Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Carlos Avery - Ruffed Grouse

I was able to get to Carlos Avery for a short visit before the sun set tonight and got off a few shots. This was definitely the best shot of the night. More photos to follow over the coming days.

Ruffed Grouse:
Ruffed Grouse

Monday, April 28, 2008

Carlos Avery WMA - Yellow-rumped Warblers

As I mentioned in my previous post, there were many Yellow-rumped Warblers on Sunday. They are definitely a very difficult bird to photograph (for that matter, most warblers are difficult to photograph), but I was very pleased with a couple of the shots I got.

Yellow-rumped Warbler:
Yellow-rumped Warbler (2 of 2)

Yellow-rumped Warbler:
Yellow-rumped Warbler (1 of 2)

Carlos Avery WMA

After seeing the Red-headed Woodpecker yesterday I got the itch to get out so I took a drive up to Carlos Avery. There were a tremendous amount of birds in terms of volume. Yellow-rumped Warblers were tremendously abundant (Pics of this to follow in a day or two). I saw flocks of 10-20 at a time multiple times. There were probably hundreds of Ring-necked Ducks, lots of Blue-winged Teal, and a ton of American Coot. I was also able to see a few pairs of Northern Pintail which was definitely the highlight of the trip. My Mother and Father had not seen these before so they went up to Carlos Avery today and were able to locate them again.

I recommend clicking the photos to see the larger versions on my flickr account. It's a bit easier to see the beautiful details of this birds plumage.

Northern Pintail:
Northern Pintail (2 of 2)

Northern Pintail (Hen):
Northern Pintail (1 of 2)

Here's the location of the general area we saw the Pintail in case anyone is interested: Carlos Avery Pintail Siting

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Red-headed Woodpecker

OK, today was a very cool day! We had a new visitor to the yard, and a new bird added to my life list. Honestly, the Red-headed Woodpecker is one of those birds that I have always wanted to see and have never had the chance until today. This woodpecker visited our feeder today for about 1 minute and I snapped off a few shots through the window. Needless to say, I was extremely excited to see this bird!

Red-headed Woodpecker:
Red-headed Woodpecker (2 of 2)

Red-headed Woodpecker:
Red-headed Woodpecker (1 of 2)

"Red-headed woodpecker populations have declined 89% since 1967. The bird has experienced an average decline of 4.6% per year since 1980 due to loss of habitat and other factors. The Audubon Society recognizes Red-heads as a top five bird of concern in much of its range: Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, North Dakota and Ohio. "
- Quote taken from Redhead Recovery(.org). There is quite a bit of information on this website about the Red-headed Woodpecker.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Lochness Park Today

On my way home from work today I stopped at Lochness park for about a half hour or so and saw quite a few birds. The Red-winged Blackbirds were plentiful including one female. I also saw a Common Loon, Tree Swallows, Yellow-rumped Warbler (First of the year), Goldfinch, Cardinals, and an Eastern Bluebird. For a half hour not to shabby!

Common Loon:
Common Loon

I liked this shot of the blackbird because of all the cat tails both in focus and out of focus.
Red-winged Blackbird:
Red-winged Blackbird

I think the Cat Tails are very cool at this time of year:
Cat Tail

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Crex Meadows Continued

This will be the last post of Crex Meadows photos from my recent trip. Most of these shots turned out pretty dark, and look even darker on the blog due to some color correction issues. These last two photos I liked quite a bit, I hope you enjoy them as well.


Ring-necked Duck:
Lesser Scaup

Monday, April 21, 2008

Crex Meadows Continued

How about a few more photos from Crex Meadows?!!!

A raft of Redheads:
Red Head

Pied-billed Grebe:
Pied-billed Grebe

Horned Grebe:
Horned Grebe

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Crex Meadows

It's been a few days since my last post, but in that time I've had a pretty good run on seeing a number of new birds for the year, and even a few for my life list. I went up to Crex Meadows with my parents on Friday and we saw a number of different ducks and grebes. It was not the best weather for photography, so I didn't get a lot of good shots, but they are certainly good enough for identification purposes. I'll post what I got over the next few days.

Ruddy Duck:
Ruddy Duck


Red-necked Grebe:
Red-necked Grebe

All three of these birds are my first photographs of them which is pretty cool. Also, the Ruddy Duck and Red-necked Grebe are life birds for me!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

House Finch and Purple Finch

Identifying House Finches and Purples Finches can be difficult, and for a long time I believed that the finches visiting my fathers feeders were Purple Finches when in fact they were House Finches. Now that I've gotten more into birding and identification I've seen the error of my ways. :)

Purple Finches have been visiting our yard for the first time this year (new yard bird) and I've really enjoyed having them around. I have House Finches outside my office window almost every day which I posted about earlier: House Finch.

Purple Finch:

Purple Finch

House Finch:

House Finch

Wild Turkey (Eastern)

Spring is definitely starting now! The Turkeys have come back to the yard and are struttin' their stuff! Check out this guy from this morning in my yard as he was courting a hen:

Eastern Wild Turkey:
Wild Turkey

Here he is gobbling:
Wild Turkey

Monday, April 14, 2008

Spring Waterfowl Fun

Over the last two days I have had the opportunity to see a number of very neat birds. I went to the 180th Street Marsh for the first time yesterday and saw, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Redhead, Northern Shovelers, and Bufflehead. Here are a couple shots of the Northern Shovelers yesterday:

Northern Shoveler:
Northern Shoveler

Northern Shovelers in Flight (click on the photo for a larger version):
Northern Shoveler in Flight

Today I stopped at Lochness Park, and although there was not much there I did see a pair of Bufflehead and got this shot.

Bufflehead in Flight:
Bufflehead in Flight

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pileated Woodpeckers (Learning about birds . . .)

We have been lucky to have a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers visit our feeder on a regular basis over the last few years. The last few days they have been visiting quite a bit. I thought posting photos to show the difference between the male and female to help with identification might be interesting. Look at the head and chin of the two birds and you'll see the red forehead on the male and black forehead on the female. The male also has red on side of his chin (malar area) where the female has black.

Adult male: Red forehead - Red malar area
Pileated Woodpecker

Adult female: Black forehead - Black malar stripe
Pileated Woodpecker

Malar: Area at the sides of the chin. Synonym(s): whisker, mustache, malar streak.

Since I haven't done a "Learning about birds" post in a while I'll add a few neat facts about these very cool birds:

- A Pileated Woodpecker pair stays together on its territory all year round. It will defend the territory in all seasons, but will tolerate floaters during the winter.
- The Pileated Woodpecker digs characteristically rectangular holes in trees to find ants. These excavations can be so broad and deep that they can cause small trees to break in half.
- The feeding excavations of a Pileated Woodpecker are so extensive that they often attract other birds. Other woodpeckers, as well as House Wrens, may come and feed there.

This marks my 125th post to this blog. :)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Thinking of warmer times . . .

It's been some pretty ugly weather around here (as I have mentioned previously) so I haven't really gotten out. The one nice day that we had earlier this week I attempted to go to Carlos Avery, but got there later than I wanted and the gates were closed anyway. So I went back through the archives a bit and pulled out these photos of a Merlin I took last fall up on the North Shore.



If you look at the birds right leg/foot, it appears that he was injured. We witnessed this bird actively hunting a day or two later, so the extent of the injury was unknown.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

GHO Update

Well, the Great-horned Owls have moved off the nest and are now gone according to my friend (the nest was in his yard). Unfortunately, I won't get any more photos of them, but I'm very glad to hear that the 2 owlets survived the nest collapse and have moved on.
I saw my first Great Egret of the season today while driving into work on this cold gloomy "Spring" day. Considering the weather, and that my faith in Spring ever arriving is waning a bit with the latest weather we've had, I thought I would post a picture I took about a week ago of some Robins basking in what was one of the nicest Spring days we've had to date.

American Robins:

Monday, April 07, 2008

Equipment Update . . .

Well, I shot a few photos yesterday in the gloomy weather of some birds on the feeders. Here is a photo of a female Pileated Woodpecker shot through my sliding glass door with the following settings:

ISO 1600
400mm (hand-held)
1/60 sec

The noise level is quite low for the conditions and I'm very pleased by that. There is a bit of Luminance Noise, but really no Color noise to speak of in the photo. You can click on the photo to see a larger version of the photo on my Flickr account. I applied no corrections to this photo at all. This is straight off the camera, converted to JPEG and uploaded to Flickr. The largest version (1024x768) shows the result pretty well, although when zoomed to 1:1 on the RAW file, you do see some noise in the background. Either way, I'm still very pleased with my setup!

Additional Comment Added: I realized after making this post that I did have the default Noise Reduction on in Adobe Lightroom which is a setting of Luminance = 0 and Color = 25. After setting the Color to 0, there is more color noise than I initially thought. However, with the default Color Noise reduction of 25, and a Luminance Noise reduction setting of about 45, the noise is knocked down/out and produces a very acceptable photo.

Pileated Woodpecker

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Red-bellied Woodpecker

When I first started birding I truly wondered why they called a Red-bellied Woodpecker by that name. I always thought that Red-capped might have made more sense. Below is not a terribly good photo, but it really does show the red belly of this bird so I thought it worth posting simply because you so rarely see this birds belly.

Red-bellied Woodpecker:
Red-bellied Woodpecker

Springbrook Nature Center (Continued)

Here are a few photos of a very cooperative Cardinal (note the band on his leg):

Cardinal (1 of 3)

Cardinal (2 of 3)

Cardinal (3 of 3)

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Springbrook Nature Center

I was able to get out for a walk at Springbrook today. It was a wonderful sunny day for a walk through the park. I was able to see a few birds, including a couple firsts for the year: Scaup(Not sure if Lesser/Greater, they were to far away), American Coot, and the Eastern Phoebe's are back in our yard again. Every year we have a nesting pair that lays claim to a motion light we have on the front of our house. Here are few pictures from today at Springbrook (I'll post some more tomorrow.)

Eastern Bluebird:
Eastern Bluebird-2

Canada Goose:
Canada Goose

Red-winged Blackbird:
Red-winged Blackbird

. . . I also discovered a nesting pair of Red-bellied Woodpeckers in our yard! Very Cool!

Red-bellied Woodpecker in Nest

You'll notice in the picture that there are 2 holes in the tree, the one occupied by the Woodpecker, and another one above it. Does anyone have a guess as to why there are two holes? I'm certainly not sure . . .

Friday, April 04, 2008

Spring is coming . . .

. . . or maybe its here! We took a short walk this afternoon at Lochness Park and saw a few firsts for the year. Although I had seen a single Red-winged Blackbird earlier this season, there were many more calling out today. We also saw a Great Blue Heron (first of the year), Fox Sparrow (first of the year), and an Eastern Bluebird(also a first for the year). So far a short walk after work, I would say it was a pretty good day! I'm hoping to get out again tomorrow morning if the weather holds. It's supposed to rain starting tomorrow afternoon into Sunday.

Eastern Bluebird:
Eastern Bluebird

Great Blue Heron:
Great Blue Heron

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

GHO Nest update . . . .

Well there is some good news, and some bad news. The bad new first: It appears that the owl nest has been essentially ruined by yesterdays winter storm. There is barely anything left of the nest. The good news is that both owlets were still on what was left of the nest and appear to be stable and comfortable. Hopefully the birds are far enough along in there development that they will be able to get through the next few weeks. Compare these shots of the nest to my previous post on these owls to see the difference in the nest size.

Great-horned Owls

Great-horned Owls

Great-horned Owls

Out the Office Window . . .

Outside my office window I have a few pine trees that seem to attract these House Finch every year. This guy happened to land on the closest tree and wait for me to get my camera out. It's a bright sunny day today compared to yesterdays 5 inches of snow so he was singing away in the sun. I like to imagine that the birds are just as excited about spring as I am.

House Finch:
House Finch