Monday, December 31, 2012

Bird Out the Old Year

Horned Lark
It's the end of the year. We've had a little snow in Louisville, and I took photos of snow on the trees...very pretty. But didn't go out birding. Until I got an email from two of the best birders in Beckham Bird Club.

Horned Lark - horns up
Go to Chamberlin Lane, by the horse farm, and you might find some Horned Larks, Lapland Larkspurs, American Pippits, and if you are reaaallll lucky, maybe a Snow Bunting. This is the same field where they found the same birds, in the snow, a few years ago, so I jumped in the car and headed out. The field guide says the Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs both range in the "Arctic, circumpolar," meaning they breed all around the Arctic sea. I remember studying the Laps in Finland during the 4th grade. Obviously, these are not birds I would expect to find in Louisville, KY.
Lapland Larkspurs
 Although the farm is still rural, the area around it is rapidly turning to subdivisions. Cars drive down the rural road every few minutes now, so these flighty little birds would briefly land, then take off again to circle the field when the next car came by. With sunlight reflecting off the snow, it was hard to get a good look at them. But my friends confirmed that these 3 little birds, are in fact, the Lapland Longspurs.  Just think! They have come down from someplace near the North Pole!

Lapland Larkspurs on manure
The Horned Larks seemed to be eating the corn dropped in the field during harvest, while the Larkspurs were attracted to the piles of horse manure. Guess they were pulling out the re-cycled oats! I'm afraid these winter visitors will have to find a new feeding spot before long, and I'll have to drive much farther to find them.

Happy Birding to all in 2013!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Zebra Stripped Birds

I enjoy birding, but I don't get out on a regular basis, so my identification skills can be challenged by non-resident birds. Today I went to Smith Berry Winery in Henry County, KY, with my son-in-law, his visiting mother, and the baby. Smith Berry has a sweet red wine which was the only one Brian would drink for some time. His tastes are becoming broader now, but this is his favorite, so we went for tasting. In the summer, it's fun to go to their concerts with music, great food, and wine.

On this winter day, we were greeted by flocks of small sparrows with black and white stripes on their heads. As always, I took photos and checked with the field guide when I got home. I know these birds don't live here all year long.

They came in slightly different colors too, this one having brown stripes instead of black. The field guide says they are White-Crowned Sparrows. The browner ones are the 1st year birds, while the black and whites are adults.

Glad I checked the field guide, since these White-throated Sparrows have similar markings on their heads, but check for the yellow by their eyes, as well as the white throat patch, of course.

Both species breed far to the north of Kentucky, but will spend the winters here. Now that I've compared them, it should be easier to tell them apart next time.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Well, we went on the last regular bird trip of the year with Beckham Bird Club last Thursday, and here it is Sunday night. If I don't sit down and do this post, it will be after Christmas and too late to mention it, so here goes. Bernheim Forest and Arboretum is always a beautiful place, but when the weather turns cold, it's easy to just stay home instead. We dressed in all our warm clothes and drove on out in the early morning.

Anything that hadn't moved during the night was covered in a heavy layer of frost. The grass and evergreens seemed to have a dusting of snow as we entered the front gate. Fog rose in lazy swirls from the surface of Lake Nevin.

We saw no spectacular or unusual birds, but the Robins and Blue Jays were spectacularly abundant that morning, chowing down on any berries hanging on a tree.

As the sun warmed the air a bit, more birds came out in search of breakfast.

We five birders and the birds at the feeders were the only visitors at the education center...

...but we had had a wonderful time. The Turkey Vultures didn't take to the air until almost 11:30. Guess there weren't any thermals until that late.

I love finding frost flowers in a shady spot. Sap in the stems of some plants will burst through the stem itself, and then freeze in amazing swirls.

The Cedar Waxwings came out just as we planned to return home at the end of the morning, whistling softly above us. This week is the Christmas Bird Count at Otter Creek, and I hope we see more for the count than we did on this day.