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Sunday, April 30, 2006

BIRD in a BOX

BIRD in a BOX

Saturday afternoon - I took this picture at the end of a day-long Bufferlands Spring Migration birding bash. It was lovely spending the day birding with experts like Chris & Sean, the Bufferlands naturalists who led the tour at the waste water treatment plant and its vast acreage. I have done this spring tour 3 out of the last 4 years and each time I get to see this lovely Barn Owl - the 'BIRD in a BOX'. I wonder if it is the same bird each time? Might be.

Anyway, it was a grand day of birding. The group was supposed to be large but in the end things went wonky - the weather was cold on Friday but Saturday morning it was cold! That and a conflicting Audubon field trip knocked several people from the Bufferlands tour and in the end there were the two guides, one Bufferlands docent (who baked the BEST cookies ever) and only four participants - which included me. Normally there are around 15 birders on the tour. But happily a smaller group meant gas saved with one van instead two vans. I had the entire middle seat row of the van for myself - to think I bothered to shower!
We toured as much of the Bufferlands as we could as much of it was underwater - no surprise considering the incredible rains of the past few months. This go-round we walked far more than usual, and I, being lazy, am proud to say that I did all the walking and did not whine or fuss (until now anyway). The walking paid off in spades as it got us to spots were we saw wonderful birds.
To start off with, we saw a beautiful baby Great Horned Owl chick. It was all fluffy and semi-feathered. My pictures of it really sucked, because I used a 300 mm lens on my camera and I did not hold the camera very still. Here is the least fuzzy of the dreadful shots.
Rather fluffy & kitten-like Great Horned Owl chick
Nearby the baby owl we viewed a grove of cottonwoods that held nesting Great Blue Herons, Double Crested Cormorants and Great Egrets. We used spotting scopes for a nice view of the half grown heron chicks.
We went on to see shorebirds. One strange visitor amid the Western Sandpipers & Killdeer was a pale grey bird, which turned out to be an out of town visitor a Sanderling. I will never forget the bird because I took two shots of it in which the bird came out as pale blots of white against grey - I had inadvertently muddled up the camera's settings. I was deeply humilated that I should screw up such a simple shot. Ugh! [Get over it Claire, get on with your life]
To my mind, the most numerous birds of the day were Swainson's Hawks, and Wilson's Warblers. We only saw one Butter-butt (Yellow-rumped Warbler) and normally you're tripping over the things. The most interesting venue of the day was a host of Burrowing Owls behind a Walgreens, which I suppose ought to remind us that critters often don't want much for habitat, but they have to live somewhere! I wish there had been time to try taking a few pictures of those owls; they look so cute sitting by their little burrows.

My favourites birds for the day were a Black-chinned Hummingbird which did an arial dance for us, a singing Lazuli Bunting and two Blue Grosbeaks! At Freeport I saw a flit of blue and assumed it was a Scrub Jay passing so did not bother to look. Turned out it was this lovely fellow, the second Blue Grosbeak.

Blue Grosbeak

It is amazing how I manage to miss great birds because of carelessness. For example, I would have just assumed the Black-chinned Hummingbird was an Anna's. One other thing I want to improve is my abilty to ID birds by their song and calls. It is so much easier to be able to walk into a forest, hear bird song and to be able to say, 'Is that a Wilson's Warbler announcing itself?' That is the task I bought an iPod for - must get iPod loaded up with bird song and ready to go!