Strictly for the Birds

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Florida - and a New Beginning

Posted on February 13, 2016 at 2:20 PM Comments comments (0)

Friends,

My true apologies for not being good about posts for a LONG time. School caught up to me, and then passed me, and I haven’t been able to catch up to it! That is still no good excuse, but wait there’s more. My site collapsed as I was renovating it and I had to go through the process of renewing it. So what you see now is a very new, [hopefully] improved design. Starting now I am going to try to post very regularly, even if it isn’t very long. In addition, I am removing the photos on here taken with my old camera, and redoing my store. Thanks for your patience, and please enjoy the first post!


 

FLORIDA- a state renowned for its wildlife and photographic opportunities. A deep southern paradise that stages a cornucopia of stunning birds, from spoonbills to terns to warblers. This January I was privileged to go down and shoot some of my favorite creatures on the planet, and here is a photographic account.

 

Staying in Bonita Springs, just north of Naples on the Gulf coast, we were treated to many birds of the shoreline and woods. Here are some of my best from the trip, given chronologically.

 

A Yellow-rumped Warbler - my first decent shot during the week. These small warblers were the most abundant then, on migration headed north.


 

Here is a Red-bellied Woodpecker, licking insects out from under the tree’s bark.


 

A Turkey Vulture soars, using its heightened sense of smell to search for food below.


 

A small White-eyed Vireo poses, showing off its obvious white iris that makes it look surprised.


 

An American Crow prepares to swallow the last of a lizard catch.


 

This White Ibis, a common Florida bird, posed elegantly on the top of a dead mangrove tree.


 

A famous Floridian, this Roseate Spoonbill flicks a small invertebrate into the air to swallow it.


 

This Yellow-throated Warbler poses against a pale background, setting off its yellow breast.


 

A fantastic fisher, this Tricolored Heron takes a rest on a tree overlooking a mangrove swamp.


 

A striking Anhinga stretches out, the background dissolved in shadows.


 

A Belted Kingfisher catches the last rays of the sun.


 

Preening before his next dive, this Brown Pelican sits in the canopy of a mangrove.


 

Feared by small animals across the southern states, a Loggerhead Shrike perches innocently before laying claim to its next victim. These birds look perfectly beautiful until they catch a bird and hang it on some barbed wire before tearing it apart. They collect small animals like that, creating what ornithologists call a larder.

 


 

Provincetown - A Birder's Dream

Posted on May 25, 2015 at 9:10 PM Comments comments (2)

Sorry for the break in posts - I have been kept busy with school recently. Of course, that doesn't mean I've dropped the camera. In fact, I have taken several trips in the past few weeks. Perhaps the most notable is my trip to Ptown on Cape Cod, where a birder's dream can come true.

If Cape Cod is a showy arm, Provincetown (known affectionately as Ptown) is the hand and fingers. It is the final spit of land that curls toward the Massachusetts mainland, jutting out into the Atlantic. Many seabirds fly past the beaches as if they were far out to sea (which they are). Others come to nest along the sunbathed shore. Thousands of songbirds pass along its furnished woodland, stopping for a brief snack before continuing over open ocean to their northern breeding grounds. It is beautiful. It is peaceful. But who cares? It's birdy.


Beech Forest is one of the Cape's finest songbird attractions. Complete with ponds, marsh, and dense woods, it provides a perfect stopover for many species of warbler and similar small birds. After being there for around 2 hours, my father and I had seen almost 60 species.

A gorgeous male Black-and-white Warbler provided intimate views at the parking lot entrance.


A Blue-headed Vireo posed nicely on this sweet perch.


The chickadees were everywhere, and had been tamed by people feeding them seeds. They proved amazingly cooperative.


Not to be outdone, the titmice followed close behind, often looking straight at me as if to demand a photo be taken!


A fleeting glimpse of a Red-eyed Vireo gave just enough time for a photo.


A single White-breasted Nuthatch came in very close, allowing me to capture this quintessential pose.

A male Eastern Towhee gave fantastic views while foraging along the ground. He was the most cooperative towhee I've ever seen.



Heading on to Race Point and Race Point Beach proved to be perhaps the most successful location of the day, as we saw thousands upon thousands of terns and gulls, as well as a few rarer birds such as jaegers and kittiwakes.


Laughing Gulls were relatively abundant, and I had a great time with them.



Ring-billed Gulls were also extremely common, and they afforded me some very closeup views.



Common Terns were by far the most, well, common, but Arctic, Least, and Roseate were also present. Here are some Common, Arctic, Least, and Roseate Terns, respectively. (Note the red bill on Common and Arctic, the yellow bill on Least, and the black bill on Roseate.)


This trip was a blast for me, both for the birds and photos, and for the time spent with my father. We'll definitely be doing it next year.



Now I'll sign off with one of my favorite images from the trip - a flock of cormorants roosting on wires in the late evening.





All images and text subject to copyright by D. Walters 2015. Reproduction without my permission is forbidden. Thank you.

Spring on Beck - Just the Beginning

Posted on April 21, 2015 at 1:25 PM Comments comments (1)

According to the calendar, spring has been here for a while.

Then again, according to the calendar there should not be a single snowflake in my front yard.

In spite of the snow, birds must make it to their breeding grounds. No point in risking a generation because they don't want to get their feet wet. In fact, this year's migration is in full swing in the southern states, and the ambitious males of many species are arriving in Massachusetts. The early migrants of many species that breed here have come, including Chipping Sparrows, blackbirds, and the phoebes that nest under my deck. Of course, I have been kept busy with my new camera, and I am excited to share the first results.


Song Sparrows are out, and one of the first species to announce their territory in song.

Pine Warblers are usually the first warblers to arrive, their sweet trills piercing a crisp April morning.

The Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets have arrived, and they command the marsh with their slow, deep wingbeats and low croaks.

The Rusty Blackbird, named for its rusty-hinge call, is found in large flocks for a few weeks in early spring before it leaves for the north.

The Fox Sparrow, our second largest sparrow, is similar to the Rusty Blackbird in that it is here briefly in spring before receding to the boreal forests of northern Canada.

Raptors are also on migration, like this Red-tailed Hawk and Turkey Vulture, respectively.

Although year-round, Black-capped Chickadees are very active in spring, their soft fee-bee songs coasting the morning breeze.

Juncos have stayed surprisingly long this year, due to the snow. They are usually far north by now.

A surprise Yellow-bellied Sapsucker has been staying around my place, drilling tell-tale holes to drain sap from trees.

Of course, amidst all the bird activity, there's always time to stop for a mammal or two. The world would be boring, albeit diverse, were there just birds.

Now, I'll leave you with a Golden-crowned Kinglet. They're the smallest bird we have barring hummingbirds, and they have speed to make up for it! This one was foraging on the forest floor.

I am having a blast this spring, and I hope you enjoy these first-fruits of my labor!






Text and photos subject to copyright by Davey Walters, 2015.

 

8 Massachusetts Birds to See in 2015

Posted on March 2, 2015 at 9:55 PM Comments comments (0)

Everyone has bird lists: life lists, year lists, month lists, day lists, ABA region lists, country lists, state lists, county lists, town lists, neighborhood lists, yard lists, and more. Many birders will create any new list they can imagine just to check off another few species. I will be the first to admit this. To tell the truth, I love it when my life list gets all torn up. It’s just an excuse to print out a new one and go check all the species off again. That may seem ridiculous, but there is a real satisfaction that we gain from marking a job as done. Seeing a new bird is just another job accomplished. But how satisfying would checking off a bird be if you had planned to see it? I’m going to give you a list of 8 Massachusetts birds that you should target in the year 2015: two species for each season.


Winter:

1. Snow Bunting.

A specialty from the north, these fast, aerial birds are a real treat to watch. They zip around in tight flocks, swerving and then suddenly alighting, sometimes 100 of them in a single tree!



2. Snowy Owl.

Famed for their ghostly appearance and calm beauty, these owls have been noted of late to be hunting seabirds to supplement their regular diet of rodents. They are a must for any birder who can get to the coast.



Spring:

1. Winter Wren.

These spritely wrens can be seen on their early spring migration north, often bursting out in short phrases of song. They are very interesting to watch as they flit in and out of dense cover, giving trace views of their ornate plumage.



2. Scarlet Tanager.

These gorgeous birds are often seen on migration, and sometimes even breed here. The males are a stunning crimson with jet black wings, and very celebrated. The females are often forgotten about, though they are also a special bird, their leaf-green bodies setting of their pitch-colored wings.



Summer:

1. Red-winged Blackbird.

Flashy black with red epaulets in summer, male Red-wingeds will perch atop an open branch or cattail until they fall off with exhaustion. Their song is a short ‘Conk-a-ree’. The female is striped brown, and builds her nest in dense reeds.



2. Piping Plover.

Though very small and fast, these plovers are very entertaining. They can be found on the enclosed breeding grounds, roped off to the public because these birds are endangered. They zip back and forth, chasing innumerable small invertebrates across the sand.



Fall:

1. Pied-billed Grebe.

Small and rather cautious, these grebes are not uncommon on their southbound migration. They reside in small lakes and ponds and marshland along the coast. They don’t stay long above the surface when they’re fishing, so you may have just a few seconds to glimpse them before they dive.



2. American Woodcock.

Stiller than statues, these mid-sized sandpipers are rarely found near sand. Birds of the woodland and small field, the male’s nasal “peent” calls often pierce through the early fall night. They are stocky and somewhat awkward, with bills the length of their body. A bird of funny proportions, their large eyes give them a surprised appearance.



That is my list. Perhaps you will see some of them, perhaps all. But whatever the outcome, hopefully there will be some satisfaction in checking these birds off your list.




Note: this article was published in the January/February 2015 edition of the MYBC newsletter. You can view the newsletter at the MYBC website under 'Publication': http://massachusettsyoungbirdersclub.weebly.com/





Photos and text copyright D. Walters 2015. Please do not use any of my images without my permission.

 

The Blizzard of '15

Posted on January 29, 2015 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (3)

Welcome to New England.

If we greet you with cold smiles and blank stares, it's because of the 4 feet of snow drift that has built up on our porches that we still haven't shoveled. This wasn't a record-setter, but it was a messy, arm-breaking storm. And if it didn't bring in warmth and joy, it sure brought in the birds.


On Tuesday, the day of the blizzard, my feeders were bristling with activity for the first time in as long as I could remember. Inspired, I filled up a couple more feeders and set them up as well. Here are a few of the birds that appeared that day.


Downy Woodpecker: they are the most common of the northeastern woodpeckers.



Northern Cardinal: the beautiful state bird of 7 different states.


White-throated Sparrow: a large, plump sparrow with a bold white chin.


Eastern Towhee: this very large sparrow surprised me as I am rather far north to see it in winter.




On Wednesday the feeders were slightly less busy, but the snow had ceased to fall and the sunlight was spread across the reflective snow.



Dark-eyed Junco: these are some of the most common of the northeastern winter birds.


Downy Woodpecker: this time on a perch I placed upright next to a suet feeder.


American Tree Sparrow: a first for my yard this winter and a beautiful, confident little bird.



In terms of power outages and home damages, this storm may not have been all it was cracked up to be. But the corn was cracked up around my house, and it did not fail to deliver.








Photos and text copyright Davey Walters 2015.

Halfway There!

Posted on December 19, 2014 at 11:25 AM Comments comments (0)

Dear readers,

I am halfway to my goal of a new camera. The camera and lens together cost a lot of money, but thanks to my supporters I am halfway there! It has taken almost a year, but now my business is under way and I am cruising along. And yet, I do still need a lot. Sometimes I feel very close to the camera, and sometimes I feel very far. I will just keep working and trust it the Lord to provide.

So, thank you for your support. I am really excited for this milestone in my growing passion - bird photography. I am very grateful for all those that have made the effort to help me get there.


Here's to halfway there!


Bird of the Week #6

Posted on November 22, 2014 at 9:35 AM Comments comments (0)

This week's Bird of the Week is the Eastern Phoebe. A lovely flycatcher, the phoebe frequents backyards across eastern North America. It is best recognized by its lack of fieldmarks, and although it is a rather drab brown bird, it has a tell-tail habit of pumping and fanning its tail up and down. The young are perhaps more interesting than the adults, with the same brown tones, but a yellow wash across the breast and a faint eye-ring that gives them a ‘surprised’ look. Although drab at first glance, after a season of having a pair nest under your deck, they develop a certain personality, or at least we humans assign them one. The phoebe does not come to feeders, because its main diet is insects, and it returns south come winter.




Eastern Phoebe

Sayornis pheobe

 

 


Shape: small and slim, with a thin bill.

Color Pattern: light brown overall with the suggestion of wing-bars; often faint eye-ring.

Habitat: open areas such ranging from fields to open woods; also backyards.

Voice: male gives distinctive 4 note fee-bee, fee-bay song in spring and summer; females and young give sharp cheep call.

 





Photos and text by Davey Walters. Copyright 2014.

Lifer!

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 1:45 PM Comments comments (0)

A lifer, aka life-bird, is a bird you've never seen before in your life. The same concept applies to yard-birds, year-birds, month-birds, state-birds, country-birds, ABA-birds, region-birds, or whatever else you can dream up.

Migration is in full swing right now, and oh do I wish I did not have any obligations for a few months. Even as I write this, there are mudflats teeming with shorebirds, their whirring flocks glittering in the morning sun as they careen from bank to bank. There are forests crammed with warblers, their tiny chip calls intersecting to form one large orchestra of communication. There are waters turned over by seaducks, their never-ending flocks in flight, each directly behind the one before it. But I am confined to the reaches of my desk, and it is from an exotic birding trip to my porch that I report my latest life-bird.

A Nashville Warbler by day, and a nondescript migrating passerine by night, this bird travels from its breeding grounds in northern deciduous forests to Central America for the winter. A small, round bird, the Nashville Warbler sports a yellow underside and a light grayish upperside. It wields a thin, sharp bill, and comes with a bright eye-ring that makes it look eternally startled. Fully certified as cute, I am one of few to go 14 years without seeing a single one.

I suppose I've told you enough about it, so here are the photos!

(Note: warblers are extremely hard to photograph, and this bird provided me with 7 seconds of viewing time before it disappeared permanently. These shots were the best I could do!)







Photos and text by Davey Walters. Copyright 2014.

Mystery Bird of the Week #5

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 1:40 PM Comments comments (2)

This week's mystery bird is - well, I can't tell you what it is! If you think you recognize it, please comment below. Thanks!





Photos and text by Davey Walters. Copyright 2014.

Bird of the Week #5

Posted on September 25, 2014 at 9:50 AM Comments comments (0)

School has arrived! School may just be a blogger's worst nightmare. However being homeschooled I am able to spend more time on this website than I would otherwise be able to. Please forgive me for not being on time. As my fall schedule is fixed in place more, I will be regular on this site.


This week's bird of the week, and the last mystery bird is the Pine Warbler. The Pine Warbler is a stunning little bird with a curious expression, though it is devilishly quick. Photographing it is a real pain, but very rewarding! As its name would suggest, it keeps to evergreens more often than not, but there are plenty of Pine Warblers to be found in a deciduous forest. It frequents suet feeders, and in North America is most often seen in migration in spring and fall. The male strings bubbling, monotonic, but musical notes into a sweet song, which can be heard in heaps along its northward migration and in its breeding grounds.




Pine Warbler

Setophaga pinus


Shape: small and rather pot-bellied; with a long, forked tail and thin, dark bill.

Color Pattern: male in spring is bright yellow on the breast and head, peaking in vibrance toward the throat; dull gray below with bright wing-bars. Female, immature, and nonbreeding birds of all ages are duller yellow, sometimes greenish, holding same pattern as spring male.

Habitat: coniferous and sometimes deciduous forests; visiting open yards and thickets on migration.

Voice: male's song is a long trill, lasting several seconds on a single tone, but it is slower and sweeter than the trills of the Chipping Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, etc. Its common call is a short, musical, chip note.




Photos and text by Davey Walters. Copyright 2014.


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