Feeder Frenzy!

On Sunday I was able to spend some quailty time watching the feeders in our front yard.  There is a band of normal birds that visit nearly daily--BC Chickadee, Downy WP, Red-bellied WP, and an occasional Titmouse.  However, with the recent snow our feeders have become a bit more popular.  The normal crew showed up and darted between the feeders and tree.  It was quite fun watching them and apparently they were making enough noise to attract some other birds in the neighborhood.  Not long after the normal crew showed up, we had a few more visitors to the yard.  A lone Yellow-rumped Warbler darted into our yard and lingered long enough to grab a bite.  This was a first for our yard!  The activity also attracted a pair of Goldfinches and a group of Juncos.  I know these birds are not uncommon, but it was quite entertaining to see them show up in our front yard!


A return visit

Life has been pretty hectic for the past week.  I haven't been able to tromp around seeking out too many birds since I don't get off work until several hours after sunset.  However, I did make another trip to see the Short-Eared Owls today.  This time both my mom and dad came along for the show.  It was just as entertaining this time as it was the first time.


Short-eared Owls

For the past two weeks I've been reading on surfbirds.com about Missouri birders seeing a group of Short-eared Owls in an area just east of Smithville Lake.  Unfortunately I don't get off of work until after dark.....way too late to observe the owl show (what I've been calling it for the past few days).  Today was different though!  Late this afternoon my mom and I headed to the area where the birds have been spotted.  While waiting for the show we saw several entertaining sparrows (mostly American Tree).  We even got some wonderful views of 2 Northern Harriers hunting the surrounding fields.  Mom and I were just starting to doubt that we would see the Owls when I spotted a blunt torpedo shape flying far off above the field.  Within minutes there was a group of 6-8 Short-eared Owls flying between both sides of the road where we were parked.  They hunted in the area for nearly 15 minutes before they flew off into the darkness.  It was overwhelming!  The birds were a joy to watch.  Their wings!  Their swiveling heads!  Those EYES! 

Owls have got to be my favorite.  (Although I feel like I say that with every new bird I have the pleasure of observing)  I feel like I'm catching a glimpse of a secret life every time I see an owl.


Sandhill Cranes

For the past month I've been reading reports by birders in the area that there have been 6 Sandhill Cranes at Squaw Creek NWR.  I've looked for them at each visit in the past month, but I have been unsuccessful....until today!  We made a quick run through the route and happened to spot the small group lingering near the edge of a pool in the Mallard Marsh area of the refuge.  I was so excited (and a little relieved!)  I was beginning to doubt I would ever see these birds.  I took a few pictures of the Cranes just to prove that I saw them (and to remember the moment!).  Hopefully someday I will be close enough to take a picture hat shows more than a fuzzy Crane shape. :)

Another bird that had been reported at SCNWR was a Tundra swan.  Lucky for me I also saw this bird today!  There were three huddled together amongst several Trumpeter swans.  It was wonderful to see the yellow spot in front of the eye and see the size differences between the two swans.  At first I scanned the pool and thought all the swans were Trumpeter swans.  On a second look I realized the three swans were smaller than the others.  A closer inspection revealed the yellow spot near the eye above the bill.  Woo Hoo!  A Lifer! 

While looking at all the Trumpeter Swans we noticed one of them was banded.  It was a little tough to read the numbers on the red band, but I think it is 3K(?)6.  I'm sure it has been reported many times before, but I will go ahead and report it again.  I'm interested in finding out where it is from and where it has been. 


Digiscoping Experiments

Since I got my scope (!!) I've been trying to figure out a way to attach my digital camera to the eyepiece of the scope without spending money on an adapter.  I spent several hours online and finally decided to replicate this adapter.  I made it out of an old peanut butter jar & a lot of duct tape.  I actually had a lot of fun making it and plan on making a new & improved one soon.  

To test out my new set up my mom and I visited Squaw Creek NWR earlier this week.  Although it was cold, wet, and snowy, we managed to see some wonderful birds. 

Mom and I spotted a traveling flock of birds working a group of trees near the entrance to the refuge.  Since I was eager to start trying out my scope/camera set up, I stopped the car and got everything set up.  I managed to get a series of photos of a cooperative Eastern Bluebird sitting 30-35 feet away on a branch.  Oddly, the first picture I took of that Eastern Bluebird probably ended up being the best picture of the day. I had never appreciated how quickly some of those little birds move before.  I also snapped a picture of a Carolina Wren.  Unfortunately he was more interested in buzzing at the intruding birds than sitting still for me to take a photo. I just got one picture of the quick moving little bugger!

On our tour of the rest of the refuge we saw thousands of waterfowl.  Things seemed to work pretty well, but I'm going to have to practice A LOT.  I also will have to figure out the best mode/program/setting to keep my camera on.  That means I'll have to go out and practicve again.  Woo Hoo!!


Fun with Loons

This morning I headed out to Smithville Lake to try out my new scope.  I've been to Smithville Lake many times before and have had variable success.  Either it's incredibly windy and I can't hold  my binoculars still enough to ID the tiny dots floating in the middle of the lake OR the tiny dots are just too far away! 

Today it was drizzly and overcast, but overall it wasn't a bad day for birding.  Naturally I couldn't make out any of the tiny dots congregating in the middle of the lake, but I was able to pick out several (5-6) Common Loons.  They floated about happily and occasionally shook off the extra drizzle.  I was quite content sitting in my car with my scope watching the group mill about.  Sadly, after I got home I read online that a fellow birder had seen several Pacific Loons on the lake today.  Unfortunately I did not happen to see any of them.  Oh well!  I even tried my hand at digiscoping some pictures.  I know they're pretty basic, but I welcome all suggestions for improvevment.

Ever since getting my lovely scope, I've been scouring websites trying to gather as much information I can about digiscoping.  Today I was just holding my Canon up to the eyepiece of the scope which I'm sure accounts for a fair amount of blur, but I'd love to figure out a way to position my camera at the eyepiece without spending extra money on a specifically designed digiscoping adapter.  Perhaps that will be my next project!

The picture about is my favorite picture of the day.  The face just cracks me up!


New Job = Less time for Birding

This past week I have started a new job.  I'm really enjoying the job so far.  However I don't have much time in the day left over for birding because it is already dark when I get home.  Boo!  I do get a good chance to see some hawks on my drive to work in the morning.  I hope I get better at identifying them!

There has been some activity at our feeder lately.  At least I've been able to enjoy some birds.


Growing Life List

Tonight I sorted through my past few birding trips and checked off recent life birds on my ABA list.  Although I do get incredibly excited when I see a new bird while out & about, my primary motivation on all my birding trips is to observe and watch the birds go about their activities. I was astonished to count up my bird list tally.  162!!!!  I couldn't (& still can't!) believe it....especially since I just started in May. 

Woot! Woot! I've enjoyed each bird I've seen so far and look forward to seeing as many more as I can


New Scope!

Last Thursday I splurged and got myself a spotting scope! Friday morning (super early!) I headed out to Squaw Creek NWR and spent the entire day marveling at the beautiful views I was getting through my new scope. Ahh! It was glorious! To add to my elation, I saw four new life birds! The first was a Rusty Blackbird. There was a group working the marsh area at the entrance of the park. It was so nice to be able to see those beautiful pale eyes.

Once I panned out past the Rusty Blackbirds along the shore I spotted several Ring-necked Ducks. Whoo Hooo! Second life bird for the day! In the same pool were hundreds of Mallards, Northern Shovelers, and Pintails. The more I look at them, the more I'm struck by the impressive coloring of Ducks.

My third life bird was a Hooded Merganser. I spotted a group of 5-7 far off in the distance with my binoculars bobbing and diving near a huge flock (1000+) of Snow Geese, but was unable to see them through my scope. Something startled the Snow Geese and caused them to rise up swirling in the sky. Unfortunately the Hooded Mergansers were lost in the chaos.

My fourth life bird was an American Avocet. A group of five were huddled along the shore amongst the Snow Geese and Ducks. Eventually the surrounding Ducks and Snow Geese got to be too bothersome for the Avocets. I held my breath as they started spreading their wings to fly to a new spot. Lucky me! They moved closer and I was able to get some pictures of them. I couldn't have been happier.

Squaw Creek was loaded with birds of prey on Friday. Unfortunately I am terrible at identifying this group. I think I'll need the assistance of experienced birders to help me identify these birds. I did spot several Immature Bald Eagles (along with several mature birds), a Northern Harrier, and the ever-present Red-Tailed Hawk.

I ran into a photographer (Jim) who was out capturing some wonderful images of the available birds. You should check out his photos. They are excellent!

By far this was my favorite day of birding.It was absolutely wonderful!


First Group Walk

This past Saturday I attended my first group walk with my mom.  It was held at the Overland Park Arboretum. It was pretty chilly due to the frost of the previous night, but I had a great time.  I saw a new life bird---a Sharp-shinned Hawk.  Woo Hoo!  We even got to see it swoop aroud trying to catch it's breakfast.  Unfortunately I was so excited and distracted by the Hawk that I forgot entirely to try and ID the little bird it was chasing. 

I really enjoyed the walk and look forward to finding other bird walks to join.  It was wonderful to meet so many friendly people and hear identification tips from the more experienced birders. Hopefully I can attend another one soon!


Beautiful Weather

Carolina Wren
The weather for the past couple days has been absolutely beautiful. Naturally, I took this opportunity to head out and enjoy as many birds as possible. Yesterday we went to Burr Oak Woods Conservation Area. We didn't have a lot of time, but we did see two new birds for the year! Woo Hoo! We decided to walk one of the trails and had just stepped out of the car when we noticed a group of sparrow sized birds in some nearby shrubs. We stood still and waited for the birds to resume their foraging and come back into view. There were 3-4 White-throated Sparrows and 2-3 Dark-eyed Juncos. That little group of birds made my day!

After finishing some errands early today, my mom and I decided to visit a new site, Lakeside Nature Center. The trails lead down a limestone bluff and into a wooded valley with a creek. It was a wonderful walk that was peppered with Goldfinches, Carolina Wrens, Downy Woodpeckers, and Chickadees. We even watched a secretive little Winter Wren (A first for us!). All in all it was a great couple days.


The Most Curious Kinglet

I had a great weekend! I saw two new life birds (Ruby-Crowned Kinglet & Yellow Rumped Warbler) and had a lot of fun visiting family at a wedding.  On Saturday I went out and about with my binoculars in hand.  At the time I had no idea that the best birding experience wouldn't even require my binoculars! I was walking with my mom and we stopped to watch one of the foraging flocks of chickadee's, tufted titmouse, and downy's.  While we were enjoying the group darting around and chattering with each other we noticed a new bird had joined the mix.  It was a tiny Ruby Crowned Kinglet and he kept hopping out to peek at us.  Finally he built up enough courage to hop out and perch at a branch that was two feet away and at eye level.  He sat there long enough to get a really good look at us and for me to sneak my point & shoot out of my pocket and snap a picture.  It was wonderful!


My starter bird

Many other birders have talked about that one bird that was their "starter bird." You know, that bird they saw early on that peaked their interest in birding.  Although I am a new birder and have hundreds of birds to see in the future (hopefully!), my starter bird was the Red-bellied Woodpecker.  I remember the first time I really got a good look at one through a pair of binoculars. I was so awed by their beautiful barred backs and red caps. I suspect I'll always enjoy seeing these guys. 

A close second is the Black-capped Chickadee.  They're such charming little birds and have a wonderfully social personality.  Every time I see one flitting about in the trees or at my feeder I smile.


Grandma's Recipe Box

I've recently discovered my grandma's old recipe box. I acquired it when she passed away several years ago, but I never had the opportunity to really look through it and investigate the hundreds of recipe cards stuffed into the tiny metal box. Now that I've found it again, I can not wait to start trying out some of the recipes! Sadly, I did not find Granny's pumpkin pie recipe, which was my absolute favorite. She used to make it for me when my family visited when I was little. (I know it probably wasn't just for me, but in my 6 year old mind Granny had made it for me because she knew it was my favorite.)

However, I did find some gems that I remember eating at Granny's dinner table....Raw Apple Cake...Glazed Peach Pie...Gooseberry Pie. I even found some notes about how to make cleaning solutions. My favorite part of flipping through the recipe cards was seeing Granny's handwriting covering the front and back of nearly each card. It was like getting a quick glimpse of her with each new recipe.


Opening my eyes

Tonight after dinner I looked out the window and was pleased to see a large group of Nighthawks zooming around in the sky over the yard. I find it strange that it was less than a month ago that I first saw both a nighthawk and the chimney swifts. Lately I've been seeing them all over the place. I know that both birds are on the move right now, but I'm still suprised by how many I'm seeing. It makes me realize that there are hundreds of things I'm 'seeing' all the time without noticing. I need to open my eyes more! There could be birds lurking anywhere and everywhere!


Squaw Creek NWR

A trip to Mound City, Missouri would not be complete without a visit to Squaw Creek National Wildlife Refuge. My dad grew up in Mound City, which means I grew up visiting my grandparents there. Although I always enjoyed the trip to Squaw Creek, what stands out in my mind is waking up before dawn on Thanksgiving to drive to the refuge and greet the day with the migrating Snow Geese. The sight of thousands of geese in the morning light was beautiful, but the sounds are really what made it memorable. Hopefully this year I can make a trip up there and experience the spectacle again.


Wedding Gifts

Earlier this summer I received a wedding invitation for one of my good friends from optometry school. Naturally I was looking forward to seeing her again and was excited to attend the wedding, but the idea of finding the right wedding gift was daunting. Usually, it's no big deal to wade through the pages of items on the gift registry, but for some of my friends that just doesn't seem right. I know these lists are created for the benefit of both the guests (to make it easier) and the couple (to make sure they get what they actually want). However, the things are often so impersonal. I would rather get a gift that is one of a kind or will be identified as a wedding present years later. Perhaps my motive is selfish (I want them to remember who gave the gift)......perhaps not (I want them to get something unique that they enjoy)....I guess it doesn't matter as long as the gift is the good.

So that brings me back to the wedding invitation. Argh. I delayed chosing one of the gifts on the registry until a week before the ceremony. Nothing felt right on the lists. I happened to notice on all of the announcements & accompanying papers they had put a symbol. I quickly shot off an email asking about it and found out they had created a symbol out of their initials. Instantly I could visualize it in stained glass. My friend had asked me to make her something out of stained glass show her how it was done. Although we never actually did that, now was my chance to create a piece for her. It was perfect! A day later their gift was complete.


New Lifers!

Whoo!! Hooo!!! Over the past couple days I've been able to add THREE new birds to my life list! Although I didn't get good pictures of any of them, I got really good views of all of them.
So, what birds did I see?

1. Carolina Chickadee: Last weekend we visited family in southern MO. While on a walk these sweet little Chickadees were chattering and darting around trees on either side of the road. They're so fun! While we were there we saw several other fun birds. Here's one of the Scissor-Tailed Flycatchers we saw. Earlier in the summer we spotted a family of these down the road. I suspect this is one of the youngsters from that family.

2. Common Nighthawk: I know these are common, but I've been unable to catch a glimpse of them so far....until today! There is a park near my house were I go walking almost daily. Today I changed up the route a bit and caught a sight of a Nighthawk perched on a branch up in a Sycamore tree. That made my day.

3. Chimney Swift: Since the previously mentioned walk around the park was cut short a bit due to weather, my mom and I took a jaunt around the neighborhood. There is small open field at the end of one of the streets. Over the field there were 20+ Swifts swooping around in the sky. We stopped and watched them until they passed on to a new area. We were just starting to head back home when mom spotted 3 Nighthawks flying above us headed across the field.



Minnesota Vacation

My mother has always been interested in wildlife. I remember her pointing out various trees, birds, and plants while walking with her on the farm where she grew up. Had she grown up in a different decade I believe she would have pursued a career involving wildlife conservation. Instead she studied business, specifically book-keeping, accounting, and taxes. Since she has retired, her interest in wildlife has rekindled. Her interest in birds has been infectious and for the past few months the two of us have been traveling around the parks of Kansas City trying to spot various birds. I feel like we've been fairly successful. I'm enjoying it so much I am now hooked.

A few weeks ago it came time for the annual family vacation to Minnesota. Armed with our binoculars and field guides, my mom and I viewed our vacation as an extended bird outing with occasional breaks for other activities such as fishing, sailing, and card games. Since we stay on a lake with both timber and grasslands nearby, we were pretty excited about the birding opportunities.

The first few days were pretty exciting. Occasionally while fishing on the dock in front of our cabin we caught the sight of a Bald Eagle perching in the large cottonwood trees farther down along the shore. It was quite an
impressive sight! I also had no idea there could be so many sweet little nuthatches about! They were a joy to watch as they darted around/up/down the trees. Along with the nuthatches, there was a constant parade of woodpeckers...Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Northern Flicker, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. The property owner told us there was a Pileated that came by occasionally, but unfortunately we did not catch a glimpse of it. Boo!

Mom and I made several excursions to state parks and conservation areas around Detroit Lakes. One of the places we visited was Hamden Slough. We saw several birds while we there, but my favorite were the Cedar Waxwings. There must have been a large flock feasting on some nearby berries. As soon as I turned onto the road leading up to the visitor's center, the birds seemed to play leap-frog back and forth across the road in front and over my car. A few even came and fluttered near my open window as though they were trying to peer inside at me. I couldn't help but smile.

Altogether our vacation to Minnesota did not disappoint. We added several birds to our "seen" list. I look forward to next year!


I guess you've got to begin somewhere...

Who: Susan aka "Squeeze."

What: Birding, Baking, Cycling, Stained Glass...and any other activity that I enjoy

Why: My intention is to start chronicling these activities here for the world to see. In this case, the world will probably only include myself, my family, and friends.