Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Rough"ly the best day of photography

Yesterday, the 30th, my mom and I ventured out into Columbia Falls to hopefully find one last new year bird before 2008 ends.

Cedar Waxwings

We found a couple Ceder Waxwings, but NO Bohemian Waxwings, which is quite odd this time of year. In town we saw a Steller's Jay and a Pine Grosbeak, along with the usual suspects. We headed over to the local Butcher to photograph the many Black-billed Magpies that eat the meat scraps. Arriving, we saw NONE!! Standing out side, we saw a Rough-legged Hawk flying toward us. We were thinking it was just going to give us a close flyby, it came closer, then LANDED on a pole right infront of us!!

I was SURE that those where the best pictures of a Rough-legged Hawk I would ever hope to get. I was wrong. Another friend said she had a bunch of magpies at her house, so we zipped on over. She also said there was a great big hawk. The target was the Magpies, because I had thought I had got the best hawk photos attainable. At her house there also was NO magpies, but there was a Rough-legged Hawk. This hawk was sitting on a pile of meat scraps, eating lunch. It let me, and my friend get within 3 feet of it!!!! WOW !! That was soooo AMAZING!!!! I got some amazing pictures!!!

Also, counting today (31st) I had seen White-winged Crossbills for 3 days in a row!!

Monday, December 29, 2008

New photos of old birds.

Yesteradays weather was horrible for pgotography, and being outside in general. The temperature was above freezing, and all the snow was getting wet, and it was raining.
Today was a lot nicer, still no Sun to be seen, but it was about 20 to 28 degrees all day, and it snowed continuesly. I did get better pictures of Pygmy Nuthatches and a Downy Woodpecker.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Ninepipes CBC with a bit a rust around the the edges

The Ninepipes National Wildlife Refuge is a great spot for birds, large and small. It is a man-made lake, that has hundreds of breeding gulls, ducks, geese, and shorebirds. It is surrounded by farms, and pothole prairieland for miles. This whole area is refered to by the locals as "ninepipes"

The Ninepipes Christmas Bird Count has the highest number of raptors for all CBC in the nation. So from the start I knew I would have wonderful opertunities for photographing raptors.

Dan and Susannah Casey invited me to join them on the Ninepipes CBC on the 27th. Our first stop was to get out and walk a good sized juniper tree shelterbelt. See, most groups don't get as many birds, because they don't know, or want to search EVERYWHERE for birds.
In this shelterbelt, I got some good pictures of Northern Flickers. Most of the time, they are fairly skiddish, but this one female was very cooperative, and just sat there eating berries as I snapped almost 50 pictures of her. I take so many, because, only a few will be really good.
We continued to search the shelterbelt for owls. Specifically, Long-eared Owls. We saw many of them in the same area last year, but we didn't encounter one. We did, however, find 2 Great Horned Owls.
We left for a new area, which held a large hedgerow, and a nice batch of feeders around a few houses. There, we encountered the largest group of Bohemian Waxwings.

After viewing the waxwings, he went to see what birds we could find at the stream at the base of the dam at Ninepipes Reservoir. We saw a Great Blue Heron, and a Kingfisher. Driving slowly by, I noticed a blackbird down on the little edge of ice, poking aroung in the water. In the back of my mind, I already ID the bird based purely on the birds habits, and location. My consious mind still needed the simple, and basic factors of field marks to ID the bird. Once I brought my binoculars up to the bird, I knew I was right. "RUSTY BLACKBIRD!!!!" I yelled in extreme excitment.

The Rusty Blackbird is a GREAT find in this part of the world. A lifer for both Susannah and I. The bird was too far for a good picture from my Canon, but Dan Casey did get a few great digiscope pictures.

After the Rusty Blackbird, everything was a bit downhill. I did get great looks at various hawks, and sparrows. Sparrows are one of my favorite groups of birds, and the American Tree Sparrow is one of my favorite sparrows, if not the my very favorite. So, I was very pleased to get some great pictures if tree sparrows.

I also got a few good pictures of Rough-legged Hawks. Speaking of hawks, and raptors, we got usual counts for Red-tailed Hawks, and Rough-legged Hawk. OUt counts would seem really high for anywhere else, but ninepipes. We got about 26 Red-tailed Hawks, and about 25 Rough-legged Hawks.

One really great bird that we saw was 5 or so Long-eared Owls!!! We found them in one of our areas great shelterbelts. They stayed perched just long enough for me to manually focus on them, then they flushed. It was still great to see them, but it would have a bit better if I got to get a picture of one.

The pictures aren't the best, due to my newness to SLRs and the horrible lighting contitions, so I am a bit rusty. I loved watching the Rusty Blackbird walking on the edge of the ice, with his rusty edges glossy black body feathers.
Good Luck Birding!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008


I got a CAMERA!!!!! I got a Canon 10D with a Tamron 28-300mm lens.
Here are some of my best pictures of the two first days of photography around the feeders.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Surprising Miss!

(Saturday was the Bigfork CBC, but not much to blog about)

Sunday, the 21st, Pete Smith and I decided we would engage in some twitching. For nonbirders, that sounds just plain retarded, but it really means to drive a good distance to see one or two rare birds.

A week earlier, a PINE WARBLER was reported in Eureka, MT. A sleepy little town closer to the Canada border then to other humans. The Pine Warbler stayed for a week, and was seen every signal day, so we were already 99% sure we would see the bird. Arriving at Lewis's house, there isn't much feeder activity, but it soon picks up. Lewis brings up the fact that they had found a DUNLIN five minutes from there the day earlier. Not wanting to miss another state bird, we head off to find this geographically and meteorologicaly challenged Dunlin. That wasn't a hard twitch. The bird was right where it should have been. We got very good views!

Having our fill of Dunlin, we go back to Lewis's house and resume feeder watching for a rarity. After SEVERAL more hours, the sun sack too low to see anything, and we had to leave, warblerless.

Oh well, at least we sw a Dunlin.

Monday, December 15, 2008

COLD weather birding!

Eurasian-collared Dove

Yesterday, Sunday, Pete Smith, his wife, his father-in-law, and I decided to see what hypothermic birds we could find in the sub-zero temperatures.

We drove around in the large field area south of my house, about a 28 square mile area. Some, no most, of the bird action was around a few lucky souls bird feeders, which they kept filled. (people!! Keep your feeders FULL!!!)

We saw House Finches, House Sparrows, Pine Siskins, European Starlings, Mourning Doves, Downy Woodpeckers, and Northern Flickers.
In a driveway we found 2, I repeat 2 EURASIAN-COLLARED DOVES!!! Still revered as a rarity up here.

Eurasian-collared Dove

Next, we found this AMAZING looking patch of over-grown Christmas Trees, at a retired tree farm. I will bet that there is at least 2 Long-eared Owls in there, sadly we didn't have the time to investigate.

Later, back by my house, we ran across a flock of like 60 Bohemian Waxwings, and 4 Pine Grosbeaks!! I love Pine Grosbeaks, and seeing them near my house was great!


Saturday, December 13, 2008

More pictures

More pictures of the Iceland Gull (all by Dan Casey)

Friday, December 12, 2008


Sunday, the 7th, Pete Smith and I just went out for a casual "dump run" to the Gullery(landfill). We had no idea that that would start a chain reaction of arguments, snide comments and more gulls!!

Arriving we saw a couple young Glaucous Gulls, a nice Mew Gulls, and a few Thayer's Gulls including a nice adult bird. Scanning, I noticed ( it stuck out like a sore thumb!)a very small Glaucous looking bird. Instantly I was speechless. As Dan knows, when I see something weird and/or rare, I am just sputtering word fragments as I am intently thinking, and observing the bird in question. That happened then, and I still can't remember my initial word, but I guess I said something leading to an Iceland Gull in the flock, by a juvenile Herring.

We scrambled for notes and pictures, when a car pulled up right next to the flock. The driver pulls out a MONSTROUS camera lens, and I yell to pete that we should go over there and see what is up, and see if they can get pictures of our bird. The guy was Jim Greaves, with his wife, Lark. I knew them from the Montana listserv, but not in person.

Here are some of the only initial pictures taken (by Jim Greaves)

The rest was kinda a blur. I know that the gull flew and we got good looks at it flying around, then it left.

Dan Casey got to see it on Tuesday, and Wednesday. It looks like a SOLID Iceland Gull!!!

OH! by the way, it was a lifer!!! 314!!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Feeder birds, and SNOW!

I'll try to post some pictures soon.

After gulling (see post below) I got some more camera time with my friends Nikon D80 with 700-300mm lens.


Pygmy Nuthatch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Black-capped Chickadee

Rose, our paint.

Our two ducks!

Fox, our mule, and Columbia Mountain behind

Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Little Bit of Foreshadowing and more GULLS!

The night before last, I had a very vivid dream of seeing a flock of White-winged Crossbills right at about eye level in some close trees..............

Yesterday, Dan Casey and I went out to the Gullery (landfill) to see if it was our turn to find a Slaty-backed Gull (one had just been seen in Connecticut) We took some back roads out in the open fields looking for my redpolls I need to see in the County for my Big Year. We were talking about spots to find Long-eared Owls in the county, and at that time we turned down a road with a nice ornimental Spruce Tree hedge. We commented maybe in a few years, there will be a Long-eared Owl there. As the meters ticked by the trees were ever taller and denser, with a massive cone crop at the top of all the trees. Dan said this will be a great spot for White-winged Crossbills this winter, and just then he added with surprise "THERE THEY ARE! There is a flock right there." We jump out to see the flock right next to us!!! Beautifull looks at amazing birds. Just like in my dream. Dan got some great digiscoped pictures.

White-winged Crossbill (female)

At the Dump, there was the usual couple hundred Ring-billed Gulls, and about 25-45 Herring Gulls, and a few Califronia Gulls. In the mix, we saw a couple juvenile Thayer's Gulls, and one really classic adult THGU. (see picture) Also present were the two juvenile Glaucous Gull. We also saw this really stangely light young Herring Gull. It is either a really aberrent Am. Herring or a Vega Herring Gull, which means it is from Siberia or Japan. Cool, really Cool... Dan and I got were scanning the flock, and he almost yells "MEW GULL!" That was really unexpected bird, since they aren't really DUMP gulls, more water gulls, like Bonaparte's Gull. That was about it for the birds. Hope the Slaty-backed Gull shows up next weekend.

Possible Vega Gull

Juvenile Thayer's Gull - note primary pattern

Adult Thayer's Gull - Note bill size, head color, dark eye
(All pictures on this post are by Dan Casey)

Feeder Birds

My favoritest chicken out of all of them

I got some camera time yesterday at my feeders in my yard. It was a bit hard, because the lens doesn't have IS or Image Stabilizer.

Here are some of the better pictures...

A distant Red-breasted Nuthatch

A Pygmy Nuthatch

Some more Pygmy Nuttys

A sweet picture as a Mountian Chickadee takes off