Beaut of a Blue Jay

I was watching a Blue Jay munch on some peanuts while making a cup of coffee and I was taken aback by how colorful the birds was. Blue Jays literally look like someone had too much blue and sprayed the bird with shades all over its body. I often think we overlook the magnificence of birds merely because they are so common. What birds in your area fall into that category?

It is funny because I still remember the time I saw my first Blue Jay. We had just arrived in the States and we were living in a condo complex. It was a snowy day and I needed to take the dog for a walk. When I walked outside I marveled at how quiet it was out. Suddenly the air pierced with a raucous sound and I saw an amazingly colorful blue bird fly across the white snow - bingo my first Blue Jay! It's strange because when you're a birder you use birds to mark moments in time, much like many people do with songs. When you hear a song on the radio it takes you back to a moment in time. Blue Jays take me back to that first winter when I made the long trip across the pond. If you have stories of moments in time marked by a bird I would love to hear them. If not, what birds do you think are overlooked?

Have a great weekend and welcome to an unofficial winter!


Screech owl pictures

For those of you who haven't checked out my blog links and the right, make sure that you check out the Urban Hawks blog. Bruce has some amazing shots of Screech Owls in Central Park - well worth a visit.

BTW, it is snowing very lightly out here today and my bird feeders are packed with birds. I'm hoping to get a visit from a hawk sometime soon...

Tigers in Africa

Americans are always in awe when you mention you're from Africa. Generally the response is something like "Woo, you have all those tigers, lions and elephant running all over the place". Before John Varty and Dave Salmoni got involved with tigers, there were actually no wild roaming tigers in Africa. For those of you who missed the Discovery channel's special (Living with Tigers) on John Varty's project to teach zoo born tigers to hunt in the African bush it is well worth a watch. As can be expected there has been a massive amount of back lash and criticism regarding this unusual project.

What I find more amazing than people's misconception about tigers in Africa is the fact that many people assume that wild animals are everywhere in Africa. In South Africa that is definitely not the case and the closest game reserve with any of the big five was at least 3-4 hours from Johannesburg. What astounded me when I got to America was the amount of wild life that can be found in reasonably built up areas. South Africans visitors are constantly blown away when they see a deer running around our garden. Now add onto that squirrel, ground hog, chipmunks, rabbits, opossums, raccoons, fox, bears and the like and SA visitors are blown away! "You guys have more wildlife in your garden than we do for hundreds of miles" - is a typical response.

Don't get me wrong - there is PLENTY of wildlife in the national and private reserves. If you want an AWESOME birding experience head to South Africa. My point is that us Americans should appreciate all of the wildlife that is around us. Yes, I know the squirrels are annoying when they eat all the bird food, but try to appreciate the beauty that nature has to offer. Seeing a wild lion, leopard or cheetah in Africa is unbelievable but count your blessing for what we have in our gardens over here. I am an hour from NYC and I regularly see Red Fox - come on that is amazing!

Welcome to my garden: Pileated Woodpecker

I have seen a couple of Pileated Woodpeckers, but mostly very briefly and often times they were flying over me. This morning I was out filling my bird bath when I heard a loud tapping. When I listened a little closer I heard that the tapping was extremely loud. I thought to myself this Red Bellied must be having a really bad day. I walked over to the sound and realized that the sound was coming from my neighbors garden. I looked across at the Pine Tree and noticed something BIG tapping on some dead branches. Inching closer I noticed that distinct red head.....wow a Pileated Woodpecker - my heart stopped! I rushed back inside and grabbed my camera. Luckily the pecker was eagerly chipping away at the bark and in fact he didn't even notice when trudging through the dead leaves. Eventually he got bored and took off landing in a tree right next to me (actually this is the same tree that the vulture was roosting in).

With my heart racing and my hands shaking I managed to take a few quick snaps before my new garden arrival took off for good. WOW - what an amazingly spectacular bird. The red head, black body and that distinctive flight pattern. Mr. P welcome to my garden, I hope to see you soon!

Owl box camera: Hawkeye Spycam

I guess in all my excitement I failed to mention the details of the new owl cam. I looked around at bird cams and several resourceful folks have put together their own bird house cams. I looked at the specs on the Barred Owl cam as well as at Chris' Eastern Screech Owl cam. Both of these seemed great, although it required a lot of wiring and TIME. Time is something of a rare luxury with two little monkees in the house, so I wanted something that was easier to put together. I came across some bird cams at birhousespycam.com. The neat thing about these cameras is that they are self contained and in a sense they are just plug and play.

Initially I was looking at the black and white camera (Night owl). When I contacted the folks at birdhousespycam they mentioned that they were coming out with a new camera, the Hawkeye which has a few improvements over the older night owl - it is a color camera during the day and it can be mounted outdoors. Both of these features made me wait until the beginning of December when the new camera was launched. I am hoping that setup will be quick and easy barring the couple of holes that need to be drilled in the house.....ouch! I'll keep you posted on my developments. By the way if you have a camera setup I would LOVE to hear from you.

By the way, Jim Wright at Birds, Bats and Beyond has the Night Owl and he seems to be very happy with it and according to him setup was pretty painless.


Owl spycam

Well I finally bit the bullet and bought a spycam for the owl box. I have been telling myself that I need to wait until I have a successful season. Well my patience has fizzled out and I'll be installing a hawk eye owl cam shortly! Having a bird's eye view inside the box will be an awesome new experience and I will keep you posted on my progress. I'm not sure whether I will be able to install the camera with the box mounted to the tree although I really don't want to take it down. I think I'll give it a shot with the box mounted and see if I can get all the necessary holes drilled, wires run etc.