Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Birds

After a miserable rainy, gray day yesterday, the sun slowly came out this morning.  Feeling couped up from Saturday, I headed out as soon as it looked like the sun definitely was coming out.

Slowly but surely the numbers of hummingbirds are becoming less and less.  They were a little slow moving about this morning as temperatures had cooled off the the cold front Saturday that brought a rainy cool day.  This hummingbird was taking advantage of some late blooming trumpet flowers.

I am seeing more Common Yellowthroats now than I saw the entire summer.  Always nice to get a good shot however.

There are still some Grosbeaks around but all I am seeing are females and young birds.  The adult females are beginning to get a more golden look about them.  I guess the males have already moved on.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Birding Paradise

An unplanned outing today down east for a bit of birding.  A little disappointed with the lack of warblers however I was probably a week or two early but I knew my upcoming schedule would not let me go then.

The other birds today however made up for the lack of warblers.  The trees were absolutely filled with Northern Parula.  Almost everywhere you looked, there they were.

One of the most amazing sights was a tree with somewhere between 8-10 Baltimore Orioles.  They were going nuts over some berries.  It was truely a sight to behold.

There were plenty of Redstarts hunting insects in the scrub.  This was truely a habitat suited for them.

Quite a few Red-eyed Vireos?  Although the eye doesn't look as red as some that I have seen, based on the size of the bird and geographical location that is my guess.  I can't recall however ever seeing one with as dark a crown as this one.

The usual suspects, Egrets and Great Blues were numerous.  It seemed a bit odd going this time of year as I usually go during the winter to see the migrating waterfowl.  The lake seemed quite with the exception of some Canada Geese and a few Osprey.  It was a great day however.  With the exception of a couple of people fishing up towards the front part of the refuge, I never saw another soul.  The joy of quiet and having the remainder of the refuge to yourself.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mute Swans

Over the past five years, there have been a pair of Mute Swans that arrive during fall and winter over at a small local lake.  Last year, only one swan showed.  Today when I stopped by my parents, to my surprise, there were four swans.

I walked down to the edge of the lake and of course they came up looking for a handout.  These are indeed "wild" swans but are very habituated to humans.  I can only assume that the two immature swans are their offspring.  The two immature swans have the pale bill and do not yet have the black knob at the top of the bill.

Mute Swans are not native to North America.  They were brought to this country from Europe in the late 1800's to "decorate" ponds on genteel estates.  Current estimates are 22,000+.  Their somewhat aggressive behavior towards native species can cause issues with other waterfowl.  The Chesapeake Bay area in Virginia has seen significant impact from these swans.  Their high reproductive rate and  long life span has potential for trouble.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for DC ruled in December 2001 that Mute swans were officially recognized as Federally protected in the U.S..  Mute Swans, a  member of the waterbird family Anatidae, are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act

"The MBTA provides strong measures for the protection and conservation of migratory birds, while at the same time providing opportunities for people to use the migratory bird resource for sport, recreation, and scientific endeavors. The MBTA also provides considerable flexibility for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service–the primary Federal agency responsible for migratory bird management–to implement actions to address situations in which birds may come into conflict with human interests, as in the case of mute swans."  Source:  Federal Fish and Wildlife Service and Virginia DENR

While in many areas they cause issues because of their diet of submerged aquatic vegetation, in this particular lake where vegetation has dramatically increased to almost out of control over the past several years, the Swans actually help in controlling that growth.  I guess there is a balance in nature for everything.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

An Absolutely Beautiful Almost Fall Day

If you could order up a day weather wise, this would be it.  Beautiful weather and a bounty of birds.  It has been one of those which way do I look first days.  More Northern Parula joined in the already numerous birds checking out the memosa tree today.  I would guess this one is either a female of first year male.  There were about a half dozen Parula in the tree at one time.

Lots of butterflies out today and most are beginning to look a little ragged. Most have tears or missing parts of the wings.  They are so beautiful it is sort of sad to see them at the end of the season looking so ragged and washed out.

I have noticed today that of the migratory birds there seem to be more female birds.  The female Summer Tanager is still around and there were a couple of young ones flying about with her.  I never did see the male today.

 I am still in amazement at the numbers of White-eyed Vireos that are in the are right now.  In tree after tree they were sounding out.  More Redstarts have arrived.  I ocassionally see a male but more females of at least they are more in the open.

A pair of Common Yellowthroats were out hunting.  Usually they hunt so deep in the foliage but today they were cooperative.

Friday, September 14, 2012

White-eyed Vireo

Another really good day out birding.  The warblers are really starting to come in now.  A White-Eyed Vireo had joined in the hunt this morning.  They normally seem so spooky but today, this one showed no fear of being close.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good Birding

I went out for a bit this afternoon not really expecting to see too much but was pleasantly surprised.  Most were hanging in shaded areas so the photos are not the best.  Quite a few Yellow-throated Warblers, ..........


and Black-throated Blue Warblers and American Redstarts were all hunting in a memosa tree.  The memosa's are notoriously invasive but the birds sure do like them for finding insects. 

There were also several Yellow-throated Vireos and Red-Eyed Vireos around.  I never could get a decent shot of the Red-Eyed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Summer Tanager

Unable to get out for the last several days, I made it out a bit yesterday.  A female Summer Tanager was busy finding insects in a tree.  The birds of summer are departing slowly but surely.  The Indigo Buntings have been gone for about two weeks and this past week, several Grosbeaks that were in the area departed.  The warblers are starting to filter in now.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Orchard Oriole

I went out late yesterday afternoon to drop off some old electronic items at the recycling center.  Since it was nearby the park, I took my camera for a quick visit.  A lot of afternoon activity.  This female OO was busy checking all the trees for insects.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Late Summer Hummers

Although hummingbirds arrive in early spring and stay throughout the summer, their numbers greatly increase in late summer as they begin moving south for the fall migration.  This time of the year in the wetland area at a local refuge, they provide lots of activity to watch chasing each other and guarding their little patch of flowers.

Nature's timing for peak blooming of the Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) coincides perfectly with the influx of the hummingbirds.  Spotted Jewelweed grow in wetland areas preferring shade.  It is an annual plant that reseeds itself by means of seedpods that "explode" scattering the seeds.

For late arriving hummingbirds these plants provide a needed source of nectar at the time of year when not much else is blooming.  The hummers are not the only creatures that utilize these flowers.  They also provide a food source for a variety of butterflies.  The sap of Jewelweed is said to relieve itching from Poison Ivy rashes. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Red-Tailed Hawk Taking Flight

 I had a cool experience of observing a family of Red-Tailed Hawks Sunday morning.  After several shots of the younger birds hunting in the fields, the adults moved to the backside of that same field.  One of the adults sat in a tree for 20+ minutes preening and watching over the field.  Finally being spotted by several Mockingbirds, the dive bombing and general harassment started.

Eventually as if saying it had  enough, the hawk gave a little pre-flight stretch and expelled a stream of waste.

Enough was enough and it began making a turn for take off.

In a graceful and powerful seemless motion, it lifted its wings for take off.

As quickly as the take off started, it put on the brakes and attempted to stop on a small limb that jutted out from the side of the larger limb.

The limb gave way sending the hawk forward.

We have lift off.