One Orange 'Shroom…yet another blog!

I was thinking the other day about the George Eliot quote:

“It is never too late to become what you might have been.”

I was thinking how that senitiment seems to be driving my desire to learn all I can about bird banding and start my own banding project…  I decided to create a whole blog just about my birding stuff…  This is weird, because, as many of you may already know, my passion for birds has been a long time coming…  I wrote an article a while back called “Confessions of a Reluctant Birder” that described my gradual entry into the world of birds.  As I re-read that article I decided its title was the perfect title for my new blog.

To get it up and running fast, I copied all bird banding posts from here to there.  But, there are two new posts over there that do not exisit here…

I hope you’ll keep visiting here for my general nature posts… AND I hope you will also visit my new one:

Click HERE!

A Surprise in the Net!

Finding a Sharp-shinned Hawk in the net was certainly thrilling.  But when you consider what Sharpies eat, it wasn’t really a surprise…  Last Saturday, I was truly surprised by this bird.  See if you recognize it:

Do you know who I am?

An American Woodcock!  Whoa!  Never expected that!

American Woodcocks, also known as Timberdoodles, are probably most well-known for their springtime courting dance.  Monarch wrote about it and included a video (dark – but cool because you can hear the sounds).  Click here to see (hear) it.  And if you have a copy of Aldo Leopold’s book A Sand County Almanac, read the essay on Woodcocks… it’s brilliant!

The Woodcock is a strange bird.  You’ll find it with the sandpipers in your field guide.  But you’ll have to go to the woods, not the beach, to find it outside.  It’s beak is long and flexible.  In the following photo, J had pried the bill open a bit to try to get a peek at the “teeth” and tongue.

Woodcock - Interesting Beak

I wish I had gotten a picture of what happened next!  When J removed his fingers, the upper bill curved, then straightened!  Woodcocks poke in the dirt with these long flexible bills probing for earthworms.  Their ability to manipulate the end of the bill undoubtedly helps in extracting tasty treats from deep in the soil.

The coloring of a Woodcock makes them excellent at hiding on the forest floor.  Many hikers have been startled when one suddenly rises just where a hiking boot was about to tread.

Woodcock - Camouflage coloring!

This was a big bird and a strong flier.  Tom and J had to work together to band it.  First they had to determine the appropriate size band by using a leg gauge.

Getting Ready to use Leg Gauge on Woodcock

Leg Gauge on Woodcock

Bird PaparazziOnce banded, the poor thing had to endure the Bird Paparozzi.  I’ll bet nearly a hundred photos were taken, many of them by me!



Then Tom let me release it.  He took my camera and shot this series:

About to Release the Woodcock

Release 1

Release 2

Release 3

Release 4

Release 5

Good-bye, Woodcock.  Live long and prosper!

Learn more:

“They” say…

Indigo Bunting - photographed in May“They” say that there are no blue feathers.  That is, there are no feathers that contain blue pigment.  When our brains tell us that we have seen a blue bird, it is the result of physics and a trick of the light…  reflection?  refraction?  I dunno… very complicated.

Whatever the science, it is always thrilling to see an Indigo Bunting!  My Sibley’s field guide tells me that Indigo Buntings are “common in any open brushy area, including weedy fields and hedge-rows, with trees nearby.”  The Cornell All-About-Birds website further explains that the Indigo Bunting is “a bird of old fields and roadsides” and that it “prefers abandoned land to urban areas, intensely farmed areas, or deep forests.”

Both descriptions fit the CLDC bird banding site quite well and we saw what must be a family of buntings on Saturday.

Indigo Buntings

I love how the Cornell website lists “Cool Facts” for each species.  Here are the two that intrigued me the most about Indigo Buntings:

  1. The Indigo Bunting migrates at night, using the stars for guidance. It learns its orientation to the night sky from its experience as a young bird observing the stars.
  2. Experienced adult Indigo Buntings can return to their previous breeding sites when held captive during the winter and released far from their normal wintering area.

Learn more:

Boys will be Boys…

Teen Treks - Group PhotoAt first, I thought I might have to cancel the program.  Only 4 kids signed up.  I sent postcards to past Day Campers who were now old enough.  I called the 4 registered and asked them to invite friends.  Miraculously, the week before the program, the van was full.  Nine boys for Teen Treks.  All boys.  Hmm…

I’m the mother of daughters and a lifetime Girl Scout leader.  I know what to do with girls.  I admit, I was a little nervous when I saw the roster.  I have to say, though, this was a great week and those boys are really great kids.  They were polite, had great senses of humor… and best of all… even though they explored some potentially dangerous places, they used good sense and safety…  at least while I could see them.

Holly and I were group leaders for four days of adventures. We visited:

Griffis Sculpture Park, East Otto NY
How Many Kids will Fit Inside the Statue

Allegheny National Forest (Rimrock and The Bent Run Waterfall Area)
Chaz Derek at Top of the Falls

Erie PA (Asbury Woods, The Tom Ridge Environmental Center, and the Beach)
Jacob Drew Kurt

Arkwright Falls
Alex Drew Jacob Kurt Derek Jeff Chaz

 Thank you, boys, for wonderful adventures.  I hope you enjoy the rest of your summer as much as I enjoyed this week.

More pictures:

Got Art?

Three StatuesWhat do you do with a farm that has become unproductive or unprofitable?  Larry Griffis had an idea after visiting Italy and seeing the way sculpture was incorporated into landscapes and cityscapes.  So he returned home to create the United States’ first sculpture park in Cattaraugus County, Western New York State.

I’ll show you some pictures…  But I can tell you right now, pictures simply will not do the place justice.  If you will be anywhere near Western New York, give yourself a treat and visit in person.

“You never know what you’ll find next.  And once you find it, you’re not always sure what it is.”  That’s what my husband said recently during a visit to Griffis Sculpture Park.

What is it

There are reportedly over 250 statues by over 100 artists on this property which is split into two sections.  The portion off of Rohr Hill Road can be visited free of charge.  The Miller Valley Road entrance has signs encouraging you to use the honor system with regard to the suggested donation of $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. Even the donation box is a piece of art!


When I visited again this week with a van load of teens, we stuffed some bucks into the yellow box, then entered and took these pictures:

There's a chair inside

Skipping Along with My New Boyfriend

How Many Kids will Fit Inside the Statue

Jeff Tames the Wild Preying Mantis

Climbing the Tower

Unfortunately, the official website for the park seems to be in a state of transition and incompleteness.  But with persistence, you can find the place:

Griffis Map

Mapquest or Google 6902 Mill Valley Rd., East Otto, NY 14729.  Then plan a visit.  You won’t regret it!

Woman in the WoodsLearn more:

Aging a Bird

Each week, I come home from bird banding saying, “The hardest part about bird banding is…” and then I finish the sentence differently each time.  Sometimes I say, “…getting the bird out of the net.”  Other times I say, “…identifying the species.”  Today I say, “…figuring out the age of the bird.”

Yellow Warbler 1Sometimes you can use the plumage to figure out age.  Sometimes, wear on the feathers gives you a clue.  Last Monday, Tom was a bit baffled by a Yellow Warbler and chose to use “skulling”.  In this technique, the bander wets the feathers on the bird’s head to facilitate moving them aside and taking a peak through the skin to the skull.  A bander proficient in this technique can use what he or she observes as clues to the age of the bird.

Our little Yellow Warbler had quite the funky do when Tom was done with him!

Yellow Warbler 2
Isn’t he cute?  Actually, it might have been a “she”.  Yeah, figuring out that part can be hard sometimes, too.

Learn more:

Monitoring Landbirds

A Sharpie

Apparently, Young Naturalist J has been waiting and hoping all summer for a Sharp-shinned Hawk to enter the nets at one of Tom’s banding stations.  Well, J… Today was the day, and you weren’t here…  Too bad, so sad…

If Tom ever leaves World of Warcraft and posts his pictures, I’ll put one here showing him taking the Sharp-shinned Hawk out of the net (which I took with Tom’s camera as mine was back on the picnic table).

Here it is after banding:
Sharp-shinned Hawk

Kyle and I played Rock-Paper-Scissors to see who would get to release it.  I lost.  Here’s the handoff to Kyle:
Sharp-shinned Hawk - The Handoff

And here is Kyle, demonstrating the Lolli-pop hold shortly before releasing it:
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Kyle

I was pretty pleased with the way this closeup turned out… especially the reflection in the bird’s eye:
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Closeup

From the Cornell Website:

A small hawk, the Sharp-shinned Hawk is a regular visitor to bird feeders, where it eats birds, not seed. The male and female show a greater disparity in size than any other American hawk; the female is nearly twice the weight of the male.

I wish I had paid more attention to whether this one was male or female.  I was just so excited that it was a hawk!

Learn more:

Busy, Busy Banding Day!

Monday was pretty much the busiest banding day I have experienced so far.  Of course, I’ve only been doing this banding thing since spring…  so my experience is limited…  But, for example, at one net check, we filled every bag we had; we even put 2 or 3 birds in a couple of the bags.  Yikes!

It was also the most different species I’ve seen to date on a single morning AND one species I really wasn’t expecting!  (I’ll save him till last…)

Rose Breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Male

Northern Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush

Black-capped Chickadee (and my favorite niece*)
Nikki has a Chickadee dee dee

Cedar Waxwing (and my favorite sister*)
Yvonne admires a Cedar Waxwing

Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed Junco in the Hand

American Goldfinch
American Goldfinch Female

Purple Finch
Purple Finch

Magnolia Warbler
Magnolia Warbler Pair - Side


I didn’t photograph dozens of birds – American Redstarts, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Swamp Sparrows, Song Sparrows, American Robin, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, perhaps others, I can’t remember… And I’m saving the Yellow Warbler for a separate post…

And the big surprise???  Aw… I think I’ll save him till tomorrow.  (You’ll have to wait… Unless Tom breaks his World of Warcraft binge and decides to blog tonight… hmmm…. (or you check my Flickr Photostream to get a sneak preview…)).  He deserves his own blog post…

*OK, you caught me!  I only have one niece.  And I only have one sister.