Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Bird Sightings

On my drive to town, I pass by Walker Creek, some would say a river that drains into the New River. For the past couple of weeks, I have seen a pair of ducks. Every time I get out of the car though, they would fly away. On Monday, I was able to take a picture through the car window.

They appear to be a male (on right) and female Hooded Merganser. According to my field guide, these ducks live here year round.

Yesterday was another unusually warm day with temperatures in the high 60s. I went up to our big pasture to collect cow manure for my garden. I often see Red-tailed Hawks soaring above the hill in the pasture and yesterday was no exception.

I had to focus and shoot at the same time to get pictures. Probably the clearest shot was this one behind a tree. You can see the broad, red tail and the wide wings.

The Red-tailed Hawk is very common around here--especially along roads. I also saw a pair yesterday near our house, appearing to be scoping out the bird feeders.

Finally, I took a picture of a Blue Jay's nest.

The nest is quite large, about 10 inches in diameter, and located on a strong oak limb. I remembered that I had written about it in my paper journal last year:
May 8, 2007

"Last evening, I noticed Blue Jays just starting to make a nest in the big oak tree in front of the house. By 11:00 a.m. today, it looks like the nest is finished already. "
May 15, 2007
"At 2:30 p.m., I heard the Blue Jays fussing, a little louder than usual. Out front in the oak tree where the nest is, I heard and saw two Blue Jays calling, then four more came to the tree. That's when I saw an American Crow going toward the nest. All six Blue Jays attacked and steered the crow away. The crow flew away. The way the Blue Jays worked together to chase the crow away was impressive!"
I admired the Blue Jays a little more then. So, I won't get so mad at them when they try stealing eggs from the Wood Thrush nests which causes a similar commotion.


  1. hooded mergansers are one of my favorites. they only come to the creek (near where i work) when the temps drop. love the colder weather, have also had a few single common mergansers. the wind was so strong yesterday even the red tailed hawk was having difficulty maneuvering.

    i'm a native virginian with roots in oregon for 20+ years. sometimes i still get homesick tho..

  2. sounds like the story of my life with the birds always flying away! And you know, those bluejays are always tempting me with every chance they get! LOL

  3. Good photos, Joan! I've been watching female Hoodies but I'm wondering where the males are... Your red-tailed hawk photo is wonderful. I, too, have trouble focusing on fast-moving birds :o)

    Your blue jay story is nice. I've always admired them despite their loud behavior.

  4. Imprintz--I know what you mean about the cold weather. I began seeing those ducks when there was ice on the creek. I guess they must not have any feeling in their feet.

    I'm originally from Missouri but I don't get homesick because my home is very much like my parents' farm in the Ozarks.

  5. Mon@rch--yes, birds are very hard for me to photograph around here.

  6. Mary--I finally realized I could manually focus faster than the automatic focus but still it's hard.

    I'm warming up to the Blue Jays--they are beautiful.

  7. That's neat, I've never seen Hooded Mergansers before! Red tail hawks are common by me as well, I never get tired of watching them soar!

  8. I was right beside you walking along admiring your morning birdlife--until you mentioned the Wood Thrush.

    I'd choose them anyday over a bluejay--they're not endangered here, but with the loss of woodlands, and parasitic cowbirds, I'm concerned for them.
    I had a close encounter with her last fall, and I'm hoping to have her again this spring!
    Her song makes our woods special.

  9. Chris--not sure I've seen mergansers either. Hope they stay around and build a nest and it's safe from predators.

  10. Nina--Yes, if I had to pick between Blue Jays and Wood Thrushes, I would pick Wood Thrushes. As you say, they are becoming endangered because of loss of habitat. Their songs are beautiful. The time I saw a Blue Jay go after their eggs, the pair of thrushes were able to attack and save their eggs. The Blue Jay can't land on the nest since they are too big so they have to take them on the fly--not easy to do.

  11. Joan, I found the male hoodies with the females today. I took photos that look just like yours. I'll probably post them in a few days. Aren't those males gorgeous?