Cool garden bird

I was making lunch on Monday when I noticed a small bird skulking about in my Mulberry tree. I was thinking it was a Nuthatch when it suddenly dropped down about 6 foot and then started making its way back up the tree trunk. I ran and grabbed my camera because I knew it was a Brown Creeper even without looking at it through my binos. The reason for my excitement wasn't because it’s a new garden bird, but just because I've rarely seen them in the garden and they're pretty cool looking birds. They also move around a lot, so getting a decent shot of them is pretty tough. I managed to snap a 'record' shot of the Brown Creeper in my garden, which is a nice first for me.


Great Horned Owl in the nest?

A local birder graciously shared the location of a Great Horned Owl nest and I didn’t waste any time to get out and scout the location. On the way back from a meeting, I slipped on my mud thugger boots and hiked out to the spot of the nest. I was very optimistic that the owls would return to the site based on the location of the nest. The nest is located in a tree hollow overlooking a decent sized river which provides both privacy and abundant food - two major concerns for owls. I had butterflies in my stomach as I hiked out to the site on an UNUSUALLY seasonal a.k.a. HOT February afternoon. I constantly scanned the directions that were provided to me to make sure that I was heading the right way and that I hadn’t missed the tree. My notes mentioned that the tree was very easy to find and I wasn’t disappointed. As I scanned the tree I didn’t see any clear evidence of any owls. I took out my video camera and shot a few frames of video to review when I got back and I also took some digital photos. I was pretty disappointed in what clearly looked like an unused nest. Generally Great Horned Owls (GHOs) start nesting early in the winter at the end of December/beginning of January in New Jersey. Based on that timing I would have expected more activity around the nest. I left the site pretty despondent that I had struck out on this owl for 2009.

This morning I looked at the photos that the referring birder had taken last year of the nesting site and what struck me was how deep the hole in the tree really is. The photo shows one of the owlets sitting in the entrance and two owlets sitting out on the branches. Based on the photo the hole is deep enough to easily hide a brooding adult GHO. Another thing that struck me was that the picture was taken in mid-April. Based on the GHO nesting timeline, that would mean that the owls would have started nesting at the beginning of February. Egg incubation takes around 30-37 days and chicks venture out onto the branches at around 6 weeks.

Armed with this info I looked at all the images I captured and I honestly think that there may be something in the nest. Look at the bottom of the hole – do you see anything or is it just my owl paranoia kicking in? Regardless I’ll be back to the site over the winter to see what I can find. My disappointment has totally been replaced with extreme optimism!

Click to view larger images


Pine Siskin Invasion

I’ve been blessed with several irruptive species in my garden this year. I’ve posted several pictures of the White winged crossbills that have taken precedence over the Pine Siskins and Purple Finches. Unlike last year, this year has been pretty poor for Purple finches and I only had a few around at the beginning of the winter. The Pine Siskins seemed to be following the same pattern and for most of the winter I’ve only had two at the feeders. With reports coming in of Common redpoll in New Jersey, I headed out to buy a thistle tube feeder to supplement my thistle sock. I was quickly rewarded with many American Goldfinches with two Pine Siskins mixed into the flock.

Well this morning I looked out at the feeders and saw a mass of finches. The balance had swung and there were actually more Siskins than Goldfinches. To date I haven’t seen a Redpoll but I am still hopeful that they’ll swing by even if it’s just for a day or two.

Breaks on!

Dropping in for a bite

Is that eye liner?


Exciting new blog!

A few weeks back I posted some Short eared owl photos from a young birder by the name of Kyle. Kyle and I share a passion for owls and I asked him permission to post some of his incredible Short eared owl pictures that he sent me.

Since then Kyle and I have corresponded several times and I’ve encouraged him to start a blog featuring his fantastic photos. He’s taken me up on the suggestion and I’d like to encourage you to check out his site. As you are well aware it can be daunting starting a new blog and your encouragement will be much appreciated. Kyle definitely has a natural talent for bird photography as I’m sure you’ll agree when you check out his site. So far he’s posted photos of Short eared owls, Bald eagles and a Red tailed hawk eating what looks like a delicious lunch. Please pop over to bird-boy’s blog and check out his awesome photos.


Exhibitionist birds of New England: Part III

Sadly, it looks like I'm finally getting to the end of my Superbowl of birding photos. Here is a set of Glaucous gull photos that I snapped while walking down the Dog Bar jetty. We were looking for Purple Sandpiper which had eluded us up until that point. Luckily we found them and a couple of great gull species.

The owl scrum

Sometimes getting a good photo of an owl can require some serious scrumming technique, especially once the crowds find out that a unique bird has been discovered. I had mentioned that I regretted not taking a photo of the actual photography pandemonium that ensued once a few people discovered the Long eared owl during the Super bowl of birding weekend in MA. Well luckily my man Corey from a 10,000 birds had his thinking cap on and snapped a pic. Click here to view the scrum. By the way, I'm the guy right in the front of the scrum and the actual position in rugby would be a prop. Generally props are shorter than 6 foot and they weigh somewhere in the region of 250lbs plus – often closer to the 300lb mark. I would make a terrible prop, as I am 6.1 ft and 215lbs. Nonetheless my commitment paid off and I took some killer shots of the Long eared owl.