Thursday, June 21, 2012

Prothonotary Warbler - extremely rare in Utah

As promised, here's the third bird post in the trilogy.  About two weeks ago I began hearing that a Prothonotary Warbler had been seen in Ogden.  This is an extremely rare bird for Utah.  It likes warm, humid, even tropical climate.  It is found in the eastern U.S. down into South America, but it seems to stop at the Mississippi River.  A friend of mine photographed one in Utah six years ago.  I found it so unique and charming, I chose it for a watercolor subject for my class last summer.
So when I heard the specific location and directions, I made plans to look for this rarity on the coming weekend.  This is what is known as a "lifer" in the birding world--a bird so rarely seen, it hasn't made many birders' life lists for Utah yet.

Saturday morning I picked up my sister, Deb, and we drove to Fort Buenaventura State Park in Ogden, Utah.  I took my smart phone with my newly-purchased iBird app.  Once we arrived, we found the location quite easily and found a couple of other birders there.  I played a few of the bird calls on iBird, and got immediate response.  We found him!

We observed, listened, and watched this tiny brightly-colored bird flit among the branches.  But photographing him proved daunting.  Yellow leaves in the tall cottonwoods, and filtered morning sunlight made for a lot of mistaken sightings.  But then this charming bird flew down to a post just in front of us and gave us a great opportunity for some clear shots.  I was so thrilled, I could hardly get my camera in motion.  But I did!  I had to do some cropping to get close-up views, so these aren't as sharp as I would have liked.

We then moved a few steps along the trail and found the Yellow Warbler pair and their nest just about four feet off the ground.  These birds are all yellow with some brown markings, and very tiny!  This pair posed for me less than five feet away.

A week earlier, my friend had posted pictures of the baby birds: one baby warbler and two much larger COWBIRD babies!  By the time I saw it, the tiny warbler baby was nowhere to be seen and the cowbirds filled the little nest to overflowing.  Their wings hung over the sides. The warbler pair were working hard to keep these two birds fed.
A few days ago, another birder reported only one cow bird baby in the nest.  No-one knows what happened to the other.  Not the best scenario this year for this little pair of warbler parents.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Chickadees Fledge and I'm There With a Camera

Second in a trilogy of bird posts.  The chickadees were back for the third year in a row, making a home for new babies in a now rather-worn decorative birdhouse.  As before, I could hear the tiny dee-dee-dee sounds from inside the house when the parents arrived with food.  I knew it was getting close to fledge time when the parents were so busy rushing to and fro to bring food, they didn't notice me at all.  And then on the afternoon of June 4, I saw little chickadee faces leaning out from the birdhouse opening.  I ran inside for my camera to get the cute shots, and boy was I glad I did.

Suddenly a baby leaped from the house and flew right over my head.  I turned to see it land safely in the pine tree behind me.  It didn't realize until later that I had actually snapped the moment it exited the house.
And I was surprised to see that the baby left the house clinging to the parents' back.  The picture is blurry, but cropped for a closer view, you can see the baby and parent.  They must have separated immediately as the baby landed alone in the pine tree and the parent flitted nearby for a bit and then to the birdhouse.
Another baby was leaning out and the parents seemed anxious now by my presence.  So I went inside and allowed the remaining fledging to take place without my witness.  By next morning the bird house was quiet and empty.  They stayed away from the feeders for about a week, but now the whole family has returned and I again hear the chicka-dee-dee-dee calls in the trees.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Clark's Grebes at Bear River WMA

Well, I jinxed my remodel project by posting "almost finished" on Friday the 13th.  The project ground to a halt and limped along for more than two more months.  Nothing I could do about it, so accepted it and waited while things slowly happened.  More on that another day.  

In the meantime, I was having some fun and a little luck with my birding.  So here is the first of a trilogy of posts on birds.

On June 9th I headed out to Bear River Wildlife Management Area with one goal in mind:  Grebes.  And grebes I found.  Both Clark's and Western Grebes, but only got photos of the Clark's.  My camera battery died before I was halfway around the auto route.

Grebes seem almost playful with babies riding on the mom's back.  There were dozens, maybe hundreds of these.  Just adorable.
One baby on board
Two babies on board.
Dad catches a rather unwieldy fish.
Babies at play, mom completely unruffled.
Racing - go, mom go!
And, of course, the refuge offered views of many other birds.  Here are some Cinnamon Teal ducks.
And Eastern Kingbird, a first for me on this one.
Mallard ducks.
Northern Shoveler ducks.
Stately pelicans.
They seemed to fly in slow motion flying into a stiff wind.
A Snowy Egret.
Two White-Faced Ibis, appearing to be paired off with avocets.
A flotilla of cormorants.  And many more birds I didn't capture.