Monday, January 30, 2012

Gull Identification at the Indiana Lakefront

This past weekend, the Indiana Audubon Society and the Amos Butler Audubon Society came together to offer members an opportunity to learn about gull identification. Our leaders were gull experts John Kendell and Amar Ayyash. The 30 participants had a great day in the field and many of them got lifers. Even though there were not all that many gulls around, we found a good diversity of species as well as some waterfowl.

The group on the pier at Calumet Park.

Ring-billed Gull
One of the most interesting gulls of the day was an individual that was originally identified as a Thayer's Gull but the leaders decided after looking at photos that this is a "light-backed" Herring Gull. What do you think?




Besides the gulls, participants were entertained by the waterfowl moving on the lake, the most numerous being Red-breasted Merganser.
Adult Male Red-breasted Merganser

-Rob

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Interesting Fact: Egrets

Did you know? . . . that the long, beautiful plumes of egrets and herons during breeding season start growing in the prebasic molt.  These plumes start growing in the fall and grow throughout the winter and up to the breeding season.  Most birds attain their breeding plumage through a prealternate molt in the spring.  To understand this you need some understanding of how a normal molt cycle works.  In extremely basic terms (that are not 100% accurate, but do help people understand molt strategies) the basic plumage is the winter plumage and the alternate plumage is the breeding plumage.  So the prealternate molt is the molt that attains the breeding plumage while the prebasic molt is the molt that attains the winter plumage.




Snowy Egret in Little Estero Lagoon-In this pic you can see the long breeding plumes that started growing in the fall and have continued growing throughout the winter until the next breeding season.  This photo was taken in March.

-Eric

Friday, January 27, 2012

Angry Birds Partnering with BirdLife International

If you haven't had a chance to play Angry Birds there is now a great excuse to do so.  Angry Birds is partnering with Birdlife International to help conserve birds, in particularly endangered species.  They are helping Birdlife by raising awareness and money through donations.

For more information go to:  http://www.birdlife.org/community/2011/12/get-angry-fight-extinction/
To see the new Angry Birds site go to:  http://birdlife.angrybirds.com/


Thick-billed Parrot-considered endangered which is only 1 step up from the "critically endangered" category that Angry Birds is helping bring attention too.  This pic is from Mexico, the same tree was being shared by the Eared Quetzal below.


Eared Quetzal-considered "near threatened" which is 3 steps up from the critically endangered category.
 -Eric

Thursday, January 26, 2012

400th Post from the Nutty Birders!

It's pretty amazing to think that this is our 400th post on NuttyBirder. We have been blogging here since August 12, 2008 and we look forward to sharing our birding adventures with you for years to come. We continue to improve the blog and have recently changed the look a little bit to allow us to post larger pictures. What do you think of the new look?
In celebration of our 400th post, I am going to share with you some of my favorite photos that Eric and I have taken since we have been blogging.

California Gnatcatcher - Southern California

Magnificent Frigatebird - Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Groove-billed Ani - Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexico


Vermilion Flycatcher in the Snow - Northern Indiana


Desert Box Turtle - Portal, AZ

Kirtland's Warbler - Magee Marsh, Ohio

Anhinga - Ding Darling NWR, Sanibel Island, Florida

Snowy Egret - Fort Myers Beach, Florida
We have connected with many awesome birders through our blog and have shared lots of great birding stories. We hope you will keep following us as we continue our adventures!

-Rob

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Identifing from Odd Angles: How to Identify an Olive Sparrow from Behind

Last week, on NuttyBirder.com, we posted what turned out to be a very difficult identification quiz. I thought it would be good to show our readers here on the blog the photo and talk about how to identify the bird pictured.

Last Week's NuttyBirder.com Photo Quiz Bird
This is a tricky angle to identify most birds from and an Olive Sparrow is even trickier. The best place to start with this photo is with the olive green color that we can see on the wings. This alone eliminates a lot of the potential species such as all of the thrushes and the majority of the sparrows. Both Green-tailed Towhees and Olive Sparrows would have wings that are similar in color to what we can see in the photo. There are multiple factors that eliminate Green-tailed Towhee, the wings should be more yellow than this picture shows, the tail is brown not green, pink rather than black legs, and a striped pattern of brown and gray on the crown where as the towhee would have a rufous crown.

Are there any field marks that help you identify this Olive Sparrow that I have missed?

-Rob

Sunday, January 22, 2012

A Fun Bird ID Quiz

Can you ID all 3 species in this picture?

This picture was taken at Salineno on the Rio Grande River in southern Texas.  It's probably the most impressive feeding station that I have ever seen with hundreds of birds constantly at/or around the feeders.

If you like this ID quiz, we also do a weekly identification quiz at:  http://nuttybirder.com/BirdQuiz/birdquiz.html

-Eric

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Our Final Days in Texas: South Padre and Mustang Islands

Eric and I spent our last days in the Rio Grande Valley photographing tons of ducks, gulls, terns, and waders along the coast. We spent a morning each at the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center and at the Port Aransas Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center farther north. At both locations the birds are rather tame and the birders and photographers are restricted by boardwalks as to not disturb the birds. It’s amazing how close the birds will come when they do not feel threatened by overzealous birders and photographers. At South Padre, there were ample opportunities to shoot a couple species each of gulls and terns, several duck species, and darn near every wading bird that occurs in the United States!

Great Blue Heron

Roseate Spoonbill

Roseate Spoonbill

Tricolored Heron
The mix of species changes a little bit as you head north and bird at the Port Aransas Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center on Mustang Island outside of Corpus Christi. The variety of waterfowl is really amazing at this location. All three teal species are extremely easy to photograph here as are the Northern Shovelers. The Brown Pelicans also provide awesome flight shot opportunities!

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelicans

Cinnamon Teal

Green-winged Teal
This is an extremely exciting place for bird photographers and I highly recommend these locations to all birders!

-Rob

Friday, January 20, 2012

Interesting Fact: Magnificent Frigatebird

A male Magnificent Frigatebird
A Magnificent Frigatebird preening while on the wing.

Did you know? . . . that Magnificent Frigatebirds have a long period of immaturity.  Young frigatebirds receive up to a year or more of parental care.  So unlike most birds, adult Magnificent Frigatebirds don't breed every year because they spend so much time raising their young.  The young birds do not reach breeding maturity until 8-10 years of age and it takes that long for young birds to attain their adult plumage.  


There is only one known breeding colony in the US which is in the Dry Tortugas of Florida.  Worldwide, they breed from Ecuador and Brazil up to Baja, California and throughout the Caibbean.  They also breed off the coast of Africa. 

-Eric

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Oregon Dark-eyed Junco

"Oregon" Junco at Paynetown SRA, Bloomington, IN
The same individual . . . just a different angle.
This Oregon type junco was a nice surprise for me today while birding around Lake Monroe.  It was the first day I had been able to bird the lake since before Christmas break started and a great way to start the birding year in Indiana.  There were also 50+ Cardinals, 75+ Slate-colored Dark-eyed Junco, a few White-throated and Tree Sparrows, as well as a single adult White-crowned Sparrow. 

-Eric

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Interesting Fact: Pied-billed Grebe

Did you Know? . . . that Pied-billed Grebes continually pluck and consume body feathers which helps protect the stomach lining from the sharp bones of fish and other vertebrate prey.  This results in the continual replacement of body feathers which means that the grebes are always growing new feathers.  This same technique is also used by other grebes.

Pied-billed Grebe taking a nap on South Padre Island, TX

-Eric

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Green-winged Teal

Green-winged Teal in morning light.

Another duck shot from Mustang Island, TX.  It was fun watching several species feeding right off the boardwalk and the light worked out well for quite a while.  It was a great way to end the trip!

-Eric

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mustang Island, Texas

Our last full day was spent mostly along the coast on Mustang Island near Corpus Christi, Texas.  We were able to photograph a few species of ducks on the island and were able to see many shorebird species including Whimbrel. 

A beautiful Cinnamon Teal

-Eric

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Texas Rare Birds

Today, we were able to connect on all of the Texas rare birds we looked for including multiple lifers for Rob and Chad.  After spending the morning not seeing Rose-throated Becard yesterday we spent this morning watching the becard along with some other birders.  We birded with another birder, Mike, at Estero Llano Grande and Frontera Audubon Thicket which provided great conversation between the great birds we were all finding.

Here are a couple of pics:

Crimson-collared Grosbeak

Rose-throated Becard

Armadillo
 -Eric


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Two Lifer Warblers

Today we continued our Texas birding adventure at Estero Llano Grande State Park. We were on a hunt for a Rose-throated Becard but unfornately that was not to be today. Even without our taget species, there were plenty of birds for us to observe and photograph.
Least Sandpiper

American Coot

Northern Shoveler

Olive Sparrow
Since we could not seem to find our rare bird at Estero Llano Grande, we moved on to Frontera Audubon Thicket to look for Golden-crowned Warbler and Crimson-collared Grosbeak. Right when we arrived, a group of birders told us that the warbler had indeed been seen shortly before we arrived. We quickly headed down the path to where it had been seen previously but there were no birds at all! Since there were already a herd of birders looking in that location, we moved farther down the path to look in some other areas. It didn't take long until the warbler appeared right in front of Eric! We all got good views but were not able to get any pictures.

We spent a lot of time looking for the grosbeak with no luck and decided to try to help some other birders find the warbler instead of waiting around even longer. We found the warbler right back in the same spot as before!

We ended our day chasing a Tropical Parula at Quinta Mazatlan. After spending some time watching the feeders at the amphatheater we hiked around to another group of feeders. After being entertained by a Clay-colored Thrush, the Tropical Parula came in a put on the real show! What an awesome bird!

Tropical Parula
Tomorrow we will be trying for the becard again as well as the grosbeak and spending some time at Santa Ana NWR!

-Rob

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

From Brown Jay to Black-vented Oriole

It was another wonderful day in south Texas. Our day started out with freezing temperatures and fog on the Rio Grande at Salineno but that was all forgotten when the Brown Jay put on a show at the feeders. 
Brown Jay
Eric had found a Zone-tailed Hawk before we moved on to the feeders and he took everyone back to look for it after the Brown Jay came in. We were not disappointed! After getting our fill of the perched Zone-tailed, we headed on to see what we could find at Falcon State Park. The birding was rather slow but the photography blinds did provide some entertainment.

Altamira Oriole

On our way to Bentson-Rio Grande Valley State Park, we stopped at a Whataburger so that Chad could try it for the first time. Once at Bentson, the Black-vented Oriole arrived at the feeders within just a couple of minutes. This was both Eric and my first lifer of the trip!

Black-vented Oriole
While watching the oriole, a lady told us about a day roost for an Eastern Screech-Owl. Since the owl would be a lifer for Chad, we decided to head straight there. The owl was only about 7 feet off the ground and paid absolutely no attention to us as we took a million pictures!

Eastern Screech-Owl
Eric and I finished the day with one lifer each while Chad took the lifer award with five lifers! Tomorrow will be a very busy day of birding with stops at Estero Llano Grande State Park, Frontera Audubon Thicket, and Quinta Mazatlan. There are a ton of rarities to be found. Be sure to check back for more pictures in the next couple of days!

-Rob

Monday, January 2, 2012

Texas Birding

We arrived in Texas yesterday and after some lost luggage issues we arrived after dark so only got some roadside birds.  We started today at Salineno and also birded in the Zapata city park by the library.  Here is a shot from this morning; many more are on the way!

Audubon's Oriole


Happy New Year, Eric