Results tagged “birding” from onegoodmove

Northern Pygmy Owl

I'd given up looking but Gail wanted to take one more trip up and down the section of road where the owl had been seen before. It's her birthday, what choice did I have, and I really did want to see the little cuss. Without Gail I would have missed him again but her sharp eyes spotted him perched in a tree right next to the road and a mere 15 feet from the ground. He looks bigger in the picture than he actually is, he's just slightly larger than a softball, a little under 7 inches long.

NOPO_2012_02_03_11-50-13

Brown-headed Cowbird

A Juvenile Brown-headed Cowbird, perhaps sitting next to its foster mom, a House Sparrow.

Brown-headed Cowbird_2010_08_29_17-25-07

Brown-headed Cowbird

The Brown-headed Cowbird is a stocky blackbird with a fascinating approach to raising its young. Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks. Once confined to the open grasslands of middle North America, cowbirds have surged in numbers and range as humans built towns and cleared woods.

Yellow Warbler

It was difficult to get a picture of this Yellow Warbler, he flittered from branch to branch, never staying in one place for more than a second or two. The photo was taken during my trip to Yuma. I was near the Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park down by the Colorado River. It was about 7:00 in the evening and the temperature was still 112. I didn't stay out long, but I was dripping when I got back to the car.

Yellow_Warbler_2010_08_25_19-00-50

Greater Roadrunner

I spent the last couple of days in Yuma taking care of some family business, but did manage to find a couple of hours to do a little birding. I've seen the Greater Roadrunner a number of times on previous trips to Yuma, but he was always headed the other direction, my but they can run fast. They are able to fly, but with the foot speed they exhibit they are able to hunt for lizards and snakes and such on the ground.

Greater_Roadrunner_2010_08_25_20-07-37

Greater Roadrunner

Cedar Waxwing

Waxwing_2010_08_17_08-40-10

Click on the picture for a larger version.

Cedar Waxwing

A New Backyard Bird

Birds_2010_08_12_15-17-38

Lazuli Bunting

Seeds, Nuts, and Red Crossbills

I was reminded of the squirrel, when I received an email from my birder friend David. I think you'll find what he says interesting.

He writes:

Last weekend I spent two days camping with my lads in southern Idaho. I went up to see the newly described form of the Red crossbill, the so-called South-hills crossbills, Loxia (curvirostra) sinesciuris, which is found only in two mountain ranges south and southeast of Twin Falls. The birds were easy to find, especially in the morning, and I got good views of their enlarged bills (not longer, but thicker, almost like the Parrot crossbills of Europe). They called and sang all around us, delightful even over the roar of the seemingly hundreds of ATVs there. Note that the photo found on most websites of this (sub)species shows a white patch behind the eye, which is NOT characteristic of the (sub)species, but is an anomaly of the one photographed individual bird. South Hills crossbills have become more differentiated than most other Red crossbill types in North America, and are excellent candidates for splitting out (though the AOU rejected splitting them this spring on a technicality).

You might want to check out the fascinating story of the South Hills Crossbill, which has recently been discovered in southern Idaho. To sum it up, Lodgepole pines are generally locked in an evolutionary arms race with Red squirrels (the very critters at your feeder), so they have evolved round cones that are hard for squirrels to bite down on (try biting on a tennis ball). However, in two low mountain ranges in southern Idaho (the Albion Mts and the South Hills), the squirrels are not present. So the Lodgepole pines there don't have to "worry" about their seeds being eaten by adorable varmints and have no selection toward round, ball-like cones. But Red crossbills, a "species" (probably many species actually, they are finding) found in the coniferous forests of North America and Eurasia, are highly nomadic and sometimes pass through the area. So THEY became the main consumer of Lodgepole pine seeds and thus created a different evolutionary pressure on that species. A new variety of pine thus evolved, altered by natural selection to have armored seeds in a manner that crossbills find difficult. It turns out, crossbills have bills very attuned to particular types of cones (Douglas fir, Montezuma pine, other pines, different firs & spruces...) and because the shape of the bill is so critical to obtaining food, the different varieties of crossbills don't seem to interbreed (thus the Red crossbill may actually represent up to 10 "cryptic" species in North America alone, hiding in plain sight. So, back to the South Hills: With the new types of cones, a new niche opened up for the crossbills passing through that area (types 2, 4, and 5, I believe), and some began to evolve larger bills to access the new, more elongated but armored cones found in these mountains. They became resident (since they became best fitted to these particular pines) and the new arms race was on. Now, both the crossbills and the pines are separate subspecies (at least).

So, now a new issue arises: Global Warming. It turns out that Lodgepole pines have evolved to take advantage of the nutrient bonanza and open sunshine created by forest fires. Their cones remain shut to hold onto the seeds locked within until the intense heat of a forest fire opens them up to release the seeds to start a new generation, phoenix-like, in the sun-lit ash. Some cones remain shut for over twenty years, it seems. Because the new cones are so tough to open, the South Hills crossbills are forced to eat seeds from cones which are several years old, after they start loosening enough to be pried open and after a nasty layer of protective resin has worn off. A researcher I had the happy fortune to encounter there last weekend (the patiently informative Julie Hart, who was a delight), said the crossbills generally go after the cones that are seven years old. However, with global warming, the cones are opening sooner, before the resin has worn off, and thus often dropping the seeds before the crossbills can get to them. It may not be entirely coincidental that the crossbill population has crashed in recent years (though bird populations relying on a specialized food source often fluctuate in cycles naturally--think snowy owls and lemmings). Some researchers have also predicted that the unique subspecies of Lodgepole pines, and the associated ecosystem, found in southern Idaho may become extinct by the end of this century (though I myself, with no credentials to back me up, find it improbable unless things get really bad--the pines appeared to be found over several hundred feet of altitude). It would be tragic if this dance, which has shaped two species into unique forms found nowhere else in the world, were to come to an untimely end because of some apes' unwillingness to change their lifestyles just a wee bit.

Isn't that a fascinating series of cause-and-effects? It's amazing the sorts of complex dramas that act themselves out before our unseeing eyes. Everything is so inter-related. What a planet!

The best place to see these birds is the Diamondfield Jack Recreation Area right on the main road into the South Hills. Conveniently, that is a campground with bathrooms.

A Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

I got closer this time. The last time I saw a Cooper's it was quite far away and the picture I posted suffered. I found this one in my own backyard. I watched him for at least a half-hour and got within ten feet of him several times. He didn't seem to mind being photographed, and so I shot pictures until my shutter shuddered. I watched him as he watched nearby birds, but he didn't go after any while I was watching. Maybe he had his eye on our Maltese who was on the deck barking at him, though I'm told the Hawk is partial to other birds and I have nothing to worry about.

Hawk_2010_07_27_09-36-48
click on picture for larger version

Cooper's Hawk

Happy Birdday

I'm feeling a year older today, and so I'm taking it off. Here's a picture of a Black-chinned Hummingbird I took a couple of days ago. I'll be back tomorrow.

Birds_2010_07_21_15-52-23

It's Not an Oriole

Walter the Birdnerd told me half an orange was a good way to attract Orioles. I tried it, but didn't get the result I expected.

Northern Flickers

Hey, there are birds in my front yard too. I'm accustomed to Robins digging in the front lawn for worms, but this is the first time I've seen this pair.

I believe them to be Red-Shafted Northern Flickers.

Those with more knowledge than I have believe the male is a hybrid Northern red-shafted Flicker and a Northern yellow-shafted Flicker

Northern Flicker

American Goldfinch

We put a nyjer seed feeder up a while ago in hope of attracting an American Goldfinch, and it wasn't long before we saw a number of new visitors at the feeder, but alas they were not the American but Lesser Goldfinch, and they came in great numbers. I took a walk today, camera in hand, along the Jordan River Parkway, and was lucky enough to spot the elusive (at least to me) American Goldfinch.

Eyes Like a Hawk

I wish I had eyes like a hawk, but when you hear the story you'll know that I don't and that my memory is also suspect. When I took the picture of the Cooper's I posted the other day I shot a lot of pictures trying to get a decent shot, and as you may have noticed the Cooper's kept its distance. I also took the pictures below, and sent them to some experts on the Utah Birdtalk list to confirm that my identification was correct. I was surprised to learn that there were two different hawks in my pictures, the Cooper's I posted before and these, all pictures of a Swainson's Hawk.

My first reaction was that they had to be wrong, after all the timestamps on the pictures were all within a couple of minutes of each other. I was sure I'd followed the hawk from branch to branch and when he flew away I witnessed that too. But being the cautious sort I went back to check my photos and discovered that right after I shot the Cooper's I took a picture of some ordinary looking bird on a nearby tree. So it was possible that the Swainson's had replaced him, but I didn't believe it.

I wrote to the person who first made the identification and asked if she was absolutely sure. She said she was particularly since another member on the list a Jerry Ligouri agreed with her identification. I might have still have had some doubts, but she sent me the above link. What can I say, my eyesight, and memory need some fine tuning if I expect to get better at the tricky business of identifying birds. Oh and Jerry says what we have here "is a sub-adult Swainson's acquiring it's full adult plumage. How cool is that?

Swainson's Hawk

http://onegoodmove.smugmug.com/Nature/Birds/City-Creek-2010-07-0920/929242372_3ndaX-L.jpg

http://onegoodmove.smugmug.com/Nature/Birds/City-Creek-2010-07-0938/929242400_Tds69-L.jpg

http://onegoodmove.smugmug.com/Nature/Birds/City-Creek-2010-07-0937/929242386_GS9JP-L.jpg

Juvenile Cooper's Hawk

Cooper's Hawk

Swallows

A Barn Swallow with its young at the visitor center at Antelope Island State Park

This picture of some Cliff Swallows was taken on the South shore of the Great Salt Lake at the Saltair Pavillion.

Birds, Birds, and More Birds

I haven't had any new birds at my feeders for a while and so I ventured away from home in search of something new. Antelope Island and the Great Salt Lake are home to a number of different species of birds. Here are a couple of regular summer visitors I spotted along the causeway to Antelope Island, an American Avocet, and the Black-necked Stilt

New Backyard Visitors

I put up a couple of suet feeders in the expectation of attracting a woodpecker. For the first thirty days all it got me was more European Starlings with bad table manners. But then yesterday it all changed. I walked out into the backyard with the intention of taking some more pictures of the hummingbird, but then I happened to glance over at the suet feeder I saw this pair. (update: The female showed up today so now you have the whole family) I've been reading some stories about the bizarre behavior of birders and laughed, but then I realized my heart was racing and I was having trouble holding the camera still. I was excited, not just oh how nice, but wow nice. I'm pretty sure these are Downy, not Hairy Woodpeckers, but being new to this birding thing I'm not positive. I sent pictures to the bird guys I know, but alas they have not responded.

Click on pictures for a larger version

Downy WoodPecker

Black-chinned Hummingbird

A Lovely Couple

A lovely pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks

Black-capped Chickadee

Black-capped Chickadee

Large