Saturday, June 10, 2017

April Birds

April is an exciting month for birding.  It is the month migrating birds begin returning to Saskatchewan.  (Okay, I know.  There are a few crazy but hardy birds that return earlier, such as Horned Larks, but April is when the sane birds begin returning.)

Here are some of the birds we saw this past April.

I spent a long time looking at guides to decide what kind of hawk this one is, but finally decided on a Red-tailed, partly based on the underwing patterns in the second photo.

This one I could never have identified from this photo, but we saw it land and so were able to identify it as a Northern Harrier.
 Once again, the underneath view identified this hawk for me.  The squares of dark at the "elbow" of the wing tell me this is a Rough-legged Hawk.
Our part of what is called West-Central Saskatchewan gets huge flocks of geese in the fall but for some reason unknown to me, not as many in the spring.  We had to drive a few hours from home to see this flock of mostly Snow Geese on April 7 of this year.
Common Grackles descend on our yard in large flocks, often with Red-winged or other Blackbirds mixed in.  They swoop between trees and fill the yard with their unending and occasionally musical voices.
 
 A Bufflehead Duck, like all the male ducks in the spring, bright and beautiful and instantly identifiable, even at 100 kmph.
 A Short-eared Owl.  My first sighting in several years, so I was pleased that he stayed for a while.
 And a Sharp-tailed Grouse.  We appear to have several living close to our farm this year, though I seldom see them.
 Canada Geese on the roof of our house.  It always looks strange to see geese on a roof, but since they fly, they can perch there as easily as any robin or kingbird.
We saw this bird on April 29 which means it is a Loggerhead Shrike.  Northern and Loggerhead Shrikes are so similar that here in southern Saskatchewan we assume that shrikes check the calendar before migrating, and identify them accordingly.

 Not all our birds migrate, of course.  Here's a Great Horned Owl who stays all winter.
and some of the five or six American Goldfinches who were here all through April so I have to assume they didn't migrate. (The goldfinches usually show up on our farm the 2nd week in May.) It was interesting watching their colours change as spring approached.
 



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Green is Great

Especially when it is a bird.

Like a hummingbird.
(Purple-throated Mountain-gem on the left, Coppery-headed Emeralds on the right.)

 (Green Violetear)
 (Green-crowned Brilliant)
(Crowned Woodnymph)

 Or a Great Green Macaw
 Emerald Toucanets have different shades of green
as does the Orange-chinned Parakeet.
 While the female Green Honeycreeper is almost fluorescent green, she is so bright.
 (The male is kind of aqua, not quite green and not quite blue.)

And the Emerald Tanager is the same shade as the leaves,but its head is so bright it could have been in the yellow section.
 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Yellow is always my favourite

There are a lot of yellow birds in Costa Rica. We saw a number of them.

The Black-and-yellow Silky-flycatcher is only partially yellow.
The Black-cowled Oriole is more black than yellow, but what yellow there is, is  very bright.
The yellow in the Prothonotary Warbler is stunning.
There is a special Yellow Warbler in Costa Rica, the subspecies Mangrove Warbler.
In an area full of tanagers, it is not surprising that at least one is yellow.  This is the Silver-throated Tanager.
There are at least three yellow euphonias.
This is the Yellow-thoated Euphonia.
The Yellow-crowned Euphonia
And one that we first saw several years ago in Mexico, the Scrub Euphonia. The name refers to the bird's preferred habitat rather than a reference to its appearance or behaviour.
I leave my favourite yellow bird for the last.  The Collared Redstart was one of the cutest birds we saw in Costa Rica.  Though it was only in one region that we visited, it was common enough that we saw it several times.


Friday, March 3, 2017

Blue Birds come in Many Colours

Blue Dacnis
Shining Honeycreeper
Red-Legged Honeycreeper
Two Blue-grey Tanagers with the partially blue Hooded Tanager
Yes, I really like blue birds.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Problem with Hummingbirds

The problem with hummingbirds is that they look different in different light.  Sometimes that makes them more interesting, but sometimes it just makes identification more difficult.

While in Costa Rica we saw many hummingbirds.  A few were easy to identify, many were not.  At the time it was easy because we had Steve our guide there telling us that this is a Scintillant and that is a Volcano.  I snapped photos happily and never dreamed that when I looked at them later I would have no idea which was which and no memory of which one we saw at 8:36 and which was at 10:24.

I mentioned those two because they are the ones that are causing the most trouble. I found a website that showed photos of males and females of both which one would think would make identification easier.  One would think.  But then we are back to the problem of lighting.  None of my photos showed a bright purple or orange throat.  And my birds did not cooperate like the ones on the website and sit side by side on a branch--still--and pointing in the same direction.

So here are photos of a new hybrd discovered last December:  Scintillant-Volcano Hummingbirds.







Okay, perhaps I exaggerate a bit.  I labelled the first three pictures Scintillant and the next two Volcano.  I'd like to name the last one a Volcano as well, but I'm too confused to commit myself.

If you would like to weigh in on this (please do) here is the link to the Neotropical page that shows what these birds can look like under great lighting. I'd love to know for sure which is which.
http://neotropical.birds.cornell.edu/portal/species/identification?p_p_spp=281496


Sunday, February 5, 2017

Winter Birds from my Office Chair

I have seen birds since my last post, more than four hundred species in fact, most of them while in Costa Rica in December.  I plan to post a few photos of those, but today I am posting the birds that I saw while I should have been doing useful things with numbers.

The bird we see in our yard in winter the most is the House Sparrow.  There are dozens of them, more than we have in the summer.


Blue Jays vary in our yard, some winters we don't see any, in other years the Jays are here intermittently.  This year we seem to have about 4 or 5 on an ongoing basis.  There were more in the fall, but I think some moved on.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the photos of the Blue Jays were taken from my kitchen window, not the office window, but the same birds have been seen from the office, I just liked these photos better.)

One of my favourite winter birds, the Common Redpoll, like the Blue Jays, are not here every year.  This year I've seen maybe three or four at a time, but I am quite sure there are more around.  One of the things about a farm is that there are many food choices, showing up at the feeders by the house is not required in order to be fed.

We have a Red-breasted Nuthatch this winter.  I may have seem one in our yard occasionally in the past, but this little guy is a regular at our feeders.  Very exciting for me.

And then there is the summer bird that shouldn't be here but is.  This American Goldfinch startled me when I saw him a few days ago.  I have no idea where he has been since all his buddies few south, but he is here eating my niger seed this week.
And occasionally the sunflower seeds too.