Sunday, October 21, 2012

Wild Bird Rehabilitation

Something I've been doing for a while now but haven't posted about is volunteering at Wild Bird Rehabilitation, which is about fifteen minutes from my house and takes care of sick and injured birds. I clean cages, give the birds food and water, take care of the birds in the outdoor aviary, where they go when they are almost ready to be released, and, in the spring and summer, hand-feed the baby birds that get brought in.

 This is a young cedar waxwing that was in the E.R., where all birds go for a checkup when they are first admitted. Later, they'll move either to the recovery room, if they are adults, or the nursery if they are juveniles. In the winter there might be fifteen birds in the whole facility, whereas during nesting season there can be well over fifty, since we get many, many babies who were abandoned or fell out of their nests.

 This is a maturing Mockingbird. We get all kinds of interesting birds: mourning doves, pigeons, robins and house sparrows are the most common, but we've also had common yellowthroats, black and white warblers, ruby-throated hummingbirds, and even an American Woodcock while I've been volunteering.

 For the most part we deal with passerines, perching birds, and raptors and waterfowl each go to separate rehabilitation centers in the St. Louis area. One thing I love about working here is seeing birds up close that I would normally see only through my binoculars; and I'm often surprised by how large or small a bird seems compared to what it looks like in the wild. I also love hand feeding birds, of course, and one of the most exciting things I've done there is hold a juvenile Chickadee while feeding it mealworms. It's a great place, doing great work, and I enjoy and appreciate the experiences I have volunteering there.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Michigan Summer

This summer in Michigan, most of my photographic efforts were put into helping Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore by taking pictures of activities around the park. If I'm lucky, some of my photos could go up on the park website. I also had the chance to do some birding, of course. Some birder friends were visiting, so we took them to my favorite spot, Esch Road. I didn't bring my camera that day, so naturally we saw some nice birds, including yellow warblers, a black and white warbler, and some swainson's thrushes. I went back a few days later with my camera, and was able to get some nice pictures.

I feel like I rarely see catbirds in St. Louis, but they're pretty common in Michigan. 

I've never been able to get a good picture of a male redstart, but I now have two good, if similar pictures of the female. Or maybe it's a juvenile. They were nesting around our house again, although I only saw the mom and the young. Grosbeaks were also present in their usual numbers.

This killdeer was very friendly and walked toward me until my lens couldn't focus after I'd lain down to take its picture. I like these kinds of pictures because both the foreground and background are out of focus, which really emphasizes the bird.

All in all, I didn't get in as much birding or bird photography as I have in past summers, but it was still awesome just being on vacation up in Michigan.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Some Birds

I don't have any recent birding to talk about, so I thought I'd just post some pictures that hadn't made it on here yet. Most of my bird-related activity lately has involved volunteering at a wild bird rehabilitation center, where I get to feed injured/abandoned birds. There's a lot of robins, starling, and grackles, but there are also some rarer birds, including a pileated woodpecker the last time I was there.

 This is an ovenbird from Tower Grove Park last year. An ovenbird was either the first or second warbler I ever saw, up in Michigan. It's either ovenbird or Redstart, also in Michigan.

This female scarlet tanager is from Michigan, and I've actually never seen a male, which would be bright red with the same black wings.

These Waxwings are also from Michigan. I like seeing them up there in the summer, since they're late fall birds here in St. Louis. The coolest is seeing white-throated sparrows, red-breasted nuthatches, and yellow-bellied sapsuckers, since those are all winter birds for St. Louis.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Early Spring

I think that that this was the fourth-warmest winter in St. Louis, and I certainly enjoyed it. Usually January-mid April is the worst part of the year, rainy, gray, and cold. But this year, it was warm and relatively sunny throughout the winter, and when march came it brought full spring with it. Things were just starting to get green when I left for Florida, and when I got back, I was amazed that all the bushes and small trees were leafed out and the trees were starting to bud. By now, everything is green and in bloom, which is one of the things I miss the most in winter. Of course, it's already been over 80 many times in March, which is worrying when you consider how hot St. Louis gets in the summer. But since I'll be in Michigan for the summer, hopefully earlier than ever this year, I'm not too concerned. Anyway, Because of the nice weather I went out to Powder Valley Nature Center last week, which has interesting topography that I think is fairly typical of this east of the Ozarks region of Missouri, with hills and steep gullies in between them. There was a red-tailed hawk sitting a ways down one of the slopes, and it let me get extremely close to it, which was great since I don't have many good raptor pictures. I think that this bluebird is probably at least related to the one I saw here last year hanging around the parking lot. This isn't the best picture, but I like how you can see a sort of blue eye-cover in it. I got an amazing shot of it last year, and I'm thinking about going back there to look for it specifically sometime soon, before there are too many leaves to conceal it. Enjoy the spring season!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Florida Birding

This was only my second time being in Florida in March, and I once again had a great time at Wakodahatchee Wetlands and Green Cay. Unfortunately, since I visited them during the middle of the day, there were not as many warblers around as I had hoped, only palm and yellow-rumped. However, I did see a male yellow-rumped in the middle of changing to his spring plumage, which was very interesting. Also of note was a roseate spoonbill, which I had missed last year. I'm not sure if that's because of the time of year (last year I was there over President's day), but it was nice to see one this time. This is the best picture I could get of it, but I like it because it shows the color and the unusual bill.
This baby alligator was resting with its two siblings. I remember the first time I was in Florida, at Loxahatchee NWR, I was about to touch the tail of a slightly larger juvenile alligator because I thought it was an intricately patterned feather from a hawk or turkey. Fortunately, I realized that it was attached to a small alligator, and took some nice pictures instead.

Although I usually don't want my pictures to have man-made things in them (the boardwalk rails in this case), I liked the light background and expression of this female red-winged blackbird.
I love this picture because it's similar to another picture I took of a cormorant two years ago at Wakodahatchee. Once again, this one was sitting on the railing, and allowing people to come as close as they wanted. When I took the previous picture, I had my 55-250mm lens, and it was a great opportunity since that lens had to be very close to a bird to get a frame-filling image. This time I actually had to back away to even be able to focus, but I think it turned out extremely well. I think the brown indicates a young bird, but it could also be a female.
And the other picture I mentioned. They're different color schemes and facing different ways, but I think they make a good set.
I spent about twenty minutes trying to get a flight shot of this bird, since it was following a set pattern, flying to a berm to get a branch and then flying back to put it on its nest. Eventually, I moved to a more advantageous location, where it was flying towards me for longer, and I could get a green background.

Things are starting to get very green around here, so I wouldn't be surprised if some early migrants showed up soon. Keep a good lookout!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

On the first full day I was in Michigan this summer, I went out to several locations, and this ring-billed gull was the best photo I got. I'm still searching for the supposed prairie warblers along the low dunes by Lake Michigan.This redstart at Esch Roadwas sitting still and singing constantly, but from a difficult spot.
This porcupine was at Esch road. It's only the second time I've seen a porcupine in my life.
This Eastern Phoebe was the best picture from one of the most amazing days of birding I've had. I was at a nature preserve I'd never been to before, and the best bird I'd seen to that point was a male indigo bunting with some children. I saw on the map that the natural are extended across the road, so I crossed and came upon a pond with a great blue heron. This phoebe was at the base of a hill. I went up the hill into an open, almost entirely pine forest where there were more birds in one area than I'd ever seen. There were flycatchers, sparrows, pine warblers, and a red-breasted nuthatch, which is one of my favorite birds. I had what I think was a juvenile pine warbler come within about three feet of me and look at me for a while, and when I went back a second time, there was a female purple finch in a bush by the pond. That reminds me that back at the beginning of the summer, I had seen a white-throated sparrow at the Trapp Farm Nature Preserve (later closed temporarily because of garlic mustard problems), which is amazing because it is like a temperate rain forest. I always enjoy the many different habitats up there-low dunes, forest, meadow, lake, etc. And it's amazing to see it transformed in the winter.