Saturday, October 1, 2011

Canada Warbler, more pics

This little beauty almost gave me the slip as I lost it for about an hour. When I refound it this warbler was not cooperative--it stayed in the shrubs and behind small branches never letting me approach closer than about 35 feet away. With all the other 30 or so migrating warblers- mostly Orange-crowned, some Wilson's and at least one Nashville-flitting around I had a difficult time keeping track of it.
The top pic provides another angle of view but the bottom pic, though not as crisp, shows the white undertail coverts. SeEtta

Canada Warbler, another rare vagrant in Colorado

I found this stunning Canada Warbler feeding with a flock of other migrating warblers in 'Lamar Woods', a well known migrant trap behind Lamar, Colorado Community College. Canada Warblers are rare vagrants in Colorado and this is a first for me as I have never seen one in Colorado or elsewhere. I believe this is an adult female as it's 'necklace' of streaks is gray not black and the only black is around the eyes. These pics both show the bold complete white eye ring, bright yellow throat and underparts with grayish upper parts. More photos follow. SeEtta

Thursday, September 29, 2011

American Pipits also stop over at Turk's Pond (Colo)

I also found 2-3 American Pipits including this pipit at Turk's Pond today. Since American Pipits breed in very high elevation areas of Colorado, they may have had a short trip to this location if far southeast Colorado though they could have migrated from the high arctic like the Pectoral Sandpipers that fed near to them. SeEtta

Perky Pectoral Sandpipers at Turk's Pond (in Colo)

Today I birded in Baca County in extreme southeast Colorado. Though there were slim pickings at Two Buttes 'black hole' (which had some water in main pond area tho other ponds dry), little Turk's Pond had some interesting birds including these two Pectoral Sandpipers. It seems amazing that these long-distance migrators found this small lake in the middle of short grass prairie on their trip from their arctic breeding grounds to South America where they spend the winter. They are fortunate to find this pond, which has a reasonable amount of water for fall, since due to the severe drought conditions in southeast Colorado all summer there are few ponds/lakes with any water in them.
I really liked the view of the Pectoral Sandpiper in the bottom pic as it shows good detail. Just a note: it was windy and gusty so I am pleased I got these pics as I was handholding my digital camera with a 400 mm lens on it. SeEtta

Migrating hawks feeding in hay fields

The Swainson's Hawk in the top pic has the usual brownish bib. It is standing in the same field as the hawks in next two pics which show the hawks using hay bales for perches. These recently cut hay fields provide serve as essentially 'fast food restaurants' for migrating hawks since many larger insects (and possibly mice or gophers) have been chopped up by the cutting blades so are pre-processed for consumption by hawks. There are usually many others live insects including grasshoppers that the hawks will chase down by walking or even running after then pouncing on them--this is most amusing to see. Though I haven't seen any this time, hawks will follow farm implements in fields in order to catch rodents trying to escape.
Currently three are hundreds of butterflies--yellows and some whites-in all the alfalfa fields. They seem fairly small for a Swainson's Hawk to eat but Birds of North America online does state that at least in winter they consume butterflies so maybe they eat these too? SeEtta

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Swainson's Hawk

This handsome bird is one of the hundreds of Swainson's Hawks that are in agricultural fields, on power poles (and hay bales) and circling above on thermals throughout eastern Colorado right now. There are Swainson's Hawks in every plumage due to age, sex and morph. This Swainson's has an unusually gray bib. SeEtta

Hawk migration in eastern Colorado

Fall hawk migration is a pretty spectacular event in eastern Colorado. Large numbers of hawks stop-over in fields to feed on insects, often large numbers of grasshoppers. Though I've seen groups of hawks in native grassland as well as agricultural fields, this year they have all been in ag fields likely due to the severe drought conditions that has plagued southeast Colorado all summer (though there have finally been some recent rains have mitigated drought ratings). In the top pic only one hawk remains in the field as others have taken off and are flying in the background (all those little black dots are flying hawks).
The bottom pic shows a larger number of hawks that are in a 'kettle'--that is a group of hawks that are circling as they rise on a thermal. Again, all those black dots are hawks SeEtta

Monday, September 26, 2011

More Scissor-tailed Flycatcher pics

Though these pics are less than sharp, as the bird is flying they show more field marks. The top two pics provide good top and bottom view of this bird. Though fairly blurry, the bottom pic shows the colors just as the camera took them. I have tweaked the other photos to improve the lighting and view but I left this totally as it. SeEtta

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Salida white hummer: still around

I found out this past week that the probable albino hummingbird that had visited a feeder near Salida, CO was still around and coming to a neighbor's feeder. (Let me add a thank you to Susan Tweit of Salida for sending me a tip about this bird). The feeder owner, Helen Brieske, was most generous in her invitation to sit on her deck to wait near the feeder. I was delighted that the bird came in to feed several times and also perched in a nearby pine tree for several minutes at a time so I was able to get photos that could be cropped to show it pretty close-up.
The white feathering was truly dazzling. The dark that is seen through the white feathers appears to be the skin which is darkened by the flood of blood vessels beneath. These photos show that the bill is very pink, just as was shown in the original photos I posted, though almost translucent as shown in the photo on the right. In these photos the legs are visible as well as the feet, both of which are whitish to pinkish in coloration. That would be from the blood flowing through the veins as I understand it. When I enlarge the photos as far as possible the toenails also appear pinkish. The eye, however, does not appear to have red or pink in it so what I saw in the very enlarged original photos was likely the reflection from the red feeder.
There appears to be some disagreement on exactly what is a albino and what is a leucistic hummingbird. I summarized the designations defined by Cornell University on my first post about this bird on the Birds and Blooms blog. Using this research this hummer would meet the criteria for an incomplete (or partial) albino as it has white feathers and the pigment missing in bill, legs and feet but it has a dark eye. However, I am told that identification can only be confirmed with a hummingbird in hand so this will remain a probable partial albino. SeEtta

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: shows orangish axillary patch

In the top pic the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher has just caught an insect which it is beginning to devour. In both of these pics an organgish colored axillary patch is visible (I believe that is what is showing towards the top of the wing bend in the top pic and clearly visible inside the opened wing). This is a characteristic that Birds of North America online indicates is absent in juveniles. Adult males have "bright scarlet red" patches and very long tail feathers. As this bird has shorter tail feathers and the organish axillary patch, I suspect it is an adult or sub-adult female. SeEtta

Scissor-tailed Flycatcher: casting a pellet

I was quite surprised to see what looked like this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher casting out a pellet, a behavior I had no idea that this or any flycatcher species engaged in but I kept shooting as fast as possible to document it. And Birds of North America online confirms it: "Occasionally casts brownish black pellets composed primarily of chitinous insect exoskeletons" (Jonathan V. Regosin)
This series of 4 pics were taken within 1 minute (per camera time/date stamp). In the top pic the bird is beginning the process of casting the pellet which is barely visible when photos is enlarged. In the next pic the pellet is visible in the bird's mouth.
In the third pic the pellet is difficult to see but towards the front of the bird's mouth just as it begins to be cast out. And in the final pic the pellet is out and shown at the bottom of the pic. Interestingly the bird appears to watch it fall from it's mouth. SeEtta