Sunday, December 31, 2017

Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis) - 11Oct2016

The Eastern Bluebird is a favorite of birders and non-birders alike.  They have made a terrific comeback in part due to the effort of people to put out nest boxes for them all over the country.

Per the Cornell website: "Most of the country drives during an eastern North American summer will turn up a few Eastern Bluebirds sitting on telephone wires or perched atop a nest box, calling out in a short, wavering voice or abruptly dropping to the ground after an insect. Marvelous birds to capture in your binoculars, male Eastern Bluebirds are a brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and warm red-brown on the breast. Blue tinges in the wings and tail give the grayer females an elegant look."

Here is a pic from Airlie Gardens in Wilmington, NC where there is plenty boxes for them.

And here is one from Wilmington during my big year in 2018.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula) - 10Oct2016

These little balls of energy never stop moving so getting a decent photo of them is tough.  The below photo is from when of those moments where the bird slowed down enough to get a pic.  This is from somewhere in Wilmington.

Connecticut Warbler (Oporornis agilis) - 05Oct2016

Here is a bird that does not show up in NC very often.  This one was found up in the Raleigh area and luckily was nice enough to stick around for a week or so.  Per the Cornell website: "The uncommon Connecticut Warbler is a skulker of thickets, foraging primarily on or near the ground. It breeds in boreal forest and winters in northern South America."

Yellow-throated Warbler (Setophaga dominica) - 04Oct2016 and 03Apr2017

Per the Cornell website: "One of the "southeastern" warblers, the Yellow-throated Warbler is a bird of tall trees. It nests and forages high in the canopy of swamp and pine forests."

Here is one from Airlie Gardens in 2017.

This one was photographed at the Oakdale Cemetery in 2016.

Tennessee Warbler (Oreothlypis peregrina) - 17Sep2016 & 01Sep2018

Per the Cornell website:  "A dainty warbler of the Canadian boreal forest, the Tennessee Warbler specializes in eating the spruce budworm. Consequently its population goes up and down with fluctuations in the populations of the budworm."

Here is one from the Smoky Mountains near Tennessee but firmly in NC.

This one was up on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes) - 03Sep2016

The Lesser Yellowlegs can be tough to distinguish from a Greater but with practice they may be told apart even without a size check against another species.  The main thing to look at is the bill.  The bill on the Lesser is about equal to the width of the head.  On the Greater, the bill is quite a bit longer and frequently has an upturned curve.

This one was photographed at the Fort Fisher athletic fields after a long rain.

Another mark, look at the flanks.  On a Greater the flanks would be more heavily barred.

Least Sandpiper (Calidris minutilla) - 01Sep2016 & 22Oct2016

Out of the three regular peeps we see in NC, Least Sandpiper is the easy ID due to the yellow legs when you can see them.  Mud on the legs can complicate things, but usually it is pretty straight forward.  That being said, the plumage can vary greatly and I am still trying to learn the differences.

Here is a photo from early in September, where the bird is still very colorful. Also note the relatively long bill which is not typical for Least.

Here is one of the more typical small billed and less colorful birds.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) - 12Aug2016

The Black Skimmer is probably the most iconic bird of Wrightsville Beach, NC.  We get huge flocks on the north end sometimes approaching 1000.  Although they look goofy sitting on the beach, they are one of the most elegant birds when skimming along the surface especially when the water is flat and the sun is setting.  I am working on a better pic of the latter but here is a pic of the former.

Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens) - 23Jun2018

A description from the Cornell website: "An abundant breeder of the northeastern coniferous forests, the Black-throated Green Warbler is easy to recognize by sight and sound. Its dark black bib and bright yellow face are unique amongst Eastern birds, and its persistent song of "zoo-zee, zoo-zoo-zee" is easy to remember."

Here are some pics from Mount Mitchell, NC.

Mississippi Kite (Ictinia mississippiensis) - 23Jul2016

Per the Cornell Website: "The Mississippi Kite makes a streamlined silhouette as it careens through the sky on the hunt for small prey, or dive-bombs intruders that come too close to its nest tree. These sleek, pearly gray raptors often hunt together and nest colonially in stands of trees, from windbreaks on southern prairies to old-growth bottomlands in the Southeast (and even on city parks and golf courses). After rearing their chicks they fly all the way to central South America for the winter."

Here are some photos from the YMCA fields in Wilmington where I regularly see kites while my kids play soccer.

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) - 11May2017

Every year I greet the spring by going to Wade Park to watch the Red-winged Blackbirds sing and puff themselves up for the females.

Here is a female on my friend Nancy's feeder in Wilmington.

Here is a pic from Wade Park.

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis) - 11Apr2016

As the name implies, we don't get many Western Grebes in NC so when one showed up in a lake near Charlotte, I was all over it.  The weather was not great so unfortunately I couldn't properly crush it.

Surfbird (Calidris virgata) - 31Mar2016

A few words from the Cornell Website: "A stocky shorebird living among the wave-tossed rocks of the Pacific Coast, the Surfbird is rarely found away from the splash and spray of incoming waves. Only to breed does it leave the coast for the rocky mountain ridges of Alaska and the Yukon."

Here is a picture from San Diego, CA.

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) - 30Mar2016

Per the Cornell website: "The most abundant grebe in the world, the Eared Grebe breeds in shallow wetlands in western North America. It occurs in greatest numbers on Mono Lake and the Great Salt Lake in fall, where it doubles its weight in preparation for a nonstop flight to its wintering grounds in the southwestern United States and Mexico."

Hard to believe as we only get a handful each year in NC.  However, in California I can corroborate the statement. In fact, this picture is from Tijuana Slough National Wildlife Refuge, San Diego, CA.

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis) - 30Mar2016

The Ruddy Duck is a common winter bird in Wilmington, but we rarely see them in full breeding plumage.  The below bird was seen in California in all it's splendor.

Here is one in decent plumage from December 2017 in Beaufort, NC.

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) - 30Mar2016

The DC Cormorant is super common in NC.  Here is a pic from California in breeding plumage which is cool as we don't see them with the crests in NC.

Here is a photo from Burnt Mill Creek in Wilmington, NC.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Cassin's Kingbird (Tyrannus vociferans) - 30Mar2016

Per the Cornell site: "A large, noisy, and conspicuous flycatcher of the southwestern United States and Mexico, the Cassin's Kingbird can be distinguished from the other yellow kingbirds by its dark gray head and chest, and the white tip to its black tail."

Here is a pic from Mission Bay in San Diego, CA while I waited to board a whale watching trip.

Spotted Towhee (Pipilo chlorurus) - 30Mar2016 & 26Mar2018

Update:  Here is one from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Western CO.

Original post:

This is one I will obviously need to improve on.  Per the Cornell website: "The Spotted Towhee is a large, striking sparrow of sun-baked thickets of the West. When you catch sight of one, they’re gleaming black above (females are grayish), spotted and striped with brilliant white. Their warm rufous flanks match the dry leaves they spend their time hopping around in. The birds can be hard to see in the leaf litter, so your best chance for an unobstructed look at this handsome bird may be in the spring, when males climb into the shrub tops to sing their buzzy songs."

It was not quite spring which is why this one would not come completely out into the open.  Taken in Tecolote Canyon, San Diego, CA.

Wrentit (Chimaea fasciata) - 30Mar2016

Some text from the Cornell website:  "The Wrentit’s characteristic bouncing-ball song is a classic sound of coastal scrub and chaparral along the West Coast. Seeing a Wrentit is a challenge as they sneak around inside shrubs, rarely making an appearance. Males and females sing at all hours of the day, all year long, most often hidden from view. With patience, a brownish-gray bird with a piercing white eye might pop out of the shrubs, cock its long tail off to the side, and sing. Wrentits rarely travel far from their territories, so you can enjoy their presence year-round."

Here are my pics from San Diego, CA.

Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus) - 28Mar2016

The Rusty Blackbird is unfortunately declining rapidly.  Per the Cornell website: "Rusty Blackbird is one of North America’s most rapidly declining species. The population has plunged an estimated 85-99 percent over the past forty years and scientists are completely puzzled as to what is the cause. They are relatively uncommon denizens of wooded swamps, breeding in the boreal forest and wintering in the eastern U.S. In winter, they travel in small flocks and are identified by their distinctive rusty featheredges and pallid yellow eyes."

Here is an unusual picture in that the bird is in breeding plumage which is not what we usually see around here.  Almost no trace of the rusty edges is evident.

Northern Parula (Setophaga americana) - 23Mar2016 and 23Oct2016

Some things I didn't know about these birds from the Cornell website: "A small warbler of the upper canopy, the Northern Parula can be found in two rather distinct populations. The southern population nests primarily in hanging Spanish moss, while the northern population uses the similar-looking old man's beard lichen."

No wonder they love the Spanish Moss in my yard.

Here are some various pics from around Wilmington, NC.

Whimbrel (Numinous phaeopus) - 23Mar2016

From the Cornell website: "One of the most wide-ranging shorebirds in the world, the Whimbrel breeds in the Arctic in the eastern and western hemispheres, and migrates to South America, Africa, south Asia, and Australia. It uses its long, down-curved bill to probe deep in the sand of beaches for invertebrates, but also feeds on berries and insects."

Here is some pics from Fort Fisher, NC.

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) - 28Feb2017

Per the Cornell website: "Whether wheeling over a swamp forest or whistling plaintively from a riverine park, a Red-shouldered Hawk is typically a sign of tall woods and water. It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes."

Here is a photo from Greenfield Lake where they nest regularly.

Orange-crowned Warbler (Oreothlypis celata) - 27Feb2016 & 12Dec2018

Per the Cornell website: "Orange-crowned Warblers aren’t the most dazzling birds in their family, but they’re a useful one to learn. These grayish to olive-green birds vary in color geographically and have few bold markings. There’s rarely any sign of an orange crown, which is usually only visible when the bird is excited and raises its head feathers. They might have you scratching your head until you recognize their slim shape, sharply pointed bill, and warmer yellow under the tail. These busy birds forage low in shrubs, and are one of the few warblers that's more common in the West "

Here is a pic from Fort Fisher, NC in 2018.

Here are some pics from Sunset Beach, NC.  I like them because usually you can't make out the orange crown, but here you just barely can see it.

Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus) - 20Feb2016

Per the Cornell website: "The king of the Atlantic waterfront, the Great Black-backed Gull is the largest gull in the world, with a powerful build and a domineering attitude. They harry other birds to steal their food and even hunt adult birds such as grebes and puffins. Adults are handsome with broad black wings, gleaming white head, and big yellow bill. North American populations were once severely threatened by the feather trade, but numbers rebounded in the twentieth century and they are now a common East Coast sight."

Here is a picture form a Hatteras pelagic, but we can see them anywhere on the NC coast.

Black-crowned Night-heron (Nycticorax nycticorax) - 17Feb2016

Per the Cornell website: "Black-crowned Night-Herons are stocky birds compared to many of their long-limbed heron relatives. They’re most active at night or at dusk, when you may see their ghostly forms flapping out from daytime roosts to forage in wetlands. In the light of day adults are striking in gray-and-black plumage and long white head plumes. These social birds breed in colonies of stick nests usually built over water. They live in fresh, salt, and brackish wetlands and are the most widespread heron in the world."

Here is one from Airlie pond.