I took these photos of a Red-tailed Hawk who has her nest in a cave just yesterday morning . This is the first time I have been able to see her young nestlings and they only came into sight when she returned to the nest with food.
This nest is in a well protected location as it is built in this cave located on a cliff that is high up a steep hillside making it very difficult for predators to access it. You can see in the photo below that is not enlarged (by cropping the photo) that the nest is quite large. This location has been used intermittently over the past 7-8 years I have been watching birds in the canyon in Colorado where it is located and the hawks add nesting material to whatever material that is still there from previous nestings.
It takes a very long camera lens to capture even large birds like hawks when they are over a hundred feet away. I have a 400 mm lens with a 1.4 extender on my dslr camera. Since my Canon 60d camera is not full lens I get an additional 1.6X multiplier so it totals the equivalent of a 900 mm lens or 16X the view with our eyes.
The best thing about having a long camera lens is that I can photograph birds from a distance that does not disturb them which is especially important during nesting season. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology cautions bird photographers on their webpage ‘Responsible Bird Photography’:
- Taking photographs of nesting birds is of special concern. When photographing nests or around a known nesting location please take extra care.
The photo just above shows a little more detail of the older nestling including it’s bill that now resembles the adult’s. Did you know that you can watch a live-streaming web cam showing a Red-tailed Hawk nest with nestlings? You can watch this at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Bird Cam website.
When you look at this Northern Waterthrush you might think, “gee, it looks kind of like a robin”. Indeed it’s body shape and stance is much like a robin. And since American Robins are members of the trush family, and this bird is called a ‘waterthrush’, you might come to a logical decision that it is a thrush of some sort. Not so as this bird is a member of the warbler family.
In addition to looking like thrushes they also get around by walking on the ground, something you see robins do. As they walk they ‘bob’ their tails which remind more of sandpipers than warblers.
Northern Waterthrush are also unusual because of where the extremes of habitat they choose. The Smithsonian Museum’s ‘Migratory Center’ describe this extreme habitat change as follows:
- Summers are spent amid the swamps and sluggish rivers of the far north’s forests, with beavers, moose, and bears for neighbors. In winter, they head south to tropical swamps, trading northern conifers for southern mangroves. The thrushes get a whole new set of neighbors including boa constrictors, manatees, iguanas, and fish-eating bats.
They do favor areas with water and are usually found in the areas with some water such as slow moving streams, ponds, and wetlands. They are often at water’s edge where they use their bills to probe and look under leaves for insects. Although they are widespread they are not easily seen as they tend to stay in or near cover.
Northern Waterthrush are usually seen during migration. They migrate through most of the lower 48 states and parts of Canada during spring and fall as shown on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology range map below:
Northern Waterthrush look similar to a related warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush. But it’s eyestripe isn’t as wide and doesn’t extend as far back to it’s nape as it does on Louisiana Waterthrush, it’s legs are not as pink, it’s throat is usually striped and some may be less white on it’s underparts. Louisiana Waterthrush are generally found in Eastern U.S. areas.
This handsome hawk is named a Broad-winged Hawk for it’s rather broad wings. Adult Broad-winged Hawks have distinctive bands on their tails that is found on both the light morph as well as on the rare dark morph birds. These light morph types have dark barring on their underparts and this one was heavily barred which I think added to it’s beauty.
Broad-winged Hawk are found in eastern areas of the United States but their range extends further west in Canada so some do migrate up through Colorado. I found this hawk a few weeks ago in south central Colorado where it stopped over for a few days during it’s migration north to Canada where it will breed.
Broad-winged Hawks migrate long distances and Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides this interesting information:
- A recent study attached satellite transmitters to the backs of four Broad-winged Hawks and followed them as they migrated south in the fall. The hawks migrated an average of 7,000 km (4,350 mi) to northern South America, and traveled an average of 111 km (69 mi) each day.
During the fall Broad-winged Hawks gather in large flocks that can have as many as thousands of individual birds. The Audubon website states that, “…more than 19,000 were counted in one day as they passed over the lookout at Hawk Mountain, Pennsylvania.” That’s a whole lot of hawks!
I don’t believe there is a deeper and more brilliant blue than the plumage of male Blue Grosbeak in their spring finery. Male birds need to impress females by both their bright plumage and singing that they are the healthiest male birds around so the females will choose them to father their offspring. So many male landbirds don their brightest plumage during spring. I photographed this bird near my home in Colorado on May 10 so he was all decked out in fresh colorful feathers.
Adult male Blue Grosbeak in breeding plumage are deep blue overall with bright rusty bars on brown wings. They have very large silver colored conical beaks that identify them as one of the grosbeak species.
As noted above these and many other landbirds attract females by their singing. Listen to one of their songs on this Audubon Society website.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology range map above shows that Blue Grosbeak can be seen during the summer breeding season throughout most of the mid-West as well as more southern states to the east and west. They begin to show up in April in the most southern parts of the U.S. but more north to their breeding areas from April through May.
While many birdwatchers think of sparrows as LBJ’s–’little brown jobs’–there are some that are both quite distinctive and that may frequent backyard bird feeders. The Harris’s Sparrow is not only distinctive but I think most handsome in it’s breeding plumage: black forehead, crown and nape plus a black bib on an otherwise gray face and highlighted by a pink bill. Their underparts are white with black streaking along it’s sides.
Even their backs are distinctive–a pretty brown laced with black streaks.
Harris’s Sparrows are found mid-America and mid-Canada birds as can be seen by the range map below. However, I live about 200 miles west of their range but found the bird in these photos and a second one traveling with it just the other day in south central Colorado. Though they may be seen a little west and a little east of the areas identified in the map, folks in the East and West will have to travel to the center to see them.
Though I have yet to have the privilege of having a Harris’s Sparrow come to my feeders, I recently communicated with someone in northern Colorado who has had two of them coming to her feeders daily for the past 5 months! And she loves it. I have also seen posts on various facebook sites from backyard bird enthusiasts who have these neat sparrows coming to their feeders.
Harris’s Sparrows are ground feeders so prefer food located on or near the ground. They are known to eat black oil sunflower seeds, suet, peanut butter, cracked corn, and dried fruit.
For sure once you have seen one of these beauties you won’t think of sparrows just as little brown birds anymore.