Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Merlin Magic

Merlins are tiny falcons that prey on all sorts of mammals and birds.  As I was birding some turf farms and as I was counting starlings, cowbirds and other blackbirds, I realized I was going to have to subtract my count by one.  A Raptor had come and grabbed one of the birds.  At first, I had assumed that the culprit was a Coopers or a Sharpie, but then as I got closer, I saw that I was eyeing a Merlin.

Merlins are vicious little falcons and this that can eat a variety of prey.  This one took me a while to ID because the chest was so much lighter, but as you can see from these pics, the light mustache eliminates non-falcon raptors.  The lack of barring and size confirm that this bird is a Merlin and my first Georgia Merlin at that.  I've seen a few in New England, but getting one in my new home was very exciting.

Along with explore new places, seeing new state birds helps a place feel more like home.  Seeing this Merlin, who by now has reached his wintering spot, added a great falcon to my state list.  Hopefully, there will be more birds to add to my state list

All About Birds - Merlin - Link here

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Quiz Bird:  What Birds do you see here?

Also Blog Post #200 is coming up, how should I commemorate this occasion?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Field Fun

Part of the joy of moving to a new place is experiencing new places and new hotspots.  Back in New England, I could tell you where to do and when to go to see certain birds.  Here, its partly learning a new birding language, a new timing, and some new species and habits.  The other day I went to an open field to look for sparrows.  While I walked away with nothing new for the year, I was reminded about patience in the field and patience when it comes to learning a new spot.  

I;ll give you an example.  I got my first Georgia Veery last month.  But the bird I saw was not the Veery I was used to.  It was paler.  The Georgia Birders I was with thought nothing of it, but I was confused.  This of course comes with any move.  The joys of learning are important ones and bring about great opportunities if you are willing to listen and enjoy them.  I will enjoy learning the new places, habits and hopefully, get some new birds!  Until the next time...

Chipping Sparrow

Northern Flicker

Palm Warbler

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link Here

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Getting Ready for Winter Birds

There's a cold front coming through tomorrow so there'a good chance for a rare migrant in the Southeast.  But Before that, I gotta enjoy some fall birding.  I stopped by the Blue Heron Nature Preserve in Buckhead in North Atlanta to look their trails and their community gardens.  Community Gardens can be great places to see birds due to the well maintained plants and diversity of plants.  Blue Heron's are no exception.  There were a ton of sparrows and cardinals around and a couple of warblers in the bushes near the gardens.  As winter sparrows move in, this will be a great place to check for them.  Georgia has also been getting a lot of Rufous Hummingbirds wintering around and I suspect that the Gardens might be able to support one as well.

I managed to get a couple of shots of some butterflies and skippers and birds as well.  Swamp Sparrows, Bluebirds, there was even a young Red-Shouldered Hawk around, although they were getting harassed by some crows.  This is a great preserve that is currently also expanding and growing and protecting some great parts of North Atlanta.  Hopefully the last days of Fall Migration will be fun and exciting.  Until the next time, get outside and go birding!

Gulf Fritillary in the Blue Heron's Gardens

Eastern Bluebird

A Swamp Sparrow

I need some help with this one.  What do you see?

Quiz Bird: What do you see below? 

Wild Bird Wednesday -  Link here

This post's pictures came from the Blue Heron Nature Preserve - Link here a lovely park in Buckhead, Atlanta, Georgia

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Field Gear

So my first pair of binoculars broke and when I learned that they could not be replaced, I was devastated.  It was the pair my then-girlfriend, now-wife bought me to encourage me to get into birding.  It was a pair that traveled with me to Texas, the Georgia Coast, and was a familiar and useful part of my field gear.  I was not happy.  Until recently, I had used a pair of Vortex 8x28s that I had purchased several years ago, but as a main pair to use in the field, they were lacking.  Finally, I broke down and purchased a new pair of binoculars.  I got a Vortex Diamondback 8x42s.

So far, so good.  I am really enjoying this new pair of bins.  The color clarity is great and the light is amazing.  I feel like I've got a whole new world with my new Bins.  I had looked at their Talon HD which is a whole other level of awesome, but I settled for the Diamondbacks because I wanted a reliable pair that I could pass on later.  I am happy to get another piece of Vortex Optics to my collection and this will definitely be a very useful part of my field gear!

The Weight is pretty substantial but the design makes it a great fit for use in the field. I highly recommend Vortex Optics and can't wait to get out and field and use my new binoculars!  Until the next time, enjoy some pictures of my bins and birds!

My Binoculars and My Camera

Here are a couple of old shots... Enjoy!
Puffy Eastern Phoebe

A Northern Parula

Linking to...
Wild Bird Wednesday -  Link Here
Vortex Optics - Link Here

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Southern Bugs not under Rugs

So I know that bugs aren't birds, but they can be just as interesting.  Being in a new place means that there are a whole host of new flora and fauna to learn.  I am not going to claim any expertise or anything about knowing insects.  I did buy my first butterfly book and I am starting to look around for a general bug book.

Here are a few shots of insects I've taken since making the move down south... Can't really tell you what they are, just that they are insects...

Who among us has taken in the hunt as birds devour their prey.  Last week, I saw a Yellow-Throated Warbler pick off a little moth that was flying between bushes.  It was a sight to see and enjoy!  If you have any favorite bugs, post them below, until next time, get outside and go Birding!

At the North Carolina Arboretum
A Skipper of some sort?

Milkweed Beetles at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve

A Moth in Athens, GA

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Botanical Gardens

Quiz Bird:  What bird do you see here?

Last Week's answer?  Scarlet Tanager Juvenile.  The solid black wings and tail are the id-ing marks.

Recently I explored the State Botanical Garden of Georgia (link here) during a bird walk with the Oconee Rivers Audubon Society (link here).  The SBG are a real gem of a locale.  There are built along a site that was visited by William Bartram.  Bartram made extensive visits throughout the South in well documented journeys to try and to learn more about the natural life of the American South.

Of course, I am not on such a journey, yet.  I made my visit to really learn more about the site and the birds that live and migrate through.  This site is truly something to enjoy and explore.  The Gardens are also working on removing their invasive species and replacing them with native species.  A valiant effort and one that needs support.  Birds and insects do much better in native species.  I hope to return to the Botanical Gardens soon to learn about the native plants and fauna of Georgia.

Until next time, get out and go birding!

Eastern Wood-Pewee

Turkey Vulture

White-Eyed Vireo

Connecting to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A visit to the Wetlands

Bird Quiz #4: What Bird is this?????

The answer to last week: Osprey!  Congrats to all who got it right!

In my new home, I visited the Newmans Wetland Center and the E.L. Huie Ponds in Clayton County (Link here).  I've been to this site before, but never in the fall.  Fall does not hit the Southeast like it does in the Northeast.  There are one or two trees that are changing here, but not many.  Back in the cold northeast, many trees are changing and fall is marked by nice long drives through the mountains, and fall-ish things like Apple and Pumpkin picking and, of course, fall migration.

The Southeast has its own wonders and it is nice to be a new place and experience a new season.  So far Fall here has a lot of rain and clouds mixed with some real sunny days.  But it is fall migration and a trip to the wetlands would hopefully yield some migrants.  While the trip yield some great shots of birds (see below), there weren't many migrants to speak of.  Hummers were still around and many titmice as well.  A few waterfowl were about as well to round off the trip. A great and interesting site and worth the visit any time!

Until the next time, get out and go birding!

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Young Great Blue Heron

Palm Warbler

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Lakes in Georgia

I've been told that there are no native lakes in Georgia.  Almost all the one's you'll encounter are man-made in one way or another.  But as long as they have water, shoreline, and food, birds don't really care if your lake is man-made, accidentally made, or "organic."  Birds are opportunists like we are all are aren't going to pass up a food source just because it wasn't there before... although it may take them a while to find it.

I visited a local lake, Lake Hartwell.  It is managed by the Army Core of Engineers and has a lot of trails, picnic grounds, and water ramps.  Great places to find birds.  My visit there proved that very point.  We were greeted by a great number of birds, Canada Geese, Great Blue Herons, Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, Sanderlings, and other great birds!  I've included a link to the Lake and its grounds, as well as the local rules that must be followed!

Next Time, we'll visit the State Botanical Gardens, until then, Get out and Go Birding!

Links to Lake Hartwell - Link here

A Sanderling on a red shore

Gulf Fritillary

Bird Quiz #4: Post your Guesses in the comments!

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link Here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Quiz and a Change

First off, Quiz Answers:

Bird #1 was a Solitary Sandpiper

Bird #2 was a Least Sandpiper

And here is a tough one, another peep, but the photo shows a great silhouette of this bird

Bird #3

So there is some news that needs to shared.  Look! A Seagull! has moved.  We are now no longer situated in New England and now find ourselves in the South!  Specifically Georgia!  Here are two pictures to celebrate that move.

Red-Spotted Purple 

Prairie Warbler, can you find him?

In the meantime, Look! A Seagull! is looking forward to exploring the Southeastern United States and becoming more familiar with all the diffierent flora and fauna that make this region so unique!  Until the next time, get out and go birding!

Link to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

World Shorebird Day

This September 6th was World Shorebird Day.  Shorebirds have compelling life stories of epic migrations and making it across continents.  They are also a massively threatened group of birds who suffers from climate change and habitat loss.  I spent the day with the Atlanta Audubon Society with their Workshop on Shorebirds.  The Workshop focused on learning how to identify and age shorebirds by looking at their structure and learning the stages of molt.  After working on the our skills, we took to the field were we found Spotted Sandpipers, Lesser Yellowlegs, Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and even Semipalmated Plovers!

Now its time for a Bird ID Quiz.  What are the two birds below?  Can you age them?  Post your answers below.

Bird #1

Bird #2

American Oystercatchers flying about, not catching oysters

World Shorebird Day - Link here

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Atlanta Audubon Society - Link here

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Passenger Pigeon Memorial

(C) Fold the Flock and the Lost Bird Project

Today marks 100 years and 1 day since the last passenger, Martha, died in captivity.  At its height, the Passenger Pigeon was definitely the most populous bird in North America, if not the World.  Reports are that a passing flock could block the sun for days.  Several articles are going around about the loss of the Passenger Pigeon, the violence behind its demise, and the power that humans hold over the environment.  Many species and habitats are currently threatened across this planet.  Almost every bit of nature is threatened, managed or something to that effect.  The story of the Passenger Pigeon reminds us that we are truly capable of vast destruction.

Yet, we are not totally evil.  Look at the rebounding numbers of Falcons, Osprey, and Bald Eagles.  We are responsible for that as well. Many of those species were looking at extinction in the 70's and they are rebounding today.  We can never completely reverse what we've done.  We can't go and un-shoot the passenger pigeon.  We can protect several species today.  I've included some links below about the Passenger Pigeon and some of the lost bird projects that go on to keep its memory alive.

Two pictures of Passenger Pigeon Mountings at the American Museum of Natural History

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Fold the Flock - Link here

Lost Bird Project - Link here

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Eastern Kingbirds are quite Democratic

Eastern Kingbirds or tyrannus tyrannus are fairly common flycatchers of East of the Rockies.  Kingbirds have an awesome black and white contrast going on.  Their key look is their white chest and the white tip to their tail.  They seem to enjoy wet habitats.  Its probably good for cultivating their main food source, flies.  They are pretty adaptable birds as you find them across different habitats and they have such a huge range.  Kingbirds, like most flycatchers, have their song programmed and don't learn them like warbler do.

Just a few facts about your friendly neighborhood Kingbird...

Eastern Kingbird on a branch near the nest

Eastern Kingbird watching a Pond

All About Birds - Eastern Kingbird - Link here

Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marsh Wren in a Marsh, Who Knew?

Personally, I am a fan of Wrens.  A big fan.  They are awesome little birds that are adaptable, tough, and easy on the eyes.  I have a print of a Carolina Wren in my living room actually.  It is a nice print and enjoy seeing it everyday.  But back to wrens.  Marsh Wrens are another of the wrens we get in the Northeast and they live in... well... marshes.  They are very vocal and territorial.  They are often seen bounding between reeds, grasses, and other marsh plants trying to get food, protect their boundaries, and building nests.  Long story short, they work hard.  Their songs are also loud and pretty easy to hear if you are near a marsh.

I had a close encounter with a very active and vocal Marsh Wren recently.  I took advantage of his singing to take several photos of him.  His singing set off some of the other birds around the marsh too.  Red-Winged Blackbirds, Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrows, and other birds all joined in after the Marsh Wren began singing.  He did not seem to care much that I was there for the show either.  Half a dozen other people either listened in as well, or walked right by him.  It was a great moment to share with the little critter and I wish those walking by would listen a bit more to the world around them.

Until the next time!  Get out and go birding!

Marsh Wren Singing

Dramatic Pose...

Marsh Wren at All About Birds - Link Here

Connecting to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Bittern Not Bitter

Sorry that the Posts have been so infrequent.  I will explain more in the next few post.

I recently had a close-ish encounter with an American Bittern.  Bitterns are usually heard and not seen.  Sometimes I feel that there are too many birds that we get to hear and not seen frequently.  I love seeing Robins, Towhees, Titmice, and Cardinals, but would it hurt to see a Nightjar or Owl or something.  Well, I guess to those birds it might.  Plus it just adds to their mystique.

In any case, I left my home at 5:30 in the morning to get to the marsh where the American Bittern was being seen.  As I got to the marsh, there was still fog over the whole site.  I could barely see a thing.  Since the Sun had just risen, I decided to wait for the rays to burn off the moisture and that might lead to a success spotting of the Bittern.  I still surveyed and monitored the marsh.  I noticed there as a brown thing sitting amongst the grasses...

I was curious but I wasn't going to get too excited.  They say the early bird gets the worm.  But at this marsh, I got the American Bittern, Virginia Rails, Wood Ducks, Green Herons, Mallards, Willow Flycatchers, Eastern Phoebes, and Common Yellowthroats were all out and about.  It was a true pleasure to sit and share a moment with an oft hidden bird as it stalked, feed, and even called a few times.  

Any good sightings or thoughts out there recently?  Share in the comments below and until the next time, get out and go birding!

American Bittern at All About Birds - Link here

2014 Year List: 262
Life List: 351

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Birding Had Me a Blast

I am writing this during a busy summer.  Summer is a great time to bird and be in nature.  The better challenge might be funding a time that isn't so great to be outside and exploring.  But it's summer and I find myself focusing on the  birds that are around now.  Namely breeding birds.   There are a few vagrants around but most time is supreme finding critters that are sticking around with their nests.  . 

A nasty of barn swallows at a local park.   These barn swallows were ready to pop out of their nest.  Literally. Mom and dad asking with the other parents and adults keep close eyes I  these youngsters.  They are ready to buzz and defend against any and all who approach.  Birds will protect their nest and it is important to recognize this behavior to protect the bird.

Can you find the American Avocet in the Picture? (C) Not my Photo!

A Double Crested Coromorant in Central Park

What's your favorite part about summer birding?  Post it below!  Until the next time, get out and go birding!

Linking to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link here

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Finding a Clapper Rail

Ever go walking along a trail and see something just so amazing you have to stop and appreciate it?  Just the other day, my wife and I were on our way to work and we made a quick detour at a state park that is known for being a great place to hear but also see Clapper Rails.  Rails are awesome and hard to see birds.  They like to hide in tall marsh grass and they walk very slowly and carefully.  They can even walk on matted reeds that can make their way into and around marshes.

But back to our incident.  As we walked back to our car, we passed an open stream in the marsh.  In the open stream we found ourselves a Clapper Rail.  But as you can see from the video, it just wasn't a Clapper Rail...

You ever have an encounter like that?  Post it in the comments below.  Until the next time, get outside and go birding!

Link to Wild Bird Wednesday - Link Here

Clapper Rail at All About Birds - Link Here

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Non-Birding Post: Butterflies and Moths!

I don't know my bugs as well as I should.  You can see the evidence of this below.  Butterflies and Moths are awesome bugs.  While I am definitely still learning my bugs, I am definitely getting better all the time.  I picked up Kenn Kaufman's Nature Guide to New England (Link here) and started looking through the guide.  Identifying Butterflies and Moths can be challenging.  They flutter like hummingbirds and kinglets!  In fact there's even a hummingbird moth!  They have a wind range of colors and habitats.  I am going to endeavor to try and learn my butterflies and moths.

I've included a website that I will use along with other books and documents

Any tips about identifying Butterflies?

A Red Admiral

A Mourning Cloak

A Moth... Not sure

Here's some more info from the Brain Scoop: