Sunday, December 5, 2010

What a Red-tailed Hawk Eats

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I had a great day at my aunt's house in Sandwich, MA on Cape Cod. I even squeezed in a little impromptu bird-watching, although I wish I had my Canon Powershot with me instead of just my cell phone camera, but what can you do...

This red-tailed hawk eating a Thanksgiving dinner of his own was a nice surprise. We saw it as my mom, Steve and I were heading out for a walk to the beach. We spotted it up in a tree eating what appeared to be a squirrel.

It was pretty gruesome in fact- for a while he was trying to free up a long string of intestines, which you can it pulling on see here,

And you can see it live in this video (I apologize- I can't for the life of me get it to rotate right-side-up. But you can get the picture- you can see it going to town on the intestines):

The red-tailed hawk eats squirrels and other mammals like mice, rabbits, and voles. They also prey on ground birds like pheasants and bobwhites, as well as starlings and blackbirds. They'll even go after snakes! Basically they can carry away anything up to 5 lbs.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Mallard Hybrid - Possible Domestic Duck?

These mallard hybrid pictures were taken at Scargo Lake in Dennis (on Cape Cod) during our vacation this past August. We were vacationing with our friends Dave and Meg, and I asked Dave what kind he thought they were since he's a hunter, wildlife biologist, and general expert on the subject of birds- especially ducks. He said they looked like a hybrid- probably mallard hybrid and domestic duck.

It's funny because these ducks just wouldn't learn- they kept coming in dangerously close to our rental house's dock, only to be chased off by Dave and Meg's dog Foster, who's a trained hunting dog. He had a lot of fun doing it each time though, so no harm no fowl :)

Just look at this precious boy- such a cutie!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Juvenile Mallard Duck Pictures

Wow- it's hard to believe it was over 2 years ago that I wrote a post wondering about mallard hybrids. I had seen a green-winged teal for the first time and I was very confused about what I was looking at- is this a seagull with a mallard head? haha

Juvenile mallard ducks are quite interesting because of the blue mark on their wings. I always get excited when I see that- thinking it could be some type of teal, wood duck, or other interesting duck species. Nope- just a juvenile mallard!

These pictures were taken in Plymouth, MA at the beginning of the pathway that goes to the to the Jenney Grist Mill. Steve and I went for a random drive and walk around Plymouth back in mid-October. We live so close! There's really a lot to see and do there, and Plymouth Harbor is also a great birding spot. I saw the Ivory Gull there back in 2009

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Birds of Istanbul

The last stop in our international birding month bonanza is in the Middle East, to Istanbul, Turkey.

These mysterious green birds were seen in the beautiful gardens of Topkapi Palace, the primary residence of the Ottoman Sultans for approximately 400 years (1465-1856) of their 624-year reign. They were photographed in September, 2010. If anyone can help me (Larry, Birding Girl's co-worker) identify these birds, please write something in the comment fields below. Thanks!!

Birds of Botswana

Here are a few mystery birds that I saw in June 2010 in Botswana. Unfortunately, I don't know what kinds of birds they are, but if you happen to know, post a comment!

This brave bird was standing on the head of a hippopotamus, right in the middle of a pod of hungry hippos on the Chobe river, bordering Botswana and Namibia.

I think this is some kind of wood pecker.

A bunch of birds making a nest in the Chobe River in between Botswana/Namibia.

Another colorful bird.

A bird flies over our boat.

This appears to be another roller of some sort.

If anyone can help me (Larry) identify these mystery birds, write in the comment fields below. Thanks!!

Fish Eagles in Botswana

This pair of fish eagles were photographed in June, 2010 at the Chobe National Park in northern Botswana.

Saddle Billed Stork

This Saddle Billed Stork is a rare find in South Africa. Some estimates are that there are only around 100 of these left in the entire Kruger National Park, but thanks to various conservation efforts, the species is on the mend!

Lylac Breasted Roller

Many people visit Africa to see the big 5 game (Lion, Leopard, Elephant, Rino and Buffalo). But I happen to think Africa is just as fabulous (if not better) for birding folks. This Lylac Breasted Roller is one of the most colorful and beautiful birds I saw on my trip. The colors are like a paint color swatch from Benjamin Moore - the colors go so well together! If you're interested in visiting South Africa, there is a non-stop flight from New York JFK to Johannesburg.

Marshal Eagle

This marshal eagle (who, unfortunately is facing away from my camera, and has a big shadow cast on him from the tree) was seen in South Africa in June of 2010. What i like about this photo is that the marshal eagle has caught his prey! Look at his talons - he's caught a baby water monitor lizard for dinner.

Pair of Tawny Eagles

This pair (male & female) of Tawny eagles were spotted just outside the Kruger National Park in South Africa in June of 2010. These birds of prey have massive talons, the size of adult human hands and they can carry away a baby impala (deer)!

And look at their wingspan. Nearly 2 meters wide - incredible! For this photo, I just kept the Tawny eagle in the viewfinder and waited (and waited) for it to fly away.

Yellow Billed Hornbill

Next we travel to Africa!

I think this is a Yellow Billed Hornbill was seen while travelling in Kruger National Park in South Africa, June, 2010. You may also recognize him as the character 'Zazu', the King's advisor in The Lion King. For this picture, I used a manual single point focus on Zazu's eyeball because there were so many trees in the way.

Red Breasted Toucan in Brazil

This November, birding girl is partnering with Larry (a co-worker) to cover a selection of birds of the world that are outside of the USA.

First up is from south america! I think this is a Red Breasted Toucan. It was photographed in the Jardim Botânico (Botanical Gardens), in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in October of 2010. It reminds me of the mascot for Froot Loops cereal. So colorful!

look at the size of that beak!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Bird Feeder Review

Not too long ago I blogged about a bird feeder review I was planning for the site CSN Stores. It's actually a pretty cool website because they sell all sorts of products- even beyond bird houses and bird feeders (which they do quite well I might add). It's easy to get distracted when looking for something bird-related. Last time I was on there I got completely distracted looking for a bar stool to go with this new work-station area I've set up for my laptop at home. But that's a story for another day...

So I ended up going with the "Our Pets Lighthouse Seed Feeder" which I set up in the backyard, hanging off our barn. I'm using black-oil sunflower seed in it, which always makes sense for tube bird feeders.
One concern I have is the issue of waste, but since the tray at the base is so wide, most of the seed that birds toss around gets captured, eliminating waste. Seed recycling bird feeders (like Tidy Diner) are all the rage right now, and this Lighthouse bird feeder has actually turned out to be a pretty good solution. Unlike most seed recycling bird feeders, the tray at the bottom isn't obtrusive and the feeder still looks nice aesthetically hanging in my back yard.

I can't assess how squirrel-proof it is since we don't have squirrels in our yard in Bridgewater (I know, I know- don't hate me!); however, one of the reviews on the CSN Stores website says that it's the one feeder their squirrel can't hang upside down from to eat the seed. Sounds squirrel-proof to me!

And of course, as a native Cape Codder I love all things relating to the ocean and this is a perfect accent to my backyard decor.

Our yard is pretty quiet right now so I don't have too many good pics, but I'll try to get a representative one that shows the different types of birds that like to visit this feeder.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pileated Woodpecker in Orono Maine

This past weekend Steve and I went to Orono, Maine to visit my cousin Heather. This was the first time I had been visit her since she moved up there about a year ago. We had perfect weather, and in between hiking and camping I managed to squeeze in just a little bit of birding!

Here are some pics from our hike to the top of Cadillac Mountain. Isn't it beautiful? Here's Heather on the way up.

Me & Heath at the top of the mountain.

Justin, Heather's boyfriend, Heath, her dog Royce & Steve.

My favorite siting from the weekend was a lifer(?) for me. The Pileated Woodpecker!

The first one I saw during our hike at Cadillac Mountain. I saw something huge flying through the trees after we startled it, and caught just glimpses of its all-dark gray body, and red crown.

When I told Heather what I saw she said not to worry- I'd be able to get a good picture of it when we got back to her apartment in Orono. She said as long as they put out suet, they'll have Pileated Woodpeckers at their feeder. Amazing!

So as soon as we got back to her apartment I was on the lookout. Sure enough I head the woodpecker pecking at a tree and then when I looked I saw its red head up at the top of a tree. All the credit goes to Steve for the above picture. These next ones I took at a much greater distance.I also saw a Hairy Woodpecker while I was watching for the Pileated. It can be difficult to tell the difference between a downy woodpecker and a hairy woodpecker. I wrote a blog post about it a couple of winters ago. The most distinguishable characteristics for me are size (the Hairy Woodpecker is bigger) and the beak (the Hairy Woodpecker has a longer beak).

Finally, on the way back to Orono from Bar Harbor we saw this flock of migrating Kildeer! We had stopped to look at a Boro camping trailer and then Heather actually spotted the birds on the lawn between the parking lot and road, and asked me what they were. I think I've only seen Kildeer once before, and to me the most distinguishable characteristic is their size, and the intricate banding/lines by their eyes.

It was such a great weekend of seeing Heather, Justin & Royce, hiking and camping in beautiful Acadia National Park, and seeing some Maine birds!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Boston Peregrine Falcon drops by for another visit

One of the perks to working in Boston's Back Bay neighborhood is that I get to bird watch. Specifically- I get to study Boston's resident peregrine falcon right from my desk. I wrote a post about our peregrine falcon back in July actually. I took some pictures of it right before it right before it took a poop. That's one of its favorite pass-times while visiting our 16th floor ledge. That and munching on poor helpless birds.

There is evidence of the carnage everywhere- just see this carelessly left behind wing for example. Anyone have a guess at what kind of bird it was?

Here are some pictures of our friend, the Boston peregrine falcon, from today. He was there in the late afternoon, sitting on the windowsill, looking in curiously:

Don't be misled by the white spot on its breast- it's just the flash from my camera making that spot.
Looking forward to seeing our little friend again soon! I hope to learn more about our Boston peregrine falcon. If anyone local has any information, like its name and how long its been tracked, please let me know.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Carolina Wren House

Here are some pictures of a Carolina Wren house in my parents' yard in Bourne, MA (Monument Beach to be specific). Each year my mom has at least one Carolina Wren family nesting in the yard. Usually they go after some of the more traditional bird houses she has up, but this year they decided to nest in an ornamental bird house, not meant for actual birds!

Since Carolina Wrens are so small, this bird house actually suits their needs just fine. Here are some pictures of the wren nervously looking out and waiting for me to get in my car and leave. Right before this, the bird was bringing food to its babies- specifically a nice green inchworm.

Carolina Wren House:

Carolina Wren House in context of the yard (you can see how small the house really is):

I had hope to capture the Carolina Wren call on video, but I just wasn't fast enough with my camera. But I do have an older video on my blog featuring the Carolina Wren Song.

Rhode Island Birder Spots Alligator in Pond

Rhode Island birder Dan Cinotti was scanning Sisson Pond for birds and instead caught sight of an alligator sunning itself on a rock.

Photo credit: Dan Cinotti
As of August 30th it was still seen in the pond, and DEM officials still were not able to capture it. To further complicate matters, the southern area of the pond where it has been spotted is considered private so unless the owners request its removals, DEM is not under obligation to return to try and capture it. For more information read the full article here:

It's quite sad because obviously the alligator cannot survive a winter in the pond. I hope someone is able to capture it and deliver it to a refuge or zoo. All because some idiot tried to keep it as a pet and released it once it got too big... Speaking of which, anyone remember the move Alligator (1980)? Great movie.

Click here to watch the video:

I recently went birding in Rhode Island with my BwBTC (birders who blog, tweet, chirp) group, but fortunately we didn't encounter any alligators! I did see a huge snapping turtle sticking its beak out of the water to breathe (while at Trustom Pond National Wildlife Refuge, another popular RI bird watching spot), but that was the largest reptile spotted.

Check back for pictures from the BwBTC trip- uploaded but certainly not sorted through yet... I'm getting there :)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Blue-winged Warbler and Eastern Towhee at Tuckerwood

June 5th we finally got around to visiting Tuckerwood Conservation Area. It's so close to our house, but we just never ventured over to it. Be warned though- it's very buggy so make sure you load up on bug spray first.

It turned out to be an excellent spot for birdwatching- especially the powerlines area. That's where I saw this blue-winged warbler, and eastern towhee. The only thing that made me nervous was that I kept hearing large animals moving around in the bushes and I was worried there were coyotes there. Hopefully it was just deer or something.

Blue-winged warbler:

Look at the worm in its mouth! Clearly this bird is nesting. I'm always excited to see warblers, especially outside of migratory season. I'm still getting to know the warblers that stick around Massachusetts. To help, I've been following the blog "In Pursuit of Warblers" which is run by a gentleman named Larry in Western Massachusetts. Granted, the birds there will be different from Southern Massachusetts where I live, but it's still a good reference.

Eastern Towhee:

Eastern towhees are a bird I've gotten more and more excited about in recent years. Mainly because I've been able to match them up with a familiar bird call I've heard my whole life. That's always an exciting part of improving my birding skills- being able to identify all the calls I hear in and around Massachusetts. Hilke over at "One Jackdraw Birding" recently posted an audio clip of the Eastern Towhee song.

Find more information about Tuckerwood Conservation Area and other Bridgewater Parks.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Attention New England Birders!

Dawn Fine (of Dawn's Bloggy Blog fame) is coming back our way and is planning another BwBTC (Birders who Blog, Tweet, and Chirp) birding trip for the weekend of August 28th/29th.

Read her full post here:

It's a lot of fun! If you're local to New England you should consider joining us :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Great White Heron [Correction- Great Egret!] Pictures

These Great Egret (thanks to my Anonymous commenter for correcting us) pictures come courtesy of my friend Elizabeth's in-laws. She tells me they love nature and wildlife photography, especially birds. I'm grateful to them for sharing these pictures since it adds to the diversity of photos on my blog.

These are from their trip to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in Charleston, SC. My guess is these are from the Swamp Garden since the link for that section is a picture of a Great Egret! I'm quite the detective... haha

A very similar species is the The Great White Heron- a morph of the Great Blue Heron, a common New England bird. The surest way to tell them apart is to look at their range (they're only found in Southern Florida). For other clues see the comments section of this post. As my Anonymous commenter pointed out- it would be highly unlikely to see a Great White Heron in South Carolina.

Granted this is a Great Egret and not a Great White Heron, I still find it amusing how similar it is to my recent Great Blue Heron eating habits post. The fish that this egret is eating is much smaller, and certainly a different species than the one my heron was eating, but I think it's still cool that we both got similar shots.

In fact, I saw a Great Blue Heron just this morning while I was commuting to work on the train. We pass over a portion of Boston Harbor/Quincy Bay? It was low tide and he was standing out in the middle of the flats, neck up straight as an arrow. I love how diverse their look can be- depending on how you stumble upon a heron, it can look like a completely different bird.