Wednesday, April 13, 2011

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This Week's Miscreants

There has been a lot of activity at the landfill since my last post.  The migrants are coming back full force.  Over the last week I've seen: both species of kinglets, Common Yellowthroat, Yellow-throated Warbler, Eastern Kingbird, Lincoln's Sparrow, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and more. 

Field Sparrow
Field Sparrow

Barn Swallow
Barn Swallow

Lincoln's Sparrow
Lincoln's Sparrow

Blue-winged Teal
Blue-winged Teal

This is an immature Red-headed Woodpecker.  You can tell he's am immature because of the brownish wash on the head, adult's entire heads are bright red.  I see this guy in the same spot every day, pecking around on the same couple trees.  He won't ever let me approach close enough to get the photographs I want.  I might have to set up a stake out sometime soon and catch him unawares. 

Red-headed Woodpecker

Thursday, March 31, 2011

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Vesper Sparrow

Vesper Sparrow

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Blue-winged Teal

After shooting some pyros at a pair of Mallards a flock of Blue-winged Teal came out of the cattails and landed at the other end of the pond.  I walked their way with pyros (and camera) in hand but they flushed before I got to them.  They flew north and I was able to take a couple pics in the amazing light before they were gone.  Check out those amazing blue and green speculums!

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Blue-winged Teal

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

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Sparrow in the Wind

A group of immature White-crowned Sparrows have been hanging around the same tree, frantically picking at bits of food and I suppose seeds on the side of the road.  They are interesting to watch because the are constantly bickering and fighting back and forth trying to establish who is in charge and at the top of the pecking order.  The wind was strong Saturday when I took these pictures, making them at bit comical with their ruffled feathers.
White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Monday, March 21, 2011

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Meadowlark and Friends

Meadowlark and Friends

Even Eastern Meadowlarks sometimes just need a good stretch. 

Eastern Meadowlark

Saturday, March 19, 2011

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3/18/11: Red-wings and Sparrows

I took some more video of the landfill this week.  I was trying to get some footage of an Eastern Meadowlark but he was not cooperating.  So instead I went back to the Red-winged Blackbirds which always enjoy putting on a show.  Also in the video is a Song Sparrow and a juvenile White-crowned Sparrow.  And in the background in the last clip you can hear the Southern Leopard Frogs calling.



In other news: a group of Rusty Blackbirds were seen on Wednesday, the first butterflies of the season were seen Thursday, and I saw my first Tree Swallow last night.  All in all a good week.  I hope to get some more video of the migrants when they start coming through so stay tuned.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

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Early March at the Fill

Here is a video of the landfill today around five o'clock.  It gets pretty quiet and serene when all the trucks are gone and the dust settles.  Sorry for all the wind in the background but it's a landfill, it stays windy. Mostly just Red-winged Blackbirds and Song Sparrows now. I'm still waiting to see the first swallow of the year.



Friday, February 25, 2011

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Sandhill Cranes

Over the past several days the Sandhill Cranes have been steadily flying over in flocks from 4 to 70.  These birds flew over low and I was able to get some pictures.

Sandhill Cranes

Sandhill Cranes


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

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Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Northern Mockingbird

Thursday, February 17, 2011

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Recent Birds

Man it has been a long time since I updated the blog.  It has been bitter cold and dreary outside for months and I think that killed my enthusiasm for just about everything.  The past few days have been a welcome relief.  Highs in the 60's and 70's, clear skies, a nice breeze, what more could you ask for.  I know spring is knocking at the door because the Red-winged Blackbirds are starting to show up and I've been hearing Cricket Frogs calling the past two days.  I plan on uploading a video of those guys at the peak of their calling, it is sooooo loud.

So here are a few shots I've taken the past few days:

American Kestrel
American Kestrel

American Robin
American Robin

Red-winged Blackbirds
Red-winged Blackbird


Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Monday, January 31, 2011

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de Paul School Day Two

It's time for round two with the bright students from the de Paul School.  They have more questions and hopefully I have some answers.

Q: How many kinds of ducks have you seen at the landfill?

A: I have seen six kinds of ducks at the landfill.  Mallards and Wood Ducks are the most common, and I see several Blue-winged Teal during migration.  Lately there haven't been any ducks at the landfill because it is so cold.  All the ponds are frozen so the ducks must be paddling around somewhere else.
Q: Do you have a pet bird?

A: No, but I'm trying to convince my wife to let me have a parrot.  

Q: Of the birds that you have seen at the landfill, which has the strongest talons?

Q: What is the biggest bird you have seen at the landfill?

A: I have the same answer for both of these questions.  Usually the birds with the strongest talons are the biggest birds.  The biggest bird I have seen at the landfill is a Bald Eagle.  Most of you are probably familiar with Bald Eagles.  They are the national bird and are a symbol of the United States, showing up on money and on the national seal.  Bald Eagle populations declined in the 1950's and 1960's because of the use of the pesticide DDT.  However, due to the Endangered Species Act, the Bald Eagle is now recovering and is becoming more and more common.  They are expanding their range into the places where they historically used to live, so you can count on seeing more and more of these majestic birds in the future.

Q: How many different kinds of birds have you seen migrate through the landfill?

 A: There are several types of birds that have migrated through the landfill.  The most common types are warblers, sparrows, ducks, and blackbirds.  But some of the coolest migrants are birds you may not see too often.  My favorite is the Common Nighthawk.  They are ground nesting birds that are superbly camouflaged.  They are seen most often in the fall flying in loose groups low over the landfill.

Q: Do any birds follow you around for food?

A: Quite the opposite!  Most birds fly away when they see me coming.  And why follow me around for food when they have an all you can eat buffet of garbage!

Monday, January 24, 2011

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de Paul School

It's that time again!  Mr. Kepler's class at the de Paul School will be asking me questions about birds that I will be answering here on the landfill bird blog.  Every year this bright bunch of third graders learns about birds and their unique adaptations.  So let's get to it!

Q: Have you seen an owl, or any other bird with a broken wing?

A: I haven't seen any owls with broken wings, or any other birds for that matter.  There was one time I thought I saw a bird with a broken wing, but it turns out the bird was faking.  The Killdeer is a shorebird that performs a broken wing display when it or its eggs are threatened.  If the mama bird sees a predator, like a raccoon or a snake, she will lay on the ground and pretend she is hurt to distract the predator from the baby chicks.  The predator will focus on the mom thinking she is an easy meal.  The mama Killdeer will slowly lead the the predator away from her babies, and just when it appears she is going to get eaten, she suddenly is cured and flies away back to her chicks.  The Killdeer put on such a convincing show they even fooled me before!

Here is the mom pretending to be hurt with the broken wing display.


She leads the predator away from her chicks and then makes her getaway. 


Below is a Killdeer chick.  The mama bird will do anything, even put herself in danger to save these little guys.




Q: What is biggest number of different kinds of birds you have seen in a day?

A: It is tough to say the most number of birds I've seen in one day.  I usually don't keep records on all the birds I see, but if I did I bet it would either be in the spring or fall.  Most birds live in Kentucky year round, but there are several that are only here for a short time.  During the spring, several species of birds migrate to Kentucky from the tropics in South America.  Some stay for the whole summer, others are just here for a few weeks as they pass through on their way north to Canada.  In the fall all these birds migrate back to South America because they don't want to deal with the hassle of finding food in the snow (or shoveling their driveways!  LOL!).  So I bet the most birds I've seen in one day was either in spring in May or the fall in October.

Q: Have you seen any birds hatch?

A: No, unfortunately I have not had the opportunity of seeing any birds hatch at the landfill.  Bird nests are usually very hard to find and you would have to be there at just the right time to see the eggs hatch.  There is a cool website you can go to if you wanted to see birds hatching from their eggs.  Check out the Cornell nest cam website to see different birds sitting on their nests and eventually eggs hatching and baby chicks begging for food.  Right now the only birds building nests are owls but in the spring several more nest cams go live and you can see Eastern Bluebirds, House Wrens, and even Wood Ducks raising their babies.

Q: Do you like your job at the landfill?  Why do you like it?

A: Do I like my job?  Of course I like my job!  I get to see all sorts of birds that are rarely seen in the area like Tundra Swans, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, and Horned Larks.  It also makes me feel good to know I am helping keep people safe in the airplanes that are taking off and landing over the landfill.  By scaring away the birds I am making it less likely that they will get sucked into plane engines and cause the plane to crash.

 Tundra Swans

Yellow-crowned Night Heron

 Horned Lark

Those were some great questions guys and gals.  I'm looking forward to the next round of questions from your inquisitive minds!

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Hawkapalooza

Today was a big day for hawks and raptors.  At one point I saw several raptors all working the same hillside, including: light-phase Rough-legged Hawk, four Red-tailed Hawks, a couple Harriers, an American Kestrel, and a Red-shouldered Hawk tearing apart prey on top of a gas well head.  Earlier in the day I also saw the Rough-legged Hawk eating a mouse on the side of the road.  Check it out below.

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk

Rough-legged Hawk


Friday, January 14, 2011

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Today's Birds

Today's sunny weather really had the birds out and about. I saw White-crowned, White-throated, Swamp, Song, and American Tree Sparrows; a light phase Rough-legged Hawk has been back since Wednesday; a dark Western Red-tailed Hawk was spotted this afternoon; even the Eastern Meadowlarks were singing their tinkling tune. There were some signs that maybe spring isn't as far off as it seems.

Below the Rough-legged Hawk flies by the Merlin bird radar unit.

Rough-legged Hawk and radar
Rough-legged Hawk

Usually when it snows there will be around a hundred or so Horned Larks picking for food along the roadsides, oddly enough this week I have only found one.

Horned Lark
Horned Lark

Northern Cardinal
Northern Cardinal

The meadowlarks are numerous at the active dumping area. There were probably around two dozen looking for scraps alongside the starlings. This guy below finds an old stale piece of bread too good not to eat.

Eastern Meadowlark

Eastern Meadowlark
Eastern Meadowlark

Monday, January 10, 2011

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Red-shouldered Hawk Juvenile

I'm back!  Man it feels like forever since I posted.  It's been busy and slow at the same time at the landfill.  Busy because of all the starlings and slow because it seems every bird that isn't a starling has gone somewhere else!  I have had a hard time coming across many songbirds, really not even seeing Northern Cardinals or Carolina Chickadees out there.  I think the summer heat along with the fall drought has really done a number on the food sources the birds eat.  Apparently the rodents haven't suffered the same judging on the number of hawks out at the landfill.  Found this juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk that has been hanging out in the wetlands for the last few weeks.

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

These next two pictures show the characteristic crescent on the end of the wing of Red-shouldered Hawk.  This can often be used to identified soaring Red-shouldered Hawks as the sun often shines through the feathers and makes the crescent more obvious. 

 Red-shouldered Hawk

Red-shouldered Hawk

Check out the Pine River Review for more.

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