Sunday, October 30, 2011

An Otterly Outstanding Morning

As miserable as the weather was Saturday morning it was equally as grand this morning. A first frost in open areas, a nip in the air and plenty of sunshine and blue skies. The end of October and the first true cool snap seems to have been the trigger for rut to begin. The deer were out in large numbers and being rather bold.

One of my first avian encounters were a pair of Loggerhead Shrike fussing with each other. I think this is the first time I have ever heard them being so vocal.

My second encounter is what I believe is a Yellow Palm Warbler. Shadows were pretty bad and just as I had moved into position to get a better shot, a truck came flying down the dirt road almost out of control and everything flew.
Onward to another place, the Yellow Rumped Warblers seemed to dominate and were everywhere. Their numbers seem very large this year. The seeds on the poison vine are favorites of all birds so it seems and there was much chasing away going on this morning.

A trail in the park that had been closed since a tornado in spring had reopened last week. It runs beside a creek where the beavers have been doing quite a bit of teraforming creating some prime flooded areas the ducks seem to like. A large group of some type kept circling around so I went to investigate hoping it was the Wood Ducks returning.
Ever so quitely I eased down the trail. Up went a Great Blue and the ducks. I could see movement in the water so I sat down the tripod and looked in the direction figuring on ducks.
No ducks but much movement and splashing about. It was a pair of otters creating havoc. Unfortunate that I was shooting into the direction of the sun. They continued down the creek coming up on the bank then sliding back into the water. For at least 20 minutes, I had the great pleasure of watching them. I hope they are here to stay for a while. When I finally lost sight of them, I watched as they disappeared in to what seemed like a den.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Just in Time for Halloween

Turkey Vultures to the left and Turkey Vultures to the right and one flying over keeping me in sight.

You know, it was a bit unnerving. I was walking and actually stopped and turned around. Just sort of a creepy feeling to be surrounded and out numbered. The movie "The Birds" just kept flashing through my mind.

And though I have several feeders at the house and have fed the birds for years, considering the diet of these, I have have no desire to feed!

Happy Halloween.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Night Visitor - Return of the Owl

When I first moved to my current home more years ago than I care to remember, it was very common to hear and see owls several times a month. Several years ago when a housing development was built further down, the owls disappeared.

During the past week, on three mornings when I departed for work I noticed a large form in one of the trees. As it is alway early (and now dark) when I leave, I sort of figured it was a hawk sleeping for the night.

Yesterday morning as I was backing out of the drive I once again noticed the form so pulled back up and cut the car off. I had my camera in the car and thought what the heck, it was worth a try. I put the ISO up to about 2400, rolled down the car window and attempted to focus. Insufficient light for the camera to focus so I switched to manual focus which was a pure shot in the dark so to speak.

My intent was not a high quality photo but to confirm what was in the tree. I suspected an owl based on the size and the movement of the head. I am extremely thrilled that one has returned and a little surprised at the location of what seems to be a favored spot. It is a fairly small dogwood tree and the preferred limb is no more than five feet off the ground.

Directly across from the tree, I have one of those octagonal shaped bird houses on a post. I went out late yesterday afternoon and strapped the trailcam to the birdhouse. I set it to put the date and time stamp on each photo to gather information on times and frequency of visits. If I leave out about two weeks, that should give me a good idea on how often it visits.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Song Sparrow?

During the last week where I work, an unusual bird appeared. A couple of us who are serious birders have spent break times walking outside trying to spot the bird.

This morning, I decided to take my camera and go out during lunch to try to get some shots.

It always seems to stay in the shadows of structures, bushes or trees and is very timid so these are about the best photos I could get.

I have not heard the bird make any sounds except a chirps. I have not seen or heard it sing the distinctive song sparrow song. The chirp seems to be of a tone that is unfamiliar which is what first caught my attention and then...I spotted the bird. It's highly visible white head stands out conspicuously.

There is a lack of the central dark spot on the chest at least on the photos I have been able to get. The pattern on the wing however looks very much like a song sparrow. I have seen many young song sparrows but never one with so much white on the head.

Is this a genetic mistep or a possible cross with another bird?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Going Nuts! (Acorns that is)

Unfortunately I was not able to do much birding this weekend which is ashame because the weather was beautiful and it is prime birding season. A sick pup however took priority over all. I was able to get out just a bit today while she was at the vet. They wanted to keep her a couple of hours so the park I visit was fairly close by so I killed some time there.

Lots of warblers of all descriptions were out. The Yellow-Rumped Warblers have flocked in for the remainder of the year until early spring. Everytime I would spot something move it seemed to be a YRW.
A huge flock of Cedar Waxwings came in and generally stirred up all the birds. A couple of quick shots and time to leave.

Back to the vet to pick up my very sedated 67 lb baby. Thankfully slept all the way home and did not want to get out of the car when we arrived. Some coaxing with a treat and she came in and crashed.

Over the last two weeks, the acorns have showered down on the house and it sounds like someone throwing a handful of rocks on the roof. Unfortunately I have two valleys on the house that capture them. With rain coming, I wanted to clear them off the roof. Five pillowcases full of acrons. Is this a sign of a bad winter?

Out of curiosity to see if the deer do like them, I took them to the edge of the woods where the deer come up and dumped all five bags out. The row was six feet long by two feet wide by about 4 inches deep on average. If I had a dollar for every acorn....I could take that birding trip of a lifetime.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Last Day of Mini-Vacation

It has been four days of intense birding. And yes, I need to go back to work for rest. I have probably averaged at least four miles of walking everyday which includes camera backpack and tripod. My body stiffens up when I stop for long so I have just kept moving. When I finally stop at dark, it has been a very good tired followed by good sleep.

I went out for a short period this morning but back home in a couple of hours to get some work done. I have been waiting for fall to move and divide several beds of iris. One down today and also moved some perenial flowers. I am determine next summer to have a wonderful butterfly garden.

After some time out Saturday morning, my friend and I worked on our birding presentation that we are giving on 15 October. We had been on our final big push over the last couple of days for new species we didn't have. Later in the afternoon I was working in the yard and hit a yellow jacket nest with the weedeater. Angry little givers of pain attacked my hands. Two stings on one hand, three on the other, one on the shoulder and one on the arm. It had been many, many years since I had been stung and forgot how unpleasant it is.

Did not do much Sunday as my hands were big time swollen and very stiff. I went out for about an hour and that was it. The first pair of mallards for the season have taken up residence at the pond and unfotunately a Canada Goose had also arrived which is only a forebearer of the numbers that will come in.

The Eastern Meadowlark have returned or should I say are once again highly visible and singing their hearts out in the morning. The Euonymous americanus (Strawberry Bush / Bursting Hearts) are open and the birds are snatching up the seeds that fall. They really seem to like the seeds. This is on my list to plant in my native plant garden that I am working on.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Made to Order Autumn Day

The last two days have been the kind of days you would order up from your weather forecaster if that were possible. Cool in the morning but quickly warming with sunrise to mid 70's with a slight breeze and a crisp, clear blue Carolina sky.

My plans to go birding down east were put on hold. Why travel when it is already such fantastic birding right at my own back door. So this will be a mini-vacation at home which is fine by me.

I went out with purpose this morning to try and photograph the Redstarts that are in. I had taken a couple of decent shots of the female but the male has always seem to elude me. Several butt shots, out of focus shots and mostly hidden but nothing I was pleased with. I had watched them for a couple of days and knew the area they seemed to hang out. The problem is that it is very shaded and the direction of the sunrise seems to always put you shooting into the sun.

They were as bad as Kinglets to try and photograph. Rarely sitting still for more than a couple of seconds at a time and always seeming to get right in the midst of foliage searching for insects. Another adventure in speed photography.

The Cedar Waxwings are flocking in. They were flying from cedar tree to cedar tree being rather noisey and in general stirring up all the other birds. I do like them though with their little high pitch sound and always moving in flocks. I don't ever recall seeing as many juvenile birds as there seem to be this year. Their mask and head crown feathers when erect give them such a quizzical look.

Tomorrow my friend and I are going to Jordan Lake to photograph the eagles and osprey. Hoping for some good shots. Saturday, we are heading to Eno River State Park to see what if anything has come in there. If no birds, at least we can enjoy the hiking.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Fall Weather Arrived

Fall weather arrived Friday night like flipping a switch. It is the first cool weather we have had. Unfortunately I had to work the weekend so was not able to get out until today for a bit.

Migration has definitely started and I look forward to being able to get out this weekend for some serious birding. It is amazing how just a little bit of cooler weather increases the bird activity. The Pine Warblers have become very vocal and are coming down from the treetops.

I am giving some serious consideration on going to Lake Mattamuskeet for a day trip the next week. Finally taking some vacation time so I am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather holds. I would live to see what is coming through on the east coast flyway. I usually go on over to the outerbanks when I am that way but not sure what is open yet from the alst hurricane damage. Pea Island NWR sustained quite a bit of damage. It will be interesting to see what impact that may have had.