Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shorebirds Make Me Sore...a!

Another visit to Sandy Ridge
September 12 2010
(Sorry in advance for poor photo quality; it was early in the morning and the lighting was not the best)

So, less than 24 hours and I'm back at SRR! Why? My grandparents were going to call me up and invite me to come with them to SRR this morning. Which is exactly why I called them! What are the chances? So, at around 8am we arrived. Ironically, while I was explaining about the little Red-tail from yesterday, he flew by our car! (No photos this time, though.)

After encountering a trio of beautiful deer (my Totem animal, if you didn't already know), the Bald Eagle flew by. In the exact same spot as yesterday! Again, what are the chances? The Cormorant, too, was sitting where I left him...hmm...what's with the birds and their coincidences?

Although the light was still clouded over this early in the morning, I was able to get a few shots of the Lesser Yellowlegs (I'm really beginning to love these birds) foraging:

Also, a small peep... I think it's a Semipalmated...? Any help? Shorebirds really aren't my strong point. I need some practice... the more I get to Sandy Ridge, the better I'll become at identifying sandpipers, I believe. For now, however, any advice will be appreciated!

When my grandma pointed out a "salt and pepper bird", I was looking at a nearby Yellowlegs. I told her as much and took a few photos.Moving up along the trail to a patch of marsh grass, another trail-goer suddenly pointed out a Sora!! Of course, everyone but I saw it disappear into the grass. It was then that my grandma told me, "That's the salt and pepper bird!" I could have had a full view of it earlier! Aaargh! I ended up going back 3 times to look fruitlessly for the uncommon bird. Darn! Another one slipping through my fingers! (This has happened before with other species...)

Oh well...we birders have to learn the hard way about letting things go.
On to the next birds... We reached the overlook, where the usual Yellowlegs, Killdeer, Egrets, Mallards, and Teals were foraging. I noticed a flit of brown and yellow next to me and looked away from my binos. A little warbler was perched right next to my grandpa, who was looking through his binos and didn't hear me in time! "Warbler, warbler!" but he looked away after the little girl had flown off. I tracked her with my camera as she flitted around in the flowers and before I knew it, she came close. I got one heck of a shot, one I'm planning to enter in a photo contest (North Chagrin Nature Photography Contest/Show). Since I don't want to publish the entry photo here, I'll show you a shot taken a few seconds later.

I'm thinking this is an immature fall Palm Warbler. Something sure to ID this bird is its bright yellow undertail coverts. It also sports some dusky brown streaking on its breast and sides, a faint darker eyestripe, off-white eye rings broken on each side... Here's a few more shots in case anyone wants to help confirm this ID:

(Scratch that itch!)

(Back off!)

I then sighted (rather, glimpsed) what I thought to be a Hooded or Wilson's female. Plus, some singing sparrows! We travelled along the trail to the other side of the marsh, were a Greater Yellowlegs was to be found:

A trio of noisy Belted Kingfishers were busy flapping from branch to branch, and I even saw one dive for a fish. I hadn't seen a Kingfisher since 2009 so this was a pretty fun sighting. I never realized Kingfishers were as small as they are, though!
A beautiful sleeping GBH was pointed out to me by my grandparents, and it made for a serene photo.

Of course a marsh wouldn't be complete without swallows, and a large colony of the lovable Northern-Rough-Winged variety preened silently in the dead trees. Next, while looking at a rather peculiar coloured duck (a Mallard, but pale on the body with light brown/tan accents. Maybe leucistic?) I scanned to the right with my binos and sighted a very still Green Heron. Love those guys!

Finally, on my last try on sighting that sora (Which of course never showed) , I saw some more Yellowlegs...invasion of the some more sandpipers. I know I'll be better at identifying them in the future, but for right now they make my eyes sore! (Just like my legs were at the end of this long walk!) As we went back into the woods, we sighted the trio of deer, and that cormorant again...sunning his wings...

(Pectoral Sandpipers? Please help...thank you!)

(Aaah catching those rays!)

Signing off this time with a tribute to my friend Dave whose advice and compliments are much appreciated! Visit his blog and you'll understand why I'm leaving you with this...:

~Until next time,

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Rain and Red-tails

A trip to Sandy Ridge Reservation!

Let me say, first off, where has this place been all my life? It's only 10 minutes from my house and yet houses so many great birds. I don't know where to begin! Within 30 seconds of entering the trail, I sighted an immature Red-tailed Hawk attempting to catch a squirrel. He was flapping noisily along the ground as the squirrel scuffled around him. It was amazing and amusing at the same time. The squirrel eventually chased him away! We also saw a snake in the woods...oooh...

Then, we emerged from the woods about 5 minutes later to find a Great Egret, followed by a soaring pair of Red-tails. Then...the Bald Eagle! Sandy Ridge is famous for its nesting pair of Baldies, and I'm glad to have seen one.

Then, the most ADORABLE Wood Duck swam out from the vegetation and started spurting across the water and vocalizing. It was pretty fun to watch.

(She is so cute...)

Next, the 'flats', or sand bars, with sandpipers galore! Killdeer, Yellowlegs, and some other sandpiper species that I've yet to identify. The Killdeer were surprisingly tolerant of us photographers coming close and snapping a few pics.

(EDIT: Pectoral Sandpiper. Thanks Dave!)

(It's so cute!)

Looking up from the close Killdeer, I saw a very close GBH... as the people started coming towards her with cameras and binos, I knew she'd fly away. I had time to get this one photo before she flew:

Then came the SECOND close encounter with a raptor! An accipiter (Sharpie or Coops, who knows?) burst from the bushes wheeled around in front of me and another woman taking photos (our cameras weren't ready, of course!) and landed for a few seconds on a dead tree before swooping off again. It took us all by surprise and left us (and the blackbirds) breathless!

At the overlook, we saw a fishing Great Egret with no luck dinnerwise. Green-winged Teals (life bird) foraged alongside Yellowlegs and Killdeer:

(Did somebody say aquatic invertebrates? Yum!)

As we headed back, I saw a striking woodpecker and raised my binos. A juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker! Life bird! I snapped a few shots during the brief seconds she was on the visible side of the tree before it started to drizzle. But-- don't rain yet!! I need to get a photo of this awesome sandpiper that I just found! I ended up getting a few shots of the close-up sandpiper before it really started raining.
As everyone ran for the trees, I heard a strange sound and looked to my right. Wahoo! A DC-Cormorant! I watched it for a few minutes before stubbornly following everyone into the woods.

Here comes the BEST part! When we were heading to the car, I saw the immature Red-tail perch on a handicapped parking sign! Woah! I've never seen a wild raptor that close; this was incredible. He just looked around, seeming to not notice as I (and another young birder) got closer and closer with our cameras. Finally, after a few minutes, he moved to the next sign (a Stop sign). Shaking with excitement, I reluctantly climbed into the car. Then, he flew onto a post right above our car! I rolled my window down and got a few more shots, while hearing some other regular visitors talk about this 'resident Red-tail who is learning to hunt'. So that's why he was so inexperienced with that squirrel.

(Look at those talons!)

(You know what's out below!)

I'm visiting SR Reservation tomorrow morning with my grandparents and, with any luck, I'll see my new fine-feathered raptor friend again.

Happy trails!


Friday, September 10, 2010

The Little Warbly Things in Life

On my mini-vacation to Hocking Hills this Labour Day weekend, I was certainly expecting to see some life birds, but not the amount I ended up counting! Plus, I sighted an uncommon Connecticut Warbler (see my last post) and what's more, got some photos of him! All the hiking we did produced nothing more than a few Cedar Waxwings, but it did burn some calories. We stayed at a cute bed and breakfast near Athens, OH, and boy did it have birds! Nestled in by a forest and a marshy pond, I was out there with camera and bino's every chance I got. If the 10 Wood Ducks foraging in the pond and the (still unidentified) flycatchers weren't enough, there were life birds of the warbly kind to be seen!

The first morning, I was randomly hoping to see vireos out my window. What do you know, I open the blinds to see vireos in the trees! I scrambled to get dressed, grabbed my gear, and headed out into the cool morning air. (When I say cool, I do mean cool). The wet grass froze my feet clad in flip-flops, but I didn't care. A flurry of colourful feathers was all around me; I barely had time to watch one bird before another stole my attention.

I saw my first American Redstart; what an awesome sighting! They really do love their tails...
Then there was the female fall-plumage Blackpoll Warbler, Philadelphia Vireo, and fall plumage immature Black-throated Green Warbler. I'd only ever seen Yellow Warbler and Common Yellowthroat; before that morning I never appreciated warblers much. Now...I am officially hooked on warblers!! ID'ing them is fun but challenging in the fall and I believe is a great exercise. I'm still not comfortable ID'ing them in the field, but taking photos then using a field guide at home is a good start. (Remember, I only started seriously birding in late May this year.) I also observed (but did not photograph) a Hooded looked more like a Wilson's Warbler until it flashed its white tail feathers. Bingo, it was a Hooded!
That morning also brought familiar birds such as Ruby-throated hummingbirds, Northern Cardinals, Red-bellied, Downy, and Hairy woodpeckers, Chickadees, White-breasted Nuthatches, Turkey Vultures, Red-eyed vireos and more...

The next morning was slower and less active, but I still sighted some great birds. First off being the male Connecticut Warbler... wahoo! A great find for Ohio and in general. See my last post for more information on this one.
Also, some wood-peewees and Redstarts.

That day I also found (but did not keep) a beautiful primary feather of a hawk. Looked like a Red-tailed or Cooper's...
Well, I hope to visit Hocking/Athens again because it was beautiful and birdy!

~Peace always,

My Bird List for the Hocking Trip
-Red-eyed Vireo
-Philadelphia Vireo
-American Redstart
-Magnolia Warbler
-Hooded Warbler
-Connecticut Warbler
-Blackpoll Warbler
-Black-throated Green Warbler
-American Crow
-Ruby-throated Hummingbird
-Eastern Wood-peewee
-American Goldfinch
-American Robin
-Downy/Hairy Woodpecker
-Red-bellied Woodpecker
-Chimney Swift
-Cedar Waxwing
-White-breasted Nuthatch
-Rock Pigeon
-Wood Duck
-Northern Cardinal
-Red-tailed Hawk
-Black-capped Chickadee
-Turkey Vulture

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Rare Sighting?

On September 6, 2010, near Athens, Ohio, I was out birding at around 8:30 in the morning when a small movement in the vines caught my attention. I had already seen some good warblers that morning (American Redstart, Magnolia Warbler; both life birds) and a few other good birds (Wood-peewees, vireos). Considering I had been up only since 8AM, this was a pretty good list for the day so far! This small wall of vines cascading and intertwining through branches of a large tree was not lit by the rising sun, so I stepped closer and lowered my camera's exposure, ready to track down this silent little bird. As soon as I saw that yellow breast and slate-blue head, I knew I had something unusual, and no doubt a Lifer. Unexperienced in all things warbly, I decided to skip the binos and just focus on getting a photo or two to bring back inside, in hopes of ID'ing him with a guide.

He seemed a bit shy but nevertheless let me get a quick but good look/ photo op. His complete white eye ring stood out in the shady vegetation. He 'walked' from branch to branch, never hopping nervously or flitting up and down the vines like other birds would. Then, as quick as he appeared, he vanished. Not a peep (no pun intended) out of this little guy. Oh, well, at least I had a substantial amount of (grainy) photos to reference to as I pulled my field guide out. Flipping through the warblers pages, I spied a couple of look-alikes: Mourning, Connecticut, and MacGillivray's warblers. I looked at their differences, and immediately realized that the only one with a complete white eye ring was the Connecticut. The range was a bit off, but otherwise my bird fit the description perfectly! Long undertail coverts giving the appearance of a short tail, blue-grey hood, eye ring sometimes broken on one side only, a bit stocky, walks rather than hops, found in spruce bogs or near wetlands (near the vines and branches was a large pond, complete with Wood Ducks and frogs) or moist woods... YES, this was my bird! But how could it be, all the websites and books I'd read said that Connecticut warbler (in the east, particularly in Ohio) was an uncommon find! After Googling some images of the Connecticut warbler and comparing them to my bird, I was sure...this was a Connecticut warbler!

I'm still working on reporting this sighting, but in the meantime, here are the (grainy!) photos I snapped of the handsome fellow:

If anyone knows WHERE TO REPORT THIS SIGHTING, please give me the link or e-mail; it would be much appreciated. Thank you!


Friday, August 13, 2010

Painting Whales + A Short Orca History Lesson

I am going to re-do my room, and make it themed with Orca. As you may know, I am passionate about the Southern Resident Orca whales in the Salish Sea off of Washington's coast. They are very dear to me and I know about their genealogy, markings, families, histories, and so on. To study them is my desired career. I am 15 now and I have purple walls and a butterfly themed bed spread...not very mature, is it? I'm going to miss my purple walls (they're purple! what more could a girl want?) however it's time for a change. I have decided to paint some of the Southern Resident Orca on my walls, and some related bird species (if you don't know I'm also an avid birder). It will be a Pacific Northwest themed room, complete with a light blue bed spread! I am choosing the colours and bird species right now, but something I just can NOT decide on are which whales to paint!! I have narrowed it down to a few of my favourite whales, and I would like you all to help me choose who to paint on my walls!

We have...

The J22's
~Oreo J22
~DoubleStuf 234
~Cookie J38
~Rhapsody J32

Oreo is the mother of two sons, DoubleStuf J34 and Cookie J38. In 1998, Oreo lost her sister Ewok J20. Born in 1998 was Oreo's firstborn son J34, and also Ewok's daughter J32. Oreo, struggling with her own first born calf, took her niece in and raised two calves! (All while dealing with the loss of her sister). One year later in 1999, Oreo's brother Everett J18 was found washed up on a beach. The next year Oreo suffered yet another loss with the death of her mother J10 Tahoma. In the span of three years, Oreo had lost all her immediate family, given birth to her first son, become an aunt, and adopted a daughter. What a strong young whale! In 2003, Oreo's youngest son Cookie J38 was born, completing the little family. This group is very tight knit.

Oreo's story struck me when I first read it. How could any young mother be so strong, and in between giving birth and losing a sister, still have the heart to take in a newborn calf? J22 is an inspiring Orca that has a wonderful family. I would honour her greatly by painting her and her family on my walls.

Below is a photo of the J22's. From left to right: J34 DoubleStuf, J32 Rhapsody, J38 Cookie, J22 Oreo

Ruffles and Granny
~Ruffles J1
~Granny J2

To anyone who knows Orca, the names Ruffles and Granny will instantly ring a bell. They are the elder members of the SRKW community, with a large following of fans and admirers. Granny, who is now in her estimated 100th year, (:party:)is a strong senior citizen and is believed to be the matriarch of the Community (J, K, and L pods). She often leads the way, her companion Ruffles always by her side. Thought to be mother and son, the pair are inseparable. Ruffles J2 is also nicknamed "the Stud" as he is a prominent factor in the gene pool for this group of Orca. During a superpod, in the midst of all those black and white beauties, Ruffles gets his game on and does what any male has to do to keep the population going.

(A fun fact about Ruffles: During the captures of the late 1960's, Ruffles and fellow males Ahab and Ishmael were captured! Ruffles was deemed too large at the time for captivity, but Ahab and Ishmael were sent away to serve the Navy in diving duty, searching for explosives and the like. To think, the great Ruffles might have been a captive whale! Please think of him and his wild cousins before you visit a marine park like Sea World, where there are captured whales living in the small tanks. )

Ruffles and Granny are the icons of the Southern Residents, and a symbol to many as the "classic" whales. No tribute to the SRKWs would be complete without J1 and J2!

Granny J2

Ruffles J1

Faith, Lummi, Luna, Taku
~Faith L57
~Lummi K7
~Luna L98
~Taku K1

Though from different pods, these four whales are some of the most inspiring, iconic, and beloved whales ever to pass through the Salish Sea. They are all deceased (Faith and Lummi in 2008, Luna in 2006, Taku in 1998) although we still remember them dearly. Most will know of Luna L98, the young male born to L67 Splash. He is famous for separating from his pod and living amongst humans, interacting with them (and a few dogs!). He was loved by many and was certainly a very special individual. His story is being re-made (from the previous documentary 'Saving Luna') into a silver screen film, titled, The Whale. Check it Out! Taku K1 was the first photo-ID'd souther resident, and at the time of his capture two notches were cut into his dorsal. He was released and years later, the notches remained. This showed that Orca could be studied by their individual markings and shapes-- founding the basis for the photoidentification Orca Survey! Serving as an icon to the scientific community researching the SRKWs, he became much loved. When the whale watching industry began, Taku was there! His mother K7 Lummi was the oldest Southern Resident, although she died in 2008 at the ripe age of 98! Lummi, being so old, was also admired by lovers of the whales. A wonderful ceremony was held in her honour at Lime Kiln state park. Faith L57, who died the same year, was a 37 year old male from L Pod who was often seen travelling with Canuck L7 and Lulu L53. They became a close group, always together. With his distinct tall, leaning dorsal fin, Faith was easily recognized. We continue to Keep the Faith even though he disappeared late 2008.

You can see my tribute to Faith L57 HERE.

Just like Ruffles and Granny, these four whales are true ICONS of the Southern Resident Orca community, and they are all locally revered. Faith was one of my favourites, and I miss him very much. I would very much like to include him somehow in my painting. Lummi and Taku are reminders of the beginnings of the Orca Survey and historical members of the community. Luna, oh, well, it's LUNA for the spirits' sake! Luna is famous around the world for being 'the orca who loved people'. If you would like to learn more about Luna, go to: Reunite Luna and Luna's Story.

Cappuccino K21

Cappuccino K21 is a 24 year old male in K pod. He has a sister Raggedy K40 who he is always side by side with. Their mother Kiska K18 died in 2003, and their siblings Pachena K17 and K46 are also deceased, making them the last in their family group.

Cappuccino was my first adopted whale! He is special to me in that he was the one I chose to adopt when I first learned about the Southern Residents. On my whale watching trip of 2009, I saw him and it was very exciting. I just have to include dear "Cappy" in my art somewhere!

So, there you have it. The 11 whales I wish to immortalize on my walls. I know this is a huge undertaking, especially because I have no experience painting, but I have been wanting to do this for a while. Why not, since my mom is willing to fund a room makeover?

This is my plan so far:

I would have the J22's on my main wall, and they would be the largest in the room. I could have the recognizable fins of K1 Taku and L57 Faith on the horizon, with the smaller fins of Lummi and Luna in the background of a dock/pier scene on the smaller wall by my door. (In the foreground on the pier would be a few Gulls) Ruffles and Granny could be on my window's wall, along with a soaring Bald Eagle. the wall with my bulletin board would feature a Raven and other various birds, also Cappuccino in the distance.

Do you like this plan? Please voice all comments or suggestions here! And did you enjoy my little lesson on the Orca? :) Tell me so in a comment, please!


~Adopt an Orca, learn more about the whales, or donate!~

~Learn the official alphanumerical designations of the Orcas, their family lines, general Orca facts, and more.~

~Connecting Whales and People in the Pacific Northwest. An organization well worth checking out!~

~Learn about all the Orcas who have lived or died since 1998!~

Monday, August 9, 2010

Missing Whales...

I will catch you all up on my adventures soon! Until then please read some news I have learned about the Orcas...

...I just found out from the Whale Museum's and CWR's website that Georgia (K11), Flash (L73), and Saanich (L74) are listed as MISSING ...Georgia was estimated to be born in 1933, making her 77 this year (mid-aged, Females live to be
in their late 90's) ...Flash and Saanich were born in 1986, making them 26 this year (a young whale; Males live into their late 50's). Georgia lost her mother (Lummi K7) two years ago in 2008, at at the time her mother was the oldest living Southern to have another loss of such a well aged female in the same matriline would be a very sad thing...and Flash and Saanich are both lively young males, just about breeding age, so they are valuable members of the community. I do hope they are not gone...this seems reminiscent of the disappearance of Faith L57 in late 2008/early 2009; he was a br
eeding age male in his mid-30's, a very healthy age for a male. If we lost Flash and Saanich it would be very sad and a hard loss for the community. Plus, Georgia is the second oldest female in the community, to loose her would be terrible. Her pod and matriline need her! Orcas stay with their mothers and families their whole lives, and Georgia has 1 daughter (Skagit K13). Georgia is a grandma AND a great-grandma! (Her grandchildren are -Spock (K-20), Scoter (K-25), Deadhead (K-27), and Cali (K-34), and her gr
eat-grandchild is Comet K38) Of course Flash travels with his mom L5 Tanya, but Saanich's mom L3 is gone. Here is a twist: Flash and Saanich are cousins! So for them both to be of the same family group and to disappear together, it is quite mysterious. Saanich has lost all his siblings and his mom, I do hope he is still alive to carry on his family bloodline. Flash has a great group he travels with (including Saanich and Tanya), and he is growing well. PLEASE BE OK, WHALES!! WE ARE HOPING FOR YOUR RETURN.

~Peace Always,

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Horses with a Heritage!

Lakota and his mares (and foal!).
[From left to right: War Bonnet, Blanca's foal, Blanca, Lakota]

July 15

Wild horses are really something you only read about, hear about, dream about as a kid. You see photographs of scarred stallions battling with sharp teeth and hooves, you watch films of large harems galloping across the plains. It looks so far away from civilization, like only a few people have ever been amongst these untamed Equines. You envision huge, never-ending herds reminiscent of those of the great buffalo in early America. In reality, these herds are small, approchable, accessable, and true mustangs are an even scarcer breed. Many, many years ago, the Spanish Conquistadors brought their compact and hardy horses to the New World in the conquest of the uncharted Western continents. These horses were bred to be strong, versatile, able to fit (in large numbers) on the small ships carrying Spaniards to the mysterious distant lands. The horses came in beautiful colours like dun, grulla and grullo, roan, and jet black. Short, thick legs, hard hooves, distinct sloping croups, low-set tails, and muscular necks defined this Spanish stock. Escapees and releases from this minute original band formed the beginnings of the modern-day Pryor Mustang herds. Blood testings and study of the conformation of the Pryors have confirmed this story. Genetically unique and running rich through the veins of American heritage, the Pyror wild horses are a breed like no other.

While larger herds of escaped domestic horses of all breeds roam Nevada and other states of the like, the Pryors are no random bunch. While all horses are special in their own ways and rights, the tough little Pryors hold a distinct place in our nation's history and environment. Dwelling in the first ever government-designated wild horse range, they are protected by the Beureau of Land Management (BLM). Under threat from lawsuits, radical animal rights activists (ironically), their [the horses] own decision to stay in areas of low food availability, inadequate public education, and of course predators, these mustangs have a lot to worry about (but they have great people working for their well being!).

The BLM and related mustang protection representatives use PZP's, a contraceptive drug, on select-aged mares to help control the population. Because the range is only so large, it can only support a certain number of horses. The PZP's don't work 100% of the time, however. Small roundups are necessary to assist in the goal of subdueing the effects of overbreeding, thus keeping the herd at a healthy and sustainable level.

If you've ever watched the documentary 'Cloud: Wild Stallion of the Rockies', you would know of the Pyrors. Although, the facts and names displayed and shared in these films are not all correct. I don't take sides, and don't wish to represent either side, but please, if you'd like to know more about the horses visit Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Website. Lawsuits have previously prevented water catchments, roundups, and contraception drugs for the herd and have maimed the Pryor conservation efforts. Since the horses stay by the only available water in the range, they consequently are in the area of the lowest food quality. By placing water catchments strategically throughout the lower hills of the Pryor mountains, it is hoped that the horses will stay there with the better food supply. This will allow there to be fewer roundups. It's a nice thought to want the horses free from any human contact, but unfortunately it's necessary for their health. The Pryor horses are currently in good hands and things are going well!

The list of what needs to be done is a long one, but first and foremost is to educate the public. They need know the critical situation that these horses are in and how to help.

So how can you help America's last wild horses? GET EDUCATED!
*Donate to or visit the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center in Lovell, WY*
*Tell others of the mustangs and how they can help*
*Do purchase literature with proper information (like America's Last Wild horses by Hope Ryden or Among Wild Horses by Lynne Pomeranz)*

For Further Information:

And now for a small tour of the herd! These photos were taken with a 500mm lens and cropped.

Mescelero and Fortunatas after a tense 'discussion'.

Two Boots leads his family away from Doc (another stallion).

Dove is chased by Mescelero.

Flint's yearling prances around.

Blanca leads her new (female) foal!

Cloud, looking weary with age, grazes.

Two stallions fight in the distance.

~Peace Always,