Well....the 24th. I have been saturated with traffic near the mall and the stupidity of humans. So today on the eve of Christmas, I allowed myself time with nature, just to decompress. The abnormal warmness was perfect as I slid the screen door open, shuffled a few chairs over and set my hot water upon one, and plunked down on the other with my bins in hand; with just the gentle sprinkle of rain falling off leaves to more leaves to listen to, and the scuttling of birds from branch to feeder to ground, with no true purpose.
Nature....it has no falsities.... birds and squirrels exist within that truth. There are no locked doors to pound on when you forget the key, ...no car doors to slam, nor buildings sheltered from weather. Birds exist from branch to branch with the freedom to experience the pureness of nature.
So I decompressed. It took me 20 minutes of stillness before I began to feel 'at one' with my surroundings. No phone, no data, no man-made anomalies to disturb my meditation within nature. I remember listening to the great singer James Taylor speaking to today's society and the lack of time to be creative. People are so busy with so many distractions that boredom isn't allowed to set in. And without boredom and stillness, humans become lost and uncreative.
So I sat....and watched and became bored. I was first drawn to the Junco's. They were dispersed around my line of sight with some being in a bush near me, others underneath the feeder taking advantage of seeds casually dropped by house finches and yet, other juncos took root outside of my yard pecking away at the ground. So, why there? Why do they not take advantage of the easy food underneath the seeders as others do?
A lonely dove on the ground, noticed my eyes and took shelter by facing the other way. Like a small child, if it can't see me, than obviously I can't see it. So the dove just walked away in confidence, still obvious but hidden.
The local American Tree Sparrow was perched on the feeder. Today I would give it the award for the bird most likely to 'stay perched' . This one sparrow just sat staring at the feed, not eating, just staring. I think I have seen that same bird in my yard prior....a statue; no movement and no reason why it doesn't want to move. I looked away to grab my hot water, and in that brief time, the birds seems to have reset it's course and woken up enough to disappear. For it was gone.
I noticed a tufted tit-mouse on the black sunflower seeds. Now, in past times I have taken careful notes on the actions of these birds. They grab a seed and take off to a near branch that has a crook in it and hold it down while they remove the seed. But this one tit-mouse took off to one branch....thought about it, and moved to another branch, then another, then another and lastly one more before I lost sight of it. Branch, to branch to branch and branch and at least one more. Why expend that effort for one seed? Why was one branch any less better than another?
The squirrel's are easy to lose sight of as well. I watched one on the ground as it became a bit disturbed and climbed up a trunk. From there it flew from branch to twig, to clump of leaves...to another tree and then another until it was out of my yard, my sight. Why? What disturbance would have caused this much sudden rush of energy and to lose track of it's stash of ground acorns? I am not sure....
But there I sat.....after about 70 minutes of being on watch, all birds...all squirrels just left. No sign of life, but just a blustery wind and the constant drip of rain. Yet I stayed on for another 50 minutes...two full hours all told. Like all meditation of sorts...one walks away being fresh and open with a blank slate of mind. Not a bad day.......
Blog by Jesse Amesbury.....
Saturday December 5th, Atlantic Audubon held a field trip to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park. Barnegat is a major birding hotspot known for its winter specialties, although the weather didn’t feel that much like winter. With the temperature near 60oF and bright sunshine, we were in for a real treat. The walk began with a few passerines in the shrubs near the parking lot, which included northern cardinals and white-throated sparrows. We eventually made it out to the main event, the jetty. A few brave souls walked out onto the rocks of the jetty, down to the tip, while others took the safer route and walked along the beach towards the tip. On our way to the end of the jetty we enjoyed views of long-tailed ducks, a common loon, and a very confiding ruddy turnstone who walked feet away from us!
The group finally made their way to the tip of the jetty when we suddenly heard another birding group shout out “BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE!!!” We got on the bird, an immature, as it was sitting on the water bouncing in the waves. However, it quickly got up and flew out towards the sea leaving the group wishing they got much better views of the bird, which was a lifer for most. We were quickly distracted by the mass of ducks floating in the surf behind us. The main target of the trip, a harlequin duck, was quickly picked out of the group and put in the scope for all to enjoy. After oohing and awwwing at the gorgeous duck we were alerted to a second black-legged kittiwake flying into the inlet. This time an adult, but again, just a little too far away to enjoy. However, after sifting through the rest of the birds around the tip of the jetty other goodies were picked out such as common eider, purple sandpiper, red-throated loon, white-winged scoter, and northern gannets. Just as we were about to call it quits the immature black-legged kittiwake returned, except this time it flew right along the jetty offering spectacular views of this normally pelagic species. We watched it clumsily crash into the water as it fed on small fish, giving everybody the looks we all desired - definitely the icing on the cake during this great trip.
Black-legged kittiwake is a pelagic species of gull, meaning they normally spend their time out at sea and are rarely seen from shore. Their buoyant and nimble flight style makes their appearance very tern-like. This immature has bold black markings all the way down the front of its wings creating a bold M pattern when it banks, making it easy to identify from a distance. (Photo by Jesse Amesbury)
The adult black-legged kittiwake is a much more generic looking bird and and is very similar to the ring-billed gull in appearance. Notice the jet black wing tips with no white in them, as if they were dipped in black ink. They also lack the ringed-bill of a ring-billed gull. That is if you get close enough to see the bill. (Photo by Jesse Amesbury)
This purple sandpiper was another real treat on the trip. If you look very closely at the shoulder area on this bird, you can see why it gets the name purple sandpiper. There is a slight purplish hue on the feathers, which can be very tough to see in the field. (Photo by Jesse Amesbury)
Harlan, not HarlemRead Now
What is it? ...... Right, a hawk....so true you are. Good job....you are a true birder. Now what race, species?
I find myself back in Washington State for the past few weeks taking care of my aged mom, and while I haven't had much chance to do some birding, I did notice this guy the other day. Well, in fact...I have noticed a bunch of these guys. Back east, you won't find these birds but these are real common up and down the Pacific Coast. These birds migrate from Alaska, into NW Canada and down into Washington State, Colorado and even some of the Dakotas). At first, one has to take a double take, get out the Sibley or Peterson guide, flip thru the raptor section and seek to find. And find you shall.
That bird is a Red-tailed hawk...But you notice the uniform blackness about it? This is the Harlan sub-species and lumped into the Red-tailed species overall. darker...black in many cases but the majority of adult Harlan's still have the red tail as evident by the image. As near as I can recall, this is still a sub-species although DNA testing was being done even up till a few years back to see if it qualifies as Buteo Harlani or Buteo Red-Tailed. But there was and has been some issues with this hawk and how to classify it. For instance:
From 1833--1891, the Harlan was a separate species.
From 1891-1944, the Harlan was a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk
From 1944-1972, the Harlan was a separate species
From 1972-Present, the Harlan is a subspecies of the Red-tailed Hawk.
Poor guy...a hawk without a true home. He has no passport to truly identify who he might be as he travels under dual citizenship as he migrates up and down the western US. Harlani Species or Harlani Sub-Species? Come on man, get it right, just do a taxonomic justification and figure it once and for all. In the meantime, do some DNA tests on all of those separate grave sites to determine if Jesse James died in AZ in an unmarked grave, or lived in Washington State till he died as an old man, or died where someone says he did in a house in MO, Or ....what about Butch Cassidy? Did he really did in Bolivia? Or better yet, are they the same person for they look the same? Or, gather enough evidence on BigFoot, there has to be some 'scat' out there, someplace.....let's not rely on that Bigfoot show where BoBo reports on Discovery channel to wait till we get positive ID. Or, ...Well you get the idea, species or subspecies. It can't be that hard guys. Get your act together and find a true home for this Harlani, they deserve it.