Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Tweet and See: July 2011

Join Heather at Kingdom Arrows for more
Tweet and See fun!

This month, I got to go bird watching with my birding chick buddy, Heather!  That's my best birdie moment for the year.  Unfortunately, I did not get to take any pictures because I left my camera at home.  :(

Our friend, Amy, went birding with us, too!!  She was nice enough to drive around a nature center (very slowly) and pull over every few minutes so Heather and I could hop out and work on identifying what we heard.  She even put up with me playing bird and frog songs on the Identiflyer from the back seat!  Now that is a GREAT friend!  :)

The list isn't long this month since my birding time was greatly limited before the get-together and not very profitable (in terms of number of birds seen/heard) while birding with the girls (it was totally profitable in the phew-I-get-some-time-off-to-hang-out-with-my-friends-and-relax-and-be-silly way, though).

Okay, so here's the list.  It's not as long as that last hyphenated adjective!
  1. Common Grackle
  2. Black Vulture
  3. Turkey Vulture
  4. Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  5. Northern Mockingbird
  6. Mourning Dove
  7. Red-headed Woodpecker
  8. Chimney Swift
  9. European Starling
  10. Common Yellowthroat
  11. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  12. White-breasted Nuthatch
  13. Carolina Chickadee
  14. Louisiana Waterthrush
  15. Yellow Warbler
  16. Tufted Titmouse
  17. American Crow
The other BEST BIRDIE MOMENT this month was that MY BOYS AND THEIR BIRDING BUDDIES WERE FEATURED ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE LOCAL NEWSPAPER!!!  They were the top story with a big, full-color picture and everything.  Our Audubon plushies were even featured with a picture of their own!

The best part is that Orville, when asked what he liked about bird watching, replied, "We get to hang out with our friends and enjoy God's creation." 

That was the caption above their picture (in large print) as well as the ending quote.

Congratulations, Orville, Wilbur, K, and C!  I am really pleased with you all!!  You are my best birding buddies!!!

Until we tweet again...

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Birding 101: Birding by Ear

When we started bird watching, I thought being able to distinguish between bird songs was some kind of special ability that only truly gifted naturalists possessed.  I never imagined that the boys and I would be able to quickly and easily identify a long list of birds just by hearing their songs/calls.

Birding by ear took birding to a whole new level for us, and I highly recommend you take some time to listen to recordings and do memory work indoors so that you can have greater success while outdoors.  It's a lot more fun than it sounds.

Mnemonics have helped us greatly, and over at Olive Plants, I published a little piece about it last year.  Rather than write a new post, I'll just link you to it.  Fly on over to get a list of our favorite mnemonics and other birding by ear resources!

Though slow-going, this series is not dead!  Subscribe or follow so you won't miss any of our future posts on how to teach your kids to use a field guide, write bird stories, keep a birding journal and life list, and much more!

Consider keeping a journal of the birds you hear or see this month and Tweet and See with Heather.  You can link in with other bird enthusiasts on the last day of each month.  I really enjoy reading the reports of birders from Georgia to Washington.  Maybe one day we'll be able to read reports from around the world!

Until we tweet again....

Friday, July 1, 2011

Tweet and See: June 2011

Visit Kingdom Arrows
for more Tweet and See fun!

We had a great month of birding.  The backyard is still in disarray as my husband is completing a backyard remodel which includes the removal of a rather large magnolia tree. 

The Magnolia Tree sans Branches
The trunk is about to go soon.  :(

However, I am an English tutor who travels to the homes of my students.  While driving around town this month, I saw lots birds.  Then, on the last day of June, we went to a local state park (one of my favorite local spots) and identified 39 species.  Some were on the list already, but most were new additions.

One of the birds I saw in a student's neighborhood: the Killdeer!
My husband took this picture at the lake,
not in the subdivision, however.

Here's our list:
  1. Killdeer
  2. Barn Swallow
  3. Carolina Wren
  4. Brown Thrasher
  5. Northern Mockingbird
  6. American Robin
  7. Eastern Bluebird
  8. Blue Jay
  9. Belted Kingfisher
  10. Great Blue Heron
  11. Red-headed Woodpecker
  12. Black Vulture
  13. Turkey Vulture
  14. Broad-winged Hawk
  15. Chipping Sparrow
  16. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  17. Pileated Woodpecker
  18. Downy Woodpecker
  19. Eastern-wood PeeWee
  20. Osprey
  21. Bank Swallow
  22. Snow Goose
  23. Fish Crow
  24. American Crow
  25. Tree Swallow
  26. Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  27. Great-crested Flycatcher
  28. Common Grackle
  29. Palm Warbler
  30. Pine Warbler
  31. Canada Goose
  32. Eastern Kingbird
  33. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  34. Catbird
  35. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  36. Cape May Warbler
  37. Northern Parula
  38. Eastern Phoebe
  39. Mallard
  40. Mourning Dove
  41. Tufted Titmouse
  42. House Sparrow
  43. Rock Dove
  44. Green Heron
  45. Cowbird

Hubs took this pix during our birding outing.
This is one of his faves.
The bluebird really is looking at two
eastern kingbirds.
That's not a digital trick!

The Best Birdie Moments:
  1. While stopped at a red light on a main thoroughfare, a red-headed woodpecker landed in front of our car, grabbed a bit of food, and flew off just as we started to move again.  
  2. Killdeer have nested in the brush behind the house of one of my students.  The "dad" hops around the back porch, singing away, while I tutor.  From time-to-time the "baby" comes out to sing, too,.  VERY CUTE!
  3. While driving from one student's house to another, I saw a bird perched on a wire, quickly found a place to pull over, and spotted the broad-winged hawk!
  4. One of my students went with us to the state park, and we had a great time teaching him how to identify birds!  After we left the state park, I decided spur-of-the-moment to drive over to a local marina.  Sitting on the edge of a pond beside the marina was the green heron on our list.  My student got to see LOTS of interesting birds that day!  Too bad the camera batteries had died by the time we reached the marina.

Favorite Pictures
Eastern Kingbird

Canada Geese
We THINK this is a female
Brown-headed Cowbird.
She was hanging out with this male cowbird.
More Cowbirds
If you think we're right,
please let us know.
If you know we're wrong,
please help.
Red-headed woodpeckers
were common visitors this month.
I think they're just beautiful!

Another beauty...
The Great Crested Flycatcher!

Happy Tweeting!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Tweet and See May 2011

Visit Heather where you can find
links to more birding reports.
Has it really been a month since I last wrote on this blog?!?

There hasn't been much time for blogging this month and there has been even less time for birding.  My husband is in the middle of a backyard project which involves the removal of a rather large magnolia tree.

I'm 90% happy about this project of his because it also involves the removal of a rickety old fence and a broken down picnic table.  However, as a true southern gal, it was a life-long dream of mine to have a magnolia tree in the backyard.  It is a wonderful place for hanging a variety of feeders and provides great shade for us and for the birds. 

However, our yard is very small, and the tree really is too big for our space.  I always wanted a magnolia tree in my backyard but do not want one as my back yard.  That is why it is so easy for me to be 80% happy about its removal.

Also, it drops leaves year round which creates a huge and constant mess to clean up, and we can't get any grass to grow.  Our backyard looks like a wasteland, and we think it is due to the tree.

So, please, don't hate us, but she has to go.  And really, I am 70% happy about it.

All of that is to say, the birds have not visited us much this month, and we have not had time to go looking for them either.  I think this is our smallest bird list to date, not just since the beginning of Tweet and See but since we started birding almost six years ago!

It may be small, but here it is:
  1. American Robin
  2. American Crow
  3. House Sparrow
  4. Eastern Bluebird
  5. Blue Jay
  6. Eastern Towhee
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  8. Kingfisher *
  9. Prairie Warbler *
  10. Eastern Phoebe *
* I heard these while tutoring.  One of my student's house is near the lake, and they keep the windows open.  I can hear the birds while I teach. 

I hope you had a better month bird-wise than I did and look forward to reading your reports!  And really, don't worry about me.  I'm easily 60% happy about the backyard project.

Happy Tweeting!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I'm a Bird Brain!

I accidentally posted my Tweet and See list for April over at my homeschool blog, Olive Plants.  You can click on over to read it.

Please forgive my faux pas.  I injured my eye last week and am still having some trouble seeing. 


Friday, April 8, 2011


Today, we saw Ospreys
near the lake in our home county.
The state park we visited
has a ball field only a few feet from the lake.
The Ospreys are nesting on top of
the light poles surrounding the field.
We could not get an accurate count
but know that we saw at least four.

This particular park is large
and a boat dock is on the opposite side
from the ball field.
When not on these poles,
they were at the boat dock,
perched on near-by trees
It was difficutl to get a good picture
of them in flight;
however, they flew between the
ball field and the dock all morning.
It was a beautiful sight and enjoyable day!  We identified 43 species in all, and I will give the full report when I Tweet and See at the end of the month!

Happy Birding!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Birds' Eye View

The Olive Plant boys,
a.ka. Orville and Wilbur,
completed a science fair project
about bird feeders.

If you are interested in reading about their project
and which color feeder attracted the most birds
in their experiment,

Science Fair 2011
Birds' Eye View
by Orville and Wilbur

Friday, April 1, 2011

Watch Live Baby Eagles

In Iowa, there are 3 baby eagles about to be hatched.  You can watch it live here.  Every little while Mama bird gets up and readjusts her or the eggs.  They are supposed to be hatching within the next 24 hours. 

Disclaimer:  This is addictive. 


Tweet and See: March 2011

Visit Kingdom Arrows to participate!
Heather has a fabulous give-away running in conjunction with Tweet and See this month.  You can enter to win one copy of Your Backyard DVD!  I love this video, in large part because a homeschooling family produced it (Yea Homeschool!), but also because it is very well done.  We own a copy and enjoy watching it!

Now, for our list for the month of March...

It was a wacky month weather wise.  We had bitterly cold spells, days that felt like summer, rain, thunder storms, high winds and tornadoes.  Birding was a challenge, but the boys had to keep at it because their science fair project centered on bird watching.  It won the grand prize in their age division!! Hopefully, I will have a few minutes to post about it soon.  It was very interesting! :)

Anyhoo, here are the birds that we saw or heard this month:
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Blue Jay
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Carolina Wren
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Eastern Towhee
  • Mourning Dove
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • American Robin
  • Brown Thrasher
  • Common Grackle
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • Brown-headed Nuthatch
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Gray Catbird
  • Rock Pigeon
  • American Crow
  • Fish Crow
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • Red-shouldered Hawk
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • House Sparrow
That's 25 species in all!  Most of these were identified by my two birdie boys, Orville and Wilbur.  Good job, guys!

Thanks for visiting and make sure you fly over to Heather's blog to enter the give-away!

Happy Birding!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Your Backyard DVD Giveaway

Kingdom Arrows is having an AWESOME giveaway for the video Your Backyard, which identifies 18 feeder birds, their calls and habits.  The giveaway starts today until April 6.  Fly over there and enter!

Visit Crowes Nest Media to see all the goodies, and you can purchase this DVD for only $12 for the next week, use the code, Tweet.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Having Fun with My New Camera!




I have a new camera!

Happy Photographing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Raising Mealworms

This is a very fun topic and I can tell you anyone can raise mealworms.  I can't even grow anything in a garden, but I can raise mealworms!

There are many great sites on the how and why of mealworm raising, but I wanted to let you know what we do at the Kingdom Arrow's house.  This is actually my second time of raising them, last year they were growing and multiplying like crazy, but my daughter became ill and I had to cut everything extra out, so I threw them out even after the mealworms had become beetles. 

The way this little project works is, you buy mealworms at a bird store, pet store or gardening shop, and put them in a large plastic box with holes drilled in the lid.  I usually fill it up halfway with uncooked oats.  You can add other goodies like chick feed or wheat germ or other things.  Then, once a week, I add a banana peel to give them some moisture.  Once the banana peel turns black and shrivels, I throw it out and get a new one.

Now, I like to store them under the bed.  They like dark and warm places.  This, however, seems to cause my husband great consternation.

Last year I forgot to tell him they were there and when he went to get out the wrapping paper, he had quite a shock.  He made me promise to always forewarn him in the future!

What the little guys do at this point is molt and grow and eat.  After a few months they will molt into little black beetles, which is when they lay their little eggs.  After a few weeks, the beetles will die, and you just fish them out.  Be sure NOT TO THROW OUT your oats, since the eggs are in there. 

Don't start feeding the birds from your stock for at least 3 months, otherwise you will be using up your main reproducing army.  After about 4-6 months, you will need to throw out your oat mixture and wash out your box.  They do produce a stinking ammonia waste, but just transfer the guys to a clean home and keep going.

Now, I am sure you are asking, Why do I want to grow mealworms (at least my husband always does)?  For the BLUEBIRDS.  They love meal worms.  Soon, (meaning I am waiting on my husband to build), I plan to do a post on my new ground feeders in which I can lay the yummy worms on for the bluebirds.  Speaking of bluebirds, ours have not nested yet.  What are the bluebirds doing where you live?


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tweet and See: February 2011

Even though March has come in (and truly like a lion), I want to share the Olive Plants' Tweet and See list for February.  Our computers all died at the end of last month, and I had to live in the dark ages without Internet access for two weeks.  Thus the delay.

So without further ado, here's what we saw or heard last month:
  1. American Crow
  2. Fish Crow
  3. Brown-headed Nuthatch
  4. Tufted Titmouse
  5. Belted Kingfisher
  6. Eastern Bluebird
  7. Great Blue Heron
  8. Red-tailed Hawk
  9. Eastern Towhee
  10. Carolina Chickadee
  11. Pine Warbler
  12. Downy Woodpecker
  13. Muscovy Duck
  14. Mallard Duck
  15. Snow Goose
  16. Ring-billed Gull
  17. Song Sparrow
  18. American Robin
  19. Rock Pigeon
  20. Field Sparrow
  21. Pileated Woodpecker
  22. Blue Jay
  23. Northern Cardinal
  24. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  25. Northern Mockingbird
  26. Mourning Dove
  27. Red-winged Blackbird
  28. Worm-eating Warbler
  29. Common Grackle
  30. European Starling
  31. Brown Thrasher
  32. Cedar Waxwing
  33. Black Vulture
  34. Turkey Vulture
  35. House Finch
  36. Tennessee Warbler
  37. Chipping Sparrow
  38. Canada Goose
  39. House Sparrow
  40. Carolina Wren
  41. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  42. Red-headed Woodpecker
  43. Bald Eagle
  44. Red-shouldered Hawk
  45. Killdeer
  46. White-breasted Nuthatch
  47. Eastern Phoebe
  48. Eastern Meadowlark
  49. American Coot
  50. Double-crested Cormorant
What a fun month!  I hope you saw lots of beautiful birds, too!!  Join Heather on the last day of each month to link in your list.

Now that I am back in the 21st Century, I am working on my next Birding 101 post about Birding by Ear.  I hope you'll fly back over soon! 

Please give a little tweet in the comments and let me know you visited, too.  I would love to meet you and visit your blog.  You can subscribe to Birders for Life, too, so that all the posts we write here will fly directly to your inbox.  Heather and I would love to have you on the B4L team!

Happy Birding!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Three Point Landing

The Biding Chicks are are still flitting around, but we are going in so many different directions right now!

BOTH of Dawn's computers are in the shop.  I have been just trying to keep up with my life and had 2 Meme's to post on Kingdom Arrows this week, so that has taken all my brain power.

But,  since it is spring and we are seeing lots of new birds around, I wanted to talk about the Three Point Landing.  I often go to classes about how to attract birds to your yard, and this was a new tidbit for me. 

Here is my best feeding station.
Birds like to come into your feeder and land/hop/fly in a 3 point pattern.  It is important when you set up your feeding station that you have at least 3 places of different heights they can land/fly/hop on.  This can be anything- porch rails, planter, bush, bird bath, etc.  These landing spots can be man-made or God made. 

Once I get my summer feeding station fixed up, I will post a picture.  It has a completely different ethos.

Don't forget Tweet and See for March!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Foto Friday

For other FF click here.

This little guy held on for dear life for about 15 minutes.

I *think* he is an American Goldfinch.  We were still able to see him hopping around our yard five days later and looking a little less downy.  This picture was taken of my birdbath in the front yard.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Birding 101: Sketching Birds

Once the boys learned the basics, mastered binocular usage, and found their friend, the camera, they caught the birding bug BIG TIME!

Bird watching was something we did wherever we went...while eating a picnic lunch, while waiting in line at the drive-thru, even while riding in the car!

And birds started showing up all around my house in the form of art work!  Around here, getting a sketch of a ruby-throated hummingbird means you are really loved!!

It was not long until our classroom turned into a bird-printing studio, and there is just so much room on the fridge for these kinds of pictures.  And ALL of the pictures had to be displayed as not to hurt any one's feelings (or as the boys pointed out, the birds' feelings were fragile, too).

So I bought each boy a spiral art journal and kept them on a desk under the classroom window.  I had the desk stocked with colored pencils, a sharpener, regular no. 2 pencils, and erasers.  From this spot they could easily see our feeders and keep a log of many of the birds that visited us each day.

They drew pictures of which birds they identified
in the time they watched
and labeled each bird.
I also had them write a short sentence
about each scene.
Sometimes they would notice other birds
at places other than the feeder.
Their journal page had to depict
where the birds were seen.
Sometimes they saw birds in trees.
Notice they noted details like seeing two nests.

Other times birds would show up at interesting locations
like on my car.
This particular female cardinal
hovered around my car's side mirrors
all day!
We called her our pet bird!!
Carolina wrens nested behind our shed,
and we would see them hopping
around it all day.
In this entry, Wilbur drew a black vulture,
but he also wrote a list of the other birds
he saw that day.
He also included "honk, honk"
because he heard a Canada Goose
but did not see it.
On this page,
Orville did a good job sketching
the Downy's behavior.
He also included the date
of his entry.
On some pages of their journals,
the boys made notes of
mnemonics they used to memorize
birds songs.
Orville shares three of his favorite birds and their mnemonics
on this page.
The Hooded Warbler says, "I've a little, pretty hood."
The Killdeer says, "Hot Pockets."
The Red-winged Black Bird says, "Oh my red wing!"
Wilbur wants everyone to know
that the Indigo Bunting says,
"I am Mommy's favorite bird,
yes, I am!"
I will write more about mnemonics
in a future post.

We also included other "special" pages...

...like graphs of how many of each bird
were seen over a set period of time.
and instructional pages
like the one pictured above that Wilbur drew
to show the differences between
an American Crow and a Raven.
It seemed that drawing birds increased the boys love
for the great outdoors and for their feathered friends.
Their abilities as artists grew, too.

Two years later,
Wilbur painted this Ruby-throated Hummingbird
and won 4th place in a Crayola contest!
They loved these assignments, too!
Don't just take my word on that.
You can read what Orville has to say about sketching birds here
and what Wilbur thinks here!

Want to get started
Drawing with Your Children-
Nature Style?
Join B4L's very own Heather
for a weekly meme!

bird for button

Barb, the Harmony Art Mom, has compiled a great set of lesson plans to be used with the book Drawing with Children.  This book follows a teaching structure very similar to the one I used with my boys when completing the journals pictured in this post.  I highly recommend it to you!  Her plans will tie in with Heather's meme, too, so your children will have a format for sharing their work.  I hope you will join the sketching and nature fun!

Join me next time when I will tweet about the mnemonics I mentioned earlier in this post!

Until we tweet again...

Bird Nest Pudding

For Valentine's Breakfast this year, I made this recipe for Bird's Nest Pudding.  Apparently it was popular during the 1850's and was brought over from Sweden (so infers the Kirsten American Girl book).

Most of my kids liked it.  I liked that it was not really sweet, I used tart apples.  Although, I do suggest buying an apple corer to speed up the process. 

This would be great fun to make during a Bird Study or in celebration of the Great Backyard Bird Count next year!!


Monday, February 21, 2011

GBBC 2011, The Olive Plants' 3rd and Last Report

We did not get to do as much birding today as we had hoped.  Neither Michael nor I slept well due to a persistant cough, so we waited to take our last bird outing after dinner.  We went to a dam which creates the lake covering a very large portion of our county.

The weather was lovely, sunny and breezy, and we got to watch the sun set over the lake.  However, there had been a controlled burn in the area earlier in the week which made song birds scarce.  We found two forested areas that had not been burned, but there were campers in both areas who were enjoying very loud music.  So, we did not see or hear much there either.

Also the road across the dam was closed, hindering our ability to get a close-up view of the hundreds of water birds that perch along the rocks and fishing nets along the base of the dam.  I am sure we missed some species and did not get as accurate of a count as if we could have driven further in.  Still we were able to positively identify a large number of birds. 

Here is what we saw or heard:
  • 17 Canada geese
  • 210 Ring-billed gulls
  • 1 Killdeer
  • 1 Chipping Sparrow
  • 3 Brown-headed Nuthatches
  • 5 American Robins
  • 1 Belted Kingfisher
  • 2 Eastern Towhees
  • 50 American Coots
  • 500 Double-crested Cormorants
  • 1 Great Blue Heron
  • 4 House Sparrows
  • 1 Mockingbird
Total number of species identified for all three days:  49

Total number of birds counted over all three days:  1,499

If you are new to bird watching, keep in mind that we have been at this for five years and know our area really well.  There are A LOT of prime birding locations in our county, and over the years, we have learned what to keep an eye (and an ear) out for.  If you know me irl or are a certain internet friend who wants to come visit me (you know who you are), come on down some time, and I'll take you to all the good spots. 

Maybe we can have our own blogging/birding convention, hmmm....

What would we call it?




I don't know.  That's sounds more like a convention for Swedes.  Maybe, we'll just all call ourselves the Birding Chicks!

How was your GBBC weekend?  Please do tell!

Happy Birding!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

GBBC 2011, The Olive Plants' 2nd Report

We drove around our neighborhood today for about an hour and then took lunch to a picnic area near the lake.  We have an expansive lake in our county, so there are many parks, picnic areas and campgrounds.    It was a gorgeous day, the first pretty Saturday we've had in many weeks. 

Our neighborhood is located in downtown.  We are on a main street, and there is a small neighborhood that backs up to our house.  Most of the houses in that circle have multiple feeders and there are a variety of mature trees.  We watched our feeders for about half an hour and then drove around the circle, pulling over to the side of the road from time to time for a better look.  The neighborhood backs up to a park and outdoor athletic complex where there are mature trees and a pond.  We drove through the complex, stopping at the pond for a closer look.  Here is what we saw or heard:
  • 1 chickadee
  • 4 blue jays
  • 5 northern cardinals
  • 1 yellow-rumped warbler
  • 6 mockingbirds
  • 7 mourning doves
  • 2 tufted titmice
  • 2 brown-headed nuthatches
  • 100 (at least, we did our best to get an accurate count but must estimate due to the overwhelming quantity and movement) red-winged blackbirds
  • 3 worm-eating warblers
  • 125 (again estimating; the trees and lawns were covered) American robins
  • 100 + grackles
  • 100 + European starlings
  • 4 brown thrashers
  • 15 cedar waxwings
  • 3 eastern bluebirds
  • 5 black vultures
  • 1 house finch
  • 1 Tennessee warbler
  • 1 chipping sparrow
  • 1 pine warbler
  • 1 red-tailed hawk
  • 9 American Crows
  • 3 Canada geese
  • 2 turkey vultures
  • 4 house sparrows
The picnic area near the lake is forested, mostly pines.  Here is what we saw or heard there:
  • 4 American Crows
  • 3 fish crows
  • 4 brown-headed nuthatches
  • 2 tufted titmice
  • 1 belted kingfisher
  • 3 eastern bluebirds
  • 1 great blue heron
  • 1 red-tailed hawk
  • 1 eastern towhee
  • 4 Carolina chickadees
  • 3 pine warblers
  • 1 downy woodpecker
  • 1 muscovey duck
  • 3 mallards
  • 5 snow geese
  • 1 ring-billed gull
We drove through a new, in-town subdivision to find the house where my husband will tutor this week.  It is in town but forested, mostly pines.  Here is what we saw or heard there:
  • 1 eastern towhee
  • 3 song sparrows
  • 1 robin
Before returning home, we stopped at Kroger.  It is located along a major highway.  While there we saw:
  • 3 American crows
  • 1 rock pigeon
That is all we feel like accomplishing today.  I have ginger tea brewing for our coughs, and we're about to take some meds and dream about birds instead of seek them.  Nightie, night.  Lord willing, we will be better by Monday.  It is our plan to end our birding weekend with a bang at one of the prime birding locations in our state.  Please pray for our health.

Please, do tell what you are seeing.  I really want to read your reports!  If you are posting about what you are finding, leave a link in comments.  When I sleep off the decongestant, I will hop on over and read about your day!

Happy Birding!

Friday, February 18, 2011

GBBC 2011, The Olive Plants' 1st Report

Today I awoke at 3 a.m. sick with a cold that has been passing through our house this week.  My turn!  I had planned to take the boys birding in the morning today since that is usually when birds are most active; however, it took me until lunchtime to muster up the energy to take them out.

We went to three different locations, the first of which was a park on the lake in our county.  Mostly we drove through the park, stopping at two different docks to get out and take a look around.  The area is forested, mostly pines.  Here is what we saw or heard:
  • 5 cedar waxwings
  • 2 Canada geese
  • 3 pileated woodpeckers
  • 1 mourning dove
  • 4 fish crows
  • 2 red-winged blackbirds
  • 1 European starling
  • 9 American crows
  • 4 killdeer
  • 3 belted kingfishers
  • 1 blue jay
  • 1 white-breasted nuthatch
  • 2 Carolina chickadees
  • 5 tufted titmice
  • 1 eastern phoebe
  • 2 downy woodpeckers
  • 1 American robin
  • 3 eastern bluebirds
  • 1 BALD EAGLE! (It swooped down so close to us we did not need binoculars to i.d. it!)
  • 2 ring-billed gulls
  • 1 eastern meadowlark
  • 7 pine warblers
  • 4 brown-headed nuthatches
  • 1 red-bellied woodpecker
  • 1 great blue heron
  • 2 red-shouldered hawks
  • 3 Turkey vultures
Then we met my husband at the high school where he teaches.  We saw these birds in the trees surrounding the school:
  • 1 blue jay
  • 1 mockingbird
  • 2 house finches
  • 2 northern cardinals
  • 2 song sparrows
We made a quick stop at a church with a pond in front.  It is surrounded by pine trees and is located on a major highway.  Here is what we saw there:
  • 2 killdeer
  • 2 Muscovy
  • 6 snow geese
  • 8 mallards
  • 3 Canada geese
  • 2 American black ducks
Next we drove through the subdivision where my parents live.  It is a new development and is mostly forested.  Here is what we identified there:
  • 2 American crows
  • 10 field sparrows
  • 1 pileated woodpecker
  • 1 Carolina chickadee
We took note of what we saw as we drove from place to place, too.  We spotted these birds along the roadside in town:
  • 13 American robins
  • 3 American crows
Tomorrow we plan to bird watch at our feeders and in our neighborhood.  If everyone in our family feels well, we will go to another spot along the lake.

Happy Birding!

GBBC 2011- #1

Hop over to Kingdom Arrows where I am keeping my running tab for the GBBC!

Have you seen anything unusual?  Please share your top observations!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Birding 101: The camera is your friend.

In our early days of bird watching,
we played games to learn to use binoculars with ease.

However, birds are movers and shakers!  We do not always get the time to watch a bird for as long as we need to make an accurate identification.

Sometimes, even when we get a good, long look at a bird, there still is not enough time to take in all the details.  The differences between some birds, particularly sparrows, are minute and challenge even seasoned bird watchers.

Can you tell which birds are at this feeder?

It did not take long for me to realize that the camera is our friend!

While the boys would look through binocs, I would look through the lens of my camera and snap as many shots as possible.  If time allowed, I would switch to the video camera and record the bird in action.  This allowed us to notice more about the bird's movements and habitat, an important part of nature study.

Even if you can't get in close enough with your camera
to get a crystal-clear view...

...you can zoom in even closer
with your photo editor,
giving you the view you need
to make a positive i.d.

At the end of each birding outing, we would sit down in a shady spot or return home and look through my photo journal of the day.  It was very  easy to notice details in the photos and match our pictures to the pictures in our field guides.

The best part was that the birds we identified this way became cemented in our visual memories.  Soon we could identify a large number of birds without the assistance of a field guide.  We often double check, just to be sure!  However, the camera has been our best teacher.

You can email pictures of birds
to birding friends for confirmation, too.
Two heads are always better than one.
Heather and I regularly email pictures to each other.
At least I do, when I have a working camera!
I borrowed all the pictures in this post from her.
Thanks Heather!
After the boys had seen several close-up shots of all those pretty bird details, they wanted to create sketches of their own!  Next time I will tweet about how we incorporated bird sketching into our school day!

Until we tweet again...
Dawn, for the Olive Plants