Search This Blog

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Acrobatic Northern Parula Warbler and Prairie Warblers

Northern Parula

Northern Parula 

Prairie Warbler

Prairie Warbler

Several migrant Northern Parulas at the Sanibel lighthouse, FL today, one demonstrating acrobatic foraging and coming up with a juicy prize! You have to admire the ability of this warbler to hang upside down.These migrants are hungry, they have just crossed the Gulf of Mexico!! Also there were several Prairie Warblers. Note the red stripes on the back of one male, not always visible. These warblers will be coming your way soon. For more on how to ID them see our The New Stokes Field Guide To Birds, east or west editions.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Shorebirds Getting Pretty, Red Knots and Short-billed Dowitchers

Red Knot and Willets

Red Knots and Willets

Short-billed Dowitchers

Shorebirds getting pretty. Many shorebirds are migrating now and turning into their breeding plumage, such as this Red Knot. The Short-billed Dowitchers are getting darker feathers on their backs. Red Knots migrate to high arctic breeding grounds so national wildlife refuges, like J. N.Ding Darling NWR where I photographed these, are vital places for them to stop and refuel on their long journey!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Feeder Friday: Know Your Woodpeckers

Downy Woodpecker, male at suet.

Hairy Woodpecker, female at hulled sunflower.

Woodpeckers are great feeder birds because they're easy to attract and several species, the Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, live just about all over the country. These two look-alike Woodpeckers are best told apart by size, the Hairy is 9 1/4 inches tall and the Downy is 6 3/4 inches tall. Males of both species have a red patch at the back of the head.

The trick to attracting them is to offer the right food, in the type of feeder that allows them to cling and feed naturally. We find the favorite foods of Downy and Hairy are suet, hulled sunflower, black oil sunflower and other nutmeats like peanuts. In our yard, the two foods they most prefer are suet and hulled sunflower. Suet is a type of beef fat that is rendered (cooked and cooled) and formed into square cakes, often with some seeds or fruit added.

The above Hairy Woodpecker female is on our Stokes Select Sunflower Screen Feeder, a large enough feeder, with good clinging surface, allowing this large woodpecker to hang on and feed on the hulled sunflower. Woodpeckers in the wild like to cling on and hitch around tree trunks and limbs, probing for insect larvae in the bark, so feeders that allow them to hold on in their usual manner are appealing to them. That's not to say they don't come to tube feeders with short perches as well. The smaller Downy Woodpecker masters that a little better in our yard than the larger Hairy Woodpecker.

There are some cool things we like about these woodpeckers. They excavate their own nest holes, the Hairy in live wood the Downy in dead wood. They "drum" (a rapid pounding on a resonate tree or surface), instead of singing, to attract a mate and define a territory. Usually they make "teek" calls as a way of keeping in contact. They live as a pair all year round, on the same territory. Our Hairy Woodpeckers bring their babies to the feeder when they first fledge. The fledgling hangs on the feeder and the adult grabs the food and feeds it to the waiting mouth. Eventually, the young learn on their own and come to the feeders when they are independent.

So, just by offering their favorite foods in the right containers, you can have woodpecker entertainment all year.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Warblers are Coming!

Where are the migrants? Hooded Warblers are early migrants and there are lots to soon come. The map shows where they are now. You can see that many Hooded Warblers are still in Central America and the Yucatan Peninsula, getting ready to fly across the Gulf of Mexico to the U.S. Soon they will be coming your way. Can't wait.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Northern Waterthrush ID, here's how!

Northern Waterthrush, one of the early migrant warblers, on Sanibel, FL Pond Apple trail yesterday. I heard it call and photographed it. People get confused about waterthrush ID. Here is why it is a Northern Waterthrush. It is yellowish buff below (Louisiana is cream colored below) with a streaked throat (Louisiana usually does not have streaks on throat) and a evenly colored buff eyebrow (Louisiana has bicolored eyebrow with buff in front and white above and behind the eye). Dark heavy elongated dashes on this bird are arranged into streaks on underparts (Louisiana’s medium brown dashes form blurred loose streaks on underparts). Eyebrow thickness and length not always a reliable clue. The legs were pinkish (Louisiana’s are bubble gum pink) and this bird was bobbing the tail not whole end (Louisiana bobs whole rear end in often a circular motion).
Here is some additional information,
Comparison Tips from our Stokes Field Guide to Birds of North America national field guide, page 629.
“Start with shape and behavior. Louisiana is bigger, more elongated, with larger bill; tail extends less past undertail coverts than Northern’s. Louisiana bobs tail (often in a circular manner) and more of rear end than Northern. Northern’s eyebrow solid yellow or solid white; Louisiana’s is bicolored, with buff in front, white above and behind eye. Length and thickness of eyebrows not always a reliable clue, since individual’s vary greatly. Northern’s throat usually with fine streaks; Louisiana’s usually clear white. Northern is white or yellowish buff below with heavy dark streaking, sometimes pale buff-brown on flanks; Louisiana is creamy white below with somewhat paler streaking and yellowish or salmon wash on flanks. Louisiana’s legs are brighter pink than Northern’s. The two species songs are distinct; their call notes are quite similar."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Bringing Spring To You

As our friend said when she saw a photo of our view of palm trees at our Florida home, "you live on a different planet." As northern areas are under a blanket of snow and northern bloggers are keeping warm by the fire and browsing internet garden images, we are in a land that has a different rhythm. The Cardinals in our yard are singing in the Bougainvillea and getting ready to breed.

Gulf Fritillay butterflies are on the wing, nectaring on newly opened wildflowers.

The Red Kapok Tree in a tropical garden here, is in bloom.

But soon the North will change and Yellow-rumped Warblers will return.

Down here they are in small to large flocks and eat insects and berries, getting ready for their journey.

Tree Swallows wintering here by the thousands,

will return to their breeding grounds, bringing spring with them.

So, think spring wherever you are. Keep your feeders full, fresh water in your bird bath, plant red tubular flowers for the hummingbirds, put up some birdhouses, and the birds will come to you!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Green Birds -Happy St. Patrick's Day

Green-winged Teal

Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Chestnut-sided Warbler, 1st winter, f.

Wearing of the green. Happy St. Patrick's Day! How many North American green birds can you name besides this Green-winged Teal, Ruby-throated Hummingbird and lime green Chesnut-sided Warbler, 1st winter f.?

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Willet Aggression, Why Now?


Willets are common shorebirds that you see when you go to the beach. Here is Willet aggression, enhanced by the dramatic wing pattern. This big, bland shorebird becomes quite a different animal when the wings are lifted. Willets, unlike most of the arctic bound other shorebirds here in FL, breed mainly along coastal areas in the eastern half of the country and the upper West. It's no wonder they are becoming less tolerant of closeness now as breeding time is near.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Black-necked Stilts Have Returned!

Black-necked Stilt, female

Black-necked Stilt, male

These beautiful Black-necked Stilts have just returned to their breeding grounds in FL. The female has a brown back and male has a black back as you can see in these photos. Their habitat is shallow water of marshes, fields and impoundments and they breed along coastal areas and in much of the West.  They nest on the ground. Look for them returning to your area.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Green Heron Breeding Fights

Green Herons are breeding now in FL and there's lots of activity. Here is Ding Darling NWR, pairs are choosing their nesting area and defending them from other Green Herons. This pair was huddled in the shadows thinking about a nesting site above them, then another heron landed near them and was chased away. Soon it will all be settled and there will be eggs, then babies.