Monday, November 15, 2010

Feeder Birds Around our House

Northern Flicker
A female Red-shafted Flicker visited our bird feeders.

Western Scrub-Jay
This Scrub-Jay has been a resident for over a year now, and relies on us for peanut rations.

Black-capped Chickadee
There are now several Black-capped Chickadees around our house.

Mountain Chickadee
There are also several of this other chickadee species.

Gray-headed Junco
There are now LOTS of this junco subspecies, who prefer feeding on seeds under the feeders.

White-winged Junco
This junco subspecies is not as fruitful as the other juncos, as we only see one or two a day.
BTW, the out of focus bird in the background is a Mountain Chickadee in flight.

House Finch
This backlit photo of a female House Finch was one of a dozen.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bull Elk and Sandhill Cranes

This morning we woke to a big bull Elk ten feet from our backdoor with another smaller bull down by the creek.  The biggest one was a 7x8 pointer, and the smaller one was a 5x5 pointer.  The bigger one had a green ear tag with the number 807, last May an elk with the same number charged me one day when I was birding . . . below is the story of the tagged #807 Elk.  

On a snow covered spring morning on the 12th of May earlier this year, I was out birding around when I came back to the house to find five bull Elk between me and the house.  When they noticed me with our Border Collie (Kelly), they moved towards us instead of away from us, as would normally be expected.  Before I knew it, a velvet antlered bull began to charge.  Luckily, our dog quickly jumped in front of me and stood her ground while sending out a low growl of warning.  The charging bull stopped about 10' away!  Now it was a stand off.  Fortunately, the local squawking Black-billed Magpies flew over the elk and the elk looked up.  This gave us a chance to back off a bit.  The magpies did another fly over and we were able to skirt behind a big boulder and safely get to the house.  My mom took a photo of the elk, and the ringleader had a green ear tag with the number 807, the same one that we saw today.

The Bull Elk that charged me.  11 May 2010.
Zoom in on ears and you will see that the green ear tag has the number 807,
the same elk that I saw and photographed today.

Photos of bull elk with tag #807 - 14 Nov 2010

Photos of the Smaller Bull Elk - 14 Nov 2010

While observing the elk, one of them walked up to the other and they started to clang their antlers together, which is called sparring.  To see a video of the sparring elk, click on:

Later in the day, we heard Sandhill Cranes that were flying somewhere high in the sky way to the south east of our house.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

First Snowfalls and Winter Specialties

This blog post will recap the last few days of snow and wintering birds.

This silhouetted Pygmy Nuthatch was one of several on Ponderosa Pine branches hanging over the creek from which they were drinking.  
6 November 2010.

First Measurable Snowfall.  9 November 2010.

Next Morning after Last Night's Snow.  
There was at least an inch of snow on the our deck railing.
10 November 2010.

Pink-sided Junco 
11 November 2010

Gray-headed Junco Dropping Down to the Ground to Feed on Seed.
11 November 2010

Black-capped Chickadee Eyeing the Bird Feeder
for Another Single Sunflower Seed.
12 November 2010

Silhouetted Black-capped Chickadee.
12 November 2010

Black-capped Chickadee Flying off with a Sunflower Seed.
12 November 2010

Black-capped Chickadee Flying off with Another Sunflower Seed.
12 November 2010

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Magpies, Magpie, and more Magpies

My dad encountered a freshly road killed Mule Deer on his way home from work yesterday evening, and of course he brought it home.  After we processed and packed the undamaged meat into the freezer, the remaining bones were set out on the back deck for the night.

Early this morning, we woke to a dozen or so Black-billed Magpies intently picking at the bones for any fat, gristle, and scraps of meat that we'd left behind.  From behind the glass door, our dog barked and charged in hopes of driving them away from what she thought should be her own stash of bones.  She had no luck at accomplishing her mission and she silently stared at them with great discouragement.  For the sake of photos, I moved the bones off the deck to a natural site with better lighting.  Within seconds the magpies started feasting again.  The bones also attracted seven Common Ravens, none of which were brave enough to join the feast in my presence.  Later, we caught our dog out happily chewing on bones alongside the magpies.

First Magpie to Fly in

Second Magpie to fly in

Magpie with Fat Stuffed in its Bill

Magpie Ready to Pick more Scraps off Bones

Magpie Perched on Granite Rock right by the Bones

Magpie with Cottonwood and Ponderosa Pine Background

Magpie in Flight

Magpie in Flight Showing Iridescent on the wing

Common Raven

Bush Containing Old Magpie Nest

Big Old Cottonwood Tree

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Red-tail Aerial Show

I gazed out across the landscape I call home and noticed a Red-tailed Hawk perched in the top of a Ponderosa Pine.  It took flight and joined another Red-tail Hawk in the air, and soon after I noticed that there were four Red-tails in total!   Best of all, one of them was a "Harlan's" Hawk, a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk, probably the one that seems to be local, as we see it from time to time.  The Harlan's Hawk put on an exciting  show and was the most vocal Red-tail I have ever encountered.  While it was screaming out its distinctive descending screech, it dive bombed one of the other Red-tails.

Red-tailed Hawk Perched in the Top of a Ponderosa Pine

"Harlan's" Hawk

"Harlan's Hawk"

"Harlan's" Hawk

Top: "Harlan's" Hawk.  Bottom: "typical" Red-tailed Hawk.

Red-tailed Hawk

The Hill to the North of our House

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Red Phalarope!!!

We decided to go back to Baseline Reservoir to try once again for the Red Phalarope.  We were advised to look for it in the "middle" of the reservoir, as some people had recently found it there rather than along the shore.  Sure enough Marcel and I were both able to celebrate a lifer Red Phalarope.  We spotted it in the middle of the reservoir!

          Bird Count:
          Gadwall - 15
          Mallard - 1
          Bufflehead - 10
          Common Loon - 1
          Eared Grebe - 10
          Western Grebe - 50
          Red Phalarope - 1
          Ring-billed Gull - 80
          Black-billed Magpie - 3
          American Crow - 6
          Black-capped Chickadee - 1

Marcel and Joel Looking at the Red Phalarope

It was so far out in the lake that even digiscoping left us with a horrible photo.  The little white bird in the middle of the photo is the Red Phalarope.

    Red Phalarope Sketch