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Monday, January 20, 2014

Pileated Woodpecker drumming

Pileated Woodpecker, male

We just had a Pileated Woodpecker drumming on our house. Fortunately, it was on the metal roof so no damage done. Drumming is a woodpecker's way of communicating. Woodpeckers do not sing. Each woodpecker species has their own drumming version. In the case of the Pileated, it is a loud continuous drumming sound, trailing off at the end. Drumming is used in pair communication and territorial encounters. It is so thrilling to see a Pileated up close, we did not mind the drumming!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Marbled Godwit beauty, one of the prettiest shorebirds!

Marbled Godwit, one of the prettiest shorebirds

Doing shorebird yoga

Beautiful pink bill

How many Marbled Godwits can you find hiding among the Willets?

Here are some recent shots I took at J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge where 2 Marbled Godwits are hanging out among the other shorebirds, much to the delight of the birders and photographers. This has got to be one of the prettiest shorebirds. This is a shorebird you can see in winter on mudflats in southern coastal areas of the East, West and also on the Gulf Coast. In summer they breed in wetlands and grasslands in the northern plains areas and into Canada. Enjoy their beauty.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Ding Darling Sunset Beauty

As sunset approaches, at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, the light gets beautiful. The Double-crested Cormorant stands, lone dark figure against the white snow of the White Pelicans.

A Wood Stork flies into shore, backlit against the lowering sun.

A Snowy Egret guards the shore,

and flies after any intruder, full out fury.

White Pelican take-off, centered below the lowering, glowing ball.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Beauty in Birds through digital photography

Roseate Spoonbill, has pink angel wings.

Brown Pelicans are beautiful when viewed close up, look at the eye.

There's much beauty in birds, some of it undiscovered until you take a digital photo and realize all the things you have not looked at before. Digital photography and telephoto lenses give you new eyes and new appreciation for birds. These photos were taken with my Canon SX 50 HS camera, a superzoom bridge camera.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

How to Help Bluebirds Survive in Winter

The weather this winter in northern areas has been brutally cold and unpredictable and it's just getting started. Some of you have written to us expressing surprise and concern that you are seeing bluebirds in northern areas in winter. Here's some tips to help them survive. You can make a difference.

1. Bluebirds can roost together in bird houses to keep warm. Insulate your bird houses by closing off all cracks, drainage holes, etc., with some sort of insulating material so less drafts and cold get into the bird house. Just leave the entrance hole open. Face bird houses away from prevailing winter winds.

2. Bluebirds mainly eat fruit and berries in winter. Plant your property with an abundance of crabapples and native, berry-producing shrubs such as viburnums and hollies (like winterberry holly). Place these berry plantings in sunny, protected areas, blocked from winter winds. The bluebirds will have a warm place to eat and use less precious energy.

3. Some bluebirds will come to food such as, hulled sunflower, suet, dried mealworms, and some of the many "bluebird meal mixtures" or nuggets. Generally most bluebirds do not do this but they may learn to do so, especially if you get them used to these foods in spring and summer when bluebirds are nesting near you. You can certainly try putting out these foods in winter and if bluebirds come to them, keep feeding all through the winter. Your best bet is to also have lots of berries planted in your yard.

4. Bluebirds like water (may help with processing the berries) and will visit bird baths and heated bird baths. In general, when it is very severely cold, some people think it is a risk for birds to bathe. Holding off on the water, or placing sticks over the bird bath to only allow birds to drink, not bathe, may be a good idea in this situation. Many birds will eat snow in winter to get water.

Most bluebirds move out of the northernmost areas of their range in winter. Even ones that may linger eventually move on, once their berry sources are depleted or ice-covered. For bluebirds, and many birds, there is a trade-off of staying more north in order to be first to claim prime breeding territories, yet risking survival due to bad weather. Some of these tips may help them survive and you feel you're helping them. Bluebirds are truly beloved. Make sure and have nest boxes cleaned out and ready when bluebirds return in spring.

For more complete information see Stokes Bluebird Book.

For the very latest identification information and range maps on the birds of North America, including all three species of North American Bluebirds; Eastern Bluebird, Mountain Bluebird and Western Bluebird, see our new best-seller, The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America