Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Boyce Thompson Arboretum April 29 2015

Back on the trail!!!
Here at
the Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park in Superior Arizona , the largest and oldest botanical garden in the state of Arizona. Great place for floral and fauna, also to see and add to your  bird life list.  I saw lots of Humming birds but they were so quick I didn't get much for photos. But I was able to add to my bidders life list.

Here is a common Warbler for the Western U.S. the "Audubon's"Yellow Rump. The eastern U.S. see's the Myrtle Yellow rump. When I see the Myrtle Yellow Rump  in the Mid-west it means the migration has started, this species of bird is a hardy one, they can eat berries and other food sources if insects are scarce . And are the last hold outs during migration when the cold  fronts strikes. There were  a lot of Audubon's  at the Boyce Thompson which makes me believe that my timing is early here at the Arboretum, I suspect there will be a much bigger variety when we are further into May after I leave.
Yellow Breasted Chat
Here is a life list bird for me a Yellow Breasted Chat. This bird the largest of the New World warblers , it really lives up to it's name, it is  a very loud, very chatty but a very shy species of bird. I kept hearing it but couldn't get a look at it . They like dense skulking vegetation .  And at the Boyce  Thompson you will find all kinds of bird habitat. I  gave up on this particular one Chat  and was heading back when I found another thick patch of shrub like vegetation and there were at least three different Chats calling back and forth so I set up in shaded area and waited it wasn't long when a Chat came out of the  dense thicket  perching above it all and gave me a reasonable shot, with a very Yellow breast and its size seems right for as loud as it is, it called and called it  would get a reply and look towards the copy cat and call some more, finally I seen this shy bird and added to my  life list.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Back on the Trail Hayden Prairie..Hayden

Hayden Prairie

Back on the trail March 2 2015. I have been reading reports of Golden Eagles , possibly Snowy Owls , Red poles here at Hayden prairie.  I can see  why, what  a vast open area. I traveled west on highway 9 and turned North on highway 63 ended up around Lime Springs and Chester. I saw plenty of Whitetail deer, Pheasant, but no Red poles, Snowy Owls or Golden Eagles. I did see 2 Rough leg Hawks. This particular Rough leg I watched on 50th st not a lot of traffic to disturb it. I spotted it
 on the ground  then it flew up to a utility pole.

Rough Leg

Rough legs are found in the Arctic and Sub-arctic of North America  and Europe,  which make them circumpolar birds that breed in the Arctic tundra. Males seem to migrate more South in winter, females stay more North.
I always see Rough legs in North East Iowa in Winter, I watch as they hover and then dive to the ground after a rodent of some kind. Males can be darker then females although there are darker morphs (variations) in plumage. Rough legs are named for the feathers that go all the way to their feet this helps to conserve heat.
These hawks like open habitat for hunting, but will also hunt from a utility poles, like  this Hawk was doing he would return to the same perch every time. They feed primarily on small rodents including mice, shrews and voles.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Winter Nuthatch

Here is a  portrait of a White Breasted Nuthatch, this painting was inspired by this busy little  male  and  his cacheing . He would go to our feeder  take a seed then fly to the Walnut tree in our yard and jam the tasty prize into a crevasse in the trunk of the tree this is called "cacheing ", saving it for later.
Winter Nuthatch
You can tell this is a male because of his dark top on his crest. Females have a lighter blue gray. 
They are also called the up side down bird because they will move up and down on trees cacheing or when in season  looking for spiders, insects, and larva , in the cracks or crevasses of trees. Nuthatches are a winter residents of the midwest . I  like to put out Black oil  Sunflower seeds in my feeders,  because  the shell is thin and  the nut can be retrieved quickly. Not only Nuthatches come to our feeders I get a good variety of birds because the Black oil is a easy seed to  open . The only down fall to Black oil is the Squirrels love them  and will set there and eat them all at one sitting if you don't scare them away. 

Monday, December 1, 2014

Cold November...


Before the extreme cold hit  NE Iowa I came across  four Trumpeter Swans . They were roosting in a local private pond and feeding on the picked corn fields around the pond,  the pond was  close to highway 93, not far from Sumner. The Swans I believe were reported by someone to the Iowa Ornithology Union the beginning of November.  I don't know if  they are a family or two separate pairs migrating together. This years young would have a grey plumage.
They were sure cool to see and especially when they would fly from the fields around dusk what a Beautiful Regal bird.
Lapland Longspur
 Now when the extreme cold hit , I came across these curios little birds, always in a medium to large sized flock along the roads edge, these Lap Land Longspurs were fun to watch as they frantically looked for spilled grain or wind blown seeds along the roads. What I noticed with this particular flock was that they were picking up spilled corn along the highway . Horned Larks and Snow Buntings also do this . I read that non breeding birds will become a resident  South of there breeding range which is North of Canada. This bird I believe could be a second year female. The flock was made up of mostly first year birds  non breeders.

Immature Golden Eagle

This huge wing span belongs to a Golden Eagle my first sighting in NE Iowa. At first I thought it to be just a first year Bald Eagle but when it got closer I saw the  under neath white feather patterns and the gold or blond nap (behind the head) Wow my first Golden Eagle . Cool, there are sightings  of Golden Eagles in Iowa, but since the Golden is primarily a western Raptor it is something to see here in NE Iowa. Golden Eagles escaped  the DDT contamination  because they mostly feed on grass eating Mammals, but  they were shot , poisoned and trapped out west because of suspected livestock kills . The Golden Eagle is more widely distributed then the Bald Eagle , they are in Europe, Scotland and even the Himalayas.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Warbler Migration 2014

This years Warbler migration for my area migrant traps started a little slow. The Warblers  trickled in a few species and birds at a time. First of course were the Yellow Rumps and the Palm Warblers, then the Yellow Warblers, and Black & Whites. Late April was cold and wet maybe that kept more birds  south, but the hardy little birds I did see stopped and looked for food. Here a Yellow Rump is foraging on the surface of Sweets Marsh.

Yellow Rump
This Palm Warbler  in the wet and cold rested and then went back to foraging in the same area as the Yellow Rumps. There were also Swallows flying around, they appeared to be catching some kind of flying insects also. I was a little worried for this years migrants, it stayed cold way into the first and second week of May. Warbler migration is triggered  by  the length of the day not  how warm it gets. So they have no idea how cold it will be on their migration routes.

Little Green Heron
With lack of new birds I watched for other migrants, like  this little Green Heron.
Their colors are subtle but rich and complementary.
He didn't appear to be fishing just resting. I have seen these Herons in early Spring before but was never able to be fast enough to get photos of them. This bird let me take several photo's. I seen this particular Heron at Sweets Marsh.
These waders like  to use bait  when they fish, to entice their prey to come close enough to catch.  I have seen this technique  online on youtube.
 I understand why it is called the Little Green Heron , it seemed very small compared to the other herons you see, about the size of a Crow.
I always seem to see them while the waterfowl are migrating which is in the month of April.

I also spotted two Great Egrets is this small creek in a pasture, never before have I  seen these waders (stalkers) here. That's why I really keep my eyes and sometimes ears aware , during migration you never know what you might see.
Although not as big as a Great Blue Heron it has a large wingspan and they are about 3ft. high with the lace like plumage growing past the tail, using this plumage for display during courtship, known as the nuptial plumes.
 These feathers  were so prized for Victorian era fashion during the 19th and part of the 20th centuries hunters killed over 95% of these birds. Part of those "good ol days" when there wasn't any king of regulations whatsoever. Plume hunting was stopped and the Great Egret and other plume birds have recovered.
Nice to see biodiversity.

Getting back to the Warblers . As the month of  May started to get warmer with those warm southern winds also came more and varied species of Warblers.  Not all Warblers migrate at the same time, there are early and there are later Warblers, Still no real big fall out situation yet. Last year I witnessed a fall out and you would see multiples of each species everywhere you looked. Not this year ,  around May 9th I was out at one of my spots and there wasn't much happening for warblers so I started looking for Scarlet Tanagers it wasn't long before this brilliant bird appeared

 This male Tanager checked me out , I was near a Willow  tree that was flowering and  it was loaded with insects which he soon discovered and began to take advantage.
 Most Neo tropicals are insect eaters especially Tanagers this bird  was having a fest. I soon started to see other birds feeding. A Rose Breasted Grossbeak came to watch the activity and then a Yellow Warbler and several Northern Parulas the smallest of our Warblers came to take  part.
Northern Parula

I spotted this one and other male Northern  Parulas but the male Yellow Warbler wouldn't let them eat the insects. Except this little Warbler would sneak back and it was a big tree and the defending Warbler couldn't defend the whole tree, a lot was going on at the Willow, It was fun to watch.
These birds have traveled a long way so when there is a good food source they find it and frenzy. I also spotted some Nashville, and a few Redstart males. The males arrive first it seems then behind them  later come the females ,  like a lot of the birds. I still have not seen a fall out yet,  every year is different,   and what you see will be different  from year to year also, that is why I like to change up the habitats I check out , most times  I will see something different and be able to add a new species to my life list.
 A male Yellow Warbler below  like the one defending the Willow is one of our most common Warblers.

Yellow Warbler
Chestnut Sided

 As the month continued to have it's warm fronts and it's cold fronts,  I began to see my favorites. The Woodland Warblers  are so  interesting  and so different in color, behavior and in song. I never forget why I love to get out to see and experience these little jewels as they pass through Northeast Iowa. From the beginning of late April when the trees are barely showing any signs of budding to the end of May  when it's hard to see because the trees are so leafed out , the Warbler migration is truly a sight to behold a really beautiful and rich experience.

Another interesting bird is this little Canada a very cooperative and curious fellow,

 as he came very close while looking for insects. He would forage then sing a little, responding to other calls maybe I don't know but  he was sure a active little male,  this bird isn't sticking around for long so he is on the move looking for food.  The Canada warbler has a necklace like pattern below his throat . He is also a low canopy forager so he is on the ground a lot  of the time.
Another favorite is the Blackburnian with it's fire orange throat and black markings what a interesting color combination this species will linger awhile, I have seen a bird like this one and went back a week later to the same general area and seen him again.


High in the canopy is the Cape May Warbler a very bright and colorful bird. I have seen a lot of Cape May this year , in past years I would see one . This year at two locations I seen two to four individuals, so  trying different habitats has payed off and there are areas  I haven't been able to get to yet there is always next year. I also saw other birds during this years migration  Golden Winged Warblers, Tennessee, Wilson, Magnolia, Oven Birds and Black Poll Warblers also I sawYellow Throated and Blue Headed Vireos , Eastern Towhees. I still have a lot more Warblers I haven't seen yet so that will always be the challenge and the goal to see and experience all the Eastern Woodland Warblers .

Monday, March 3, 2014

Snow and lots of it up here in North East Iowa.Will winter ever let go?
Friday the last day in February my wife and I were on 150 traveling North towards Fayette way before the Maynard and Arlington turn I spotted this Snowy Owl right off the highway cool ! I have been looking for a chance of spotting a Snowy but to no avail. There was one spotted last year in this general area , I read they will return to their wintering grounds the next year. This one, with all the barring I believe is a first year Owl so it could not be the one spotted last year. This bird has traveled a long way to be here from the Artic.
 As  they age they loose the gray brown barring.  Also like most Raptors the male Snowy is smaller then the female and with less markings and more white. Snowy's are the heaviest of the owls. To my surprise their were two almost all white Owls with this one, the way they were hanging together I wondered if this could  be a family, Or were they on there way North and just found each other,  they are very protective of there wintering and hunting grounds though, I don't know.
 These birds are big and have a big wing span. They like large open and secluded areas. Cool.....

Monday, November 11, 2013

Preying Mantis

I spotted this interesting insect this October, I have never seen one before. This Chinese Mantis (Mantid) was hunting Box Elder bugs near the house. It did indeed catch and eat some," Good "can't eat enough of those pests to suit me. The Chinese Mantis was introduced to North America around 1895 for insect pest control it is our largest Preying Mantis, it was neat to see.