Thursday, August 27, 2009

Riding a Goose for Migration?

Okay, I've given two Hummingbird-talks of late, and at each one someone asked if its true that during their long migrations, hummingbirds ride on the backs of geese!

Well, the answer is no, but with photos like this one, one can hardly blame someone for asking such a question! LOL

This photo is by Pat Gaines of Westminster, CO. To see a larger version, click the photo or his name to get to Pat's page on Colorado Birders. At the bottom of his page, is a slide show of his can watch the show, see the photos all on a few pages or even full screen. This one he called "Bareback" and it shows a kingbird harrassing a Red-tailed Hawk. Wild, huh?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Late Oriole...

I saw a late female Bullock's Oriole a day or two ago; I've not seen one for weeks. I'm so happy I drilled out some of the ports on the hummingbird feeders. While I missed if she had a chance to feed on nectar, it was available to her; she's in for a long migration home to the tropics, too!

Such a pretty thing...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Another White-winged Dove and...

Sunday, August 23rd, was an interesting bird-day in my yard. My new friend was here; we were having morning coffee while watching humming and other birds out the big picture window. He’d just come in after re-hanging a feeder just outside the window, where he’d experienced the magic of standing between two feeders and feeling the little birds buzz back and forth around his head, feeding with no apparent fear. We must have been chatting and watching them, as well as the many Evening Grosbeak families that have made the yard theirs.

Generally, I run-off the Eurasian Collared-doves from the close-in flat-bed feeder; they scatter food and run off the smaller birds. All I have to do is wave my arms from inside and they’ll take off; they’re pretty flighty. Suddenly, a different dove landed…a White-winged dove. Clearly it lacked not only the dark ring at the back of it’s neck, but it also had the tell-tail white feathering along the outside edge of it’s folded wing. Sweet! I hope it makes it through the coming cold weather…unlike the last one that was here during the fall/winter.

After a couple hours of visiting and watching birds, we noticed a very different hummingbird, too. While many of the little birds these days are females (males seem to leave first during migrations), we’re used to seeing lots of green backs and heads. When we noticed one that was more blue than green, we got very interested. It didn’t stay long, but it was decidedly blue-green along the head and somewhat on it’s back, too; a very different color…sort of a teal-green.

I wish I’d noted more about its tail or mandible …nothing stood out (for this not very observant birder) other than the very blue-ish color. It was such a surprise; I’d never seen such a color on a hummingbird.

I wonder what it could have been… It was a male, with red gorget and a tiny bit of white behind the eye. We think it looked a lot like some photos of the this beautiful Ruby-throat (here on the right), but that color was also reminicent of some photos I've seen of a Violet-crowned Hummingbird (though it doesn't have that beautiful red throat!).

Has anybody else noted this very different teal-green on a hummingbird seen in Colorado? Was it just a trick of lighting? We watched both this male, and a single female that came around later. I wish I had the time to spend another three hours watching them...

I got a couple shots (through a rain-stained window) today, a few days later. The color I mean shows up more in a larger photo...even on the photo of the Ruby-throat. I watched the bird more closely, it seems to be a youngster...isn't that what the downy bit near it's feet is all about? And when it hovers, I noticed the tail is white tipped and the undersides, including under the tail, are quite dark.

At any rate, BosqueBill must be right; it's a Broad-tailed Hummingbird. Perhaps that whole 'teal' thing (observed by two people) was just a play on light. Has anybody else noticed such a thing?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

More Bears...

Okay, a few more bear shots... they seem to be the topic de jour as the bears begin their time of bulking-up for winter. These are shots Jerry got when he returned home from our hummingbird hunt and another of one of the Three of the triplets Bob shot up his tree. Yes, I'm using that term, loosely.

Do check out Chas Clifton's blog and his hilarious story "It's a Bear in the Backyard! More at 10! " OMG...too funny! Chas is north of the Wet Mountains and runs a blog about Southern Colorado.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Walk in the Park...

My neighbor made the papers the other day; well, his photo did. I can’t but help to want to share them here and Bob was gracious enough to let me. Are these the cutest pictures you’ve ever seen? It’s not often we get to see a momma bear and her three cubs, let alone walking through town in broad daylight! My friend Janey got a shot of one of the youngsters up in Bob & Connie’s tree, right across the street from where I live.

Then this morning I got a call at 7:30 from another friend…Jerry (the same one who took the hummingbird photos here). He called to say he’d found a hummingbird nest and did I want to go take photos of the tiny little thing?

Well, first I let him know I’d only just got up (Zeus, the Mighty Dog, apparently scented the bears in our yard again and went on bark-alert several many times from inside the house last night (yes, the feeders were in)), and secondly I suggested he call our friend Janey who is another Class A photographer and artist. We all met half an hour later.

Jerry explained he’d found the nest nearly a month and a half ago, and seen no eggs in it at that time. He said it appeared to be an unused nest, as there was the odd leaf inside. But now a bird was sitting on it, which he thought was awful late and I couldn’t agree more. It’s the middle of August! We were kinda sad at what was clearly a huge mistake….on her part.

Jerry, his son, Janey and I all watched and took photos of the bird on the nest…from a distance; I couldn’t bear spooking her…late in the season or no. We discussed the probability of eggs hatching this late in the year. When another bird came around, some suggested it might be the mate. I explained (I’m the Bird Lady, after all), that hummingbird males have nothing to do with the females after they’ve bred; they don’t help build nests nor do they feed young. We decided it was just a very curious bird wondering what we were doing all standing in a line watching the trees. There are lots of hummingbirds around, after all.

Then, to our surprise, that female landed on the nest and fed the other bird! It was her baby! The mistake had been ours, of course. We were all greatly relieved to know this was a successful Broad-tailed Hummingbird nesting, and surmised the other bird hanging around was the other fledgling.

As we watched, the youngster turned around and awkwardly left the nest and flew up to another branch. For as patient as it had been, it had had enough; we got to see it fledge! I have included Jerry’s beautiful shot of the youngster and Janey’s too, as she also sent a few for the blog.

One of these days, I’ll either get my camera fixed (sadly, I dropped it) or I’ll manage to buy a decent one. [sigh, I’m so jealous]

Unmarked and unfocused shots are mine, the rest belong to some very gracious friends of mine. Thanks! ...and oh look, Janey just sent another shot of Mamma feeding youngster!

Remember, click on any label (or tag) listed at the end of every post to find more of my posts on the same or similar topic...

For those of you who'd like to see an incredible story by an awesome story teller/ photographer, visit Nature Remains, another blog I throughly enjoy. The author, Nina, writes in a poetic style that takes you right into her world and tells her story of finding a hummingbird nest below her window. Do yourself a favor and read the story sequentially…that would be from the bottom of this page…up!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Late Summer Morning

The other day, I was watering some of the new plants in my garden. It's been quite hot here of late, but the evenings are cooler already; the mosquitoes are not such an issue. If there is one in the finds me and feeds. Ugg..

But this morning...oh my, it was lovely, cooler and sans blood-suckers. Hummingbirds were all about, and to my surprise it seemed they were following me as I watered various new shrubs and trees. This behavior is not unlike my dog's, who will follow me until I drop the end of the hose down to the grass, so that he can drink the cool, flowing water. I've read and seen video clips showing hummingbirds like to bath on wet shrubbery and in a fine mist.

So...I changed the nozzle to a wider, finer spray and aimed at one of the larger shrubs. Sure enough, a couple of hummers darted in and about the spray and landed on branches where they rubbed their heads on the wet leaves. They were bathing! It was way cool and I repeated this behavior for them…and so did several of the little birds. I was nearly late for work! LOL

While I wolfed down a little breakfast, I watched the birds out the huge kitchen window. I just love the sweet ‘peeps’ and ‘trills’ that the Evening Grosbeaks make while calling back and forth; whenever I hear that sound I know they’re in the yard. I watched as a male feed two fledglings, nearly as large as himself, begging and fluttering wings just a few feet from where I was sitting. It was magical…

This morning, I watched from the same place at the same feeder where a young Black-capped Chickadee fed. This little guy’s cap and bib were quite black, but it’s back and wings were lighter and it still had the slightly rufus down along its flanks and back; obviously very young…he was pretty fuzzy!

Funny, so are nearly half a dozen young Black-billed Magpies that frequent my yard. These big birds look so comical with their fuzzy heads and begging attitude.

I’m just tickled pink I can make life easier for the birds here. One of these days I’m going to apply for, errr, purchase that Wildlife Habitat certification and sign. I understand it’s a good thing that might encourage others to do the same.

I think my next post will show the various foods I have planted for the birds and bugs. There’s a lot already ripe and more to come. I think the plantings are half the attraction; bird feeders make up only about a quarter of a bird’s daily diet!

Video from YouTube
Photos from Wikipedia

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Happens When You Feed Bears…

The woman had been warned for more than ten years, to stop feeding bears at her cabin. Neighbors worried about her drawing too many bears to the area and complained about a growing number of bears ransacking trash cans and even trying to break into houses.

But the eccentric wildlife lover; who had been feeding bears, elk, skunks and raccoons for years and who stocked her backyard with dog food, fruit and yogurt, finally quit taking calls and letters and tried to ban them from her property. And she continued to feed the bears.

Earlier this week, the Ouray (yoo-ray), Colorado woman’s body was found outside her cabin while a 250 pound bear fed on it. The bear, which showed no fear of humans and aggressively protected its meal, was shot and killed. Another bear, 394 pounds, was shot and killed the following night, when it returned presumably to continue feeding. A necropsy report determined it had been eating the woman.

Apparently, the night before her death, the woman planned to feed an injured baby bear hard-boiled eggs and yogurt, a former tenant said. And that she had planned to use a broom to swat a large bear that was bothering the baby bear, a former tenant said.

The old woman had enclosed her porch with hog-wire fencing for protection, another tenant who had shared the woman's home explained, allowing her to feed and watch the bears. Eventually, the animals got to be too much, especially the skunks which were allowed inside the house; the tenant moved. While she lived there, a bear broke her car window and left bite-marks on the car’s seat, trying to get some leftover French fries.

Bears fed by humans lose their instinct to fear people and they expect that food source to continue. I remember, as a child, hand feeding a billy-goat which was on a long chain. When I ran out of grass, he butted me in the belly before I could pick more; he knocked the wind out of me. Animals are funny that way; they want what they want, when they want it.

A bear apparently swatted the old woman through her porch fencing and then drug the unconscious woman under the fence and into the yard, where bears began feeding on her body.

Keep in mind, far more people are killed by domestic dogs and electric toasters than by bears…but you invite trouble feeding them. And I have to remind even myself, that feeding birds where bears can get the feed…is feeding bears. Please don’t!

You can find more on this story here and here.

Bears can run as fast as a horse, remove the door from a locked car, will rip off siding and remove windows to get at dirty dishes in a kitchen sink. Oh, and if you think a broom or a BB-gun or some other noisemaker is going to protect you from a bear, check this out from last month:

Bear takes 10 rounds before going down.

BOULDER, Colo. — A black bear that broke into a Boulder County home and charged at the homeowner was killed only after three rounds from a shotgun, five shots from a handgun and two from a rifle. Paul Fischer fired birdshot and a rubber bullet at the 120-pound bear it was found rummaging through the kitchen early Monday morning. The family escaped when the third shot seemed to disorient the bear.
Sheriff’s deputies found a bear trying to claw his way through a screen door when they arrived. Sgt. Lance Enholm fired his handgun five times at the bear after determining it was severely wounded.
Enholm says the bear kept moving toward him and was finally felled and killed by two shots from his rifle.
Information from: Daily Camera,
Photos from Wikipedia

Thursday, August 6, 2009

On Feeding Birds

First, let me thank my friends Holly and Jerry who sent me these two lovely photos. They have a home here in La Veta with bear-proof feeders Jerry rigged using pulleys and various squirrel-proof obstacles. I wish I had a photo of all the cool feeding stations they have…and yes, there is one with corn-on-the-cob, just for the little furry monsters.

Anyway, they are able to look down at the feeders from their second story balcony…how cool is that? These pictures are stunning; good thing the birds don't have fleas, you'd be able to see them on these two Rufus Hummingbirds! (click on the photos to see full size, it's worth it!) Thanks, Jerry and Holly.

Secondly, I’d like to say I thought I totally ruined my Hummingbird Summer last week. We’ve got bears, you see…and I try to bring in all my feeders at night. Last week I was out with friends and forgot this task when I returned. And yes, a bear dismantled a couple feeders that were hanging from the eves of my little house.

I realize feeding birds can kill bears (see the DOW poster below), so, I’m even more adamant about getting the feeders in before dark. The problem was last week when I overslept an hour or so. I didn’t get feeders out till nearly seven o’clock…and the hummers had already gone elsewhere for breakfast!

I’m used to seeing 6-8 or more little birds per feeder…and suddenly I saw only one or two. It was sad. But I’m happy to report, less than a full week later…they’re back in droves!

It’s good to remember I am not responsible for all the birds in town…they do not suffer if we forget a day, run out of feed or go on vacation. Yeah, life is good and when the food returns, so do the birds!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Recogonizing Bird Sounds

I have several feeders just outside a large bay window, the width of my kitchen, that overlooks my back yard. Generally, I keep the side-windows open so that I can hear the various birds that visit. I realized today, that I am able to recogniz several birds, by sound alone. Who knew?! (oh, that black netting you see on the window is my 'Bird-bash Protection'...and it works!)

Lately I hear a lot of hummingbirds buzzing around in their territorial and blustery wars, emitting soft chirps and squeeks when they manage to feed.

Also quite noisy are the small finches; Pine Siskins, House Finch, American and Lesser Goldfinches and of course House Sparrows whose numbers in my yard seem to have exploded. This light, back-ground noise is really quite sweet.

I am not impressed with the guttural growling of the ubiquitous Eurasian Collared-dove and much prefer the soft cooing of our native Mourning Doves, which, when I hear them, I go to the window (slowly) to watch them. They’re a lot smaller than the interlopers, and don’t come here as often as they once did. They’re nearly the same length, but ‘our’ doves are much more svelte and weigh only half as much. And they sound like doves rather than a broken chain-saw.

The past few weeks, I’ve heard a bird that took me nearly a month to discover last year. The Western Wood-Pewee’s sound is a plaintive ‘peeeer’, which it calls incessantly. I’ve watched the little flycatcher on a naked branch overlooking the street or my yard. From this vantage point, it sallies out and catches various bugs that are unfortunate enough to fly by. This ‘hawking’ behavior is common with flycatchers; it’s how they hunt. When I first heard this bird last July, it took awhile to get a photograph of it; but it was the Arizona Field Ornithologists Sound Library that helped me identify the bird. Each flycatcher seems to have a distinctive call, I knew I had a Western Wood-Pewee by listening to their recording of the bird.
Listen here.

The other bird that caught my ear, so to speak, was one that I generally see earlier in the year. I’ve not heard its sweet ‘peep’ for some months, but when I heard the bird from another room, I had to make a bee-line to the window. And there they were; Evening Grosbeaks! You can get a hint of what they sound like at the same sound library here, but I’ve also included a little video clip I found on YouTube:

Funny thing about bird calls. Just because birds are similar doesn’t mean they’ll sound at all alike. A Red-winged Blackbird sounds like the squeaky gate, but the Yellow-headed one sounds like a sick cat…or even that darn Eurasian Collared-Dove.

I’ve learned to know when I have Bullock’s Orioles at my feeders in two ways. One is the gentle ‘thump’ I hear when it lands on the hummingbird feeder outside my window. I’ve drilled out the holes in the feeder to accommodate these bigger guys…and they love it. The other sound I hear and know one is in the yard is the scolding chatter one gives when someone else is using the feeder. You can hear that sound here. The first time I heard it, I nearly thought it was a Flicker!

Perhaps one of the prettiest sounds I hear is from the Black-headed Grosbeak. This big-nosed bird sounds every bit as lovely as a robin! Listen…

Do visit AZFO's Sound Library... it's impressive and perhaps you'll learn to recognize birds you hear in your yard, too. I believe half of birding is knowing what to expect...but you have to know, by sight and sound, what that might be in your area, at a certain time of the year. Listening to bird-sounds is a good way to prepare.
Another pretty cool sound library I have was a CD, included with the new Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds of North America. Ted Floyd, editor of Birding Magazine, is the editor. The CD is awesome, but even though I got permission from Ted Floyd to use one, I can't figure out how to post a sound here. There are 587 bird songs...easily worth the cost of the book, alone!

New Bird Discovered: July 2009 !!!

An odd songbird with a bald head living in a rugged region in Laos has been discovered by scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the University of Melbourne, as part of a project funded
and managed by the mining company MMG (Minerals
and Metals Group).

The thrush-sized bird is greenish-olive with a light-colored breast, a distinctive featherless, pink face with bluish skin around the eye extending to the bill and a narrow line of hair-like feathers down the centre of the crown.

Doesn't it just amaze you that wildlife is still being 'discovered' this day and age? I think it just goes to show us that we need to take care of our environment...we don't even know all that it holds.

Birdlife International is where I found the news and this quote: "This is exciting news and a great discovery", said Dr Lincoln Fishpool, BirdLife's Global Important Bird Areas Coordinator. "It highlights the importance of this region for birds and biodiversity." I couldn't agree more.

For more information (and a better photo), read their entire, facinating, article here.

July Birds:
Mountain Chickadee, Evening Grosbeak, Western_Wood-Pewee, White-winged Dove (yeah, she's back), Calliope Hummingbird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Rufus Hummingbird, Mourning Dove, Great Blue Heron *, Lesser Goldfinch (black- & green-backed), Bullock's Oriole, Hairy Woodpecker, Black-headed Grosbeak, Black-capped Chickadee, Black-chinned Hummingbird, Broad-tailed Hummingbird, Common Grackle, Turkey Vulture, American Robin, Red-winged Blackbird, European Starling, Northern Flicker - Red-shafted, Downy Woodpecker, Black-billed Magpie, House Sparrow, American Goldfinch, Pine Siskin, House Finch - red, yellow and orange variants, Eurasian Collared-Dove