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 http://pineriverreview.blogspot.com/ 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