Birds through my Office Window

The leaves are starting to swirl…but there are still enough on the trees to block the view of birds there. I’ve been lucky enough to catch some coming to our deck for seed or water. There was a Blue Jay with a scruffy head; most that I see are better looking. Sometimes the birds come alone…sometimes with buddies. They seem to like investigating the contents of the gutters.

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The Carolina Chickadee was in a rush….I barely got one picture!

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My favorite this month was the White-breasted Nuthatch. The birds seemed to be coming to the feeder very frequently. Did they have a late season nestlings they were feeding? They have such distinctive postures….always seem to move with precision.

The Chipping Sparrows also enjoy the feeder. One small one sat at the feeder looking around and I wondered if it was newly fledged.

The juvenile Red-Bellied Woodpecker is still around too. I’ve seen adults but they tend to be faster moving. The juvenile sits for portraits.

Overall – September was a good month for birds through the office window!

Birds at Brookside

The last day of the Brookside Gardens Wings of Fancy exhibit (Sunday before last) started out with some easy bird sightings. I didn’t have my best camera for getting the action…but I did get some identifying shots. The Red-Bellied Woodpecker really does have a red belly! I heard this bird before I saw it; for some reason it was being very noisy up in the trees along the stream near the conservatory parking lot gate.

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There was a scruffy looking Robin. I’m not sure if it was a juvenile or a molting adult. It seemed to be the only bird of the morning that was still.

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The Downy Woodpecker was very active…moving about in the trees so quickly I couldn’t tell if it was finding things to eat or not.

All three of the birds were seen in the same area and I heard catbirds and cardinals. It was a good day for birds if you looked quickly. Many of these birds stay around for the winter and will be easier to see after the leaves are off the trees. I continued my walk up to the fragrance garden wondering if there were any hummingbirds left in the salvia garden. I saw one within seconds of arriving…and took a picture. Most of the birds have already left…but this one still seemed to be enjoying the salvia.

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And after that…I was ready for the last day with the butterflies.

Red-Bellied and Downy Woodpecker Juveniles

A week ago, I saw two juvenile woodpeckers come to the bird feeder handing on my deck.

At first, I saw an adult Red-bellied Woodpecker coming to the feeder, get seeds then fly back to the maple tree.

Soon it became obvious that there was a fledgling because it followed the adult bird to the deck. The fledgling got as far as the railing and then flew back to the maple without attempting to get seed from the feeder. A few days later, I heard the fledging again and it seemed to still be following the parent…with a little more skill.

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There was a juvenile Downy Woodpecker at the feeder on the same day as I saw the fledgling red-bellied woodpecker. It is a Downy rather than Hairy Woodpecker because it has black spots on the white outer tail feathers.

I had seen a juvenile downy woodpecker back on June 9th which must have been from an earlier brood. It had the same clumsy flight pattern as the one I saw on July 19th.

The woods behind our have been good places for the woodpeckers this summer!

Birding Near Titusville

After the long field trip to Central Florida, the next day we had a shorter one to hot spots around Titusville. It felt a lot easier getting to a 6:30 AM bus than the 5 AM bus the previous day. The first stop was Hatbill Park…just as the sun was coming up.

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The Grackles were the first birds we noticed…because they were noisily welcoming the day.

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As the light got better there were other birds to notice: a Little Blue Heron fishing in the shallows.

A Red-shouldered Hawk almost too far away to photograph but showing its very distinctive tail as it flew away.

There was an Eastern Phoebe and

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Savannah Sparrow to represent smaller birds.

Some Brown Pelicans flew over the lake.

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We headed off to or next stop – a walk back into the woods. There were very large Live Oaks with Spanish moss, resurrection fern, and ghost orchids and

Quite a few American Robins. Some robins stick around in Maryland but some push southward and accumulate in Florida.

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There was a Red-Bellied Woodpecker that showed himself at just about every angle. They do have a little red on their bellies!

Florida has red maples just as we do in Maryland although the ones in Florida had formed their samaras months in advance of our trees.

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Ball Moss – a relative of Spanish moss (both Bromeliads rather than mosses) – was growing in some of the trees. It looks tidy rather than raggedy like the Spanish Moss.

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The Sabal Palmettos had ferns growing in their boots (the stubs of branches along the trunk). One of the other field trip participants identified it as a gold foot fern.

An Eastern Phoebe sat around long enough to be photographed here too.

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One stop was a neighborhood pond that has a population of resident Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks. They were noisy. Hopefully they quiet down at dusk.

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There were White Ibis in the pond as well. They seemed even more acclimated to people.

The next stop was a neighborhood park where there was a resident pair of Sandhill Cranes.

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Then we headed off to Dixie Crossroads (restaurant) for lunch. I took a picture of the mural as I came out of the restaurant – it featured a lot of the birds we had been seeing.

The post tomorrow will be about what we saw after lunch.

Belmont Hikes with Summer Campers I

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I have started weekly hikes with summer campers at Howard County Conservancy’s Belmont location. The theme for this week was ‘Fossils and Feathers’ – to I focused on birds during the hike. The cardinal flowers near the entrance to the Carriage House (the camp headquarters) have evidently attracted some hummingbirds but there were too many people about while I was there to see them.

I was early enough that I walked around to see how the butterfly meadow looks during its first season. It’s mostly grass!

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I photographed some of the flowers that are there among the grass. I hope the butterflies find them!

There were two groups of campers; the first group to hike were the younger children. We hiked down to the pond. There are birdhouses along the way down the grassy path through the newly mowed field. The tree swallows were very active…and then we saw purple martins in their house and flying off toward the pond. Turkey vultures made slow circles in the sky. There were red-winged black birds around the pond and we talked about other birds that like to be around water; Great Blue Herons and Wood Ducks both came up in the talk. We also saw dragon flies at the pond and talked about how they lay their eggs in the water. We hiked back along the tree lined drive to the manor house and stopped at the sycamore; we noticed the pieces of bark on the ground and agreed that next time they go to the stream they might try the curls of bark as ‘boats.’

I had a break between the two groups. I found a chair in the shade and took pictures of birds at the feeders and nearby trees.

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There were red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, a red-bellied woodpecker, and a mockingbird. I was hearing the mockingbird long before I managed to see it.

The second hike was a bit longer. We walked along the edge of the forest then went a short way in…listening for birds in several places along the way. We heard birds…but didn’t see any except doves and vultures. There was a lot of other things to see: a deer, a tiger swallowtail, chicory, wineberry, sweet gum balls, lichen, a cicada’s shed.

In both groups we found a few feathers to talk about. I enjoyed the hikes…and I think the campers did too.