Birds with Red Anatomy

Some birds have better names than others. Many names are utilitarian; describing exactly what the bird looks like. Case-in-point:

RHWO

Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-headed Woodpecker is a woodpecker with a red head! This is the bird I was talking about in my last post. It is still hanging out at Lions Park directly across the street from my home. I have yet to add it as a yard bird, but last Sunday I spent some quality time getting to know it. And it is a gnarly-looking example of a usually stunning species. This bird was born last year and is very awkwardly in the midst of transitioning from immature to adult plumage. I suppose everyone’s adolescence is rough.

RTHA.JPG

Red-tailed Hawk

A young Red-tailed Hawk seemed to be doing much better in appearance, as it too was spotted at Lions Park last week. The mess of viscera and fur hanging below it was a Fox Squirrel.

FOSQ.JPG

Fox Squirrel

It might have been this squirrel. Or it might have been this squirrel’s friend, mother, or mortal enemy. We will never know. Also seen at Lions Park, pre-hawk sighting.

RNGR

Red-necked Grebe

We have covered red heads, tails, and now we move on to the neck. A power outage at work today allowed me an extra hour in which to go birding. I decided to check the water treatment ponds to mop up some of the last remaining regular waterfowl. Despite my best plans, there was almost no activity, save for a bird completely off my radar: Red-necked Grebe! I have only ever seen this bird on one other occasion, in the exact same place in 2014 when we were having a particularly brutal winter and much of Lakes Michigan and Erie were frozen. That year the ice drove a lot of usually deep water birds like this inland in search of open water in reservoirs, so Fort Wayne got a few of them. To see one today in 40+ degree temperatures this far inland was very low on the list of expected things to see! Green bird #53 for the year, and #189 in my life.

CEDW.JPG

Cedar Waxwing

Since last time, I also picked up Horned Grebe (two courting birds dancing around the Redneck above), Eastern Phoebe, Rock Pigeon, and this furtive Cedar Waxwing trying to hide from me on the Purdue campus yesterday.

WBNU.JPG

White-breasted Nuthatch

Yes, that means I got to go birding on back-to-back days, a rare treat to enjoy. While today had a bigger highlight, yesterday was equally enjoyable even though it was mostly common folk like this White-breasted Nuthatch cramming itself into a tree crevice.

Raccoon.JPG

Hey tree, your Raccoon is hanging out.

The nuthatches weren’t the only ones jamming themselves into trees. Walking through my favorite local woodlot, I heard scraping sounds that I hoped would be a cool bird. It turned out to be a Raccoon quickly hurrying away from me. It must have been very alarmed by my presence, because it frantically tried to jam itself into the tiniest tree hole ever. It got halfway in and then appeared to be stuck for a very long and awkward moment, bum to the world.

Rac-hole

Rac-hole

It eventually got all the way in somehow. That hole was only a few inches across, so I hope it was worth it for that Raccoon turning itself into a sausage to get away from me.

Advertisements

Commuting

Pretty much all of my birding in the last two weeks has been done while commuting by bicycle. Here are some things that I saw.

AMKE.JPG

American Kestrel

An American Kestrel is always sitting on the same wire over a field by my office. The dark smear on the bird’s belly in the photo above appears to be blood. It must have been feeling sluggish post-meal, since it was more cooperative than most.

WAVI.JPG

Warbling Vireo

Warbling Vireos are one of the most commonly heard birds on the greenway along the river, but rarely do I actually stop to try and observe them. This one let me get quite close.

CLSW.JPG

Cliff Swallows

The Harrison Street bridge in downtown Fort Wayne is the only reliable place I know of to get Cliff Swallow, and these birds were motorless #125.

DSCN9794.JPG

Colony

Their architecture is pretty impressive. Others who have tried to make their home under this bridge have not been as successful.

CEDW.JPG

Cedar Waxwing

For a period of about a week, a literal swarm of Cedar Waxwings numbering in the hundreds decimated the ornamental cherry trees of Indian Village Park on either side of the trail. It was a spectacle to behold, and I spent a long time getting to know the flock.

CEDW 5.JPG

Cedar Waxwing

Waxwings are my favorite bird, hands down. You can make all kinds of metaphors about their behavior, so choose one. They also look cool.

CEDW 3.JPG

Orange Tail Feathers

One individual had orange tail feathers, which is something I have read about but never observed before.

CEDW 4.JPG

Bombycillas away!

In case you were wondering, here is what they do with all of that fruit.

GRSP Domain.JPG

Grassy Domain

My ride traverses a variety of habitat, but it usually produces only the expected things. The exception to that might have been last week. Two separate weedy fields gave me two separate really good birds that were heard-only. Last Monday, only a mile and a half from downtown, I heard Dickcissel. On Friday I rode past the field pictured above, and there were at least two Grasshopper Sparrows somewhere within. These last birds would have been lifers if I decided to count them, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I did eBird them though, which also felt weird because now I have more birds in eBird than I do on my life list. If you are reading, how do you rectify this situation? Difficult times. Such is the life of a birder.

Casa del Lago

Jaime, Walter, Alice, and I just returned from a relaxing Christmas week at my parents’ new house in North Carolina that my sister christened “Casa del Lago” (Italian for “House of Legos”). There was a lot of this:

Train Rides

Train Rides

Some of this:

Nemo

Nemo

Even more of this:

Doughnut Game: On Point

Doughnut Game: On Point

And finally, this:

Lamb Hats for All

Lamb Hats for All

But also lots and lots of this:

Amigos

Amigos

It was mostly backyard birding, but still satisfactory. North Carolina gets largely the same birds as the Midwest, but the quantity and commonness are vastly skewed. Case in point: Cedar Waxwings descended on the house in a pleasant, zeeeing cloud.

Nom

Nom

NOM

NOM

The smorgasbord was in full effect for us all. The ivy berries nor the cookie platters stood a chance.

Eastern Red Cedar

Eastern Red Cedar

I got a photo of a waxwing in its namesake tree, too, which I thought was pretty cool. Just kidding, I just wanted another opportunity to showcase my spirit animal.

William Umstead State Park

William Umstead State Park

My parents’ neighborhood is surrounded on three sides by William Umstead State Park in Raleigh, so the scenery is prime. Even though it wasn’t particularly birdy on the day I went hiking, the views were pretty good.

Pines

Pines

I’m not used to pine trees like this.

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

The mimids definitely felt at home, though!

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

We have Brown Thrashers and Northern Mockingbirds in Indiana, but not nearly in the numbers as down south. And not in winter. Or “winter” since the Christmas Eve temperature was a steamy 79 degrees.

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Eastern Gray Squirrel

Indiana’s fat, lazy Fox Squirrels were also nowhere to be seen. Maybe because their blubber would have given them heat stroke in the tropical temperatures. It was odd seeing nothing but their smaller, spazzier cousins the Eastern Gray Squirrel.

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Red-Shouldered Hawk

Lots of raptors showed up to the squirrel party, though. Fun fact: I have now seen more Red-Shouldered Hawks in my parents’ front yard than I have seen in my entire state.

Towhee Butt

Towhee Butt

A fitting end to the trip gave me the southern end of a northbound Eastern Towhee, appropriate because these birds are the worst skunk on my 2015 motorless list. This photo sums up how cooperative they were for me this week despite the fact that they are literally everywhere down there.

Happy Holidays!

Parks and Recreation

I spent the weekend enjoying the warmest weather of the year so far chasing birds to bulk up my motorless list. I started out at Foster Park (the “park”) as always and then on Sunday took a nice long bike ride (the “recreation”) to try and find the open-country birds I have been missing.

But first, I have been on a pretty solid streak of showing you mammal pictures. So let’s get those out of the way.

Eastern Chipmunk

Eastern Chipmunk

At Foster, an Eastern Chipmunk was perched precariously high up in a tree above the river. I took this photo from a foot bridge about 20 feet up, and this animal looked just about as surprised to see me as I did him.

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

Eastern Cottontail Rabbit

The Eastern Cottontail Rabbit is the predominant (only?) lagomorph in the Midwest. We have one that frequents our yard, because our lawn is not made of grass but instead clover and weird purple flowers and other things that aren’t supposed to make up your lawn. Jaime has named him Earl. Having planted a garden this week also, I am pre-emptively declaring war on Earl. Ain’t no bunny gonna eat my strawberries.

Cedar Stoutwing

Cedar Stoutwing

Now that those are out of the way, I will tell you about birds. Foster Park yielded a great bounty of migrants, including several new warblers for the year. I got photos of none of them. Instead, I spent quality time with a flock of Cedar Waxwings, which are my absolute favorite bird.

Cedar Sveltewing

Cedar Sveltewing

Both the tubby and lean varieties of waxwings were present.

Habitats Collide

Habitats Collide

My trip to Foster got me all the way up to 85 species on the motorless list, and I know that I could have stuck around and tallied a few more migrants. But one type of habitat that I had not yet visited this year going motorless was open country. Fort Wayne is not a large city, but I live close to its core, so getting out into fields and grassland without a car took some planning. My destination was the quarry southwest of town, where Blue Grosbeaks reportedly hang out every year. On Sunday afternoon, I got on my bike and made for the intersection of agricultural land, gravel mining, and scrub trees growing by drainage ditches. The distant rock pile in the photo above is about as close as we get to mountains in northern Indiana.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

I missed out on the grosbeak, but I did pick up several new birds for the year, including Killdeer (yes, Killdeer) and the above-pictured Common Yellowthroat. On my way home, I made a small detour to check out a half-finished housing development that looked like it had some decent mudflat or wetland habitat on Google maps. I ran into enough “no trespassing” signs to make me feel like I was entering a military base, so that plan was dashed. But I did pick up enough birds from my trip to land at 91 at the end of the day.

Yard NOPA

Yard NOPA

This week also saw me pick up some great yard birds, putting Grosbeak Gardens at 54 species. Earlier in the week, a Yellow-Throated Warbler was singing vigorously from the top of a neighbor’s maple tree, which is surprising considering all of the sycamores it had to choose from in the neighborhood. And then tonight as I was firing up the grill, I heard a very vociferous Northern Parula making a racket like he owned the place. After Walter was in bed, I went out back to see if I could get a photo. I managed one in the fading light as this individual continued his caffeinated blitz among our spruce trees. Here he is perching on a wire like he is some kind of cardinal or something. Have you no dignity, Northern Parula?

Skiles Test Park – 6/23/12

I had never heard of Skiles Test Nature Park until recently, and I have now gone there on consecutive weekends. My first trip yielded two lifers (Common Yellowthroat and Field Sparrow) but no photos. My trip yesterday yielded no lifers, but some decent shots of the things I saw the first time. A fair trade-off.

Common Yellowthroat

Common Yellowthroat

The Common Yellowthroat is a new world warbler that is common and has a yellow throat. They were everywhere at Skiles. I would hear them whistling from deep inside of a bush or behind 15 feet of leaves and branches, only to see them as they flew to the inside of another tree at approximately 700 miles per hour. This resulted in two things on my first trip: no photograph, and a frustrated determination to go back and wait as long as necessary to get a good shot. On trip number two, I only had to wait about 5 minutes before one showed itself out in the open. This is actually the only photo that I got, and thankfully it is clear enough that I am now satisfied.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

The Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher is an old world warbler that is blue-gray and catches gnats. Much like the Common Yellowthroat, they also fly around at 9,000 miles per hour but don’t mind being out in the open as much, so thankfully I got an okay photograph.

Field Sparrow

Field Sparrow

The Field Sparrow is a sparrow that lives in fields. It was also probably the most common bird I had never seen before this past week.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing does not live in cedar trees and does not have wax on its wings. I know I put up a picture of one recently, but since they are the best bird ever, here’s another.

Here is everything I saw:
1.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
2.) Red-Winged Blackbird
3.) American Goldfinch
4.) White-Breasted Nuthatch (vocalization only)
5.) American Robin
6.) Carolina Wren
7.) Red-Eyed Vireo (vocalization only)
8.) Eastern Towhee (vocalization only)
9.) Northern Cardinal
10.) Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher
11.) Gray Catbird
12.) Downy Woodpecker
13.) Mourning Dove
14.) Carolina Chickadee
15.) Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
16.) Cedar Waxwing
17.) Chimney Swift
18.) Common Yellowthroat
19.) Great Blue Heron
20.) Willow Flycatcher
21.) Field Sparrow
22.) Barn Swallow
23.) Tufted Titmouse (vocalization only)
24.) Indigo Bunting
25.) Eastern Wood Pewee (vocalization only)
26.) Baltimore Oriole

Eagle Creek – 6/2/12

Migration season is over, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a productive birding outing. I went back to Eagle Creek Park today to see what I could come up with. I ended up with 38 species seen (I was able to visually identify every bird that I heard!), including one lifer:

Willow Flycatcher

Willow Flycatcher

The Willow Flycatcher was my lone lifer of the day. It is one of several nearly visually indistinguishable species within the genus Empidonax, but I was able to listen to this one singing long enough to commit the song to memory and look it up when I got home for a positive ID.

Yellow Warbler

Yellow Warbler

Warblers are tricky to ID and even more difficult to photograph, but not the Yellow Warbler. The obvious plumage and sheer number of these at Eagle Creek allowed me to get a decent shot.

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

The Cedar Waxwing is my all-time favorite bird. This one is participating in one of my all-time favorite activities.

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

This is a Song Sparrow.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

And in an encore performance from last weekend, another Northern Cardinal, just because it was there.

Full list (in order of appearance):
1.) Mallard
2.) Canada Goose
3.) Carolina Wren
4.) Brown-Headed Cowbird
5.) Northern Cardinal
6.) Downy Woodpecker
7.) White-Breasted Nuthatch
8.) American Crow
9.) Blue Jay
10.) Red-Bellied Woodpecker
11.) Indigo Bunting
12.) Cedar Waxwing
13.) Carolina Chickadee
14.) Mourning Dove
15.) American Goldfinch
16.) Gray Catbird
17.) Yellow Warbler
18.) Rock Dove
19.) Common Grackle
20.) Barn Swallow
21.) Song Sparrow
22.) Double-Crested Cormorant
23.) Red-Winged Blackbird
24.) Willow Flycatcher (lifer!)
25.) Chimney Swift
26.) Baltimore Oriole
27.) American Robin
28.) Wood Duck
29.) Brown Thrasher
30.) Tree Swallow
31.) Northern Rough-Winged Swallow
32.) Red-Eyed Vireo
33.) Tufted Titmouse
34.) Great Blue Heron
35.) Hairy Woodpecker
36.) Eastern Wood Pewee
37.) House Wren
38.) Prothonotary Warbler