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

MORE Bohemian Waxwings!

Published February 22, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Bohemian Waxwing, Cedar Waxwing, Eastern Bluebird, Eastern Screech-owl

True to form, you can wait and wait and wait for a life bird - and then, when you finally see it, you end up seeing it multiple times afterward!  Sure enough, that's what happened with the Bohemian Waxwing.  I saw my first one at Fort Niagara exactly two weeks ago (thanks to Alec Humann and Joe Fell's great find!) and then yesterday (thanks to Linda Holmes), I got to see one again only minutes from my house.  And not just ONE Bohemian Waxwing, but FIVE!  I heard there may even have been six there, but I saw five, for sure.

What a treat this sighting was - and the fact that such a rare bird was just a few, short miles from my house, was icing on the cake.  When I pulled into the parking area, I noticed the trees with berries on them alongside the driveway.  I'm not sure what kind of trees they were, but there were at least 25 - 30 Cedar Waxwings in the branches making their high-pitched "zeeee" calls - and there was the trill of the Bohemians mixed in. I saw the first one almost immediately - its cinnamon undertail was a dead giveaway.  The waxwings were quite active, moving back and forth between these trees and some others more to the east.  It was hard to get a good count and to keep track of them.

I slid down in my seat and, using my car for a blind, I was able to get some better shots this time.  One Bohemian, in particular, gave me some great views.  A male Eastern Bluebird was in the area as well as a pair of Red-tailed Hawks, two Downy Woodpeckers, Blue Jays, Northern Cardinals, and a Tufted Titmouse.  On my circuitous drive home, I came upon some more bluebirds and another Red-tailed Hawk.

Back home, our Eastern Screech-owl continues to show every couple of days or so.  We've named him Sherman and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to show the little guy to my kids and grandkids the other afternoon.  I set up my spotting scope in the kitchen and they all got really nice looks at the owl as it soaked up the afternoon sun.  I hope s/he decides to nest here!
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Bohemian Waxwing
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Bohemian Waxwing
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With a mouthful!
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And another...
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They are such beautiful birds
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Quite a stretch!
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The toss...
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...and the catch
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A group shot of two Cedar Waxwings (left) and two Bohemians
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A beautiful Cedar Waxwing
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Male Eastern Bluebird
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Female Eastern Bluebird
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Sherman
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Another Eastern Screech-owl seen last week
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Sammie looking at Sherman
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Kate looking at Sherman


Life Bird - a BOHEMIAN WAXWING!

Published February 09, 2015
Tags: Life List Happenings, Bohemian Waxwing, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark

When I heard that Alec Humann had found a Bohemian Waxwing up at Fort Niagara, I didn't hesitate - I RAN to get some gear together and got out the door in record time.  I've chased this bird several times before and I didn't want to risk missing this one!

It was a brutal day - windy, very cold, with sleet and ice on the way.  The roads were still good when I left and I made it to the fort in record time. It was tough trying to find a good viewing spot, especially since the snow plow guys asked another gentleman and myself to move our cars. As I was maneuvering my car into a spot I thought would be pass their inspection, Kevin Rybz texted that he had the bird. I looked around and saw his car near the place I had just left.  I quickly made my way over to him but couldn't get my eyes on the waxwing. Many Cedar Waxwings, American Robins, and oddly, 5 female Purple Finches were all foraging in the crabapple trees near the entrance to the park.  Motivated by the freezing winds, I got my car back to the circle and started scanning the waxwings again.  Finally, there it was!  The rufous undertail was beautifully visible as was its grayer, larger, more rotund body. The black under its bill was more prominant and there was more rufous around its face. What a gorgeous bird - and, as Alec said, "elegant". It was, indeed, elegant.

I couldn't stop smiling for hours. After that first sighting, Kevin, Dennis G, and I had a few more observations of the bird as it went back and forth from the crabapple trees to the spruce trees.  I finally left with a skimpy, few photos due to the weather conditions - but still giddy that I finally got to see a Bohemian Waxwing.

This waxwing, by the way, is an uncommon, but regular visitor to Western New York. It  breeds in northern Alaska and Canada, occasionally visiting our region in the winter as it searches for fruit and berries.

Did you know a Bohemian Waxwing can actually die of intoxication if the fruit it finds has fermented?  True fact!

A couple of days later, I went up to see if the bird was still around, but found the place to be rather busy with more birders and photogs.  So, instead, I left the waxwings and decided to pursue some field birds instead. The Lapland Longspurs had been eluding me all winter so I was bent on checking that guy off my list!

A tip from Willie took me down a few roads and, after some painful scoping at my first stop, I finally got my eyes on some longspurs!  A couple of places had more Snow Buntings than I think I've ever seen at one time before. There were many Horned Larks as well and I was able to get a few shots of two out of the three species - the longspur eluding my camera this time!  As I drove east, I found many more small groups of Snow Buntings and Horned Larks. Raptors seemed to be drawn to their locations as well. I saw a Merlin, Northern Harrier, American Kestrel, and a pair of Red-tailed Hawks all out surveying the fields. Between the cold and snow, the poor little things have to worry about raptors!
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Bohemian Waxwing - my life bird and greatly sought after bird!
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Bohemian Waxwing
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Bohemian Waxwing
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Cedar Waxing - another beautiful bird
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Snow Bunting
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark
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Horned Lark


Iroquois Birding and My Very Own Screech-Owl

Published February 07, 2015
Tags: General Observations, Snowy Owl, White-throated Sparrow, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Common Redpoll, Northern Cardinal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Eastern Screech-owl

I was out in the Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge area and decided to drive around a bit. It's been really tough trying to get some birding in this winter. We've had a lot of snow this year - more than usual - and there hasn't been a thaw to melt any. It's piling up everywhere and is making it very difficult to even bird from the car!  But - out I wander anyway - hoping not to get stuck or buried under a drift!

On this day, I happened on two Snowy Owls.  Neither were the much lighter bird seen earlier in the season. As a matter of fact, the darker of these two owls appears to have been marked by a bander. Its head was sprayed with an identifying dark paint, making it appear even darker than it is.  Both were very tolerant of me taking photos as I approached very slowly and stayed within my car, using my car as a blind. They each gave me passing glances, but quickly went back to surveying the fields they were watching.  I stayed only a couple of minutes with each, grabbed a few photos, and then left them to their pursuits.

At a friend's house, I enjoyed some feeder birds, including a Common Redpoll. Dark-eyed Juncos, several Northern Cardinals, and three kinds of sparrows: White-throated, American Tree, and a single Song Sparrow, which is not all that common in the winter.

My friend's Eastern Screech-owl was peeking out of its box, enjoying the sunshine and I took a photo of its cute, little face. Little did I know, two days later, I would have an owl in my OWN owl box.  I literally almost yelled out loud when I saw the hole taken up by our little visitor!  I've been checking that hole nearly 20 times every single day for nearly an entire year now - and finally - FINALLY - we got an owl!  I ran out and got my scope and set it up so my husband, son, and I could get nice looks. We enjoyed it for hours - until it got too dark to see. Unfortunately, the next day, he never reappeared; a one-day wonder.  But what an absolute thrill it was!
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Snowy Owl (the marked one) out in a field
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The same, marked owl after it flew up to a pole
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Snowy Owl
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Snowy Owl - zoomed-in
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A different Snowy Owl - Snowy Owl #2
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Snowy Owl #2
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American Tree Sparrow
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American Tree Sparrow
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White-throated Sparrow
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Song Sparrow - a nice, winter treat!
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Common Redpoll
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Female Northern Cardinal (I loved her doo!)
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Dark-eyed Junco
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Male Ring-necked Pheasant
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Female Ring-necked Pheasant
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Female Ring-necked Pheasant
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Eastern Screech-owl
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My OWN Eastern Screech-owl!