Birder's Eye View

Thursday, January 31, 2008


Added two more birds to my list today, both spotted in the same place.

The first was an Eastern Bluebird. I'm actually surprised I hadn't seen one earlier this year. I saw them frequently in December, but this is the first I've seen on '08.

And my second find for the day? A Loggerhead Shrike! Yes, I know, they're common in FL. And yet, I was beginning to think people were just making it up. ;-) But yes, I finally saw one, out on a fence around a horse pasture, near where I saw the Bluebirds. Big sigh of relief.... Loggerhead Shrikes really exist!

I tried my hand at sketching one from my field guide when I got home. I drew this one with pencil and charcoal.
  • Year list total: 53

Happy birding!

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Two lifers...

I saw two life birds in the past couple of days.

The first one was on Monday. Heading home from class, I saw a HUGE hawk-like bird circling over the highway. Of course, I was in the car, but I was able to get a good visual on the pattern beneath the wings.

When I got home, I consulted my field guide, and determined that it was a Red-tailed Hawk! I know they're fairly common in the state, but I had never seen one before. I also hadn't realized how much larger they are than Red-shouldered Hawks. According to my field guide, Red-shouldered Hawks average 17" in length, with a wingspan of around 40". In contrast, Red-tailed Hawks are 22" long, and have a 50" wingspan.

The second lifer was seen today, again, coming home from class, and in almost the exact same area. However, this was no raptor. Floating in a nearby pond, I saw what I first thought was a Wood Duck. There was a fence in front of the pond, and many bushes, so it was hard to see, but when the duck raised it's head, a large, white spot was revealed.

A Hooded Merganser, I wondered? Doubtful, because I had only gotten a fraction-second of a glance, I again consulted my field guide when I got home. Indeed, I discovered, my suspicion seemed correct! I'm about 99% sure it was a Hooded Merganser, and that's enough to for me to count on my list. :-) I'll keep my eyes out for it again, next time I pass that area.

That brings my year list up to 51.

Happy birding!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Quick Update

My list is now up to 49, with the addition of Killdeer, Brown Pelicans, and a Eurasian Collared Dove!

I've been looking for one (not actively, but whenever I can), and I finally saw several of them today, when I was down about an hour south of here. Apparently, they're not as common inland as they are by the water.

I wouldn't have even taken notice, but its coloration caught my eye -- it was much lighter than a Mourning Dove. On second glance, I realized it had the characteristic collar on the back of its neck. Once I had IDed it, I recognised that all the doves in the area were Eurasian Collared Doves.

Also saw the American Kestrel again -- same one (I have reason to suspect), same place as last time. I guess it's living there, which is cool, because I go by that area often. I'll have to keep my eyes out and see what I can observe. :-)

Until next time,

Happy Birding!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Larger pictures...

These are the same pictures from my previous post -- click on them to enlarge them. I don't know why it didn't work on my last post, but whatever. :-) Enjoy!

Urban Birding

Today I went birding on one of the Great Florida Birding Trails, this one right in the middle of the city. This 132 acre patch of green is wedged in between the football stadium, a major highway, and a multitude of strip clubs. Regardless, it had an amazing variety of birds and wildlife.

My mom and I started on the south end of the park and cut along the edge of a small pond. There were tons of birds -- grackles, Blue Jays, Vultures, Osprey, etc, and this Brown Thrasher, pictured above.
As we came around to the other end of the pond, and started to cross a wooden bridge, my heart jumped. Just a few yards away, and perhaps 10 feet up in a tree, there sat not one, but two Red-shouldered Hawks! They sat side by side just long enough for a couple pictures, and then one flew off.

Beyond the hawks, we followed a trail that led to a little spit of land out in the pond. There, we saw an Anhinga, standing in front of a Little Blue Heron, standing in front of a turtle (see picture).
As we came back, there were three White Ibises sitting on another wooden bridge.
We then hiked back across the parking lot, and over to the north end of the park, which proved to be even better than the south end.
Common Moorhens cruised the lake, Laughing Gulls soared over its surface, and Anhingas and Double-crested Cormorants perched on various posts. I also saw a Green Heron hunting in the lillies.
Overall, I was able to add 7 species to my year list, bringing it up to a total of 46! Definitely a fun hike.
Happy birding!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

American Kestrel

My year list is now up to 37, with the addition of numerous Wild Turkey sightings, several Boat-tailed Grackles, and.... *queue triumphant music* an American Kestrel! That's a life bird for me.

I wasn't able to see it really well, but I've pretty much concluded that's what it was. It was very exciting. I was just heading home this afternoon, and I saw the bird sitting on an electrical wire. It took to the air, and started hovering!

It's been really cold and windy all day, and this bird was sort of gliding against the wind, almost as if it was suspended in the air. It swooped down and landed on the wire a little ways ahead, so I drove forward slowly until I was close enough to see better.

Of course, it freaked out, and flew out over the fields, landing waaaayyy far away on a fence post. I was kicking myself for not having my binoculars OR my camera with me today! :-(

Well, when I got home, I looked it up right away, and there was no other bird that really fit the description, other than an American Kestrel: A wide tail in flight, small body, sorta pointed wings, almost swift-like in silhouette.

What a fantastic sighting!

Happy birding!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Heron Painting

A painting. Just a painting. I modeled it off of a photo I saw (painting on the left, photo on the right). I really liked the heron silhouette in the photograph, so I decided to try and replicate it with some watercolors. Not bad, eh?

Happy birding!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Answers to the Audubon Impractical Exam

Although no one responded to the "Audubon Impractical Final Exam" I posted last week, I'll post the answers anyway, as promised.

The Audubon Impractical Final Exam
The answer to each question is a pun or a play on words. For example... Question: What bird is a letter? Answer: Jay! Get the picture? Okay…

What bird……….
  • Is fast? SWIFT
  • Is slow? TURTLE dove
  • Is a wizard? MERLIN
  • Is acrid? BITTERN
  • Is uneven? RUFF
  • Is a clown? COOT
  • Is sad? MOURNING dove
  • Is a fish? HERRING gull
  • Is silly? LOON
  • Has been seen? SPOTTED owl
  • Is a mammal? CATbird
  • Is crazy? CUCKOO

I know, these puns are REALLY bad. I apologise. ;-)

Happy birding!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Year bird and Life bird

Saw a Ring-billed Gull yesterday, in the parking lot of a shopping center. Not exactly my favorite place to find year birds, but hey, it happens.

My second find for the day was much more impressive and challenging. I happened to glance out my window, and caught a glimpse of a very strange looking bird.

It was all brown with blue wings and a blue tail. I snapped soome pictures and watched it through my binoculars until it flew away. I had never seen anything like it before. Flipping through my field guide, I consulted every page that featured a blue and brown passerine; the closest thing I could come up with was an Indigo Bunting, but I didn't trust my judgement.

I checked online, asked my mom, continued to search through my field guide, and inquired on an online listserv.

Long story short, the bird turned out to be a juvenile male Indigo Bunting. I was ecstatic! I had never even considered looking for an Indigo Bunting before, but to see one in my own backyard was incredible.

The main thing I learned from yesterday's experience was to trust my own birding skills a little more. I am very grateful for the kind and patient birders online though, who helped confirm my identification. :-)

So, that brings my year list up to 34!

Happy birding!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Thirty Two!

I would not have published my last post, had I known I would see another year bird before the day was over!

While I was quite convinced that I would not see any new birds today, I kept my eyes and ears open as I took a bike ride this evening. It wasn't until I was on my way back home that I took a short detour past one of the ponds.

There was a big white duck floating in the shallow water, and beside it, I caught a glimpse of pink as I rode by.

I took a double-take, and saw the bird raise its head out from under the water. It was too good to be true, but true, it was. A Roseate Spoonbill in my own neighborhood!

Spoonbills are whacky looking birds. They always look to me like they've skipped a step in their evolutionary line. They're really quite genius, though. Even though they look like they were put together wrong, their physiology has evolved to near perfection.

So, by some ornithological miracle, my list has inched its way up to 32.

Happy, happy birding!

Thirty One!

I added bird #31 to my year list this afternoon. It was Downy Woodpecker, hopping around in the elms and oaks outside my window.

I always have a hard time discerning Downy Woodpeckers from Hairy Woodpeckers, but I eventually determined that this was, indeed a Downy, due to its small size and short beak.

Other than that, not much to report on.

Happy Birding!

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Saturday, January 5, 2008

Good Birding!

Today I was able to add 14 species to my year list, including one life bird! Here's today's list:
  • Limpkin (2)
  • Belted Kingfisher (3)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Mockingbird
  • Osprey
  • Black Vulture
  • Little Blue Heron
  • White Ibis (lots and lots!)
  • Sandhill Crane (4)
  • Wood Stork (2 or 3)
  • Cattle Egret
  • Snowy Egret
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Lesser Scaup

The last bird on the list -- the Lesser Scaup -- is a life bird for me. I didn't get a very good look at it, unfortunately, because we were driving by, but it was still really cool.

The Belted Kingfishers and Limpkins were also fun to see. Last year, I only saw one of each, so it was a fun surprise to see 3 Kingfishers and 2 Limpkins all in one day!

That brings my year list up to 30 species now.

Happy birding!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Fun with birds

There were lots of birds at the feeders today -- including this Tufted Titmouse, which hung around for a while on the feeder by my window.

Still no lifers, but I did get to add a Carolina Wren to my year list.

And now, because I have nothing else of interest or importance to say... I scrounged up a game from birding camp last summer. These are just 12 of the 58 questions on the quiz. I might post the rest later. See how many you can figure out, and I'll post the answers next week. Enjoy!

The Audubon Impractical Final Exam

The answer to each question is a pun or a play on words. For example... Question: What bird is a letter? Answer: Jay! Get the picture? Okay…

What bird……….

Is fast?
Is slow?
Is a wizard?
Is acrid?
Is uneven?
Is a clown?
Is sad?
Is a fish?
Is silly?
Has been seen?
Is a mammal?
Is crazy?

Good luck & Happy Birding!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Northern Cardinal

This female cardinal landed at my birdfeeder today, and stayed long enough for me to get some pictures. (Some of them may look blocky or pixelly because I was taking the photos through my window screen)

She seemed to be aware that I was nearby, but didn't seem to mind. Whenever I moved though, the crest would rise up on top of her head.

She intermittently hopped over to my window sill with a beak full of seeds, and would drop them in a little pile and eat them one at a time. She was so close, I could hear her feet on the sill and see each feather on her wings.

This picture was taken just a few seconds before she flew away.

Happy Birding!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

BiRRRRds,sketches, and more

My year list is now up to 14. No lifers yet, just the usual local birds.

I did get to see about a dozen Muscovy ducklings today; they're so much cuter than the adults. Also saw some Mallards, Mourning Doves, Great Blue Heron, and a Great Egret, among other species.

The temperature has been in the mid-40s today, which could have something to do with it. I love cold weather, but I wasn't really prepared for it, since it rarely gets this cold here.

And finally, I have two new sketches.

Sandhill Cranes. They're very common here, so I thought it would be fun to try and draw them. Apparently not. The picture didn't come out as good as I had hoped, but it's not too bad.

Black-necked Stilt. Never seen one, really want to. According to my fieldguide, they do live in this state, so I may get to see one this year, if I'm lucky. I have to say though, it was a lot more fun to draw than a Sandhill Crane.

So, 14 birds down, 44 degrees outside... I'd say it's been a good day. I wonder what birds I'll see tomorrow?

Happy Birding!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Happy New Year!

Today marks the start of my year list for '08. Typing up last year's list this morning brought back some great memories of my 2007 birding adventures. I can't wait to see what this year has to offer.

In a way, I think 2008 might be easier, because I've mostly overcome the learning curve I had to go through last year. I'm starting fresh, and, although I won't get to travel, I hope to see some new local and state birds in the next few months.

I've already started off my 2008 year list with 6 species seen out my window this morning: Chipping Sparrows, Tufted Titmice, 1 Northern Cardinal, Carolina Chickadees, American Goldfinches, and 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler (no doubt with the help of my amazing new binoculars!!).

More updates later.

Happy New Year, and Happy Birding!

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