Wednesday, June 30, 2010

SEO Tips for Birders- Choosing a Topic

Some of you may have noticed this box at the bottom of my site (scroll all the way down to see the real thing):

It's an embedded topic-finding tool from my company, WordStream. This tool that I helped develop is very useful when choosing a bird blogging topic. It's free to use, and if you want to send yourself a spreadsheet of the topics (called "niches") and keywords to include in your blog posts, just enter your email address to have them emailed to you.

Here's an example of how you might use the tool:

Let's say I have some pictures of a Great Blue Heron eating a fish (which I do- I'm going to post that next). I type "great blue heron" into the query box and click "Find Profitable Niches." This is what I see:

I can see that "great blue heron eat" is a popular niche topic to write about since it's near the top of the list. I just click on the niche to see the keywords associated with it. Since I have pictures of a Great Blue Heron eating, it makes sense for me to put that keyword in my blog post title, as well as throughout the body of my post. I'll also want to include other popular keywords from this list: "what do great blue herons eat" "what does the great blue heron eat" "great blue heron eats."

This tool is also very helpful if you're not starting with a picture, but rather you plan on writing about bird-related research, facts, tips, etc. You can use it to find out what are the most popular topics and questions for a certain species of bird.

Go ahead! Scroll down to the bottom of the page and try it out for yourself.

Happy blogging! :)

Grackles and Starlings

Here's a picture of a common grackle at our feeder. We get a lot of grackles in our yard, but usually they just feed on worms/bugs on the lawn. Once in a while we get one at the feeder. They don't bother me too much since we live in a rural area and have a nice diversity of birds at our feeders. But I understand why some people whose feeders are dominated by this "nuisance bird" dislike them.

A lot of people get grackles and starlings confused, and I admit I still have to remind myself of the difference, since I had them mixed up for so many years. In my mind, grackles should look "crackle-y" and the mottled look of starlings with their blend of black and tan feathers looks that way to me. Instead, it's the bird with the smooth black coloring (with a hint of iridescence) that is the grackle. I wrote a blog post about the difference between grackles and starlings a while back.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Song Sparrow Preening

I have quite the backlog of pictures for Burrage Pong on Memorial Day, here are a few more.

I love taking pictures of Song Sparrows, especially when they're perched atop a post or branch like this against the blue sky. It reminds me of some similar pictures I have of a song sparrow from the BwBTC trip to Plum Island last summer.

During this trip to Burrage Pond we also saw an Eastern Kingbird:

Can you find the Great Blue Heron in this picture? This is a very distance shot, but I wanted to use it because you can see the haze across the bog. People in New England will recall how this Memorial Day smoke from the Quebec wildfires rolled in and created quite the haze.

Burrage Pond is a Wildlife Management Area (or WMA)- a parcel of undeveloped land managed by the Massachusetts Department of Fisheries and Wildlife. (Click here for a map of WMAs in Massachusetts) Naturally, since it's such a great piece of conservation land, there are several research projects going on there. One of which is the bog turtle (note: link opens a PDF). There's a note on the sign when you first enter Burrage Pond to be on the lookout for bog turtles. Well, 2 of the 4 times I've been there I've seen turtles but they weren't bog turtles. I'll keep looking!

Here's a cute little painted turtle I saw on Memorial Day, with quite the dirty shell (kind of looks like rust). How'd that happen? Just to be sure I took photographs of it so I could confirm later what kind of turtle it was. As with birds, I'm always secretly hoping it's something incredibly rare! But that's never the case...

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Magnolia Warbler in Fairfield, CT

Magnolia warblers are my FAVORITE warbler (well, aside from Blackburnian Warblers, but I've only seen one once at Mt. Auburn Cemetery). I don't know what it is- the name maybe? "Magnolia" has such nice connotations. And the coloring- I love the yellow with black streaks, and the gray. All the colors come together so nicely.

I decided to look it up on to see if they had any information about where the name comes from- apparently the name was originally given to them in 1810 by Alexander Wilson who saw one in a Magnolia tree. Funnily enough he took the Black and Yellow Warbler English name, and added Magnolia to its Latin name, which became the predominant name over time.

We went to visit Steve's parents in Fairfield, CT the weekend of May 22-23 so of course I was on high alert for warblers. I noticed the Cedar Waxwings first. They were flying between the trees in his parents' backyard and the top of a dead tree in his neighbor's yard:

I was so excited to hear a warbler in the trees, used my binoculars to see what it was, and then quickly snapped these shots before it flew away. I never saw it again the rest of the weekend.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Rose-breasted Grosbeak at My Feeder!

This was a nice little Memorial Day surprise. My parents were over for a cookout and while I was inside putting away the food and cleaning up Steve came rushing in asking me to check out a bird at the feeder.

My mom was the first to notice it and Steve couldn't ID it either so they grabbed me to come out. I've seen rose-breasted grosbeaks at the tops of the trees where our backyard meets the conservation land (Stiles & Hart).

I've observed that rose-breasted grosbeaks like to hang out at the canopy level and feed on the tree buds. I've noticed Baltimore Orioles and many types of wood warblers like to do this too, so it's where I often look when I go birding (or when I hear a rose-breasted grosbeak call and need to figure out where to look).

I can't believe that rose-breasted grosbeaks are interested in my feeders with the abundance of food in the woods behind our house. A nice surprise though just the same!