Monday, January 17, 2011

Lousy Bird Walk

 On Saturday I headed out to the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge for a morning bird walk. The guided walks offered there in winter are referred to by the refuge staff as “Lousy Bird Walks” because most of the fall migrants have moved through and the remaining birds have moved into deeper cover. But don’t be deceived, there’s still lots of birds and other wildlife to see. Winter can be a great time to walk the trails because most the foliage has dropped, leaving the wildlife more exposed for better viewing – not to mention, NO mosquitos!

Despite the name and the chilly temps, Saturdays walk was anything but lousy. We saw quite a few birds including a lifer for me – the orange-crowned warbler.


This photo was taken from Cornell’s All About Birds webpage.

The orange-crown warbler winters on the refuge as well as a few other areas along the southern half of the Virginia coast line. It’s a small warbler with dull winter colors.

Other interesting birds spotted that morning were – yellow-rump warbler, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers, northern flicker, white-breasted nuthatch, Carolina and winter wrens, brown creeper, American goldfinch, hermit thrush and robins.

In addition to the birds, we also walked up on four white-tail deer that stood about 30 feet from us. They stood their ground  for a few seconds before disappearing in the woods. Unfortunately,  I was so focused on not forgetting my binoculars that morning I forgot to bring my camera with me.

Leaving the refuge that morning also offered some interesting birding. Just a few miles up the road I spotted a barred owl, pileated woodpecker, American kestrel and a Northern Harrier. All in all not a bad day. If only I had not forgotten that dang camera!

Many parks and refuges offer organized bird walks routinely. Take the time and go if you get the chance. It’s a great opportunity to get out and observe the birds and other nature up close. The next one at the Dismal Swamp NWR will be February 5th.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Red-Shoulder Alert!

  Backyard birdwatching never gets boring. Just when things look peaceful and quiet all ‘you-know-what’ breaks out. I was watching a few birds at my feeder this morning when all of a sudden they panicked and quickly scattered to the nearest cover. In most cases that only means one thing – a raptor is nearby. Sure enough at that very moment I noticed a hawk flying low across the backyard, eventually landing on top of my unoccupied purple martin house. It was a red-shouldered hawk.


The red-shouldered hawk is a medium-sized hawk. They feed mostly on small mammals, but will hunt birds also. During winters, they sometimes habituate to preying on birds commonly found at bird feeders. Red-shoulders typically wait atop a perch and swoop down on their prey in a surprise attack method.

Look how his head turns 180 degrees to survey the yard behind him.



He eventually took off empty handed (or empty talon in this case) to hunt elsewhere.


Take a good look at the photo above and you can see its reddish "shoulder" on the top side of its right wing, hence the name red-shouldered hawk.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend and be sure to stop by Birdfreak’s Blog for more great bird photos in this weeks edition of Bird Photography Weekly #124.