Reviews!

I have been birding for almost five years, but before this week I never had a serious pair of binoculars. The cheap pairs I had been using are actually quite embarrassing, so I won’t talk about them here. Instead, I am now a member of Team Vortex, having bought the 8×42 Diamondback model. Verdict: they are great! They seem to be the highest rated model in their price range among almost all reviews. They work very well for me, too. 10 out of 10 after taking them for a spin at Eagle Marsh.

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American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrows didn’t give me any need to break out the new bins. For easiness to see and abundance, I give them a 10 out of 10. For number of colors in their bill, they score a 2.

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White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrows were (literally) chilling by the trail, providing me with a January bird that took me until October and December respectively to get on the green list the last two years. In the category of alleviating worry about missing an easy bird, White-crowned Sparrows are a 6 out of 10. They also get an 8 for looking like I had the black-and-white filter set on my camera.

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Muskrat

Muskrats only manage to get a 3 in terms of mammals you actually want to see. But they get a 9 in fooling you into thinking they are a beaver on first glance.

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Virginia Opossum

Virginia Opossums look way cuter than they should. They also get an 8.5 in looking like a panda.

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Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

This Eastern Cottontail Rabbit scored a zero in the category of outrunning Red-tailed Hawks.

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Unicorn Squirrel Feeder

Unicorn Head Squirrel Feeders score a 10 in receiving one in the mail from your sister and laughing out loud because of how random of a birthday gift they are.

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The Godfather?

However, they ultimately end up with a 1 for durability. This example lasted less then 24 hours before it was eaten alive.

January Birding in the Midwest

Is a mad dash to get a few dozen species right at the beginning of the year and then a whole bunch of slow progress to tick off the random birds here and there that you miss. On a cold but sunny Sunday, I took a 20+ mile ride to both Fox Island and Eagle Marsh to chase a few less common birds (Purple Finch, Rough-legged Hawk) but mostly just ended up watching common fare. I did add two new species to the green list, though: Song Sparrow and Barred Owl.

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Song Sparrow

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American Tree Sparrow

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Hairy Woodpecker

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Blue Jay

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Red-tailed Hawk

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Virginia Opossum

Sparrow Fest 2013

Instead of going off to some exotic location to single out a specific bird, I went to Eagle Creek here in Indy this morning. I had intentions of bulking up my year list, but since it is still outstandingly cold and most of the water in the reservoir was frozen over, things were pretty slow. It was, however, a great day for sparrows:

#026 White-Throated Sparrow

#026 White-Throated Sparrow

#028 Fox Sparrow

#028 Fox Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

The Fox Sparrow is life bird #183 for me! I also had a few other year birds today: #024 American Goldfinch, #025 American Coot, #027 Northern Shoveler, and #029 Pileated Woodpecker.

Sparrow Party

Sparrow Party

I’ll leave you with a shot of the whole gang together. From left to right: Song Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, and Northern Cardinal (which you might already know is not a sparrow).

 

 

 

 

Winter Specialties

This is a totally rad year for winter bird irruptions, and Indiana is getting its fair share. It all started with Red-Breasted Nuthatches all the way back in September, and the party has been continuing lately with both Red and White-Winged Crossbills.

White-Winged Crossbill

White-Winged Crossbill

In a trek out to Eagle Creek last week, I managed to see the White-Winged variety chomping on some pine cones (lifer). This might be one of the coolest birds I have ever seen. The kind folks at Cornell have a video telling you why:

I didn’t see any of the other famous winter finches, but it was a great trip with three lifers in total, including this guy:

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrows have suffered since the invasive House Sparrow (or Bitch Sparrow as it is known in the Majewski household) has arrived. But these guys came down from Canada to see what was going on for Thanksgiving.

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Junco

Dark-Eyed Juncos are probably the most common winter-only bird in the Midwest, but this picture is terrible anyway. It took a long time before Jaime believed that they actually exist, because I would always talk about them while walking our dog, Emma The Dog, but we would never see any.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention my other lifer, which was not the Junco but a Bonaparte’s Gull that I failed to get a picture of.