To celebrate the start of a new year, we are having an old fashioned free print give-a-way here at the Landfill Bird Blog. I've listed my top ten favorite pictures taken in 2010, and all you have to do to receive a free print of one of this year's favorites is to leave a comment below! After you leave a comment, be sure to email me your address so I know where to ship your print. Everyone have a happy New Year and be sure to help out on a Christmas Bird Count if you haven't already. Have a happy 2011!
Kestrels are all over the place out at the landfill, but their tendency to fly away when approached is why I haven't had any pictures of them until now. It was so cold this bird wasn't too keen to fly and let me get close to snap this shot.
Growing up my dad was fond of folksy colloquial expressions. I've heard things declared "As useless as a screen door on a submarine", or one of his favorites, "Six of one, half dozen a dozen of the other". Ask him how' he's been and you'll likely get the reply "Fair to middlin'." I can't even begin to count how many times I was told I was "Skating on thin ice" as a kid. A lot of times these sayings commonly involve animals or birds, such as, "Dead as a Dodo", "Doesn't have the sense God gave geese", or "happy as ducks in Arizona". The title of this post, "You old coot!" is an expression used to describe a cranky, surly, or pesky old person. Coots got implicated in this negative expression because they are just so danged common and numerous. Duck hunters consider them pests and a distraction because of this commonness. The sheer numbers of coots make it difficult locate and shoot more attractive and sought after ducks. After all, no one wants an American Coot mounted above the fireplace and they are less than palatable to the taste buds.
So to call someone an "old coot" is a way to deem them unwanted or unattractive. I for one don't think it's fair for coots to get such a bad rap. While they may not have the razzle dazzle of a Painted Bunting, they make up for it in personality and character. It's fun to watch these birds bebop around the pond and dive for food. One coot that has been around since the summer decided himself fit to stand in as a father figure for a Mallard hen and her brood. He would associate with the Mallards even when there were other coots on the pond. I'm not sure how accepted he was by the Mallards, they didn't seem to pay much attention to the stranger who was always lurking in the background.
These birds may superficially look like ducks, but they actually belong to the family Rallidae, a group of water birds like the Virginia Rail or Purple Gallinule. Their swimming habits may also resemble ducks, but their bills do not. As you can see, their bills are more chicken-like than duck-like. Also, these birds have lobate feet, meaning each digit is surrounded but flat lobes and is not fully webbed like the feet of ducks.
With the below freezing weather we've been having, the ponds have all but froze up. These three coots have been swimming non stop to keep this small patch of pond ice free. The water movement keeps the water from freezing so the birds have to be constantly moving to keep from getting frozen in the ice.
Needless to say I was "Happy as a box of birds" to see these coots at the landfill. I think these guys are just "ducky". "A little bird told me" that if you want a "bird's eye view" of some of the best bird blogs, then "flock like birds of a feather together" over to the Pine River Review. Don't be "buzzard bait" and click the link below.
The bashful Lapland Longspur that I failed to photograph yesterday was more than obliging today, and he brought some friends! A total of about six Lapland Longspurs were toiling away looking for bits of food only 10 feet from the truck. I sat and watched and photographed them all day. It's hard NOT to photograph these guys when they make it so easy to do.
This photo shows the long back toenail (hallux) that gives Lapland Longspurs their name.
The usual Horned Larks were around again, there were more today than yesterday.
The Rough-legged still continues to be seen. Today he was fond of perching on gas well heads and he also had a particular favorite tree in the wetlands.
I was wondering where the American Pipits had gotten off to earlier in the day. I found the two from yesterday when I went to the compost area of the landfill and found them picking around a giant pile of discarded spoiled produce from local grocery stores. If you squint you can make him out at the bottom left hand side in the mud.
When there is a lot of snow or ice on the ground, all the birds head up to the tipping floor where the garbage is being dumped. Everything else right now is covered in ice, so their only hope is to pick morsels of trash or stray seeds from the mud. Today I saw Mourning Doves, Eastern Meadowlarks, Horned Larks, two American Pipits and a single Lapland Longspur all at the active dumping area. The Rough-legged Hawk is still around as well. These shots aren't the best because the low light forced me to bump up the ISO and the birds are constantly moving picking food up off the ground so some are a little fuzzy.
The most numerous birds were the Horned Larks with around 50 present. Most of the birds looked even paler than this bird below. There was a lot of variation in their color and no two birds looked the same.
This Mourning Dove found some hay that was laying in the mud. It was frantically picking of all the small seeds from the grass.
The most accommodating by far was the American Pipit. The bird ventured close several times, sometimes as close as six feet from the truck. I counted two who were expertly dodging dump trucks while foraging for food.
The only bird I wasn't able to photograph was the Lapland Longspur. I saw it several times but it never came close enough for me to get a photo. Guess I'll have to try again tomorrow. I'm hoping for sunny skies instead of clouds, that way I can drop the ISO and open the aperture and avoid these fuzzy photos.
The Rough-legged Hawk is still flying around and was pretty conspicuous. He was fond of the telephone poles today but every time I go too close, he would fly off. The light was pretty poor as you can tell so the pictures aren't as sharp as they could be. I'm going to keep shooting because you never know when a bird is going to leave. He's probably not going anywhere tonight, the forecast is 2 inches of snow and 0.5 inches of ice. He may be stuck to a pole in the morning instead!
Okay, so after thinking this was a Western Red-tailed Hawk (here is one from earlier this year), someone on Flickr promptly corrected my mistake and informed me that this is a dark phase Rough-legged Hawk! I'm certain there was a Western Red-tail at the landfill today because I saw the red, but it wasn't this guy. There are so many hawks out there it's getting hard to keep track. Anyway, I'm glad my mistake was corrected, looks like I still have some learning to do.
This bird is currently on the ebird home page. They have a ebird rarities flickr pool and the images from that pool show up on the home page. If you haven't tried ebird I would highly recommend it. It is a good way to see trends and keep track of lists, but more importantly, by contributing your sightings, you will be giving ornithologists hard data on bird populations. It is known as "citizen science" and it is a great tool for birders and scientists alike.
Since I'm usually at the landfill until dark, I get to see some pretty amazing sunsets. I'm going to be starting a new series today called Sunset Sundays, where I will post new pictures of the landfill at twilight each Sunday. Enjoy.
These are the methane flares that burn off the gas generated by the decomposing garbage. It is my understanding that more gas is collected and sent to nearby GE to power their factory, a smart example of how to turn waste into energy that is beginning to catch on here in the U.S.
A Rough-legged Hawk has returned to the landfill. Just took these pics about 30 minutes ago. There was one here back on February 17th of this year. I found it in the same spot as the one that was here in February and the Red-tails quickly took note of it and started harassing the bird, which they did in February as well. They were dive bombing the Rough-legged and twice the birds interlocked talons. It was quite a sight.
Update: So I saw the bird again this evening around 4:30. Initially he buzzed by the truck at eye level about 10 feet away. He caught my attention and I followed him to the side of one of the units. I watched as he worked the field and hovered looking for mice. At one point he landed on the top of a unit and gave me an annoyed look. I let him be after he flew, but as I was driving to the parking lot I spotted him again, down on the ground beside the road. He was letting me approach pretty close and seemed to tolerate my presence well. Hopefully he will be around tomorrow, I will update if I see him again.
Welcome to the Landfill Bird Blog. I am a Bird Biologist at a landfill in Louisville, Kentucky and I created this blog to share some of the great birds I see at the landfill with you. Be sure to bookmark us because you never know what I may find next!