Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A Bird Lifer

Snowy Owl

I'm not much of a chaser of rarer birds but, when I heard that two Snowy Owls were seen about 20 minutes away from me,  I had to give it look.  I had seen Snowy Owls in captvitiy but never in the wild and I was excited to see these striking birds in action in their natural habitat.  This year is shaping up to see a big influx of Snowy Owls down from the Arctic.  Many have already been reported throughout Wisconsin but this was the first report that was close to me.

I walked the natural preserve for a little while and I caught a glimpse of a large white bird flying over the fields.  Amazing!  It had to be Snowy!  Maybe, that would be the only glimpse I get but it was amazing regardless.  I decided to try another area of the preserve where most of the Snowy Owls had been seen.  I parked on the side of the road and I decided to take a walk through the prairies to see if I could relocate the Snowy I had seen.  By that time, the sun was right in my eyes and I decided to grab my sunglasses before walking any further.  I turned back to walk back to my car to grab them and this is what I saw...

Yes, I had stupidly parked right under a telephone poll where a Snowy Owl was perched.  I guess it's possible it landed there while I was walking the other way down the trail.  Sometime it's better to be lucky than good!  

  I observed and photographed the owl for a awhile through my long telephoto lens and binoculars.  At one point it was dive bombed by a Sharpie or Cooper's Hawk.  It most likely is a young male since it is mostly white.  Females tend to have more heavy black streaking.  After awhile, I figured it was time to go and leave this guy alone.

I slowly walked back to my car as not to spook him.  I took one last pictures of him giving me the stare down right before I jumped into my car and I slowly drove off.  He remained on his perch and I was relieved not to disturb this beautiful bird.  

Unfortunately,  I had gotten too close on accident.  Snowy Owls are very popular birds to chase by photographers and birder.  Sometimes on the quest for the best shot/view people stress and disturb these birds.  Always keep your distance and refrain from posting exact locations of birds like Snowy Owls.  Enjoy these striking birds from a long lens or binoculars.  



Monday, November 13, 2017

Raptors, Raptors and more Raptors!

Most of my weekend mornings, I am scouting for Bald Eagle nests for the upcoming Bald Eagle Nest Watch.  It is fun to discover new nests and I love exploring new areas around Dane County, Wisconsin.   I had finished up looking for another nest and I was headed home when I saw a sign for Indian Lake County Park.  I decided to check it out and I'm really glad I did.

So, the first raptor is technically not a raptor but a songbird.  I saw it right away when I pulled up into the parking lot.  A striking grey bird with a raptor-like reputation.  The Northern Shrike was flitting around in the trees and bushes.  It perched long enough for me to take a not so great shot but it was awesome to see this honorary member of the raptor family.

I walked around the lake for a little while and I kept thinking, "what a good spot this would be for a Bald Eagle."  Pretty much on queue, I noticed an adult landing on perch with what looked like a fish.   He eventually finished his meal and then headed across the lake to perch where I got this distance shot of him.

On the way back to my car, I saw yet another raptor.  At first, I thought it might be a Red-shouldered Hawk like the above one from my old New York backyard but no luck.  It turned out to be it's more common cousin the Red-tailed Hawk.

I thought the raptor fest was over and I was about back to my car when I saw another raptor.  What luck!  A beautiful female Northern Harrier was hunting over the grasses near the lake.  She circled the  area a number of times looking for prey in the grass but then headed over the tree line to hunt elsewhere.

What a great morning with my favorite group of birds and my first opportunity to photograph a Northern Harrier!  I will definitely be stopping off at Indian Lake County Park again.

Friday, September 15, 2017


Getting Ready to Migrate

Our backyard in the rental house here in Wisconsin is very slow on bird activity.  I have only got a few Morning Doves, and House Finches showing up to my feeder.  I got to say, I'm missing all the activity, we had in our New York backyard.  I guess you don't realize how lucky you have it until you move.  I  will have to go out and find the birds at local nature preserves for now.

A couple of weeks ago, I got a treat at one of those local nature preserves.  Right down the trail these two Sandhill Cranes flew in.  Cranes are a pretty rare sighting in the Albany, NY area but they are all over the place here in Southern Wisconsin.

Especially right now, when they are getting ready to migrate.  I have seen fields with more than a dozen cranes hanging out and fueling up before their trip.  The endangered Whooping Crane sometimes groups up with their Sandhill cousins but I haven't seen any yet.

These large, loud and kind of goofy looking birds are so much fun to watch!  Happy Birding and enjoy the migrants that are heading though your area.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

First Weekend of Birding

Hello Wisconsin! 

I couldn't help myself.  I had to reference "That 70's Show",  A sitcom taking place in Wisconsin.  The first weekend of birding since we moved to Madison, WI was good but very buggy!  It was great hunting for the swallows, Eastern Phoebes and Eastern Wood Pee-wees that I saw but a little uncomfortable for me.  

One of the highlights of last weekend was the numerous Common Yellowthroats.  I don't recall ever seeing this bird in NY but I have only been looking for warblers for about a year.  The male's striking "black mask"  contrasted with his "yellow throat" is beautiful.  They did make photographing them a challenge since they are pretty much constantly in motion.  

This Veery gave me the eye while foraging on the path with its' cousin in the thrush family the American Robin.

This Red-winged Blackbird gave me his best angry face!

Here is another shot of the Common Yellowthroat.  On top of all that, I found my first Wisconsin Bald Eagle nest.  The Eagle Report will live on!  Happy Birding and I hope to chronicle more of my new experiences in Wisconsin.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Feathers on Friday for 7/14/17

Scarlet Tanager

Happy Friday and first Friday spent in Wisconsin!  The last few weeks that we were in New York, I had two male Scarlet Tanagers and at least one female in my backyard.  Here is one of them looking for berries.  

He grabbed an unripe berry and popped it in his beak.   

He gave me a curious look and flew away to enjoy his berry in a more private area of the yard.   Have a great weekend and Happy Birding!  

More Feathers on Friday Posts:

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Eagle Report for 7/2017

End Of Another Season

This report is a few weeks late but with moving to Wisconsin, I have been very busy!  We finished up the season in the Capital Region of NY with all eaglets fledgling in late June or early July.  The above two were very busy taking care of three eaglets.  Three eaglets is pretty rare and the food supply needs to be good enough to support their ever-growing appetites.  

Here are the three taking in late May.  One of three had a very eventful fledge...

I went out to the nest in late June to check on the three eaglets.  They were extremely active.  The three were flapping, jumping and taking mini-fights above the nest.  The smallest of the group(probably a male) went out on a small branch and started flapping hard.  He flapped so hard, he fell off the branch and luckily, a lower pine branch broke his fall.  Here is a poor shot of right before he fell.  He tried to hop up to the nest but there wasn't enough room to get through the branches.  Soon after that one of the adults returned to the nest with a fish.  The newly fledged eaglet missed a feeding but it appeared he was unharmed by his fall.  My guess is the other two probably fledged later in the day.  The next visit there was no eagle activity around the nest.  They had probably moved up or down river from the nest. 
The adults continue to feed the fledglings for at least a few weeks until the eaglets venture out on their own.  They must learn how to scavenge, hunt for themselves and master the art of flying.  
The first year for a eagle is very hard with only about 50% surviving to see their 2nd birthday.  Best of luck to all the fledglings!  

The end of season is always a little sad and exciting.  This year is even more bittersweet as I move to a new area of the country and say goodbye to the amazing Bald Eagles of the Capital Region.  The eagles of Dane County Wisconsin will have a tough act to follow but it will interesting to compare them with the eagles of Colorado and New York that I have observed previously.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Wildlife Around The Nests

Great-blue Heron

I take a number of non-eagle pictures around the eagle nests.  All the nests are on prime real estate on the rivers and streams around the Capital Region of New York.  These areas that attract eagles to nests also attract other wildlife.  I have been trying to figure out how to post these pictures.  I guess, I will let them speak for themselves with a little commentary...

Right after, the heron took off to find a more private spot.

I have seen a lot of Beavers this season.  Off course, these guys love the water.

I almost tripped over this Snapping Turtle sunning itself in the grass.

Other birds are nesting and raising their young too during the long breeding season of the Bald Eagle.

White-tailed Deers are a common viewing at the nests.

This Northern Mockingbird was very cooperative and posed nicely on the top of a lighthouse lawn ornament.

Colorful birds like this Baltimore Oriole help to pass the time when the nesting season isn't particularly exciting.

Happy Birding!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Feathers on Friday for 6/9

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Happy Friday!  It's been a rainy few weeks here in Capital Region of New York.  It doesn't seem to have bothered my backyard birds though.   The pair of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds don't seem to mind the rain either.  I noticed an interesting behavior that the above male was doing.  He was constantly sitting on the the railing of our back deck near the feeder in the rain.  At first, I thought he might be sick or injured as I have never seen a hummingbird stay in one place that long.  I pulled out my binoculars for a closer look.  He was actually drinking the rain water.  I could see his little tongue going in and out as he caught the raindrops falling.    

Here is him sticking out his tongue and flapping his wings.  Now that the weather has gotten drier, I just see him at the feeder.  I feel like there is always something new to learn in the world of birds.

Here is the female perched on our feeder.  

Have a great weekend! It looks like finally, we will get some decent weather here so enjoy it! 

More Feathers on Friday Post:

Friday, June 2, 2017

Feathers on Friday for 6/2/17

Tree Swallow

Happy Friday and first weekend of June!  On a recent trip to a local state park, this Tree Swallow was perched on top of it's nesting box.  It's beautiful blue coloring shining in the sun.  

Here is a zoomed out view of the guy on it's Audubon Society of the Capital Region's built bird box.  The chapter has put a lot of these bird boxes at the park and around the Capital Region.  

Happy Birding and enjoy the ongoing nesting season!

More Feathers on Friday Post:

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Nesting Season is Here! Part 2

House Wrens and Broken Eggs

The nesting wrens were doing well and working towards laying eggs.  Here is a shot of the female(I think) who protects her territory from anything including me with a camera.  She is a very active little bird and very vocal.

They had packed the nest box with all sorts of leaves, sticks, pine needles and other stuff.  I checked periodically but they hadn't yet laid eggs.  One morning this weekend, I noticed the bird box wasn't hanging up.  It was on the ground and the glue had given way that was holding the top with the loop to hang the box.  When I picked it up, I noticed two little wren eggs inside.  The female was close by and very upset.  I placed the nest on top of my compost tumbler to get it off the ground and away from potential predators.    

Later on, I went to check on the nest box and I noticed the eggs were smashed on the ground.  The female had probably disposed of them.  I have seen and heard the wrens still in the area so hopefully she will lay more eggs.  It is still early in the season and wrens do sometimes have two broods so we'll see.

Update: No new eggs yet in the nest box and I'm starting to wonder if they might have changed locations.  That is not good news for the other cavity nesting birds around since House Wrens are known to take nest spots and dispose of the eggs/hatchlings that are inside.  It's just amazing that this little cute birds is so aggressive.

Here is part 1 if you missed it.  Happy Birding!  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Nesting Season is Here!

House Wren

A few weeks ago, I hung up a birdhouse in our yard that I had found in our basement.  I had no idea if anything would use it.  Almost instantly,  I began seeing activity around the birdhouse.  There was some Black-capped Chickadees that checked it out.  The other was a wren that I later discovered was a House Wren.  Well, it looks like the House Wren has claimed it!

It has filled the box with sticks as you can see from the above picture.

The House Wren is known to be a very fierce little bird.  They chase off much larger birds from nest boxes and sometimes drag out hatchlings or eggs too.  This is it staring me down for getting too close to the box.

What a fun little bird and they have beautiful songs.   Here is it singing away from above it's new nesting box.  I'm looking forward to checking in on it's progress during the season.  Happy Birding and enjoy your nesting backyard birds!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Eagle Report for 5/4

Two Nests and Two Differing Reactions

I have always been fascinated by wildlife behavior especially in raptors.  How will they react to a certain situation is intriguing.  While monitoring Bald Eagle nests, I have seen many defenses of the nests by adult pairs.  Sub-adult Bald Eagles are a large portion of the intruders.  They have not yet reached adulthood to have a nest of their own and they are always looking for an easy meal.  They will take anything from an unguarded nest including an eaglet and any food left in the nest.    

Two nests separated by a few miles took a very different approach to the nuance of sub-adult Bald Eagle intruders.

If you have read the blog for awhile, you might have remembered this drama from last season.  The first nest seems to constantly have intruders around the nest.  The above pictures is of one of the adults chasing off one of the young eagles that got too close to the nest.  The adult hit the sub-adult 4 or 5 times while chasing it.  Obviously, the intruder had angered the pair and they wanted to make sure they proved their point.   The other member of the pair was back at the nest protecting the eaglets while this was going on.  They are a well tuned machine when it comes to defending their nest and nest territory.  No intruder goes by the nest without at least being warned to stay away.

At the second nest further downstream, the above young eagle soared and circled near the nest.  The adult perched nearby paid no attention to the intruder and it didn't even call out to warn the other eagle.  There was no sign of alarm at all.  The below picture was the reaction of the adult eagle.

Why would two nests close to each other and most likely dealing with the same group of young eagles react so vastly different?  It is hard to say for sure but it is very interesting.  We will see if the reaction from the past weekend by both nests is a consistent behavior or if they react differently in different situations. I am excited to see more... Stay tuned.