Saturday, November 17, 2012

Black-capped Chickadee

The Black-capped Chickadee...  a year-round Chicago resident who is inquisitive, friendly, chatty in a nasal sort of way, busy-bodied, hungry, seemingly happy and energetic even through harsh winter weather, and apparently in possession of some brain super-powers. When you put up a feeder they're usually the first to find it.  They have many variations of their  "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" call to communicate about the severity of a threat from a predator.  One of few bird species that can hang upside down on foliage or tree branches, they're very busy finding food but end up stashing quite a bit of it for the winter.  They'll remember thousands of hiding places and then eat up to 20 times in the winter what they eat in the summer.  I guess it takes quite a bit to keep that body warm and that brain juiced to remember so much!  Oh, and scientists have found that in the fall as they're feverishly stashing their seeds, their hippocampus grows 30% by adding new neurons.  Then in the spring it shrinks back.

Other interesting adaptations to survive the harsh cold?  They'll drop their normal body temperature of 108 degrees F to 85 in order to conserve energy.  They have especially dense feathers to fluff up and trap body heat when it's cold out.  They replace their feathers at the end of the summer with heavier plumage in preparation for winter.  And as it gets worn out over the next year it's shed yet again.

Now I know why it's so easy to approach these birds for a close-up shot with my sub-par equipment.  They're too busy gathering food and prepping for the winter to worry about me.  Much to do about a lot!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Northern Waterthrush, Nice to See You..

Where have you been all my birding years?  I guess I shouldn't act like I knew I was missing you.  You're one of a handful of warblers I had yet to happen upon but probably the last on my list of priorities.  Still, I've been out with enough serious birders that I'm surprised you're my first.  No offense, but you're rather plain looking, more like a thrush.  I would always flip right past you and stop at the Prothonotary warbler for an awkwardly long time.  Probably because of their super-velvety, yellow, vulnerable-looking head and chest against plain gray wings.  Still, you were interesting to watch as I peered over another more professional-looking photographer.  And you're just making a brief appearance as you're passing through, perhaps down to Eleuthera or Panama.

Now, for some reason I've always been really fond of the Ovenbird even though you guys look very similar...  Maybe I'm more attracted to their white eye ring with contrasting dark head feathers - gives them a more humble, alert, and studious look.   They also don't have your eye stripe - I think that makes you look more stern.  And then of course you're not walking around singing "teacher-teacher-teacher"...  and you don't have a Robert Frost poem named after you.

Ovenbird @ Willowbrook Wildlife Center

Anyway, it was super-cold when I arrived so I'm glad you guys warmed up enough to move about.  Nice seeing you.

Others I met (just migrating through):
Lincoln sparrow, Magnolia warbler, Bay-breasted warbler, Blackpoll warbler

Year-round Residents:
Northern Flicker, Cardinal, Ruby-crowned kinglet, Cooper's Hawk, Black-capped chickadee, Robin

Back for the Winter:
Golden-crowned kinglet, Red-breasted nuthatch

Still here from Summer:
Gray catbird
Lincoln's Sparrow
Northern Flicker

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Viroqua, Wisconsin

School's out for summer and we were off to the woods and streams in western Wisconsin. Sidie Hollow campground - the same one we took the ecology club to last year.  Beautiful spot...  oh, so buggy though this year.  A week later, I'm still consoling people that I don't have chicken pox...  I had a headnet on most of the time, but pulled it up to shoot pictures and spy birds.  They weren't black flies, but some kind of biting gnat.  We found out a little too late that vanilla extract wards them off.  

There is a dam with a small boomerang-shaped reservoir behind it. Campsites line a trout stream that leads into it.  Wayne runs the place with his wife and they have a bunch of bird-feeders near their motor home.  They always encourage me to get right up in their back yard and have a good look.  I'm glad because it feels weird peering through binocs with their trailer kitchen in the background and his wife staring out the window.  Brown Trout were caught although it's hard to sneak up on them when the water is this clear.  We haven't had much rain so far.  Maybe that's why no skeets.

I kept seeing this one-legged female red-winged blackbird.  She seemed to be getting along alright.

Cedar Waxwing

House Wren

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Eastern Towhee
Brown Trout

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Wooded Island?

I'm not sure why this place has remained off my birdar.  But it was certainly nice to tag along with the Chicago Audubon Society for the annual Illinois Spring Bird Count on Saturday morning. So nice I went back for more the next day.  

Yellow-rumped, Palm, Yellow, Black-and-white, Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Wilson's, Magnolia, female Black-throated Blue, male Black-throated Green(first ever!)

Eastern kingbird, Baltimore oriole, Ruby-crowned kinglet, Warbling vireo, Amer. goldfinch, Song sparrow, White-throated sparrow, White-crowned sparrow, Red-bellied woodpecker, Brown-headed cowbird, Caspian tern, Coots, Green heron, Kingfisher, and then the usuals.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Willowbrook Wildlife Center!

Amazing place... Thank you to Nancy Kett for showing me around and being patient as I snapped photos. They have 80 native animals on display because they are too injured or human-habituated to release. And they have many more that they regularly rehabilitate in order to release back to the wild.