Sunday, January 30, 2011

Weekend birds, and a really cool dad

I started Saturday with a look at the North Marina of Lake Jacomo. There weren't many waterfowl there, probably because there were a lot of die-hard fishermen. I did get these three sleepy Mallards.

Mallard
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The highlights from yesterday at Burroughs Audubon Center were the Savannah Sparrow and the Pine Siskins, not to mention the bird banding. But I got a few other nice pics of some other species:

Harris' Sparrow
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American Tree Sparrow
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Yesterday's sunset was nice, because it wasn't cloudy for once. I really like this shot of some Canada Geese flying in to Lake Remembrance for the evening.

Canada Geese
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Sometimes bad conditions can end up giving a good result. This shot of Snow Geese has a kinda artsy feel (which is a nice way of saying it's blurry because the light was growing too dim for a really fast shutter speed). Still, I like the way it conveys motion and the sunset colors are pretty, too.

Snow Geese
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I didn't do near as much birding today. The Red-Shouldered Hawk from yesterday is still hanging around my house. Here it is up in a tree in my neighbor's yard.

Red-Shouldered Hawk
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Finally, I'm going to tentatively call the middle goose in this picture a Cackling Goose. I'm basing that on size, bill and head shape, and the fact that other birders are reporting Cackling Geese at Lake Remembrance, where this photo was taken. I've been reading up on the ins and outs of differentiating hutchinsoni from canadensis, and it seems to be a very difficult ID.

Cackling Goose? or Canada Goose?
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Again, I think the middle bird is a Cackling Goose, but of course it might be a Canada.
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I also want to mention Victor, the young birder out at Lake Remembrance today, who waited a really long time to see the swans. Keep it up, kid, you're awesome! And let's not forget his dad, who isn't particularly into birding, for taking him out to the lake and hanging out there with him for hours. That's the definition of a great dad!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Another great day...

With a new goal in mind, I set forth this Saturday morning. 100 species photographed by the end of winter. Can I really accomplish this?

First stop, Lake Remembrance. Trumpeter Swans and lots and lots of Gadwalls still hanging out. I've already saturated you with shots of swans, so we'll skip those.

Next stop: North Marina, Lake Jacomo. Today there were quite a few die-hard crappie fishermen there, so not many waterfowl. Gotta give those guys some props. I love crappie as much as any red-blooded Missourian, but I doubt I'd be fishing even on a day as nice as today.

Let's see what's going on at Burroughs Audubon Center. The feeders there are a sure bet. When I arrived I was somewhat taken aback by the number of cars there. Bird-banding in progress! Very enlightening. Nice to meet all you folks I only know from MOBIRDS-L.

Someone mentioned that a Savannah Sparrow had been seen earlier. Sure enough, there it was.

Savannah Sparrow
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While there, I asked a more experienced birder about Pine Siskins. I was unsure of how to tell them apart from female Purple and House Finches.

Purple Finch, female
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After spending a couple hours at Burroughs, I decided to go check out Blue Springs Lake. Down by the dam, there was some open water. Driving along the dam, I noticed something. Some of those white bodied waterfowl were bigger than the Common Goldeneyes. There were at least 5 Common Mergansers in a large raft of ducks, 3 males and 2 females!

Common Merganser
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I went home to eat some lunch, then decided to go back to Lake Remembrance. Maybe I'd see something besides Gadwalls, Canada Geese, Mallards and Trumpeter Swans. Sure enough, this Ruddy Duck showed up to MAKE MY DAY.

Ruddy Duck
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All in all, a very good day. Four more new species photographed. 100 species by end of winter doesn't seem so ambitious after all. And to top it all off, not 100 yards from my house, I ran into this beautiful Red-Shouldered Hawk.

Red-Shouldered Hawk
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

100 Species by Spring!

My new goal: to break the 100 species photographed mark by the last day of winter, March 19.

I'm starting to wonder if the best strategy is simply to go to one place and hang out all day, rather than driving all over the backroads and stopping when I see something interesting. With gas approaching $3 a gallon, this is a real issue for me. Also, I harped on this very blog about people driving too much back during the Gulf BP disaster so I'd better walk the walk.

Some of the species I'd like to pick up before the end of winter:

American Widgeon
Pintail (Got it!)
Lesser Scaup (Got it!)
Redhead (Got it!)
Green-winged Teal (Got it!)
Ross's Goose
Greater White-Fronted Goose
Common Merganser (GOT IT!)
Ruddy Duck (GOT IT!)
Rough-Legged Hawk
Herring Gull (Got it!)
Red-Breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Winter Wren
Golden-Crowned Kinglet
Field Sparrow
Lapland Longspur
Snow Bunting

By then, spring migration will have started and I'll be off after warblers and shorebirds. It's good to have plans. If only I didn't have to work for a living.

A quick drive through the park

I took a quick drive through Fleming Park before work yesterday. Here are some highlights:

Red-Tailed Hawk
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American Kestrel
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Common Crow
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A flock of American Tree Sparrows
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The moral of this post: always have my camera ready! That kestrel was putting on a show for me, and I'd have missed it if I hadn't had my camera out, on and in the front seat with me!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Odds and ends, just for the numbers

Because I can't sleep, here are some species I haven't posted yet. Most predate my ability to actually take good photographs. Oh well, they still count towards the goal. I know I have better of some of these species, but that will take some serious hard drive detective work. Had them all organized in Photoshop Elements on my previously laptop, which went kablooey. Now I have to reorganize them all again in iPhoto. At least I have a Mac now.

Wild Turkey
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Common Crow
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Gray Catbird
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Sharp-shinned hawk
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Carolina Wren
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Northern Flicker
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Brown Thrasher
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White-Eyed Vireo
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Wood Duck
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White Pelican
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Tree Swallow
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Northern Mockingbird
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Yellow Warbler
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A Whole Lot of Birds and I Never Left Blue Springs!

So, the debate between housework and birding came down to birding.

Look out the window.

American Goldfinch
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Red-Bellied Woodpecker
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Good enough. How about a nice drive over to Lake Remembrance?

Tundra Swan (note the yellow spot between the eye and the bill, that's the key ID mark)
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Trumpeter Swan
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I wonder if there's any open water anywhere else? Hey, what about the marina at Lake Jacomo? The docks run deicing pumps. Sure enough, open water! And birds!

Ring-Billed Gull
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Common Coot
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Pied-Billed Grebe
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Great Blue Heron
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Juvenile Common Goldeneye
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Hooded Merganser
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Back to Lake Remembrance.

Gadwall
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Run home for lunch. Check bird feeders.

European Starling
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Downy Woodpecker
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Black-Capped Chickadee
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Tufted Titmouse
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Dark-Eyed Junco
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House Finch
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House Sparrow
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Bird Party!
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Back to Lake Remembrance.

Bufflehead
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Common Goldeneye
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Hooded Merganser
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Snow Geese
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Canada Geese
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Trumpeter Swans
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Tundra Swans
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Red-Shouldered Hawk
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Waited around until almost dark looking for the Brant that has been reported. Never saw it.

What a great day. Three new species (Tundra Swan, Gadwall, Red-Shouldered Hawk) plus lots of good photos. And time left to do the laundry!