Monday, May 20, 2013

Window Lifers

I've been stuck inside for the past few days, but I had the pleasure of two lifers showing up outside my window. On Friday, a male American Redstart flitted in the holly tree outside my window, hunting for food and taking a break at times to preen. This was a fun bird to watch, but a pain in the butt to photograph. I've never seen a bird as active as the Redstart—it was never still. Even when perched, it was either preening or moving its head around as it looked for food. After I attempted to photograph the bird for a long period of time, my neck hurt for the rest of the evening.

Another lifer showed up outside my window today. As twilight approached after a day of rain, I noticed a bird perched on a high branch along the tree line. I grabbed my binocular and observed the bird. It flew from its perch to grab an insect a number of times, so I knew I had a flycatcher of some sort. An Eastern Phoebe was my first impression, but I noted that this bird wasn't as dark as a Phoebe, didn't flick its tail, and had wing bars. I flipped through a couple of my field guides, eventually suspecting an Acadian Flycatcher. However, after more observation, it became clear that this bird wasn't an Acadian Flycatcher. This bird was darker and larger than an Acadian, and its song didn't match an Acadian's. I listened to a number of bird songs, finally stumbling across one that matched what I was hearing: Eastern Wood-Peewee. After checking what I was seeing and hearing with my field guides, I was sure that I had an Eastern Wood-Peewee. I hope it stops by tomorrow so I can snap a picture of it.

Happy birding, folks!

Male American Redstart outside my window.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Ovenbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Common Yellowthroat—What a Week!

I've made some time to get out and bird a little over the past few days. As a reward, I've added three birds to my life list: Ovenbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and Common Yellowthroat. I know, these aren't rare or spectacular birds. But each was pretty awesome to see for the first time. The Ovenbird walking through the woods like it was taking a leisurely stroll. The Blue-gray Gnatcatcher hopping around a tree's leaves, hunting for food. The Common Yellowthroat with its bandit mask. All truly beautiful creatures.

Add to these lifers a couple of FOYs—Gray Catbird, Field Sparrow—and a first glimpse of a Northern Bobwhite, and I would say it's been a good few days for me, especially since I haven't had as much time as I wanted to bird (of course, it's never enough time). I've set a goal of 100 species for my home county this year, and as of right now I'm at 64. Decent, but there's still a way to go.

Gray Catbird in my backyard.

Common Yellowthroat in a tree in my backyard.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

A Few Minutes of Birding

I've been wrestling with a strong desire to get outside the past few days. However, between the weather and my work, I haven't had a chance to get out for any appreciable amount of time. But this morning something happened that encouraged me to make some time to go outside.

As I finished breakfast, I took a few moments to look out at the feeder area in the backyard. Just when I was about to start working, I noticed two birds fly into the yard. Immediately I knew they weren't the regulars that have been around the past few weeks. After grabbing my binocular, I saw that the birds were a Brown Thrasher, which I hadn't seen in four months, and a Great Crested Flycatcher, which was a FOY bird and only the second I've ever seen.

So, motivated by these two yard visitors, I decided to make some time—about thirty minutes—this evening to take a walk and do a little birding. Throughout most of the walk it was fairly quiet, with few birds around. I saw a couple of Eastern Kingbirds and Eastern Bluebirds, and a couple of different species of waterfowl that I couldn't identify (they were flying overhead, and I'm very weak with waterfowl).

Glad to be out but a little deflated, I was hurrying back for dinner when I caught sight of a flash of dark blue. My first thought was Indigo Bunting, because they are fairly common around here. However, when I put binocular on the bird, I caught a flash of red before it dashed into the shrubs close to the road. Then I saw a fairly plain, brownish bird, but I noticed two distinct wing bars. Now I was becoming excited, because it became clear that these two birds were together, hunting for food. But the blue bird kept eluding me, and glimpses were all I could catch.

Finally, after a few minutes of patient waiting on my part, the blue bird perched on the wire fence. I was elated when I saw the bird clearly, and my excitement grew when his partner landed beside him. Before me were two Blue Grosbeaks, a new life bird for me. What beautiful creatures!

For the final few minutes of my walk home, my mind was free of all burdens as it replayed the images of the grosbeaks. One thing became abundantly clear to me: even if I don't have much time to bird, use what time I do have to bird. Who knows what the next life bird will be.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Yes, I'm Still a Beginner

I had all kinds of grand plans for this blog. I was going to document every step in my birding journey, report all the cool discoveries I made, and embarrass myself by revealing how little I actually know about birds. Yet here it is almost a year since I last posted. Don't ask me what happened, because I can't point to anything in particular. I guess life happened.

Right now, for me birding is pretty much relegated to what I can see outside my window. I do occasionally get a few moments to make observations when I'm out and about, but that's about the extent of any of my outings this year. In fact, I've yet to take a day—or a few hours, for that matter—just to bird. That will kind of make my goal of 100 species in my county a bit tough to reach. However, I do have 55 species right now, so I guess it's still attainable. I just have to get out there and do it.

Who knows, maybe I'll get my act together someday. Maybe I can use this blog as I originally intended. Maybe I can embarrass myself.

Happy birding, everyone!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tantalizingly Disappointing

That's how I would describe my walk today. I live in a rural part of North Carolina, surrounded by hundreds (thousands?) of acres of trees. In the evenings I like to take walks, sometimes carrying my binoculars with me so I can stop and watch birds along the way. I set out today intending to count species that I saw along the way.

The good news is that I heard a large number of species; it seemed like the birds were extra lively today. But the problem was I couldn't see them. They always seemed to be hidden behind just the right leaves or to fly away just when I found them. I heard the strong thunks and distinct call of a woodpecker that I didn't recognize (turned out I believe it was a Pileated Woodpecker, which I haven't seen yet). The ever-elusive Northern Bobwhite was out and about in force, and I caught a brief glimpse of what I believe was female Wild Turkey.

It was a great day of almost. I hope there's a little less teasing come tomorrow's walk.

P.S. I have a new pair of binoculars on the way. After I get a chance to give them a workout, I'll share my experience with binocular shopping and my thoughts on the binoculars I chose.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Life and the Newbie Birder

I had planned to use this blog as a journal of sorts about my journey as a birder. However, life seems to have had different plans for this past month. It's been an eventful month for birds around here at my home in Franklin County, North Carolina. We had a pair of Carolina Wrens nest in a hanging basket on our back porch and a pair of Mourning Doves nest in our bushes. I've seen a variety of species in my yard: Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, Tufted Titmouse, Downy Woodpecker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Cedar Waxwing, and Eastern Bluebird to name a few. Also, I made my first birding-specific outing to Durant Park in Raleigh, North Carolina, where I was able to see a Belted Kingfisher (simply amazing to watch catching fish) and a Red-shouldered Hawk.

I still plan to discuss my experiences with some of these species in the not-too-distant future, along with other things that may interest other newbie birders like myself, such as field guides, binoculars, and birding books. Maybe I'll even start posting some reviews for these various items; perhaps I can help other fledgling birders wade through the numerous items available to birders. I also have some pictures to post so I can spruce the place up a bit.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Welcome to a Beginner's Birding Blog!

Welcome to this blog about my birding journey! I'm a beginning bird watcher in central North Carolina, and I intend to use this blog to document my experiences. There will be a little bit of everything here: birds I identify, thoughts about birding, and things I learn along the way. Please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments; they will be much appreciated.