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Showing posts from March, 2011

Spotted Towhee at Rosario Beach

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From Fidalgo Island Crossings, spring arrived for real on March 23rd.  In Deception Pass State Park, this Spotted Towhee caught my attention at Rosario Beach.  All by himself, he was joyfully singing, completely caught up in the moment.  After a long winter, I felt the same way on this beautiful, sunny day.

BirdCam No. 2:  Photo Management

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Having just installed a second BirdCam station, I am already getting activity.  I have also discovered some nifty software for managing and editing photos.  In BirdCam No.1, I am using an Eye-Fi SD card which transmits images to my laptop via Wi-Fi.  It works well, but also has some drawbacks.  For BirdCam No.2, I decided to go with a standard SD Class 6 card.  This meant I needed software that would download the images, sort them into subfolders by date and keep track of images already transferred.  I don't like the way Picassa and Windows Live Photo Gallery want to take over everything.  Sometimes I like to root around in my folders on my own and use the Windows Photo Viewer.  I also don't like the way WLPG will save changes without asking.

After some study, I settled on FastStone Photo Viewer now in version 4.3.  I am tickled to death with it and it's free to boot.  It is very fast and requires only a bit of orienting to get it working.  I know, I know, Photoshop.  Any…

Another Day, Another Birdcam

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This may qualify me for the "Off-The-Deep-End" list, but I have installed a second BirdCam.  This one is sited at the edge of a canopy formed by large Douglas Firs, with an understory of smaller trees and garden plantings.  The so-called "edge effect habitat" is known to be ideal for wildlife diversity and sightings.  Hopefully this concept will also apply to backyard landscaping.

Siting a BirdCam station is similar to locating feeders, with a couple of extra considerations:
Close to cover and escape routes so the birds will feel safeStraightforward access for both birds and peopleConvenient to the house to make it easy to replenish feeders and to inspect and maintain the BirdCamAway from predators such as cats (our local coyotes take care of that)Away from nest boxes; feeder traffic may discourage use of nearby nest boxesGood lighting for photos as with any camera; the BirdCam tends to produce blurry or poor quality images in low lightSheltered from wind which mig…

Pine Siskin: First Look

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After changing seed to black sunflower, another species has debuted at the BirdCam station.  Here are the first images caught of a Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus) since installing the camera last fall.  These finches are said to be year-around residents in our area, but I see them only rarely.  They resemble American Goldfinches in winter plumage, except they have a lot of brown streaking the Goldfinch lacks.  The name "Carduelis" implies they are also fond of thistle seed (carduus is a thistle).  Later this spring, I'll be putting up a thistle feeder to what that will attract.


According to BirdWeb, my yard provides their desired habitat, "semi-open areas, including forest edges and weedy fields."  Well, let's hope not too weedy.  They nest on horizontal branches of large conifers which I also furnish, so perhaps I'll have a nesting pair or two.

The BirdCam station is currently in a fairly open area of the yard, and near the house.  I have ordered a seco…

Song Sparrow

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The Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia) is one of our year-around residents on South Fidalgo.  They are identified by a gray and brown striped face, buff malar stripe, light chin and a light median stripe over the crown of the head.  The local Pacific Northwest morphna race tends to be darker and redder than in other locations.  Don't confuse them with Fox Sparrows which have solid brown heads and backs with a bit of shading, but no stripes.  Savannah and Lincoln's Sparrows are smaller and paler.


Song Sparrows are among the most frequently seen birds at the feeders.  These ground foragers are not fussy eaters, relishing black sunflower, suet and safflower seed.  In coastal areas, they also eat shellfish.  They will come to feeders where there is some cover nearby.  Their preferred habitat is forest edges, thickets and marshes with open grassy feeding areas.  This includes the undergrowth of gardens and city parks according to iBird.  Their edge habitat has actually increased due…

Hitting the Spot

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The previous post introduced an atypical Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus) visiting the BirdCam station.  While the leopard may not be able to change its spots, the Spotted Towhee can.  Our local oregonus variants have relatively few spots.  Those to the east and south, including eastern Washington birds, are markedly spottier.  This bird appears to be one of those which has wandered into our area.

My attempt to identify this bird among the 21 listed subspecies was frustrating.  Based on descriptions I found, I took a guess that he was a montanus variant, and admitted it was a guess.  I noted that in Pacific NW Birder, Greg Gillson was also visited by such birds in Beaverton, Oregon.  He identified them as curtatus, or Nevada Towhees.  In a comment to my post, he has kindly provided more information:

"I think you are correct that this towhee with white outer tail feathers is one of the inland group. I wish we knew what one!

Going only by published ranges in "The A.O.U. Check…

Spot Check

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Among Spotted Towhees (Pipilo maculatus), our local oregonus race is the least spotted.  Now, however, this bird has appeared at the BirdCam station over the last couple of days.  His spottiness immediately caught my eye.  I decided to shine a spotlight on this unusual visitor.

These large Sparrows were formerly classified Rufous-sided Towhees (Pipilo erythrophthalmus).  Erythrophthalmus literally means "red eye."  In 1995, the birds were divided into two species, Eastern Towhee (P. erythrophthalmus) which have no spots and the Spotted Towhee (P. maculatus), maculatus meaning "spotted."  Got it?  You might know the word "immaculate" which means "without spots," but I digress.  Word etymology is one of my arcane interests.


This is a photo of a typical oregonus Spotted Towhee of the Northwest Coast.  Spot-checking reveals how different this bird is from the one in the first photo.  According to BirdWeb, the Spotteds of eastern Washington are spo…