Thursday, December 30, 2010

Happy New Year!

It has been quite a year here at Birding in Northern Virginia. I really started updating this blog in earnest this year. Birds seem to be everywhere and I took many days off work due to having the bird flu. I went back through my blogs from this year and it brought back a lot of good memories.

I photographed and posted 29 of the 53 permanent resident birds in NOVA. Including those, I saw a vast variety of birds. Here is the list from my earlier blogs of 2010.

American Coot
American Crow
American Goldfinch
American Robin
Bald Eagle
Belted Kingfisher
Black Vulture
Blue Jay
Canadian Goose
Carolina Chickadee
Carolina Wren
Common Grackle
Cooper’s Hawk
Double-crested Cormorant
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Towhee
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Greater Yellowlegs
Green Heron
Green-winged Teal
Hooded Merganser 
House Finch
House Sparrow
Lesser Yellowlegs
Mourning Dove
Northern Cardinal
Northern Shoveler
Palm Warbler
Pied-billed Grebe
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-winged Blackbird
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Ruddy Duck
Song Sparrow
Spotted Sandpiper
Swamp Sparrow
Tufted Titmouse
White-Breasted Nuthatch
White-throated Sparrow
Wood Duck

Wow,,, that is over 50 different bird types that I saw around my backyard and a few of my favorite places near here. I have to be honest, I had no idea that I saw that many. All and all, a great birding year.

Thanks again for reading my blog and have a great New Year! I will post my goals for 2011 early next week.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Water, water everywhere

Birds need fresh, clean and unfrozen drinking water throughout the year, but especially in the winter when water is hard to find. I have read that birds will resort to eating snow if there isn't a good supply of water available. With that in mind, I went to the Wild Bird store yesterday and purchased a small water heating rock for the middle of my bird bath. I checked on it this morning and although the temperature overnight was below freezing, the water was not frozen even a bit.

Few things can attract birds to my yard as much as a fresh water supply in the winter months. I set up my camera on the tripod inside the house overlooking the bath to see what will come to the bird bath during the next few days. I will post any interesting visitors.

Heater rock in the bottom of my bird bath

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

World Bird Wednesday VI

Here is a small collection of the many birds that I find and photograph around my house in Northern VA. I am going to recap my year in the next blog. While these are very common birds in Northern VA, I find them to be very interesting. In the picture is the Blue Jay, Carolina Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Great Blue Heron and the Ruby-throated Hummingbird. All of these have been staples in my travels throughout the spring, summer, fall.

Birds of Northern VA

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Very Warm Thank You

I want to thank everyone that has visited my site. Today I reached a milestone as the 1000th visitor viewed my blog site. It has been a lot of fun and very educational as I try and put up good pictures and blogs each week.

Thanks and have a great holiday season!

Birding in Northern Virginia (AKA Steve)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

World Bird Wednesday #5

Adding on to my last blog, to foil the squirrels I put some bird seed on top of the ice in the bird bath. This allowed the Carolina Wrens to come in and feed without the squirrels scaring them away.

I am really beginning to enjoy the Wrens. I remember seeing one last year, and up to four now one time this winter. The Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus is common in Northern VA in the winter. You can recognize it by its prominent white eyebrow.

Carolina Wren eating out of the bird bath

Carolina Wren in the snow eating suet

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dark-eyed Junco

I missed a few weeks of birding when I went out on a business trip. After I got back, I had to deal with Christmas prep (all done). While I was gone, the squirrels again were mad that there was no food and they decided to pay me back like usual.

This time it was a chewed up storage container and 2 of my 3 feeders on the ground. Last time it was 3 of 3 so maybe they spared me.

I cleaned up the feeders and restocked them. The squirrels came out of the woodwork. It looks like I have at least 6 squirrels eating out of my feeders. As long as they are good and don't stop the birds from coming in, they can stay. Stop chewing my furniture though!

Since there was an inch of snow on the ground and it was cold enough for the bird bath to stay frozen, I put some food in there so that the birds and the squirrels could eat at the same time. I will be putting some of the Carolina Wren pictures in Wednesdays blog.

Here is a Dark-eyed Junco that braved the squirrels.

Dark-eyed Junco

Dark-eyed Junco

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

World Bird Wednesday #4

I was on a trip and missed World Bird Wednesday #3. I even had a picture saved on my work laptop to participate but it was a no go. I must really be obsessed with birding.

Here is my entry for this week's WBW #4. It is the Great Blue Heron. No matter what time of the day, how cold or how warm it is, I can normally find a Great Blue Heron at the lake and get a new great picture of it.

Last year I noticed only 1. This year I believe that our lake is up to either 3 or 4 herons. We had a lot of snow last year, but it seems like the bird population survived and may have even thrived over that time.

Great Blue Heron

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

World Bird Wednesday Number Two

Here is my submission for World Bird Wednesday, Number Two

When I was walking around on Saturday cursing myself for not having any more memory space, I stopped on the trail to delete some pictures. This Tufted Titmouse was about 2 feet away from me digging through the leaves looking for food. Every time I moved, it would follow me and stop about 2 feet away. It was saying "take a picture of me".  So, here is the Tufted Titmouse, my World Bird Wednesday submission.

The Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is very common in Northern Virginia year-round, it is a solitary bird that feeds on insects. 

Tufted Titmouse

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Total Rookie Mistake

Thank goodness I am still in my rookie season of birding. Today I made a total rookie mistake. Normally I work my way down my mental checklist when stalking birds. Be conscious of where the sun is, don't break too many branches, don't get distracted by just 1 bird. Make sure I have battery left in my camera, make sure that I didn't knock the camera off the good settings, and other camera tips. Today was a new one to add to my mental list.

I walked down to the lake and it was super windy, so I decided to walk counter-clockwise around so that I wouldn't have to walk into the wind across the dam. I would have it at my back when I crossed the dam at the end of my walk. I got to the bay where the Hooded Mergansers were yesterday and the 6 were out there swimming. On the way back to the trail, I caught something out of the corner of my eye. It was an adult Cooper's Hawk. It was easy to see since most of the leaves had already fallen from the trees. Problem was that it was facing away from me and there were branches in the way.

Adult Cooper's Hawk

I had to get around the hawk without scaring it away. Got halfway around.

Half Way There

I didn't want to startle the hawk since it was being so patient with me. I got nearly all the way to the front, but the sun was very bright behind the hawk. I tried about 4 or 5 different spots but I always had a stick here or there in the picture. Finally found a pretty good spot and then my camera started acting up. Auto-focus going in and out, not taking a picture etc. I had to get back on the trail to leave the hawk before I figured out what was wrong. Out of memory space on the card. Man, what a rookie mistake!!! I deleted a few of the 50 pictures that I took of the hawk, but I passed on going back down and scaring the hawk off.  Add that one to the list.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Hooded Merganser

I thought I was going to get skunked out on my post-Thanksgiving day walk. I was about 3/4ths of the way through when I spotted some black and white ducks in the bay near the end. I had to walk all the way around to the other side, but it was worth it. There was a flock of 6 Hooded Mergansers, 3 males and 3 females. I just kept walking closer and closer taking pictures until the ducks swam the other direction. Pretty looking this time of year.

Male Hooded Merganser    

Small Flock of Hooded Mergansers

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

World Bird Wednesday - Birding in Northern Virginia

I received this message from Springman when I logged on today.

You would be welcome to contribute and help to begin a new endeavour called "World Bird Wednesday" a chance for bird photographers to share and spread word of their blogs to others!
Visit and check it out!

This is absolutely great. I started birding for several reasons and this is definitely one of them

I started my blog Birding in Northern Virginia to get the word out that there are 53 permanent resident birds near my house. On top of that, there are hundreds of species that pass through, winter or summer here. To be able to participate in a great idea such as World Bird Wednesday is truly special.

Benefits that I have received in the year since I started.

1. Birding is fun.
2. Birders are generally nice people that are extremely kind and courteous.  (unless they are listers)
3. Lots of stress relief.
4. I get out of the house more, exercise and have lost a few lbs.
5. Found a hobby. Something to do when the Bird Flu hits.

Thanks Springman!!!

Nothing like a picture of an American Goldfinch pigging out to get me in the mood for Thanksgiving. 

American Goldfinch pigging out

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hummingbird Feeder

I decided to take the Hummingbird feeder down for the season as I haven't seen a hummingbird near it in a few weeks. Means that winter is coming in my book.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Downy Woodpecker

When I was out at Huntley Meadows, I stopped on the trail to look at the berries of a bush that was overhanging the trail. I heard a tapping on the tree right on the other side of the bush. I slowly stepped around the bush and was about 2 feet away from this male Downy Woodpecker. Not sure that I have ever gotten this close.

Downy Woodpecker

Friday, November 12, 2010

Huntley Meadows and Dykes Marsh

It was a beautiful Friday so of course I got struck with the Bird Flu. First I went to Huntley Meadows but basically got shut out. I drove over to Dykes Marsh and saw that the fall migration was in full swing. Out on the Potomac River, there were rafts of Geese, ducks and coots for as far as the eye could see. This picture doesn't quite do the total number justice. This was just one raft in one direction.

Raft of American Coots

While I was checking out all of the water birds, I just happened to look up and (almost too late) saw 2 Bald Eagles chasing each other. That is the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria Virginia in the background. You can see it when you look down the Potomac River from Dykes Marsh. This was made famous in Dan Brown's book "The Lost Symbol".

2 Bald Eagles playing chase

There were a lot of smaller ducks near the shore that ended up being Ruddy Ducks. The male looks like it is wearing a burglar mask and the female has a black stripe under her eye.

Male Ruddy Duck

Female Ruddy Duck 

All of them eventually lifted their tail straight up in the classic Ruddy Duck way.

Tail up

There were also Buffleheads.


There was nothing earth-shattering but it was just such a nice day out!!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Huntley Meadows

I had the Bird Flu today so I cut work and went out to one of my favorite spots, Huntley Meadows. It is about 12 miles from my house and it took about that long for my car to warm up. It was in the 30's when I first got outside but eventually it got to around 55 degrees. 55 was perfect when I was walking outside in a light jacket. It was cool and crisp without a cloud in the sky.

Although it was Wednesday the parking lot at the visitors center was packed. There were several large groups of elementary school students that were there on a field trip. They have a nice classroom inside so they were in there studying about animals and the environment. I was pretty surprised though to see that many cars.

I walked out to the first small pond and took in the fall colors. Loved it.

Huntley Meadows    

There were Mallards and Canadian Geese in the first pond so I went to the wetlands in the back to see what I might find. There was a small pool with some really bright green-headed Mallards so I stopped to take a few pictures.  Like usual, hard for me to pass up a good mallard picture.


Something flew by on one of the pictures.

UFB- Unidentified Flying Bird   

Then it screamed at me. I glanced over and it was a female Belted Kingfisher with a minnow in her mouth.

Female Belted Kingfisher

The Belted Kingfisher is the most common kingfisher, eats fish and spends most of the year alone.

That made sense because I did not see another one anywhere around. The Belted Kingfisher is a permanent resident to Northern VA. One more to add to the list.

I also saw a lot of female Red-winged blackbirds and some White-throated Sparrows.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

White-throated Sparrow

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Where to go and what to see?

When I am not in my backyard, I have to make a choice about where to go to bird. I don't have all of the time in the world and it helps to get a head start. Also when I see a new bird, I sometimes wonder what it is. Having a small inkling in advance also helps with this. I found a link to help me with both of those in Northern VA.

When I was out surfing the internet one day I came across a link for a rare bird list. When I started to dig into it, I realized that it is put out every Tuesday and is a list of where all of the rare bird sightings are in my area. When I take a Thursday or Friday off to bird, I look over the list beforehand to see if there are any rare birds around or how the birds are trending. When I read that there are large flocks of hawks around (for example), I might look extra hard for that species.

Here is the link that I found. Click on North America to bring up a list of all of the states.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Nuthatch and Carolina Wren..ohh and a Cardinal

These are still from last weekend. I plan on being outside most of the weekend coming up to get more pictures.

Carolina Wren

White-breasted Nuthatch

Male Northern Cardinal

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall is in the air

I spent a great deal of time in my backyard this weekend and got a ton of pictures as my reward. Throughout the day yesterday and today, I saw the following birds (both male and females):

Carolina Wren
Tufted Titmouse
Carolina Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
White-breasted Nuthatch
House Finch
American Goldfinch (which really looked like Warblers)
Downy Woodpecker
Mourning Dove
Too many Sparrows

The hardest one to get a picture of was the Tufted Titmouse as they were extremely skittish.

Tufted Titmouse

Sunday, October 17, 2010


There were several flocks of warblers down by the lake and along the pine trees away from the lake. Although these could be Yellow Warblers, I am more leaning toward Pine Warblers. Very tough call.


Ready for Takeoff

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MN part duex

There were wild Turkeys on the road. Here is some pictures of a rafter of 12 Turkeys.

Crossing the road 
Half of the twelve

Getting under the fence to safety

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Birding in MN?

I spent about a week in Northern MN and just got back. I am going to post some of the many wildlife pictures (mostly birds) that I took.

It was nice to see a lot of Bald Eagles up there flying around. It seems like I saw some nearly everyday.

In 2007, it was estimated that there were 2300 nesting pairs of Bald Eagles in MN. If the trend continued, there should be about 2400 pairs in 2010. I don't ever remember seeing so many eagles in 1 week before.

Bald Eagle looking for food

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Cooper's Hawk

I found a new super great place to bird today about 4 miles from my house. It is a very large power line clear cut strip that runs for miles and miles. I always thought about going there, so today I finally did. I spotted a Cooper's Hawk having a late afternoon snack. It flew up in the tree and looked at me until I left.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dyke Marsh

I went down to Dyke Marsh today to see if there were any more birds transiting through. I did get a great picture of a Lesser Yellowlegs.

I saw a very large bird flying down the middle of the Potomac River. Any idea what it is?

My first real Bald Eagle picture. Although not super close, I will take it. It is a permanent resident to Northern VA.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Carolina Wren

I finally got a decent enough picture of a Carolina Wren in my backyard. It flew in to check out the suet, but in the end just wanted to dig around for some insects.

Notice the prominent white eyebrow and orange-ish belly. This is how you can distinguish it from the House Wren.

This is a permanent resident bird in Northern VA.

Duck, duck, duck, Gull???

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The migration is on

I saw my first winter visitors of the year today down at Dykes Marsh. There were several American Coots trying to get out of the rain. I should have followed their lead.

I usually don't added to a blog later but I will probably never blog about a coot again, so here is another picture.