Tag Archives: winter
Grebes are similar looking in winter. Can you tell the difference? Which one is the Eared and which is the Horned? tick. tick. tick… Leave the answer in the comments and tell me why. You may use your book. You may begin now. (I always wanted to be a proctor.)
While chatting on the phone and idly looking out the window, I noticed an odd Siskin with a small flock pecking around on the ground under the feeders. It looked positively lemony compared to the other hundred or so swirling around the yard. People have been reporting “green-morph” Pine Siskins here and there. I wonder if that is what I have. I looked in big Sibley and he calls it a “Yellow Adult.” Look at it on the bottom right of the feeder. It has more pronounced yellow on the wing and look at that butter butt! It’s undertail is a pale yellow too. Being only 1% of the population, I did not think I would see one. But, by Jove, I think I have one. What do you think? Have you ever seen one?
Loads of toursits visit the Statue of Liberty when they come to New York City for the first time. Few of them realize that Liberty State Park, located smack-dab on the Hudson River amidst the crush of humanity in Jersey City, is a local birding hotspot. With a mix of large open fields, marshland, a pine grove, weedy margins and mudflats when the tide goes out, it offers up a plethora (I love that word) of birding habitats. It is especially good in winter. There is a Snowy Owl there most years, living large on the rats. There are also lots of different types of ducks, gulls and shorebirds.
I went down to the park with friends today to try for the Snowy. It has been hanging around the golf course and waterfront. I was also hoping to see the Eurasian Widgeon, immat. male Common Eider and 7 Woodcock that had been reported. But I skunked on all of them. I did see Green-winged Teal, loads of Brant, 2 Killdeer, 2 Horned Grebe, lots of Buffleheads, DC Cormorants, Ruddy Ducks, Gadwalls, Black Ducks and the regular seagulls crowd-Herring, Greater Black-backed and Ring-billed.
Now that I know the lay of the land, so to speak, I plan on going back when it is a nicer and hopefully less windy day. I wonder when Snowy Owls leave to go back north???
Have you ever seen this before? Look at those 2, count them, 2, red patches. When I first saw him, I thought maybe he was something else, but no, look at that small bill. He is definitely a Downy; but a bird with a different sense of style. If one red patch is good then two must be better. Oooo, but I bet he is a killer with the ladies.
I wasn’t going to participate in the GBBC this year since I am leaving for Texas on Sunday morning and won’t be able to finish the weekend. I half-heartedly noticed 2 Black-capped Chickadee, 1 White-breasted Nuthatch and 1 Downy Woodpecker yesterday morning when I filled the feeders.
BUT, this morning, I happened to look out the kitchen window and HOLY Pine Siskinagogo (if I can borrow the term from @ratcliffe). There are hundreds of them in the backyard. Literally. They are EVERYWHERE: in the trees; on all the feeders, in the shrubs, the ground is alive with them. I wish there was a way of sharing just what I am seeing. It is like a scene from the “Birds” and would be frightening if they weren’t 5″ long.
Quick, run to the window. What are you seeing?
As the sun sank lower, cars started to arrive at the Liberty Loop parking lot. They pulled in by ones and twos. I had been standing there for hours with my feet ice cold in the snow jawing with some bird photographers. We watched Harriers, Red-tailed and Rough-legged Hawks, a Merlin and loads of Canada Geese and Sparrows. A Barred owl started to inquire about our dinner arrangements.
One of the photographers had been coming to the marsh for weeks and had not seen a Short-eared Owl in all that time. I had not seen one there since mid-December. As people arrived asking about the Owls, we all just shrugged. Many people left, heck, I left. But after a tongue-burning cup of cocoa, I came back to resume the vigil.
Friends of mine from Long Island arrived bubbling with news of having seen Long-eared Owls. As they told there story again and again for new arrivals, I idly scanned the marsh. They must have brought owl luck with them for as the sun inched further in the west and the sky’s pastels turned fiery, a Short-eared Owl rose from the marsh and started to course back and forth. I whirled around shouting at the photographers chatting in the parking lot. ”We’ve got owls!” Everyone hustled up to the upper level.
In the end there were 4. The cool thing was that it was light enough that you could easily see the differences between the male and females and tell them apart.
Mrs. H. was going about her business but keeping close to the Mister after such a hard migration. The usual rigg-raff was in the neighborhood of course, but that was to be expected in NJ. What she had not expected, afer all off this time, was a blip in her martial bliss. And she most certainly did not expect it to come from Mister H’s roving eye.
When a beautiful alluring Oldsquaw started hanging around; she paid her no heed. She was gorgeous, it’s true, but Mrs. H. knew what Mister H did not. Ducks that completely changed their look in winter were not to be trusted. She had often wondered what they were hiding from. Why the disguise? She snorted to herself; with that ridiculous long tail, it wasn’t even much of a disguise. She watched the Oldsquaw out of the corner of her eye. A tiny voice murmured in her head. “Pale ducks have more fun.” The first tendril of jealousy wrapped around her heart.
Then to her horror, she noticed Mr. H, actually looking at the pale beauty too. She had thought that Mister H only had eyes for her. Her opinion of the entire Oldsquaw species changed in an instant. How dare that hussy try to intrude!
Mrs. H. flew into a rage. After all she had done for him: the long flight; the nest building; bringing up the ducklings by herself. How dare he look at another female. What to Mr. H. had only been an idle glance, had tightened the tendril of jealousy of his mate. Mr. H. had seen a side of her that he had not known existed. He hastily reassured the Mrs. that she alone reigned in his affections. She had the dark beauty that he preferred and he vowed to himself that even in the secret recesses of his heart he would never think of her as dowdy again. The Oldsquaw flew off once the fighting started. She had merely been separated from her clan after a particularly long dive.
Tranquility restored; the H’s paddled off resume fishing.
I am having a uber-weird iphoto crisis with my IMAC, so let me offer you a Ruddy Turnstone that I happened to have stashed on my desktop. I took this a few weeks ago while I was walking on the jetty at Barnegat Light. Even in their winter plumage, you tell at a glance what this is. Have you ever seen them actually flipping stones? It is the coolest thing.
Check out all of the other birds at Birdfreak’s Bird Photography Weekly.