Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#126: a bird that took me six months to ID!

This is not a recent sighting by any means, but I've been cleaning up the hard drive and came across this picture. I took it last fall at Mud Lake and it was in with a bunch of pics of vireos (which I also didn't ID...because I wasn't sure if they were warbling or Tennessee.. Maybe you'll see them soon too). Well, my new book does a better job of showing ALL plumages (male/female/immature, spring/winter/fall).

So I belatedly realized that this wasn't a vireo at all, but a female black-throated blue warbler (say that five times fast!).

So how do I know this? Basically the white pattern around the eye and the white wing patch. I'll admit that I would still love to see a male, which looks NOTHING like the lady. In fact, whatbird tells me that this bird is the most sexually dimorphic wood warbler: he's deep blue with a black throat....hence the name of course, which is much more accurate in his case!

#126: Black-Throated Blue Warbler (check the link to see the male!); Mud Lake, Ottawa; September 19, 2010
The redpolls are still visiting the yard. Today it was a bit strange to see a redpoll right beside an American goldfinch in his new, bright yellow spring feathers!

This picture, and the weather is getting me really excited for spring migration. I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Foiled by GWFG x 4

Oh, hey there.

Well, I really wish I had some greater white-fronted geese to report. But I don't. Not that I didn't try. I tried plenty. But these geese are against me. Nemesis bird? One of many it seems.

Anyways, saw another hooded merganser pair while looking for the GWFGs. It was getting dark but I managed to this blurry shot from the window of the moving vehicle in fading light. 

I do have a few other things to share. First of all, I'm trying to organize my files and remembered a few shots I took on AI at end of February.
Saw a bunch of mallards hanging out on the ice at the ferry dock. Liked the way I caught this mallard with his wings spread out:
I remember seeing these two in a skirmish along Front Road. I should try harder with hawks because I just realized in retrospect that, while it's not a very good shot, it's diagnostic of a northern harrier. The rump was clearly white, and in a few other pics, you can really see the circle around the eyes. It's a facial disk similar to those of owls, which helps them to hear better as they rely on their hearing, as well as their sight to hunt. Oh hey, #125!

Can't quite tell if that's a crow or a raven with it...but it does look bigger than the harrier so maybe a raven?
#125: Northern Harrier; Amherst Island, Ontario; February 27, 2011
My friend Kardi came to visit on the weekend and we went to Sarsaparilla to feed the chickadees.  I thought this would be a fun activity for her boys, but I underestimated the patience/ability to stand still of 3 year olds. Anyways, this bird wasn't shy at all. The birds are so tame there that not only will the chickadees eat out of your hand, but so too will RB nuthatches, WB nuthatches and, go figure, the deer.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

it must be spring... #122-124

So a few things to cover here!

1. Redpolls in the yard!
On Wednesday I noticed a few birds near my yard in the distance that looked a little different than the normal visitors. I waited around and got a new yard bird! Five common redpolls came, which is pretty exciting for me. They have been at the Hilda feeders by the hundreds, really not all that far from my house, and I wondered why they weren't at my feeders. Not sure if I will see them again though, since it's warmed up so much.

2. NH + MA
We took a quick trip to New Hampshire and Massachusetts from Wednesday to Saturday. It wasn't intended to be a birding trip by any means (although I'm always a little hopeful when I venture away from home). However we did manage to get one life bird, and another bird that I've seen but never counted because I've never been able to get a passable photo.

Anyways, we were very surprised to see a Northern Mockingbird at a gas station in New Hampshire. Apparently they are quite common, but their range doesn't extend to Ottawa and they are only spotted here rarely. Matt caught them doing some sort of song and dance thing. I missed it. :(

#122: Northern Mockingbird; A gas station somewhere in New Hampshire; March 17, 2011

I was hoping we would see some more ocean birds when we were in Boston but we didn't have much time and the time we had we were doing other things. Here's a Great Black-Backed Gull chilling on the Charles River.
We stopped at this really awesome spot on the way home, the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and the Joppa Flats. We were a little late, but there was a Massachusetts Audubon centre there (already closed for the day). We parked the car and got out to look, and the two guys working there let us in anyway which was super nice of them! (birders are great people!) They said it was sort of a shoulder season but a flock of snow geese landed as we were talking to them, and I would love to go the beach there was awesome.

On the drive back home we saw some hooded mergansers.
#123: Hooded Merganser; On the road somewhere in New Hampshire; March 19, 2011

Hoods up!
Lady friend

3. Back to Otts.
Lovely day! Today we did a little bit of west-end birding back in Ottawa. First stop was Mud Lake, which was relatively quiet but should be picking up soon. An American Robin was eating some sumac.

Saw my first green-winged teals on March Valley Road. There were a bunch of mallards in a field with a bunch of melted ice. I noticed that a few were quite a bit smaller. It was hard to get a good look but we finally determined that they were 3 green-winged teals--1 male and 2 females. Here's a shot of a male and female beside a mallard; as you can see, they are much smaller!

#124: Green-Winged Teal; March Valley Road, Ottawa; March 20, 2011
I'm loving the warm weather but it's supposed to snow again tomorrow. I don't think that winter will be around much longer...the red-winged blackbirds are back, the ducks and geese are returning and I saw the first grackles of the year today!

I'm keeping a 2011 list and it's interesting that at this time last year, I'd only identified about 20 birds (I did start late) and this year I'm at some 40 birds already.

Oh yeah, picked up a new bird book in Boston for $5.99...the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (the 4th edition, which is why it was on sale). It's got some good stuff that my guide is missing, like comparison drawings of hawks in flight and all the gulls and each year and all that good stuff. Time to study up!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Redpoll Rarities!

I haven't been out birding much lately since I've just been super busy. But YAY for some free time and DOUBLE-YAY for daylight savings. The opportunity to get a little bit of birding in after work is about to become feasible.

Before I get to that though, check out what Matt saw yesterday at Hilda. Lucky guy gets March Break off and actually went out birding by himself. Wouldn't I love to be birding instead of at the office!
Looks like a leucistic common redpoll to me. Go figure, the day after I go, he sees this. Hardly fair!
Anyways, so the day before Matt saw this, I thought I'd try again for a hoary at Hilda. I think I might have seen one and here are a few pics. Luckily he did a 360 for me while I snapped away. He clearly has a white rump, but is it white...enough?

Also, his poll is more orange than red. Hmm. Thoughts?

There were, I don't know, hundreds of commons at the feeders. But they are so fidgety and fly off at the smallest breath of wind!

I love the little stripe down the middle of their beak:

They are so cute!