Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Sad News....and Good News!!!

We did not find the Common Crane we were hoping for but we did find about 1000 Sandhill Cranes!!! Full report tomorrow with some pictures!!!!
Yesterday we stopped at a Love's Truck Stop and took a little walk in some woods. We didn't see anything new except a bird Simon has been wanting to see for a while...Brown Creeper.
Brown Creeper
White-breasted Nuthatch

Hairy Woodpecker

Not the best photos of the Brown Creeper but sometimes you get a wonderful picture and other times not so much. The photos of the Hairy Woodpecker and White-breasted Nuthatch turned out wonderful!

Today we plan to stop off at Nebraska Nature and Visitor Center. We called them to see if there was room to park a semi tractor trailer and it sounds like we will be able to park along the road, she also informed us that there is a Common Crane there. The Common Crane is an ABA code 4! ABA code 4 means it's a casual visitor, not annual with 6 or more total sightings recorded in North America and 3 or more records in the last 30 years. WOW, we are excited to see this bird, hopefully it will still be there when we arrive. We have 90 more miles to get there. Wish us luck!!! Happy Birding!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Not Cackling Goose After All....

Well on a disappointing note we had to decrease our number the other day after examining our Cackling Goose more closely. We have noticed that they are just Canada Geese. But we did manage to get a Lifer today and will be reporting back later on tonight or tomorrow afternoon! Happy birding!!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

2 Hawks and 1 Falcon!

Red-tailed Hawk

Well we started out a little slow seeing a lot of Red-tailed Hawks. Then Simon spotted a Prairie Falcon and then a Cooper's Hawk. After identifying these raptors we stopped off at a rest area in Missouri.. There we spotted a pair of White-throated Sparrows perched in a tree. Then we recognized the call of a Red-shouldered Hawk! We listened and searched the sky for the raptor and then heard it's mate calling back to it. We spotted the Red-shouldered Hawk soaring above up and then we saw them both. After they flew off to far to watch them we headed over to some trees hope for as much action as we had seen a few weeks ago at this location. All we found there was Tufted Titmice and Red-bellied Woodpecker. Starting to head back to the truck we hear a wonderful bird calling out, as we searched the trees we finally found the beauty; European Starling.
European Starling
I was actually amazed at how well the photo of the Starling came out, I've been practicing with a new lens. This lens is about a foot long and its all manual focus so I can't rely on auto focus. Also when taking pictures of birds it's actually better to use manual focus because you never know what your camera is focusing in on. So as it turns out I am very pleased with the outcome of that picture! It is defiantly a learning experience learning the camera settings but look forward to learning the camera as this big year continues! With these three raptors today that brings our count to 116!
Happy Birding!

Red-shouldered Hawk

Cooper's Hawk Juvenile

Along the way we noticed a pond behind a truck stop right before we got onto the Oklahoma Turnpike. We've seen these birds all over North America but always nice to get some good pictures of them.
Ring-billed Gulls

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge~ Nature Shots!!

Some Nature Shots From Our Birding Outings!

Misery Bay at Presque State Park

Sidewalk Trail in
Presque Isle State Park

Presque Isle State Park

These are some pictures of Presque Isle State Park on Lake Erie in Eric, PA. Very beautiful! We plan to go back here in the spring/summer. Hopefully we get a chance.

Tennessee NWR

Tennessee NWR

Here are some from Tennessee NWR we could have stayed there all day along!

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird
Yesterday afternoon we journeyed through Oklahoma on some back roads headed to Iowa. We decided to stop at Atoka Lake. We will be in no hurry to come back there, the lake was not at all what the website had stated. The website stated that this lake was a birding hot spot but maybe it's the wrong time of year. Anyways, there was only Gadwalls and Canada Geese at the actual lake, but we walked mile and half to the lake through so woods and didn't see anything new on our way. But on our way back we saw a few Eastern Bluebirds. The walk took us two and a half hours and I know have a blister on my heel from my new boots. But that comes with getting new boots. Until next time, happy birding!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

Northern Cardinal
As we made entered the park yesterday, we had to pay to get into this Nature Center, ten dollar. We decided to keep a tally of the cost of our Big Year. To the right you will see the counter of the cost as well as our birding count. If you are a birder and ever looked into doing a Big Year you probably have found out two things~ you either have to be rich or do into debit if you really commit to a big year. Well for us it's a little different my husband drives for a company so we don't have to pay for any fuel but we do have to stick to the route they give us. Sometimes that's the part that sucks! We want to make it down to the Rio Grande Valley this year and we never go down there in the semi. That part of our Big Year will be time we take off of work and cost us.
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Cedarr Waxwing
Black Vulture
Getting back to our birding day I did a little research on this refuge and decided I wanted to go check out the Greer Island and Marsh Boardwalk for sure. First we made our way carefully to the Greer Island, there was a couple low branches and was scraping on the top of the roof, parking the semi in the tiny parking lot we step out in to nature and hear the most beautiful bird call. Looking around we could not see any birds. We figured out the direction of the call and then I looked up in a tree and saw a bright red Northern Cardinal. My favorite bird! I do not know this for certain but I believe he was passionately calling out for his mate. We got some pictures of him and made our way down the path to Greer Island. Once we got to the island we made our was down the path and spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker pecking away at a tree. There was a piece of the island that went out on the water there we saw a Northern Mockingbird, Black Vulture and some sparrows; that we already have. Following the trail through Greer Island we came to another location where we could look out onto the water. We spot some Forster's                                                    Tern flying over head and some Double-crested Cormorants swimming in the lake.
American Goldfinch bathing
Hermit Thrush
Hoping for more bird action we move on down the trail then I spot an Ovenbird! It's perched perfectly on a log and I signal for Simon to be quiet as I point out the Ovenbird. We get some pictures and high-five each other on a new lifer! So so far that's two big year birds. We are starting to think we are not going to get as many birds as we had originally thought when we take a curve on the trail as see all kind of activity! Groups of Cedar Waxwings in the trees, an American Goldfinch bathing in a swallow pond, chickadees and titmice singing and jumping from branch to branch, ruby-crowned Kinglet and Golden-crowned Kinglet perched on the branches, some American Robins frolicking on the ground and finally a Northern Harrier soaring overhead searching for lunch. We pretty much had all day at this place so we were in no hurry to leave so we enjoyed the birds for a while. Once we left there we found the head of the trail rather quickly and made our way back to the truck. Along the way we saw some sparrows; Lincoln's and Song and a Sedge Wren.
Snowy Egret
Great Blue Heron
Once we got back to the truck we made our way to Marsh Boardwalk but along the way we stopped off at Crosstimbers Trail but only got a little ways since the trail was washed out. There we saw Great Egret and a snowy Egret down by the water and then we saw a Great Blue Heron that was perched on the tree, very beautiful. We made our way to Marsh Boardwalk there we saw pretty much the same sparrows and some ducks that were a little too far away to identify. This was a very nice refuge and would love to go back there if we get a chance again. Our list is now up to 112 and growing!! Happy Birding!

EDIT: The Ovenbird had been misidentified and is really a Hermit Thrush.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Domestic Geese

Brown and White Chinese Geese
White Chinese Geese
Yesterday we were on our way to Fort Worth and stopped Wichita Falls at a city pond when we saw this geese, White and Brown Chinese Geese. They of course don't count for our big year. But they are domestic birds and we managed to get some good pictures of them all. There was also Canada Geese there.

Today we went to Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge and got quite a few birds. I will be going through photos and will have an update soon.
Brown Chinese Geese

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Scott M Matheson Wetlands

Yesterday as we were traveling south on US highway 191 we stopped off at Scott M. Matheson Wetland in Moab, Utah. We saw a new lifer Spotted Towhee.
Spotted Towhee
They are very pretty songbirds and our first Towhee! They were jumping from branch to branch and didn't go to far off the ground, unlike some birds that fly higher up in the trees. The trees they were jumping around in were very thick so that was challenging to get a good shot of them. The Wetland had had a wildfire last summer and had just recently reopened in October. They had not totally finished cleaning up from the fire so there was piles around the walk way but the walk way was still pretty. I would recommend this place to anyone who enjoys nature.

After seeing the Towhee, Simon was still trying to get a decent picture of the Spotted Towhee when I walked ahead and around a curve in the boardwalk I thought I heard something walking around on the ground but couldn't make anything out. I was looking for the Towhee since we had just seen it on the the ground but still saw nothing. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw what I thought was a coyote. OMG! He just walked out from the shrubs and kept on walking didn't even look at me. Then I told Simon what I had saw and we walked further down and he saw it and said it was a dog....I'm not sure if I saw a coyote or not.
As we went on down the trail we saw some other birds we already have on our big year. Such as Yellow-rumped Warbler, Dark-eyed Juncos, Northern Flickers, Yellow-crowned Sparrows, Song Sparrow and Black-billed Magpies, American Kestrel.
American Kestrel
Northern flicker
The White-crowned Sparrow was a tricky one with curved black lines on the head and a chin marking, this would make it West Taiga.
We were able to get a pretty good picture of the Northern Flicker and American Kestrel.
The black-billed Magpie was quiet tricky to photography but we managed to get a few good ones in there.
Black-billed Magpie
We planned only to stay 1 1/2 hour but that got extended by an hour when we took a "shortcut". With some of the trees down and in piles we hit a dead end and had to turn around and find the trail again. Once we got back to the main trail we checked the time and high tailed it back to the truck.
White-crowned Sparrow
West Taiga Variety
We got back on the road with our total only up by one
 but the day was not over yet! As Simon was driving he spotted two Northern Groshawk but we were on back roads with nowhere to pull off as there was no shoulders on these roads. So we got no picture of those but those put us up to 102! Our number keeps getting bigger and its still January!!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Leucism Red-tailed Hawk and other birds we've already seen....

Well it's been a few days since we've been on here, mainly because we haven't gone birding. Today was different though, we got out and tried to do a little birding. The first bird we saw was a interesting Red-tailed Hawk. This Red-tailed Hawk had a white facial features and also had this effect on his sides too.
Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk in flight
 Hopefully this leucism red-tailed Hawk will not be affected too much more by this disease. When birds get this they can be more vulnerable then birds without this abnormality; wings can get more weaker, mating can become harder, smaller birds with leucistic are easier to see for their prey, and list goes on. This Red-tailed Hawk is quiet beautiful and is also the Krider's group of Red-tailed Hawk. There are so many variations of RTH that it is sometimes hard to figure out which one we have photographed.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
The next stop was a rest area along Interstate 84 where there was a nice group of Starlings and Dark-eyed Juncos flying from tree to tree. We also saw a Yellow-rumped Warbler that Simon was hoping was a Northern Parula but no dice. Then I got a shot of a Northern Flicker and a crow. All birds that we have already seen today. So, no new birds today all ones we had already seen. But hopefully we will get some new ones tomorrow as we drive through Utah! So until tomorrow, happy birding!!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Day 20 of our big year we are on our way to Portland, OR and having a little bit of trouble getting there. The chain law is in effect so last night the chains went on two tires. But this morning as we continue for our destination we hear a strange noise; the chains were wrapped around the axle. After we took the chains off we got further down the road and hear another weird noise coming from the tires, but we were just a little bit from our fuel stop so we just waited till then. Once we arrived there we found out that we need to get our tired repaired. Luckily just the valve stem so once we got into the shop it only took 20 minutes; but took 1 1/2 hour to get into the shop. This gave Simon time to go check out some sparrows that I had spotted behind some trucks. I opted to stay in the truck because there was ice on top of the snow and there was a drop off behind the trucks and I've fallen enough times already this year.
When he came I went through his pictures and saw very excited to see a new sparrow for us. Finally a new sparrow!!! Golden-crowned Sparrow. He only saw the female but the male has black strips instead of the brown strips on the head.
Golden-crowned sparrow
He also got some more Dark-eyed Juncos and Black-crowned Sparrow. We got the Oregon Group of the Dark-eyed Junco species. Some birds have subspecies and some do not. The Junco has five different subspecies; Slate-colored Group, Oregon Group, Pink-sided Group, Gray-headed Group, and White-winged Group. We now have all except the White-winged and Gray-headed Groups.
Dark-eyed Junco~Oregon Group

As we drove along the Columbia River we saw what looked like a Western Grebe but we are not counting it since we could not confirm that it wasn't Clark's Grebe. But Clark's Grebe isn't up here in the winter but I'm still not counting him. We finally made it to Portland so I hope everyone has a fabulous day and stay warm! We are so happy we hit 100 today!! Thank you Golden-crowned Sparrow for being number 100!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge

Yesterday, as we were waiting for our trailer to be loaded at Henderson, Nevada we thought if we got out of there soon enough we would stop at Pahranagat NWR. We did in fact get out in time and made our way to the refuge. We were a few miles from the spot were we could park the truck, that's the tricky part about traveling in a 70 foot vehicle, we were noticing how low the lower lake was. Was a little worried also as we weren't seeing any ducks in the lower lake.
As we made it up the hill the lake came into view along with ducks and swans! Swan! I get pretty excited when we see a new species that you wouldn't see everyday! So I was booted up and had my hoodie on so I jumped out to get a shot of the Tundra Swans.
Tundra Swan
Tundra Swan

They were on the other side of the lake so even for our 500 mm lens we needed to get a little closer for some good pics of the swans. Simon caught sight of some ducks that were sleeping but soon realized they were just your average Mallard. As we moved forward we saw an sparrow bouncing around on the ground, that was a Song Sparrow, we've seen plenty of those lately. As we started down the pathway I caught sight of a Great Roadrunner! OMG! A Greater Roadrunner! I mean we have been wanting to see one of those for a while and Simon even thought he saw one last month but we were unsure so couldn't count it. But this guy we got photos of, not the best since he didn't like to stand in the same spot every long and can run fast!
Greater Roadrunner


Also at that time we were trying to sneak up on some ducks. In the flock of ducks we saw some Ring-necked Ducks, Northern Pintails, and Canvasbacks. We got a couple good snaps of them before they saw us and took off but left there young behind, which was kind of odd. From there we were getting closer to the swans!

Ring-necked Ducks
The Canvasbacks would be a lifer for us and would bring us closer to our goal of 100 for the month. Taking a few more photos of the swans, Simon seeing the roadrunner running down the path again. But miss the shot. Moving on we get to group of trees and hear songbirds singing away. Oh, too not have a care in the world and just sing all day hopping from one branch to another. We ID the songbirds as Black-crowned Sparrows and move on to the swans. They are starting to moving on as well but never fly away, we both get a couple shots of the swans and plan our next course of action. We were thinking about walking around the lake but that was before Simon fell into the lake, only up to his ankles. The temperature was 50 degrees, but had it be 20 degrees colder we would had had to end our trip and get back to the truck fast! Don't want to loss any body parts to the cold weather! From there we headed back the way we came and saw some Lesser Goldfinch. On our way back to the truck we spotted the Greater Roadrunner again! I think
Lesser Goldfinch

Lesser Goldfinch
at this point he's just teasing us! But we tried for a couple more shots before he took off. Then we headed down a little path and saw some more Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrow and a Ladder-backed Woodpecker. Our time was running out and we had to get back on the road. All the birds we saw put us to 99 birds so far this year.

Chipping Sparrow