Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dark-eyed Junco -Mistaken identity - this is a female Eastern Towhee - I'll be back to fix this post later

Sighted:   November 26, 2014

The Junco is a bird that has gone from four distinct species (Slate-colored, Oregon, White-winged, and grey-headed) to one - the Dark-eyed Junco (As opposed to the Yellow-eyed Junco).   From what I can gather,  they mate with each other freely and thus their plumage changes now and again.    Take for example this Dark-eyed Junco - it closely resembles the Oregon type, but its hood isn't as blackish as reference photos show me.  Perhaps it is a youngster - I don't know.  I feel it is too colorful to be a female.

An identifying mark is their bright white outer tail feathers which I captured in a photograph below.

I found this little fellow in a small mixed woodland bog garden.  He preferred foraging on the forest floor amongst the leaves and twigs.  As you can see, he blends right in.

For a sound recording, click HERE.

A poem I wrote that included this bird:

Late Autumn

High crimson has faded
to cadmium & ochre,
slashes of burnt umber
pirouette and plie a mirrored reflection

an image so lovely
even Narcissus would see
beauty beyond himself.

A dark eyed Junco hops along,
scratches, stirs soggy leaves,
rustles his way beneath graceful arms
of the bog's grand ballet

oblivious of solo performance
and his brief moment of fame.

by Margaret Bednar, December 9, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

House Finch

Sighted:  Week of December 1, 2014

Identifying birds has me pouring over my numerous birding books.  I also have a few sites that have become quite helpful.  Birds and Blooms is one that helped me today, specifically the post "Purple Finches are Heading South".   At one time I may have ignorantly thought this bird was a female cardinal, but today I wavered between a House Finch or a Purple Finch.

I have finally decided these two are House Finches as the female's face seems to have very little pattern and the male has bold brown streaking on its side.  One reference referred to it as "raspberry headed" and I love that.

I read that in 1941 these birds were sold in NYC pet shops as "Hollywood finches" (from California).  It was illegal (protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty), but before the ban took place at least one proprietor released his stock.  Now, years later, the offspring have spread and are plentiful in the east and southeast and are continuing to spread, even "pioneering" a path back toward California.

Many of my "home photos" are taken through a glass window and are not as sharp as I would like.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

American Goldfinch

Sighted:  November 26, 2014

I was trying to photograph a White-breasted Nuthatch and a Dark-eyed "Oregon" Junco (which I will share in later posts) when this dusky little yellow bird quickly swooped in and out - thankfully stepped forward to pick up a seed and came a bit more into focus.

I believe this is a female American Goldfinch - their winter colors are duller and the wing markings are what led me to label it as such.   The male is quite striking with its black cap and wing markings & has quite a bold yellow body - is actually one of the most colorful American birds, but in winter the male is duller like the female.

HERE are recordings of the delightful twittering sounds it makes.

One birding book I really like is The Nature Company Guide BIRDING by Forshaw, Howell, Lindsey, & Stallcup.  It has detailed chapters for the new birder (that's me) and helpful and useful information on the birds themselves.  It is a big hardback, not suitable for packing along, but it has earned a spot on my bedside table.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Red Bellied Woodpecker

Sighted:  November 25, 2014

A nice fall day at the local bog garden.  Plenty of cardinals and "little brown birds" that I have yet to learn their identities.  This is one of two woodpeckers I saw on my first day of birding.  (second official bird I checked off the list).  It is a red-bellied woodpecker.   I've walked this bog trail many times with my dog and I've never noticed them before.  I also saw a downy woodpecker was unable to get a good photograph.

This handsome fellow did not come to the bird feeder like the other birds but flitted about in the tree tops.  I know they will feed at feeders, so perhaps my son and I scared him off.   My field guide said to look for this bird at middle height and along main branches and trunks of trees.

HERE is a link to this woodpecker's calls, drums, kwirr call, fledglings begging for food and the cha call sounds.  I've heard this call in my own back yard - I never knew it was a woodpecker.  

Below is a photo from the following day (Nov 26).  A gentleman walked by spreading sunflower seeds (I think that's what it is) and low and behold - another Red Bellied Woodpecker!  Not the sharpest image as they seemingly like to dine and dash. But two sightings in two days - just goes to show you how unobservant I have been in the past.