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.
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.
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!
Last week, during a rare weekday visit to one of my favorite birding hotspots (Fort De Soto County Park in Florida), I was able to catch a few lucky shots of one of our more interesting songbirds, the Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus).
Adorable, right? It’s about the size of a chickadee, but this oh-so-fluffy and cute little bird has some very vicious feeding habits, leading some to call it the “Butcher Bird”.
Take a look at that open beak. See the sharp hooked point? It’s used to tear apart fairly large prey like lizards, snakes, mice, and even other birds. Once the Shrike has the prey, it subdues it by impaling it on something sharp, like the thorn of an acacia tree or a barbed-wire spike. Sometimes, it leaves the prey there to slowly die and decompose, making it easier to eat later on. You can see this feeding behavior in action in this video by National Geographic.
The Loggerhead Shrike is pretty easy to identify from its black “mask”, which sets it apart from Northern Mockingbirds. Males and females look alike, with juveniles only distinguished by a slightly duller gray plumage. In the summer, you’ll find it across much of the U.S. and Mexico, as well as parts of lower Canada.
Clockwise from left: magnolia warbler, Nashville warbler, American redstart, chestnut-sided warbler. These birds were spotted at the Magee Marsh boardwalk and taken by Deb Neidert.
You know how we’ve told you time and time again about how Northwest Ohio is the “warbler capital of the world?” Well, in case you didn’t believe it before, believe me now. This place is AMAZING. Some say it is “raining warblers” during this migration timeframe, and they are right! Put this festival on your bucket list. Right now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Now let me tell you about the birds. Birds & Blooms editor Stacy Tornio and I kept a running list of all the bird species we saw throughout our 3.5 days at The Biggest Week in American Birding. We were very strict about this list, too. One of us had to have gotten a good look at it or it didn’t make the cut. We spent a full day birding some of the private properties in the area. The owners were gracious enough to let us walk their properties where we saw cool things like bobolinks, grasshopper sparrows and an eastern kingbird.
Palm warbler taken by Deb Neidert.
Are you ready to hear our final number? Drumroll, please! 101! We saw 101 different species of birds. We’re well aware that birding pros saw many more species than that, but we’re happy with our 101 and we’re pretty proud of it (it did take a little bit of last-minute birding before we hit the road to head back to Wisconsin, though). I think my favorite sighting was the indigo bunting. Or the chestnut-sided warbler. Or the northern parula. Or the eastern meadowlark. Shoot. I guess I can’t pick a favorite.
The red-headed woodpecker was our 100th bird.
It was hard to say good-bye to our bird friends and all of the readers and fellow birders we met on this trip. But we’ll be back to see the warblers again next year. See you in 2014, Biggest Week! And to all of our readers: We hope you’ll be able to join us next year.
Look closely and you’ll see Kenn and Kim Kaufman and Don and Lillian Stokes! We were lucky enough to bird with them.
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 [...]
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 [...]
It looks like the Snowy Egret might be singing “mama told me there’d be days like this.” It looks like the wind was blowing it’s ‘hair’ (feather plumes) up above it’s head. However, that isn’t really what was happening. The actual explanation comes from the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission’s website: During the breeding season, [...]
Honest, this bird is a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher-but the latter part of the name is pronounced ‘nat-catcher’ with the ‘g’ silent. They are small, slender birds with bluish-gray feathers (yes, the ‘Blue-gray’ part of their name refers to their coloration). They have distinctive white eye rings and quite long blackish tails with white on the outer [...]
This unusual appearing bird is called a Long-billed Curlew (pronounced ‘curl-you’). And it is a very large shorebird as it stands about 2 feet high making it the largest of the regularly occurring shorebirds found in North America. It’s long downwardly curved bill is more than 8 inches in length. The purpose of this bird’s [...]
This little screech owl was seen acting as though it was ill or injured about 3 weeks ago by one of my neighbors. She called our local wildlife officer who secured it in a box and was trying to get help transporting it to the Pueblo Raptor Center that is located about 35 miles away. [...]
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology needs your help! They’re calling on all bird lovers to participate in NestWatch this spring. NestWatch is a citizen science program that helps scientists study and understand birds’ plight. Over the past 30 years, tree swallows, barn swallows violet-green swallows, purple martins and eastern Phoebes have dropped in number. They’re not [...]
This male Hooded Oriole is truly eye-candy! It’s bright orange body is offset by contrasting black mask, bib and tail plus black wings with two white wing bars. I think they are just stunning. Hooded Orioles are primarily a southwestern bird species. It’s range is from the Rio Grande Valley of Texas on the east, [...]
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Meet Rob Ripma, our newest featured blogger. The Birds & Blooms staff was able to meet Rob at The Biggest Week in American Birding. Rob, along with his brother Eric, write the Nutty Birder blog where they share photos from their birding adventures both near and far. Check it out: Nutty Birder.