Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Snowed In!

 Snow here in SE Virginia is somewhat of a hit and miss affair - mostly a miss. We normally get a dusting to an inch here and there with most of the big stuff just missing us. This month has been a bit unusual as we’ve had a couple inches already, so the prediction of a few inches the day after Christmas wasn't really that big of a deal. However, those few inches turned into 14 plus inches at my house. That's a BIG deal here! The last time the region got more than a foot of snow was over 20 years ago. No complaints here though. My wife is a teacher and my daughter is a six year old tom-boy, so snow days are like bonus holidays in our household.

My daughter couldn't wait to get out in it. She took two steps onto our back deck and just fell out in the snow.


While the snow is fun and games for us, it's a tough survival for the birds and other wildlife.
An abundance of Red-Wing Blackbirds are perched in the cypress trees waiting for me to re-fill the bird feeders. They can clean out a feeder in a hurry.


When the blackbirds aren't hogging the feeders a few of the smaller birds manage to slip in and get a snack, like this house finch.


Here’s one of my favorite visitors, the pine warbler.


My bird bath heater went kaput on me last year so I had to manually brush the snow off and fill it with warm water.




Providing a source of fresh water for backyard birds during the winter months can be a very beneficial, often attracting more birds than the seed in your feeders. I’ve read that many birds will eat snow in order to get sufficient water in the winter when their normal water sources are frozen, but open water is their preferred choice.

Take some time to feed and water your backyard birds during these tough winter conditions, and then sit back and get ready for some wild winter entertainment!

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and continues to enjoy the rest of the holidays! Hopefully I can take advantage of this ‘inside time’ and catch up on some blogging.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Nightjars of the World - Book Review

 There's nothing more serene to me than that of a whip-poor-will call on a quiet summer evening. It’s one of my favorite night sounds. While not frequently seen, the whip-poor-will makes itself known through its loud calling at dusk during various times of the year, especially in rural areas across the eastern half of the United States.


These birds belong to a nocturnal group mostly known as Nightjars; which brings me to the subject of this post:


I was fortunate this summer to receive a review copy of the book Nightjars, Potoos, Frogmouths, Oilbird, and Owlet-nightjars of the World by Nigel Cleere, and published by Princeton University Press. Right off the bat I was drawn to this book, not because it was just another bird book, but a book about a class of unique, secretive birds that many don’t ever get to see or experience.  It's the ultimate identification guide to the nightjars, potoos, frogmouths, oilbird, and owlet-nightjars of the world. It covers all 135 known species of these elusive and cryptically plumaged birds with more than 580 colored photographs. The quality of the book and photographs within it are outstanding. I'm not aware of any other book out today that has pulled together and captured these birds in such a magnificent way.

Lyre-tailed Nightjar:

Lyre-tailed Nightjar 
No, you won’t see these birds at your feeders, but there’s a good chance you could here there evening call or possibly flush one from its day-time resting place on a hike through the woods.

Many of these birds are rare or common in other parts of the world such as South America, Africa and Australia. Some of the more common nightjars that may be heard or encountered here in the the United States are the Whip-poor-will, Chuck-will's-widow, Common Nighthawk and the Common Poorwill (west).

Many are so unique they look more like something that should be part of a Harry Potter movie. this Indochinese Frogmouth.

...or these various nightjars shown below.


Serious and intermediate birders alike will find this book fascinating - great photography and easy reading that includes colored maps tailored to each species.

I highly recommend this guide / reference book to add to your collection. It would also make a wonderful Christmas gift to anyone interested in birds.