Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Blogging from A-Z • U • Uria Lomvia

U is for URIA LOMVIA, the latin name for the sea faring bird, the thick-billed murre.

When I filed this photo away a couple years ago, I had marked this bird as a thick billed murre in my photo tags.

But as often happens to a new birder (or seasoned birder!), misidentification is quite common. My growth as a birdwatcher has been helped along with books, birding apps, and becoming a member of many birdwatching groups on Facebook.  

I discovered my mistake when I started learning about the common loon and a similar water bird, the red-throated loon. I learned that their winter plumage is quite different from how they look the rest of the year. And, of all the CRAZY things....they leave their regular lakes and ponds, only to go east and spend the winter in the cold ocean!!!  When I learned this and saw a photo of the loon's winter morph, it tickled my brain that I had seen this bird before.  

Looking through photos of sea birds, I found, yes, indeed, I have seen a wintering loon off the coast of Massachusetts and mistakenly marked it as a thick-billed murre.  

Here is an actual photo of a non-breeding thick-billed murre, taken from the reliable website, All About Birds!  Can you how I would have been confused?  I think they look very similar!

One of my favorite Facebook groups is "What's This Bird", where users can post a photo of a bird, and other members help identify it for the user.  I usually try to ID my birds myself through apps and books, it helps me learn! But there are plenty of times I am stumped and I turn to "What's This Bird".  Most often identification is swift, but every now and again you'll get treated to a lively debate which is not only amusing but a great learning experience as well.  

Now excuse me while I go add thick-billed murre to my list of birds I need to see!

Today's challenge earrings are two pairs featuring slightly different styles, but using the same components.

Thanks for stopping by! If you commit on any posts this month, you will be entered in a drawing to win a week's worth of earrings!

I can't believe there are only five letters left! Please join me tomorrow for the letter "V"!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Blogging from A-Z • T • Turdis Migratorius

The early bird gets the worm.

T  is for turdis migratorius, or much more commonly known as the American Robin.

Just like the sparrow, from the letter "S" post, the robin is incredibly common.  As common as they are however, they are a striking bird with their dark head and wings and their red breast.  The males are even richer in color during mating season.  You often find them on lawns pulling worms out of the ground, in trees gathering insects, or enjoying berries or seed on bushes.

This past year I had the pleasure of also viewing two robin families raise a clutch of eggs.

I thought this nest was so pretty sitting in a hydrangea bush, made up of the usual twigs and sticks, but also supported/decorated with dried hydrangea flowers! Is this nature or Home Goods!?!?

I'll leave you with this last photo of a single robin hanging out with a handful of starlings.  I often find robins amongst other birds or wildlife and they are always a pleasure to view.

Today's earrings are seed beads brick stitched around a silver metal connector.   All commenters who comment on during the A-Z challenge will be entered in a drawing to win 7 pairs of earrings!

Thanks for stopping by, please stop by tomorrow for the letter "U".

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Blogging from A-Z • S • Sparrow

S is for sparrow.

You can't even imagine the depth of the furrowed brow I get from non-birders, when I stop to grab a snap of a sparrow!  To a non-birder, a sparrow is about as common and uninteresting as a bird will get.

But in fact, there are actually so many different species of sparrows! Once you start to see the little differences, it is quite fun to stumble across a sparrow species you have never seen.

The above guide is very helpful, but I have this image below, on my phone to help me in a pinch. I usually just stumble across the same 5 or 6 species though, so I can identify them pretty easily.

Admittedly, the house sparrow is the most eye-roll-inducing, annoying species amongst the sparrow family. They are a genuine nuisance, often kicking birds out birdhouses, and/or nesting in incredibly inconvenient locations. Their habitat is usually near people.  Still they are a handsome bird.

Next up is the field sparrow.  I see these in fields, as their name suggests, and also in brushy low-bush areas, such as paths where there are power line rights of way.

The song sparrow is also quite common, and I typically only see them on hiking paths and near rivers and swamps.  These are one of my favorites because their song is so lovely and they arrive to my region when the warmer weather does.

The chipping sparrow stops at bird feeders quite often, but I've never seen anyone hate on the chipping sparrow the way they do on the house sparrow!

I always find it a treat to see the savannah sparrow. This is probably because the only place I've ever seen one, is at the farm on one of my work's properties!

Finally - a more unusual sparrow is the swamp sparrow.  I only saw this bird once, when I was observing other birds at a pond, and this swamp sparrow was in the swampy area by the shoreline.  I knew I should be excited about this observation, because after I posted a photo of it on a bird ID website, the photo received a lot of comments like "Wow, nice find!" and "Cool, where was this?"

There are many other sparrows out there and I may have forgotten a few that I have seen! Here's to hoping a stumble upon a few new sparrow species this year!

Today's earrings are one of my favorite 'go-to' seed bead designs, a simple peyote fan, starting with a small bead and working your way up to larger beads.  These were made with a mixture of purple and muted gray seed beads.  Anyone who comments on the A-Z posts this month will be entered in a drawing for seven pairs of earrings!

See you Monday for the letter "T".

Friday, April 20, 2018

Blogging from A-Z • R • Red-Tailed Hawk

R is for red-tailed hawk.

These hawks are so widespread and prevalent, I see them almost on the daily.   Usually on my ride to or from work I see them perched on the trees along the highway. On a good day there might even be upwards of 10 to 12 on a 22 mile stretch that I drive.   They are also very common in my town and I know of a few hotspots I check to see them.  

Red-tail hawks have a very defining characteristic you might think it’s there red tail.  However not all red-tailed hawks have a red tail.  It is something they grow into. But if you see a hawk and you’re not sure if it’s a red tail hawk because it doesn’t have a red tail one thing you can look for is the markings around the belly. Often referred to as a belly band.   Even if they don't have their red tail yet, a red tailed hawk will always have a belly band. 

On one of my hiking trails in town, there is at least one established pair, and throughout the summer, the juveniles very loudly call out for their parents attention! 

One of my favorite encounters with a red tailed hawk occurred when I was visiting the Nashua River with hopes of viewing a bald eagle.  The eagle was a bust, but when my friend and I return to the parking area which was basically a small field abutting new construction we came across a young juvenile red-tailed hawk.

This bird did not seem to care one whit that we were nearby, so we spent about an hour with it while it flew about the field unsuccessfully hunting.  

This photo here below, is one of my favorite photos from that day, although unfortunately only the pine needles were in focus. I was really rooting for this juvenile hawk to find this chipmunk as he was trying so hard to get a meal. 

Finally after many many attempt, this hawk managed to capture a vole and consumed that snack right in front of us!

Maybe I only imagine a bird is displaying a personality, but some of them really seem to exude personally...in my mind this red-tailed hawk said, "How do you like me now?" 

Before he strutted away.

Today's challenge earrings are a simple dark copper swallow charm with a pink stone!  If you comment on any post during the A-Z challenge, you will be entered in a drawing for seven pairs of earrings! 

Thanks for taking this photo walk with me, I hope you will join me tomorrow for the letter "S".

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Blogging from A-Z • Q • Quiscalus quiscula

Q is for quiscalus quicula....or more commonly known as the common grackle.

These birds don't get a lot of respect due to their reputation as sometimes being a nuisance and just the fact that they are wide spread, however I think their striking iridescent heads and striking eyes are pretty magnificent!

I don't have much to report about the common grackle, no fun anecdotes or any happy surprises stumbling upon them, but I sure was happy to see a bird, which I enjoy, that had a Latin moniker beginning with the letter "Q"!

Today's challenge earrings were inspired by a pair of earrings I saw my friend Christine, of One Kiss Creations, make recently! Last month, I saw her post some earrings made from peyote tubes with some fringe, and I thought to myself, "I need to try that!"  Here are the results.

As a reminder, I will be holding a drawing once the A-Z challenge has ended. Anyone who comments  during the challenge will be entered in the drawing!

Thank you for visiting my blog! I hope you will join me tomorrow for the letter "R".

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Blogging from A-Z • P • Pileated Woodpecker

P is for pileated woodpecker.  I had a hard time paring down which photos to share, because last year I took just about 1000 photos (that I saved!) of pileated woodpeckers.  

So as I mentioned yesterday, I often hike a trail that runs along a pond in which I see the osprey. On that same trail I had the pleasure of viewing a pair of pileated woodpeckers last year.  In the winter I saw them frolicking in the forest.  

But then in the spring I noticed them heading to these powerlines very frequently. 

When I saw the woodpecker at the powerline I saw he was very busy excavating a hole.  you can even see some of the sawdust flying.  He worked on this hole for about two weeks weeks. 

I swear he was smiling this day I took this picture. 

Throughout the subsequent weeks, I frequently walked by this set of powerlines and kept looking and looking and I would often see one of them fly in or out of the hole. 

You can only imagine my delight one morning in May when I walked by this nest very early in the morning and saw these three head peeking out out. 

 Seriously, could they be any cuter? 

On the first day I just watch the nest for about an hour or so.  As I observed, the mom and dad kept coming back every few minutes to feed them. It was so fun to watch!

A male pileated woodpecker is identified by the red stripe that runs from the base of the beak, towards the back, however you can see i the bottom right photo that the email has a black stripe.
The window of time that you can see the chicks poking their heads out of their nest is  very short one.  I was only able to swing by three additional days and continue to watch. 

About five days after I initially saw the chicks, my friend was watching the nest and reported  that she saw each of them come out of the hole and fly to trees on the edges of the forest.  That was the last we saw them at the nest. 

As the summer war on I still saw pileated woodpeckers on my hikes periodically.  I’m confident I saw the juveniles every now and then too.  

 One day was particularly memorable when a scene unfolded a few power lines down from the woodpeckers' nest.  Every time I look at these photos I feel like I could turn it into a comic strip.  It cracks me up so much the way the bluebird sits there and watches the scene unfold too. That bluebird didn't seem one bit fazed as the juvenile came along screeching and hollering or when mom came along to feed her vociferous juvenile!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you will join me for the letter "Q" tomorrow!

Today's earrings for the A-Z challenge are some Czech crystal chandelier earrings.  I thought the color was a nice nod to today's bird, the pileated woodpecker! Anyone who comments will be entered in a drawing to win a week's worth of earrings!