Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Daily Birding Badges

Face it, birding is just plain fun!  And telling your friends about your birding adventures is also fun.  So to help you share your daily birding joys, here are some badges that you can steal and post on your blog, Facebook, or Twitter  as an expression of just how birdy your day was!

20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement
In order to stay sharp, maintain and improve your birding skills, and to slip some birding joy into your regular day, make sure you see at least 20 bird species every day.  In some areas and times of the year, that can be a real challenge, but for most of us, with a little planning and diligence, we can carve out at least a few minutes for watching the feeders in our yard or making a couple quick stops on the way to work in order to see 20 birds every day.  Use this badge to show that you got your 20 Bird MDR and then join other birders using the 20 Bird MDR on Facebook.

Make Up Birding Day
Sometimes do to circumstances beyond your control, you may fall short of your 20 Bird MDR.  In that case, you can pull a Make Up Birding Day the very next day to make up your shortfall.  To do that, in addition to your daily 20, you need to see twice as many birds as you missed the day before.  So if you only got 18 one day, you need to see 24 birds on your Make Up Birding Day (20 Bird MDR + 2 x your shortfall).

30 Bird Bonus Bird Day
Congratulations, you went beyond the minimum and put in some extra time and got some bonus birds!  Nothing like stretching a little extra to feel like your day was a success even though you may not have had more than a couple of hours to devote to birds.  Post this badge to celebrate your bonus birds.

50 Bird Day
In most areas, it takes at least a good half a day of birding or more to top 50 bird species.  Some places and times of year, this may be a decent total for a full day of solid birding.  At any rate it takes more concerted effort to achieve than a 30 bird day.  Good job!  Grab this badge and enjoy basking in the glow of some great birding memories!

100 Bird Big Day
Finding 100 bird species in a day is a significant achievement almost anywhere, and takes a serious effort.  So congratulations on a full day of birding and post this badge in honor of a job well done!

Birding Bye Day
Even the most dedicated athletes take a day off of training to let their bodies rest and recover.  Birders need to do the same, if nothing else than to avoid succumbing to the dreaded Bostick Syndrome.  Take a day off now and again to let your mind and body rest.

Birding Shabbat
Like a Birding Bye Day, but for more religious or spiritual reasons.  Personally, I like to take a Birding Shabbat most Sundays, as I spend the day with family and at church, and use it as a day to relax from my normal cares, including the press of the 20 Bird MDR!

Birding Fail
Lets face it, sometimes there is no great reason for not getting your 20 Bird MDR and no way to make it up the next day.  In that case, best to just fess up and admit you didn't do what you needed to do in order to get your daily minimum!  Give yourself a Birding Fail and get back with the program the next day!

Go birding.  Post your daily birding badge.  Enjoy!
--Rob (Birdchaser) Fergus

Editor Note: As this post will be used as a link for folks to get their birding badges, I'm going to take the liberty to add other potentially useful daily birding badges below:

Here are a couple with The Big Year movie theme:

Life Bird Dance
We birders have long known about the "life bird dance" required of any and all birders upon seeing a bird species for the first time. When Stu and Brad had returned from their death-defying helicopter trip to see the Himalayan Snowcock they did a great version!

Soul Satisfying View
We all have a few birds on our life lists that we are sure we saw, but long for a better and longer look. Now, I'm not sure if he came up with it himself or obtained it from someone else, but I really like what Nate Swick calls the Soul Satisfying View (SSV) as it relates to finally getting that great look at a bird for the first time.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Willet Fight

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Willets Fighting
The other day I was at Fort De Soto in the St. Petersburg area.  I went there in part to photograph Reddish Egrets in breeding plumage, but it was also fun to see many Willets all over the beaches.  One afternoon two Willets were near the shore and they got into a pretty good fight.  It all happened so fast that it was hard to see what was going on, let alone keep the two birds straight as they fought.  The photographs helped me see what they were doing.  In the end, there was a clear winner and a clear loser.  I thought it might be fun for this post to show the sequence of photographs I was able to take home.  It's moments like these that feed my addiction to bird photography.

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Male Willets defend their feeding and nesting territories from other males, and fights can ensue.  My guess is one of these Willets encroached on the territory of another.

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I got you right where I want you
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That's gotta hurt
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Back Off!
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Flight and Chase
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Flight and Chase
The sun was getting ready to set; I so wish I had better lighting for this encounter, but it's fun just to witness this--well, at least is was for me.  I suspect the loser of this fight doesn't feel the same way.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Good Thing About February

February can be an ugly month up here. Days are short, and our usually reliable sun can disappear for days on end. Aside from being a thankfully short month, the only good thing about February is the owls.

For the past few years, I've had a resident great-horned owl roosting in the back yard. Last year this bird hung around for 6 weeks, sleeping here during the day and gliding out to hunt at dusk. I've no idea why the resident birds didn't mob him incessantly, but they normally allowed him his daily nap. The grey squirrels in the yard though, did have a habit of waking him with their rapid twisting and turing in the trees.

Unfortunately I didn't have my backyard guest this month. I'm still looking for him, but there were other owls around to keep me occupied.

This little northern saw-whet was spotted by a birding group at a nearby local park. When I was there, he almost made the effort to open his eyes and see what was going on, but decided against it and went back to sleep.

February is always a good month to go for a drive. Snowy owls love the flat prairie grasslands just east of the city, and this year they were even easier to see than normal. They don't care a whit if a human is watching either, and also fall asleep in my presence.

There is a large local natural area that is home to a couple of northern pygmy owls in the winter. Last year these birds had an address - look up into the trees at the sound end of bridge #6. This year they've been a little harder to find, but they had their share of photo-ops last February.

Photo by Bob Lefebvre
If you're very lucky, you can also spot a gorgeous northern hawk owl. I love these birds, who have clearly been designed by committee. Spots, bars, streaks, horizontal markings, vertical markings...

Photo by Rob English
One conspicuous absence from this post are the Great-grey owls which can be found just west of the city, but they're worth an entire post on their own. Just as soon as I manage to get some pictures.

Finding the EXTRA in the Ordinary

The Rock Pigeon has to be one of the most common and ordinary of all birds in the world. They are seen on ever continent, except Antarctica (eBird map). Mankind has a long history with the pigeon, both good and bad, from both the perspective of the pigeon and from mankind. But just think about it...if this was a rare bird, would we not count it among some of the most interesting and beautiful?!

The American Robin is one of the most common and ordinary birds in North America (eBird map). Aside from a few vagrants across the east and west ponds that probably excite some twitchers, they just don't get that much attention from birders in North America. But, every now and then we find an American Robin that begs us to give it a second glance 'cause its different and extraordinary.
So, when the birding seems to be slow and just plain ordinary, don't forget to look for and enjoy the EXTRA in the ordinary.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

more Arizona birds

I've seen my share of mockingbirds in four states, but I had never been privileged to witness this behavior. Nor have I ever read about it. Running around on the ground and in the underbrush, it would stop, flare out its wings, close them, run, stop and then flare them out again. First, I wondered if it was hot and this was a way of cooling off. Then I wondered if this was some sort of territorial display or a mating ritual, but no other mockingbirds were in the immediate vicinity. I'm still not completely sure, but I think this was a method for scaring up bugs to eat, much like an American Redstart does by flashing its wings and tail. Have you seen this type of behavior in Northern Mockingbirds?
Abert's Towhee - although abundant in Arizona, I find them challenging to photograph out in the open.
Black Phoebe - like the Eastern Kingbird, I really like these black and white beauties.
Curve-billed Thrasher
Ladder-backed Woodpeckers on a Snag
The sky was overcast, so the lighting was not ideal, but I kinda like the result - not quite silhouettes, a bit monochromatic. Sort of artistic. When I first came upon this snag, there were four Ladder-backed Woodpeckers on it chasing each other and making all kinds of noise.
Least Sandpipers
Snowy Egret

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Two Great Blue Herons face off...

Evening was falling quickly, and the sun’s light was nothing more than a rosy wash over the waters at Quick Point Nature Preserve on Longboat Key, Florida (where Rick, Matty and I were vacationing last March). A flock of Ibis, several Little Blue Herons and Snowy Egrets, and a single Great Blue Heron were fishing in the shallows. The water was still and the birds were quiet until a second Great Blue Heron decided he wanted to fish right where the first Great Blue Heron had set up camp. As he coasted in for a landing, First Heron immediately showed his displeasure by spreading his wings and raising his head in a warning.

First Heron wasted no time defending his territory and immediately went into a threat display.

...he really does look taller, bigger, and scarier!

First Heron was vehement in his display and walked around in this posture eyeing the interloper.

Second Heron as he coasted in closer.

As soon as he landed, Second Heron answered back with his own threat posture, but he wasn't quite as convincing.

He spread his wings...

...and lifted his head, but never quite as high as First Heron.

...a feeble attempt at best! He soon flew off...

First Heron victorious!

Rick, Matty and I really enjoyed watching this behavior. At first we wondered if the two herons were engaging in courtship behavior, but their body language soon let us know it was a threat display. At the heronry in Cincinnati, we've seen a lot of courtship displays in the trees, but we were never lucky enough to witness threat postures and displays because the birds are too timid to fish near humans.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Anna's Hummingbird

At the Gilbert Water Ranch in Arizona, there were dozens of male Anna's Hummingbirds. Ya know...I didn't see a single female. But I did see one male in particular that was doing his impressive courtship display. He would fly way up high and then come zipping down, then turn a u-shaped dip making a surprisingly loud buzzing-pop with its tail feathers. I assume a female was hidden somewhere nearby, unless this behavior is also part of territorial display and defense. This male did chase off several other males while I observed it.
I was so excited about this that I went all Steve Irwin (the late Crocodile Hunter) on the innocent passers-by, exuberantly showing them the hummingbird and describing for them the behavior we were privileged to be witnessing. Either they too found the behavior as exciting as I did or they got caught up in my enthusiasm, because I had quite a large group of non-birders, both old and young, gathered watching and oohing and ahhing at the beautiful little bird putting on quite a show. While the tiny hummer made dozens of these flights and dips and pops and we all stood there captivated by the spectacle, I heard comments like:  "Oh my goodness, he goes so high!" "Heeeeeeere he comes!", "Wow! Did you hear that?!" "Amazing! I've never seen anything like it." "Oh, I didn't know hummingbirds rested on branches too. I thought they flew their entire lives." "Check out the neon pink head!" "Thanks for showing us!"

Yes, it was a small, but great moment in birding public relations, thanks to the magic of nature! Happy Birding!

Check out this link to Rich Ditch's Anna's Hummingbird photo from the same location.