2020 Bird Wrap-up

A Carolina Wren that paused long enough along the Lost Valley Trail (Weldon Spring CA) in early May.

Here’s a bit of a wrap-up on 2020 with a selection of miscellaneous birds that didn’t fit into any other blog posts.

A Kentucky Warbler with prey found at Engelmann Woods Natural Area in May.
This was definitely my year for Kentucky Warblers. In May and June they seemed to be everywhere I went. This one was photographed on my birthday near Greer Spring in June.
I’m always happy to get a photo of Yellow-throated Vireos. This one was photographed along the Lost Valley Trail Lost Valley Trail (Weldon Spring CA) in May.
Sarah and I found some Eastern Kingbirds in May while birding along Hwy 79. These guys were moving from perch to perch among the flowering weeds in ag fields.
The light was harsh, but I couldn’t help shoot these Eastern Kingbirds.
Sarah and I found this Killdeer doing its broken wing routine in May. We looked but could not find any sign of a nest or chicks.
On the same trip as the previous two species, we came across this solo male Bobolink singing. I slowly creeped along the weeds to get close enough for this photo.
This pair of Dickcissel were caught in the act on an orchid hunting trip in mid-June.
A photo taken at August A. Bush Memorial CA in very low light of a Worm-eating Warbler. Always one of my favorites!
A very cooperative Pine Warbler sat for Dave and I during our birthday trip to the southeastern part of the state.
This Wood Duck wasn’t buying me in my kayak and would let me get only so close at Mingo NWR.
While Dave and I were looking for Ammodramus sparrows at Weldon Spring CA, we came across this gorgeous Henslow’s Sparrow.
In September, while waiting at a watering hole in St. Louis County, this Red-tailed Hawk flew in for a drink. If you look closely you can see a prey animal it is carrying – either a squirrel or a mink.
A rare-for-Missouri Western Grebe was found at RMBS in late November.
During the same visit to RMBS, Dave and I found our first American Tree Sparrow of the season.

I likely have several other bird photos from 2020 that need processing, but this is all I have for now. Thanks for the visit.

-OZB

 

 

 

White-eyed Vireo Nest – Part One

May seems such a long time ago. I don’t know how I get so behind on photo processing, but, better late than never. Here is the first of what will probably be three videos with stills of the White-eyed Vireo nest found by Miguel Acosta at Weldon Spring C.A. this past spring. I hope you like it.

-OZB

North Carolina Birding – 2019 Wrap-up

Black Skimmer, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

Going to the archives to try and wrap up 2019, I want to share a few more birds taken in eastern North Carolina.

Least Tern, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

For me, the highlight of visiting Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge was visiting the Least Tern nesting colony. They put up a barricade to make sure you do not get to close to the nests and chicks, but it soon became obvious that the birds do a pretty good job at dissuading anyone from getting too close.

Least Tern dive-bombing the photographer. Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

It was terrifying watching these birds react defensively, strafing and defecating until I moved back to a point they felt comfortable with. I remember I still had some of their ammunition on my camera body for at least six months before finally cleaning it off.

Least Tern, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.
Least Tern with fish, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

You have to look really close towards the center of their nesting arena to spot the chicks – the reason for their territorial behaviors.

Can you spot the Least Tern chick? Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

During a walk along the interior, marsh portion of the refuge, this beautiful Common Tern flew by.

Common Tern, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

A real treat were my first looks and photographs of Red Knot.

Red Knot, Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge, N.C., USA.

During the same trip, I was fortunate to visit a nice longleaf pine forest habitat at TNC’s Calloway Forest Preserve in Hoke County, NC. Here, along with the Red-cockaded Woodpecker, I got to find one of my southern favorites, the Bachman’s Sparrow.

Bachman’s Sparrow, Calloway Forest Nature Preserve, NC., USA.
Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Calloway Forest Nature Preserve, NC., USA.

From the few short trips I’ve been, North Carolina seems to be quite a place for birds and nature.

-OZB

The Ruff

Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
Camera settings: f/8, 1/1000 sec., ISO-640, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

Never have I worked so hard to get mediocre photos of such an ugly bird. The sky was clear, the air cool and this combination created a terribly turbulent atmosphere over the mud flats the bird was foraging in, making it near impossible to get the sharpness desired in a photograph.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/1250 sec., ISO-400, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

The Ruff is a bird that is native to Eurasia, visiting North America somewhat regularly. There have been sightings of this species in Missouri and Illinois in the recent past (at least three during this spring), but this is the first one I’ve been able to track down and photograph. Josh Uffman happened to discover this bird near Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary on April 18th while we were in the area. I want to thank Josh who turned on the St. Louis birding community to this special visitor from overseas.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/8, 1/1000 sec., ISO-640, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

The Ruff is a member of the Calidris genus of shorebirds. Local members of this group include many of the sandpipers we are familiar with, like the peeps, Dunlin and Red Knot.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/1000 sec., ISO-200, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

I know I called this particular bird ugly earlier in the post. However, if you are not familiar, look this bird up on the internet or your favorite bird guide. The birds in breeding plumage are absolutely stunning and their behavior on leks makes them a very special bird.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/1250 sec., ISO-400, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

These were just a few of the couple thousand or so photos of this bird taken on that day. Most were boring shots of the bird foraging in the flooded farm field. Perhaps one day I’ll be fortunate enough to see these guys on their leks.

-OZB

Making the Birds Earn their Supper

White-breasted Nuthatch

I have been given a lot inspiration lately by a number of Facebook friends to photograph the great birds that visit our feeders, or to put it another way, make these models work for their supper. On a recent birding trip, Sarah and I collected some great drift wood that I turned into horizontal and vertical branches in the backyard, not too far from the feeders and our sun-porch.

Dark-eyed Junco

I drilled a few extra holes towards the rear of some of these to act as unseen cavities to place my homemade bark butter. It only took the Juncos a couple of hours to find their favorite food. These guys go crazy trying to figure out how to get to this stuff. I made sure to place a few feeding spots near horizontal perches that they could access without too much difficulty as they cannot grasp vertical perches very well. These guys are so tame that they were my primary subjects, other species being a little more timid to visit the close perches and seed deposits that I sat close to.

Dark-eyed Junco

For a first attempt, I’m pretty pleased. These were shot hand-held in mixed lighting with my 100-400 mm lens and I shot through the not-so clean windows of the sun-porch. I tried sitting behind the open windows, but this must have made me much more conspicuous. I sat for an hour or more with few birds coming in to feed. Within seconds of me closing the windows, the Juncos came to the feeding stations.

Downy Woodpecker

I’m a little concerned that my resident Downy Woodpeckers might have a little too much of the rich food I am providing. They now have access to the peanut and tree nuts in the no-mess mix I provide, beef tallow suet blocks, and now the bark butter. But, I suppose it would take a lot for a wild bird to over indulge.

Anyone who feeds their wild birds and has an interest and access to photography should give this a try. I’m looking forward to more cold mornings spent outside trying my hand at this.

-OZB

Finding Snow in April

Snowy Owl – BK Leach Conservation Area

A huge thank you to Danny Brown, without whom I most likely would have stayed at zero Snowy Owls for the great Snowy irruption of the 2017/2018 winter. Because of travel and just poor luck, I had missed out on finding the Snowy Owls that had salted the state this winter and would never have imagined that we would have another chance a week into April. But, since the weather to date  suggests little of spring, I suppose we should have not been too surprised.

Snowy Stretch

The birding on Saturday was seemingly great everywhere and Steve, I and others were having good luck finding interesting species at RMBS when we received the messages from our phones about Danny’s find. I think Steve and I would have been satisfied with our usual views from a football’s field or two away, but were ecstatic to find the bird perched at an optimal viewing distance, resting after a nice meal that others had documented earlier in the day.

Snowy Yawn

We left the bird still on its perch shortly after sunset. On the way out of the conservation area we had a Short-eared Owl and American Bittern flyovers. Thanks again, Danny.

Birds of Australia – White-bellied Sea Eagle

White-bellied Sea Eagle at Wilson’s Promontory NP, Victoria Australia

The first place we explored during our single day at Wilson’s Promontory National Park was Miller’s Landing and it’s associated trails. Miller’s Landing is a north-facing beach that leads to a healthy and productive inlet and marine sanctuary. The chances for finding all sorts of birds and other wildlife were high. We just needed to get lucky. After a few minutes of walking along the coastal mangrove marsh at low tide, Collin and I got a show that I’ll never forget. I only wish we had a spotting scope to see it better. After passing nearly overhead in a horrible back-lit situation, we watched this impressive White-bellied Sea Eagle fly off shore and into the inlet. We thought that would be the end – watching it fly until we couldn’t see it any longer. But this bird was on the hunt.

White-bellied Sea Eagle – on the hunt

I’m not sure of the species, but for the next several minutes we watched this eagle hunt and eventually capture a duck. Without stopping to rest, this eagle hover-hunted, trying time and time again to capture a duck that was diving and putting up a fight. I couldn’t believe this large bird had the stamina to continuously try at capturing this bird without rest.

White-bellied Sea Eagle – the struggle continues

Collin and I were the only humans on the beach and the only ones fortunate enough to observe this struggle. Although difficult to see in detail from our position, we could tell the duck was trying its best. It lasted at least 5 minutes and perhaps as long as ten. Eventually, the eagle won its prey, perhaps taking it to a nest nearby.

White-bellied Sea Eagle – the conclusion

Birds of Australia – The Fairy Wrens

Superb Fairy Wren

Among the most well known and sought after of Australia’s passerines are the Fairy Wrens and probably none is more popular than the Superb Fairy Wren that is found in New South Wales and Victoria in southeast Australia.

Superb Fairy Wren

Confident and brash, these guys have the personality of a chickadee on a mood-altering substance. On a couple of occasions, Collin and I found ourselves face to face with these guys at an arm’s length, being the apparent subjects of their songs and scoldings.

Superb Fairy Wren

The Fairy Wrens are sexually dimorphic, with males having an eclipse phase in the off-season where they molt to an appearance similar to the females. These birds tend to be found in family groups of 5 – 10 birds.

Variegated Fairy Wren

I found this Variegated Fairy Wren foraging among some low trees in a parking lot for Sawn Rocks at Mount Kaputar, NSW.