Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tufted Duck Life Bird

Glad I was able to make it out before work this morning to check out the Tufted Duck in Cold Spring Harbor across the street from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (where DNA was discovered).  Thanks to all the folks who posted the sighting on the NY ABA Birding Listserv.  The photo isn't great because the light wasn't good as this was taken just about as the sun was rising.  The Tufted Duck was among approximately 20 Ring-necked Ducks and one male Redhead.  You can see it is the second duck from the right side of the photo.

Tufted Duck at the pond behind St. John's Church in Cold Spring Harbor, NY

Monday, July 16, 2012

Birding Documentary on HBO

Make sure to tune in tonight at 9pm eastern on HBO for the one hour birding documentary called "Birders: The Central Park Effect".  Explore the birds who come and go, and those that prefer to stay awhile in New York's hottest birding destination, Central Park!     :)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Barn Swallow Nesting

Who would have thought that if a birder looks up, he or she will find great things.  This past weekend I did just this and I discovered the awesomeness of what is the Barn Swallow nest.  I discovered several Barn Swallow nests in Northeastern Pennsylvania this past weekend...a few at Lake Scranton in Scranton, PA and a couple more at a Shop Rite Plaza in Daleville, PA.  Both locations were active nesting sites.  This was the first time I had seen a Barn Swallow nest in person.  You can see the mud pellets that were carried by the swallows to construct the abodes.  These birds almost always make their nests in made made structures.  Check out the photos!

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Barn Swallow nest at Shop Rite Plaza - Daleville, PA

Each time I approached the nest pictured above, this little guy would poke his head out and make sure I was keeping some distance..

barn swallow, barn swallow nest, barn swallow nesting
Barn Swallow nests at Shop Rite Plaza - Daleville, PA

There were several nests at the Shop Rite Plaza that were constructed exactly as you can see in this photo.  Look up the next time you take a visit to the supermarket!

barn swallow, barn swallow nest, barn swallow nesting
Bridge at Lake Scranton

Bridge located at the northern tip of Lake Scranton.  You can see there is a smaller looking structure to the left of the bridge.  This is where the Barn Swallows were nesting.  We were able to find the nests by watching the swallows.  One brought food back to one of the nests and we were in business.

barn swallow, barn swallow nest, barn swallow nesting
Two Swallows on ledge at Lake Scranton, PA

You can see the two Barn Swallows standing on the ledge, watching me and my fiance with our cameras.  Before we approached the nest, they tried to ward us off by flying around us looking acrobatic and even flying very close to us at one point.  We made sure to take our photos and run because we did not want to disturb them more than we already did.

barn swallow, barn swallow nest, barn swallow nesting
Barn Swallow sentries at Lake Scranton, PA

barn swallow, barn swallow nest, barn swallow nesting
Barn Swallow nest at Lake Scranton, PA

barn swallow, barn swallow nest, barn swallow nesting
Barn Swallow nest with nestlings at Lake Scranton, PA

Friday, June 29, 2012

5 Easy Ways To Help Birds Beat the Heat

     I thought it would be appropriate to post about a topic such as this on a day like today where temperatures across much of the country are soaring into triple digit figures. In the southeast, all time record highs are expected upwards of 108 degrees.  If you've ever heard the saying "hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk," well I bet you probably would be able to do that in these kinds of temperatures. While we are inside complaining that it is too hot with our fans or air conditioners blasting, let us remember that our avian friends are not so fortunate to have this kind of technology. They do have a higher body temperature than us humans, but they still must find a way to make it through this extreme heat.  There are 5 easy ways that we can help birds beat the heat.

bird bath, bird hot, birdbath, summer bird, how to help birds
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

 Help Birds Beat the Heat

 1)  Provide Extra Bird Baths - even if you typically have one bird bath, try to make a few more.  On a scorching day, competition for bird baths will increase dramatically.  One can easily do this by flipping over the lid on your garbage can and filling the lid with about 3 to 4 inches of cold water.  Make sure you check on your bird baths every few hours if you can. On really hot days, the water will evaporate so make sure to refill.  If the water has not evaporated, check it to see if it is warm.  If it has warmed up a lot, dump out the old water and replace it with colder water.

2) Let The Birds Know Water Is Near - try to get a mister or dripper for your bird bath. Any moving water will help to attract birds that are flying over your backyard who may not realize that there is a chance for them to cool down a bit.

3)  Bird feeders - try to fill bird feeders with seed and not food that will go bad like suet.  Feeders are extremely helpful to birds trying to conserve all the energy they can.  Remember that they have to feed their little ones as well.  If you are feeling like it is necessary you can "upgrade" your choice of seed for the duration of the heat.

4) Strategic Placement of Feeders and Baths -  If it is possible, put feeders and/or baths in the shade.  It will keep the birds cooler!  Also, try to leave some space between the feeder and the bird bath.  Often birds will drop seeds and droppings in the bath if too close.  Makes for a fun clean up.

5)  Provide Multiple Shade Sources - whether it is natural shade from a weeping elm tree, or a weather guard purchased from your local nature shop, shade sources are extremely helpful to wild birds.  Why not plant some more trees in your backyard?  There's nothing wrong with thinking about the future.  We want to make sure our avian friends are around for our grandchildren to enjoy. 

What do you all do to help birds beat the heat?  Please share in the comments section below.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Fly Me to Dry Tortugas


A Motivational Monday.....on Tuesday.  

     Off the coast of the Florida Keys lies a National Park that many people may not even know about.  It is made up of a group of small islands and is called Dry Tortugas National Park.  What is most interesting about this place is its inaccessibility.  There are only two ways for you to get there.  Don't even think about taking your car over!  You'll make it all of about ten feet off of Key West unless you are able to steal a duck boat (not recommended).  Hopefully you all appreciate my dry humor since we are exploring the Dry Tortugas..

     If you want to get there, you have a couple of options.  You can take a boat (either the ferry that goes there or you can charter a boat yourself) or if you are feeling adventurous and you want to spend a little bit of extra cash you might want to opt for the seaplane to Dry Tortugas. Personally, I would lay out the money for the seaplane.  How many times in your life can you say you had an opportunity to ride in a seaplane?

Dry Tortugas National Park, Fort Jefferson, Key West, Seaplane, birding
Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park courtesy of Wikipedia Commons

     The main feature of this park is the structure that stands on one of the islands, called Fort Jefferson.  It is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere made up of over 16 million bricks...and believe it or not, it remains unfinished!.  There is plenty of history available on Fort Jefferson here if you are interested.

     Another reason to visit Dry Tortugas National Park is the chance to see  coral reefs that are every color of the spectrum just along the edge of Fort Jefferson.  All you'll have to do is get some snorkel gear.

     Birdwatchers have their chance at a slice of heaven here at Dry Tortugas, especially in the Spring.  You might call this place something of a migration paradise.  It is a great stopover location for birds that are making the long journey north from South America.  A different post will be spent diving into the birding population at this National Park.  

Check out this great video below.  You can get an idea of how amazing this place is and you can get a quick look at the seaplane.  Hopefully I will get a chance to visit sometime soon.

Thank you everyone for visiting!


Friday, June 22, 2012

Pileated Woodpecker vs. Snake




In the blue corner, weighing in at 11 oz hailing from the eastern woodland forest, the pileated woodpecker!
....and in the red corner the gigantic green snake!

     I was browsing youtube for some videos of birds.  One of my favorites that I haven't had the opportunity to see as of yet (but heard countless times) is the pileated woodpecker.  In this video, a huge snake has made its way into the nest of the woodpecker (100% presumption).  The mother has come back to the nest and is now trying to salvage her eggs or hatchlings from the massive snake.

     I love the way the bird is determined to defend its home and its eggs even if it means a fight to the death.  It is this displayed characteristic that makes me smile as I watch this video. I don't completely understand why it makes me happy but maybe it is just the beauty of instinct.  There are so many dangers that birds endure in the wild and predators are just one aspect that they have to deal with...   

     It would have been incredible to see this altercation in person.  If anyone knows what kind of snake this is, please leave a comment and I will make sure to stay as far away from it as possible!  I have an intense fear of snakes....  Thanks everyone for visiting!

Pileated Woodpecker vs. Snake video

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Helpful Bird Watching Game

     I've only been birding a little more than one year and in that short span of time I have already witnessed swift changes in the technology that allows us to have an easier time identifying birds, sharing our observations, and organizing ourselves in the field. I am not one to use huge amounts of technology while actually birding, but once I get home I do enjoy it.  There is something about carrying the Sibley Guide book with me.  It is emblazoned with my struggles and is a symbol of my journey thus far.  The book tells a story of my adventures just from a quick glance.

     To make a long story short....times are a-changing.  the resources are at our fingertips like never before.

A Fun Birding App

     I wanted to share with everyone a helpful app I was fortunate to come across last weekend.  This app is a little different than most because it a birding app that is helpful and FUN.  It is a bird watching game called birdJam Twitch.  I know I'm a little late.  The app was released in 2009 but I was not on the scene at that point.  Nor does the game show any age.  It is just as useful as it was when it was released then.

     BirdJam Twitch is a fun way for birders to practice their identification skills when they do not have the time to be out in the field.  This bird watching game can be bought for $4.99 on the iTunes app store and I recommend it to each and every birder who has access to this platform.  Keep an eye on the price because it fluctuates.  I was lucky enough to get it for $2.99

     The game focuses on the identification of North American birds.  Before you start playing the game, you are able to pick a skill level varying from level 1 to level 10.  Next you need to pick a category of birds you are going to be identifying.  You have the option to pick a setting such as the forest, fields & grasses, marshes, and urban.  You can further divide these settings by opting for east or west depending on which location you would prefer to focus on. 

     If you do not want to pick your group by habitat, you have another option. You can select the type of bird you want to practice identifying.  BirdJam Twitch offers the following groupings to toy around with: Ducks and Geese, Shorebirds, Sparrows, Warblers.  If you want to get particular about location, again, you can opt for east or west for any of these groups.

     After you make these choices you can start to have some fun.  You get three minutes to identify as many birds as possible. A black screen appears and then small pixels start to fill the board, revealing small sections of the bird.  The lower the difficulty level, the larger the squares are that reveal the bird.  Along the bottom of the screen is where you choose which bird you think is being revealed.  If you are wrong, it lets you pick again but your bonus points at the end of the round will be affected.  What is good about this game is that it lets you review each bird that you got wrong at the end of the round.  This makes it a worthy learning tool.

     At the end of the round, your points are totaled based upon how many birds you answered correctly in the allotted time.  Bonus points are awarded for getting birds correct on the first try.  There is a high score list and you can submit your score for the category you chose to play.


 The Verdict

     The only thing negative I have to say about the game is the lack of variety of photos for each species.  There is essentially one photo for each because the system will mirror an image every so often to make it seem different.  Also the game sticks to showing photos of adult males (in the dimorphic species).  It would be much more challenging to throw in photos of juveniles and females.

So if you are tired of sitting and studying your field guide or your Crossley ID Guide, go ahead and make this purchase on iTunes. I would highly recommend it.  The game has good replay value and I think everyone could get something out of it.