Friday, December 30, 2011

Cute little Verdin,

I photographed the Verdin the top pic at the photo blind feeders at Falcon State Park earlier this week. It was in the company of 2 other Verdin that stopped for a quick pick-me-up at this orange before flitting away.
I spotted the Verdin in the bottom two pics this morning at Edinburg Wetlands. It was foraging actively with a second Verdin in several of the many native trees at this great birding spot that seems the host the most Yellow-rumped Warblers in winter of any place in the Rio Grand Valley. These photos aren't really sharp but they both show the rufous on the shoulder of this species but is often hidden. I was delighted as I have never seen this, not that I have seen that many Verdin. SeEtta

Western Tanager, rare winter visitor @ Edinburg Wetlands

I photographed this female Western Tanager this morning at Edinburg Wetlands in Edinburg, TX. which is one of my favorite birding spots in the Rio Grande Valley. This rare bird was found 3 days ago. Today some ladies from Llano Grande RV Park, who were here for their regular Friday birding outing, spotted it and asked me what kind of bird it was. This species winters from well below the border in Mexico to Central America. SeEtta

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Last pics of Tropical Parula

Such a beauty, I just had to post two more pics of this Tropical Parula. The top pic shows why it was fairly easy to spot this small passarine (only 4 1/2 inches in length)--it is so bright. The white spots on tail are more obvious in the bottom pic than the pic in previous post. SeEtta

More Tropical Parula Pics

The top pic isn't as sharp but it shows the white undertail coverts and very limited white spots on tail. It also shows the extensiveness of the yellow on it's underparts.
This rare parula is my consolation after being told essentially that I wasn't needed for the Weslaco CBC unless I could be used at Estero LLano Grande State Park ("I have all sections outside the state park covered. Please contact Kyle O'Haver to see if he needs assistance inside the park.")--I didn't know that it was possible to not not need more counters for CBC's! Per the CBC website, "And anyone is welcome to participate, since Compilers arrange field parties so that inexperienced observers are always out with seasoned CBC veterans." Fortunately the compiler for the Bentsen CBC, Javier Deleon, has the right spirit. Not only did he ask me last week if I was going to help on their count but put out the following in an email today, "Please forward this one to anyone interested in participating or to anyone that would be interested in participating by being a feeder watcher for the day. The more the merrier!" Kudos to Javier for his inclusiveness and keeping with the spirit of Christmas Bird Counting. SeEtta

Tropical Parula, a rare beauty Quinta Mazatlan

I went to Quinta Mazatlan this morning to look for the Tropical Parula that was seen there last week. I ran into Jack Cochran, a Penn birder, who spotted it high in the tall trees (adjacent to the new pond and actually on the grounds of the adjacent golf course) but it's bright yellow underparts stood out so I picked up on it easily. We first saw around 10 am and continued watching it forage very actively until 10:30 am. As shown on the bottom pic there appears to be light eye arcs on the bird, a phenomena that the Sibley Guide to Birds of North America notes as a 'rare variant'. Sorry I could not crop the bird to a larger size but they were taken from a distance of 80-100 feet and only possible to get these as it there was bright sunshine which is required for these long shots with my long camera lens combo. More pics to follow. SeEtta

Monday, December 26, 2011

More Salineno Ladder-backed Woodpecker pics

Just a couple more pics of the female Ladder-backed Woodpecker I photographed at the feeders at DeWind RV Park in Salineno this morning. SeEtta



Ladder-backed Woodpecker: another Salineno feeder bird

One of the many birds coming in to the feeders at the DeWind RV Park in Salineno was were Ladder-back Woodpeckers including this female. She was intent on eating as much of the peanut butter mix that was put into a crevice on this tree branch as she could. SeEtta

Like many others I was delighted that Brown Jays were being seen again in Salineno at the DeWind RV Park feeders. As Mexican birds Brown Jays had previously wandered across the Rio Grande River where they had been seen in earlier years but have not beem found in about 5 years.

These very dark brown members of the corvid family, they are much larger than other jays. I was fortunate today as this single Brown Jay, an adult, came in to the feeders shortly after I got there and returned twice so I got to watch it for several minutes. SeEtta

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Here the final two pics of the Black-vented Oriole and they show some of the acrobatic tendencies of this bird as it hangs upside down to feed on oranges. And the bottom pic shows the toenails that wrap around small branches and dig in to anchor the bird. SeEtta

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Black-vented Oriole: more pics

The Black-vented Oriole spent it's time either feeding on oranges as shown in these pics or waiting to get a turn to feed on the oranges. For a large sized bird it displayed a rather submissive stance letting several other birds either displace it from feeding or not jumping on to displace smaller birds as commonly occurs. These two pics provide good views of this bird's truly black colored vent area, the coloration extending all through it's undertail coverts (these stand out nicely especially in the top pic) as well as all of it's tail feathers. Note that in some pics the bird looks more orange but more yellow in others--this is what the raw pics show and appears to be a function of the light reflection on the bird. Still more pics to come. SeEtta

I was delighted to watch this Black-vented Oriole, a rare Mexican vagrant, as it fed on oranges at one of the feeding stations at the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley nature center in Mission, TX. This is such a brilliantly colored bird and so boldly contrasting that it is a pleasure to watch. It was also deja vu as a Black-vented Oriole (the same one?) was in the same area last year when I was visiting though it then spent most of it's time at an RV park where it fed from some blossoms on a non-native tree. More pics to come.  (To see the bird up close just click on the each pi).  SeEtta

Monday, December 19, 2011

West Texas Chihuauhuan Raven fest

Here are two of about a thousand Chihuahuan Ravens I saw as I drove through West Texas where these birds congregate for the winter. I usually see large loose flocks that play on rising thermals but the weather was foggy and drizzly so no thermals for them to ride. SeEtta

Sunday, December 18, 2011

'Cormorant dies a cruel slow death due to fishing line with hook

This awful description posted publicly on the Kansas birding listserve today of a cormorant dying a slow cruel death due to a thoughtless fisherman is just so sad: "While birding the River Pond area of Tuttle Creek State Park during the Man= hattan Christmas Bird Count, I spotted what looked like a bird hanging from= a tree on the island in River Pond. I positioned my scope on it and saw wh= at appeared to be a large lifeless bird dangling from a tree limb. Once in = a while there appeared to be movement. Winds were calm. On closer inspectio= n the bird turned out to be a double-crested cormorant that apparently swal= lowed a fish hook, and the line on the hook caught on the end of a thin syc= amore branch bending down under the weight of the bird like a fishing pole = with a large fish on the line. The line appeared to be wrapped around a fru= it of the tree (or ball of seeds) that I first took for a bobber. The bird = flapped its wings from time-to-time, most definitely alive, and hopelessly = caught. What a cruel way to go. John RowManhattan, Kansas" Fishermen--pack out and properly dispose of your fishing line and especially when it has a hook attached. SeEtta

Black-throated Green Warbler in So. Texas


I finally got down to So Texas after a friend who wanted to spend some time in Colorado came to stay in my house while I'm gone. Birding has been a bit hit and miss due to frequent drizzle and light rain which has kept me from getting many photographs yet. I did enjoy birding, albeit in drizzle, at Frontera Audubon in Weslaco today. I found this Black-throated Green Warbler in a mixed flock with a Black-and-white Warbler, two Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a White-eyed Vireo, a couple of Black-crested Titmice, and a couple of Orange-crowned Warblers. At one point this mixed flock was joined by a Golden-crowned Warbler, a very rare bird that had been found at Frontera yesterday. I got a nice but brief good look at cool rare vagrant but it moved around in the scrub quickly so didn't get a chance to photograph it. I got two more very brief looks at it again but it moves around where it is was a challenge to follow. There had also been a female Crimson-collared Grosbeak found at Frontera yesterday but I didn't find it. I also spotted an Ovenbird that was also working low in the scrub not far from the Golden-crowned Warbler. SeEtta

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

And a third juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

I found yet another juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Canon City over the week-end, this one on the grounds of The Abbey (formerly a Catholic boarding school). This one has no red on it's crown that I could see with my binoculars or in these pics so I can feel comfortable that this is a different from the other two juveniles in town as both of them have some red feathering on their crowns. This bird also shows a lot of yellow on it's belly. It is really helpful when there are obvious plumage differences on these sapsuckers as I cannot always find them in close enough time periods to indicate I am not seeing the same one in different locations as they do move around some. SeEtta

Another juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Canon City


This week-end I found this second juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Canon City. I had just seen the juvenile Yellow-bellied I had found in Centennial Park last month right before I drove to Lakeside Cemetery where I found this one. It seems most unlikely that these are the same bird as it was just about 5 minutes and over a mile between the sightings. Plus this bird moved around a lot, flying from tree to tree often while the sapsucker at Centennial Park stays in one tree unless disturbed by people in the area. I had seen some signs in the past week that there was a sapsucker working Lakeside Cemetery but the fresh sapwells are limited in number so either this sapsucker is feeding outside of the cemetery or has recently arrived. SeEtta

Friday, December 2, 2011

Photographers convicted for White-tailed Eagle disturbance

[public domain photo/myspaceraptorcenterla]White-tailed Eagle- photo license public domain RSPB: Photographers convicted for White-tailed Eagle disturbance "Two photographers have been found guilty of disturbing a pair of nesting White-tailed Eagles on the Isle of Mull. Yuli Panayotov, 32, from London, and Ivaylo Takev, 36, from Norwich, were charged at Oban Sheriff Court with disturbing the breeding birds of prey near Killechronan in May 2010. The pair were fined a combined total of £1100. The court heard how police were alerted to the pair after a number of witnesses had spotted both the adult birds circling over the nest and alarm-calling. It later emerged Panayotov and Takev had erected a photography hide a short distance from the nest. Speaking following the conviction, Sheriff Douglas Small remarked that the pair had disregarded warnings from RSPB Mull Officer Dave Sexton and local holidaymakers. White-tailed Eagles have been the subject of a successful reintroduction to Scotland, having become extinct early in the 20th century. Their presence on Mull is a significant tourist attraction, bringing £5m to the local economy every year. The species is afforded the highest level of protection of any British bird, due to both its rarity and also its sensitivity to disturbance, particularly during the breeding season. Speaking following today's conviction Bob Elliot, Head of Investigations at RSPB Scotland, said: "We welcome this result as it sends out a clear signal that wildlife crime will not be tolerated and we thank the Procurator Fiscal and Strathclyde Police for their work on this important case." Dave Sexton, RSPB Scotland's Mull Officer, added: "Mull's economy depends to a large extent on wildlife tourism and we welcome thousands of responsible, law-abiding visitors who respect and enjoy the wildlife they've come to see.; but unacceptable behaviour from people who think they are above the law and choose to disturb protected wildlife like the eagles will not be tolerated — wildlife photographers in particular need to take note." RSPB Wednesday 30th November 2011

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Octopus walking up on land: really cool video

This video shows an octopus as it walks onto land and proceeds to walk a significant distance (for an octopus) apparently to a crab it either saw (how could it see it from under the water a distance away?) or smelled (I looked it up and they can smell, but again how would it do that from under the water?). This neat event was caught on video by a family that was visiting Fitzgeral Marine Reserve where it took place--though accounts indicate that it is not rare for an octopus that live near shore to walk on land it is just uncommonly observed and they were at the right place at the right time and with their video camera rolling. There is an interesting discussion with an expert here on the Scientific American blog. SeEtta

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Female Williamson's Sapsucker-is she a vagabond?

The only female Williamson's Sapsucker I have found so far this season was at Harrison School on November 4. However, though I had stopped by that school location a number of times since I had not seen her again. As I not only told the office staff about her when I went in to the school to let them know why someone was walking near the entrance with binoculars and big-honking camera, but I had shown her to a student and her mom. I suspect that staff and students have looked for her and she moved to a quieter location. So this female Williamson's may the bird that was at McKinley. It is difficult to know as these sapsuckers move not only from tree to tree but also to different locations especially early in their wintering season here (maybe trying out different trees/locales to see which one's will be their primary location). As she seemed skittish, I took this pic from about 60 feet away and through the branches of this Scots pine (these are their very favorite sap trees in winter here). SeEtta

Juv.Yellow-belliedSapsucker: update


I thought it was time to go check on the juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker that I found just over a week ago in Centennial Park in Canon City, CO. It had been so very shy I had not wanted to disturb it so haven't been back down to this small urban park since then. I found it today in one of the non-native pine trees that are very popular with wintering sapsuckers here in Colorado.

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As it has only been 8 days since I last photographed it there are no evident differences in it's plumage though these will become apparent over the next month or two as it gets more adult feathering. Close examination of the bottom pic shows the few red feathers it has grown on it's forehead so far. (Click on the photos to enlarge them) This bird continues to be exceptionally and though I succeeded in not flushing it by staying about 75 feet away, another person walked just a little closer to the tree in which it was feeding and I saw it fly off into the distance. SeEtta

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Video: 'Talking with a Pale-billed Woodpecker'


This is a great video by Cornell Lab of Ornithology about a study in Costa Rica of these cool and brilliantly colored woodpeckers that have a pale bill for which they are named (given the other outstanding physical attributes, why call it by it's least colorful part?). Great videography, nice screens and sounds of Costa Rican rain forest, great bird and interesting study. SeEtta

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Busy bushtits


These two Bushtits have dark eyes which are features of males. The one in the top pic is pulling off seeds from rabbit brush, which is a versatile native plant that provides flowers in early fall for butterflies then as they leave the flowers are gone and the seeds appear just in time for several bird species including White-crowned Sparrows. SeEtta

Bustits on rabbitbrush


Bushtits are one of my favorite birds and these are foraging on one of my favorite native shrubs-rabittbrush. Though so nondescript in appearance they are such cute little birds that I see all but the most diehard lister light up when they hear their chittering calls. However they are almost always very busy foraging, often upside down, that they can be challenging to photograph without the blur of movement. This flock has been around the east end of the Canon City Riverwalk off and on for several days. These two Bushtits are females as they have yellow eyes. There is brown plumage around ear coverts forming a mask that is found on the subspecies P. m. plumbeus However, Birds of North America online says, "it is now clear that the amount of black in the face is a polymorphism, the frequency of which varies geographically." SeEtta

Friday, November 18, 2011

Juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker here for the winter

Yesterday I found this juvenile Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at Centennial Park in Canon City,CO. I have been seeing fresh sap wells in the pine trees in this traditional sapsucker wintering park for over a week but had not seen it in there. I spotted it about 50 feet up a large deciduous tree before flew into the pine on which it is drilling in this pic. Unlike adult birds, this sapsucker has very little red in it's crown.
Red-naped Sapsuckers have already molted into the head pattern of adult birds by the end of September so there is no issue with separating these from Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. This bird has a white throat while a Red-naped female would have only half white and the bottom half red but I would not call this a female Yellow-bellied as I watched as birds with white throats molt into the fully red throat of a male bird. It's dark feathers are more black than brown as it is far along in the transition to adult plumage which will be basically completed in the next several months. SeEtta

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Diving Belted Kingfisher


I was very pleased to get the above photo of a Belted Kingfisher as it dove towards a pond to get a fish. Fortunately the light was good so I was able to take this as a very high speed pic, a setting I was already using since the kingfisher was a good 75 feet away. I hid in my car behind some foliage, some of which got in the view but is out of focus, in order to avoid flushing the bird. SeEtta

Surprise: Worm-eating Warbler still in Canon City

I was surprised to refind the Worm-eating Warbler, that I found a week ago today, along the eastern section of the Canon City Riverwalk this morning. It behaved most shyly, flying off out of sight when it saw me 40 feet away looking at it. I found it again 3 more times and it flew out of sight as soon as I got within 40 or so feet away. I was also surprised to see a Canyon Towhee in the same area as this is a pretty uncommon species in this riparian area. The photo above shows the rather olive colored upperparts and buffy sides found on all ages of this species. A close look shows just a bit of the dark head stripes. SeEtta

Saturday, November 12, 2011

"The hidden beauty of pollination"

This is an extraordinary video showing hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, bats and flowers so close up and so vivid it takes your breath away. It shows the critters as they pollinate various flowers and some fantastic time-lapse film photography of flowers as they open. It was so beautiful it brought tears to my eyes. This is a presentation by the TED nonprofit that “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.” They do some fantastic work including linking nature and solutions to human problems. In this video the “Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life,” inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee”. At the beginning of the video, the filmmaker describes his work including his emotional link to the flowers and pollinators he has filmed for many years. Be patient as soon you will see the most stunning video begins–you will want to share this with everyone you know who enjoys hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators. SeEtta

Friday, November 11, 2011

High flying Northern Harrier

Among several interesting hawks I have seen in the Canon City area in the past week is this juvenile Northern Harrier.  With it's dark head, neck feathers and the pronounced facial disc, it is quite distinctive.

The broad bars on it's tail stand out in all pics though the narrow white terminal band can be see best in the bottom pic.  
I was happy to get these pics of this high flying harrier as it is difficult to get photos of their underparts since they usually fly close to the ground. Actually it is somewhat unusual to see this species in the Canon City area. SeEtta

Another Harlan's Hawk photo

Though the bird was more distant in this pic, about 200 feet away, the light was a little better so it provides a nice view of it's head, it's upperparts as well as some of it's underparts. I haven't seen it try to catch anything but I have observed it watching the agricultural fields below it so likely hunting for mice, snakes and such. SeEtta

Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk


This is a Harlan's Red-tailed Hawk that has been visiting in the Canon City, CO area for several days. It was quite sensitive and did not tolerate viewing from inside my car and over a hundred feet away so difficult to get pics. It vocalized it's displeasure at my viewing and photographing it both while perched and flying as can be seen in these pics with it's bill open as it screams. As shown it has a lot of white on it's face but very little on it's upperparts. It's tail is also quite whitish on the underside. It has a lot of blackish markings on it's underside. SeEtta