Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Wednesday, July 16, 2014
American goldfinch breed through out the central and northern United States and southern Canada. They tend to breed later than most other birds, waiting for the thistle and milkweed seed. They often use the little parachute fibers from these seeds to line their nests. The abundance of seeds help to feed the chicks. Their typical habitat is open fields where plenty of weeds are growing.
During the winter birds that breed in the northern portions of their range migrate to the southern US and Mexico. Prior to migrating the gold finch will molt into its winter plumage. This is one of two molts per year. The first molt occurs at the end of winter when the goldfinch changes to its bright yellow breeding plumage.
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The white-eyed vireo is a small passerine that breeds in the south eastern United States. They are typically found in scrub where they can often be seen hopping between branches gleaning insects from the bushes. They will also some times eat fruit. During the winter they migrate to their southern wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America or the Caribbean. I photographed this bird on South padre island. The South Padre Convention Center had a small garden with a man made stream running through which attracted many birds who had just made a long flight over the Gulf of Mexico.
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
A few years back I took a trip out to the Necedah NWR in central Wisconsin. I began to travel to Necedah the year before because it is known for being one of the best places in the world to photograph endangered Karner Blue butterflies. On this particular trip it was early October, which is a bit late in the season for Karners, but I had a free weekend day and wanted to go photograph some place that I had not photographed so often. The day was going well, photographing primarily red-headed woodpeckers, when as I was walking along a dirt road I spotted a pair of large white birds flying my way. As the got closer I was excited to see that it was a pair of whooping cranes.
The whooping crane is one of the largest birds in North America and it is highly endangered. They stand about 5 feet tall and have over a seven foot wingspan. Because of habitat loss and unregulated hunting the population of the whooping crane dropped to just 15 birds by 1941. They were added to the endangered species list in 1967. Since this time their population has been increased slowly to about 400 - 500 birds today.
Most of the cranes, around 300 or so, are a part of a flock that breeds in Wood Buffalo Park in Canada and winters in Aransas National Wildlife refuge in Texas. This flock are the decedents of the remaining 15. However there is concern about the population since they breed and winter together in the same location. A disease, natural disaster, or man made disaster could easily wipe out the entire flock in one shot. In order to avoid potential disaster the Whooping Crane Eastern Partnership began to release birds into central Wisconsin. Young birds where then trained to fly to wintering grounds in Florida using ultra light aircraft. This project was based out of Necedah NWR. These birds are a part of the eastern flock, easy to tell because of the tracking bracelet on one of the legs, which now numbers over 100.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Snowy owls are more diurnal then most owls.It makes sense that they would have to be active during daytime hours during the nesting season, which runs from may through September. During the summer daylight can stretch to over 20 hours per day. Birds that stay on the nesting territory during the winter would have to switch to nocturnal hunting because of lack of daylight during the winter. The primary prey of the snowy owl are lemmings. They will also eat other small mammals as well as ptarmigan and water fowl.
Occasionally there are mass eruptions of snowy owls down into Europe, Asia, or the United States. These typically occur because of a lack of food in their tundra territories. this lack of food can be caused by a bad year for the prey species, such as a decline in the lemming population due to disease, or it can be caused by a particularly good breeding season. as a ground nesting bird snowy owls can lay up to 11 eggs in a clutch. most years a snowy pair can not support that many chicks and some do not make it. On a good year where there is plenty of prey during the breeding season more chicks survive and when it comes time for them to go out on their own in the winter many head south to find food. This past winter was a huge snowy eruption in the US. Snowies were seen all the way down in Florida. Most of the snowies that I spotted were immature birds which suggests that it was a good breeding year for snowies. Unfortunately many of the snowies that came south will never make it back.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
At the beginning of April I decided to take a short trip down to Nebraska to see the sandhill cranes. I had already been offered a job but since it took a while for the background check, drug test and all of the paper work to go through I decided it was the perfect time to head down to the Rowe Sanctuary. It had been many years since I last visited the sanctuary, I was still shooting film at the time, and typically the timing never seemed to work out. Either we were vacationing down south in late winter or we were heading to Yellowstone in May, either way it would be difficult to get away so close to another vacation. Since I was not starting work for another week I decided it would be a perfect time to go.
The Rowe Sanctuary is an Audubon sanctuary located in central Nebraska. It consists of 1900 acres of river channel, wet meadows and agricultural land along the Platte River. It is named for Lillian Annette Rowe who financed teh initial purchase of 782 acres back in 1974 to help protect the habitat for migrating cranes.
Wednesday, May 7, 2014
The peregrine falcon is the quickest animal in the world. Although they typically fly at speeds around around 40 - 55 MPH, which is slower then many birds and several mammals, they can hit speeds in excess of 200 MPH when hunting. Peregrines are bird eaters that frequently hunt by flying higher then other birds, over .6 miles and then dropping down on their prey in a dive called a stoop. In their stoop they can hit speed over 200 MPH with the fastest speed ever measured hitting 242 MPH. The peregrine has special adaptations that help it to fly at high speeds. The pointed shape of their wings makes them very aerodynamic. The also have posts in their nostrils, called nare baffles, that help to equalize the extreme air pressure associated with diving at these high speeds.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
One of the earlier species to come back through are the palm warblers. The reason that they are one of the first back is because they do not winter as far south as most warblers. They typically winter in the southern U.S and Caribbean, while most species of warblers head down to Central and South America for the winter. Palms breed in northern Canada. They are found mostly in the eastern half of North America. I often hear palm warblers before I see them. Instead of flitting around in the trees like most warblers they are usually foraging through the leaf litter, like a fox sparrow, looking for insects and seeds.