs away....
The Herring Gulls seemed to use their size advantage when going after the food.

At times it reminded me of a choreographed dance.
Living here in the city most the the gulls I see are circling the fast food parking lots looking for garbage. Watching the birds on this trip gave us a wonderful view of their amazing gracefulness and acrobatic abilities in flight.
Here's a good view of a mature Herring Gull on the left and an immature Herring Gull on the right. I did get a great look at a few Bonaparte's Gulls. They look so much daintier than the rest. A Franklin's Gull flew in among the rest at one point. I missed it. I would have been a lifer.
Art got it.
Not fair.
A juvenile American White Pelican preened and rested on the rocks along a pier. Near the end of the four hour trip the winds picked up, the sky clouded and the temperature dropped a bit. By the time we got back to the dock Art and I were cold and wind-burned but we had a great time.

I got to talk to a few familiar faces and met some new folks. Art said he really enjoyed his first bird trip- not for the birds, but because he liked the boat. That's OK.

Thanks Mike, for putting this trip together and for your help in confirming my id's. I'm looking forward to this winter's Sax Zim Bog Festival of Birds.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mystery Bird Number Three, or Why It's Good to Have More Than One Field Guide or Better Yet- a Friend Who's Really, Really Good

Here's yet another warbler that I couldn't identify without help. I scoured my two favorite field guides- Peterson (fifth edition) and Stokes Field Guide to Warblers and couldn't find anything to fit this bird. That gray neck band wasn't anywhere. So, once again I asked Hap in New Hope for help.

Gracious as ever, Hap referred me to the big Sibley Guide to Birds and sure enough, there it was! Can you find it?
I'll put the id in the comments.
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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordless Wednesday

Thank you to Doug Buri for identifying this juvenile Chipping Sparrow.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mystery Bird Number Two

Here's another bird that I saw two weekends ago at Hasty. Again, the sky was very overcast and I believe it was drizzling at this point so the pictures are on the poor side. It has to be a vireo but what kind? It has:

prominent eye ring

thicker, slightly hooked bill

two wing bars (seen better in the second photo)

shortish tail

yellow wash on the flanks

So here I go- I think it looks most like a Blue-headed Vireo.
(page 349 of the big Sibley)
What do you all think?
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Monday, September 15, 2008


Within an hour of seeing the Pileated Woodpecker in the birch at Hasty Brook, four Bald Eagles soared above the campsite. The sky had gone from eye-watering blue to heavily overcast when they flew into view.

The exposure is bad, but you can still make out the adult and immature eagles.
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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mystery Bird

I'm throwing myself on the mercy of experienced fall warbler birders to help me with an id on this little one. The lighting was terrible and my photos aren't great.

Any suggestions?

My thought is a Tennessee Warbler.

white undertail coverts

eyebrow stripe

pale under with no hints of streaks

light wingbar (although I think I see two)

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Sapsucker Seed Eater?

There were still quite a few juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers at Hasty Brook last weekend but I didn't see a single adult. Are the adults moving south all ready? This young one spent quite a bit of time on the thistle sock. I've never seen a sapsucker on any kind of feeder before, seed or suet. Quoting Sibley:

"Sapsuckers mainly eat the inner bark of trees, lap sap that oozes from small wells that the birds drill in a tree trunk, eat invertebrate's trapped in the sap produced at these "sapsucker wells," and also flycatch invertebrates."

When this bird first inspected the thistle sock, he (she?) seemed to give it a few whacks, burying its bill deep into the seed.

After some time it would probe the seed without the force, gently bringing out thistle, which it proceeded to eat. It occurred to me that the bird might be probing for insects, but I had just filled this sock with fresh seed an hour before so I'm certain it wasn't swallowing insects.

I was glad to have the type of sock with the bigger holes or I'm sure he would have enlarged the holes, tearing it.

Has anyone seen this foraging behavior in Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers before?

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Finally! A Pileated Woodpecker

The weather up north on Saturday was all over the place. The sky would go from intense blue with gorgeous white thunderhead clouds to dark gray overcast skies to hour long downpours. This pattern repeated every two hours, all day long. Watching for birds and trying to catch photos of them with these constant lighting changes was a challenge a bit beyond my abilities with my DSLR camera. The best I could do was experiment with the settings until I found a combination that worked and try to remember what they were as the sky changed. I had just finished figuring out what worked for "white birch against sunny blue sky" when I heard the pileated woodpecker calling in the woods. He'd been swooping about the campsite all afternoon but never close enough to get a good look. This time I could see he was working his way up the driveway toward me and darn if he didn't land right in the birch over my head! I quickly got a focus and started firing off shots, taking about thirty. Finally I put the camera down to look with only my eyes at this beautiful giant. I'm sure he looked me in the eye for a moment, called a few more times, then launched himself out of the birch, swooping low before he cleared the treetops and flew across the creek out of sight.
I've seen pileated woodpeckers most every time I've visited Hasty Brook and have found many trees with their uniquely drilled cavities.
I have gotten a couple of quick pictures of them before but not very good ones.

These are the pictures I'd been waiting for.
Corny as it sounds, I thanked him with tears in my eyes.