Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bird List Grows

Dan Koeppel wrote To See Every Bird on Earth; it was about his father's pursuit to see/identify, i.e. list 7,000 species of birds from around the world, one of only about twelve birders to achieve this feat. The author felt the purpose was: "the desire to find one's place in creation, pursued with a single-mindedness that so far has only evolved in humans. Seeing every bird is a way of seeing everything, of attempting to know everything. Such attempts mark human history, in religion and art as well as in science; they're seductive, and sometimes dangerous." I'm don't jet around the globe as Richard Koeppel,  but I have a great time birding (also dragonfly/butterfly/wildflower/lichen watching) where/when I can. I like the author's purpose, I would add 'living (not vicariously) in the moment'.
Today, I added two birds to my year list: cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedorum) and chestnut-backed chickadee (Poecile rufescens). Moments spent looking and finding were fun, exciting, challenging and produced a large degree of happiness. I'm grateful for...all of it. Here's the beautiful little chickadee in action:

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Finding the Ferruginous...Fantastic Feeling

This morning I followed up on Cynthia Hudson detailed account on area (and behavior also) of a Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) near the former paper mill (Smurfit Stone) west of Missoula, MT. I estimate this is the fifth try for finding this bird; following through/ignoring-the-resistance because of advice from Do the Work by Steven Pressfield.
In transit found: American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) [Blue Mountain and Mocassin Road] and Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) at Kona and Mullan Roads. Rough-legged (Buteo lagopus) and Red-tailed (Buteo jamaicensis) were obvious on the numerous power pole in vicinity of the mill, though most birds were at least 50 yards off the highway/pull-off. Found a pull-off on the north side of Pulp Mill road after crossing over railway tracks. Set up scope and found bird within fifteen minutes of arrival. It was perched about 250 yards away in a willow, with a stick nest, very close to rail tracks. Watched it hunt from a distance, diagnostic field marks seen well (white breasted, three points of white [base of tail and primaries], red coverts). Wow, magnificent, not all about checking off list. Watched for about an hour from different vantage points, never got close enough for better photo/look.
Took long way home in hopes of finding Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedorum). No luck, but did find a Merlin (Falco columbarius) that hunts waxwings; that's coming close isn't it :-)
Ferruginous Hawk at a distance

Prairie Falcon

Rough-legged Hawk

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lifer and Year Birds

The last life bird for me occurred at the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival in November 2010, a Crimson-collared Grosbeak (Rhodothraupis celaeno). If I remember correctly it had a beautiful, ethereal, bell-like quality song/call emitting from a dense stand of thorn scrub. Very fortunate to list; my good fortune kicked in again on Sunday afternoon in the northwest corner of Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. Near a couple of hundred of American Coot and lesser concentrations of other diving waterfowl species was a Yellow-billed Loon (Gavia adamsii), 9th record for the state. It took several minutes to find this bird. Conditions were very favorable: sun behind the back, calm 'seas' and a excellent elevated viewing site above the lakeshore. The Yellow-bill was much lighter in coloration compared to a nearby Common Loon (Gavia immer); it was sandy colored much like a Prairie Falcon. The bill was very large and so was the neck. Here's what it looked like:
Light speck to the right of the island...Y-B Loon :-)
Yes, it was so far out that I could not capture even a pixelated image. Not so with a Year bird observed today (photo below) at a Stevensville feeder...White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). This was my third try for this bird...many thanks to Judy & Bob Hoy for being so kind in letting me feeder watch from their home. A week earlier, I listed a Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) also coming to the Hoy feeders (bottom photo). Having a really good time this year birding...87 species for the year with a life list of 640. Wishing you great finds in your birding ventures!
White-throated Sparrow

Spotted Towhee

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Butterfly Publication...Reminder Spring is Coming

I just bought a great book about butterflies, Butterflies of Indiana A Field Guide by Jeffrey Bleth. It is an awesome piece of work surpassing identification (a thorough treatment mixing text, photos, phenology, abundance) while including behavior, ecology, natural history, butterfly gardening and watching, host plants, etc. Chock full of information that any naturalist or butterfly watcher can profit by, especially a reminder of the spring that is coming. Yes, Bitterroot Bill called for six more weeks of winter, but Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), the State butterfly, sightings in Montana (warm days) may be only 3 weeks away! The Montana Field Guide has the species account. Tree sap and rotting fruit are the main food sources. This serves them well; they may have the longest lifespan (10-11 months) for butterfly species...that period encompasses winter conditions! In the meantime find something great.
Mourning Cloak

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Great Gray Owl...Prepared, but Providential Find

Yet again (not a foregone conclusion), found Strix nebulosa at Maclay Flat (independently after a mere 5 tries:-)  Saw a great gray at this location two years ago. May be the same bird wintering at this spot for last couple of years...the Missoula birding community regularly checks for the bird and has nicknamed it "Waldo". I don't know of a pattern for finding this bird; it just takes plenty of scanning, attention, time and patience. Today, spotted the bird from about 150 yards away perched about 15 feet up in a Ponderosa pine bordering large open meadow.  Here's my look:
Great Gray Owl
Lucky to have caught sight of the white bow-tie against the gray background nestled in the greenery. It was great rush to find this bird. Might not have found this bird if I had not read Do The Work by Steven Pressfield; overcame internal resistance my case doing the hard work in finding this species/bird. For sure birding does not typically work like this; birds fly and sometimes far away (duh). So got lucky:-) Hope your findings are also great!