Tuesday, February 24, 2009

More on Red Crossbills

While being sick and at home from school, I get bored. I found out that my feeders where very attractive to the local Red Crossbills. This morning I had about 30 birds!! I was about to get cabin fever, when I grabbed my camera, and sat near my feeders, photographing the crossbills. Today, they came much closer, and I managed to get some great shots. Also, I got PINE SISKIN as a new year bird!!! It was up in the trees as the 30 Crossbills fed. Number 81 for 2009!


This was an interesting bird. Note the buffy wingbars. Not even "regualr" juvenile Red Crossbills have wingbars.

(above) This is the second record I have for House Sparrow for my feeders!!! Quite exciting if you ask me! They are very uncommon in my yard, hence the second ever record!!

(above) This is an interesting bird. All red with a light cheeks.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Red Crossbills

Sunday, I had the morning to photography the many Red Crossbills that come to my feeders. They are fairly skittish, but a bit tame too. I would have gotten close, thus better pictures, if my blind had not fallen and broke in a nasty winter storm we had a month ago. I hope you like the photos I obtained!!

(below) this little gal did a total shakedown, then sat with a headache! What cute birds!
(below) This is my favorite bird at my feeders. This juvenile Crossbill has the streaking of its first year, but also it's beginning to molt new, first winter feathers, which are the yellowish colored patches. What a gorgeous bird.

Gulls in the light, and a 700 clubber

I was privileged to bird with Bob Stites from Portland saturday, along with my mentor/best friend Dan Casey.

The first spot we hit was the landfill, or Gullery. Bob got to see the Iceland Gull last Monday, and was a lifer for him, and later I found out his ABA list is over 700!! Through out the day, he told me stories of birding in Arizona, Alaska, and California and the whole time, I was planning trips off to these famous places. With the sun bright and shinning, without a cloud is the sky, we hopped for good photo opts at the landfill. Arriving, we saw many birds, and picked through the birds, and found 2 first year Glaucous Gulls, and a Thayer's Gull. The Iceland was not seen...yet. We drove to a new vantage point, but there were no gulls to be seen. We hung out a while as the birds slowly filtered our way, to a more photography-friendly area. Finally the Iceland Gull showed up, and along with the 3 Gaucous Gulls, showed very well. I was hoping to get at least one year bird at the dump, and with Dans help on persistent searching, California Gull was my new year bird, and now I am at 81 for ABA for 2009.

(above 2 photos) One of the 3 Gaucous Gulls present. They have been sun-bleached and now are very white.

(above 2 photos) The Iceland Gull that Pete Smith and I originally discovered in early December, and still present!!! Fantastic!!!!

(above 3 photos) Glaucous Gulls

(above) my record shot of the California Gull. They aren't terribly common in the dead of winter, but as march gets nearer, we get hundreds.

(above) Record shot of the small Thayer's Gull that has been present for some time now. Notice the light wingtips, and bicolored panelling in the primaries.

Also, a large flock of Wild Turkeys joined the gull and starlings at the dump, and this big tom gave me a few good shoots.

We birded down to Evergreen, 7 miles south of the landfill, and looking for White-winged Crossbills, but never saw any. In Evergreen, we got to hear, not see, a Blue Jay proclaiming his territory. They have been advancing westward, and got here a couple decades ago, and now are quite common. The bird we heard actually was in the tree that the first few Jay nests were recorded in so many years ago.

We wandered over to a large cattle/horse feed lot looking for blackbirds, but missed them, all 200+ birds. We stopped at Egan School to see a few beautiful male Pine Grosbeaks, and I snapped a few shots as they let me get quite close. This is one of the better shots I have of male Pine Grosbeaks, even though I took many hundreds this winter.

We then birded down to Bigfork, stopping at a boat launch on the Flathead River, and scopped the many hundred of diving ducks: such as Canvasbacks, Redheads, Common Goldeneye, and Scaup of both species. We tried for flocks of waxwings and grosbeaks in Bigfork, but dipped on those. We next tried for Gray Partridge in the "Lower Valley" just right north of Flathead Lake, and south of Kalispell. We missed Gray Partridge, but did see a really beautiful "Harlan's" Red-tailed Hawk. This birds was very colorful, and without the article in the latest "Birding" magazine, Dan would have thought otherwise about the birds subspecies. Entering Somers, as small shoreline town on Flathead lake (where Dan lives) we got great looks at an Eurasian Collared Dove (below). This bird species lives where its name suggests, and was introduced to Cuba a hundred years ago or more. It has spread greatly, but apparently it has no negative effect on native bird/plant/insect species. Maybe it would tip the predator-prey scale as the small, bird eating hawks eat Collared-Doves as well as the native species.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Valentine's Day Weekend

I apologize for the delay in posting, somehow the world of school and work gets in the way sometimes.
Well, I stayed home from school Friday (the 13th!! Spooky!), and I got to walk around the yard, and my neighbors yard. The sun decided to be out in the open, well... I should say the clouds decided to leave, becuase the sun does the same thing everyday, but it is whether there is clouds in the way. I got to take a few pictures of birds, even though there was a limited amout of birds at my expence.
I got to photograph this beautiful female American Robin despite the most annoying dog on the FACE OF THE PLANET!!! This dog runs up and down the fence barking and yelling and freaking out, even though I was not on his territory. I was at my neighbors with the magic yard, and the dog next door was FREAKING OUT! It scared off the Pine Grosbeaks, and Dark-eyed Juncos that I could have photographed that were hanging out in the trees along the fence.
This is the face of annoyment.... this little bark-infested dog barks at me with the most annoying pitch that no other dog can reach. Sometimes, I hope it gets hit by a car. Its owners even neglect it.

This is the coolest snag I have seen, and it is even in my front yard!! So many birds have nested in it, and I even put up a blind at an eye-level Pygmy Nuthatch nest for David and Andrew, but somehow the young died, and the parents left.


Saturday, I went to rollorskate, eat an amazing dinner, and watch a couple movies with my amazing girlfriend, but before I left I walked around the yard, and checked a few areas in Columbia Falls.

I am really lazy right now, and I don't want to type much else about Saturday, so please enjoy the photos.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

From Sunup to Sundown, Always Birding

Waking up Sunday, brought a sigh of relief, as I stared out my window at a beautiful sunrise. I was grateful that the day would be sunny, rather then what it was like Friday, all icy and cloudy, and RAINY!!

Looking out the living room window, I discovered I live in Nepal, at the base of Mt. Everest! Fascinating!! Excuse me a minute, while I go look at some Guldenstadt's Redstarts, and Siberian Accentors!
Mt. Everest, I wish!
Walking by the spooky fog in the forest along my driveway, I headed for my local/secret patch, or called my neighbors yard. I was hoping to find some more birds, then I did Friday. Arriving, I ran into a flock of Pine Grosbeaks! That is cool no matter how often you see them! Luckily I saw the only sparrow in the whole area, a Song Sparrow. I managed to get a few semi-good shots as I chased it around and around the old garage.

This House Sparrow, though not a sparrow at all, but a weaver finch, was cooperative in letting me take a few shots of him.

After the fun I had at my neighbors, my granddad and I went into town to photograph, you guessed it, Pine Grosbeaks, and Waxwings. Our first stop help nothing but multiple American Robins. They seem to be increasing in numbers, as a few filter in from the south. This flock had about 15 birds, but the flock I saw Thursday, at the same spot, held more then 40 birds!

Just a short walk from the robins, was a little flock of Pine Grosbeaks, and like always, they offered some great photo opts.

This bird (above) looks like a first year male, in advanced molt, because it is the right color, but just on its head, and not breast.

On to the next location. Here, we found more Pine Grosbeaks, but none offered great photo opts, so I resorted to chasing White-winged Crossbills (the first seen of the day) into peoples yards. White-winged Crossbills have been decreasing in numbers, as our invasion wears off, so I felt honored and lucky to see and photograph an adult male.

This poor Sharp-shinned Hawk was right in the other side of the street from the Crossbills, and sadly enough was killed that morning, only a few hours earlier. It appears to have been shot, or hit by a car, and the hole in its side was made by magpies and not a projectile, or car. I assume it was killed by some kids or old person, who felt they must protect the flocks of waxwings that were feeding nearby. Vigilante justice isn't always the best.

We ran acrossed a small flock of waxwings, and in fact that was the bulk of the waxwings we saw! The rest 1,000+ must have moved on to greener pastures.

After the wonder through Columbia Falls, we headed over to the site where the road service dumps roadkills, mainly deer and elk. At this secret place, there are maybe 50 crows and ravens, and 7-10 Bald Eagles. It is a suckish place to photograph the birds, because they are so skiddish, so you spook them all, and hope one flies right by you in the sun. I capture this picture of a Common Raven as it flaired and went the other way.

This picture is looking down my driveway

I decided to do a little Bigbying after I got back from birding in town. I grabbed my bike and rode down to the old bridge that is now decommissioned, that crossed the Flathead River. Down by the bank, I found a great little spot for birds, to bad it has no winter birds, but it looks AMAZING for spring migration and breeders! I trompted around down by the river, until I realized that I might of been on private property! It is some beautiful country down by the river.

Leaving, after seening like NO birds, I headed home, and on my way out, along the little dead end road, I ran into a couple Black-capped Chickadees which gave semi-open photo opts. Just beyond that, someone planted bunch if apple trees, and eating those apples, was many Cedar Waxwings and a few American Robins. It looked like a good yard to be search in for Varied Thrush in a month or sooner.

I got home, and found this beauty in my Grandpa's ash tree. A single Townsend's Solitare. The first time I had the chance to photograph one. Then, a dozen Pine Grosbeaks flew in and started chowing down on my grandparents apples. I had to snap a few shots, and post then to prove it. It was getting dark, so the record shot had to be lightened a bit.

Have fun birding!!