3/07/2008

Crowned Eagle vs. Chevrotain

I found this incredible video when I was searching for videos of one of my favorite eagles - the Crowned eagle. The Crowned eagle is an amazingly powerful hunter found in the thick forests in South Africa. BTW, the Chevrotrain does not occur in SA, only further north.
More info on the Crowned Eagle here


Cowbird of Spring?



I had a massive flock of Red winged blackbirds, Grackles and even a couple of Cowbirds in my garden this week. The new platform feeder was swamped with birds and it was awesome to see. Have a great birding weekend. If you haven't cast a vote in the IBWO poll please visit my blog and do so.

Limited bird ID: 2nd edition

It seems like the first edition was WAY to easy and Patrick got it 1st shot. I'm hoping that this version will be a little more difficult.





3/06/2008

Sneaking up on a frozen Thrush

As I mentioned, last week Thursday’s owl prowl was FREEZING. I was well prepared for it with three layers on most parts, except my hands which only sported a pair of thinsulate gloves (anything bulkier would make it impossible to operate the camera). Anyway, as I mentioned I honestly thought I may have frost bite on my fingertips when I returned to my car. Luckily the pain wasn’t an indication that of frost bite…I guess it may have been the result of watching too many episodes of Everest beyond the limit on the discovery channel. No seriously, I started experiencing altitude sickness too.

Ok, so back to the topic at hand. After leaving the SEO’s I bumped into a Hermit Thrush. Below is the sequence of what happened in non-real time. I saw the bird and I snapped a few pics just to prove I saw it.


I then began my stalking procedure accurately mimicking an African bushmen (accurate based on the movements, not my height). After moving about 30 yards I resumed snapping pictures wildly, while at the same time being amazed that the bird was still sitting there even though I’d stepped on several twigs, tripped over some rocks and nearly fell on a massive sheet of ice that I was totally oblivious to. Ok, so the bushman stalking thing needs serious work.


After finally removing my finger from the trigger of the exhausted camera, I assumed the bushman tracking stance and headed closer to the Thrush. After another 30 yards I again stopped and another wild photo frenzy ensued.


I still had my finger on the trigger while pretty much being nose to nose with the Thrush, when the camera stopped firing. Shoot I thought (well not really, I used another synonym), what the heck (another synonym) is up now. Yip, the battery had frozen up again. This wasn’t good because (a) I wanted to skoosh around to snap pics from the front of the birds and (b) I wanted to see whether I could do a mind meld with the Thrush to see if it would move across slightly so the shadow wasn’t on it.

I knew I had a shot at (a), although I was highly skeptical that my mind meld would work on a Thrush. Being the quick thinking African that I am, I looked the Thrush in the eyes and gently slipped the catch on my camera’s battery compartment, smoothly sliding the battery out without the slightness sound. Ok, again maybe there was a slight bit more noise. The Thrush looked me right in the eye and then……just sat there. Yip, the dam thing was frozen solid. For the entire time it took me to warm up the battery, slot it back in and fire the camera back up the Thrush just sat there enjoying the warm sunlight and totally ignoring me.

So that my friends, is a detailed account of how you sneak up on an unsuspecting beautiful bird frozen Frush, I mean Thrush.

3/04/2008

News Alert: Brett Favre calls it a career

There is sooooo much being written about Brett that I figured I would post a few videos that exemplify the legend. Even if you're not a sports fan I think you'll still see why fans love this guy so much.









Limited bird ID quiz

I'm always trying to come up with new ways to get you guys to interact with me. A couple of weeks ago I posted some pictures that showed very little of the birds I was trying to capture in flight. Mike from The Feather and the Flower inspired me when he said that "even though I'm terrible at them I'm a sucker for "limited-info identification" (sounds better than "bad picture IDs," doesn't it?)".

Mike I figured I would run a few limited ID sessions to test the market for other suckers. Here are 5 limited ID photos - let's see how long it takes for someone to correctly ID them. BTW, these pictures were purposefully taken to show as little detail as possible...well that's my story and I'm sticking to it.



3/03/2008

Ivory Billed Woodpecker Poll Closing Soon

Please visit the blog and cast your vote on the status of the Ivory Billed Woodpecker. To date 30 people have voted and I'd love to hear from you. I already have March's poll topic and I am looking forward to seeing whether this will get as many votes and generate as much discussion.

Owl prowl II: Short eared and Long eared owls

With a howling wind whipping the defenseless branches outside, I dragged my sorry butt out of bed EARLY on Thursday morning. I assured myself that I was not crazy and that lots of other people do this on a regular basis, especially when they have the promise of a trifecta of owls on the horizon. Today was to be a re-run of the previous owl prowl, except this time I was shooting for Long eared owl (LEO), Short eared owl (SEO) and Saw whet owl. I quickly threw on three layers of clothes and pulled all my gear together. I jumped in the car and pulled down the road listening to Dave Matthews’ Waiting for the world to change. As I was driving along route 31 South sipping on coffee, I was pondering whether Dave was right or whether apathy would be defeated by the winds of changed promised by the next batch of presidential hopefuls.
Wow I thought to myself that is quite deep for 5:30 in the morning. I quickly banished my pseudo political thoughts deciding that the American electorate would make a sensible choice. As Lifehouse’s Hanging by a moment started, I instantaneously transformed my Nissan Sentra into a recording studio and I hooted along. 45 minutes later I arrived at my location in Mercer county. The heat in my Sentra was cranked to the max and by the looks of things the weather peeps were spot on – it looked FREEEZING outside. It was just starting to head towards dusk as I pulled into the parking lot of the Mercer county park. This was my first time at this spot and I was extremely excited as I could see two SEO’s hunting in the field right next to me.


I pulled into the parking lot and spotted more SEO’s zooming around the grassland – wow this was going to be a fantastic morning!

I strapped on all of my clothing items including gloves, a scarf, skull cap, face cover and much much more. Stepping out of my heat shield I was hit by an arctic cold but my senses were focused on tracking the SEO that was hunting a couple of yards ahead of me. The next hour was spent trying to snap SEO’s in flight as they were diligently hunting in the field in front of me largely ignoring my presence. The SEO sightings were periodically broken up by Harriers gracefully cruising along offering me some amazing views of these beautiful raptors.



After an hour of shooting pictures I suddenly realized that my camera had stopped working. I looked at the screen and noticed that the battery light was blinking. The camera wouldn’t do anything, even though I had charged it all night. I figured that it was time to head back to the car to see if I actually had frost bite on the tips of my fingers. After thawing myself and the camera for 20 minutes the camera came back to action and I re-established feeling in my fingers. Being the fanatic that I am, I headed out for more photos and finally called it quits for the SEO after about another hour. Next stop was at a small little pond up the road where I saw Rough Legged Hawk, Ruddy duck, Common Merganser, Red tailed hawk and a couple more feathered friends. I left this site and headed back to the LEO roost to see if they were still hanging out.

Walking up the path I noticed that there was a fellow birder looking in the direction of the LEO’s. He managed to point out one LEO sitting deeply in some cedar cover. I looked around for several minutes to see if I could track anymore and then moved on to see if I could find the Saw whet. The next three hours I spent looking for the cedar grove that my friend described to me without any luck. Along the way I did run into a VERY cool Hermit thrush (more to follow) as well as a Woodcock (which scared the living sh*t out of me).


Heading back to the car I walked past the LEO roost where three birders where checking in on the owls. This time one owl was pretty visible and I managed to find two other owls. The birders were very respectful and in awe of the owls, snapping what sounded like thousands of pictures. The one guy kept saying ‘I wish my wife and my daughter could see these guys’. I snapped a few decent pics and bid them a fond farewell heading back to my car, feeling a great warmth inside spreading through my body even though the temp was barely hitting 20 degrees F.
Incredible photos shared by the Flickr community group - Owls of North America. Click on the play button to begin the slideshow - ENJOY!