Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 2011

As the month pulls into it's last week, I added three new birds to my Yard List. I have been watching a good sized sparrow for awhile, at first thinking it it was a
Chipping Sparrow, for its rufus head. However, the central breast-spot was a giveaway; it's an American Tree first!

You can see here, how similar the two birds are, for me the center spot is the most obvious difference, but on close examination, one can also see that the American Tree Sparrow has a bi-colored bill, while the Chipping Sparrow's bill is all-over dark. These two sparrows are the only two I have identified all by myself.

This morning, after a light snow, I watched several hundred Rosy-Finches feed...always a delight. The Evening Grosbeaks were here in large numbers too; at least 75 here at a time. Oddly, a couple of crows, which I usually see mixed with ravens in the trees around here (I believe my neighbor feeds the big guys) came into the yard and looked around on the ground. That only happened once before, when a rather bedraggled raven feed with the magpies on my back stoop on a very cold, winter day.

There has been another showing up in rather large numbers, too. Of late I've had nearly a dozen Cassin's Finch visiting at the feeders. It is so cool to see them as the sun comes up and just hits the feeders. These little red-headed finches look for all the world like their head-feathers are on fire; they positively glow.

Perhaps most unusual sight today, was the Bald Eagle that cruised the yard; clearly looking down and watching the show. It was an adult, clearly marked by that beautiful white head and tail...he didn't stop. Perhaps he was really more interested in the Snow Geese over at the golf-course; it sounded like he'd just caused a ruckus over there.
This is almost exactly what I saw...sans binoculars, even. Lordy, just look at those feet!

That big guy is 50x bigger than the diminutive American Kestrel I watched feeding on an even smaller yard-bird. I know it's odd, but I do not mind the predatory birds at all; it's the cats hunting my yard that I have a problem with...they're just not natural here. It looked like the Kestrel was celebrating New Year's Eve the way he tossed feathers about!

I like the Kestrel, though; you can see why it is known as the most colorful hawk in the world:

All photos from wikipedia; be sure to click on pictures for a larger view.

Monday, January 10, 2011

First Decent Snow = Lots and Lots of Rosy-finches!

Yup, they're back! First little snowstorm (12/31) they showed up for the first time of the season; late nearly a whole month. They only came for about a day and a half...and then disappeared (as is their habit early in the season.)

Last night we got 4-5 inches of snow and it's still coming down lightly. The Rosy-Finches arrived a little after six this morning...and are here in the hundreds.

These photos are from my little, old camera...but perhaps I'll get some better shots when my neighbor comes over. She has a beautiful, new camera and likes birds!

I can slowly open the back door and even sit inside on a bucket while the birds whirl away and come back and begin feeding again.'s very cold!

Perhaps the better idea was to just open the door and stick out my the photos below show.

At any rate, it looks like a good snow-day...I may not go to work after all, but I do hate to do that. I'd rather give the plows time to clear things up, and head out. I hope I can.

These are pics from just one feeding area; there are three others. Plus, you can see I'd just made them fly up...and they were still coming back in when I tried for a quick shot. When they all whorl up sounds awesome and makes quite a lovely 'school of birds'; totally in unison.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Christmas Bird Count 2010-11

A couple weeks ago, Dave Silverman (the leader for 23 years now) brought together just seven other folks for the annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC). In the single day, we counted a total of 52 species and added two firsts: a late Wood Thrush and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.

I know everybody is different, but it sort of galls me that at a CBC not far from my brother's home, FIFTY (50) people counted more than twice as many birds as our eight saw...and he's not particularly interested! It's times like this (only) that I wish I lived back in California. LOL

Wonder how many birds were counted in your area? Go to THIS website, choose your state and click the blue "Find Count" button and check the list that appears for a count near you. Then, click 'Make a Table' to see what and how many species were seen. It's way cool.

I'm betting my friend Polly Wren feels as bad not getting her Pinyon Jays in the count as I do not getting my Rosy-finches; it snowed the following Sunday and about 100 or so showed up...nearly a month late!

Species Number Seen Notes

Canada Goose 65
Mallard 14
Common Merganser 1
Bald Eagle 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 14
Rough-legged Hawk 1
Golden Eagle 1
Rock Pigeon 50
Eurasian Collared-Dove 55
White-winged Dove 2 High Count
Great Horned Owl 1
Lewis's Woodpecker 8
Downy Woodpecker 5
Hairy Woodpecker 3
Northern (Red-shafted) Flicker 17
Northern Shrike 3
Steller's Jay 22
Blue Jay 13
Western Scrub-Jay 23
Pinyon Jay 0 50 seen one
day during
Count Week
Black-billed Magpie 99
American Crow 62
Common Raven 48
Horned Lark 1
Black-capped Chickadee 28
Mountain Chickadee 77
Bushtit 22
Red-breasted Nuthatch 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 18
Pygmy Nuthatch 15
Brown Creeper 1
American Dipper 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Mountain Bluebird 6
Townsend's Solitaire 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 3
European Starling 183 High Count
Spotted Towhee 9 High Count
Song Sparrow 5
White-throated Sparrow 2
Harris's Sparrow 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 123
Dark-eyed (Gray-headed) Junco 21
Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco 15
Dark-eyed (Pink-sided) Junco 16
Dark-eyed (Slate-colored) Junco 12
Dark-eyed (White-winged) Junco 2
Red-winged Blackbird 52
Brown-headed Cowbird 2 High Count
Cassin's Finch 9
House Finch 50
Pine Siskin 74
American Goldfinch 26
Evening Grosbeak 128 High Count
House Sparrow 61

Weather & Effort

Count Date: Dec 26, 2010
Participants: 8
Species Reported: 52
Low Temperature: 34〫
High Temperature: 45〫
AM Weather: Clear

Rain: None

Snow: None
PM Weather: Clear

Rain: None

Snow: None

Sponsor: Arkansas Valley Audubon Society
Compiler: Dave Silverman

Participants: David Silverman David Moore

Donna Emmons Tom Doerk

Beverly Jensen Leon Bright

Paul and Polly Wren Neldner

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Rosy-Finches Arrive

We have had a warm, dry season so far and the Rosy-Finches missed the Christmas Bird Count! They weren't quite a month late, arriving here on New Year's Eve. Last year they were here on December 4th but this year at least they arrived in December, even if it was the last day of the year. And if things go typically, now that they're here, they come on early mornings and only when we get a snow storm. At first only a few hundred come, but soon the numbers grow to huge flocks. Every year I have exponentially more Rosy-Finches and last year had as many as 600 in my yard at any one time. This year I suppose I could have 1000 of them visiting. Early in the season, they come only in the morning and only when it snows but as the cold continues and the snow increases, they begin to stay later and come more often.

All three species come: Brown-capped, pretty much endemic to Colorado; Gray-crowned, including Hepburn's; and Blacks. The flocks are always mixed and even fairly tame. While they do whirl up and wheel around a lot, they will actually land at my feet. Sometimes I can walk right up to them. When they fly, it's breath-taking. The underside of their wings are silver and a flock moves in unison, like large schools of fish in the sea.

Today is January 1st of 2011 and I watched birds, on and off, most of the day. It was quite stunning with the yellows of the Evening Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and Goldfinches; the reds of House Finches, Cassin's Finches and Woodpeckers and Flickers; with the blues of the jays and orca-like look of Magpies with the blacks of the Red-winged Blackbirds. Stripes, spots, streaks, barred and buffy breasts; big birds and was visually quite exciting.

It was also quiet a good part of the day. While out re-filling feeders and scattering more seed under evergreens and where the lawn meets tall grass, I startled a good sized Cooper's Hawk. But later in the day I watched a young Sharp-shinned Hawk race through the yard scattering every bird in sight. I watched it land and thought it'd missed its lunch, but when I came back out with my little, old camera, I watched it pluck and eat...someone. I don't know who. I know this is a young bird because it's still got spots on it's back. I don't know the sex, but imagine it may have been a female as they are larger than males. This was not the smallest Sharpy I've ever seen.

It was a treat to see the winter birds: Cassin's Finch, White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows, so many versions of Dark-eyed Junco and a White-winged Dove even made an appearance. Happy New Year!