Thursday, May 11, 2017

Why Bird Again?

Barn Swallow
Why do birders continue to go out in all sorts of weather, spending all sorts of money, and traveling all sorts of miles sometimes, just to look at birds they have probably seen before? Some birders have done this for many, many years. Why do they continue looking for birds they already know? Think about it...why does anyone do something over and over again?
Gold Finch
I started photographing birds at the same time we started to watch them. I wanted to be able recall what I'd seen, or just prove that I actually had seen it at all!
Green Heron
For familiar birds, I am always looking for a better, clearer photo than one I got a few years ago. As an amateur, this is an ongoing struggle. I refuse to carry one of those cameras that take expensive accessories and weigh many pounds. Mine is a point and shoot that I leave on automatic most of the time. I am a serendipitous photographer, just grateful to get a new photo based on luck and persistence.
Black-throated Blue Warbler
We have been birding for about ten years, and there are still many kinds of birds we haven't found yet. We only keep a "life" list, while other birders keep separate lists for each year and every location they ever bird. Our life total is 572, including those found in the Galapagos and Costa Rica, and also including 5 new birds found on this trip to Magee Marsh. We struggle with finding and identifying warblers, sparrows, and shore birds, but are pretty good with ducks and woodpeckers.
Rusty Blackbird
My friends were amazed that we had never found a Rusty Blackbird before. Now that we found it here, and someone else positively identified it, we learned that it looks like a Grackle with a short tail. Maybe we did see it before and didn't know it. Education is ongoing.
Wilson's Phalarope
When there are large gatherings of birders like this, you learn to stop whenever there is a crowd and ask what they are looking at. Somebody in the group is probably very good at this, and will help you find a new bird. They even share views in their scopes. The female Wilson's Phalarope is brighter colored than the male and we would never have found it on our own. Now we need to learn how to work our own scope better!
Snowy Egret
You learn not to assume that every white bird here is a Great Egret. We found a Snowy Egret along the road, and I never expected to see this southern bird so far north. I'll have to check his range again. Sometimes a bird that you think is just another Turkey Vulture ends up being a Bald Eagle. Birders are optimists if nothing else!
Baltimore Oriole fanning tail
There's always new behavior to observe. At times, the behavior and habitat give better clues on ID than anything else.
Black and White Warbler
Then there's the matter of self-discipline. Just because that little bird is hard to find, don't let it stop you. Try, try again!
Black-throated Green Warbler
If nothing else, you can get a good laugh wondering how in the world some birds got their names. I don't see any green in this bird!
Blackburnian Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
White-crowned Sparrow
You learn by observing familiar birds in new environments or seasons. The White-crowned Sparrow comes to Kentucky to spend the winter, so I never hear him sing, but they sing all the time in Ohio in the spring.
We see Dunlins in Florida, but always in the winter. Now I find they have a beautiful black belly as their breeding plumage. This is such fun! There is always something to learn!

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Migration Time in Ohio

Red-winged Blackbird
When it's May in Louisville, everyone's thoughts turn to horse racing and mint juleps. This year, it rained for three solid days during Derby Week, and I was glad to stay home and ignore the entire event.
Red-winged Blackbird female
However, in the world of birding, all eyes turn to the birder's Mecca, Magee Marsh in Northwestern Ohio on Lake Erie.  This is the shortest distance across the Great Lakes to Canada for birds migrating  northward to nest. If the weather is bad, they all hunker down in the many parks and nature preserves, eating bugs and getting ready for the flight across Lake Erie.
Common Yellowthroat
Birders migrate in from all over the United States as well, on the lookout for their favorite warblers in particular. Dick and I drove almost 5 and a half hours through pouring rain, and waiting to get around accidents in Cincinnati. We used the time to bone up on our bird calls, especially some of the warblers. They are especially difficult, in my mind, since they are small, hop around ALL the time, and mostly seem to stay directly overhead, resulting in "warbler neck" for the birder below. Another birder found some Nashville Warblers and a Blackburnian, so I got good looks at them, but no photos.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak male and female with Red-winged Blackbird
When we arrived in Oregon, OH, our hotel room wasn't ready, so we went down to Maumee Bay State Park, headquarters for the Biggest Week in Birding! The park has a boardwalk through a large marshy area. Altogether, we saw and heard 30 species today.
 Of course, not everything you see will have feathers. This little raccoon hid in a hollow tree.
Eastern Screech Owl
The park provides nesting boxes for owls, swallows, wood ducks, and anything else that wants to move in to one. This little red Screech Owl hid behind some leaves for a snooze, knowing that nothing would be able to find him behind the leaves.
Blue Jay
We are meeting Dick's sister and her new boyfriend who is a birder. They haven't been to Magee Marsh yet, and it's been several years since we last came. Lots of great birds to find in the next couple of days!