January 27, 2009

Snowy Owl Day

Today my mom and I went out to look for a Snowy Owl that was being reported near the Owego Wetlands which is not far from where I live. I decided to check a wildlife area on the way down for birds since it was on the way and worth checking. When we got there my mom spotted a large white bird fly up to the top of a grain bin. I looked where she was talking about with my binoculars and saw an adult Snowy Owl perched on the bin. The Snowy Owl that we were going to look for was a juvenile so they were different birds, a great surprise! I called up a couple area birders and they rushed down to see it. On the way there I saw a Northern Shrike as well as a couple mammals such as Mink (weasel) and Red Fox.
After I spent some time photographing and watching the first owl it was time to find the second. We pulled up to the spot where the second owl was seen and found it fairly quickly perched on a post. I got a picture before it flew out into the middle of a field. Seeing two Snowy Owls in one day around here is not easy to do. Finding one can even prove to be a challenge. Most years only one (or even no) Snowy Owls are seen. So far this winter we've had three in the area.After I was done watching the Snowy Owl we (more like I, my mom isn't really a birder) decided to look for a flock of forty Common Redpolls at the wetland area nearby. I had already seen the flock a few days earlier but I wanted to see it again to see if there were any Hoary Redpolls in with them. We found the flock but they flew off after a minute of watching them. Redpolls have to be one of the hardest kinds of birds to observe if they are not sitting still on a feeder. They move around from place to place (they usually stayed in one location for a few minutes and then they moved to another one usually far away) and even when they are feeding the are constantly moving.
The regular birds to the wetland are are also interesting. It doesn't take Snowy Owls or Common Redpolls to make it an interesting day. There are many birds there most of the time such as Short-eared Owl (pictured), Rough-legged Hawk, Merlin, etc. It is a great place to visit almost anytime.

January 25, 2009


My dad and I headed down to the Owego Wetlands this morning to see a flock of 40 Common Redpolls that had been reported there the day before. It didn't take long to spot the large group of them feeding on sunflower and thistle near the road. The only bad thing was that they wouldn't stay still long enough for me to get a good photo. I would often put my camera up and right as I was about to take the picture the birds would move. It was very frustrating but eventually and with much persistence I got least one identifiable picture. Even though the best picture I got is bad it's better than not having one. My dad and I followed the birds around as they went from place to place in search of food. One bird in the flock looked like a Hoary Redpoll but he never stated still long enough for me to positively identify it. In flight I could see that the bird had a very white and unstreaked rump and it was rather frost colored as well. The flock contained some male redpolls with gorgeous red bibs which made it worth it.

We eventually lost track of the flock after a couple hours of watching them. We tried and tried to find them again but they were not to be seen. It looked like they headed straight for the middle of the wetland nowhere near the road. Even though they left sooner than I wished it was still worth the trip.

Thanks Stan for the great find!

January 24, 2009

Going to the Bog!

On February 13-15 I will be at the Sax-Zim Bog Birding Festival in northern Minnesota in search of the special birds that are there during this time of year. I currently have 295 life birds and I should be able to get to 300 before it is all said and done. A list of proabable life birds that I most likely get while I'm there is below. I should see all of these birds there so if I do I will be over the three-hundred mark.

  • Ruffed Grouse
  • Northern Hawk-Owl
  • Great Gray Owl
  • American Three-toed Woodpecker
  • Black-backed Woodpecker
  • Boreal Chickadee
  • Hoary Redpoll
  • Pine Grosbeak

I can't wait to see some owls! Details on how the trip went will be posted soon after the festival.

January 23, 2009

Owego Wetlands Owls

Here are a couple Short-eared Owl pictures that I took at the Owego Wetlands last night. There were at least nine there. A Great Horned Owl (not pictured) was also seen. One day I will get a nice picture of a short-eared owl but until then here are some bad photos of them for you to try to enjoy!

January 18, 2009

Scout Camp Birds

Our local boyscout troop went out camping this past weekend in the cold winter weather. In all honesty the thirty-degree temperatures made it feel like a heat wave! This is about 50 degrees warmer than it was a few days before we went camping so this was an improvement. While we went around camp, I of course payed some attention to the birds in the area. There was plenty of bird activity to keep me occupied. One bird that came as a surprise was a Red-headed Woodpecker. These birds can be found fairly easily in our area during the summer but they are rare in the winter. A Barred Owl was another nice find during the weekend. We were taking a night hike when I heard one call from the distance. I tried to imitate it's call but all it did was make him stop calling. Bald Eagles, Rough-legged Hawk, Northern Flicker, American Robin, and Cedar Waxwings as well as the more common birds were also around making for a nice assortment of birds.

January 15, 2009


I woke up this morning and looked out at our thermometer and saw that it was minus 19 degrees! It was extremely cold and made it hard to stay outside for too long. Despite the very cold conditions the birds were out as usual. The first bird to come to the feeders on this frigid morning was a Hairy Woodpecker. Other interesting birds seen include an American Robin and a few Snow Buntings which I found with some Horned Larks in a field near my house.
Let's not forget the Sharp-shinned Hawk that made an attack on one of the birds in our yard. I came upon a site where he had recently made a kill and in the picture below you can see the mess that they make. Feathers were everywhere and there were lots of marks in the snow where it's wings and body touched the ground. They almost look like "bird snow angels" (more like snow devils in his case).Just nearby I found the bird that it took down. It was a big bird so whatever it was it must have been hard to get under control.
The hawk itself was not far from its kill. I managed to get some decent photos of him from the road without spooking it.

The high for the day was only minus 3 degrees, which is the first time we've had sub-zero high in four years. Despite the cold the birds were out and struggling to survive on this very cold day.

January 10, 2009

2009 Birding So Far

2009 has been a fun year so far. I currently have 51 species on my year list, with Yellow-billed Loon being the most interesting species so far. Here are a few pics of birds I've seen since my last post.

I decided to stick a feeder to my bedroom window so I would be able to see the birds from my room. A Hairy Woodpecker was one of the first birds to come to the suet feeder, followed by many more birds. I do get a little mad when they come to the feeder and start pecking away when I'm trying to sleep.
A Northern Pintail pair have taken up residence in a pond off the Interstate in Sioux City, IA. Despite the cold temperatures they are still around. When I went to get pictures of them they swam right into the fountain!
This picture shows a Northern Shrike in flight. My mom and I saw it when we were out and about and tried to get a picture of him but he was a little stubborn.

January 3, 2009

Cold CBC Birding

Today was the Ponca CBC in NE Nebraska. The high temperature of 34 for the day was at six in the morning and after that it dropped off and freezing rain moved in. We only saw about 20 species during the whole morning and we were downright frozen at times.
We started our morning owling at Ponca State Park before the cold and rain came in and scared all of the birds off. We tried several locations for Eastern-screech and Barred Owls and saw the screech owls only. After a while of tape playing a screech owl responded to our tape once and was not heard again. Another one flew across the road as we were driving through the park.
When the time came to get assigned areas we went up to the visitor center and got things figured out. We went to Buckskin Hills WMA and saw a small number of birds as we went along with a Belted Kingfisher being the most interesting. Besides that all the birds were the ones you would expect there at this time of the year.

January 2, 2009

loon, gulls, ducks, and more

At Fort Randall Dam in South Dakota a number of good water birds have been recently found. The best of these was a Yellow-billed Loon that has been seen in the area below the dam for a few days. This species is a new bird for the state and I wanted to see it a lot. I called up a couple birders and we decided to head out there to find it. Even if we missed the bird we still would find Long-tailed Duck, Thayer's Gull, Glaucous Gull, and more which would all be worth the trip to me. We headed out at 6am and made the 2hr 30min journey up there. The sun was up and out when we arrived and so were the birds and I was getting excited. We drove down to where they had been seeing it and after only a short minute of looking for it I saw the loon sitting out in the middle of the river. It was easy to spot as he was much bigger than all of the other birds on the river. The pressure of finding it was off and now we could observe it as well as the other birds there with a little more ease. After a while of watching my 294th life bird swim around for a while we started paying attention to some of the other birds around the area.
A couple Thayer's Gulls, my 295th life bird and the second of the day were flying around with the Herring Gulls out in front of us. A Long-tailed Duck was also in the river in the tail race below the dam along with hundreds of other waterfowl such as mergansers and goldeneye. Bald Eagles were also everywhere and were a pleasure to watch as they went back and forth up the river looking for food.
Once the area was completely birded we decided to head for home. We missed the Glaucous Gull that were supposed to be there. Another dam was on the way back to Sioux City so we ducked in there for ma moment. About a quarter mile down the river we found our Glaucous Gulls! There were four of them sitting in the river. All of the birds that we were hoping to find today were found and it made for a very successful trip.
After a great day of birding we headed home with a good number of year and life birds under our belts!

January 1, 2009

First of 2009

The first bird of 2009 for me was a Downy Woodpecker. My bed is near a window that has a suet feeder suctioned to it so I woke up to the tapping of a woodpecker. I was too tired to get up and search for owls so I missed out and having anything extra special as the first bird-maybe next year.