Posts Tagged With: feathers

Bleach-blond redhead

Anticipating the first chilly morning, I filled all my feeders last night. I’m glad I did. Among the usual suspects at breakfast buffet, I saw this eccentric fellow.

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It’s a partially leucistic House Finch.

I’m always looking for leucistic birds, but this is the first time I’ve been able to get a photo. A few years ago an American Robin with ‘racing stripes’ – white feathers in its wings – visited the yard for a day, and I’ve seen mottled Robins on the Cornell campus. There’s a stunning white Red-tailed Hawk (frequently mistaken for a Snowy Owl) in the area, but it often hangs out on the I-90 bridge when I’m zipping past at 60. Maybe someday I’ll be fortuitously stuck in traffic!

Browse through Google images for leucistic birds and delight your eyes. Common birds, many of them, made stunning by a chance mutation. Of them all, my favorite is the calico red-winged blackbird seen by Nancy Nabak.

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Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Rara avis, What am dat bird? | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

Peregrine and prey, 1/9/14

(Squick warning — if you don’t like guts — literal guts — view with caution.)

The Thursday group started out at Albany Airport. Whoop de doo, three Snowy Owls. We’re almost (not quite, but almost) blasé about them now. A pair of Harriers and a Rough-legged Hawk hunted, skirmishing briefly with the owls and resident Redtails. Off to the river!

While on our way we got a call that the Redheads were still hanging out by the Crescent power plant, so that was our first stop. Not a great look in the shimmery lights, so I tried to get closer while the rest of the group went above the dam to scan gulls. When I caught up, everyone’s attention was fixed not on the mass of gulls on the ice, but about 50 feet offshore where this immature Peregrine Falcon was plucking his catch of the day — a Ring-billed Gull. Feathers everywhere!

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Acckkk! Bllffttt! Pttooi!

Then he got down to business. Neither a crowd of admirers nor a passing Redtail deterred him from lunch.

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It’s winter. Food is too important to be distracted.

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Feathers stuck to his back, beak and tail.

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Oooh, guts.

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Finally a Bald Eagle buzzed the gull flocks and that was one disturbance too many.

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Leftovers, anyone?

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, OMG bird | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

That dorky birder look, now with added eyepatch!

Birders are not exactly fashion plates at the best of times: zip-leg pants, faded tshirts advertising festivals past, floppy hats and those vests with big pockets. Leave it to me to find a way to make birding look even dorkier!

Look fast, these are the only selfies I’m ever going to post:

Now, before you start laughing, (OK, before you fall off your chair, at least) there is a logic behind this. I’ve noticed that when using a scope for long periods, like trying to ID shorebirds, keeping one eye squinched shut got tiring after a while, and that  eye took time to focus right again. So by having it covered, I can keep the eye open. It’s much more relaxing that way.

There are drawbacks, of course — on a day like today, the covered eye is melting in the heat, and it can be hard to focus right away in the bright afternoon light. I have to remove my glasses to put the patch on so when I want to switch to binocs there’s some fumbling around. And of course there’s the snicker factor.

But we’re birders! We wear our khaki with pride! Why not add that ever-so-stylish buccaneer touch to our outdoor wardrobe?

I refound the Little Blue Heron today, but it wasn’t being cooperative for photography. It wandered in and out of cattails and loosestrife, preening and fishing. When it sighted a fish, its whole body became nearly horizontal, and the head and neck swayed like a charmed serpent while the eyes and beak remained locked on target. A few moments of this dance, then pow! and swallow.

Here’s one of the many Great Blue Herons at Vischer Ferry today.

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I think this feather is from a Great Egret. What you can’t see in the photo is the delicate motion of the afterfeather, the soft tendrils that tremble at a breath. No wonder they were de rigueur for decades in a lady’s trousseau.

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ETA 9/19: I’m not dorky, I’m channeling David Bowie!

Not a birder, AFAIK.

Not a birder, AFAIK.

Categories: bird behavior, Bird photos, Field trip, Tools of the trade | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Feather tales

I’ve been a lawbreaker. You probably have too. Every little kid who ever picked up a gull feather at the beach, every hiker with a blue jay plume in his hat — criminals all. With very few exceptions, it’s against the law to possess wild bird feathers. I knew that strictly it’s illegal to keep feathers but I hadn’t realized how stringent the law really is. Technically even game bird feathers can’t be picked up. You can only have them if you get them from a hunter!

That law was running through my mind when I found these feathers at Vischer Ferry in the fall. There seemed to be the full set of primaries and secondaries from the left wing of a large bird, possibly a raptor. So instead of bringing them home I photographed them in place, then checked a reference when I got home.  The Feather Atlas is a comprehensive archive of North American bird plumage. After some searching I decided they belonged to a Barred Owl. But how did a whole wing-worth of feathers get pulled out?

There were only torn-out feathers on the ground, no sign of blood or body parts. I wonder if the owl dropped onto its prey, and in a moment of distraction was caught by the wing by a fox or coyote who pulled out a mouthful of feathers, then carried off the bird.

A tuft of downy body feathers under my feeders tells another story, one of feral barn cats and of the danger of accepting a handout. These look like Common Redpoll to me.

I’ve seen a few Redpolls with swollen eyes and puffed-out plumage. I hope it was one of those sick ones the cat got. I’m considering renting a yappy and energetic terrier to scare the cats back to the barn.

Categories: Bird photos, Feeder birds, Why? | Tags: , | 10 Comments

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