Sunday, June 28, 2009

Another Brown for Bird Photography Weekly

  Last week for bird photography weekly I showed off some photos of the brown pelican. This week I would like to share with you the brown thrasher. The only thing in common between these two birds is the word "brown" in their name.


I took this photo on a nature trail last week on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The quality of the photo isn't all that great but I thought it was worthy of sharing. Especially since these guys are tough to get close to. Brown thrashers are shy birds that hang out along the edges of hedgerows or other thick shrubbery. They are year around residents in my area of the country here in Virginia.

Brown thrashers can be found nesting in residential areas in thickets, over-grown fields, and along the edge of forests. Like mockingbirds, they can be very aggressive to anything or anyone that approach their nest.

The brown thrasher is the official state bird of Georgia.

Have a great week everyone and don't forget to stop by and visit this weeks edition of Bird Photography Weekly!


Sunday, June 21, 2009

Brown Pelicans on the Outer Banks

  In just two days from now my family and I will be on our way to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a weeks vacation. It's one of our favorite vacation spots. The Outer Banks of North Carolina is a chain of barrier islands midway on the Atlantic Seaboard, 90 miles south of Norfolk, Virginia and about 320 miles north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Besides hanging out at the beach there's lots to do there. I hope to fit in a little birding while I'm down there. The Outer Banks known for its great concentration of migratory birds on the Atlantic Flyway and home to a large variety of shorebirds and waterfowl. Besides an assortment of gulls, one of the first birds I normally spot flying along the shoreline is the brown pelican.



Brown pelicans are seen flying in a straight line or a V-formation not far from the waters surface. Their really cool to watch when there looking for food. They will glide above the water surface and quickly take a nose dive into the water to catch its food - mostly fish. These pelicans will also hang around piers and follow fishing boats for an easy meal.

Brown Pelican 

The above brown pelican picture is a painting I did about 10 years ago. 

I hope to share more photos in the upcoming days from the Outer Banks!

Don't forget to check more bird photography over at this weeks Bird Photography Weekly, just click the image below...


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Being a Responsible Landlord

 Well, it's been a a few days since I last posted. There's so much going on this time of year with the vegetable gardening, flower beds, birdwatching, etc, etc. There's just not enough time in a day. I did however want to follow up on my post from last week titled Purple Martin Update (2009). I received a few comments and questions that I didn't get around to answering in the comments so I thought I would try to touch on them here.


Part of being a responsible purple martin landlord requires frequent nest checks. My particular setup comes with a telescoping pole that allows me to bring the house down to my level to check the nest. Martins are very tolerant of people, which is good, because studies have shown that active involved landlords improve the colonies reproductive success rate. Without knowing exactly what is going on in each nest, a landlord would have no clue if predators like snakes, owls or raccoons were eating their eggs or babies; or if nest was infected with blowflies or mites and needed to be changed out. Not finding and reacting quickly to these problems can greatly reduce the breeding success of your purple martins.


Non-native birds like house sparrows and European starlings can be big problems for purple martins as well. These birds are aggressive and will quickly take over a martin house if nothing is done to stop them. If starlings are a problem in your area then use martin houses with starling resistant entrances holes (SREH). These half circle shaped holes are big enough for purple martins but too small for starlings to fit into. I use SREHs on my purple martin house and gourds and haven't had any problems with starlings. House sparrows can be a bit tougher to control. I'll save that topic for another post, but if your interested in learning more about controlling house sparrows then check out this article:

For more information on the advantages of doing nest checks and how to conduct them read the article "Why Landlords Should Conduct Weekly Nest Checks" written by James R. Hill III, Purple Martin Conservation Association.


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Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wordless Wednesday


Click here to learn more about helping frogs in your area.

Get Wordless over at Wordless Wednesday


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Friday, June 5, 2009

Purple Martin Update (2009)

It's been a terrific spring for my purple martins. The colony has doubled each year since I started three years ago and this year is no different. There are 13 pairs nesting this year - compared to 6 pairs last year.


My current setup will hold a total of 16 nest, 12 in the house and 4 in the artificial gourds. With 13 nest taken this spring, that leaves just 3 available nesting spots. I think it's time to add a new duplex next spring!

Okay, lets take a quick peak inside;






For those unfamiliar, purple martins nest together in groups called colonies. In fact, they are completely dependant on man-made nest houses in the eastern half of the United States. Purple martin houses must be specifically designed for their needs and must be mounted in an open space where they hunt for flying insects.

Just for fun I made my own nesting record chart using Microsoft PowerPoint. This chart shows which nesting areas have eggs, which ones have chicks, and the ones that are empty. The X and the number beside it represents the number of chicks in the nest. I update the chart each time I do a nest check - usually once a week until the chicks begin to fledge. Click to enlarge.

6-3-09 Nest Check

As you can see I have a total of 30 eggs remaining and a total of 34 hatched chicks. That's a lot of babies!

To see how you can help purple martins check out this link:

To learn more about attracting and managing purple martins check out the below link to the Purple Martin Conservation Association:

Go here to check out more camera critters or here to see more bird photography!

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Thursday, June 4, 2009

Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival 2009 Bird List

If you didn't make it out to the Great Dismal Swamp Birding Festival last month then you missed out on a lot of action. I just received an email with the attached 2009 bird list for the three day event. I had asked for the list a couple weeks ago and just got it. As you can see there were lots of warbler sightings, and a nice variety of other birds as well. Not bad for three days! I personally didn't see all of these birds during the event but thought it would be nice to see (and share) the final tally.

Northern Parula
Yellow Warbler
Green Heron
Great Blue Heron
Brown- Headed Cowbird
Common Grackle
Swainson’s Warbler
Worm-eating warbler
Yellow- throated Warbler
Prothonotary Warbler
Black and White Warbler
American Redstart
Eastern Towhee
Carolina Wren
Great Crested Flycatcher
Blue- Gray Gnatcatcher
Cedar Waxwing
Northern Cardinal
White- throated sparrow
Hooded Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Prairie Warbler
Red-headed Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Yellow- Shafted flicker
Wood Duck
Red-Bellied Woodpecker
American Robin
Swainson’s thrush
Wild Turkey
Blue-Throated Warbler
Red-eyed Vireo
White-eyed Vireo
Canada Goose
Gray Catbird
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Eastern Bluebird
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Chestnut-Sided Warbler
Red-Shouldered Hawk
Summer Tanager
Pine Warbler
Tufted Titmouse
Acadian Flycatcher
White-Breasted Nuthatch
Mourning Dove
Northern Waterthrush
Mourning Warbler
Louisiana Warbler
Downy WP
Hairy WP
Brown Creeper
Blue Grosbeak
Northern Flicker
Blackpoll Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Black-Throated Green Warbler

FYI - The event is held every spring around the first of May.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

One Brave Mockingbird

  I'm excited to share this really neat photo story I came across in our local newspaper this weekend. Those local to this area may have already seen this article in Sundays newspaper.

Virginian-Pilot Newspaper photographer L. Todd Spencer was on assignment at a golf tournament in Williamsburg, VA when he spotted an immature bald eagle perched on a nearby fence. As he began to snap some photos of the eagle he noticed a smaller bird enter into the scene. The smaller bird was a northern mocking. Apparently, the mockingbird was not pleased at the eagle being there and proceeded to let the young eagle know it.

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For those that don't know, northern mockingbirds are very territorial birds, especially when they have a nest nearby and will go after almost anything if it thinks that it's nest or young are in danger.

Despite the mockingbirds best efforts, the young eagle stood his grown.

Uneasy peace at last.


If you get a chance check out the online slide show and listen to Todd describe how it all went down:

Permission was granted to show these photos by L. Todd Spencer, a photographer for the Virginia-Pilot.