25. August 2011 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 16: Follow That Bird! Help Me Identify a Bird…. · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , , ,

That beautiful garden from last March-May?  All but dead.  The insane heat, plus the lack of rain earlier this summer made it tough to maintain after our vacation.  Between the tomato hornworms, blossom end rot and other crap, I just said “forget it”.  It was too hot to even stand outside to prune.  No fun!

My herbs are surviving, which can be expected since they typically survive on less water than fruit-producing plants.  I let my basil go to seed — I tried to keep the seed stems picked off, but couldn’t keep up — and lately it’s been a popular hangout for my backyard birds.  More popular than the two bird feeder areas I have on a different part of the yard.

This has been fun because the garden containers are right outside our back door and the kids can watch the birds while they’re eating breakfast in the morning.  We’ve been seeing finches, sparrows and cardinals hanging out at my basil, and even the occasional bluebird who is after the bugs that hover around my herb flowers.

This photo was taken through my screen porch, there’s a house finch among the basil.

Latecomers hang out on my cucumber trellis to wait for their turn.
Much less traffic at the bird feeders.

This morning I had my usual assortment, but then this HUGE bird was trying to get in on the action.  (“Huge” is relative — I have a blue jay that hangs out in the front yard, but this is the biggest bird I’d seen in the back).  I haven’t researched what kind of bird he is, but I’ll post the pictures here and see if you can help me out.

My hypothesis: a northern mockingbird fledgling.

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24. July 2011 · Comments Off on Florida Discoveries 15: Great Blue Heron in Action! · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

First of all, I learned that it’s “heron” and not “huron“.  Oops.  I was wondering why my Google searches kept directing me to Michigan-related websites…

Last night Dave and I went on a good old fashioned DATE!  The kids are visiting grandparents in the northeast through next weekend, and even though Dave’s hard at work these two weeks, we had a fantastic weekend!  Yesterday we went tubing on a creek in the northern part of the Florida Panhandle, then we went parasailing and wrapped up the evening with a delightful steamed seafood dinner.  I’ll be blogging about our parasailing next, but for now I wanted to share this cool series of iPhone pictures I took of this Great Blue Heron* enjoying some fish.  I didn’t have my good camera with me, since I didn’t want to lose it on the parasailing boat.

I thanked the family who bought the fish feed that lured the fish for the bird to eat…

*Yes, I’m capitalizing the full name of this species of bird, per this journal article.

He started out on the dock, staring intently at a patch of water near the public fish food machine.

Staring hard…

Now he’s on a floating platform just below the fish feed machine…he moved to this spot after a kid put 50 cents in the  machine and got a handful of fish food.

Splash!  He quickly darts his beak into the water as the fish come up to get the feed.

He got one!

After swallowing the first fish, he’s immediately on the lookout again…


Another one!

You can see how the fish has enlarged his neck.
16. February 2008 · 2 comments · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: ,

(Thanks Maryann for reminding me about this this year!)

Looking for a fun activity with the kids this weekend? Check out Cornell University and the Audubon Society’s annual “Great Backyard Bird Count”.

This is a really easy way to help the birding world keep tabs on the migration/habitat patterns of North American birds, and unlike other bird counts, you don’t really need pre-registration or anything like that. You can observe for as little as a 15 minute increment for your counts to be integrated. Do it between now and midnight on the 18th to get your observations counted.

So all you have to do is go to the GBBC link and select the yellow “GO” link to input your findings. Even if you do all the observing ahead of time, you can put in the findings after the experiment is over and it will get into the results within 2 hours. My reports are already there!

And if you’re a statistics weenie like me, make sure you check out the results link at the top of the web page and see what kinds of cool data has been collected so far!

So I’m spending the next 2-3 days, Peterson’s Field Guide in hand, in the kitchen and backporch quietly observing. I’m trying to get Jake to help, and he seems very interested, but he can’t keep still and quiet enough. He gets all excited when he sees a bird and starts to dance around.

30. January 2008 · 1 comment · Categories: Uncategorized · Tags: , , ,

About a week ago I rearranged my bird feeders. I also changed the type of bird feed I offered, from a general small seed mix to only black oil sunflower seeds. In addition, I took down my windowside hummingbird feeder and replaced it with a windowside standard feeder, filled with sunflower seed. I also switched one of the feeders into a nijer seed feeder, hoping to bring back my goldfinches.

From that point up till this weekend, there was very little bird activity. The new arrangement and feeding options probably spooked everyone for a while, but starting this weekend, our friends started to return.

Today I was able to photograph both Mr. AND Mrs. Hairy Woodpecker, a red finch, a tufted titmouse, a Carolina wren, a Carolina chickadee, and Mr. Bluebird. The cardinals were around, too, but I didn’t get any pictures of them. The goldfinches have been around, but I didn’t see any of them today.

I was crouched towards the floor of my kitchen, camera in hand, all the while trying out different settings in an attempt to get the best closeup shots. Here are some of the best ones I got this afternoon. This was at about 3pm.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

Mr. Bluebird on the gutters along our back porch. If this were a cloudy day he’d probably appear much more vibrantly colored.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

This is Mr. Woodpecker chowing down on suet. This is typically how he’ll remain for up to 10 minutes. After he finishes, Mrs. Woodpecker will come by.

From 2008 01 15 Ha…

Here’s a shot of him from Jan. 15th, you can see the red patch on the back of his head better.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

Mr. Housefinch looking right at me!

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

This is the first picture I’ve been able to take of a bird at the window feeder. ANY motion usually scares birds off. This is a Carolina chickadee.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

Here’s chickadee’s cousin, the tufted titmouse. They’re in the same family.

From 2008 01 30 Bi…

So here’s MRS. Hairy Woodpecker for her meal. How subservient — she typically waits for the man to finish his meal, then she takes whatever’s remaining. Not that Mr. W has taken everything. That’s the squirrels’ job!

Enjoy! Click here if you’d like to see more of the pictures. I’ve uploaded 36 of them, out of the 65 that I took.