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?

Another Award Tag!

Late in January, Diane at bardessdmdenton tagged me with the Very Inspiring Blogger Award:


Here are the rules:

* Display the award logo on your blog

* Link back to the person who nominated you

* State seven things about yourself

* Nominate 15 other bloggers for this award and link to them

* Notify those bloggers of the nomination and the award’s requirements

Heron Feb 5

As before, I’ve been struggling with the first rule. (Is it normal that my words dissolve into a mist of confusion and dismay when I try to describe myself?) Last time I talked more about cars than about myself, and this time I’m going to talk about furniture.

1. My favorite pieces of furniture are bookshelves. I have five sets of shelves in my office, one in the living room, and two in the guest room.

2. I keep my grandmother’s sewing machine in our living room, where it makes an excellent end table.

3. When I was about nine years old, Mother moved my great aunt’s antique vanity into my room. She told me to take very good care of it. Then, because I was nine, I put stickers on the mirror. I also broke a section of the trim. After Mother died in 2011, I brought the battered vanity to Virginia, scraped off the stickers, and repaired the trim. Now I don’t know what to do with it. I don’t need an antique vanity, but I can’t quite let go of it.

4. The first piece of furniture that my husband and I bought together was a very heavy coffee table. Every few years we move it from one side of the living room to the other, and somehow the simple act of moving it makes it look like an entirely new table.

5. After we bought our house, we spent the entire first summer staining and finishing a kitchen table, six chairs, an enormous chest of drawers, and a storage bench. I will never again buy unfinished furniture.

6. It took the cats eight years to destroy our first couch. They perfected their technique near the end, and our next couch lasted less than three years.

7. When selecting new furniture, bedspreads, or blankets, my primary concern is whether or not the cats will approve.

Hawk Feb 5

As for the final two rules, many of the blogs I follow do not participate in awards. So, instead of continuing the chain of tags and notifications, here are links to a few of my favorite recent posts:

“Poetry in Prose” – Delancey Stewart

“A Walk with Gratitude” – Life in the Bogs

“Murmurations” – Jean Ryan

“A Bald Eagle Hunts a Duck” – For the Love of Clouds and Nature

“Deer tracks” – Wood and Field

“Still” – Lynn’s Creativity Post

“February Photo Theme: Waterfalls” – Walter H. Smith

Goose Feb 5

I’m delighted that Diane tagged me with this award, in part because it gives me another chance to recommend her wonderfully lyrical book. I reviewed A House Near Luccoli here, and you can read more about it here.

Another Walk in the Sun

Trail Jan 19

More sun today, and much warmer. We chose a new path, one that cuts through a residential area before joining a series of nature reserve trails.

Trail Jan 19

Trail Jan 19

The reserve is heavily managed along these trails. We saw evidence of selective tree removal and a pair of unnaturally straight drainage canals.

Trail Jan 19

The area seemed somewhat barren of wildlife, though I suspect today’s lovely weather had lured heavier traffic to the trails than usual. Perhaps the constant flow of joggers, bicyclists, dog walkers, and groups of hikers contributed to the conspicuous silence from the trees.

Trail Jan 19

Trail Jan 19

We saw a few flocks of chickadees, and plenty of sparrows foraging in the underbrush, but no woodpeckers or warblers, and no waterbirds.

Chickadee Jan 19

Sparrows Jan 19

Back in the car and on our way home, we spotted another hawk hunting in a small field. We turned around again, and once again I wasn’t able to get a very good photo. The hawk was perched just beyond my camera’s comfort zone.

Hawk Jan 19

Each time I get one of these “nearly” photos, it makes me eager to try again. I’m already looking forward to tomorrow’s walk. The forecast calls for one more day of warm sunshine before winter’s next frosty pass.

Trail Jan 19

The Sun Returns

Red Wing Jan 18

Today’s sun made the air seem warmer than it actually was.

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

We took a long-ish walk through Red Wing Park, where we heard more birds and animals than we saw.

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

A cluster of early blooms reminded us that spring isn’t all that far away.

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

I found several sunlit doorways.

Red Wing Jan 18

Red Wing Jan 18

On the way home, we circled a field three times after spotting a pair of hawks. I didn’t get a very good look at them, nor a very good picture. I thought, at first, that they were Cooper’s Hawks, but maybe they were Red-tailed Hawks? Is there a way to tell for certain, using only the information in this picture?

Hawk Jan 18

I’ve really missed the sun, and I hope it decides to stay for a while.

Red Wing Jan 18

A Busy Evening in the Yard

Yesterday evening started out calm and quiet, with little visible activity in the yard. Then my husband phoned from the driveway. He didn’t want to get out of his car because there was a hawk in the front yard, one that was having trouble subduing a rat. He didn’t want to frighten it away.

This area has a growing roof rat population. Our shed is constantly under siege. We clear nests as we find them, keep our birdseed in a sealed container in the garage, and never fill the feeders with more seed than the birds can eat in a day. Rats still invade the shed. Recently, one has left an unmistakable trail of new evidence. We’ve been considering a more aggressive policy for our rat, one that will involve traps, but it seems such drastic measures won’t be necessary.

I believe this is a young Cooper’s Hawk. It eventually killed the rat, then carried its prize into the back yard.

We weren’t thrilled with the hawk’s decision to dine on our deck railing. Even so, we hope it will come back, the next time it craves a rat. (Just to be clear… that’s RAT. Not RABBIT.)

After the hawk left, a rabbit emerged from her hiding place under the deck and began digging a new nest. (The above photo was taken on August 16th. I believe it is the same rabbit.) I was skeptical of her efforts. I let myself get too excited, during construction of the last nest, which doubled my disappointment when the rabbit abandoned the site before finishing the nest.

Maybe this time? I didn’t want to watch too closely, so I turned my attention to the ginger lilies.

Each fall, I become obsessed with sphinx moths. This year the moths are a few weeks early, but as long as the ginger lilies keep blooming, the moths will keep coming. We typically see Pink-spotted hawkmoths, though the last few nights have brought mostly Carolina sphinx moths. My earlier photos were underexposed (except the one that was badly overexposed…), so I was happy to have another chance to practice with my camera’s flash.

After it grew too dark to see moths, I checked the rabbit’s progress. She had completed the nest and was nowhere in sight. I feared it would be another false-start. Another abandoned nest. But a closer look showed several tufts of hair around the nest, which seemed a good sign. (In the final stage before birth, rabbits pluck their own fur for the nest’s innermost lining.) I was tempted to look inside the nest, but forced myself to leave everything untouched.

Can you see the nest? The disturbed area in the foreground is where she harvested grass to line the nest. The smaller spot is the actual nest.

This morning, I couldn’t resist the temptation to check for babies. Success! Inside the nest, the babies are snug in a water-tight pocket of hair, which is surrounded by a thick pocket of dry grass, which is all cleverly buried and nearly invisible.

Now comes the hard part. As much as I want “our” rabbits to thrive, I know the odds are against them. The world is a dangerous place for baby rabbits. It teems with stray cats and hawks.

For that matter, the world is a dangerous place for all of us. Take away cats and hawks, and the world would be no safer. It would only be less beautiful.