Wile E.

For all the nights loud with coyotes sounding their barbaric yawp, this is the first time I’ve seen one around here.

 

It was noshing at something in the grass — a mouse or vole nest, perhaps.

Categories: Mammals too | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

One of these birds is not like the others…

Can you tell? Hint: these are all Goldeneye. The brown-headed birds are (probably*) all female and immature Common Goldeneye, and all but one of the black-and-white birds are male Common Goldeneye. That one exception…

Do you see the one that doesn’t match, a visitor from the far north and west?

That’s a male Barrow’s Goldeneye, life bird and NYS Species #255! After striking out twice last weekend, I was lucky that the bird was still hanging around this morning. So after errands we headed back upriver hoping third time was the charm. I was beginning to despair when the river looked nearly birdless, but then a good flock of waterfowl moved in and at last (with help) we were able to pick him out of the crowd. We spent the pleasantly springlike afternoon enjoying the ducks’ courtship performances.

Despite their best yodeling, the ladies did not look impressed.

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Look at that beautiful eye! It’s obvious where they get their name.

Goldeneye are diving ducks, so sometimes just as I was getting the camera on them they’d do this:

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A Song Sparrow affirmed that spring really is coming, and he just had to sing about it!

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*One sharp-eyed birder spotted one female with more yellow on her beak — probably a female Barrow’s. I was happy enough to be able to pick out the male!

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, Life bird!, New bird, Rara avis | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The usual suspects, part II

Common Grackles are blackbirds. That means they’re black birds, right?

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Look again!

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Amazing what a difference a change in perspective makes.

 

ETA: I will be chasing the Barrow’s Goldeneye tomorrow. AGAIN. Is the third time the charm? Stay tuned!

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

The usual suspects, part I

It isn’t just the males of the species that brighten up their plumage for spring. This female Purple Finch caught my eye today, looking very crisp and bright. They always remind me of pint-sized female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.

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At least, I assumed it was a female, but I don’t remember noticing this hint of red wash on the scapulars before.

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I didn’t notice that until I cropped the photo.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Today’s wandering

My chauffeur and I got a late start today, and it was nearly 3:00 when we reached Blockhouse Park in Stillwater in search of a male Barrow’s Goldeneye, an infrequent winter visitor. After scanning the water for nearly an hour in a chill wind that made it feel much colder than 30º, we gave up. Of course I checked my email at home to learn the bird had been half a mile upriver… it never occurred to me that the water would be open above the spillway. Oh well!

On the way home we stopped at the Crescent Hydro plant in search of another of my target birds. The Red-breasted Merganser was much more cooperative!

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Love that glowing red eye and spiky hairdo.

As it was getting dusky, the resident young peregrine treated us to a low flyover and landed on a pylon to groom. Its feathers looked damp and disheveled. I wonder if it had taken down some prey on wet ice.

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Yeah maybe I’ll try for the Barrow’s again tomorrow, what do you think?

 

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

Welcome back!

I know, we still have to get through March, Albany’s two heaviest snowfalls were in March, the Polar-freakin’-Vortex is on its way south again…

but the first Red-winged Blackbirds of the year sang in my yard today.

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Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, First of season | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Duck duck no geese.

Yay, I got out for a bit of birding today! Most local reports were coming from the Mohawk so we headed out to cover the Cohoes -to-Crescent run.

There were not large numbers of waterfowl, but a nice variety. The usual Mallards and Common Mergansers appeared wherever the water was open. The best spot was by the Crescent hydropower plant, where this flock of mixed Aythya ducks (plus one odd fellow) gathered.

I’m going to do my best on ID here. Correction welcome!

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The leftmost bird is a female Canvasback. They’re pretty uncommon around here. Next are two Redheads and three Scaup sp? Leading the pack, with the white band near the tip of his bill, is a Ring-necked Duck.

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The ones with red heads are Redheads (duh), and the white-sided ones I’m hazarding are Greater Scaup, because they’re a really clean white, while the almost-identical Lesser Scaup is a bit grayer. If you look closely, one duck in the middle has a bit of white on its face above the bill — that’s a female Scaup sp. Front left is the Canvasback.

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Aythya ducks at rest, and here comes the odd man out. Cruising towards the flock is a very handsome male Long-tailed Duck.

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Isn’t he a beauty? You’ll see his eponymous tail in the next picture.

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The Canvasback is in the center of the flock here. Her long neck is a good field mark.

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Quiz time! How many species here?

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The fifth bird from the left might be a Lesser Scaup. I wish I could be sure, because the we’d have all five local Aythya species in one small flock.

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They were quite distant by now.

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And where were the gulls today? I was hoping to see Iceland and Glaucous but we only had the three year-round species, and not many of them. The ice here above the spillway is usually wall-to-wall squawking squabbling gulls. At least three Bald Eagles wandered around setting up the few gulls present.

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“What am I, chopped liver?”

Also seen but not photographed, three circling Black Vultures! And if the first vulture isn’t a sign of spring, I’d like to know what is.

OK, since you’re obviously dying to know, the local Aythya ducks are Greater and Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked, Redhead, and Canvasback. In that order, Aythya marila, affinis, collaris, americana, and valisneria. The Long-tailed Duck rejoices in the name of Clangula hyemalis.

Categories: Bird photos, Field trip, First of season, Rara avis, scenery | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Snow day

The view from Kestrel Hill today is horizon-to-horizon snow. 18 inches on top of half a foot already on the ground — that’s a whole world of white.

We had a new roof installed last year, a metal roof. You’ll love it, the  builder assured us, no maintenance and the snow just slides right off! And just as promised, for the several moderate snows we’ve had, the roof clears itself quite efficiently.

Well, this was the first heavy snowfall of the season. And it was impressive, all right: a full rolling broadside as the entire front thundered down. Maybe too impressive! The sleeping cat shot off my shoulder and into the basement. As for me, every time it happens I have to laugh, it’s so exhilarating.

One small problem. I hope no one’s standing on the stoop next time it cuts loose!

Is this the year our reprehensible shed will finally collapse? (One can only hope!)

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Since I wasn’t going anywhere anyway, I worked at my Great Backyard Bird Count. I had lots of help:

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Lots of couples out for lunch, including the Cardinals.

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House Finches…

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… and Purple Finches. You wouldn’t believe how many years it took me to tell them apart.

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40 or more Robins in the sumac grove.

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Two Song Sparrows have stuck it out all season. Angry Birds, anyone?

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As well as two Carolina Wrens.

I don’t know how we’ll scale those mountains to keep the feeders full, but I’d hate to disappoint the patrons.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, GBBC, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Stillness

I just looked out the window to see something strange. The small birds had deserted the feeders. The only stragglers were a Red-bellied Woodpecker, two Downies, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. All of them, even the irrepressible Nuthatch, were pressed close against branches and rigidly still. Only their eyes moved.

After several minutes two chickadees flew in calling, and the silence broke. The usual throng flowed in and around, and the silent watchers vied for suet.

I think there must have been an accipiter somewhere just out of my sight, and when it took off the chickadees issued the ‘all clear’.

 

Categories: bird behavior, Feeder birds | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Smudgy window birds

The snow is falling heavily now. By the time it’s done we should have a new foot over the snowpack already on the ground.

The feeders are teeming. A few diners, taken through my smudgy front window:

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A pastel American Goldfinch.

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I love the huge eyes of a Tufted Titmouse.

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“I know there’s seed somewhere down here…

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Ah! There it is!”

 

 

 

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Usual suspects | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

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