Thursday, March 31, 2011

Quarrelling Hairy Woodpeckers

I had a lot of fun photographing this woodpecker spat in January. Two male hairy woodpeckers were debating who was going to go to a suet feeder. There are five suet feeders on the bird tree, so they kept themselves quite busy. They would fly at each other but neither was actually touched by the other. They kept this up for so long that I stopped watching them after thirty minutes. There were so many good shots, that I decided to give you a slide show.


Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Winter Goldfinches

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A chickadee and goldfinches share the platform feeder in late December.

I remember when I saw my first goldfinch in winter plumage. I thought I had a rare bird that dropped by the feeder. I e-mailed the Stokes, who kindly visited my photo and told me it was a goldfinch! The goldfinch then, in 2007, was only partially in winter clothing. The ones that visited us in December were wearing all of their brown feathers.

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Don't forget to wipe the snow off your face when you're done!

Goldfinches don't come often to the feeder. They come in small groups when they appear. They are quiet and mingle well with the other birds. If you don't watch carefully, you could confuse them with sparrows or redpolls.

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I caught this little guy landing!


Blue Jay Seven Times

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I'm using Adobe Lightroom now (next to buying my Canon, it's the best thing I've done for my photos), and things are picking up with the photo editing. I'm actually only three months behind in the edits now! I came across more blue jay photos which are better than my last blue jay post. They still are not great (I posted the best one here). But when a photograph makes me chuckle or remember a day, then it is post-worthy. All of these qualify.

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The Mourning Doves

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I admit that mourning doves are not one of my favorite bird species. They remind me of city pigeons and they don't sing. Their voice reminds me of sadness in past summers. I don't know where I picked up that connection, but it's there. The doves eat on the ground and are very skittish and passive. Their brown colors make it difficult to photograph them successfully. But on this day in December, 2010 I got some good photos. What I do love about the doves is the exquisite blue circle around their eye.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Creepers

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These white-breasted nuthatches are silly birds. You usually see them walking on trunks and branches upside down. If I glimpse a small movement high in the bird tree, I follow the movement with my eyes and will usually find it is a nuthatch walking down to the feeders from above. Other birds fly directly to the feeders, but the nuthatches creep up on them. They have a tiny voice that you may not hear. They don't talk as much as other birds. Their back is slate blue with black bands. They have rufous pant feathers in the rear.

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Red-breasted nuthatches also live here, but I haven't seen any this year. I wish I had paid closer attention because I know they had to have dropped in. They behave exactly as the white-breasted nuthatches.

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Silly Chickadee Part Two

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I could watch these guys all day. They seldom squabble with each other or other birds. They are simply happy to be alive.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Silly Chickadees

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She has barely touched down on the perch before her head is in the bucket!

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Can you imagine being so small that one sunflower seed fills your mouth?

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Bye for now!


Downy or Hairy?

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Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

A few years ago, I vowed to never try to identify downy and hairy woodpeckers again. Each identification I made was wrong and I couldn't seem to remember which was the smaller woodpecker. For some reason, that changed this winter. I created a mnemonic that helped me remember which bird was which. The constant repetition of the mnemonic finally created automatic knowledge. I look at a woodpecker and now I know which it is!

The downy woodpecker is above. It is the smaller bird, which you can see by its relative size as it perches on the suet feeder. The smaller bird also has the shorter beak. Also, look at the tail feathers. There are bands of black there with the rufous feathers filling some bands.

"Smaller" and "shorter" are meaningless without comparison, so we see in the photo below the hairy woodpecker which is larger and has a longer bill. It has no bands on its tail, only the rufous feathers. (However, I have read that some hairy woodpeckers in the northwest of the US have bands of black.)

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Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)

I have observed that hairy woodpeckers seem to be more aggressive than the downy. Downy woodpeckers have their spats, but the hairy woodpeckers attack each other more often and more violently (but I have not seen any injuries). I also think, but am not certain, that the hairy woodpecker gaze has an intensity, not seen by me in the downy, that you see in this photo. These are my observations and I have not verified then with any research.

What was my mnemonic? D is for downy and H is for hairy. D comes before H in the alphabet, as smaller/shorter comes before larger/longer (on an imaginary continuum). Therefore, the downy is smaller and has the shorter bill. If you have the same problem identifying these birds that I had, I hope this helps! Have fun watching the woodpeckers! I have to go to Flickr now and sort out my downy and hairy woodpeckers!

Flickr: My Downy Woodpecker Set

Flickr: My Hairy Woodpecker Set

Flickr:: My messed up Woodpecker Set


Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blue Jay Five Times

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Cyanocitta cristata

Blue Jays are difficult for me to photograph. They feed on the ground and fly off with my slightest movement, unlike the redpolls and chickadees who will feed with me standing right next to them. On the ground, you need more light so my photos are dark. With editing, I can get a poor image. Even though they come around to the feeders often, I find I'm never prepared for them because of their quick movements. But these five shots were good enough to post and show their boisterous personality.

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These photos were taken in November 2010 and are still the best shots of them that I have this season. They are nearly impossible to photograph in the summer because they stay in the woods (unless they are squabbling with somebody and happen to fly by).

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Birds at Home

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Black-capped chickadee

The ride home from New Haven was stressful. I had my audiobook to listen to, but traffic was awful in Massachusetts and I realized that I was sick and feeling worse and worse as I drove north. Back home, I managed to photograph birds at the feeder over the next few days. These are some shots of the chickadees.

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Black-capped Chickadee

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Poecile atricapillus

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New Haven: An Oil Tanker

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Tanker leaving New Haven Harbor in November

After Toni's moving funeral, I returned to Anna's house before Anna and Aaron returned and took Daisy for a walk. The day was bright and clear after an early snowfall the night before. Daisy and I needed to get outside and see what the birds and ocean were doing. I was delighted to see this oil tanker leaving the harbor. I'd never seen such a large ship there before. There is an oil storage area at the top of the harbor that I seldom photograph, even though it is picturesque in a weird sort of way. Daisy and I continued to walk the shoreline as the tanker left the harbor. We then walked home and cleaned up the house a bit.

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I never was able to get the name of the ship.

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I wish that I had met the people on the ship and knew where the tanker was going.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

New Haven: Lighthouse Point

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When you walk to the corner from Anna's house in City Point, New Haven, you get to New Haven Harbor. Looking across the harbor, you see Lighthouse Point. There is a spit of land on the left of the point that goes into the harbor . . .

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. . . and there is another lighthouse! I have been to Lighthouse Point, but not up into the lighthouse. And I've never been out to this other lighthouse. Maybe someday. . .

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