Val and Sam had us over to do a little birding last weekend. Before I stepped into their backyard, I couldn’t identify a single bird.. except with general terms like crow, falcon and…bird. Yes. If it’s not a crow or a falcon, it’s just a bird.
I was stuck using my T3i and my 55-250mm but the results were okay considering the fading afternoon light! There’s more noise and color fade than I’d normally write off as acceptable but it was nearly inevitable considering my equipment and lighting situation. Also I had to crop the hell out of these. I just put in an order for a 70-300mm that will fit on my FF camera for better quality images next time. :)
I was inspired after this birding session to take a more active interest in the flora and fauna surrounding us. Valerie identified most of the birds you see below, and I spent some time at Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology getting more details. It was a lot of fun. Oh no, another interest! That’s okay. I love that life in general just keeps getting interesting!
Flocks of tiny Pine Siskins may monopolize your thistle feeder one winter and be absent the next. This nomadic finch ranges widely and erratically across the continent each winter in response to seed crops. Better suited to clinging to branch tips than to hopping along the ground, these brown-streaked acrobats flash yellow wing markings as they flutter while feeding or as they explode into flight. Flocks are gregarious, and you may hear their insistent wheezy twitters before you see them.
A graceful, slender-tailed, small-headed dove that\’s common across the continent. Mourning Doves perch on telephone wires and forage for seeds on the ground; their flight is fast and bullet straight. Their soft, drawn-out calls sound like laments. When taking off, their wings make a sharp whistling or whinnying. Mourning Doves are the most frequently hunted species in North America.
Most of the country drives during an eastern North American summer will turn up a few Eastern Bluebirds sitting on telephone wires or perched atop a nest box, calling out in a short, wavering voice or abruptly dropping to the ground after an insect. Marvelous birds to capture in your binoculars, male Eastern Bluebirds are a brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and warm red-brown on the breast. Blue tinges in the wings and tail give the grayer females an elegant look.
John James Audubon named this bird while he was in South Carolina. The curious, intelligent Carolina Chickadee looks very much like a Black-capped Chickadee, with a black cap, black bib, gray wings and back, and whitish underside. Carolina and Black-capped chickadees hybridize in the area where their ranges overlap, but the two species probably diverged more than 250,000 years ago. Either way they arefat and adorable.
A few birds are enjoying the birdbath.
A little gray bird with an echoing voice, the Tufted Titmouse is common in eastern deciduous forests and a frequent visitor to feeders. The large black eyes, small, round bill, and brushy crest gives these birds a quiet but eager expression that matches the way they flit through canopies, hang from twig-ends, and drop in to bird feeders. When a titmouse finds a large seed, you\’ll see it carry the prize to a perch and crack it with sharp whacks of its stout bill.
The House Finch is a recent introduction from western into eastern North America (and Hawaii), but it has received a warmer reception than other arrivals like the European Starling and House Sparrow. That\’s partly due to the cheerful red head and breast of males, and to the bird\’s long, twittering song, which can now be heard in most of the neighborhoods of the continent. If you haven\’t seen one recently, chances are you can find one at the next bird feeder you come across.
Northern Flickers are large, brown woodpeckers with a gentle expression and handsome black-scalloped plumage. On walks, don\’t be surprised if you scare one up from the ground. It\’s not where you\’d expect to find a woodpecker, but flickers eat mainly ants and beetles, digging for them with their unusual, slightly curved bill. When they fly you\’ll see a flash of color in the wings â€“ yellow if you\’re in the East, red if you\’re in the West â€“ and a bright white flash on the rump.
A common feeder bird with clean black, gray, and white markings, White-breasted Nuthatches are active, agile little birds with an appetite for insects and large, meaty seeds. They get their common name from their habit of jamming large nuts and acorns into tree bark, then whacking them with their sharp bill to â€śhatchâ€ť out the seed from the inside. White-breasted Nuthatches may be small but their voices are loud, and often their insistent nasal yammering will lead you right to them.