Birder's Eye View

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On the farm

"Clouds of insects danced and buzzed in the golden autumn light, and the air was full of the piping of the song-birds."
-Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I'm back from Georgia with a ton of pictures and at least one life bird. The weekend was amazing. Along with 13 other students, I lived on a pecan farm and worked to help them get ready for the fall harvest.

I hardly had any time to go birding, but I was able to get a couple pictures of some little songbirds that I've yet to identify (see below). I also saw a lifer, a male Brown-headed Cowbird from the tractor when we were crossing a field to the pecan orchards. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of him.

Here's the mystery songbird. I'm thinking Pine Warbler, but I could very likely be mistaken. They were all over the orchards, but incredibly hard to see, because you couldn't get close to them at all.
Here's another shot. I'm pretty sure it's the same kind of bird. I'm a little bummed I didn't get better pictures.
I just thought this was a cool picture. The farm was beautiful, and exceptionally photogenic. The temperature was great while we were there, but dropped down into the 30s on the last day. We still had a blast, though.

Apparently someone there knows their birds! I thought this was a really pretty sign we came across while hiking on the Peace Trail, which meandered around through the forests that surrounded the orchards.

And, in case you're like me, and don't know what pecan orchards look like, there ya go. They're huge. The trees are over 100 years old, and there were over 100 acres of them in this place. Needless to say, I ate wwaaaaaayyy too many pecans that weekend! ;-) It was great fun though, and just makes me want to travel even more.

Well, hopefully next week I can get back to work with Project Feederwatch, and hopefully catch some migrants in the process.

Happy birding!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Hats off to E7!

Okay. I'm impressed. My grandfather just sent me a 2007 National Geographic article about the longest recorded nonstop migration flight ever.

You may have heard about this when it happened last year, but it's news to me, so I thought I'd post it. This is a pretty freakin' amazing bird
(picture from National Geographic) in my opinion. E7 is her name, and boy has she got a story to tell.

The female Bar-tailed Godwit migrated from Alaska to New Zealand, a distance of 7,145 miles, in 9 days without stopping to eat, drink, or sleep. This is a record for the birding world.

You can read more at the link provided above.

In other news, I'm headed up to Georgia this weekend on a college road trip, so hopefully I'll have a chance to see a few fall migrants myself, if I'm not too busy working on the pecan farm. I'll take lots of pictures and be sure to post them when I get back.

Happy birding!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Project Feederwatch day 2

Wednesday was the second day of my Project Feederwatch survey for my enviro studies class.

It started off slow. I arrived at the site at 1:30pm, a time of day when the birds are typically inactive, but eventually I began to fall into beat with the wind and the subtle chirps and the flutters and rustles of the woods.

Above is a picture of one of the first birds I saw. Can you identify it? I puzzled over this bird for about a half hour; it was silhouetted against the bright blue sky and the glaring sun, and impossible to get a clear photograph. My best guess until I got back to my dorm was that this little bird was some kind of flycatcher.

When I finally got to look it up, I determined it was an Eastern-wood Pewee, a year bird for my list!

Next I saw some Palm Warblers, a Bald Eagle in the distance, and then this little guy showed up: a tiny woodpecker with a yellowish spot on the back of its neck.

I originally assumed it was a Hairy Woodpecker, but later figured out it was a female Downy, based on size, markings, and sound. There was also a male flitting around with her, as well as a big Red-bellied Woodpecker that kept chasing them away.

A little while later, two Palm Warblers landed in some pine trees right over my head. I didn't realize until after I had taken several dozen photos how varied they are in color and patterns. The above picture looks like quite different from the one below, but from what I can tell, they are the same species.

In the end, it was a fun, exciting birding session. In all, I saw 7 species in the two hours I was there; not great, but not bad. Honestly, I don't think the site is ideal for Project Feederwatch, but it is adequate.

Happy birding!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Project Feederwatch

For my Intro to Environmental Studies course, I am required to volunteer 5 hours in one of several environmentally-centered service projects. And one of them is Project Feederwatch! Although the program doesn't officially start until November, we are taking preliminary surveys of the site so we know what people should look for when the time comes.

So this morning I went out to one of the preserve areas to meet another student in charge of the Project Feederwatch volunteer program. After she gave me a rundown on how it all works, I spent the next two hours birding to my heart's content. (The picture to the left is the view I had from where I was sitting.)

Basically to participate, you choose two consecutive days to go out and survey the area from the same place, and count the number of birds of each species you see together at one time. Sounds tough, huh? ;-)

Well, needless to say, it was an incredible morning. It was fairly quiet, with the exception of passing cars, and wonderful to be sitting in solitude in a little oak grove watching birds. I didn't see many species, but I got to see one year bird -- a Yellow-throated Warbler. My list for the project:
  • Blue Jay
  • Osprey
  • Palm Warbler
  • Yellow-throated Warbler
  • Great Egret
  • Hairy Woodpecker

There were actually a lot more birds than this, but I was required to only record my sightings within a set boundary around the birdfeeders.

Thus, it was a lovely morning. I'm going back tomorrow afternoon for the second half of the project, and I'll probably go next week as well to earn the rest of my volunteer hours and see what else I can see!

As an aside, I also found out today that the college offers a Field Ornithology class every couple years so... YAY! I'll have to find out when they're offering it next. I can't wait!

Alright, I'm off to go study for my Spanish exam.

Happy birding!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Mystery bird?

I really should be doing homework right now, but alas, I have taken time out to post a quick update on my birding life.

I was taking a bike ride around campus a little while ago, when I saw a blue jay land in a small oak tree on the side of the road. As I rode closer, it flew from the tree, followed closely behind by a medium-sized bird of prey!

Both birds darted quickly across the street, and I was barely able to get a look at the preditor before it disappeared in the palm hammock. From what I saw, it had dark facial markings, a dark back, and tan coloration below the wings.

My first thougth was Peregrine Falcon. I contemplated that for a while, as I turned and headed back towards my dorm, but then I second guessed myself, and began wondering if Peregrine Falcons would really be found in my area.

I've never seen one here before, so I started doubting myself. When I got back, I googled it, but couldn't find any conclusive information. Other possibilities might be that it was an American Kestrel (although it seemed to big for that) or some kind of hawk (although the wing shape was different).

So what was it? I still don't know. I want to think it was a Peregrine, but I find it hard to believe they'd be living in the preserve areas on campus. Hmmm.... Anyone have any ideas?

I do have some good, more conclusive news, however. Next week, I'm volunteering with Project FeederWatch, so I should have some interesting things to report on after that. Should be fun!

Until next time,

Happy birding!

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