Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for January, 2015

When I was growing up in New England, the appearance of robins was viewed as a harbinger of spring. Although I rarely see them during the winter, American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are with us throughout the entire year here in Northern Virginia. Yesterday was sunny, but cold and windy, and on a walk around a local lake I spotted a small flock of robins, looking a little bedraggled in the winter weather.

It’s a little early, but I’m ready for spring to arrive, though we have a lot more winter to come.

American Robin

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Looking at the birds in the trees in my neighborhood this past week, I spotted a dark-colored bird that I could not identify (and had never seen before). I managed to get some clear shots and have been looking at identification guides on the internet and have tentatively identified it as a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), though I must confess that I don’t feel really confident about my identification.

What do you think? I’d welcome any assistance that more experienced birders could provide in identifying this little bird.

Dark-eyed JuncoDark-eyed Junco

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

I mistakenly thought that goldfinches left our area in the winter, so I was surprised earlier this week when I saw a group of them in the trees in my neighborhood. Since then I have checked the range map for the American Golfinch (Spinus tristis) and learned that this bird is with us all year.

Maybe I am so used to seeing the brilliant yellow color of the males in the spring that the duller winter plumage blended in so well with their surroundings that they were invisible to me. Once I spotted them, I struggled to get photos of them. The sun kept moving in and out of the clouds and the goldfinches spent most of their time in the dense bushes.

I tried using my pop-up flash to remove some of the shadows and totally blew out the background when I really overexposed some of the images. Still, I like the effect in the first and second images and it does help you to see some of the details of the goldfinch. The final image was without flash and was more properly exposed, though I don’t like the fact that it was shot at a steeper angle than I would have preferred.

I’m going to have to start looking more closely at the trees in mysuburban neighborhood. Who knows what other birds may be present there that I don’t know about?

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

American Goldfinch

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

In the distance I could hear the sound of a woodpecker busily at work. It took a little while for me to finally spot the woodpecker, but eventually I caught sight of him and watched him as he pecked away.

I was happy to be able to identify the bird as a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), a fairly common species in my marshland park. I was surprised, however, to note that the woodpecker was excavating a cavity that was already large enough to contain its entire head.

I know that Red-bellied Woodpeckers make their nests in cavities and wonder if this might be an early stage of building a nest. Could the bird merely be building a storage area for food? I have lots of questions and multiple possible explanations for what I saw but don’t really have any answers. I think that I remember where I saw the woodpecker and may try to find the tree again and check to see if I can tell whether the woodpecker has worked more to enlarge the cavity in the tree.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

How much of a bird do you need to see in order to identify it? Can you identify a bird merely by its silhouette? If I hadn’t been watching this bird before it dove off of the branch, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to identify it from the silhouette.

Tufted Titmouse

Are things easier if the bird is in the shadows, but some color is visible and the shape is more recognizable?

Tufted Titmouse

Even if your identification skills are weak, this last shot is clear enough that you could eventually determine that it is a Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), a frequent visitor in my neighborhood. These birds are small and a little tough to see, but they have really loud voices. (Check out the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to listen to its song).

Tufted Titmouse

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

 

Read Full Post »

As I walked through my neighborhood yesterday, I was struck by the large number of Mourning Doves. In most cases, I heard the distinctive whistling sound that their wings make when the doves take off and didn’t actually get a good look at the birds.

One Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura), however, was cooperative enough to sit still for a moment and I was able to get this shot. I love the peaceful look and subdued beauty of these birds, whose soft call reminded someone of a lament, which accounts for their name

Mourning Dove

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

On Friday, as I was walking toward a group of ducks, I saw a flash of white, a white that was brighter than that of a mallard duck. In the midst of the mallards, there was a couple of Northern Pintail ducks (Anas acuta) and I managed to get this shot of the male.

Before he swam away, the duck extended his neck and looked all around. I was amazed to see how long his neck was—it appeared to be almost as long as a goose’s neck.

Once again, I was reminded of the value in closely examining a group of birds. Others might have passed by the group of common ducks without bothering to notice this beautiful Northern Pintail amidst the mallards.

Northern Pintail

Northern Pintail

© Michael Q. Powell. All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »