Identifying the Birds

Cardinal May 23

Northern Cardinal

In 2012 I wrote a blog post about the Unknown Birds folder in my photography archive. The folder was over-full and impossible to navigate.

Robin May 24 1s

American Robin

I needed a better system.

Grackle May 20

Common Grackle

The obvious solution was to separate my Unknown Birds folder into a series of known bird folders.

Brown Thrasher May 3

Brown Thrasher May 3

Brown Thrasher

At first I tackled the problem in my usual way, with books and bookmarked websites and a notebook to keep track of everything.

Carolina Wren May 23

Carolina Wren May 23

Carolina Wren

Over time, I found that Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s All About Birds site was often the only resource I needed. Their “Browse by Name or Shape” page suits my learning style.

Sparrow May 3

Chipping Sparrow?

I still find sparrows, warblers, and chickadees endlessly confusing.

Unknown Warbler May 23

Blackpoll Warbler

Ruby crowned Kinglet March 13

Ruby-crowned Kinglet?

Blue gray Gnatcatcher April 13

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

But my Unknown Birds folder is almost empty.

Unknown Bird May 2

Still unknown. Probably a warbler, possibly a Tennessee Warbler?

Almost. The above bird has defied all of my attempts to identify it. (It also defied most of my attempts to photograph it, which is why my best photo from the encounter is poorly lit and out of focus.) So I’m asking for help. Can you identify my unknown warbler? Is there enough information in the photo for a definitive identification? Please comment, especially if you can correct or confirm any of my other identifications!

Finally, the following photos are evidence of what happens when I get over-excited about a visitor in the yard and forget to check my camera settings…

Hawk April 30

There’s more wrong than right in these photos, but I kind of love them anyway.

Hawk April 30

Cooper’s Hawk?

Spring Arrivals (Arachnophobia alert!)

Lantana April 13

As spring accelerates toward summer, everything is growing and blooming and nesting.

Succulent April 28

Live Oak April 17

Sun is the catalyst, speeding life along.

Hoverfly March 15

Ladybird March 16

Spiderlings March 25

Swallowtail April 19

Swallowtail Egg April 28

Swallowtail Caterpillar April 28

Blue gray Gnatcatcher April 13

Chickadee April 19

Cardinal April 20

Sometimes a shadow overhead interrupts the yard’s chirrup and flutter.

Eagle April 20

Eagle April 20

But spring resumes when the danger has passed.

Cardinal April 20

Robin April 20

Grackle April 19

Grackle April 19

Some afternoons turn sleepy with increasing heat.

Mallards April 27

Mallards April 27

Rabbit April 16

Rabbit Nest April 25

But evenings are cool and mosquito-free, perfect for exploring.

Rabbit Baby April 28

Perfect for sitting outside with a book, too. I haven’t been doing much writing, but I’ve been reading a lot, working my way through a stack of nonfiction, historical fiction, classic sci-fi, and poetry. Now I want to add a few graphic novels to my shelf. Any suggestions?

Warm and Cold and Warm Again

Weed Feb 27

The yard is warm and sunny today, sprinkled with blossoming weeds. A few weeks ago it was frozen and snowy.

Snow Feb 12

This year January and February saw days warm enough for house repairs (replacing wood damaged by carpenter bees), followed closely by days too cold for anything but reading and sleeping.

Damage 3


Ice January 18

Snow January 23

Some days were strangely confused, cold with bright sunshine or warm with dreary skies.

Vulture Feb 14

Seagull Jan 8

Bird Feb 20

Squirrel Feb 20

Sapsucker Jan 12

Robin Jan 20

Robin Jan 18

Our annual writers’ weekend at the beach brought a little bit of everything.

Beach Feb 1

Beach Feb 1

Beach Feb 4

Beach Feb 4

March will likely bring a little bit more of everything, but hopefully it won’t get fountain-freezing cold again.

Town Center Feb 11



Cosmos May 7

I can’t remember noticing, before, how the light changes as spring progresses.

Cosmos May 7

The yard’s surfaces absorb and reflect, soften and sharpen the sun’s new angle.

Iris May

Bees appear to fly through light, not air.

Bee April 29

Bee April 29

And birds strike silhouette poses, as if eager to be photographed.

Warbler April 29

Robin May 6

Is it all in my head, a side effect of spring euphoria? Or is it happening where you live, too?

Warbler May 3

If you live in the southern hemisphere, is it happening in reverse? Light reverting back to air, flattening against fall’s advance as bees and birds prepare for winter?

Spring is in the Air (and in the Ground)

Fly April 10

When the pear tree’s pollinators finally arrived, they arrived in encouraging numbers. Hoverflies were the first wave, pretending to be bees.

Fly April 10

Fly April 10

A wave of true bees followed.

Bee April 10

Bee April 10

Happily, a few Question Mark butterflies drifted in near the end.

Question Mark April 10

Question Mark April 10

While the pear blooms lasted, the yard’s winter flock of yellow-rumped warblers divided their time between sipping nectar, foraging for insects, and sampling the last block of winter suet.

Warbler April 11

Warbler April 11

(As an aside, I spotted the following warbler yesterday and was confused by its complete lack of yellow feathers. I believe it is a yellow-rumped warbler, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t have at least a blush of yellow under its wings. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!)

Warbler April 22

As the pear tree dropped its petals, we readied the yard for summer. We replaced damaged boards on the aging deck, uncovered the ginger lilies, and swept leaves out of the cactus bed. (The carpenter bees ignored us and concentrated on chasing each other. They also chased warblers, chickadees, crane flies, hoverflies, beetles, bees, leaves, dandelion fluff, and pear petals.)

Bee April 22

The garden stores aren’t fully stocked yet, but we found most of the plants on our list: dill, fennel, milkweed, columbine, annual lantana, snapdragons, salvia, and cosmos.

Flowers April 22

Yesterday, this American Painted Lady butterfly made me wish we had planted more cosmos. (The yard’s 2015 butterfly sightings, so far, are a major improvement over last year’s butterfly drought, but they don’t begin to equal 2012’s impressive migration.)

Butterfly April 22

The yard’s birds have been getting ready for summer, too. This little house wren doesn’t have a mate yet, but he clearly has a favorite house.

House Wren April 21

House Wren April 21

A pair of robins finished their nest last week and now spend most of their hours foraging.

Robin April 22

Robin April 22

(I am amazed by how many worms they find and eat each day.)

Robin April 22

The robins aren’t the only efficient foragers in our area. A pair of osprey make regular passes over the yard, carrying fish. Yesterday I caught a few frames as one of the pair nearly dropped its lunch on the deck.

Osprey April 22

After a brief struggle, which lasted no more than two wingbeats, the osprey managed to subdue its lunch and flew on. What would happen if the fish managed to break free? Would the osprey land on my deck and reclaim its catch? (I’d probably drop my camera and break it, leaving me with no proof of why I dropped it…)

Over the years I’ve found many surprising things in the yard, but never a fish. Perhaps this summer?

Osprey April 22

Except, it’s not summer yet. Today the windows are closed against a surge of chill that moved in overnight and is forecasted to last through the next few days. Mother would have called it dogwood winter, expecting the dogwoods to bloom after the chill passed. Or blackberry winter, if the blackberries were due to bloom. I’m content to call it the end of winter.

Hawk April 18