Category: nature

Two more duck photography pages are live, and other news

So there are two more duck pages live under the bird photography tab (specifically under the ‘water birds’ and then the ducks, swan, and geese family).

So, as I mentioned in several posts—I’m slowly trying to update/add to the site to account for wanting to move a little more into the three niches that I’d picked out for concentrating on for writing (personal/professional development, health/wellness, and science/medical writing/communications). One of the things I’ve been trying to do is ensure that there is a single line of tabs at the top of the page—and that if there is a drop down menu, all items are still visible on the screen.

The one section that will probably be ‘changing’ slightly as I work on this aspect is the combo birding/photography tab—mainly because of how many bird pages I have currently up.

With that said—the two new duck pages that have been added are for the Northern Shoveler and the Blue-winged Teal.

Both of these birds are migratory and/or winter residents within Oklahoma.

I’ve only managed to spot the blue-winged teal as it makes its way north in the spring (I have yet managed to make it up to Boomer in the late summer to catch them as they are one of the first ducks to migrate south in the late summer/early fall).

Blue-winged teals swimming in Boomer Lake

The northern shovelers will both migrate through the state, and a few of them will even winter around Boomer Lake—so I’ve managed to spot these guys several times in both the winter and early spring.

Northern Shovelers swimming in Boomer Lake

While the peak of fall migration has passed, there are still birds migrating south—hopefully I’ll be able to spot a few other species over the next few weeks (especially if I can manage to get up to the lake just as the sun is coming up).

What is your favorite fall migratory bird to spot?

No Comments bird watchingcareernatureoutdoorsPersonal DevelopmentPhotographyprofessional developmentUpdates

The Australian Budgerigar page is live: Throwback Thursday

Another bird page is live under the birding tab–the Australian budgerigar, or as it is known within United States as–the common parakeet.

Common parakeet seen ‘walking’ around the park, Boston MA

When I started this project of creating individual pages for each bird I’ve managed to get a picture of in the ‘wild’–I never thought that I’d be considering the parks and streets of cities (such as Brighton MA or London UK) as ‘wild’.

But currently, that is exactly where I’ve spotted the two parakeets–the ringed neck parakeet (in a London park), and the budgerigar–‘walking’ around the corner park as I was walking my dog one afternoon. Since I didn’t see it later that afternoon, it either flew off or the owner was able to find it and take it home.

The budgerigars are native to Australia, but are a favorite in terms of captive birds raised for pets. They’re third on the list, behind dogs and cats.

I actually had one as a pet when I was younger—but my cat at the time managed to figure out how to open the cage and while he didn’t eat the parakeet he did injure it severely (hence why I don’t try to have cats, dogs, and birds at the same time).

With the budgerigar page published, that currently ‘wraps’ up the parrot and parakeet order in terms of birds spotted in the ‘wild’ and me having digital pictures of them. I do have a couple of pictures of a scarlet macaw from a trip to Honduras back in 2001—but those are actual physical pictures (I have to try to locate where the scanned pictures ended up).

Have you either seen a parrot/parakeet in the wild, or have you owned a budgerigar (and if so—what color)?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotography

Raptor & Duck Pages are live: the red-tailed hawk & bufflehead

So, another two bird pages are now live under the bird tab.

One is a year-round resident of Oklahoma, though you need to look towards the sky (or take a drive to potentially see it), and the other graces the state with its presence during the winter months.

They are the red-tailed hawk and the bufflehead.

I’d finally managed to get pictures (and properly identify) of the red-tailed hawk this spring and summer.

Red-tailed Hawks perched over Boomer Lake, with another flying in the background

While I’ve always heard their calls, I always had a hard time spotting them. This year, I managed to spot a couple of them soaring over Boomer Lake, and over the house (one nice thing about living close to a wooded area).

Their ‘red’ tails are harder to spot when they’re soaring above your head, as the tails only look ‘red’ from above (or when they’re perched), looking up at them—the tails are more of an off-white color with bars across the feathers.

The bufflehead, is the smallest diving duck in North America and graces Oklahoma with its presence during the winter months.

The mature males are easy to spot—they have a large white patch on the back of their heads, along with a white flank, and black wings (that when folded—give the appearance of a black back).

Group of male Buffleheads swimming on Boomer Lake

The females (and immature males) have a smaller white oval on their cheek, and are more drab in color (they lack the white flanks).

Group of Buffleheads swimming on Boomer Lake

Since they’re diving ducks—once you spot them going under, keep an eye out as they will pop up somewhere nearby within thirty seconds or so.

One goal (hopefully for this fall) is to try to get up to Boomer Lake early enough in the day to spot different duck species that are going to be migrating through on their way to the warmer waters to the south.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of a bufflehead duckling, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a trip north to Alaska or Canada and wander around looking for a duck sticking its head out of a old flicker hole.

What is your favorite migratory bird to spot?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

More bird pages are live: Canada Goose and Tufted Duck

There are two more bird pages live under the birding tab (and specifically within the Anseriformes/Anatidae [ducks, geese, and swans] sub-tab of the ‘water birds’).

The two pages are the Canada Goose and the Tufted Duck.

The Canada goose is a bird that probably needs little introduction, as it is a common waterfowl species throughout North America, and was introduced to the ‘Old World’ in the late 1600s.

Canada Geese and goslings swimming in Boomer Lake

The Canada goose is one of two waterfowl species that is present year-round at Boomer Lake (the other is the mallard—page coming soon), and can be spotted either out on the lake, along one of the many ‘fingers’ or wandering through the fields grazing on the grass. Also, depending on where you live in town, you may even see them crossing the street, snoozing in someone’s front yard, or grazing in said yard.

I actually was able to get a couple of walks in this spring, to where I was able to get some pictures of the latest group of goslings as well.

The tufted duck on the other hand, is a native to Eurasia—but has slowly made its way to North America (unlike the Canada goose—I don’t think anyone ‘introduced’ the tufted duck to over here). They can occasionally be spotted within the northeastern part of the continent (both within the US and Canada), but is considered somewhat common in western Alaska.

I managed to get a single picture of one when I was over in London several years ago, walking through Kensington Park on my way back to my hotel.

Tufted Duck swimming in Kensington Park, London UK

The only photography goal I can think of for the Canada goose is to see if I can get pictures of the different subspecies (currently that number sits at seven), while my photography goal for the tufted duck is to try to get a picture of one in North America, and then try to get a picture of one with a gosling swimming somewhere in Europe.

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

Short post: The parakeet in the park

Female (or immature male) rose-ring (ring-neck) parakeet spotted in Kensington Park, London

So another series of bird pages are live under the bird tab. I decided to go a head and get the order page (Psittaciformes) for parrots and their relatives, the family page (Psittaculidae) for one of the three ‘true parrot’ families, and the species page for the rose-ring (or ring-neck) parakeet completed and published.

Did you know that there are over 350 different species of parrots (and their allies), and a third of them (basically a little over 115 of them) are endangered or threatened? This is due to lost of habitat, illegal bird trade, and introduction of non-native predators.

I managed to get a single picture of a female (or immature male) rose-ring parakeet on my trip to London several years ago. Seeing a parakeet in the middle of London in early October was an odd sighting—but it turns out they’ve adapted to the country quite well.

London is just one of the cities that these parakeets have managed to adapt to, they can also be found in other large cities in Europe, and even within the US (they’ve formed colonies in California, Florida, and Hawaii).

A goal is to get a picture of a mature male (they’re the ones that have the colored ‘rings’ around their necks), and a picture of them in either Africa or India (their ‘natural territory’), plus possibly getting a picture of one within the US (I’d prefer to go back to Hawaii to try to find one, but might have to settle for California after we get the pandemic under control yet again).

Have you seen a rose-ring (or ring-neck) parakeet before, and if you did–was it in the wild or at a zoo?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

Odd facts and statistics on the US State Birds

Unless this is your first time visiting my blog (and then, hello and how do you do), one may realize that bird watching and photography are some favorite pastimes of mine. While creating the birding section of my blog and the various bird pages, I’ve come curious on the topic of ‘state’ birds.

Every state has an official ‘state’ bird and after seeing the list of birds, I decided to create a list of ‘fifty-one’ odd facts about the state birds. In addition, I also found about a dozen odd stats about them as well.

Collage of all the ‘state’ birds

So to start off, here are the odd statistics on the ‘state’ birds:

  1. There are over a thousand different species of birds within the United States, but only twenty-seven species, plus two types of chickens were chosen as state birds.
  2. Ten states have both a state bird, plus another ‘official’ bird (game, waterfowl, raptor, or symbol of peace)
  3. The state birds of nine states (plus the District of Columbia) are only present in the state (or area) from mid-spring to early/mid fall (breeding season)
  4. Seven states have the northern cardinal as their state bird
  5. Six states have the mockingbird as their state bird
  6. Six states have the western meadowlark as their state bird–though it is a summer resident for three of those states
  7. Two states have a chicken as their state bird
  8. Three states have the goldfinch as their state bird
  9. Three states have the American robin as their state bird
  10. Two states have the eastern bluebird as their state bird
  11. Two states have the mountain bluebird as their state bird (though it is a summer resident in one of those states.
  12. Two states have the black-capped chickadee for their state bird

What I found ‘weird’ was that high frequency of the northern cardinal (14% of the states), mockingbird (12% of the states), and western meadowlark (12% of the states) being chosen for state birds. These three choices by nineteen states account for 38% of the ‘state birds’.

So, what are some weird/odd or amazing facts about the various state (or national) birds?

  1. The national bird (the Bald Eagle) is no longer considered endangered or threatened (it is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act). Though it is still protected at the state level in many states.
Bald Eagle and gulls flying over Boomer Lake. Picture by JessicaMattsPhotography

2. The District of Columbia has a ‘state bird’–the wood thrush.

Wood Thrush

3. The rough translation for the wood thrush’s scientific name (Hylochila mustelina) is ‘weasel-colored woodland thrush’

4. Male wood thrushes do more of the feeding of the chicks than the female; this allows her to start a second brood.

5. The first national wildlife refuge (Florida’s Pelican Island) was created in 1903 by Teddy Roosevelt to protect the brown pelican.

Brown Pelicans flying over the beach. Photograph: JessicaMattsPhotography

6. Besides being the state bird of Louisiana, the brown pelican is also the national bird of Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

7. Northern flickers actually hunt for their food on the ground, with ants being a staple in their diet.

Northern flicker

8. In addition to nesting in trees (like all other woodpeckers), northern flickers have also been know to use abandoned burros of belted kingfishers or bank swallows.

9. The willow ptarmigan is the only grouse in the world where the male regularly helps raise the young.

Male Willow Ptarmigan in mating colors

10. The willow ptarmigan is also a master of camouflage; they can be snowy white in the winter and a mix of reds and browns in the summer.

11. The cactus wren gets its liquids from the juicy insects and fruits it eats; therefore rarely relying on water.

Cactus Wren

12. Young California quail gain their gut microbiome by pecking at the feces of the adults.

California Quail

13. California quail broods mix after hatching and all parents help care for the young

14. A male northern mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs during his lifetime.

Northern mockingbird

15. While it is called the northern mockingbird, it is actually absent from many of the northern states.

16. Lark buntings are able to survive periods of drought by taking moisture from grasshoppers and other insects

Lark Bunting

17. Lark buntings are endemic sparrows to the grasslands and shrub steppes of North America.

18. The entire American robin population ‘turns over’ on average every six years, though many may live longer than that.

American Robin

19. Did you know that robins can become intoxicated when they exclusively eat honeysuckle berries?

20. Brown thrashers have been known to imitate the songs of Chuck-will’s-widows, wood thrushes, and northern flickers

Brown thrasher seen up at Boomer Lake

21. Brown thrashers are the largest common host for the ‘parasitic’ brown-headed cowbirds. Though they can tell the difference between their eggs and the cowbird eggs, and usually reject the cowbird eggs that had been laid in the nest.

22. The Nene evolved from the Canada goose, which probably arrived on the Hawaiian Islands roughly 500,000 years ago.

The Nene or Hawaiian Goose

23. The Nene is the sixth-most endangered waterfowl species in the world.

24. There are Hawaiian geese (Nene) living in the Slimbridge Wetland Wildlife Reserve near Gloucestershire, England

25. Mountain bluebirds can hunt for insects either in flight or from perches

Mountain Bluebird

26. A male mountain bluebird with a high-quality nesting site is more likely to attract a mate than a more ‘attractive’ male with a low-quality nesting site.

27. Female northern cardinals are one of the few female songbirds that sing

Northern Cardinal

28. Cardinals don’t molt into duller colors–the mature males stay bright red year-round.

29. Goldfinches are strict vegetarians, and the offspring of other birds who parasitize their nests (such as the brown-headed cowbirds) rarely survive more than a few days on the all-seed diet.

Goldfinch

30. Meriweather Lewis, noted in 1805 the differences between the eastern and western meadowlarks

Western Meadowlark

31. Male western meadowlarks usually have two mates at the same time, as the females do all the incubating, brooding, and most of the feeding of the young

32. Black-capped chickadees hide their food to eat later, placing individual items in different spots

Black-capped chickadee

33. Black-capped chickadees adapt to changes in their flocks and the environment every fall, by allowing neurons with ‘old information’ to die and replacing them with new neurons

34. Baltimore orioles are known to breed/hybridize extensively with Bullock’s orioles where their ranges overlap within the Great Plains

Oriole spotted at Boomer Lake

35. When migrating the common loon has been clocked at speeds greater than 70mph

Common Loon

36. Common loons are only present in a few states during the summer. Most of the US is actually within their migratory routes to the coasts, where they will spend the winters (and the young will stay for two years before heading back north).

37. Eastern bluebirds will typically have more than one brood per year

Eastern Bluebird spotted at Boomer Lake

38. Purple finches have lost territory in the eastern US to the house finch

A finch spotted in the winter

39. Roadrunners are able to eat venomous lizards, scorpions, and rattlesnakes.

Greater Roadrunner

40. Roadrunners may also be seen walking around with a snake protruding from its bill, swallowing a little at a time as the snake is digested.

41. The scissor-tailed flycatcher tends to wander on their way to and from their winter grounds in Central America. They have been spotted as far north and west as British Columbia, and as far north and east as Nova Scotia.

Scissor-tailed flycatchers at Boomer Lake

42. The scissor-tailed flycatcher as the second longest tail for members of the kingbird family. The fork-tailed flycatcher has the longest tail.

43. The popularity of the ruffed grouse as a game bird led to some of the earliest game management efforts in North America back in 1708.

Ruffed Grouse

44. The overall population of the ruffed grouse goes through an eight-to-eleven year cycle that is in correlation to the snowshoe hare population.

45. It is only the male Carolina wren that sings

Carolina wrens in the backyard

46. Ring-necked pheasants will sometime parasitize the nests of other birds (such as the ruffed grouse or the greater-prairie chicken)

Ring-necked pheasant

47. Ring-necked pheasants practice ‘harem-defense polygyny’ where one male will keep other males away from a group of females during the breeding season.

48. The California gull became the state bird of Utah in 1848, after they started feasting on the katydids that had been devastating the crops of the settlers.

California Gull

49. Hermit thrushes are likely to nest in trees west of the Rocky Mountains, but on the ground east of the Rocky Mountains

Hermit Thrush

50. Male hermit thrushes will collect the food for the nest, giving it to the female who will then feed the nestlings.

51. Not really odd facts, but here are the two pictures of the chickens that are also state birds:

Delaware’s state bird
Rhode Island’s state bird

So there are the ‘fifty-one’ odd facts on state birds (yes, I know that the last fact are just pictures). So far I’ve managed to get a picture of thirteen or fourteen of the birds–I’m leaning more towards fourteen, since I’m pretty positive that is a purple finch I got a picture of this winter.

A photography goal–get a picture of the other state birds, though I’m not sure if I’m also going to include the chickens in that or not. You might have noticed that I didn’t mention every state in terms of their state bird–I thought it would be more fun to test everyone’s knowledge.

So question–do you know the state bird of your state?

2 Comments bird watchingDay TripsNational ParksnatureNature PreservesoutdoorsPhotographyScienceState Parkstravel

European Edition: Two more Rail Member Pages are Live

So there are two more bird pages live under the birding section, and they aren’t geese, swans, or ducks: they’re two members of the rail family that I saw on my trip to the UK a couple of years ago.

Ever since I started this project (creating bird pages for the various birds I’ve gotten pictures of over the years), I’m constantly going through my old pictures and asking–which bird is this, and am I sure that is the correct bird?

For most birds, I’m usually correct with my identification, but there have been others that I’ve been wrong on. As it turns out I wasn’t correct with my first identification of these two birds; I’m made a ‘rookie’ mistake and assumed they were just ‘regional’ variations of birds I’d seen back in the US.

Well, it turns out that that was the wrong assumption to make–they’re actually separate species from the ones I’d spotted within the US.

The first one is the common moorhen. The reason why I’d thought that it was similar to the one I’d seen down in South Padre Island, is that they had been considered the same (or possibly subspecies) up until 2011–so only a decade ago, and I have an ‘outdated’ bird book.

The ‘Old World’ has the common moorhen, while the ‘New World’ has the common gallinule.

Common moorhen spotted within Kensington Park in London, UK

The second one I had ‘mistakenly’ identified was the Eurasian coot–I thought it was the American coot. Yes, I know that the name ‘American’ should have given it away that it probably wouldn’t be found in the UK–but if the pied grebe can occasionally migrate over the Atlantic Ocean, whose to say that the coot couldn’t?

Eurasian coots swimming in Kensington Park

I now know that there are several coot species, and I’ve managed to get pictures of two of them–in order to make it a perfect trifecta, I now need to head back to the Hawaiian islands and get a picture of the Hawaiian coot.

There are still one or two more birds from the UK trip that will be getting pages, but currently this brings the rail family up to date for members that I’ve spotted either within the US or abroad.

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographySciencetravel

Latest #throwbackthursdaytravelpage is Live: Robbers Cave State Park

So another #throwbackthursdaytravel page is up under the travel tab. This week is showcasing our quick stop and mini-hike through Robbers Cave State Park in southeastern Oklahoma.

‘Caves’ at Robbers Cave State Park

We stopped at the park on our way home from Arkansas after doing some hiking and kayaking through some of the Buffalo National River area (that trip can also be found under the travel tab).

Being someone who enjoys history, I would have liked to spend a little more time exploring the park (but it was a quick stop), as they have several historical buildings within the park (from the mid-1930s when the park was initially started). One thing I found fascinating was walking around in an area that Jesse James and Belle Starr also walked/rode/hidden in as well (the area was well known for being a hideout for outlaws in the 1800s).

While it was a ‘short’ stay within the park, it was also a nice introduction to what the park offers, especially in terms of hikes for ‘beginners’.

A slightly difficult hill to conquer.

While I may not have spent a lot of time in the park–I do highly recommend the park to anyone who wants to explore a little of southeastern Oklahoma.

No Comments fitnessHistorical SitesnatureoutdoorsPhotographyState Parkstravel

Two swan pages, and their order and family pages are now live

So several more pages are now live under the birding tab of the ‘blog’.

An new organizational page (the ‘water birds’) is up and running. This ‘tab’ will contain all the bird orders/families that are associated with the water (members spend at least fifty percent of their time near, on, or in the water). As mentioned on the page, while there are raptors that eat fish (namely the osprey and bald eagle), they aren’t included within the tab as they don’t spend that much time on or in the water (they grab their food and fly off to eat it).

The order (Anseriformes) and family (Anatidae) pages for the ducks, geese, and swans are also up and live under the birding section (specifically under the ‘water birds’).

Young Mute Swan

This is another group that will take several days/weeks to finish, as I think there are thirteen to fourteen members of the family for me to do research over (most seen within the United States and three or four were also seen over in the UK).

So far I have two swan pages up on the site: the Mute Swan (seen in both Boston and the UK) and the black swan (seen solely in the UK).

The black swan is native to Australia and was introduced to the northern hemisphere starting in the 1800s, and the mute swan is native to northern hemisphere–but within the ‘old world’ and was introduced throughout the rest of the world starting again in the 1600-1800s.

Black swan seen within Kensington Park

The next set of pages will probably cover the geese that I’ve seen (again mainly in the US, but several were also spotted within the UK) and I’m hoping to have those pages up and ‘live’ by the end of the weekend.

A photography goal is to get pictures of the two native swans in North America: the trumpeter and tundra swans.

Curious to know if you’ve seen a swan–which species was it and where were you?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsSciencetravel

Proud to be a geek: ‘Celebrate your geekness day’

Today is ‘celebrate your geekness’ day, a day that was created by Wellcats Holidasy as a day about being proud of what you do, who you are, and what you’re ‘obsessed’ with. I will freely admit that I’ve always been a ‘geek’, and I’ve been proud of being a geek. While I may seem ‘quiet’ and slightly ‘unsociable’, it is more of the fact that I’m wondering what I can add to the conversation. Depending on the topic, I may either be more of an active listener or an active participant. While I am a ‘geek’ on various subjects, I also admit that some areas I’m reconnecting to, so I may not be that big of a ‘geek’ in terms of random knowledge.

I like these five reasons from ‘a big think edge’ blog post back in 2018 on why one should embrace thier inner geek:

  1. The term communicates that you are intelligent
  2. You may be more socially competent and mature than the ‘cool kids’
  3. As a geek, you are viewed in a increasingly positive way
  4. You are technically savvy and an early adopter of new technologies
  5. Geeks bring different perspectives and knowledge to the conversation

I agree with all of them, with the exception of number four–I really don’t care for updating/upgrading my electronics and such unless I either absolutely have to, or the update/upgrade has something really going for it.

So what are things that I consider myself a ‘geek’ about?

Hobbies such as:

Birds (and bird watching)

Photography

Reading (fiction, especially romance)

Knitting and other crafts

Being outdoors, gardening and nature

Learning, especially on topics related to:

Science

History

Geography

Archaeology

Anthropology

Paleontology

My pets

What am I currently learning or teaching myself?

Python coding, cross-stitching, jewelry making, and brushing up on subjects such as intellectual protperty and clinical trials.

What are my end goals?

Continuous learning, finding harmony between ‘work’ and ‘everything else’, and bridging the communication gap beteen the scientific community and the general public.

What is one scientific topic that you wished was communicated better?

No Comments bird watchingBookscareerCraftsfinancesfitnessHealthHistoryLifestyle ChallengesnatureNature Preservesoracle cardsoutdoorsPersonal DevelopmentPetsPhotographyprofessional developmentRandom Celebration DaysReflectionsSciencespiritualitytravel