The wildlife refuge that we go to has several fields. Each year they will plant crops in the fields, last year there was a lot of corn. They waited to harvest the corn until it was past ripe and dried up, so we assume it was going to be used for animal feed.
This year they rotated to mostly soy plants, not sure when they will harvest that…
But there are a couple of fields that might be just for the birds…
I hope to be there when the sunflower seeds are ready! I want to see the birds having one big party!!!
Went to the wildlife refuge again yesterday… I have the summertime blues when it comes to looking for birds!
The birds aren’t singing, there are so many leaves and it’s hot!!!
I went with very low expectations, I really didn’t think that I would see any new birds for the year, but we were looking for something to do (still haven’t been going inside stores…)
So packed a lunch and off we went…
At the first stop, I heard a Kentucky Warbler, so that was good. I hadn’t gotten one yet this year. We drove a bit further and found a few other birders.
They were all looking up in the sky in the same direction. It’s always good to quickly look in the direction that everyone else is, just in case there is something great that you just have to see!
Ended up they were looking at a Mississippi Kite. Great! I hadn’t seen one of those yet either!
I talked to the group and found out that there really wasn’t much else there to see, but I did find out where there was a Barn Owl nest box that had been used. We found the box and even though the Owls are all gone, it’s a good place to check out next spring to see if they use it again.
Here are photos of the one bird that I saw 3 of in various locations along a stream. The Barred Owl. they must have all fledged the nest, so there seem to be more of them flying around…
Years ago, when I was walking along a sidewalk in Southern California, I spotted a bird feeder in the side yard of someone’s apartment. There were a few birds at the feeder, so I stopped to take a quick look.
I saw a bird that had orange on its head and chest. I had never seen this bird before (or so I thought)! Did I find a new species to add to my life list? I was very excited… I took a quick photo or two and went on my way.
Later that night, I decided to look at my photos and do some “homework.” I would try to figure out just what bird I had seen at the feeder.
Well needless to say… I should have done “homework” on birds in California before I went out there for my trip. It might have saved me the embarrassment of realizing that I had in fact seen the common House Finch!
This is a House Finch that I found in California. They are common all over the US. They are native to the Southwest, but in the 1940s pet store owners who had been illegally selling these birds in New York, set them free so they wouldn’t get in trouble. Since then, these birds have colonized and spread all the way over to the central part of the country, meeting up with their native western kin.
Note the very orange coloring this bird has. I find that most of the House Finches I see in California seem to be mostly orange.
Now here is a House Finch from the East Coast.
Do you see the red? That is why I thought I had a different bird… though when you really look at the birds, they look identical in every other feature! So, maybe I was just very new to birding… now I can hear them singing and know just who I’m listening to.
Have you ever been confused about what bird you are looking at? I still have trouble with Sandpipers, Hawks and Sparrows!!!
There are 10 Oriole species listed on the Audubon site as being possibly seen in the US. I have seen 6 of them.
Most of them have bold, beautiful colors making them some of the most brilliantly colored songbirds in the US.
This is the Bullock’s Oriole. They can be found from the center of the US west to the Pacific Coast. They will winter in the tropics.
Here is the Hooded Oriole. They can be found in the Southwest US states and winter in Mexico. Their diet includes insects, berries and nectar. Often visiting hummingbird feeders, sometimes if the feeders are kept out throughout the winter, the Hooded Oriole will not bother to migrate south.
This is the Orchard Oriole. Probably the least colorful of all the Orioles, it is chestnut and black. You can find this Oriole from the East Coast, west to central US. They will winter in the tropics.
Have you ever seen a White-tailed Kite, or any Kite species? The way that they hunt for food is just amazing to watch!
You will see them flying over open areas, then they’ll pause and hover (just like a toy kite), floating in the air, just searching the ground. Once they spot prey, they’ll dive down and catch it in their talons.
They prefer to eat small rodents that are out and about during the day, such as voles and house mice.
Here is an adult hovering over a low brushy area near the ocean.
Next is a photo of the bird after it caught a mouse.
Next are photos of a juvenile White-tailed Kite. Notice the adult is gray and white, where as the juvenile has brown on its chest and back.
See the color difference between the adult and the juvenile.
The young will be able to fly about 30 days after hatching. Parents may nest a second time and if they do, they often will drive the first batch of youngsters away from the nesting territory.
This may have been the case with this juvenile, there were 2 of them hunting together.
You can see the White-tailed Kite in California, Arizona and southern Texas.
In the birding world there are some birds that are so similar that unless you study the bird up close and personal, the only way to tell them apart is by their location.
You can see that in some of the Eastern birds vs. the Western birds. Like the Eastern and Western Meadowlarks, Eastern and Western Screech-Owl, Eastern and Western Bluebird and Eastern and Western Wood-Pewee, to name a few…
But this is not the case with the Eastern and Western Kingbirds. You certainly wouldn’t have any problem identifying these two birds from each other…
This is the Eastern Kingbird, a bold black and white bird with a wide white band on the tip of its tail. It can be found throughout most of the US except for the far western states.
They will winter in South America where they usually live in flocks eating berries in the tropical forests. The rest of the year you can see them foraging alone on a perch, flying out to catch an insect.
Here is the Western Kingbird, they are so different from the Eastern Kingbird, with their bright yellow belly and light gray chest and head.
They can be found from the west coast east to the Great Plains in the US. They winter in the tropics. They also forage by watching from a perch then flying out to get insects.
I’ve seen them going after crows that got too close to their nest, it didn’t seem to be afraid at all to take on the bigger bird!
So if you ever see either of these two birds, you should be able to easily tell them apart, but identifying the Western Kingbird vs the Cassin’s Kingbird or Couch’s Kingbird, well that’s a whole other story…
You can find them along the Pacific Coast as well as the Gulf Coast. They look a lot like the Piping Plover, but unlike the Piping Plover, the Snowy’s black chest band is always incomplete.
Often overlooked when you’re walking along the beach, these little ones are only around 6 inches!
Unfortunately, because they are so hard to spot, their population has declined. Humans will hang out on the beaches and not even notice that they are keeping the Snowy Plover from its nest. On many beaches now they have started to rope off areas just for the Plovers to build their nests in.
Unfortunately, the Plovers don’t always get the memo… so keep a look out for them whenever you are walking the beaches during nesting season.
The young leave the nest only a few hours after hatching, they are able to feed themselves and will be able to fly around 30 days later.
Don’t forget to check out my book on Amazon called Snowy at the Beach, about the adventures of a cute Snowy Plover.
Their dark eye stands out against their bright yellow face. The males have reddish streaks on their chest. They are hard to miss when they are perched on the end of a green leafy branch.
You can find them throughout most of the US, but they breed from the middle of the country north all the way up to Alaska.
You can see that this one is a male, see the streaks on his chest. They have a very early migration, usually flying at night, south to the tropics, during the month of August.
They have cup like nests that cowbirds will often lay their eggs in (for the Yellow Warbler to take care of and feed), but the Yellow Warblers are smart! They’ll just put in a new floor over the cowbirds eggs and lay some more of their own.
There was even one recorded case where the cowbirds returned 5 times to lay more eggs on each new floor, but the Yellow Warbler went on to build 6 layers of floors over all of the cowbirds eggs!
Often you’ll see them foraging from the lower levels of trees all the way to the tops. They eat insects, but they favor various kinds of caterpillars.
They have a pretty song and the male will defend their nesting territories by singing.
I recently saw this bird hanging around a small pond that I was birding at. I have already seen this bird this year and didn’t need to add it to my count, but I enjoy getting its photo. I think the reason I try to get photos of the Black-crowned Night-Heron is because they don’t move much, they don’t flutter around, they aren’t too skittish, they don’t fly off when I stop nearby, they just sit quietly letting me take my photo.
Have you ever seen the Black-crowned Night-Heron’s eyes? The dark red eyes, kinda looks like a shiny marble.
Sometimes they’ll walk slowly through the shallow water, but they’re often seen just standing still.
Most of the time they forage throughout the night. During the day you usually see them in groups just sitting in trees near water. They will mostly eat fish.
They are found throughout the US and are found nesting on every continent except Antarctica and Australia.
It is thought that they forage at night because during the day all the other herons and egrets forage, making it difficult for the Black-crowned Night-Heron to compete for food.