Hitting the Road on Tuesday!

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Heron Rookery

Heron RookeryI learned recently of a heron rookery not far from my house. On Mothers’ Day, I drove out to see it… wanted to give the 100-400mm lens a little exercise. Turns out, I could have used an even longer lens; the nests are visible from the road, but not close to the road. Still, it was fun to watch the herons in action through binoculars, and I did get a few shots.

I watched the males struggle in nearby trees to select just the right branch with just the right leaves on it, then fly back to the nest to hand it to Mom – her Mothers’ Day gift.

A Mothers' Day Gift

This Mom took the branch and placed it just right in the nest. Her movements seemed awkward and cautious and I wondered if she already had eggs that she was stepping around.

As she fussed, Dad stood on a branch to watch.

Dad standing by

Look at his toes. How does he manage to hang on to that branch? It can’t be nearly as comfortable as walking in squishy mud looking for food.

Herons nest in colonies, so I watched this offering of the branch and careful placement more than once.

A branch for the nest.

This eager mom wasn’t nearly so careful accepting the offering and placing it in her nest.

Gimme that thing!

Dad says, “That’s how it’s done.”

Yes, Dear.

The rookery will be one of the destinations for Audubon’s Saturday (May 14, 2011) bird outing. Meet at Audubon at 7am to carpool. For a map and to learn more, click –> here.

Hello, Mr. White-Crowned Sparrow

Hello, Mr. White-crowned Sparrow!

Could you please show us various views of your fine striped cap?

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Thank you. That will do.

White-crowned Sparrows do not breed where I live here in Western New York. They may be around our feeders in Winter, or during migration time. This one was found in my Mother’s backyard on Mothers’ Day, 2011.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/White-crowned_Sparrow/lifehistory

An Old Bird

This is a very old Swamp Sparrow!

Scott and Emily left for their last net check of the morning, to be combined with taking the nets down. This usually goes quickly, for by 11 or 11:30am, there aren’t as many birds in the nets. From the Pavilion, I could see that the group at net 4 was taking an unusually long time, so I decided to walk over and see what the trouble was.

A poor Swamp Sparrow, already sporting a band, had gotten himself rather twisted and tangled in the net. Scott worked carefully and methodically to free the bird and place him in a bag for transport.

Back at the banding station, Emily removed him from the bag and read the band number to Scott. I wrote the other data, wing length, tail length, etc, while Scott searched previous year’s records for this bird.

He was originally banded here at Audubon on May 17, 2007. At that time, he was judged to be ASY – after second year. Some sources say that Swamp Sparrows live “up to 6 years.”

Carry on, old man!

Banding Demonstrations continue May 14th and 21st.  Come on down!  For more info, click –> here.

May Days!

I always get plenty of fresh air in May. Hundreds of kids on field trips keeps me outside a lot for work. And between the birds and the wildflowers, most of my free time is spent outside, too! My self-appointed title “Reluctant Birder” may have to be retired. Yesterday, I went to shoot wildflowers and found myself wishing I had brought binoculars to see the birds flitting overhead.

The birding class we are offering at Audubon this spring is turning out to be one of my favorite activities during these jam-packed days.

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First of all, our experts, Don Watts and Scott Stoleson, are being so generous with their time and knowledge. Second, the participants are so enthusiastic. And third, the birds are just being so darned cooperative.

Yellow-bellied SapsuckerThe class is being offered as 4 Wednesday evening lectures and 4 Saturday morning walks. The lectures are filled with useful information. But the walks are the most fun (for me!). Last Saturday’s walk as on the grounds at Audubon and started at the bird banding station. We kept hearing a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker’s uneven tapping. Toward the end of the walk, we finally saw one just off of Redwing Trail near the building. When I went back to the banding station after the walk, they had even captured one in the net!

I’m hoping I never forget the song of the Swamp Sparrow. We certainly heard that quite a bit while out on the trails.

Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow

One of our classmates is Terry Lorenc, who gave me permission to use some of his photos on my blog! He’s been toting his camera to class and on the walks to help us remember what we’re seeing.

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Yellow Warbler – by Terry Lorenc

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Red-winged Blackbird – Male – by Terry Lorenc

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Red-winged Blackbird – Female – by Terry Lorenc

Terry got some amazing shots on Saturday, too. Two little Chickadees had us transfixed for quite some time! We watched them excavating a cavity for nesting.

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Black-capped Chickadee – by Terry Lorenc

From the double-decker tower, Terry got an amazing series of a Bald Eagle coming down to get a fish.

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Bald Eagle – by Terry Lorenc

Check out the whole series by clicking –> here.

If you feel like you are missing out on the fun, maybe you should join us. Classes continue through May 21st. Learn more by clicking –> here.