My Bird Blog: A blog about my birding discoveries, bird feeders, birds on my life lists, and all things bird related

Chirps and Cheeps Bird Blog

A Birder's Blog About Birding in Western New York

Winter Beauties: From Songbirds to Raptors

Published January 24, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Eastern Bluebird, Northern Cardinal, Red-headed Woodpecker, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Pileated Woodpecker

I've done a bit of driving around recently on my way to work meetings and bird pursuits. Along the way, I'm always scanning for interesting bird sightings, made a little easier by the sparse foliage, yet a little harder by the fewer birds.  It's always a challenge, no matter the season - but still, nature holds some amazing and beautiful treasures for us regardless the time of year - as long as we tune-in and look for her precious wonders.

A little group of Northern Cardinals feeding on sumac made me stop and take note a few days ago. They're striking birds and I often overlook them because of how common they are. I think they'd knock me over with their beauty had I never seen one before!

Cooper's Hawks seem to abound. There's one terrorizing the songbirds at my feeders and I don't think I can go out on any birding adventure without running into my "token" Coop for the day.  It's either because of the bare trees, random luck, or food sources are more limited and they've become more brazen - but whatever the case, I'll take it. They're beautiful hawks and I love running into them, but I think my feeder birds may feel otherwise!

I was very happy to see a Red-shouldered Hawk right near home the other day too. This is a bird that is uncommon for me to run into and I love any sighting of them.  Their orange breast and black-and-white speckled/checkered wing tips and narrowly banded tails make for a striking raptor.

Sharing the same range as Barred Owls, these hunters are active in the day while the Barred Owl is more active at night. An interesting fact that I'll have to share with my grandsons is that a Red-shouldered nestling can shoot its feces up and over their nest by five days old.  I know the boys will think that's quite awesome!

And the ubiquitous Red-tailed Hawk is seen EVERYWHERE. If you pay attention, you'll see many of these "roadside hawks" perched all along the highways.  I used to count them, but I don't even bother any more!

A drive through Emery Park brought me up close to a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers working a tree.  They called their loud laughter-like calls over and over to one another as I watched them drumming into the nearby trees.  I was closer to the male and I was able to grab a few shots from my moon roof before he took off to move closer to his mate.

Yesterday, I came upon a small flock of Eastern Bluebirds. I just love these little beauties and I had to stop and watch them. I grabbed some photos as they quickly darted from tree limb to the ground, watching and listening for insect life beneath the snow.  Males and females - adults and juveniles - were all quite successful with their hunts. I'm so glad that their decline has been reversed and, due to the efforts of many, our state bird is now happily on the upswing.

A little flock of sparrows containing a couple of White-throateds, many American Tree, and some White-crowneds was very nice to come upon too.  I haven't seen many White-crowned Sparrows at this time of year very often, so I paused to take a few photos and enjoy them.

So - keep your eyes peeled; there are marvelous sights the Creator has given us to enjoy!
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Male Northern Cardinal feeding on sumac
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Northern Cardinal
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Male House Finch
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Red-tailed Hawk
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Red-tailed Hawk
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Juvenile Red-tailed Hawk
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Red-shouldered Hawk
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Red-shouldered Hawk
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You can see how the Red-shouldered Hawk got his name in this photo
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My token Cooper's Hawk for one of the days I was out
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Pileated Woodpecker (male)
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Pileated Woodpecker taking his leave
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White-crowned Sparrows: adult on left, juvenile on right
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Adult White-crowned Sparrow
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Eastern Bluebird (female)
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Eastern Bluebird (male)
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Eastern Bluebird (male)
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Eastern Bluebird (male)
Reply from: tim on 1/24/2015 6:07 PM
 beautiful images as usual Sue!"


Rochester Rarities: King Eider and Yellow-headed Blackbird

Published January 23, 2015
Tags: General Observations, King Eider, Mute Swan, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Northern Mockingbird, Redhead, Long-tailed Duck, Fish Crow, Irondequoit Bay

I did some birding in the Rochester area this past week, pursuing two rarities that have shown up in the region.

The most outstanding bird, in my opinion, was an adult male King Eider seen, up until yesterday, at Irondequoit Bay.  He was breathtaking and one of the most unusual and handsome ducks I've ever seen. Prior to this, I had only seen a female at a distance, a first year male, and a second year male (not quite 2 weeks ago on Long Island).  Adult males are beyond compare, to say the least!

The King Eider normally winters along rocky, sea coasts, rarely coming south of Canada. Somehow, this gorgeous duck made his way to Lake Ontario and was hanging out with a raft of Long-tailed Ducks. He quickly became a celebrity and many, myself included, risked a perilous walk down the icy pier to get a glimpse of him. It was not without reward, though - and I was able to carefully grab a few photos of the uncommon beauty.

At Charlotte Pier, on the way home, I found a Fish Crow - or rather, it found me.  I had walked out the pier, not really looking for anything in particular, when I heard the unmistakable two-toned, nasal "uh uh" as I was almost back to my car.  Sure enough, there was a crow perched nearby in a tree.  A second crow joined it and, as I was just getting the first couple of photos of the one, the two took off together.  I'm assuming both were Fish Crows, but I never heard the second bird vocalize.

The other rare bird, a Yellow-headed Blackbird, was being seen a little further south at a private residence. The folks there were quite generous and allowed us birders to park on the roadside equipped with our binoculars and scopes as we eagerly waited, anxiously hoping for a glimpse of this western blackbird.  At one point, the homeowner came out carrying a gorgeous, male peafowl (Green Peafowl) he has living at his house. Mostly blind, the bird is very fortunate to have such a caring provider!

I've only seen one other Yellow-headed Blackbird (last year in Blasdel), so I didn't want to pass up the opportunity to see one again, so I waited for hours each of the two times I tried for him. Finally, on my second attempt, I got some quick, but good looks.

It was a bit challenging because predators were also watching the feeders.  An outdoor cat was frequently stalking the feeders putting up the birds every few minutes. There was also a Cooper's Hawk that periodically swooped through the yard looking for an easy meal. This made for much turmoil with the flocks and their times at the feeders were short.

An interesting thing I observed while I waited, was that the homeowners broke open pumpkins for the birds to eat. What a great way to re-purpose your leftover Halloween pumpkins - the birds loved picking at them!

A few other birds seen during both pursuits were: Redhead, Long-tailed Duck, Greater/Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, White-winged Scoter, Mute Swan, Common Raven, and Northern Mockingbird.
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Adult Male King Eider
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King Eider
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King Eider
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King Eider
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Redhead
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Mute Swan - even though this is an invasive species and they're rather mean-spirited, they're still pretty to look at!
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Fish Crow - his "uh uh" call made me stop in my tracks!
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Northern Mockingbird - s/he showed up while I was waiting on the Yellow-headed Blackbird
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Yellow-headed Blackbird
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Yellow-headed Blackbird
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Yellow-headed Blackbird
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Yellow-headed Blackbird


A Southerntier Birding Drive

Published January 17, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Wild Turkey, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Ring-necked Pheasant, Short-eared Owl

Longing for spring, I decided to go for a drive yesterday afternoon just to see what bird species I could find down in the southerntier. It wasn't a terribly productive day, but I did see some nice sights.

Near Spraguebrook, a group of about 30 Tundra Swans flew overhead, followed by a stream of American Crows. Both groups must have had an agenda but the swans were in a tight V-formation with an obvious leader. The crows were loosely flowing, all in the same direction.

A little later, I stopped to watch a group of 10 Wild Turkeys foraging in a snow-covered corn field. I spotted an adult Cooper's Hawk perched in a tree and stopped to get a few photos. I left it to its pursuits and soon found a beautiful male, Northern Harrier hunting out near Letchworth behind a pitstop I made in Wyoming County. A little later, I had a nice roadside view of a Ring-necked Pheasant, his colors glowing in the setting sun.

I swung by to see if any Short-eareds were out, and sure enough, I saw five Short-eared Owls on the hunt. By then, it was getting pretty dark, so photos were mediocre, at best, but it was still fun to watch them interact and listen to their "barks".
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Northern Harrier hunting near a pitstop in Wyoming County
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Northern Harrier
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Ring-necked Pheasant
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Ring-necked Pheasant
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Short-eared Owl
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Short-eared Owl
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Wild Turkeys
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Cooper's Hawk