Monday, October 30, 2017

Kansas Welcomed Both Sandhill Cranes and a Whooping Crane

Help Asia Help Wildlife Before It Is All Gone

A friend of mine, like so many others, has been fighting tirelessly to save wildlife.  This man used to be a banker, and one day, he realized that that is not what he wanted on his epitaph.  What he wants is for future generations to see and continue to help wildlife proliferate.  Help Mirza Naim Beg and so many others, save our world, one step at a time.  If our birds disappear, we will, too, because one ecosystem supports another.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

The Mysterious Oilbird of Central and Northern South America

What bird in the world provides oil for torches and is also a food source?  What single bird species lives in the darkness, regurgitates its food when it returns home, and finds its way thro echolocation like a bat AND belongs to the nightjar family?

Welcome to the world of highly remarkable and unusual birds brought to you strictly by natural selection.

These nocturnal fruit eaters, like bats, emit clicking sounds that can be heard by the human ear in
the range of 2 kHz.  This bird is mostly red-brown, black barring with white spots, and fossils have been found in France in Europe and Wyoming in the United States, making it much more widely distributed.  The species also clings to vertical surfaces, making it also similar to swallows, who also are considered to have nearly non-utile feet, since they spend most of their time in flight.  Light bothers their eyes, since they live in darkness within caves, and they will emit loud screams if they are so disturbed.  The Spanish name that they inherited is guacharo, which translates to "wailer."  They have been known to go as far as 75 miles in search of fruit, which includes figs, tropical laurels, nuts of oil palm, camphor, and incense.

Fruit is regurgitated for the young, which can weigh in the neighborhood of fifty percent more than their parents.  The chicks are the desired birds in view of their fat content regarding oil by natives and the original settlers in their native locales.

These common birds, or birds of least concern, are some of the most unusual examples to be encountered in the world.

New Caledonia's Kagu, A Critically Endangered Species

The Kagu of Grande Terre Island, New Caledonia (between Australia and Fiji) is critically endangered and is a prime example of a nearly flightless modern day bird, just like the Emu and the Ostrich.  It never developed the power of flight, because it was unnecessary, yet it has the ability to glide, as its feathers are full sized.

This unusual bird began to meet its demise due to domestic animals like dogs, pigs, and cats.  Each of the approximately 160 birds each wears a radio collar, each attuned to different frequencies.

Appearing to resemble a heron or rail, this gorgeous, unusual bird is known as "the white ghost," or "ghost of the forest," which is its natural habitat.  Having light coloring such as this in the forest sets this bird apart from other normal forest dwellers, which are normally much more subdued.  Even though DNA analysis has been done, it clearly must be in its own family, but it is debatable as to whether or not its classification will hold.

The species is strictly a protein eater, going through leaf litter to feed on worms, lizards, insects and similar.  Sexual maturity is reached at the age of three, and one egg is laid.  The young of each pair can remain in the same territory for a decade, and there is evidence of assisting with nest defense.  At this time, it is unknown if co-operative parenting is done by the former young.

Populations are stable, though 2016 was an excellent year for new birds.  It is holding between 1,500 and 3,000 birds.

Upcoming Irish Birds For the Winter

Monday, October 2, 2017

September's Stars and Top Quality Hunting Birds


                                                                      Bald Eagle

                                                                      Cattle Egrets

                                                             Juvenile Prairie Falcon

                                                               Adult Bonelli's Eagle


                                                           Juvenile Mississippi Kite

                                                                      Harris's Hawk

                                                                   Peregrine Falcon

                                                                       Turkey Vulture


                                                                     Franklin's Gull

                                                          Juvenile Little Blue Heron


                                                             Juvenile Turkey Vulture

                                                                    Snowy Egret

                                                              American White Pelican

                                                                      Snowy Egret

                                                            Juvenile Little Blue Heron

                                                             American White Pelican

                                                                    Ditto, View 2

                                                                  Peregrine Falcon

                                                                   Red-tailed Hawk

                                                            Female American Kestrel

                                                                       Great Egret

                                                                     Green Heron

                                                    Juvenile Male Red-winged Blackbird

                                          Great Egret (L), Snowy Egret (C), Cattle Egret (R)

September 2017

The summer has been relatively quiet for the numbers of birds that we used to see.  By the same token, our numbers for wading birds have increased dramatically, especially migratory Cattle Egrets
and semi-resident Great Egrets.

We have gotten a slight trickle, especially at the end of the month for migratory songbirds, and our Scissor-tailed Flycatchers are still hanging on, perhaps until the end of the month.

We had several late nesting birds, which included woodpeckers and songbirds, but our Green Heron colony lost fledglings, as well as nestlings.  That could have been due to a Cooper's Hawk that was found in the area a couple of times, but that is inconclusive.

A couple of unusual birds that normally reside south of here managed to visit southwest Oklahoma.  The Groove-billed Ani hasn't been seen in in our fair state since 1979 and it appears that Mexico's Masked Duck spent a couple of weeks in US waters.  The ani was around for a much shorter period.

Also photographed above are a number of raptors that we don't get to see at such close range.  One of them is the Bonelli's Eagle, which is a raptor from Africa and Eurasia.  This beautiful female beat the odds.  She was picked up in the Middle East where she was for sale.  She was the victim of a shooting, and a terrible disease.  It took three solid years of the best care to get her back into the falconry circuit, and I wish to commend the gentleman for the best care that she could have received.

Also, the above young Mississippi Kite was born much later than normal, and he or she was fortunately found by a caring individual shortly after a rain storm.  He is being cared for by an area rehabilitator  and was taken in on August 15, possibly at the age of 32-35 days.  He weighed in at 288 grams and had a setback that dropped his weight to 200 grams.  In this photo, he was approximately 69 days of age.  There is no question that without human intervention, he would have died.

There are also numerous shots of wading birds from Great Salt Plains in the spillway area.  Note the egret with a grasshopper in its mouth.  We also noticed large numbers of dead carp there, too.

The rest of the birds pictured above are identified and are some of the best specimens.  They are all very healthy birds that got a new lease on life.  First and second year raptors have an 85% mortality rate their first two years of life.  With proper human intervention, they can be trained to hunt to the best of their ability.  Healthy adults will be released into the wild with their new skill set and will make their handlers proud of their newfound keen and confident hunting prowess.

Please enjoy the photos.  Keep your eyes on the ground and your head in the clouds.  Happy birding!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Kites, Hawks and Natural History Just For You

                                                                  Mississippi Kites

                                                                Red-shouldered Hawk

                                                                  Wild Sunflower

                                                                 European Starlings

                                                                      Great Egret
                                                                  at Boomer Creek


08-27 through 09-03-17

This appears to be the end of our Mississippi Kites for the season.  They spent about ten days
at Boomer Lake and I believe we had ten or eleven at one point.  You may recall that I finally managed to get a few decent photos of juveniles this year, getting me one step closer to my raptor
collection.  I have a lot more to go, but eventually, I'll succeed.  I'd also like to improve upon the quality of the raptors, too.  Some were quite a distance away.

Our local Red-shouldered Hawks are back, and nest each year in a reasonable distance from the lake.

It wasn't close enough for a photo, but one of our Belted Kingfishers has been visiting the area for the past couple of days.  I saw two males, but not the female.  She will come around eventually, most likely when it is nearer winter.

A couple of evenings ago, some birding friends and I went to the lake to see some of our Scissor-tailed Flycatchers that roost elsewhere during the day.  We also saw several lovely House Finches, as well as a Western Kingbird that should have gone south.  I am assuming that this juvenile has been staying close to the young scissor-tails and was a late hatcher.  We will most likely have several late hatching birds coming through the area on their way south this year.

Not being pressed for time today, I managed a trip to Boomer Creek, where I observed my woodpecker entourage, as well as someone that has been interested in corvids for quite some time.  Actually, I have encountered several new birders recently, so I'm happy to say that the fold is growing.  A couple of us have been spending time teaching the joys of birding to those with budding interests.  Our biggest joys are when the new people get to observe new birds for the first time.

For those of you that have never seen one, I thought that the naturalists would enjoy looking at a cicada.  They are heard everywhere, but are sometimes a little difficult to spot.  This one flew right in front of me and landed on a sapling.  I just had to take a photo to show you.

Until next time!

090317 SNP Edition, Life at Boomer Lake

Saturday, August 26, 2017

We Are Ready For the Fall Migratory Birds


                                                          Adult Mississippi Kite


                                                         Juvenile Mississippi Kite


                                                                Adult Mississippi Kite

08-20 through 08-25-17

The Mississippi Kites are pulling out of all the area neighborhoods to catch dragonflies and cicadas at Boomer Lake.  They are teaching the youngsters how to survive, and they know that the perfect place to do it is in the throes of our greatest body of water.

Several fine examples of both juvenal and adult birds are quietly hunting from the tallest bald cypress
and oak trees on the southeast corner of the property.  Since young birds have difficulty staying silent for too long, they manage to announce themselves, which makes it easy for me to find them.  There are at least three young birds that were hatched in this area.

Large numbers of Mallards are also in residence at the lake, and young Red-shouldered Hawks are also hunting here.  Plenty of Turkey Vultures are gracing the skies on thermals, and there are several Northern Flickers, Downy and Red-headed Woodpeckers, and the Yellow Warblers are coming through the area now.

The web worms are all over the deciduous trees, which means plenty of potential food with protein and we are well on our way with large numbers of rough-leafed dogwood for the migratory birds that will soon be at Boomer Lake and the creek on a well-deserved rest stop.

Keep your eyes on the skies and may the birds be in your sights...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mississippi Kites Come to Boomer Lake!

                                                                  Adult Green Heron

                                                                 Yellow-billed Cuckoo

                                                             Juvenile Mississippi Kite


                                                             Adult Mississippi Kite

                                                                     Ditto, a Day Later

080717 through 081917

Photos were few and far between due to high heat indices.  Quite simply, neither the birds nor I were out for any more than necessary.

As tropical as our state bird, the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher is, it has taken refuge elsewhere, as have the kingbirds.  These things happen.

But, by the same token, Mississippi Kites have come out of the neighborhoods and others are beginning to head south.  As a matter of fact, on Friday, we had nine of them at Boomer Lake, the greatest number that I have ever seen.  They were perching between a large oak and an even larger bald cypress tree on the southeast corner of the lake.

I had three juveniles in a tree with an adult.  As you can see, one of the juveniles was looking right at me.  Originally, I only saw the adult, and a passerby happened to see one of the juveniles perched over the adult's head.  I then scanned the tree and located the other two.  The youngster facing me was quite vocal, so that bird was easy to find.

I saw a juvenile Mississippi Kite in the air last year, but was unable to obtain a good photo due to the deflection of the sunlight.  This year's shots were so much better, including a shot of my juvenile calling the familiar, "PEE-teeeerrrrr!"  Notice the first shot of the juvenile with its beak open.

Other shots include the Yellow-billed Cuckoo from Boomer Creek on Aug. 11.  I saw my first juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker out there, too, but the photo is poor.  I believe that bird was hatched here, as it was still in the company of a parent.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Green Heron Clutch #5 Makes Debut In Nest on 072917

                                                              European Starling

                                                   First Green Heron Nestling, Clutch 5

                                                   Black-crowned Night Heron Subadult

                                                   Two Green Heron Nestlings, Clutch #5

                                                           Black-crowned Night-Heron

                                                        Green Heron Parent For Clutch 5

                                                             Green Heron Nestlings

                                                                      Ditto 080517

                                                             Black-crowned Night-Heron

07-25 through 08-05-17

This was a longer stretch than usual, but most of these days got hot very quickly.  With both black metal camera and tripod, it was difficult to keep sweat out of the eyes and any kind of comfort level.  Now that I have a few photos, I am proud to announce that we have another clutch of young.

It is unknown what happened with clutch 4, which I never saw.  I had a bird on its nest, but no young were produced.  It appeared to me that one of the Green Herons was a little young, so I am assuming that the male was not yet reproductively mature.  It was also possible that there was a malady or perhaps the nest was infested with something malicious.  Since we will never know, let us be grateful that we have young that I was able to capture at a very early age.

The first photo with clutch #5 was on Saturday, 07-29, nine days ago.  I could only see one bird at the time, and I am almost certain that we now have three nestlings, some of whom are now sitting on the rim of the nest, just itching to escape.  In order to obtained the photos that you see here, I have to have at least 12 mph wind gusts, enough to move both leaves and branches out of the way in order to view the youngsters.  Luck gave me a few shots over the past nine days.

I also believe that I missed seeing the subadult Black-crowned Night-Heron every day, but I don't think it ever left the area.  Going to the west side of Heron Cove each day has sometimes afforded me the opportunity to see the bird perched in a tree.  The photos tell the story, and I am grateful that this bird is allowed to co-exist in the area of the Green Herons.  If it returns as an adult in 2018, we'll see
if they are willing to allow it nesting space.

Even though it has been a terrifically hot summer in this part of the country, it appears that we'll see a reprieve in August.  Perhaps we can all get in some long overdue birding.  If the month is cooler, we might even see an earlier migration, as the days are shortening slightly.  Perhaps the cooler month will give us a push with a few early birds in the area.  I saw three Forster's Terns cruising the lake on Saturday, so we'll see what is in store for us this season.

Dr. Deb