Birds with Friends

Jaime and I have a perpetual game of Words with Friends going, so I was very happy when she told me that the Word of the Day was “junco!” Look!

Junco

Junco

Wait… What? Let’s count how many errors there are in this feature.

1. Juncos aren’t finches. They are sparrows

2. There is no such bird as the Reed Sparrow, and Juncos would never be found in reeds. I realize this is an error by 18th century Spaniards, but still, ding.

3. In the example sentence, White-Throated Sparrows and Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers are called out specifically and correctly, so how hard would it be to also realize that Northern Junco is not a species?

In summary: Among bird identification apps, Words with Friends is the worst!

Enjoying the Scenery

This weekend I set out on foot to enhance by 2015 motorless list.

Brown Creeper

Brown Creeper

Foster Park wasn’t too birdy, but I did get some good looks at the commoners, including this Brown Creeper that probably would have let me grab it off of the tree if I wanted to. I have been on good terms with these birds ever since they helped me escape a shutout in my Taken for Granted Challenge. So I guess that competition worked.

Northern Flicker

Northern Flicker

Have you ever mistaken a Northern Flicker for a Sharp-Shinned Hawk? I have. This one swooped in at 75 miles per hour and scattered the cloud of finches I was watching.

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

Despite a slow birding day, the weather was nice. It was warm enough that even this guy came out of his state of torpor to enjoy the day.

Fox Squirrel, Black Morph

Fox Squirrel, Black Morph

Among other rodents was this slightly less common black morph of Indiana’s ubiquitous Fox Squirrel.

Guardian of the Forest

Guardian of the Forest

I had a brief chat with the Guardian of the Forest. By paying my tribute of six golden acorns, he allowed me safe passage.

Is this ironic?

Is this ironic?

I couldn’t decide if the person who left this was being intentionally ironic, or if this was a message for The Man. If the latter, consider yourself stuck-it-to, Man!

St. Mary's River

St. Mary’s River

Except for a few patches, the St. Mary’s River was still frozen, so the only waterfowl I got to add to my list was Canada Goose. But I don’t bird Foster Park often enough, and it offers some solid riparian woodland that will be crawling with birds in spring.

Oriole Nest

Oriole Nest

This disused oriole nest is proof of the area’s productivity. I will have to fall out of the trap of thinking that the go-to spots in Allen County are the only good spots. I hereby claim Foster Park as my local patch!

Pick Your Pecker

Spoiler Alert: If you don’t want to read a “these are some birds I saw in my backyard” post, then stop now.

With the thermometer yet to crack zero degrees (Fahrenheit) for more than a few hours so far this year, my birding action has been limited to the kitchen window. Even still, yesterday I got a great side-by-side comparison of a pair of birds that are famous for being dopplegangers.

Downy Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker

 

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

As you can see, the key difference between these two species is that the Downy Woodpecker has a nub, whereas the Hairy Woodpecker has a divine chisel that will destroy your world if you are a grub hiding under some bark.

I tried my absolute best to get these two birds in the same shot, but ultimately failed. And even though the quality of the photos are not good, I still really like this as a side-by-side comparison. I remember exactly where I was when I saw my first Downy Woodpecker (on a tree in the parking lot of Riverwatch Tower at Ohio State in the spring of 2005… Go Bucks!), and at the time the ID killed me. Looking through my Peterson, I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a Downy or a Hairy, but I would have learned the difference much more quickly if a member of the opposite species flew in and replaced it on its perch in exactly the same position.

Downy Woodpecker

Downy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

Thankfully, if you are a woodpecker, there are only so many poses you will do, so I got another set of comparisons, including this bonus model:

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Enter 2015, Year of the Motorless List!

First, let me introduce you to my snappy new blog! I decided it was time for a makeover, especially in regard to my lists. If you are interested in my personal vanity, you can now see my updated Master List on a tab at the top of this site. It features updated (and finally accurate) taxonomy, as well as better record of where and when I saw and photographed each bird.

Joining it at the top of the page is the tab for my motorless exploits in 2015. Inspired by Flycatcher Jen, I originally set out to do this just as a new list to keep without any goals in mind. But as we get deeper into the new year and the list (slowly) builds, I find I am strategizing more and more about what I can see using only Gregpower.

Of the 269 species of birds recorded in Allen County, I split them up into five categories based on my likelihood of seeing them (I am only counting seen birds), taking into account what I have observed to be common as well as the habitats I am most likely to get to sans motor vehicle. They are:

Definite (57 species): All of the lay-up birds that I can see without any effort just by walking around my neighborhood or biking to work. This includes the usual suspects like all of the common eastern feeder birds, common waterfowl, the most common neotropic migrants (I’m looking at you, Red-Eyed Vireo), and a few birds that aren’t necessarily common but are always reliable in Fort Wayne, like Peregrine Falcon.

Likely (34 species): At the next level are the birds that aren’t gimmes but will require minimal effort to go find in the nearest woodlot at Foster Park. Included here are many migrants like Yellow Warbler, waterfowl like Wood Duck, and raptors like Bald Eagle that aren’t necessarily yard birds but easy to spot elsewhere.

Possible (73 species): The biggest group of birds are still not uncommon, but would require a good day out in the field away from the suburbs to go and spot. This list is primarily migrants like most of the shorebirds, most of the rest of the warblers, and many of the deepwater ducks. I also included some of the less common birds for Allen County that still might show up around home, like Northern Mockingbird. Common but irruptive birds like Red-Breasted Nuthatch are also here.

Lucky (60 species): The luck factor has two sides to it. The first is the birds that, while good to show up close to home, are not common. This includes Snowy Owl, Blue Grosbeak, and Black-Crowned Night Heron. The others are common birds that I would be lucky to get to without a vehicle. Most of the open-country birds like Bobolink, Wild Turkey, and Henslow’s Sparrow fall into this list just from the fact that I would need to bike an hour or more to get to where they can be found, and birding time will be at a premium for me this year.

Improbable (45 species): The last group of birds would be huge even if I was devoting all of my time and gasoline to finding them. Included here are all of those crazy county records like Varied Thrush, Boreal Chickadee, and Pacific Loon plus the least common irruptives like Evening Grosbeak.

With this overkill of a breakdown, I have set my goal at an even 100 species. I figure if I add up all of the Definite and Likely birds plus a few of the Possibles, I can get there knowing that I will miss some easy ones and stumble across some tough ones. As it stands today, I have 10 down with only 90 to go!