Monday, July 30, 2007

Carolina Wren Feeding Time

My backyard has been a flurry of activity over the last week. All of the juveniles and fledglings have been stretching their wings and really getting out a lot. I've been watching a Carolina Wren with a pair of juveniles. Wrens are fun for me to watch because they are so fast and flitty. You have to keep a close eye if you are watch them for long.

Carolina Wrens are a very small bird. They are only about 5.5" long with a wingspan of 7.5". They only weigh 0.75 ounces. They are easily identified by the bold white "eyebrow". This little one already has it's little eyebrow started!

This adult was taking pieces from the peanut butter suet block and feeding the juvenile. During the time the adult was feeding, another juvenile came up to get in on the action.

I thought this picture was unique. The adult was definitely making sure the juvenile was getting the pieces of the suet. It was stuffing the piece way down the throat of the juvenile!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Kite Flying!

I went back out to Lake Monticello again this week to see if the Ospreys were out again. No luck but I did but I did observe another bird I had not previously seen. It was at a distance so it took several shots and spying with the binos to identify the bird.

Mississippi Kites are similar in shape to falcons. Their length is 14" with a wingspan of 31". They have a pale gray head with a darker gray body.
They feed on cicadas, dragonflies, and other insects that are captured in the air or plucked from leaves while flying.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Fish Hawk At Lake Monticello

Kevin and Summer came to Monticello this weekend to help Shelley and I out at the store. We ate dinner at Layne's and then took a trip to Lake Monticello to see if we would have any luck bird watching.

I have seen the large nest on the south side of the lake for some time now. I had always thought it was an eagle's nest but had never seen any eagles. Kevin and I went out on the dock to look a little closer at the nest.

We saw a large bird in the nest and thing began to see several more start flying around the nest. The nest was about 150 yards from the dock we were watching from. We counted 5 birds in all, two adults and three juveniles. One of the juveniles flew up and landed on a limb with a fish and started eating. We identified the birds as Ospreys.

These birds are hawks that are common around freshwater and known as the "Fish Hawk". They hover over water and dive feet first into the water to catch their prey. This method of catching their prey with their feet is unique among raptors. Ospreys are large raptors reaching 22-25" long with a wingspan between 58-72".

The Osprey is very unique with a white head and a dark eye streak. Their underparts are white, which helps to conceal them as they fly over their prey.

The Osprey also has a unique way of flying with their preys in their talons. They will align the fish the head first, pointing in the direction of their flight. We were able to witness an Osprey exhibiting this behavior as he was approaching the tree to eat.

The Osprey population was threatened in the 50s and 60s as the misuse of pesticides, such as DDT, increased. Pesticides caused thinning of a birds eggshell, therefore, effected the reproductive cycle. As DDT was banned in the early 70s and conservation measures were instituted, the Osprey population has made a comeback.

This was the first time I've been at the lake so late in the day. I was able to snap several pictures of the sun as it set. The colors were very nice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tagged Again!

I got tagged again in the rapidly spreading '8 Random Facts' meme that is making the rounds. Anders and Claudia from Dagens fågel - Bird of the day from Stockholm, Sweden have a great birding blog. It is very neat to pics of birds from Europe.

In the spirit of the game, I thought I would come up with a few more random facts about me. Here goes!

1. When I was in high school, I got an award for being a "Top Teen" in Arkansas. I got to be on a TV show on one of the stations in Little Rock and received the award. My 15 minutes of fame!

2. I met the then future President, Bill Clinton, and Hillary when I was a high school senior. I graduated 3rd in my class and was asked to go to the State Capital along with many other seniors to meet him.

3. One of his platforms that year was improving the Arkansas school system. He asked me where I was attending college just about the time a hush came over the room. I told him I was attending Louisiana Tech University to be a Chemical Engineer. Needless to say, the room burst out with laughter.

4. This was actually the second time I met him. He came to a football game at the University of Monticello in Monticello, AR when he was first elected Governor of Arkansas. I was about 8 and got his autograph on a football program. I lost the program.

5. I didn't vote for him either time when he was elected President. What can I say, I'm a Republican!

6. Since this is a birding blog, I need to put something in about birding! I'm up to 31 birds on my life list, with the Belted Kingfisher and the White-Breasted Nuthatch being the latest. I almost got to add a Gold Finch but just missed seeing it.

Be sure to check out Anders and Claudia site, Dagens fågel - Bird of the day. It is very interesting seeing the pictures of the birds from Sweden. I recognize many birds but know them by a different name here in the states. You know me, I love the pictures of the Great Spotted Woodpecker! Check out the picture of the squirrel, funny looking ears, huh?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

King of the Fishers!

We spent time in Little Rock again this weekend with Kevin & Summer. On Friday, Kevin and I were going back into town after a thunderstorm. We were talking & driving when we saw a Belted Kingfisher on a powerline. We observed it swooping off the powerline and down to the ground several times.

There are approximatley 87 species of Kingfishers in the world but only 3 are present in North America. They are the Belted Kingfisher, the Ringed Kingfisher, and Green Kingfisher. The Belted Kingfisher is common across North America, while the other two are common on in extreme southern Texas.

The males and females have a blue-gray breast band and white on the belly. The females have an additional rusty-red band across the belly. The Belted Kingfisher is a very distinctive bird and is common around fresh water. They can be seen hovering over water or perching from trees or lines to spot their prey.

They swoop down, head first into the water, to catch their meal. The adults teach the juveniles to hunt by dropping dead fish into the water for them to retreive. Their training lasts for about ten days before they are ready to strike out on their own, most likely with a little help from their parents.

Another interesting thing about the Kingfisher is they excavate a burrow in the side of a steep river or water bank about 7 feet long. They deposit 5-8 eggs which take 3-4 weeks before hatching.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Juvenile Red-Headed Woodpeckers!

I've been watching a Red-Headed Woodpecker and two juveniles in my backyard. The adult is attempting to train these two juveniles by flying to the tray feeder to feed. When they won't follow to the feeder, the adult take care of the juveniles by feeding them.

These juvenile woodpeckers are strikingly different than the adults. They have a grayish-brown head with whitish gray underparts. Their wings are marked with two distinct black lateral bars. These pictures of the juveniles were able to capture the differences in plummage between the adults and the juveniles.

The picture with the juvenile perched on the rooftop was taken while the two where playing. They were chasing each other around the backyard, flying around very quickly. This one is looking around for his sibling. Shortly after taking this shot, the other one flew over the edge to surprise this one. It is very fun to watch these two juveniles learn and play just like kids!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

I've been Tagged: 8 Random Facts about Me!

I have been tagged by John L. Trapp of Birds Etcetera to play the Eight Random Facts meme. This is starting to make it rounds and it ought to be fun.

The Rules are as follows: Each person posts the rules before their list, and then they list eight things about themselves. At the end of the post, that person tags and links to 8 other people; then visits those people's sites and comments, letting them know that they have been tagged, and for them to come read your post so they will know what to do.

Eight Random Facts About Me

1. I'm a new 'birder'. I just started within the last two months when we purchased a new camera.

2. So far, my favorite bird to watch and photograph is the Red-Headed Woodpecker. They are at least two juveniles learning from their parents in my backyard.

3. I'm learning photography from a friend, Matt Terry, who is great at his craft. He's also going to get tagged!

4. I've been married for 7 years to a wonderful woman, Shelley. She is a gift from God and is very patient with me. She looks over my shortcomings and has helped me to become a much better man than I was before I met her!

5. I'm a 'gadget geek'. I like to keep up with the latest in gadget technology.

6. I enjoy spending time at my brother-in-law and his wife's house. It is in the Central Arkansas area up on Brush Mountain. Shelley & I get to relax, enjoy the scenery and spend time with family members who are also our friends.

7. I have a friend who has spent a little time with the Nature Conservancy in the Bird Woods looking for the 'Lord God Bird'.

8. My wife and I have a retail business, The Gift Shaker, that I help with in addition to my real job. She is the brains behind the business and I do some heavy lifting. I'm still trying to get on 'full-time' so more heavy lifting is in my future!

And now for my taggees... Drum roll please.....

Matt Terry of Terry's Photography
Jeff Noble of Notes From The Trail
Kristy Hales of Half Tied Ribbons
Diana Harton of All I Know Is...
James Lyle of Black Water Rydas

I could only come up with five nominees. I know I'm breaking the rules!

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Time on My Hands

I spent most of this past weekend at Kevin and Summer's trying my hardest to catch up with the Summer Tanager that perches near their house. I was able to see the Tanager well with the new Bushnell binoculars I recently purchased. However, capturing a good picture of the Summer Tanager proved to be harder than I imagined.

Tanagers are solitary birds and love to perch in the upper levels of trees. Its call is very similar to that of a Robin and can be easily heard throughout the woods. Its song helped me to find it but the 'upper level tree perching' kept me from obtaining a great shot. I attempted to creep, ever so slowly, closer and closer to the tree in which the Tanager was singing from but each time I got close enough, it flew. Check out Journey Through Grace's blog to see what a great picture of a Summer Tanager should look like!

This scenario played out several times over the weekend leading me to look elsewhere to take up my picture taking time on Brush Mountain.

The garden that was been setup by my in-laws is very nice. A wide variety of flowers and bushes dot their landscape.

They are working very hard in their backyard to beautify it like the rest of the surroundings.

Check back later in the summer for pictures of the newly landscaped backyard!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

July 4th Birdwatching

I've recently setup a tray feeder with black oil sunflower seeds well away from my tube feeders to attempt to setup seperate zones for the larger and smaller birds. It is fun to watch the 'pecking' order of the birds in my back yard. The smaller House Finches, Titmice, and Carolina Chickadees always give way to the larger Blue Jays and Cardinals that frequent my backyard. The more aggresive 'bully' Blue Jays even know their place in the 'pecking' order. The Red-Headed Woodpecker is at the top of the order!

I've been trying my hand at catching the Red-Headed Woodpecker in flight to the tray feeder. They just love the sunflower seeds in the feeder. They swoop in from their perch in a nearby oak tree. The birds scatter when when it is on its way.

While watching the woodpecker fly back and forth up to the tree to eat the seeds, I notice another woodpecker. Much to my surprise, it was the juvenile Red-Head that I'd seen a few weeks ago in my backyard. The adult was taking seed up to the perch and feeding the juvenile. I was able to get several pictures before the juvenile flew off!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Unknown Visitor to My Yard

I had an unknown visiter to my backyard last Friday morning. I've got a few ideas of what this little visitor may have been. If anyone has any thoughts on helping to identify this bird, I'd appreciate your help.

I spent this past weekend on Brush Mountain with Shelley's brother, Kevin, and Summer. I got a few shots of a new bird to me, a Summer Tanager. I'll post a few pictures later this week.


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