Pick Your Pecker

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

Fall Migrants

Fall is confusing. And I don’t mean in terms of the dull, basic-plumaged birds floating around at this time of year. I went to Fox Island last week, bird mecca #1 in Fort Wayne, and found nothing but the gates to Mosquito Hell. Meanwhile yesterday I happened to glance out of the back window while watching football and gazed upon a foraging frenzy by a mixed flock of great migrants:

Cape May Warbler

Cape May Warbler

Stars among them were several Cape May Warblers, a species that became yard bird #47 for the year and a half we have lived at Grosbeak Gardens.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

The warbler action also included a few Yellow-Rumpeds, including one that checked out our bird feeder for a second or two.

Black-Capped Chickadee

Black-Capped Chickadee

Also present were the duo of newly moved-in Black-Capped Chickadees. Chickadees have become very interesting to me since moving to Fort Wayne, since the city lies smack in the middle of the overlap zone for Carolinas and Black-Cappeds. We live south of downtown, and the only species I had seen in the area previously were Carolinas, with Black-Cappeds occurring north of town, or in very small numbers in some of the more birdy areas like Fox Island. However, since last month our Carolinas have been evicted by Black-Cappeds, and they are now the only chickadees that I see in our neighborhood. This new development is contrary to everything I have read about Carolinas pushing north and displacing Black-Cappeds in the southern part of the overlap zone.

In comparison to the Carolinas, the Black-Cappeds have more color saturation in their buff-colored sides, and their white cheek stretches further toward the back of the head, as the bird above exhibits. They also have more white edging on their wings. It’s pretty cool that we have had both species in our yard. Now I can hope for another appearance of a Fort Wayne Boreal Chickadee (it has happened before, apparently).

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

I will leave you with a photo of the always industrious Red-Bellied Woodpecker going to work on our utilities. I apologize for the sneakily-disguised “there are some birds I saw in my yard” post. But I will spare you a photo of a cardinal.

#miami

Continuing with the year of travel, Jaime and I were fortunate enough to make it down to Miami for my sister’s graduation and to see the family, celebrate Christmas early, and all of those good things. Additionally, I am sure you would be disappointed if I didn’t spend considerable time chasing birds around and looking foolish in front of all of those gaudily-dressed scenesters, European ravers, and Jersey Shore cast members. Don’t worry, reader(s) behold:

Eurasian Collared Dove

Eurasian Collared Dove

The first significant bird was a life bird for me, the Eurasian Collared Dove. Much like most things in Miami, these birds do not originate in America. They supposedly can be found in Indiana too, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Cattle Egret

Cattle Egret

The Cattle Egret was also a life bird for me, though they are exceedingly common in Florida. They are infamous for expanding their range very rapidly during the 20th century, arriving in the US of their own accord and spreading out from there. Again, these can supposedly be found in Indiana, but I haven’t seen any proof yet.

Mitred Parakeet

Mitred Parakeet

Another life bird were these Mitred Parakeets that had taken their talents to South Beach. Originally from Ecuador or something, these birds are feral and thriving in their new digs. They are also closely related to the Red-Masked Parakeets of San Francisco (and this blog’s) fame, but the Mitred variety has an incompletely red face.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

The provenance of waterfowl is frequently difficult to determine when they are unafraid of humans, and I was about ready to give up on the Muscovy Ducks that inhabit the University of Miami’s campus because they are endemic to Central America. However, one of these ugly bastards had a flock of ducklings with it, which let me know that they have indeed established themselves like the parrots above. Lifer.

Magnificent Frigatebird

Magnificent Frigatebird

The fifth and final lifer of the trip was this Magnificent Frigatebird that was wheeling around the bay outside of our 15th floor balcony. These guys have a truly crazy silhouette that looks like they should be in a Batman movie.

Palm Warbler

Palm Warbler

The award for most appropriately named bird of the trip goes to this Palm Warbler, which was sitting in a palm tree.

White Ibis

White Ibis

I do not know the scientific term for a group of White Ibis, so I will say that this herd of them was busy begging for bread crumbs at The U.

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

This Brown Pelican was photographed from our Duck Boat during the Duck Boat Tour of Biscayne Bay. It was not amused.

Laughing Gull

Laughing Gull

It was impossible to do anything without at least one Laughing Gull looking at you funny.

Unlikely Allies

Unlikely Allies

Even with all of the great birds that were seen in South Florida, perhaps the most unexpected was the Red-Bellied Woodpecker cavorting about with Monk Parakeets in a palm tree in the middle of a busy street. I guess this just goes to show you that what happens in Miami stays in Miami, unless you get photographed and put on the internet.

Commoners at Holliday Park

I went out on Saturday to see what I could before heading up to Fort Wayne for the weekend. Though there wasn’t a whole lot going on, I did get a lifer (Least Flycatcher) and some decent photos of common birds I hadn’t previously spent much time trying to photograph. I ended the morning with 30 species, which are documented on eBird.

Least Flycatcher

Least Flycatcher

This Least Flycatcher was performing some impressive aerial acrobatics. Luckily, he kept returning to the same perch so I was ready with my camera. These birds are one of the genus Empidonax, which consists of approximately 900 billion species of flycatchers that all look exactly alike. I have complained about this before on this blog, but these birds in particular look EXACTLY ALIKE. I was only able to identify this one because I had such a close look at it (to see that it’s grayness was more gray than the similarly gray Willow, Alder, Acadian, and Yellow-Bellied Flycatchers), and its habitat matched that of the Least as described in Peterson, plus they are apparently the most common of the eastern flycatchers.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker

After being infuriated by the flycatcher ID’s, I was able to calm down with some very, very easy birds. Take for instance this very inaccurately named Red-Bellied Woodpecker.

Hairy Woodpecker

Hairy Woodpecker

And this Hairy Woodpecker. It can be distinguished from its very similar cousin the Downy Woodpecker by the fact that it actually has a beak and not just a tiny nub.

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Breasted Nuthatch

I like nuthatches, like this White-Breasted Nuthatch, a lot because they behave so ridiculously and have really goofy calls that sound like the Martians from Mars Attacks.

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

There were about 30 billion American Goldfinches swooping around the park, and all of them had shed their yellow for their basic plumage. But this one let me get close!

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Speaking of basic plumage, the reason this Yellow-Rumped Warbler is not sporting his is because this photo is actually from the spring of 2007. I did see a Yellow-Rumped this past weekend, but I found this picture on my computer and want an excuse to post it because it’s way better than the one I got on Saturday.