Tag: birdwatching

Photography Challenge Day 90: Two Sparrows at the lake

So today’s winner for the photography challenge were the two sparrows that I managed to get a picture of two weeks ago on an afternoon walk.

One sparrow decided it didn’t want to sit for the photo shoot.

Unfortunately, I can’t really tell which type of sparrow these two are. I know that there are several different types that call Stillwater home during spring to fall months, but I’ve never really been good at telling them apart.

It is even more difficult to tell them apart when you’re looking at their back ends (as the most distinguished marking are usually on the front & head). I do know that the sparrows like to sit and fly through the tall grasses and bushes along the edge of the lake, so hopefully this summer I will be able to get some other pictures and maybe even determine which sparrow species I’ve been photographing lately.

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Photography Challenge Day 87: The Bald Eagle, our national emblem in flight

The winner of today’s photography challenge is our national emblem—the Bald Eagle. Truthfully, it wasn’t until I got home and put the pictures on the computer that I realized that I managed to get a fairly decent picture of one in flight.

The Bald Eagle soaring over Boomer Lake

I’m not a stranger to photographing Bald Eagles, when we would go up to northern Minnesota and stay at the family cabin, we’d usually see a Bald Eagle or two perched on the top of some of the trees.

Bald Eagle overlooking Lake Vermilion, St. Louis County Minnesota

While the eagle is in the raptor family, it is actually an opportunistic predator. It will hunt, though it does by either watching from a high perch and then swooping in to catch the prey unexpected or by cruising low over the water or land. It is known to be a scavenger feeding on dead carrion. It will also harass other fishing birds (such as Ospreys) and steal their food from them.

They usually have one or two young a year, though if it is a scarce year in terms of hunting only one of the young may actually survive (the strongest one to get to the food dropped in the nest). It is usually four or five years before the eagles will mate, and they may mate for life. They may also reuse the same nest, adding to it each year making it bigger and bigger. It isn’t unheard of Great Horned Owls stealing the nest of Bald Eagles.

What are some other cool facts about Bald Eagles?

It was almost beaten by the wild turkey for choice of the national emblem (that was the bird that Ben Franklin wanted chosen).

They have been observed to “play” with plastic bottles or other objects (such as sticks).

The largest nest on record is in St. Petersburg Florida and was measured to be 2.9 meters in diameter (or 9.5 feet) and 6.1 meters (or 20 feet) tall.

The young bald eagles (under the age of five) spend the time in nomadic exploration, and fly hundreds of miles.

They can have long life spans—the oldest recorded bird was ~38 years old. It had been hit and killed by a car in New York in 2015; it had also been banded in New York—but in 1977.

References: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/bald-eagle;  https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Bald_Eagle/overview#

As much as I would love to try to get a picture of their nest–I know that they’re probably not nesting around Boomer Lake, and therefore I won’t be trekking in to see if I can spot the young being fed. Now if I was up at Lake Vermilion–that would be another story (though I’d have to be extremely careful not to drop my camera into the lake).

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Photography Challenge Day 86: Cormorant taking flight

Today’s post is probably going to be a little on the short side–I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

So while I was on my walk Sunday, I noticed that there was still at least one cormorant that was still either hanging around, or passing through town.

So either there is a cormorant that has decided to stay in town, or one that is taking it’s merry time migrating.

Though if it’s passing through town, it’s taking its time migrating–since it is basically mid May already.

Obviously it was tired of getting it’s picture taken

This was one of the first times that I saw one starting to run across the water to gain the traction they need to launch into the air.

It almost looks like a gargoyle.

I wonder if people got ideas for gargoyles from watching certain birds take off from the water.

And then it flew off.

Will have to see if I can spot any at the lake this coming weekend, or if they’re migrated on already.

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It’s a Monday–the heron was fishing for it’s meal. Photography Challenge Day 85

So today’s post is going to be on the short side–mainly due to the fact that it is a Monday, and it took me a little longer than I thought it would in choosing today’s picture series.

The heron was going for seconds

So on my walk yesterday I managed to get several pictures of this heron fishing for it’s lunch. I really liked the result of this picture, where you see the water actually splashing up as it goes under water to grab it’s meal. This was after it had already caught and eaten one fish.

The heron caught a snack.

So I was able to quickly snap a picture of the heron coming up with the fish caught in its beak.

And now it swallowed it.

Then I managed to snap the picture of it swallowing the fish–though it popped it in quicker than I could get the picture–but you can see it’s throat slightly bulging from where the fish is sliding down to it’s stomach.

By the time I got around to the other side, to where I could try to observe without scaring it off, that is when I managed to get the picture at the top. I was a little too far off to notice if it actually had caught the fish or not (and if it did–it quickly swallowed it).

Hopefully over the course of the summer, I may actually be able to get a photo series of it fishing from start to finish.

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Photography Challenge Day 84: The Mallard Family

So on my walk today around Boomer Lake, I noticed that it isn’t just the geese that have already hatched a brood this year–there is a small number of baby mallards on the lake now as well.

The mallard family swimming on the lake.

I came across this family starting to swim out into the lake, shortly after seeing a great blue heron catch it’s morning snack.

So some facts about how mallards nest and raise their young:

Usually the female will form a shallow depression/hole in moist areas (that are usually close to the water), and as she is doing that she is pulling vegetation towards her. So in other words—she makes a nest in a area that provides ample protection and material to line her nest.

She will lay anywhere from five to fifteen eggs (with the average being seven to ten), and the incubation time is anywhere from twenty-three to thirty days (so basically three to four weeks). The young are able to leave the nest within a day after hatching. They stay with their parents (mainly the mother), and are able to fly within fifty-two to sixty days after hatching. Mallards usually have just one brood a year (as it is basically three months from egg laying to the time the ducklings are able to fly), though if they have the first one early enough in the year—they might have a second one mid to late summer.

References: https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/mallard; https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Mallard/lifehistory

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The Migratory Baltimore Oriole: Photography Challenge Day 79

Today’s winner for the photography challenge is the Baltimore oriole that has decided to nest around Boomer Lake. These birds are yet another indication that spring is fully here and that summer is right around the corner.

I spy an Baltimore Oriole in the tree….

I noticed several brightly colored birds flying around a tree and managed to stand still long enough that I manage to get a couple of decent pictures. One was definitely a mature male Baltimore oriole and the other was either a female or a younger male (as it was a lighter orange color).

Either a female Baltimore Oriole or a young male Baltimore Oriole

The Baltimore oriole can be found east of the Rocky Mountains (and part of that range is actually their migratory paths for heading north). They winter down in Mexico, Florida, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Their diet consists of insects, berries and nectar. In terms of the insects, they eat caterpillars (even the hairy ones that other birds avoid), beetles, grasshoppers, wasps and spiders.

The male Baltimore Oriole sitting in the tree.

What are some other cool facts about Baltimore orioles?

They prefer only ripe, dark-colored fruits (mulberries, cherries, purple grapes) and will ignore other ripe fruit that aren’t as dark in color. They will also take sugar water as well.

The only thing New World and Old World orioles have in common is that they are brightly colored, have long tails and long bills, and build woven hanging nests. Old World orioles are in the family Oriolidae, while the orioles found in America are in the family Icteridae.

The male Baltimore Oriole playing “peek-a-boo”

They raise three to six young a year (usually about four to five), and the female will incubate the eggs for about two weeks, and then after hatching both parents will feed the young. The young will usually leave the nest about two weeks after hatching.

In terms of how the Baltimore oriole will adapt to the continuing changes in temperatures is something that is still being studied—it may gain ground in terms of summer/breeding territory, but it could lose it’s winter grounds potentially in the southern US (namely Florida). As most of its winter grounds are in the tropics—more data will be needed to see how they would survive.

References:

http://climate.audubon.org/birds/balori/baltimore-oriole

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/baltimore-oriole

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Baltimore_Oriole/overview#

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Photography Challenge Day 78: Scissor-tailed Flycatchers in flight

So the winners of today’s photography drawing were two scissor-tailed flycatchers I spotted on my weekend walk around Boomer Lake. This is one place in town where you can almost be guaranteed to see at least one scissor-tailed flycatcher (depending on the time of day).

One of the scissor-tailed flycatchers sitting by the edge of the lake.

So there were two male scissor-tailed flycatchers trying to stake out some territory around one sheltered area (numerous small bushes) at the lake.

The second scissor-tailed flycatcher, sitting not that far from the first.

Both were sitting proudly on the branches of various bushes that were just starting to leaf out.

Then one decided that the other was too close……

But then they decided that the area may not be big enough for both of them, and they started fluttering around (I’m assuming to try to establish dominance in the area), and this was the best picture I could get of them both in flight–of course flying away from me at that point.

It will be interesting to try to keep count of how many I see on any given weekend (even though I know that I may or may not be counting the same bird several times) as we get into the summer months. I know that on Saturday I saw at least four, and then I saw two on Sunday–which means that there are at least four scissor-tailed flycatchers up at Boomer Lake right now.

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Sunday bird day: The Canada goose family. Photography Challenge Day 77

Today’s photos are brought to you by the family of Canada geese I saw walking this morning.

One of the parents and two of the goslings grazing on the grass seeds.

So this year there are quite a few geese pairs that are raising their first brood of the year.

The parents and the four little goslings.

This pair has hatched four for the first round of young this year.

Three of the young grazing in the water puddles in the street this morning.

They actually managed to slow the little bit of traffic down this morning as they were playing in the street, before deciding to go graze in the grass.

One of the goslings deciding to catch up with its siblings.

I love how cute and fuzzy the young gosling look, though I was smart and stayed a good distance away from them. I don’t need to tangle with overprotective geese parents–they’re technically mean enough as it is without them thinking I’m a threat. Though since they’ve already started having broods–my early morning walks may be curtailed due to just the normal number of geese at the lake.

Though I can always take the morning walk and try to see how many different song birds I can find (instead of looking for different waterfowl). Decisions, decisions, decisions—we’ll have to see how the summer goes.

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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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The turkey vultures were soaring today: photography challenge day 74

The winner of today’s photography challenge is the turkey vulture. While I was on my walk this weekend, there were quite a few that were soaring overhead and I actually managed to get a couple of decent pictures of at least two of them.

One of the turkey vultures just soaring in the afternoon sky.

Since turkey vultures are scavengers, they can be seen soaring overhead in the suburbs, out in the country over farm fields and even around different areas such as landfills, construction site and even trash heaps. They’re early risers, they will roost together in large numbers on telephone poles, towers, fence posts, and dead trees. I might have to try taking a walk near dusk and see if I can spot any roosting around the neighborhood (as we live close enough to some farm land) in the evenings.

You can actually make out the red head of the vulture…

One weird fact for the turkey vulture—it can be found in part of the state (Oklahoma) year-round, and then other part of the state only during the spring-fall months (basically the breeding season). We’re in the part of the state that only sees them from spring to fall.

I wonder what they’re smelling….

Another interesting little fact—they try to ensure that their nests are isolated and away from any potential human contact. They will nest in caves, abandoned bird nests (namely hawks and herons), and even abandoned buildings. They also only have partial nests (they never actually finish building the nest).

While they currently aren’t listed as an endangered species they do face some threats from humans that impact their numbers. At times they do fall victim to lead poisoning (due to eating carcasses of animals that were shot by hunters but got away from the hunters), also victim to poisoning (if they eat the carcass of an animal that had been poisoned by humans). Also they have been trapped and killed due to the misconception that they spread disease by eating rotting meat.

Reference:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_Vulture/overview

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Turkey_Vulture/lifehistory

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