A couple of weeks ago we took a family trip to Washington DC. This was something we had attempted the last few years but had to cancel one time for a hurricane. This trip wasn’t much better weather wise with temperatures the first day in the 20’s and 40-50mph winds. This made for low wind chills and few people walking on the National Mall. And I really didn’t expect to come up with a story about birds on a family trip to Washington DC. But I did. The problem is it’s on an extinct species visitation.*
On the National History Building’s first floor is an exhibit of birds seen in the Washington DC area. The birds are stuffed and mounted with a brief description of each species.
But what caught my eye were the species no longer seen in the area. Or anywhere for that fact.
Because they’re Extinct Species
Unless I visit another natural history museum this will probably be my only chance to ever see these species. Stuffed and behind glass. Not out in the wild.
And where are we headed with other species? Will they be in this or a similar museum in 150 years? I’m afraid there will be many more than the six that have gone extent since the European settlers arrived.
A side note. Of the hundreds of people at the museum, only a few were looking at the birds. Most visitors were at the dinosaurs and elephants and other “exciting” exhibits. These held people’s attention, not inactive, stuffed birds
But my wife pointed out even though my daughter, niece, and nephew don’t spend time in nature, all the parks and museums they visited when young have given them an awareness of nature. And that they should be concerned. Hopefully it will affect all the urban school children running around the museum each day.
While doing a “hawk watch” along the Colorado River on December’s trip I had the opportunity to watch another group of corvids harassing a larger bird. In this case it was a group of Black-billed Magpie mobbing a Red-tailed Hawk.
Before I relate the story it seems I keep running into this kind of action. Back in February I posted the story about a Great Horned Owl being mobbed by a flock of American Crows at Johnson County Park. And in early January I saw a group of Blue Jays harassing and chasing a Red-Shoulder Hawk in Geist Reservoir in Marion County.
Now I haven’t been out in the field much lately. So am I just stumbling upon corvids acting like this or does it happen more than I know? I really can’t answer the question but it appears to happen frequently.
Colorado Black-billed Magpie Mobbing
While scanning for raptors along the Colorado River north of Grand Junction I noticed one, then two, then several Black-billed Magpies flying to a distant tree line. Now this seemed odd since I had only seen and heard one or two in the previous hour. In fact I had noted earlier in the trip I heard many more magpies than I saw. Which struck me as acting like a Blue Jay. Not wanting to be seen unless the need arose.
It didn’t take long to figure out what was happening. The magpies were gathering in one tree. Which meant there was something present they could harass.
Eventually the dark morph Red-tailed Hawk I had seen earlier appeared and the two flew off together. And the magpies must have lost interest since they did not pursue.
This will be a short post which probably won’t hold any interest to anyone else. But there are certain things I like to keep track of through the blog. Like the Red-tailed Hawk nest I’ve been watching.
Once again work and family obligations limited my time birding over the weekend. For once though it’s during the holding game waiting for migration instead of early May. So I didn’t feel as much disappointment only getting out for a few hours.
I previously mentioned the Red-tailed Hawk nest when I happened to see a couple of hawks in the local park. It appeared they were either building a new nest or occupying a previously used nest. On subsequent trips I didn’t see any activity.
Until this weekend when a hawk was sitting on the nest.
I’m glad to see it’s occupied so I can continue to monitor it though the spring.
Over the years I have seen several Red-tailed Hawk nests and I have to say this looks small. Or is it my memory?
Must be my memory. Hal Harrison in Eastern Bird Nests lists the outside diameter at 28-30″, and the inside diameter at 14″-15″ with a depth of 4-6″. Looking at the photo again I would definitely say this nest is within that range.
I often wonder with all the Red-tailed Hawks I see why I don’t come across more nests. The following photo answers that question.
This started out like the post on winter Ruby-crowned Kinglets and Wood Ducks in Western Colorado. That post highlighted the fact I had overlooked the possibility of seeing either species on my trip. So, along those same lines I was going to discuss four subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco which are possible in Western Colorado. That will still be the theme. But I’ll also share some thoughts after researching the Dark-eyed Junco frustrating subspecies.
I knew Dark-eyed Juncos were possible in Western Colorado since they had a .06 possibility. I expected to see the usual Slate-colored subspecies until seeing a “different” junco at Connected Lakes State Park.
Once I realized it was a different subspecies I started taking as many photos of juncos as possible. I finally got around to reviewing them last week.
Using Sibley’s Field Guide to Birds of Western NA – pg. 424-426 I found there are 6 subspecies of Dark-eyed Juncos. The first four listed below are possible in the Grand Junction area in winter.
Slate-colored – All NA – Indiana’s
Oregon – Western NA
Pink-Sided – Central NA
Gray-headed – Great Basin
Red-backed – AZ and NM
White-winged – small strip of area from Montana to CO
Slate-colored – No
The nominate subspecies in most of the US is the Slate-colored. It is the one we know in the Midwest – dark gray above and white below. The female is a more gray-brown above. And looking through my photos I didn’t see one on the trip.
Oregon – Yes
What finally made it dawn on me that I wasn’t seeing the usual Slated-Colored was the different colored juncos at Connected Lake State Park. The junco had hoods.
Pink-sided – Probably Not
Gray-headed – No
Since I don’t have a photo I took this off the internet.
Now for an Indiana Bonus
While searching for a photo of the nominate Slate-Colored Junco I came across the following photo.
This post exemplifies why I got into blogging and birding. It “forces” you to look closer and do more research on a topic you might otherwise blow over. And eventually the frustrating part turns into knowledge. This will make my future encounters with any subspecies of Dark-eyed Junco very rewarding.
So how windy was last Saturday? Check out this photo of a windblown Eastern Phoebe!
Along with Mike Saturday’s plan was to search for the expected early migrants. But before I met up with Mike I did a bit of owling.
The Eastern-screech Owls weren’t the usual spots but a Barred Owl was calling nearby at one. I finally found one screech-owl.
I met up with Mike at the Great Horned Owl spot where we eventually heard one calling right before sunrise. We visited a couple of lakes and saw a good variety of waterfowl and the first of the migrants, three distant Tree Swallow flying over the Pisgah Lake.
The next stop was the known Eastern Phoebe Bridge and one was heard “chipping” immediately exiting the car.
Now watch the tail. Wait for it. Classic Phoebe!
At Driftwood SFA we found both migrants. The before mentioned windblown Eastern Phoebe and a small group of Tree Swallows.
This is my fifth spring in Indiana, so I can start to have realistic personal early/late dates.
Earliest Eastern Phoebe by 6 days. But not sure I was always looking for an early one.
Tree Swallow was the second earliest. Earliest was 3/2/13.
The following probably would have made a good Facebook post. But as followers know I disdain a bird photo or species report without a story behind it. Even a few details to liven up the story. So I’m still going to do this as a blog post versus a FB post.
Most of my posts take between 1.5-2 hours. But this one is going to be similar to what I see on other blogs. Short and to the point. I have set the timer on the iPhone to 30 minutes and off I go. We’ll see if I think it holds up to my usual standards.
Yesterday morning wasn’t anything special. I worked on a future post concerning juncos in Colorado and headed off to work. Upon arriving I did the usual scan of the plant’s retaining (or is it retention??) pond. I have seen most of the expected waterfowl on the pond including a Red-necked Grebe during the outburst a couple of years ago.
Yesterday Morning I Added a New Species to the Pond
The scan produced 7 Greater-white Fronted Geese on the edge of the pond. They were hanging out on the spot usually taken by the Canada Geese.
I watched them for a few minutes, getting an accurate count, and headed in to work.
And in the Afternoon I Added One More
Jump several hours later and I’m heading home. I scanned for the Greater White-fronted Geese but they weren’t to be seen. But to my surprise there was a little white goose!
Not everyday I can add a couple of species to my work list. Of course I don’t actively pursue my work list so it isn’t very large.
Now what if I had gone out and checked at lunch???
There I did it under 30 minutes. Of course that isn’t counting the time to get the photos from the phone to the blog. And no photo editing, proofreading, verb usage check, SEO check, highlighting, etc. Sorry if there are a few errors. I’ll stick to the longer format unless I think I have something someone else would like to chase.
Luckily for once extra time at work coincides with the winter Birding Doldrums. I did get out for a few hours last weekend but not much was happening except there are now four Red-tailed Hawks in the neighborhood. So I’ll continue with my December Colorado trip discussing Day 4’s afternoon with the highlight being a female Northern Harrier.
After birding Connected Lakes State Park all morning, the goal was to drive the short distance to Walker State Wildlife Area and scan for Raptors. Probably not the ideal location to scan but I didn’t feel like driving. And there werer eBird reports of raptors flying along the nearby Colorado River.
I never did see what made the waterfowl fly. But a few minutes later I got a glimpse of a distant bird flying up river. The bird was large and dark. Even at that distance it didn’t have the feel of a Bald Eagle. The wings weren’t “planky” enough. The elusive Golden Eagle?