Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year!

Wishing you beautiful sights and great adventures in 2014.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Suet Feeder

A red-bellied woodpecker, always one of my favorite sights, visited our suet log feeder last weekend. You can tell this one is a male because the red cap extends all the way down to its bill in front. You can see a glimpse of his long tongue in the second photo. This feeder is popular with woodpeckers and chickadees.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

CBC - Tree Sparrows and Horned Larks

For the fifth year in a row, I participated in the Christmas Bird Count last Saturday. Light falling snow seemed to reduce the number of birds that were out and about. For example, we saw very few crows in the air, which is certainly unusual. My route, which I shared with Dan Kahl (the naturalist at Mount Olivet Retreat Center in Farmington), took us down the rural roads south and east of Northfield as well as around the southeast quadrant in town.

My favorite sightings of the day were a bald eagle in flight on the far eastern edge of our area, 12 horned larks in a snow-covered cornfield, and 7 American tree sparrows in the tall dried grasses at the west edge of the Sibley Elementary School's nature preserve. Other highlights were large flocks (50+) of house finches and mallards.

Tree sparrows, which breed in northern Canada and Alaska, are only seen here in the winter. Their rusty caps are similar to those of the chipping sparrow, but in the winter we don't see chipping sparrows, which migrate to the far southern U.S. and Mexico. The tree sparrow has a bicolored bill, which you can see better if you click on the second photo below.

American Tree Sparrow

American Tree Sparrow

Horned larks are here year-round, but I don't often see them. We only spotted this group by seeing their movements against the snow, though we were looking pretty hard at most fields we passed, hoping to see either horned larks or snow buntings (which we did not see at all this time). The horned larks were spread out enough that I couldn't get a decent photo of several at once. I enjoy their striking markings.

Horned Lark

Horned Lark

As always, I thank Gene Bauer for organizing the bird count for our region, Gene and his wife Susan for their hospitality for the pre-count breakfast and post-count lunch, and the other enthusiastic birders who showed up and helped make it a fun day of citizen science.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Frosty Birdbath with Goldfinches

During some of our recent bitterly cold days, the edge of our heated birdbath developed a thick rim of frost. The birds have been flocking to the feeders and appreciate the chance to sip some liquid water from the birdbath. In this series, a bright-eyed American goldfinch in winter plumage took a drink and was joined by others. (As always, click on the images to see a much larger version.)