Late Christmas Present

I've been planning on making Aaron a stained glass project for a couple years.  Finally I decided what I wanted to ake and just went ahead and started the project.  It took a few days, but I finished it before he came to visit.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.

Too warm to stay inside

For the last couple weeks it has been too nice outside to stay indoors.  Naturally that means I have not wanted to spend any time puttering around on the computer.  I've just spend enough time on the computer to look up stuff on bird posting forums & figure out where to go.

We've been watching the nest of a Great Horned Owl in a park close to us.  We first spotted the nest at the beginning of March and have been anxiously waiting for the owlets to get large enough to poking their heads out.  I suspect they'll start coming out of the nest in the next few weeks.  I can't wait! 


Transition Time

Since I've only been officially birding since early last summer I have yet to experience the full glory of SPRING.   Since the weather has started to warm up a bit I'm noticing new birds  appearing (or returning) daily.  I wish I could take a 2-3 month break from work so I can fully appreciate all the changes that are going to start happening.

Although I am eagerly awaiting spring, I'm sad to see the winter birds go.  I haven't enjoyed winter so much since I was a kid. I'm trying to sneak a few more glimpses of the winter birds left while I seek out the new spring arrivals.  It's quite an interesting transition time. I love it.  You never know what you'll see when you head out for the day.


Binocular-less Birding

Beautiful weather = Birding.  Monday was sunny and the temperatures were over 40 F, so naturally I spend a good portion of the day outside looking for birds.  We went to one of our ol' standby local parks and walked the trail.

In an effort to lighten my load, I only took my camera. For the past few months, birding from the car has spoiled me.  I've become used to taking my binoculars, scope, field guide, and DSLR.  Several months ago I read a post from some unknown birder that suggested more birders should head out in the field with nothing but a pencil & paper.  The idea was that many birders become too dependent on high powered optics and spend so much time with their eyes peering through binoculars that they overlook important details about environment.  The poster also went on to claim that many birder's egos are wrapped up in the power and quaility of their optics.  Here is where I stopped reading....I didn't feel like reading a rant.  However, I've been thinking a lot lately about the idea of leaving the binoculars at home.  Binoculars are a great aid and without them I would have missed many a bird, but some of my favorite moments have occured while viewing birds with my naked eyes. There's so much more to birding than just getting a good 'view' of the bird, which is what the optics provide.  Without my binoculars I had to rely on so much more than sight.  I found myself picking out birds more by sound.  Although I haven't spent much time lately on working on my bird song identification skills, I found I was able ID birds and localize where to start searching for specific birds fairly well.  It was more challenging than just seeing a bird shape and bringing up my binoculars for the id, but I loved it.  Sure, I may have missed a Lifer, but I enjoyed the birds I saw so much that I don't feel like I missed anything.  It reminded me that before I had my binoculars or scope, I was just happy to get a glimpse of some of the birds.


Bird of the Day: Rough-legged Hawk!

Since I work Tuesday through Saturday, I view Sunday and Monday as my birding days.  Naturally I try to pack a weeks worth of birding into these two days.  Today was no different.

Today we headed out hoping to see birds of prey.  Almost immediately we spotted a Cooper's Hawk along the highway.  Woo Hoo!  Off to a great start!  Although we didn't count the number of Red-Tailed Hawks, it seemed like there were hundreds (one of which stayed still long enough to gake a pretty decent picture).  Both of us were spotting RT Hawks left and right.  One of the times I spotted a hawk soaring up high to the left of the highway.  It only took a second to realize it had a dark tail band, dark "knuckles," and windows on the wings.  I'm glad there wasn't much traffic because I'm sure I drifted into the other lane while gazing out the window.  :) A quick check with the guide confirmed a Rough-legged Hawk.  Excellent! A Lifer!



I feel like they just peeked out to see me.  :)


That bird

I've always been fascinated by the Loggerhead Shrike. I remember reading about them while riding in the back of my parents car on our way to visit family.  I can honestly say I've been wanting to see one for over a decade.  They'd become one of those birds to me...you know, the bird you never think you'll ever actually see.

So when I read that a local birder had seen one on his morning runs recently, I couldn't resist trying to see the bird.  My hopes were not high, but I wouldn't see anything if I didn't look.  Enroute I saw 10+ American Kestrals, even more Red-Tailed Hawks, and a Bald Eagle. 

When we finally arrived at the park where the Shrike had been spotted, I got pulled over by a police officer patrolling the park.  Arghhh!! :) I explained we were driving slowly and pausing often because were were looking at/for birds. He was friendly and allowed us to go about our business with a smile. Not too long after that we were watching a Red Tailed Hawk fly to a new perch and I happened to notice he displaced a small grey/white/black bird.  My hand trembled just a bit as I reached for my binoculars.  THE LOGGERHEAD SHRIKE!!!! We got a few minutes of acceptable viewing before a car pulled in front of us and wanted to know if we needed help.....just as the Shrike was flying to a new perch!  I missed where it landed as I was explaining we were watching a bird to the inquisitive driver.  Unfortunately I couldn't find the bird again. 

However...I saw it!  WOO HOO!!


Feisty Finches!

I've always thought the pictures posted along side Finch feeders were crazy.  Really? Obviously Photoshop helps a lot, but Twenty-Four Goldfinches AT ONCE?!?! How silly.

Apparently I was wrong. This morning we had the usual 4 or 5 Goldfinches hanging around when my mom noticed a fairly large group of birds twittering and zipping around the trees in the yard across the street.  A quick peep through the binoculars revealed they were Goldfinches....and they were headed our way!  Unlike the feeder in the picture, our finch feeder does not have multiple tubes & an abundance of perches. However, they managed to hang and cling to as much as the feeder as possible. 

It was so fun to watch!


Metal Birds

Since I've been unable to devote much time to birding recently, I thought I'd at least post some bird related pictures.  Lately I've been playing a lot with my Canon EOS 50D (!!!).  I would love to be able to take beautiful frame filling pictures, but for now I'll settle with identifiable shapes and colors.  I was able to snap a pic of a friendly little Dark Eyed Junco.  He seemed oblivious to my large form slowly creeping toward him as he picked through the seeds scattered on the ground.  Since the only lens I have right now is a 50mm I couldn't get too close to him.  However, it was quite fun sitting in the yard with the little Junco hopping all around me.  :) I was also able to creep up on a Downy feasting on our suet feeder. I was able to get a bit closer to him than I could the Junco.  He even turned and peered in my direction several times.  Apparently I didn't look too threatening because he just continued pecking away at  the suet. 

While I was playing around with the camera in the yard, I did manage to get a great frame-filling clear shot of a bird...albeit a stationary metal bird.  However, it is a start!


Wonderful Waterfowl

This afternoon my mom and I made a quick trip around Smithville Lake.  I had heard the lake was 95% frozen and I wanted to see it for myself. Except for a few small areas around the Marina, the lake was indeed covered in ice.  Had I not known a lake lurked under the layer of snow, I would have thought it was a beautiful flat field. 

We managed to find a group of waterfowl lurking near one of the marinas in a small area of unfrozen lake.  Among the Canada Geese, I managed to spot some Hooded Mergansers.  I was enjoying watching them fish when I noticed another small bird with flashes of white.  It turned out to be a Common Goldeneye, which was a LIFE BIRD (!!!!) for me. 

I'm constantly amazed by the beauty of each new bird. While the pictures and drawings in the guides are acurate, they never seem to do the birds justice.  Exquisite!


Snowed In!

Today was lovely!  I woke up this morning to a layer of snow and I didn't have to go to work.  Before heading out in the cold to shovel the sidewalk and driveway, I spent some time watching the activity at the feeders. The feeders were busy today!  After shoveling (and shoveling and shoveling.....) I sat outside on the porch with my camera watching the feeding frenzy.  Muff, our cat, was quite interested in what I was doing and kept yowling at me through the door.  Oddly she wasn't much interested in watching the birds...instead she just wanted me to come back inside and hang out with her. 

The first bird I spotted was a House Finch hanging out chowing down on the safflower seeds. There have been several finches in the area and they've occasionally stopped by for a bite, but typically they don't stay long.  Today was a different story!  A group of 4 hung out in our yard for several hours.  A pair of Goldfinches also showed up and chowed down. 

Along with all the finch activity, the neighborhood Carolina Wren stopped by and bullied the other birds hanging around the feeders.  I was suprised to see him hanging around the suet feeder so much.  I was also suprised to see what a chunky little bird the Carolina Wren is in comparison to the other birds.  Hahaha..what a chunky little thug!

It was a great day to stay inside near the window and watch all the activity.  Quite enjoyable!