Tag: backyardbirdwatching

Photography Challenge Day 196: National Hummingbird Day

Since today is National hummingbird day—the winner of the photography challenge is the hummingbird.

Hummingbird on the wire

There are currently over 300 species of hummingbirds in the western hemisphere with at 150 of them living within the equatorial belt (which is ranges from ten degrees north of the equator to ten degrees south of the equator).

hummingbird at the feeder

Of the approximate 150 species living outside the equatorial belt, there are only twenty-three that venture north into North America: Mexico, the United States and Canada. This is also usually only during the spring and summer, then they make the return flight south to warmer climates for the winter.

Then of the twenty-three species that make it north, they spread out to where you may only see one species in one part of the country, but if you head towards another area, you may see three or four.

For Oklahoma, there are three species that can be found in some part of the state: the ruby-throated hummingbird, the black-chinned hummingbird, and the rufous hummingbird (though this one mostly just flies through).

Hummingbird sitting in the crepe myrtle bush

Though since Stillwater is in the north central part of the state (and probably could be considered north-east central), we really don’t see the black-chinned hummingbird as it is more common western part of the state (particularly in the southwest corner and the panhandle). So until it moves further east due to climate changes, we might get the sporadic one coming through—but for the most part we will mainly have the ruby-throated hummingbirds.

One goal may be to see how many of the other hummingbirds I can spot when I travel—though if I do any traveling into forests (specifically rain forests)—they will be extremely hard to spot, as animals have a tendency to avoid humans at all costs.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographyRandom Celebration Days

Photography Challenge day 187 goes to the birds

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the birds. I managed to get candid pictures of several different birds over the weekend.

For starters—there is the nuthatch that was feeding on the suet feeder. While I managed to get several good pictures—the one I like the most is the one of it with a sunflower seed in it’s beak. It then quickly flew off to the trees to crack the seed and eat it.

Nuthatch with it’s prize–a sunflower seed.

The next one is a hummingbird that was sitting in the crepe myrtles by the feeder. I was calling it the “goth” hummingbird. The main reason, is it was so cloudy I couldn’t tell for certain if it was a male ruby-throated hummingbird or maybe a male black-chinned hummingbird migrating through. Though this is the first time I’ve seen one where the entire head looked black.

Male hummingbird in the crepe myrtle.

This one was around all weekend–I’m thinking that now anytime I see a male hummingbird that I can’t identify, I’m going to be calling them the “goth” hummingbirds.

Egret surveying it’s surroundings.

Several egrets have landed in the area before heading further south. I think that they wait until they have a good number in the flock before they continue on their journey. I saw three of them this weekend in different parts of the lake. I know from my late-winter/early-spring walks there can be upwards of a good fifteen or twenty of them flocking together. So it will be interesting to see how many more show up before they all head south for the winter.

Young Mississippi kite taking a break from hunting.

So there were numerous Mississippi kites up at the lake this weekend. Usually I would only see maybe one or two off in the distance hunting–but this weekend I would swear I saw a good two dozen kites throughout the area. There was this young one sitting in the tree, taking a break from hunting dragonflies and other insects.

Mississippi kite sitting on a dead tree, surveying the area

Then I saw this one across the street, sitting and watching another portion of the lake for dragonflies and other flying insects. Since it is getting close to the time that they will start heading south–the youngsters are out hunting, instead of sitting near the nest waiting on mom and dad to bring back dead insects for them to eat.

Hopefully this coming weekend, I will be able to get a couple more pictures of them before they head south for the winter. It will also be interesting to see how many of them come back to the area in the spring.

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Double Photography: Days 178 and 179: Mourning doves and sparrows.

Well today is a double photography day—yesterday was just one of those days were I couldn’t decide on a picture to share. This was due in part to a bad night sleep, which led to only partially bruising my thumb (by catching it in the door). Luckily the bruise isn’t that bad (so I don’t think I’ll be losing the fingernail), though the tip of my thumb is still tender.

So the first photograph is of a couple mourning doves sitting on the wires in the backyard. These are a common bird species throughout North America, and are also one of the most frequently hunted bird species in North America as well.

Mourning doves on the wire

Some cool facts about mourning doves:

They can eat roughly a fifth of their body weight per day (which someone has calculated to be roughly an average of 71 calories).

They busily feed when they land—swallowing as many seeds as possible and storing them in their crop (the enlargement of the esophagus). Once they have a full crop, they’ll find a safe perch to where they can sit and digest their meal. So depending on how often they can fill their crop is how often they feed.

They can drink the brackish spring water found in the desert without becoming dehydrated.

The oldest known mourning dove was at least a little over 30 years old when it was shot in Florida in 1998—it had been banded in Georgia in 1968.

Reference: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mourning_Dove/overview

Feeding central–also known as the small suet

The second picture is of several sparrows feeding on the small suet feeder. There are also three other sparrows waiting their turn to feed from the suet feeder as well. Even though it is only August, it seems that we’re entering fall/winter migration already. Birds (even those that aren’t migrating) are feeding off of the suet feeders (when usually they hit the seed feeders). Though some of them might be taking food back to the nest, as some might be trying to raise their second or possible third brood this year as well.

Someone decided to go for the seed instead of waiting their turn.

We usually go through a small suet cake every two to three days. During the height of migration (both spring and fall) we can go through them also daily. This is in addition to a large suet feeder that we have, and the three seed feeders as well. There is also two nectar feeders for the hummingbirds.

I’m going to have to try to move our thistle feeder from where it’s been the past couple of years—it’s in the trees but none of the birds seem to care about it. So that is one thing I’m going to try to read up on—the proper place for a thistle feeder in the yard. If they state around trees, well I’ll figure out a different placement than the current one.

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Photography Challenge Day 176: The visitors to the nectar feeder

So it has been the dog days of summer lately and I haven’t made it up to Boomer Lake in about two weeks. Not that I don’t want to–but I’m not fond of overheating before ten in the morning (and water doesn’t stay that cold, that long). At least I managed to get some pictures of various birds in the backyard this afternoon (yes, I was crazy for sitting outside today–though I did have an outdoor fan going).

The winners of today’s photography challenge are the hummingbirds and the swallowtail butterfly.

Swallowtail butterfly drinking from the nectar feeder

So I had noticed that there was something at the nectar feeder that was upsetting the one hummingbird that was coming in to feed. This was one of the first times I’ve seen a hummingbird try to attack something. Once I got closer I realized that it was a swallowtail butterfly. I was able to get pretty close to it, but stayed back enough that it didn’t feel threatened. I was able to watch it a good five minutes or so drink, before it flew off.

Hummingbird sitting waiting for fresh sugar water.

So I’m not sure if it was the same hummingbird that tried to run off the butterfly, but one sat above us in the tree semi-patiently waiting for new nectar/sugar water to be brought out for consumption.

Hummingbird coming in to eat

The feeder has been popular this summer, especially since the flowers on some of the bushes seem to fall off as soon as they bloom lately.

And it’s eating……….

I’m pretty sure that this hummingbird is either a young one or a female–because I didn’t see any red on it’s throat–which rules out it being a mature male ruby throated hummingbird. Since we are almost halfway through August, it means that we’re also entering the start of the fall migration season already. Hopefully that means seeing hummingbirds at the feeder daily until they’ve all headed south.

Hopefully I will make it up to Boomer Lake this coming weekend for an early morning walk and see if there are any migratory birds starting to stay in town already.

No Comments bird watchingbutterfliesnaturePhotography

Photography Challenge Day 120: An optical illusion (short post)

So the winner of today’s photograph challenge are the two sparrows feeding on the large suet.

Sparrows on the suet

What I love about this picture was the unintentional optical illusion that I captured.

You can tell the sparrow on the left is on the outside of the suet holder–but the one on the right looks like it’s in the suet holder.

The birds (and probably squirrels) managed to get one side of the suet eaten enough that when birds landed on the back end–they looked like they were actually in the suet feeder.

Now I’m just waiting to see if the squirrels figure out how to untie the twisters that are holding the suet feeder closed and run off with the suet.

How many other people have to try and squirrel proof their bird feeders?

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Playing catch-up on the photography challenge. Days 80 to 83.

Well today’s post is actually going to be several posts combined into one to play catch-up on the photography challenge. Since the weather has been rainy, cloudy, and then slightly sunny—our internet/wifi has been the same—down, down, up, down, down, oh you can have access for about three minutes and then down again over the past few days.


This unfortunately is why I didn’t get pictures posted after Tuesday (yes, I could have tried to find the time at work to post—but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that) night. Therefore today’s post is going to be a mix of different things. So let’s get started on the photography challenge catch-up.

The winner for day 80 (Wednesday) is the hummingbird at the back feeder. We usually try to get our hummingbird feeder out in mid-April to feed the hummingbirds as they migrate through—though the ruby-throated hummingbird does summer in Oklahoma. It looks like either it’s a female ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder, or a young male that hasn’t molted into the bright red throat.

Ruby-throated hummingbird has made an appearance in the backyard.

What are some cool facts about the ruby-throated hummingbird?

This is basically the only hummingbird that is seen in the eastern United States; as it is the only breeding hummingbird east of the Great Plains.

It can beat its wings approximately 53 times a second (that means its beating its wings almost 3200 times a minute).

Due to having extremely short legs, it shuffles along its perch (it doesn’t walk or hop). But it can still scratch its head & neck if needed.

It’s either a female or a very young male–I don’t see the red throat.

It belongs to the order Apodiformes (along with swifts), and the name means “without feet”—mainly because in flight it doesn’t look to have feet.

While they mainly feed at flowers (or feeders that have sugar water), they will occasionally eat small insects as well.

Depending on the number of broods, the female may start building a new nest while still feeding the nestlings in the first nest (as the nest will stretch as the young grow).

They can migrate a long distance (for example from Canada down to Costa Rica), and often fly over the Gulf of Mexico during migration (either way).

It seems to be thirsty today.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of one trying to shuffle along a branch–they usually perch extremely high (sometimes I can get a picture of it sitting on the power lines), but I doubt I’d be able to catch it close to its nest where it’d most likely be shuffling along a branch.

References:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/overview

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ruby-throated-hummingbird

The winners for day 81 (Thursday) are the squirrels hanging from the birdfeeders in the backyard.

Someone doesn’t want to hunt for seeds…

So we had to buy a new birdfeeder after the squirrels had chewed a hole in the lid of the one I’d bought a few years earlier from the national wildlife foundation. This is a birdfeeder we have hanging in front of the window in the living room, where the cats can lay on the back of the loveseat and watch the birds, and anyone sitting in the recliner across the room can also watch the birds.

Since we live next to a small creek, and not that far from some wooded areas, we have quite a few squirrels in the neighborhood. These little critters also like to help themselves to the birdseed and bird suets in the backyard, so we try to get the birdfeeders that claim to be “squirrel proof”.

They’re doing an upside down “hug” to stay on the feeder.

Well as you can tell from the picture—the squirrels have figured out how to get around the “squirrel proof” byline and get to the birdseed. This particular feeder is suppose to be weight sensitive—to where if something heavy is on it, the bars slide down and the animal can’t get to the bird seed.

A young raccoon had broken the lid earlier this spring—I’d found the feeder on the ground and the lid pulled off, and since then the squirrels have figured out that if they “hug” the feeder they can distribute their weight and still get to the bird seed.

So yesterday would have been day 82 of the photography challenge. This is the day that I usually try to also share some of the fish pictures I’ve taken over the years–making it a FishyFriday post as well. So in addition to that–it’s also a FlashbackFriday post to one of my trips to the New England Aquarium.

I’ve realized that one thing I should start doing when I go to aquariums/zoos/museums and am taking pictures—I should also try to get pictures of the plaques that state what animals are in the exhibit (or time period if I’m in a museum).  It is quite difficult to google “black and white stripped fish new England aquarium” and actually get a good hit on what that particular fish actually is.

Thankfully, I have managed to identify all three of the fish (though it took quite a bit of time to be able to do so).

A French grunt swimming in the large ocean tank at the New England Aquarium

The yellow-striped fish is actually a French grunt fish (Haemulon flavolineatum). This fish species is actually native to western Atlantic ocean and can be found basically from South Carolina down into the Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean and then downwards towards northern coast of Brazil.

They feed primarily on small crustaceans and mollusks that they hunt for during the night. They stay in close proximity to coral reefs (probably to be able to dart to safety to escape predators) while hunting.

Their name comes from the noise they make when they grind their teeth together.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemulon_flavolineatum; https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/haemulon-flavolineatum/

A fish that is known by many names: pufferfish, balloonfish, and blowfish

The second fish is the balloonfish. This fish is also known as the pufferfish, blowfish, and bubblefish (just to name a few of the other names).

The habitat of the balloonfish, are the warm shallow coastal waters; more specifically coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. They stay hidden for the most part during the day—though I’m sure they’ve given plenty of scuba divers and snorkelers a shock if they’re accidentally awoken in their hidey-holes.

They are nocturnal feeders, going after clams, snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other mollusks that dwell on the sea floor.

If something comes upon them (and they think they could be eaten), balloonfish will puff up to almost three times their normal size; this puffing also allows for special scales to stick out, and they then look like a spiked football, which most predators will then leave alone. The bubblefish will then float away, and may wait awhile before releasing the air (or water) to shrink back down to its normal size.

References: https://www.scienceandthesea.org/program/201008/balloon-fish

Honeycomb cowfish swimming in the tank at the aquarium.

The final fish is the honeycomb cowfish. This fish gets its name from the hexagonal scales that cover most of its body.  This is one of the ways that the fish is able to blend in with the coral reefs it calls home, though they are also found in seagrass beds as well.

This fish is found in the western Atlantic (east coast of the United States), the Caribbean, and then down towards Brazil. While it isn’t found in the Gulf of Mexico, it can be found around Florida (mainly on the Atlantic side and the Keys).

They feed on shrimp, algae, and sponges during the day.  Another way that they protect themselves from predators (aside from the hexagonal scale like armor) is the ability to change their color to blend in with their surrounds as well. Once they sense a threat—they can change their colors, and then remain stationary for quite some time.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeycomb_cowfish

Now we’re finally up to today’s photography challenge winner, and it’s one of the hundred or so I took last year on our small vacation down to New Mexico. One of the places that we went to was Carlsbad Cavern National Park.

One of the many formations one can see in the grand cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

. While we only spent a short time in the caves, I managed to get over a hundred pictures of the caves. Because no matter which way you turned, there was a new angle to take a picture, different lighting, and so forth.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the caves, showing the “draperies” of the caves. As one of the signs stated: “Draperies form where water containing dissolved limestone runs down the ceiling leaving traces of calcite. Over hundreds of years, calcite crystals accumulate. When water stops flowing, draperies stop growing.”

The proper name for the draperies is actually “speleothems”. Since we only spent time in a small part of the national park (the main caves and then a small drive through one of the canyons), I’d like to go back at some point—but maybe actually signup for a tour of the inner caves—which is basically a five hour round trip in and out (which is one of the reasons why I didn’t do it last time). I know that I need to be in a little bit better physical (and possibly even mental) state than what I currently am in.

So I’ve managed to catch up on the photography challenge, and hopefully the wifi connection will behave and I won’t have to many other multiple post days. Though while in a slight enforced ban on electronics–I was able to get some other things done (there will be several posts coming over the next few weeks on this)–so that was one small bright spot. Until the next picture–remember to try to find the beauty in the everyday.

No Comments bird watchingNational ParksnaturePhotographytravelZoos/Aquariums

The migrating white-crowned sparrow. Photography Challenge Day 76

Today’s photograph is brought to you by the migrating white-crowned sparrow. This sparrow actually spends the winter months in the southern part of the United States (and Mexico) before heading back to the northern parts of the US and Canada.

White-crowned Sparrow hiding in the peach bush

The diet of these sparrows is mainly seeds, though they will eat insects as well. During the summer months is when they will eat insects and spiders (as that is what they feed the young). Though they will also feed on berries and small fruits as well during the spring, summer, and fall months. Winter is mainly feeding on seeds of weeds and grasses, though they will grace bird feeders as well during this time.

Depending on the part of the country that they are breeding in the birds may have one to three broods per year (more the further south they are). The female will sit on the eggs for about two weeks, and then once the young hatch both parents will feed the young. The young will usually leave the nest within a week to a week and a half after hatching.

White-crowned sparrow under the suet feeder

Some other cool facts about the white-crowned sparrow include:

Young male sparrows learn the basis of the mating call during their first few months by listening to the songs being sung in their immediate area.

Migrating sparrows can cover a large distance in a short time period. Sparrows that breed in Alaska will then fly approximately 2600 miles south to winter in southern California.

White-crowned sparrow by the suet feeder.

They will share territories with fox sparrows but will chase out chipping sparrows and dark-eyed juncos.

The loud singing is usually the males, and the quieter and more variable singing is the females (which may only be during breeding season or looking for food in the winter).

These sparrows actually have song dialects, as they tend to return closely to the area that they were raised.

References:

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/white-crowned-sparrow

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-crowned_Sparrow/overview

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Photography Challenge Day 71: The red-bellied woodpecker

Today’s winner of the photography challenge is the red-bellied woodpecker. I’ve always found the name of this one to be rather funny, as it doesn’t have a visible red belly, but it has a visible red stripe/cap instead. But it got the name red-bellied, because of the fact there is another woodpecker with a totally red-head (hence, the name of that woodpecker is the red-headed woodpecker).

Red-bellied woodpecker on the elm tree.

This woodpecker is found primarily in the southeast, though it has been reestablishing itself further north into southern Minnesota, Wisconsin, and parts of New York and Rhode Island (to name a few states).

Red-bellied woodpecker deciding whether or not to fly off.

The red-bellied woodpecker is an omnivorous woodpecker—it does eat insects, but it will also eat berries, nuts, and seeds. This bird is a regular visitor to both of our suet feeders in the backyard during the year. They forage for insects on trees, they also will perch on branches to pick off berries and nuts from small limbs as well.

Red-bellied woodpecker on the suet feeder.

When it comes to nesting, the male may start to excavate several different holes, then allow the female to select the one which will be used for the nest that year. They will nest in a cavity (either within some type of dead wood (tree, telephone pole, utility pole, fence post, tree stump) that they themselves finish excavating, or a nest box, or even another nesting site that had been abandoned by other woodpeckers.

The female will lay somewhere between three to eight eggs (with the average being either four or five), both parents will incubate the eggs, with the male taking the night shift and part of the day (that way both parents can feed during the time), and it will take about two weeks for the eggs to hatch.

Red-bellied woodpecker deciding what it wants to do.

The young are feed by both parents, and leave the nest within three to four weeks of hatching. Depending on the type of year, the parents may continue to feed the young for another six weeks or so, even after they’ve left the nest.

I’m pretty sure that they’re nesting somewhere in the neighborhood, but I’ve yet to really see a young red-bellied woodpecker at the feeders. Though if they do come to the feeder, I’d probably confuse them with the downy or hairy woodpeckers. But that will be another goal–get a good picture of a immature red-bellied woodpecker.

References:
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/red-bellied-woodpecker
https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Red-bellied_Woodpecker/id#

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