Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Birding

Crows heading home at sunset.
 Some days I suspect that a thousand or more pass over the farm.

Why do we love it? For me there has always been the treasure hunting aspect. Looking for amazing things right around us, at no great cost in anything but time and attention. Such a delight to find something interesting.

And it is something that brings us close to nature, which is, well, natural. Soothing. Right and healthy for mind and body.

And then there is the endless learning. Once I thought I knew common sparrows, Tree, Song, House, (Ecch) White-throated, White-crowned. And then I found out about immatures. The obscure little brown birds that defy me even with a fresh photo and field guide in hand.

I love to learn and never want to stop. Birds give me an opportunity to partake in personal education every day without ever leaving home.....we have so many.

I was saddened today though, after months of trying to accrue enough money to pay the taxes, to think about when the time comes that we can no longer work all year just to hang on to the place and eat, what will happen.....this place is ripe for development with housing on all sides.

When we are gone or unable to hang on, and the developers swoop in and plop down dozens of ticky tacky houses and cut all the trees and fields and put in lawns, what a terrible loss of birds there will be!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pish

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

There was a flock of LBBs hanging around in the sumacs and box elders by the electric gate this morning. I stopped to pish for a minute or two on my way over to the barn for chores. Just to see what they were you know.


Along with the ubiquitous Song Sparrows....I subscribe to the belief that you can ALWAYS pish up a Song Sparrow...there was a notable flock of tiny wood warblers.

They obligingly came out to see what all the excitement was about. I stopped pishing and stood very quietly as they foraged a few feet from me, dangling upside down and noodling around the leaves.


Common Yellowthroats, a whole bunch of them!

What a treat. They are not in any way rare, and the males sing from our hedgerows all summer. 
 

But to have them so close....it was pretty cool.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Zoo Zoo Zee

Speaking of flycatchers

There are many challenges for the obsessed, but geographically constrained, birder. I run a yearly count of the birds I see on the farm. Sometimes it is hard to find them.


Lately the count has been hanging at 68 with a frustrating lack of new entries, although flycatchers have abounded since I discovered the bird window upstairs, which looks right into the mulberry and mountain ash trees.

Even the fall warbler migration has been disappointing, with only a couple of yellow-rumped and some common yellowthroats, which we have had all summer.

Then this morning I heard an unfamiliar call out in front. Still don't know what that was, but as I sat here at the kitchen table with the doors and windows open, the very familiar zoo-zoo-zee of the Black-throated Blue Warbler rang out. He only called a few times, but there was no mistaking him.

Doesn't get much easier than that.



Kinda made my day.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Eastern Wood Peewee

Soggy Northern Cardinal, one of a family of seven that are hanging around

Another lifer for me, right in the same tree as the Least Flycatcher. Same branch in fact. Definitely a different bird though.

I couldn't believe what I was seeing actually. Had just seen a series of really good photos of one on another birding blog, and there it was. I came down to check with computer and field guide and realized that I had indeed heard the call before, just thought it was a Goldfinch.


I waited though, to see if I could pick out the call after hearing it on the computer. Sure enough this morning, while Liz and I were having breakfast, the call came from out in the mulberry trees...pee-oo-wee, loud and clear.


I know many of these first timers for me are common enough birds that a serious birder would have checked off decades ago, but for all I love birds, my life has been about other things. 
Ruby-throated hummingbird

And without the wonderful bird window I wouldn't be able to see all these cool tree-top dwellers without spooking them.


Downy Woodpecker

Three cheers for the bird window!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Another Life Bird

I know, i know, this is just a robin, getting a worm, but I didn't take the camera upstairs, alas

This one was not an easy, great-big-hawk-in-your-face kind of thing. Nope, it began months ago with the suspicion that I was hearing another flycatcher under the noisy Willow, and ubiquitous Eastern Phoebe. 


I listened to replays of every Empidonax available in the area, and thought that maybe....just maybe...it might be a Least Flycatcher. Never found a circumstance where I could pick out the call enough to record it though, so I let it go, with maybe next year.

Then, Wednesday while I was gearing up for babysitting, I spent a few minutes in the upstairs bird window. It was rainy and dull, but a little bird obligingly perched right out in the open.

It was a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet kind of affair, but was displaying clearly flycatcher-like behavior and the wrong markings. 

I cataloged every tiny detail of its appearance for detective work later, but I was really hoping that it was a Least.

The computer was useless, but in minutes with the Nat Geo guide, I was sure. Wing bars-check. Right colors in the right places-check. White eye-ring-check. Size, shape, behavior-check.

Life list-check.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Not bad for July


A good bird day for so late in summer. First I heard the yard Robins getting all alarmed and nervous. There were loud chirps coming from at least four places. Thinking a cat had come by...usually the wrens tell me about cats, but hey, you never know...I got up and went outside. 



I didn't see a cat, but I rattled my shaker stick, just in case.

Out of the honey locust, very low...just over head level, flew a large, brown bird.

It was so low that I was looking at a rear profile so to speak, as it labored away. Once it gained altitude it was revealed as a Red-tailed Hawk. Thanks Robins! I expect it was checking out the kids' little chickens and turkey poults.



Duck fight up at the lake. Somebody got too close to the Black Duck's ducklings

Then, as I was listening and watching from the sitting porch the male Ruby-throated Hummingbird did a courtship flight right in front of me, just a few feet away.

Wow, it was loud and fast and very dramatic.



When he was done, he sat on the string on the porch, where he likes to roost, and flared his throat feathers. No trouble seeing where he got his name!


A few minutes later the little female stopped in for a sip at the feeder. He flew out of nowhere, flying so hard and fast that they almost hit me in the head.

Okay, love is in the air and all, but I would be thankful if it was not in my ear.




Thursday, July 3, 2014

Year Bird


Didn't expect to get a year bird for the farm count today, and certainly didn't expect it to be something as common as a House Finch, but it was.

It showed up on the new feeder (thanks again, Linda) on the new arbor (thanks, Jade) inches away from the newly washed kitchen window.

I have been watching and listening for House Finches all year, but this is the first for some reason. She was accompanied by the second, and Liz says several others as well.

Saw an interesting bird thing or two this week. First a Red-Tailed Hawk, hotly pursued by a pair of Common grackles, winged his way by with a big snake clutched in his talons.

And then a Wood Thrush, which has started singing quite often from the very edge of the lawn. It is the closest this wonderful singer has ever come to the house. Usually they prefer to hang out down in the front field or down by the road. He is a welcome addition to early mornings and sultry evenings.