Tag: birdwatching

Two bird pages are live: Great-crested grebe & Great Cormorant

So there are another two bird pages live under the bird tab. These two birds, I had photographed a couple of years ago when I had gone to London for a brief networking/mental health break. While I was looking through the London photos trying to find the pictures of the ‘street pigeons’, I realized I had forgotten to ‘confirm’ my identification of all the other birds I’d taken pictures of. One of the birds I had originally misidentified and I realized that I never fully identified the second one.

Great cormorants and gulls spotted in London, UK

The first one, is the one I originally misidentified is the great cormorant, which I had originally thought was the double-crested cormorant in its winter colors (since that is really the only cormorant I’d seen to this point). Well, I was wrong and it turned out to be the great cormorant (it is one of two members of the family found in the UK, with the other being the common shag).

I had managed to get pictures of a group of them sitting within the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens on my first day in London.

The second bird that I totally forgot to try to originally identify turns out to be an immature great-crested grebe, again spotted within the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens.

Immature great-crested grebe spotted swimming in London, UK

Unlike the great cormorant that can be seen along the coastlines of the eastern United States and Canada, the great-crested grebe is only found within the ‘Old World’.

Now I do have a ‘birding goal’ for whenever I manage to travel back to the UK (or even Europe in general)–try to spot an adult great-crested grebe.

While I will be starting to research the ducks, swans, and geese group next, there will also be several other additional pages added to other groups as I continue to go through my bird pictures and identify the various species of birds that I have managed to photograph.

Question–have you spotted a young grebe in the wild? If so–where and what species?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

National Bald Eagle Day: Raising Awareness for An National Symbol and Treasure

So today is National American Eagle Day or National Bald Eagle Day. This is the day that various organizations set aside to help raise awareness about our national symbol–the Bald Eagle.

Bald Eagle soaring through the sky

The history behind the bald eagle being chosen for the national symbol is slightly humorous. In case you haven’t heard some of the history, here is a very condensed version:

Since most countries adopt an animal for their national symbol, the Continental Congress wanted to do so as well, but the first national seal was actually Lady Liberty holding a shield. Since that wasn’t what they wanted, they made inquires with others for thoughts and the first ‘choice/suggestion/selection’ was actually the golden eagle.

Again, the Continental Congress wasn’t happy with the suggestion–mainly because the golden eagle could also be found in Europe and therefore it wouldn’t do. They then looked to ‘native birds’ and decided on the bald eagle (though the turkey was also suggested as it was also ‘native’).

Bald Eagle soaring through the sky

The bald eagle was ‘fierce-looking’ and the fledgling country thought it was a better representation of the country to the world–therefore it was selected. Even after the war was over, there was discussion on whether to keep the bald eagle as the emblem or think of a new one–Benjamin Franklin kept rooting for the turkey.

This story does raises a fairly good historical question–if we had managed to breakaway from England without war, what animal would have been chosen as the national symbol–would it still have been the eagle, or maybe the turkey, or maybe something else?

So that is the brief history behind how the bald eagle became our national bird and symbol.

Unfortunately, it hasn’t had really ‘clear skies’ over the past three hundred years.

By the 1950s both the bald eagle and the golden eagle were at risk of becoming extinct. This was due to a combination of over hunting (young bald eagles happen to look a lot like golden eagles, so they were often killed ‘by mistake’–hunters thought they were bagging young golden eagles), pesticide use (DTT poisoned fish led to eagles laying eggs with very thin shells, which ended up at times getting crushed from the parents sitting on them), and habitat loss.

Once DTT was banned, and the eagles placed on the endangered species list their populations started to make a recovery. In case of the bald eagle, they were downgraded from endangered to threatened in 1995, and then in 2007 they were removed entirely from both the endangered species and the threatened species lists as their populations had recovered enough. They’re usually under state protection these days.

Bald Eagle and gulls flying over Boomer Lake

Though in recent years, there had been a die off of bald eagles in the southeastern portion of the US, but that has finally been traced to a toxic algae bloom in the waters (something scientists are now keeping an eye on).

I enjoy catching site of the bald eagle as it soars over Boomer Lake throughout the year, and I also enjoyed watching the bald eagles up at Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota sit on top of the Norway pines as they watched the waters waiting for their next meal to come closer to the surface.

Bald Eagle sitting at the top of a Norway pine at Lake Vermilion

Have you seen a bald eagle in the wild?

No Comments bird watchingHistorynatureoutdoorsPhotographyRandom Celebration DaysScience

Hiking the Trails at Devil’s Den State Park: Throwback Travels

Since it looks like summer is here to stay, I’m slowly catching up on things. It is amazing how much more you can get done when it is too hot and humid to be outside (I think we have a heat advisory through tomorrow night).

So, I decided that I would try to see how many #ThursdayThrowbackTravel posts I could generate this summer and fall–both as blog posts and as pages under the travel tab.

The first entry for the ‘series’ is looking back at a trip we took to Arkansas a little over four years ago, when we visited Devil’s Den State Park. The park is located probably halfway between Fayetteville and Fort Smith within the Ozark National Forest.

The park offers three main outdoor activities: hiking (or walking), mountain bike riding, and horseback riding (as long as you supply the bike or horse). We went for the hiking/walking aspect. They also offer either camping or cabins for rent.

Cabin rental within Devil’s Den State Park

During our three to four day stay; at least half the day was spent out on different trails (that were either easy or moderate in terms fo difficulty–so not that much climbing or stairs involved).

There are approximately 13 trails within the park, with one or two being set aside strictly for mountain biking. The others you can hike, and on most of them–you also need to watch out for people on mountain bikes or horses.

Deer spotting

Taking these kind of trips take me right to one of my ‘happy places’–being out in nature. I enjoy trying to catch glimpses of different wildlife, seeing how many different birds I can spot, and taking numerous wildflower photos.

While the world is slowly opening back up–I’ve been slowly thinking of trying to plan a trip for sometime between 2022-2024 (nice time frame, right), though I know it may not be an outdoor trip (I prefer taking nature based trips with other people, safety in numbers), but possibly a trip to a new city/state or even country–if I’m feeling up to air travel (will have to see how things play out pandemic wise).

What is your favorite state park to visit? Then where is your favorite hiking trail?

No Comments bird watchingbutterfliesflowersinsectsnatureoutdoorsPhotographyState ParkstravelTurtles

The ‘duck-like’ rails: American Coot & Common Gallinule pages are live

So another series of bird pages are live under the bird tab.

This week, I managed to add pages for the order Gruiformes, family Rallidae, and then for the following species: the American coot, and the common gallinule (also know previously as the common moorhen in most bird books).

The pages for the order and family are ‘short’ (less than 300 words), and I decided that I could add more information and update the pages throughout the year. I figured that it was more important in actually getting the pages ‘up’ than having a ‘perfect’ page–I’m slowly getting better at the whole progress over perfection.

American coots swimming at Boomer Lake

Of the 138 species that make up the family Rallidae, nine can be found within the United States. Though spotting roughly a little over half of them (five of the nine species are rails) will take quite a bit of patience on my part (it is easier to spot a coot, gallinule, or crake than it is to spot a rail). Of the remaining forty-five percent (four of the nine species)–I’ve managed to spot two: teh American coot (which is present at Boomer Lake, basically every winter), and the common gallinule (which I saw on a trip down to South Padre Island, Texas years ago).

Common Gallinule and chick grazing

It always amazes me when I see the coots out on Boomer Lake and I remember that they aren’t ducks, but members of the rail family (since they swim and occasionally ‘dabble’ like ducks), but once you see their yellow-green legs and lobbed toes, you realize you’re not looking at a duck.

If I want to try to spot the purple gallinule, that will require another trip to the gulf coast or Caribbean. Spotting the sora might be as difficult as spotting a rail (they’re not quite as secretive but pretty close), though they are a migratory species through Oklahoma–so I might be able to spot them close to the banks of either Boomer Lake or possibly Sanborn Lake this fall (if I’m willing to be closer to the ‘weeds’).

As I mentioned on the various pages in terms of the photography goals: overall I would like to get a picture of a member of each family (and for the Rallidae family–a picture of the other North American species, plus a picture of one on each of the other continents), and possibly a picture of one grazing with the young or possibly trying to take off in flight.

Next up in terms of bird pages will be either the order/family/species for the cormorant and freightbird, or the mourning dove and rock dove (feral pigeon).

Have you managed to see a rail in the wild? If so–where were you, and how long did you have to wait for it to come out of the thicket?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

One of the many morning birding surprises: the green heron

So on my walk at Boomer Lake today I managed to spot the ‘secretive’ green heron.

Spotted the Green Heron

The green heron is a migratory bird that spends its summers in Oklahoma, and we’re lucky enough that there is usually a mating pair in town. Due to the start of the pandemic last year, I didn’t get in many walks at Boomer Lake during the summertime so I missed trying to get a picture of them last year.

A little closer view of the heron, and spotted a grackle and a few red-eared sliders as well.

I wasn’t expecting to see the green heron this morning–mainly because I was out ‘late’ (i.e. well after dawn), and usually these birds are roosting/hunting in the brush around the lake edges.

I was passing the area of the lake, that a birding expert refers to as ‘heron cove’ and noticed the green heron perched on a branch over the water cleaning its feathers.

Looking back towards the green heron

I tried to move down the hill quietly so that I could possibly get a closer picture, and while I did get a little closer–I’m not sure if the pictures give it justice or not.

Within the picture series, I also noticed that I managed to get a picture of several red-eared sliders and a grackle. I’m thnking that I may try to explore a little more of the wooded areas around the lake to see if I can possibly spot the black-crowned night heron again, and possibly even the belted kingfisher. As all three of these birds are usually more ‘morning’ birds (best seen usually close to dawn), though I have managed to spot them later in the morning.

Bird watching and photography are two of the things I enjoy doing during nice weather. What hobbies do you enjoy doing durin ghte nice weather?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

A Sunny Day Surprise: The Redheaded Woodpecker

So I’ve realized that the photography challenge is going to be sporadic this year–I’m aiming for new photographs at least 90% of the time, and the other 10% will be older pictures, but on specific days (such as #waybackwednesdays, #throwbackthursday, or #flashbackfriday). It will be a sporadic challenge, as I am also trying to vary the photograph subjects as much as possible. Since May is also National Photography Month, I was aiming for daily photograph postings–but will be going with at least weekly entries.

The winner for the challenge today was a redheaded woodpecker that I spotted up at Boomer Lake at the end of April. While I know that they’re in the area–I don’t go specifically looking for them, as I tend to avoid walking through heavily wooded areas (I’ve developed an allergic reaction to ticks, so I try to avoid the areas where I know that I could come across them).

Redheaded woodpecker on a light post

The redheaded woodpecker flew over my head and landed on the light post. Since it was a beautifully sunny morning (unlike the last time I got a photography of one), I managed to get a picture of it in all it’s redheaded glory. This woodpecker is named ‘redheaded’ because it has a totally red head–unlike the red-bellied woodpecker, which only has a pale red spot on it’s belly, but a red stripe down the back of its head.

Redheaded woodpecker

I actually had my longer telephoto lens with me that day (but no tripod), but by the time I got the lens on the camera, the woodpecker had flown off. I’ll be keeping my eye on the various light posts, which seem to be landing spots for various birds (possibly to eat their snack or meal), and then the tops of dead trees (since that is where I spotted the first one a couple of years ago).

I’m also keeping my eye out for the hairy woodpeckers as well–they’re similar in shape, size, and coloring to the downy woodpecker. Therefore I may already have a picture or two–just in the wrong bird folder. I think that if one chore this summer–make sure that all pictures are correctly labeled for the various woodpecker species.

What is your favorite woodpecker?

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotographyScience

Photography Challenge Winner: female mallard in a tree

2021 seems to be the year of double takes in terms of photography.

There are just those pictures that make you take a double glance (or maybe pinch yourself) to make sure that you’re not dreaming of the shot.

Since the weather has been up and down in temperatures, the SARS-CoV2 virus is slowly getting under control, and things are slowly trying to return to normal, I haven’t been out and about with my camera as much as I have in previous years.

So far for 2021, my ‘double glance’ pictures have included the large crayfish in the creek; the yellow-bellied sapsucker on the small suet feeder; the black-crowned night heron perched over Boomer Lake, and then this female mallard.

Female mallard ‘in’ the tree

Getting a picture of a mallard (female or male) really isn’t that difficult at Boomer Lake–I think they’re probably the second most abundant waterfowl there after the Canada geese.

Female mallard ‘on’ the tree.

These pictures are unique in the fact that the female mallard was sitting on the trunk of the tree, quacking while her mate was on the ground either scanning the area for trouble, or every so often looking up at her (probably wondering ‘what the hell’…). I’m use to seeing great blue herons, egrets, and even cormorants sitting in trees, but this had been the first time I’d seen a duck that high off the ground.

She’s just surveying the area……

While I didn’t get that close to the tree (since I didn’t want to scare them off), I did manage to get several pictures of the female mallard on the tree, and she seemed quite happy to be at the ‘top of the world’ for a while. Luckily, I doubt that she was scooping it out as a nesting site, since all mallards prefer to make their nests on the ground, hidden, and fairly close to the water (easier for the ducklings to start following their mother into the water after hatching).

Female mallard, standing around and quaking.

One interesting little fact about mallards–if you hear one quacking, that is actually the female mallard; the sounds of the male mallards are more of a quiet rasping sound.

Hopefully I will be able to get back to my walks at Boomer Lake this summer and manage to get some pictures of the female with her young (as only the female mallard takes care of the young).

No Comments bird watchingnatureoutdoorsPhotography

Winner for Day 2 photography challenge: black-crowned night heron

So the entry winner for today’s photography challenge is the black-crowned night heron.

Black-crowned Night Heron spotted at Boomer Lake

I actually have a birding page already dedicated to the black-crowned night heron, and can semi cross of the photography goal that I had set–which was to try to get another picture of the heron, but within the continental US (since the only other time I’d seen the heron, I had been in Hilo, Hawaii).

I was pretty shocked when I realized that I’d managed to get a picture of one during the day light hours (usually they’re roosting within trees/shrubs, though they may be active during the day light hours during the breeding season).

The black-crowned night heron actually migrates and/or breeds within Oklahoma, so I may actually be able to spot it again this summer (if it decides to stay and breed–and since I saw it during the day I’m going to guess that it may be breeding in the area), or possibly in the fall when it migrates back through.

The goal is semi-crossed off, because I managed to get a decent picture–the goal will be totally crossed off, if I can get a ‘closer’ picture, and while I did have my longer lens for my camera with me, I didn’t have the tripod with me that particular morning.

So, currently I rank this picture right up there with the great horned owl and white pelican pictures I got last year, as one that I’m ost proud of getting. It will be interesting to see what other birding pictures I can get this year, once I’ve gotten my vaccine.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotography

The ‘game birds’ (order Galliformes) pages are up

So another series of bird pages are live under the bird section of the website.

The latest series is on the ‘game birds’ or the order Galliformes.

These are called the game birds, because all the ‘popular’ birds that are hunted such as the ring-necked pheasant, wild turkey, quails, and grouses belong to this order.

There are basically 290 species found within this order (with over half of them belonging to the family Phasianidae) that are divided into five different families.

The other four families are the Odontophoridae, Numididdae, Cracidae, and Megapodiidae.

North America is home to species found within three of the five families: Phasianidae, Odontophoridae, and Cracidae.

I’ve been lucky to capture pictures of a member of each of those families, and for the family Cracidae it is the only member of the family that is found within the United States.

Wild turkeys grazing in a neighbor’s front yard.

The wild turkey is ‘common’ throughout the lower forty-eight states, and while it’s been a couple of years since I’ve seen them in the neighborhood, we’re close enough to the woods that I’m pretty sure they’re still around. They can even be seen within ‘city proper’ of some larger cities (such as Boston,MA).

Quails are more ‘shy’ and usually can be observed earlier or later in the day foraging for food in groups. That made getting the picture of the Gambel’s quail that much more special–since it was a single quail out in the ‘semi-open’.

Gambel’s quail walking through the brush

If you can’t spot the quail (no worries)–head over to the page, and I added an additional picture highlighting where it is in the picture.

The plain chachalaca is the only member of the family Cracidae that is found within the United States, and you have to either be in southern Texas or possibly on islands off the coast of Georgia to be able to spot them.

Adult and young plain Chachalacas foraging for food

So out of the basically 290 species, 21 can be found within North America (emphasis currently is on the US–so there probably are more species that are native to Canada or Mexico that I’m not addressing), and I’ve managed to spot 3 of them (or a seventh, or 14%).

As noted on the different order/family pages, a photography goal is to get pictures of other members, including any that may be native to Canada or Mexico (and not seen within the US).

With the addition of these 7 pages, it brings the total number of bird pages to 52 (9 bird orders, 14 bird families, and 29 species). Looking at my ‘master’ list, I still have (in total) another 95 pages or so to add (8 bird orders, 26 bird families, and approximately 61 species). Therefore I may have this section ‘up-to-date’ with current pictures possibly by the end of summer or early fall.

No Comments bird watchingnatureNature PreservesPhotographyScience

Three bird pages are live: the loons. They also showed more details are needed

So there are another set of bird pages live under the bird tab.

I managed to the pages posted for the order Gaviiformes, family Gaviidae, and the common loon.

Common Loon seen on Boomer Lake

As I mentioned on the Gaviiformes page–the limited amount of information present was due to 2 things–the first, there isn’t that much information on either the order or family, and the second was I didn’t want to be repeating the same information numerous times. I usually will repeat a little information between the order page, the family page, and then the individual species pages–but there just wasn’t enough to do that here.

Therefore the pages for Gaviiformes and Gaviidae are extremely short in terms of information and words. I think each page is less than 200 words, but it has also planted a seed of an idea–can I do enough research to be able to flesh out those pages? Because even if you google the terms–the wikipedia pages only contain the bare minimum of information. So that is something that I’m going to slowly start looking into over the next few weeks–seeing what information is out there, and then what is needed to fill in various ‘holes’.

There are four other loon species that can be spotted within either North America or northern Eurasia, and now one of my photography goals is to get a picture of each of them.

No Comments bird watchingnaturePhotographyScience