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Lily Valley

BIRDS (and how to look at them)

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So this morning I am going in late as classes are over.  So, AS I SUSPECTED, EXACTLY 10 MINUTES AFTER I WOULD NORMALLY BE LEAVING THERE WERE BIRDS ALL OVER MY YARD EATING MY NICE BUGS!!!!

I had a nice half hour look at a new bird, sparrow sized with a dark head and back, bright white throat and belly.  The dark was dusted in over the shoulders like the edges of a cape or maybe a torq.  Short tail and definitely a ground feeder. 

I also (finally) got to examine one of my not-pigeons up close.  Definitely a starling in it's beautiful winter plumage.  GOOD LORD  THE SPOTS ARE AMAZING. 

Also saw a blue jay at the party.  Only the jay had anything to say.  The usual bossy call upon entering the yard from stage right.  Nice morning.  

Current time:  8:49 am and I'd normally be well on my way to work, sad and having seen ZERO birds in my yard.

They still won't touch the feeders or our nice big dish of water.

Looked like this:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Eastern_Phoebe/sounds

Except nobody was making this noise.  Looking at similar species.  It had no variation on it's wings or back.  No wing bars.  Belly was WHITE not yellowish.

 

Edited by Lily Valley

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14 hours ago, Xray the Enforcer said:

Over the next couple of days, watch the bird's behavior. Does it fly out and back to the same perch? Does it bob its tail? <--- these are very typical behaviors of a specific bird.

Is it a  peewee???????  I had to go to work too early to see it this morning.  It did fly to grass, perch, grass perch.  Then it had a very nice bath (ruffled it's feathers).  Then it chose a new perch.  Repeat.  Watched him do this for about half an hour.  Didn't hear him say a word.  I wasn't paying attention to the tail.  :(  It was a very short tail.

Edit:  It didn't flip it's tail the way a mockingbird does, but the mockingbird has such a SPLENDID tail and white rump, it's hard to miss.  I may have just been underwhelmed by comparison.

Double edit:   I can't stand the suspense!!!

Edited by Lily Valley

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If it wasn't doing the tail flip, then it may be a late-migrating Eastern Wood-Pewee. But I wouldn't discount an Eastern Phoebe either, because they're actually resident in your area in winter (whereas the pewee is just passing through and very late, at that). The tail flip isn't quite as pronounced as the mockingbird (which holds its tail in the air and flips it), more that the phoebe will swing it's tail while the tail is pointing downward. BTW, that behavior you see of the bird flying out and back to a perch while catching insects is called "hawking." 

Edited by Xray the Enforcer

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My boss says "Our birds haven't left yet."  By this he means local sparrow flocks and shore birds that normally haunt his mum's place until late fall.

I am planning to use my adventures in ornithology as a teaching tool for my students next semester.  I am looking for published journal excerpts from the experts as comparison.

My students must compete with this hotness (entry from my journal).

I don't expect Einstein, just attention to whatever detail they can grab onto.

When presented with this as a teaching tool, boss says,"Get out of my office".  I have a green light.

Edit:  No sign of the Phoebe or Peewee this morning.  I am trying to get my grading done instead of watching videos of "hawking" and other bird behaviors.   One of the things that has been so great about this is being reminded of how HARD learning a new science is.  It's humbling and a much needed reminder for a grouchy science instructor.  

I have printed THIS marvelous gift from a fellow boarder and I am slooooooowly replacing "bird" with the proper names as I learn them.  (So far I have "breast" and "tail").

Edit:  Ok, so I caved and looked up "hawking".  Luckily for my students I couldn't find any videos easily, but I did get sucked into a wikipedia rabbit hole about feeding behaviors.  This bird went from perch to grass to perch.  Is hawking exclusive to insects in flight?  Also if not how is getting them from the grass different than gleaning?

And THANK YOU FOR ANSWERING ALL MY QUESTIONS O BIRD GURU!

Triple Edit:   What I was seeing looked like "perch to ground sallying".  I really need more books about birds.  

Quad Edit:  Found this site.  Do I need this for $5/month?  I think I do.

https://birdsna.org/Species-Account/bna/species/easpho/introduction

Ok, back to answering my email.  Sighs.

Edited by Lily Valley

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This morning I am playing "Fish Crow or Juvenile"?  This crow is definitely smaller and has a more nasal call than the other jesters in my yard.

Call is more of a KAH-ha and occasionally an AHN'- AH.  It's pretty far and the field markers are tough to see anyway.  I'm calling it a fish crow.  

Whoa!  Just busted out a few rounds of "Wow!  Wow!"  Almost sounded like a bird making fun of a dog barking.

Edited by Lily Valley

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2 hours ago, Lily Valley said:

This morning I am playing "Fish Crow or Juvenile"?  This crow is definitely smaller and has a more nasal call than the other jesters in my yard.

Call is more of a KAH-ha and occasionally an AHN'- AH.  It's pretty far and the field markers are tough to see anyway.  I'm calling it a fish crow.  

Whoa!  Just busted out a few rounds of "Wow!  Wow!"  Almost sounded like a bird making fun of a dog barking.

When I was growing up one day we heard a cat meowing in the garden. Which on the one hand was fine since we had a cat, but this was not his voice.

So I went to have a look, and the meowing came not from a cat, but from a couple of (Eurasian) jays. They were sitting on the roof on the garage, glaring and making sounds at our cat who was hiding under the garden furniture.

I assume he had been after their nest of fledglings, served him right.

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9 hours ago, Lily Valley said:

This morning I am playing "Fish Crow or Juvenile"?  This crow is definitely smaller and has a more nasal call than the other jesters in my yard.

Call is more of a KAH-ha and occasionally an AHN'- AH.  It's pretty far and the field markers are tough to see anyway.  I'm calling it a fish crow.  

Whoa!  Just busted out a few rounds of "Wow!  Wow!"  Almost sounded like a bird making fun of a dog barking.

Fish Crow, for sure. 

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12 minutes ago, Xray the Enforcer said:

Fish Crow, for sure. 

YESSSSSSSSSS.  I am winning at this game.  For a while it sounded almost like Nelson laughing at Bart.  Now my ears have a new tool to hunt through this rich treasure filled land of.....

BIRDS!!!!!

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NEW BIRD IN THE YARD!  It looks like a sparrow with the highlights on the wingtips but under the wings it's bright yellow!  It's a ground feeder.  Left before I could examine face and throat markings.  Goldfinch?  Warbler?  Come back bird!  

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is it small like a sparrow, or bigger like a pigeon? underwing yellow suggests only a couple of particular birds.

What does its face look like? How about its chest?

Edited by Xray the Enforcer

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I broke my "most species seen in a single day" record yesterday. I've only been logging it since 17th November, but still... I've seen 61 different species since then and I recorded 40 of them yesterday. Nerd win!

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4 hours ago, Xray the Enforcer said:

NICE!!! Are you using eBird to log sightings, or another program. I wanna see yo checklist!

I just created a spreadsheet. Happy to send it to you if you'd like.

Even better day today, six new species and another new record - 43 species! To top it off, I was watching a flock of Goldfinches across the river with my binoculars, when one of them disappeared in a puff of feathers! Sparrowhawk.

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1 hour ago, larrytheimp said:

I like reading about Lily watching birds almost as much as I like watching birds.

True story.  It's sort of an intellectual turn on.  

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17 hours ago, Xray the Enforcer said:

is it small like a sparrow, or bigger like a pigeon? underwing yellow suggests only a couple of particular birds.

What does its face look like? How about its chest?

I HAVEN'T SEEN HIM AGAIN!!!  BEEN IN THE YARD ALL MORNING.  Now I am at work, but I will keep looking for him.  He was small like a sparrow.   He was by in the afternoon, so I'm hoping to make this a short day and be back out there by 330.  It was bright lemon yellow under the wings.  So surprising I didn't look at his face or breast.  :(

Edited by Lily Valley

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8 hours ago, Lily Valley said:

I HAVEN'T SEEN HIM AGAIN!!!  BEEN IN THE YARD ALL MORNING.  Now I am at work, but I will keep looking for him.  He was small like a sparrow.   He was by in the afternoon, so I'm hoping to make this a short day and be back out there by 330.  It was bright lemon yellow under the wings.  So surprising I didn't look at his face or breast.  :(

look at his butt. that might be the tell-tale for this one.

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