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Showing posts from May, 2011

Western Tanager

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You get a lot of junk photos with a BirdCam.  You often end up discarding 80%, and sometimes an entire day's collection of shots is completely useless.  These include blanks, blurs, butt shots and birds you have captured 1,000 times already.  How many House Finch photos can anyone use?  This might even go on for several days.  Maybe it's time to change the lure.

Then, once in a while, something special happens that makes it all worthwhile.  The photo above was my first glimpse of a Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) at the BirdCam.  In fact, it was the first time I had ever seen one.  Does an automatic photo count as a sighting?  Do you know the feeling of the thrill that will run down the middle of you when something exciting is happening?


The first photo is of a male, and this is the female.  It is interesting that I got several shots of this pair on May 14th, then they never appeared again.  Apparently they were just passing through and traveling together.  They form in…

BirdCam Raison D'être

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I know, I know, it's a terrible photo.  But for me, it's a very important photo.  Last summer, the suet feeder in my front patio was visited by a Pileated Woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).  It was both startling and thrilling to see such a large, impressive bird coming to the feeders.  I watched him through the blinds, and regretted not being able to get a photo.  If he had spotted me, he would have been gone in a flash.  This bird's visit was the inspiration for installing a Wingscapes BirdCam 2.0.

I now have two BirdCams set up in the yard.  One is in the front yard which is a meadow-like habitat.  The second is in the backyard which approximates a forest edge habitat.  While there is some overlap, I am seeing different species at the two locations.  This is not just explained by which lure is in place.  I believe the surrounding habitat also plays a role in which birds will be seen visiting a feeder.

Though barely adequate, the woodpecker photo represents an accomplishm…

Wiley Slough Song Sparrows

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Last January, I discovered a place called Wiley Slough.  This is a vast wetland on Fir Island, Washington bordering Skagit Bay.  Fir Island is the delta of the Skagit River and as the river approaches Skagit Bay, it divides into a myriad of sloughs and marshes.  A system of dikes protect the farmlands on Fir Island from both tidal action and flooding by the Skagit River.  The wetlands of Wiley Slough are made accessible using the dikes as trails.


The Spur Dike Trail is used by birdwatchers, hikers, hunters and dog trainers.  Today, the wetlands of Wiley Slough were alive with birdsong.  Every voice in the choir was singing.  The sopranos were led by Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia).  Northern Flickers made up the alto section, Red-winged Blackbirds sang tenor and Great Blue Herons filled out the bass section.  The Song Sparrows, of course, were the stars of the show.

American Robin

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Of all the birds in North America, the iconic American Robin (Turdus migratorius) is perhaps the most familiar.  They are so familiar, in fact, that we rarely get excited when spotting one.  This is a shame because they are terrific birds.  Robins are large, attractive songbirds, easy to identify.  At the crack of dawn, they will be the first birds heard singing in long repeating phrases.  These are appropriately referred to as "dawn calls."  They will repeat the concert again at dusk.


My neighbor Dan Codd took all the photos here and kindly shared them for this post.  They chronicle a pair who raised three young in his yard in a nest about seven feet/2 meters off the ground.  In the breeding season, the males will grow black head feathers to attract females.  Once the pairs have formed, they will remain monogamous through the season.  Three to seven eggs are laid in a color we have come to call "robin's egg blue."


Typically, American Robins will raise two bro…

Family Outing

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It must be Canada Day at Cranberry Lake in Deception Pass State Park, Washington.  Several families of Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) were taking advantage of the nice early May weather.  When I took this photo, I was focused on the group in the water.  I didn't even notice the birds behind the picnic table.  The aunts and uncles were swimming nearby:


These picnic tables are taken:


After lunch, it's time for a swim: