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

Green-tailed Towhee, a Western Wanderer

Published February 14, 2018
Tags: General Observations, Green-tailed Towhee

Just the other day, Alec Humann said we were due for a Green-tailed Towhee out here in the east.  What?  I didn't even think this species migrated and therefore not prone to wandering.  Well, indeed, they DO migrate!  They are primarily found from Oregon down through southeastern New Mexico, migrating a short distance to winter in southern Arizona, southern Texas, and into Mexico.  And every once in a great while, one winds up in the east for some, strange reason.  A result of storms, winds, some defiance to keep to the norm?  Who knows, but it can happen.

Donna Carter, a birder who lives near the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, had one of these marvelous visits from a Green-tailed Towhee this past weekend.  Her road is narrow with a curve near the house, so visitations needed to be scheduled to keep large crowds from causing safety issues.

Our scheduled day was Monday - but the towhee never made an appearance that day. It was a quiet ride home for the four of us from WNY.  Surprisingly, it was seen again the following day, so Willie, Celeste, and I headed out on Wednesday to give it another shot (minus Betsy this time).  After a couple of hours of anxious watching, I finally spotted it low in the brush behind the feeders. Eventually, the bird gave everyone present some great looks as it hopped up onto a tray feeder, staying for well over a minute.  Scope views were terrific - but camera photos stunk, unfortunately, because of the distance.  BUT - I wanted a record of this cool, state bird, so I'm including them here!

After two long trips for this bird, we were rewarded with a wonderful Valentine's Day gift! Hopefully, the bird will continue to show for many more days, giving New York birders the chance to add it to their state lists.
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Green-tailed Towhee
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Green-tailed Towhee
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Green-tailed Towhee
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Northern Mockingbird seen on Monday's disappointing trip.


Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch Life Bird!

Published February 08, 2018
Tags: Life List Happenings, Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch, Hairy Woodpecker, Cooper's Hawk

Thanks to Kevin R's persistence and a friend of Alec's, I got a new life bird today!  Alec, Kevin, and I took a drive down to Meadville, Pennsylvania, where a Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch was visiting the feeders of a wonderful birding couple.  This couple lives in a gated community and access to it is tricky.  We were very thankful to have been allowed into this morning's group of observers.

The finch is one of the three rosy-finch species that can be found in the United States.  It's the only species of the three that migrates and so is more prone to get off-course or possibly even wander.  And although here have been sightings of Gray-crowneds in the east, this will be the very first state record for Pennsylvania.

When we first arrived, Kevin quickly headed to the windows and found the finch without much ado.  It was apparently right on schedule, visiting the feeders during the first couple of hours in the morning and then habitually disappearing for the afternoon.  I love reliability!  We got good looks at the mostly brown finch as it slowly made its way down the tree where Kevin first spotted it.  Finally, it landed on the snow-covered ground right in front of the spacious windows, giving us all killer looks as it foraged under the feeders.  We were ecstatic - life bird for all three of us - and probably just about everyone in the room!

The bird was much larger than I was expecting - quite a bit heftier than the many nearby goldfinches.  The pink on its wings and belly was quite obvious and it was easy to see why it's called a Rosy-Finch.  Speculation is that it's a young male or a female of the Interior population, as opposed to the Coastal or Bering Sea populations.  Its light gray head and black forecrown was the feature the homeowner first noticed, causing his wife to alert a birding friend.

The finch was most cooperative, although skittish.  And I understand now why the finches were ALL so flighty: hawks were in the area!  A little later on, we had a Cooper's Hawk swoop through the yard, very close to the windows, scattering the birds everywhere!  I heard a Sharp-shinned was visiting now and then too.  Thankfully, the birds kept coming back to the feeders and we were rewarded with some lovely views of this misplaced finch.  
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Feeding just feet from us on the other side of the large windows.
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Perched
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Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
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Gray-crowned Rosy-Finch
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We noticed some leucism in the primary feathers of this Hairy Woodpecker
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The young Cooper's Hawk - pausing between attacks


Trumpeter Swans, Horned Larks, and Pintails

Published February 03, 2018
Tags: General Observations, Trumpeter Swan, Horned Lark, Northern Pintail, American Black Duck, Horned Lark

My friend, Gale, reported six Trumpeter Swans down in Fredonia at a little pond behind a Walmart shopping store.  It's amazing the different species this little pond has attracted over the years.  Gale mentioned on her Instagram account (@novembergale) that the water hardly ever freezes due to the road salt that gets kicked into it.  It's a nice attractant to waterfowl - and this day, SIX Trumpeter Swans!  I just had to see these large and magnificent beauties.  And happily, they were still there when I arrived.

I was surprised at the number of American Black Ducks that were lined up and sleeping along the edge of the pond.  I counted nearly twenty of them.  I had just about the same number out in a cornfield where I stopped the other day on my way to my folks' house.  The cornfield hosted hundreds of Canada Geese and Mallards as well as the black ducks and, to my surprise, a few Northern Pintail already.

On my way home from Dunkirk, I took a long, rural route and was glad to find some Horned Larks out in a field.  They were quite close, actually, nipping at the seed heads of some weeds growing at the roadside edge of a farm field.  There were only a couple dozen of them, but they're always a nice bird to see!
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Trumpeter Swan head shot showing the long, straight bill
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Trumpeter Swan
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Trumpeter Swan
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Trumpeter Swan - the more "v" like shape at the base of the bill can be seen in this photo.
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Trumpeter Swans
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Horned Lark nipping at some seeds - and showing his little "horns"
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Reaching for some seeds
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There's always fussing and fighting with birds!
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Showing his better side...
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Some of the sleeping American Black Ducks
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A pair of Wood Ducks was a nice surprise
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Elegant male Northern Pintail
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Northern Pintail - male (left) and female (right)
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The male pintail with a black duck behind and to the right