Monday, March 24, 2008

Learning more about birds

An birding class in the botanical garden this afternoon reminded me of how useful it is to go out with an experienced birder as a leader. His ability to hear and identify calls, and then point out where to look, helped us spot an excellent variety of birds and added lots more to my 'seen in the Garden' notes. This is a good time of the year for birding, as the spring migrants start coming through.

A highlight was getting a good look at one of our red-shouldered hawks (probably the male), and seeing the female on the nest. I first saw the nest about a month ago; the pair was building their nest then. They finished the nest about a week later, and started incubating the eggs.

Some of our winter residents are still here -- we all got a great look at a yellow-bellied sapsucker vigorously drilling fresh holes in a young tulip poplar. They'll be heading north quite soon. This photo by Lang Elliot is from the Bird Guide at Cornell Lab of Ornithology -- one of my favorite sites to learn more about birds. A useful feature is being able to listen to song and call recordings for each bird, as well as learn about their basic biology. This is another link to an interesting piece at Hilton Pond. org about yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

We had another good look at a bird that I hadn't ever seen, a Northern Water Thrush, vigorously 'working' the stream near the Woodland Wildflower Garden. There was a pair, apparently, but even though shy, their characteristic bobbing foraging behavior in the stream was easily seen this afternoon. They're also on their way north to their breeding areas.

Other interesting sightings were yellow-rumped warblers, red-eyed vireos, a pileated woodpecker, a red-bellied woodpecker, a yellow-shafted flicker, dark-eyed juncos, white-throated sparrows, an Eastern phoebe, and a white-breasted nuthatch. We also heard and saw more common 'backyard birds': tufted titmice, Carolina wrens, a male bluebird, and a male cardinal. We ended up seeing over 22 different species of birds in one afternoon -- a good number, with plenty of time to see many of them. An excellent outing, to be sure.

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