Saturday, July 31, 2010

Yes, I'm new to birding

As I'm new to birding, I'm slowly discovering the world and culture of birding. As if I didn't have enough acronyms in my life, I'm now discovering the world of rare bird sighting reports. At first, I wondered what was up with all the four-letter all-cap "acronyms". Just like texting teens, birders have their own lingo of shorthand. Thus, I came to understand that WOST=Wood Stork.

Click here for a complete listing of all acronyms.

Thanks to the folks at the MOBIRDS listserv, I'm discovering all sorts of resources on the net for area birders. Of particular interest is Showme-birds, maintained by Joshua Uffman.

So thanks to all you MOBIRDS posters. I'm learning a lot while lurking.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Now somewhere in the black mining hills of Dakota...

I'm heading off for our Scout troop's Black Hills High Adventure trip tomorrow morning. I can hardly wait.

This should be a great opportunity for birding. The Black Hills are a biodiversity hot spot. As the easternmost extent of the Rocky Mountains, they combine the flora and fauna of the Mountain West and the Great Plains, all in a relatively small area. My number one wish: the White-Winged race of the Dark-Eyed Junco.

Do I plan on counting those Black Hills birds for my checklist? Darn right I will! I never said the photos had to be of birds IN Missouri, only that they'd been seen in Missouri.

BIRD ALERT! BROWN PELICAN @ BLUE SPRINGS LAKE!

This just in. Apparently there's a Brown Pelican at Blue Springs Lake. I'm getting ready to leave on a Scout trip, but maybe I'll have time to run by tonight. Sources have it that this is only the 7th record of the species in this state (I would imagine a lot more unreported sightings occur, as this species is known to wander).

Thanks for the heads up, Sissy.

UPDATE: Apparently there's a Neotropic Cormorant mixed in with the Double-Crested Cormorants as well.

Latest info I may be a day late and a dollar short

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red-Tailed Hawk

I have been trying to get a "good" picture of a Red-Tailed Hawk for a very long time. I had lots of pictures of them, but none that really "popped".

Given the fact that they're by far the most common bird of prey, it's not like I didn't have any opportunities. The biggest problem was that whenever I'd see one, I'd invariably be in my car on my way to somewhere. Even if I did stop and dig out all the camera gear, they'd usually be gone by the time I got ready.

I was puttering around in my garden this past Sunday when I saw a hawk fly over. I dashed into the house, grabbed my camera and was lucky enough to get this shot of an immature Red-Tailed Hawk. How do I know it's immature? The tail is banded instead of the solid red/orange of an adult. From now on, the camera is NEVER getting put away!

Red-Tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis

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The rest of the birds of Bartle

Eastern Wood-Pewee

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Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher

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blue-gray gnatcatcher

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White-Breasted Nuthatch

white-breasted nuthatch

Chipping Sparrow

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Brown-Headed Cowbird

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Indigo Bunting

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Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

ruby-throated hummingbird

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ruby-throated hummingbird

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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Pikachu, I choose you! (Summer Tanager)

Remember way back when I posted my ambitions for my Bartle birding? I was after the Pileated Woodpecker and warblers. Well, I got some crappy pics of one Pileated Woodpecker and one Yellow-Throated Warbler.

What I wasn't expecting was to have a nesting pair of Summer Tanagers in my campsite. We were unloading the Scout trailer when one of the kids said "Hey, look at that Cardinal!" Well, it was red. Unlike the dark red of a Cardinal, this was a red that seemed like the bird required batteries! There's only one all-red bird found in Missouri, and that's the male Summer Tanager. The female is a solid yellow, sometimes shading into olive tones.

Soon enough, I'd seen the female too. They were always in the campsite area or very nearby. I never did determine exactly where the nest was, but it must have been somewhere in the area.

The male was much more camera friendly than the female. The male was actively hunting all over the campsite, as well as harassing Eastern Wood-Pewees. He was also very vocal. The female seemed to stay up in the tree tops much more.

As a total nerdy aside, I noticed that the call of the Summer Tanager can be translated as "pi-ka, pi-ka, pi-ka-chu-chu-chu, pi-ka, pi-ka, pi-ka-chu, I ch-ch-ch-ooose you". Yes, I have a son and yes he likes Pokemon. He and his best friend have in-depth discussions about Pokemon and their strengths and weaknesses. Perhaps they should write a Field Guide with David Sibley as the illustrator.

Summer Tanager Piranga rubra

Male
summer tanager male

summer tanager male

Female

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Monday, July 12, 2010

A tale of two kingbirds

I happened to glance out my living room window yesterday evening and was amazed to see two kingbirds hawking insects in my front yard. Why was I amazed? Number one: you rarely see two kingbirds in the same area because they are violently territorial. Number two: one of the kingbirds was an Eastern Kingbird and the other was a Western Kingbird. Try as I might, I could never get a picture of them together in the same shot.

There must have been a real buffet of flying insects, because in addition to the two kingbirds, there were also numerous Barn Swallows hunting, and my resident Eastern Bluebirds were hawking insects like the kingbirds. Even dragonflies were joining in the party.

We're right on the eastern limit of the Western Kingbird's summer range here in the Kansas City area. Apparently, this is another species like the Cattle Egret and the House Finch that has been rapidly expanding its range.

Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus

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Western Kingbird Tyrannus verticalis

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Saturday, July 10, 2010

The quest for the pileated woodpecker (and bonus yellow-throated warbler)

One of my prime objectives, birding-wise, while I was down at H. Roe Bartle Scout Reservation was to nab the Pileated Woodpecker. Since the majority of the reservation is prime Pileated Woodpecker habitat (mature oak-hickory forest with lots of dead trees), I was sure it would be a cinch to find one of the loud, boldly patterned crow-sized birds. All I had to do was listen for the drumming and then go to the source. Well, that turned out to be a less than optimal strategy. Sounds carry a LONG way across the hills and valleys down there, and so the birds would usually be long gone before I got anywhere near where I thought the drumming was coming from. Also, finding any bird in the densely leaved canopy was a challenge.

So, I tried another approach. I would stake out trees with obvious woodpecker excavation. In fact, there were several within a stone's throw of my campsite.

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I did this for 4 days. Still no Pileated Woodpeckers. Where the hell did they all go? I could hear them drumming and calling, but they never seemed to be anywhere near me. On the second to the last evening, I took a hike to the top of Scorpion Hill (actually a creek bluff) where I had a good view across a wide area. Maybe I'd see one flying across the treetops. At worst, I figured I would wait until I heard drumming or calling and then take off from there.

That plan was dashed by a group of extremely noisy Scouts screaming and throwing big rocks off the bluff into the creek below. I did manage to get a Yellow-throated Warbler before the wrecking crew showed up.

Yellow-throated Warbler Dendroica dominica

yellow-throated warbler

I got fed up with the antics of the Scouts, who continued to wreak havoc further downstream even after I reminded them that throwing rocks on the reservation is strictly VERBOTEN. So I headed back. As I was approaching the end of the trail, within sight of a campsite full of very noisy teenagers, I heard an equally loud drumming not 10 yards behind me! At long last, the Holy Grail, the object of my quest! Unfortunately, it was quite dark by this point so all I have to show you are these crappy pictures. Still, I finally managed to find one. Who knew it would be such hard work to find a big, showy, loud bird!

Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus

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