Forum Role: Participant
Active Since: March 15, 2020
Topics Started: 0
Replies Created: 7

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Viewing 7 posts - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    I'll add a personal note about a bird population that is increasing -- Bald Eagles.  My husband and I enjoyed a wintertime visit to Yellowstone National Park thirty years ago with a small group of friends.  One of our friends spotted a tiny dot in the sky.  Bald eagle!  Our friends all pulled out their cameras and took multiple shots of the far-away bird.  My husband and I didn't waste the camera film (see how old we are!) since we'd seen many eagles much closer than that near my parents' home on the Northern Neck of Virginia.  I'm glad to see that Virginia still has one of the highest numbers of breeding pairs, though a few states are higher.  Birdwatching makes me feel closer to my parents who have both passed away.  Many years ago, my mom became president of her local birding chapter even though she was a beginner.  She was a natural leader -- always enthusiastic and eager to learn -- and my dad was eager to support any activity that involved walking and fresh air.  When she died last year, I inherited her feeding station and have taken great pleasure in adding new feeders and different types of food.  The birds were very important to her during the last years of her life, and we spent many relaxing hours just watching the woodpeckers, finches, bluebirds, and so many more.  We have woods behind our house, and I made an effort to plant a few bird-friendly (and butterfly-friendly) shrubs and plants near the feeders.  I hadn't done any gardening in a few years, but being home due to coronavirus restrictions gave me more time.  I'm excited about choosing more native plants next year.
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    Our local birding club is apparently not meeting at present due to coronavirus restrictions.  As I beginner, I could really use some mentoring.  I'm having a hard time with the logistics of birdwatching.  I have terrible vision, wear glasses, and only have an inexpensive pair of binoculars at this point (7X).  It is a bit awkward using the binoculars with my glasses on, and if I try to take them off, it is just one more thing to handle and fumble.  I tend to locate the birds without binoculars, but when I switch to binoculars, it is hard to find the same location on the tree.  By the time I find the right spot, the bird has often flown away.  I'll also need to experiment with different times of day, different levels of sunshine, different angles.  Even when I can focus on a bird, it is often backlit, making it hard to see any colors and markings.  I also find the position (standing, looking up) to be uncomfortable (hurts my neck).  My only camera is my cell phone, and I can barely get photos of our feeder birds let alone birds in treetops.  I have a small notebook that I've used for field notes, mostly around our yard.  I've found it helpful to write down my best interpretation of the vocalizations that I hear.  I walked around a park today, heard at least 7 or 8 different birds but couldn't see any of them.  It's frustrating, but I'm still having fun!  I'm sorry if this post sounds like I'm complaining.  My awkward attempts so far are truly a comedy of errors.  I do feel connected to the community through our local Wild Birds Unlimited store which offers expertise along with occasional presentations, and I really enjoy the WBU Backyard Birds Photos on FaceBook.  I am pretty good at identifying feeder birds.  I received my Project Feederwatch package earlier this week, and I look forward to participating for the first time.  I'm also using eBird to look at lists submitted by local birders.
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    Activity 1:  I've kept lists of birds in my suburban backyard (feeders) and a nearby wooded park along the river.  Being a beginner, I was surprised to see the same birds in both locations.  I think of my feeder birds like pets and hadn't expected to see them "in the wild."  There were a few new birds near the river, most notably the flocks of Canada Geese this time of year.  I've selected two more spots to explore later this week, both an hour from my home in different directions:  Green Spring Garden Park in Alexandria VA and Caledon State Park in King George VA.  I've been studying the eBird lists and especially the bar charts (which I find to be extremely helpful).  If I'm lucky, I might see a new bird (kinglet? towhee? warbler?) at Green Spring, and Caledon is famous for its bald eagles.  Green Spring is a smallish park in a developed suburban area while Caledon is old growth forest in a rural area along the Potomac River.  The two locations share the same common birds, but I hope I have time to find a few differences.
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    These were challenging, but fun, activities.  I realize that I "watch" all the birds at our feeding station, but I rarely pay attention to one specific bird for an extended period of time.  It was interesting to change my perspective in that way.  My best observations come when I am inside the house watching through a window, but I lose sight of the bird when it flies off into the trees.  Also, when I am inside, I can't really hear their vocalizations. To do the third activity, I sat outside in a quiet spot and heard at least five or six different bird songs.  I was able to easily identify the sound of a blue jay (since I'd just heard it on one of the links presented earlier in this class), and soon I could spot it flying from tree to tree.  It's most common call was three loud repeated sounds, not quite the "caw-caw-caw" of a crow but a bit similar.   I saw a mockingbird fly from our roof to a tree, and it made a short call (five notes or so) that was not particularly distinctive.  There were several house finches, actively flying back and forth between the trees and the feeders. Their call sounded a bit like "cha-cheep cha-CHEEP, cha-cheep cha-CHEEP."  Two slightly different songs were extended repetitive and regular sounds, almost like a trill but not as fast.  One was quieter than the other, almost like a background noise.  I heard another bird call that sounded like "chirp-chirp-chirp" and another than sounded to me like "tweeter-tweeter-tweeter."  I couldn't see any of these birds, so I queried Merlin for typical songs and calls for the birds I see most often in my yard.  It is possible that the "tweeter-tweeter-tweeter" was a titmouse and possible that some of the quieter repetitive sounds were from goldfinches, chickadees and/or nuthatches.  A chirping sound seems to be often associated with robins, but I haven't seen any robins lately.  It could have been a slightly different song from a mockingbird, cardinal or other bird.  I have a LOT to learn.
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    I enjoyed all of the activities.  I have had an active feeding station in our back yard (in Virginia) since January of this year but have only recently begun trying to locate and identify birds in the wild. It is so much harder!  Activity 1:  Watching the migration maps was fascinating.  I paid special attention to the map for Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, noting the dark purple in August that quickly moved south after that.  We have now (9/26/2020) been two days with no sightings at our hummingbird feeders.  Activity 2:  Since this is my first year with feeders, I am thrilled to see how many of my favorites will be here all year -- Downy Woodpecker, Eastern Bluebird, White-breasted Nuthatch, Carolina Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Carolina Wren, Northern Cardinal and more!  Some of the birds here part-year only are ones where I am trying to confirm a sighting.  I think I saw a Chimney Swift fly over one day while swimming, and I may have seen a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher and an Eastern Wood Pewee this month in a park along the river.  The gnatcatchers are leaving the area very soon, so I'd better get back to the park if I want to see one this year.  Activity 3:  We've enjoyed watching the goldfinches and house finches with their changing plumage.  Often I'll think I am seeing a new bird only to realize it is a finch after all.  Some of the juveniles were so fluffy that they looked larger than they parents, and a recent male American Goldfinch had a very delicate, pale yellowish-gray chest in a different hue than I'd seen before.  Handsome!  Activity 4:  At our feeders, we are hoping to see some birds during the fall migration that we haven't seen since the spring migration, like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  At the riverfront park, there is a good chance I could spot a Great Blue Heron and Belted Kingfisher this time of year since there are other sightings reports on eBird.  It looks like a variety of warblers pass through the area in mid-September to mid-October, and the Yellow-rumped Warbler seems to hang around for longer.  That would be a fun sighting!  Six months from now, I'll have a better chance of spotting the Mallards and the Grackles should be coming back.
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    Activity 1:  When I first began feeding birds, I had lots of small brown birds which I assumed were all wrens.  I soon realized that most were actually sparrows.  I first used characteristics of shape to separate the wrens from the sparrows:  the wrens' tail position (cocked up) and their longer, curved beak.  I can now use color as well, but I am still trying to figure out all the striping patters on the sparrows!  Activity 2:  We'd gotten used to seeing downy woodpeckers, so we did a double-take when the first red-breasted grosbeak appeared.  The black and white and red colors are striking!  I don't think we've seen hairy woodpeckers or red-headed woodpeckers in our yard so far this year, but I'll be watching for them.  One day this year I had three brown birds in the yard, on the ground, at nearly the same time:  a wren, a thrush and a thrasher.  It was a bit like small, medium and large.  I haven't seen the thrush again, but the other two are reliable visitors.  Activity 3:  Just today I've seen the mourning doves waddling across the ground looking for seeds, the black-capped chickadee visiting quickly to grab a seed to carry away, and a gray catbird lingering at the feeders to peck at cranberries and the grape-jelly topped orange half.  Activity 4:  In the previous lesson I said that nuthatches were my favorite and that I primarily used their behavior (climbing down head-first) to identify them.  Their lovely bluish-gray, black and white coloring distinguishes them from the other smallish birds.  Their profile differs distinctly from the tufted titmouse which is similar in size and color.
  • Allison
    Participant
    AKirchner1979
    Activity 1:  I concentrated on the birds of North American, and the Common Loon brought back happy memories of childhood vacations on a northern lake.  The Carolina Wren was the bird on the mural closest to my current location (Virginia), and it is one of my favorites with its distinctive tail position.  Carolina wrens were the first birds to begin feeding in my yard when I started putting food out in January 2020.  The painting of the Wood Duck was beautiful -- such colors!  They seem native to Virginia, so I'll have to keep my eyes out when I am near water.  I also clicked on birds in Africa since I loved the novel "A Guide to the Birds of East Africa" by Nicholas Drayson.  That inspired me to see the movie "The Big Year," and I'm now waiting for the book to arrive.  Activity 2:  I have seen birds from four of the groups at my feeding station:  songbirds, woodpeckers, hummingbirds (appeared two days ago) and pigeons/doves.  I hear owls very regularly but have not yet seen one.  I have seen a hawk in the neighborhood twice, and I'm anxious to see it again when I know more about it.  This course will inspire me to explore beyond my own yard.  Activity 3:  It is hard to pick a favorite, but I think I'd choose the White-breasted Nuthatch.  Even without my glasses on in the morning, I can identify the nuthatch by the way it climbs down head-first.  I haven't been able to get a good photo with my phone.  Maybe I'll have to take the Cornell Bird Academy course about drawing/painting birds.
Viewing 7 posts - 1 through 7 (of 7 total)