Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Tropical Parula at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands/WBC-TX


This little rarish warbler was found a few days ago at Edinburg Scenic Wetlands/World Birding Center. I looked for it briefly after a lecture at that facility but was tired from my trip so chose to go take a nap. Though it continued to rain in this area all morning it slowed around noon and I tried again.

It took a bit as I had to keep going inside to warm up as it continued sprinkling with unusually cold temps of low 40's and a frequent wind. It was working trees in a mixed flock with 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, an Orange-crowned Warbler, and a Nashville Warbler.

Timing is everything, as I took photos of the parula it started to rain not just sprinkle and got these pics before I got my camera (and me) too wet. SeEtta

Monday, December 30, 2013

Peregrine Falcon in Texas


I found this Peregrine Falcon on a tower structure in Mercedes, Texas. It was more than 50 feet above and another hundred feet north of me but I used a long telephoto equivalent to about 1200mm; however, I still stayed in my car I stayed in my car and took photos from it to reduce the risk of flushing it. It was still on the tower structure when I drove away. SeEtta

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Lecture by Bill Clark on Raptors of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas


Busy start to my trip to the lower Rio Grande Valley--arrived Thursday, participated in Weslaco CBC Friday and then found out there was a lecture by Bill Clark on Saturday morning at Edinburg World Birding Center to drove up there. And it was well worth it, excellent presentation with neat photos of various rpators found in the Rio Grande Valley. The top photo shows photos of the Hooked Bill Kite that I have yet to see. The bottom photo shows some of the hawks with Avian Keratin Disorder that results in unusually long bills on hawks. Fortunately at least some of these hawks with very long bills have learned how to accomodate and have been surviving. And those with especially long bills sometimes have the end of the bill break off which effectively gets it out of their way (though at least in one hawk, it would grown back the next year and then break off again). SeEtta

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Happy Holidays

Happy Holidays to all. This Red-naped Sapsucker doesn't need a Santa Hat photoshopped on it's head, it has it's own. Took this photo in Canon City on Saturday. SeEtta

Saturday, December 21, 2013

First American Dipper in Canon City area this season

Every winter we have from one to a few American Dippers that move downstream along the Arkansas River in Colorado in cold weather to spend the winter in the mild Canon City area. This year I didn't see any until yesterday when I found this one in a location several miles east of Canon City which is a regular wintering locale and the furthest east location I have found them in Fremont County. We had such a terribly warm fall that this bird may not have thought it necessary to leave the higher elevation areas of the river until the recent cold weather. SeEtta

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Final on female sapsucker with close up video showing her drilling a sap well

So this female sapsucker that at first glance appeared to be a Yellow-bellied with her facial characteristics being more consistent with Yellow-bellied the other characteristics that are used by Project Sapsucker to identify hybrids (throat, nape, and upperparts) are all consistent with a hybrid Yellow-bellied X Red-naped Sapsucker. At least some identifications of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, including some of mine in the past, are made with more distant views that may miss such characteristics as the small amount of red feathers at the bottom of this bird's throat. Sapsuckers that winter in the Canon City and other areas of southern Colorado are unlikely to tolerate close approach for such views and flushing these birds from where they have sap wells is pretty intrusive. Use of spotting scopes with long telephoto lens is one good way to spot such characteristics and make accurate id's. Also long telephoto lens on cameras are good at revealing these difficult to view characteristics. This very short video clip shows this hybrid female sapsucker close-up as she works hard at drilling a sap well in a pine tree during that terribly cold weather on Dec 10---it had gone to 6 below zero F overnight in Canon City after days of below freezing temperatures and the temperature was in the single digits as she worked on this tree around 9 am that morning. The outer parts of that tree had to be frozen solid as she drilled away. SeEtta

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Female Sapsucker-what about her face?


The Birdfellow website has some discussion about the differences in sapsucker facial markings and this is posted by Dave Irons: "Generally speaking, the face of a Red-naped Sapsucker has a rather broad and nearly solid black auricular (behind the eye) stripe that is bordered above by a somewhat narrow white supercilium (above the eye) that tends to narrow anteriorly. Conversely, the dark auricular stripe on a Yellow-bellied is noticeably narrower and is often mottled with paler tipped feathers. The supercilium on Yellow-bellied is wider overall and tends to broaden a bit behind the eye. These differences account for the face of a Red-naped looking more dark than light, while the face of a Yellow-bellied tends to look more light than dark."

The top two pics are of the female sapsucker that has been the subject of these recent blogs. The third photo is a very typical male Red-naped Sapsucker I photographed in Canon City in the two weeks just as those above. And it shows the bird pretty straight on to reduce the distortions when a bird is angled from the camera. It certainly makes for some good comparison with the female sapsucker. This Red-naped has a very narrow white supercilium and it has the broad and solid black auricular stripe--both as described in the Birdfellow article as indicative of Red-naped. The female sapsucker has a somewhat narrower dark auricular stripe and it is invaded a little by some pale appearing feathers (not sure if pale tipped or white feathers. The white supercilium on the female sapsucker is certainly wider than the supercilium on the Red-naped and does widen behind the eye as it merges with the nape feathers that are also almost all white.

The bottom photo is a typical female Yellow-bellied Sapsucker I photographer in Canon City in 2008 (the photos of the recent Yellow-bellied are not good for this comparison). It really fits the Birdfellow article: narrower black auricular stripe with pale feathers in it and the white supercilium is clearly wider and gets even much wider behind the eye as described for Yellow-bellied. Still just a little more to come in next post. SeEtta

Monday, December 16, 2013

Female sapsucker--focus on her upperparts

The pattern of barring on the upperparts of sapsuckers is also important in distinguishing Red-naped from Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. As noted by the Project Sapsucker work from the Migration Research Foundation-McGill Bird Observatory Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers tend to have black and buffy/yellowish/whitish 'peppered'or mottled across their backs while Red-napes have the white in two fairly distinct and narrow rows down their backs. I wish I had a photo that showed the back without the bird having it's head turned to the side as this distorts the top of the back somewhat.  (I try not to flush these sensitive birds from their chosen trees and with the weather brutally cold when I saw this one I was especially cautious)  However, the white on the back of this sapsucker seems to start off in two distinct narrow rows with some black in the middle but becomes more diffuse or 'peppered' across the back. Here is the the chart for rating this from the Migration Research Foundation:
Again I would rate this bird's back as in the middle of the chart as 'two broad white lines' that are more separated at the top then come together. Another characteristic that the Project Sapsucker folks don't use (also not mentioned in Birds of North America online) is the buffy/yellowish tinge 'most often' found on the barring on the backs of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers that is found less often/less obviously (though there is an overlap) on Red-naped.   On one of my photos of this bird there was a buffy tinge showing and I also saw it through my binoculars--I think it is one of those problems with lighting and photos but it was a light tinge. 

Next I will post about the facial markings. SeEtta

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Female Sapsucker-what about the nape?



In the previous photos of the female sapsucker the nape area was not in view and this is an important area as we know for separating Red-naped from Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. As noted in several references " Male yellow-bellied sapsuckers can rarely show some red on the nape" (from NationalGeographic.com); however, this is not noted for female Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers. As seen in this photo, as well as in the field when I put my 40X Zeiss spotting scope on her, this sapsucker has a small amount of red on her nape. Below is the scoring examples from Migration Research Foundation-McGill Bird Observatory chart--I rate this again as right smack in the middle between "traces of red' and 'red restricted to about half-length or half width'.    
I will post a better photo for the back of this sapsucker in my next post as the bird is twisted a little in this photo which distorts the white on it's back. SeEtta

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Close-up shot of female sapsucker

So now using a very long telephoto lens plus some cropping you get a very close-up view of the head and neck of this female sapsucker. Some likely saw in the previous photos a hint of some red at the bottom of the throat and now this clearly shows a limited amount of red--is this within an acceptable range of "throat and chin white with the occasional few red feathers"? (from Migration Research Foundation-McGill Bird  Observatory) Below is the chart from the Migration Research Foundation for scoring sapsuckers:
I believe this is more than 'traces of red' but the red doesn't appear to 'form a complete band' at the bottom of the throat (the caveat is that though this is a very close-up view there is the possibility that if one had this bird in hand and pulled it's head back to view the throat fully it might be that the red does form a complete but thin band-but we have to deal with what we got).  So I would rank this bird as smack in the middle of this scoring of throat traits.  

More close up photos showing other field marks tomorrow.

Think that separating Yellow-bellied from Red-naped Sapsuckers is a piece of cake?

Both photos are of the same sapsucker just taken with different cameras on the same day. I took the photos from my car that was parked about 35-45 feet from the bird. When I looked at the bird with my binoculars I felt sure this was a female Yellow-belled Sapsucker. This is about the view I had in my binoculars. What do you think? (do not enlarge the photos) SeEtta

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Golden Eagle with very full 'crop'


"Of the raptors, only the diurnal birds of prey, the hawks, eagles and falcons have a crop. Like seed-eating birds, they use it to store pieces of food. An amazing amount of food can be stored in the crop which bulges out from the hawk’s upper chest as it fills, giving a fully cropped-up raptor the look of a feathered Mae West! Although powerful birds like hawks are not often thought of as vulnerable, they too are at risk when eating. Another raptor may steal their food, or, in the worst case scenario, a larger bird of prey or a mammalian predator may kill and, in turn, eat the raptor while it was occupied with eating."-from Delaware Valley Raptor Center: Raptor Adaptations (an excellent reference).

The bulge in the upper chest of this Golden Eagle I photographed a few days ago here in Fremont County really sticks out so it must have consumed a good amount of food before flying off to consume it in piece in a safer location. SeEtta

Golden Eagle flying right near Canon City


I saw this adult Golden Eagle flying just barely outside the Canon City city limits and just a half hour or so after I photographed the Golden Eagle with a full crop (posted above} about 10 miles away but in Fremont County. It was less than a mile from Craddock Plaza Mall, a strip mall with a lot of development around it. SeEtta

Monday, December 9, 2013

The one eyed Ferruginous Hawk in flight


Just a series of photos I took a few days ago of the one eyed Ferruginous Hawk as she flew. None good enough to enlarge but I think the series shows how well this clearly handicapped hawk is doing.

I did go out to look for her today and she was where I have seen her near the prairie dog town. During the 20 minutes I observed her she only flew out one time as though she was going to go after a prairie dog but did only flew above them and did not attempt to go down towards them.

She returned to her perch and not long after an adult Bald Eagle came near. It flew around near her perch appearing to harass a flock of crows and she held her ground even when the eagle flew somewhat close. However she did fly off when the eagle started to fly directly at her. As she flew off the eagle flew also that way though not right on her but maybe following.

I did drive around the area for about 15 minutes looking for her but did not see her or the eagle. SeEtta



Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ferruginous Hawk with only one eye


I had found this female light-morph Ferruginous Hawk 3 days ago in the eastern part of my county here in Colorado. I got some close up photos when she landed on a utility pole right across the road from where I was parked.

Though I had looked at this hawk with both my binoculars and when it was further away with my spotting scope, I didn't see that it was missing it's right eye until I uploaded these photos and got a good look at her face.

Having only one eye is a major problem for birds as it would significantly affect their depth perception which would make grabbing prey a difficult task for a raptor. I have read of raptors with one functional eye--one eagle was kept as an educational bird in a raptor center as it ran into things. The other raptor, an Eagle Owl, was released as the raptor center that treated it for injuries with an attached radio transmitter that allowed researches to follow her as she successfully raised a 3 offspring while they noted no detectable differences in her behavior compared to fully sighted birds.


I didn't go back to check on her until today due to snow and extreme cold but did go look for her today. I found her in the same area which is near a prairie dog town, the primary food source for this species. She was more distant and I didn't consider trying to get closer to her as I do not want to interfere with her hunting. It was too cold still to watch her to see how successful she is but will try to do so when it warms up a bit. SeEtta

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Immature Bald Eagle in flight

I was driving home at almost dusk when I spotted this big beauty flying in my direction. Fortunately I was on a county road with no traffic as I quickly stopped and got out with my big 400mm lens on my Canon 60d dslr to get this shot. I believe this is a third year bird (they attain adult plumage at age 5). SeEtta

Golden Eagle close-up


I was delighted on Thanksgiving day to spot 4 Golden Eagles, 3 in Fremont County, Colorado (The first 2 I saw were flying a distance away and I did not get photos of them), all adults including this one that was perched on a utility pole along the highway. I parked on the other side of the 2 lane highway (naturally no shoulders and a downward slope so had to stay near the traffic lane) so I was about 50 feet from the utility pole it was on and may 75 feet from the eagle--this photo is the result of a very long telephoto lens plus cropping to enlarge it. I stayed in my car for safety and as I try to do anyway to reduce disturbance to the birds.

I really like the middle photo that shows the back of the eagle's head with it's golden feathering. I always try to not flush raptors from their perches as they need to be able to conduct your tasks of daily living and have chosen the perch because it is good is some way for them. I am pleased to say I did not flush this eagle, it was still on the pole as I drove off and I could see it in my side view mirror from a distance--that to me is success. SeEtta

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Two dark morph Harlan's Hawks


Yesterday I found two dark morph Harlan's Hawks on private property in Canon City. Both were more than 300 feet away so have cropped the photos tightly just to get these views.

The top two photos are of one Harlan's that has a small amount of white streaking on it's breast. As shown on the tree limbs, we had about 2 inches of snow at that point.

The bottom two pics are of the second Harlan's and it had more white streaking on it's chest. Interestingly these two were perched within a few hundred yards of each other though likely the trees obscured their view. SeEtta

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two late Greater Spreadwinged Damselflies, one munching on another insect


Greater Spreadwinged Damselfly (Archilestes grandis). After I found the Western Pygmy-Blue butterfly on November 21 I went looking near a pond on the Canon City Riverwalk for odonata and found two Greater Spreadwinged Damselflies (Archilestes grandis)-the one in the top two photos and a different damselfly at the bottom (see the difference in the ragged wings).

I didn't see until I cropped the top photo that this damselfly is munching on another winged insect!
This Greater Spreadwinged Damselfly has less damaged wings than the one in the top photos. SeEtta