Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Re: my last post.

Just a couple corrections to my last post. Corrections concerning the hunting style of the Northern Shrike. I got most of it right but after reading up on it I thought that you all might like to hear what I read. The following is per Sibely's guide to bird life and behavior.

"When these fierce songbirds are hunting, they can remind the observer of small raptors rather than Passerines. (Shrikes are in the family Laniidae order Passeriformes). Like Kestrels, both N American Shrikes "Perch-hunt". Both Shrikes will go after small mamals and large insects which make up the bulk of their diet. Shrikes can kill and cache birds as large a Mockingbirds and one Loggerhead Shrike was once observed taking a Mourning dove. Shrikes require open hunting grounds, ideally where short herbaceous growth is interspersed by bare patches of earth.
When a Shrike sights prey, it leaves it's hunting perch in swift, direct pursuit, seizing most prey on the ground and dispatching them immediately. a shrike kills it's prey by pounding it's bill into the base or back of the skull and then using it's hooked beak to sever the spinal cord between the prey's neck vertebrae, as falcons do. Shrikes also consume small insects on the ground where captured. Using it's feet or bill, a shrike carries larger prey (such as grasshoppers, beetles, crickets and all vertebrate prey) to a storage site called a larder. The prey is impaled ona thorn , fence barb, or broken twig, or wedged into a branch fork. This habit of impaling prey is the source of another name for the Shrike- the "Butcher bird". Storing prey helps the birds survive long periods of inclement weather. Birders can locate a Shrike's favored perch even in a bird's absence by looking for cached food. Regurgitated pellets of fur, feathers, bone, and chitinous material can often be found on the ground below these sites."

What a wealth of information. I highly recommend this book if you wish to know anything about bird life and behavior.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Another Shrike!!

I found another N Shrike today near the High School. That makes the third shrike for me this season, my third ever for the county and only the 6 or 7th N Shrike I've ever seen (you can tell I don't get up north very much).

They have to be some of the coolest birds. With that striking pattern and black "bandit" mask. Then the fact that they're predatory to top it off. I love the way the hunt. (I EDITED THE FOLLOWING OUT OF MY WISBIRDN POST)
" Rather like a hawk. They sit up above the ground and scan for their prey (normally Voles or other small mamals) When they see one, the swoop down and grab the animal in their hooked bill and then fly to a Hawthorn tree (or other prickly species) and impale their prey upon the spines rendering the vole helpless as well as effectively killing it. The Shrike can then use it's strong hooked bill to tear it's prey apart." They are master hunters. Truly the "Bandits" of the bird world.

Anyway, This year should be called "The Winter of the Northern Shrike". It's looking like there's going to be a lot of them this year. (you can tell I love Shrikes). They're being seen from "Maine to Mississippi" [It's an old civil war term meaning from one end of the country to the other] (aka, Milwaukee to La Crosse).

Since Snowy Owls prey on some of the same food as Shrikes, they should be making a sweep south too. I heard one was found at Montrose in Chicago this week. They're around. I still need one for my life list. A Snowy would make a great bird #380.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

N Shrike!!!

I found a single N Shrike today! That makes only my second personal record of this species for Richland County.
That's how rare they are here. They're more common up North. For some reason though, this year they are heading South. I have heard that the Vole population up North has crashed which is probably the main reason for the spread south.

Sorry for the pic quality. The bird was quite a distance away.

The bird was a little closer here. Still could have been better though.

There's no doubt it's a Northern! Woooo!

Now I just neeed some winter finches.....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Of Fork-tailed Flycatchers, and Black-tailed Gulls.

IA is hosting some really cool rare birds right now. Among them are, 1 Mew gull, 1 Fork-tailed Flycatcher and 1 BLACK-TAILED Gull. Mew Gulls are rare, but FTFC and BTGU are the state's first records. (photos can be found at: and: )

WI had it's BTGU record in Aug of '03 and it's FTFC record around Jun of '00. We are definately due for a record. The FTFC was not found today in the usual spot. Perhaps it's feeling sorry for me and is heading my way... What would be really cool is if the BTGU wandered over this way and ended up on the Mississippi river. That would put it less than an hour from my house!
They are known for wandering. The last one wandered from Racine WI all the way down to Lake county IN.

If only I could have gone after them. But I can't drive and Mom won't drive me and I don't have a ride. I suppose the money I was going to use on gas I can use for conservation. Mike M, does that qualify it for my "Could-have-seen-but-didn't" list?

I don't know, my listing is a little different. My list tends to be more of a "could-have-seen-but-couldn't" list. It consists of rare birds only. birds that are far from their home range and were within half day driving distance that would have been easy to find. Why didn't I? No time. that's usually the main reason. The next is no transportation. The third reason is usually no money.
I can recall 3 separate times when I was within 400 mi of a Western Reef-Heron. A bird that many birders would love to have on their list. A bird that I could have found easily. Why didn't I? No time. Ah well, that's the woe of all birders isn't it? not much time and little money. If those two problems were solved, we would all be happy. Alas though. The equation goes something like this: T=time, M=money W=work. T+W=M We can change the equation around: T-M=W or M-W=T. Working to earn money costs money. Therefore W=M. The equation then goes as follows: T-M=0 birds. T+W=o birds. therefore the only equation that would work is T+M= Birds! However, having neither= (T/T)-(M/M). T and M cancel and you get W. W=Work+No Birds (NB). W+NB=M. M=T-W. Therefore, M=T+Birds. Well, that's sort of how it works isn't it? In the end, we have either T and no M or M and no T and always lots of W. It sucks! therefore we end up moderating and so: Some time (ST) = Some Work (SW) + Some Time (SM) which then = SB (Some Birds) Well, better than nothing eh?
Happy Birding!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Snow!! For thanksgiving too!

(picture coming)

I knew something was up when the birds became a little more frenzied than usual. i just didn't know what. I suspected it because of the clouds but couldn't be certain. Then it started snowing leaving me certain of my suspicion. Snow!!

(picture coming)

it started yesterday around early afternoon.
Then I woke up this morning and it was a little whiter out. not solid white mind you, that won't happen for a little while longer, but just a light dusting. it's pretty neat though.

(picture coming)

So keep warm, you feeders filled and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Oct snow showers bring Nov Flowers?

actually, it's April showers bring May flowers. that's how it usually works isn't it?
somehow, nature decided to try something different. Nov flowers instead of May flowers. It is Nov right? the trees are bare so i would think it is.

I'm not sure what it is. a succulent of some kind no doubt

Pretty though.

interesting reflection on this pool.

Not too many birds that day. not too many today either. I should go look for shrikes or something. it's a bit cold though. i can see more birds at my feeder than i can going for a walk. I kinda wonder why.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Winter Finch Forecast

I recently came across a forecast for winter finches on Slybird's blog. He's from the Cayuga area in NY.

It's pretty neat. sounds like it's going to be a good year.

It's also sounding like a good owl year too. With all the shrike reports (and the fact that I found one in WI for the first time in 8 years) I would guess that it's going to be a good boreal bird year. The Seed crops in the far north and west have almost failed and the small mamal populations have crashed. Couple that with the predicted cold winter and that should bring both passerines and predators down south.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Grey Monday

Mondays are grey. In a sense. Especially today. Grey, cloudy, windy and cold. But then again, it's Nov. The birds don't care. They're just minding they're own business foraging for food to stay warm. Hunkering down and conserving energy. They don't care what time it is. They don't even care what year it is. To them, time is irrelevant. It just passes. All they have to do is find food, shelter and stay out of the way of predators. easy right? not for the bird. How would you like it if you constantly had to watch your back while out finding food?
some of the summer birds can't find enough food this time of year. Come fall, they go south where food abounds. I'd join them if I could. Instead, I'm sitting up here shivering and freezing all winter while they watch they're backs and forage for food down there where it's warm. Do you know why so many birds run into skyscrapers? Because they're constantly watching behind them of course. :) lol

Here's a pic of me and my Cockatiel "Birdie".

Cockatiels are native to Australia but were domesticated and sold as pets. they're nice companions for a birder.
Fun to have around. They do bite though.

He loves to look out the window.

Stricker's pond on Sat (11/3)

I stopped by Stricker's pond on Sat for the Ross's goose that Bart Martin had reported. Unfortunately, the Goose was not present.
There was one good bird though. A single N SHRIKE. First of the year for me. I love Shrikes. They're so cool. Bandit birds I sometimes call them becuase of their black mask.

This isn't a very good picture. The bird was across the pond from me so I had to crop this pic alot to get the bird to show up.

Other birds present were:
Lots and lots of GR & Lesser Canada, Cackling Geese.
Dozens of Mallards
Some Hooded Mergansers
a couple Buffleheads
a Common Merg
a Red-tailed Hawk
a Brown Creeper
a Gr Blue Heron

Except for the wind, it was a beautiful day.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Winter is coming.

Winter is on it's way.
Snow is in the forecast next week. Only a 20% chance but still, snow.
most of the leaves have fallen from the trees. The birds have flown south. I wish I could join them.
Not that I don't like winter, it has it's charm. Snow, Skiing, winter finches, shrikes, owls, all these thing are fun to see. Still, it's cold. Too cold. If I had my way, I'd leave Jan 1 and return as the birds come back in the spring. Alas, I cannot do this. Besides, there's too much fun to be had in the winter. looking for late birds, state rarities, IDing all the gulls that fly by looking for the odd one out. Then there's the thrill of seeing the summer birds as they return. being the first to find a particular species, spending every day from late march to June, from 4:30am to 8:00 looking for new arrivals. Yes, Spring is one of my favorite times of the year. Also in spring, along with the influx of arrivals, comes Big days. How many birds can you find in 24 hours?
up until recently, I was sure that Richland County could produce close to if match 200 species in 24 hours. Alas, the millpond is gone and with it, my certainty. Waterbirds will now become harder and shorebirds will be virtually impossible. If it's a wet spring, flooded fields may produce something. It's all hit or miss though. no spot is reliable anymore. We can only hope. in the meantime, I have an essay to finish so that I can join the ABA/Leica Tropicbirds team for a third year in a row. Next year is Texas though. I expect to raise my list to 450 or more. Here's hoping.