Tag Archives: Bird-watching

Birds on a Snowy Day

 Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder.  Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it's excellent bird-watching.  They seem to know that there's no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

Whenever it snows, birds of all kinds flock to our bird feeder. Most of the birds wait on the nearby trees for a spot on the feeder. Our two cats love the snow, because it’s excellent bird-watching. They seem to know that there’s no chance of catching any birds, but they are vigilant anyway.

I hate snow, but our cats love it.  It’s great for bird watching.  We got about a foot of snow today in the Kansas City area, and the forecast calls for more.  The crowds at the bird feeder were huge today. I saw five pairs of cardinals, black-capped chickadees, blue jays, doves, nuthatches, a red-bellied woodpeckers and some birds I didn’t recognize. Click on the photos for a better view.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn.  When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out.  In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

When the snow was falling hard, birds mobbed the feeder and filled the nearby trees as they waited their turn. When the snow stopped, the traffic thinned out. In the bottom photo, a cardinal leisurely eats his meal.

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Red-bellied Woodpecker

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Postcard postcard 

A red-bellied woodpecker in our background.

Red-Bellied Woodpecker Postcard postcard

A red-bellied woodpecker in our backyard.

Red-bellied Woodpecker at Bird Feeder Postcard postcard

A red-bellied woodpecker at our feeder.

In my post on January 8, I spoke too soon about enjoying a snow-free winter.  A few days later, more than seven inches fell, and it’s not likely to melt any time soon in the below-freezing temperatures forecast to last for a week.

The birds are very active at our bird feeder now that their food sources are covered with snow, so I get lots of great photo opportunities.  The red-bellied woodpecker is among many species of birds taking a turn getting seeds from our feeder. The red-bellied woodpecker eats insects, fruits, nuts and seeds. We’re lucky that we live in a forested area, so that we can catch a glimpse of these colorful woodpeckers, which depend on large trees for nesting.

About Red-Bellied Woodpeckers.

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Filed under Bird-watching, Birds, Kansas, Kansas City, Life, Nature, Photography

Nuthatch in the Snow

Nuthatch in the Snow Postcard postcard

“Hey, look at these huge sunflakes coming down in the sunshine,” my husband called to me as I was hunched over my keyboard (Where else?) “It might make a good picture.”

I grabbed my camera.  I soon spotted this nuthatch waiting on a tree branch for his turn at the bird feeder. After a few minutes, the snowflakes stopped falling. We’ve been lucky so far not to get any accumulated snowfall. Last year, we suffered here in Kansas City from lots and lots of snow! In fact, we had the third snowiest winter and tied for the 11th coldest winter in the 122 years of record-keeping in Kansas City.  On Dec. 24, 2009, a blizzard hit us, extending even into Texas, where my sister said they got more snow on one day than they’d had altogether in the nine years they’d lived in Texas.

I should knock on wood at our good fortune so far this season. The winter is still young.

The National Weather Service Summary from NOAA of the winter of 2009-2010 in Kansas City is below.

Winter 2009-2010 temperatures were below average in Kansas City, with slightly below average precipitation and much above average snowfall

The average temperature at the Kansas City International Airport for the winter 2009-2010 season (December-February) was 26.5 degrees, which is 3.9 degrees below the 30-year average. Based on the longer term historical 122 year record from various Kansas City observation points, winter 2009-2010 has tied for the 11th coldest on record. The average high temperature for the season was 33.8 degrees, which is 5.7 degrees below normal, while the average low temperature was 19.3 degrees, which is 1.9 degrees below normal. The highest temperature of season was 59 degrees recorded on December 1st, and the lowest temperature of 5 degrees below zero occurred on January 2nd.

The total precipitation at the Kansas City International Airport for the winter 2009-2010 season (December-February) was 3.45 inches, which is 0.65 inches below the 30-year average. This would rank winter 2009-2010 as the 49th driest winter season in the longer term 122 year record in Kansas City. Snowfall was measured at 34.3 inches, which is 19.2 inches above the 30-year average of 15.1 inches for the winter season. This places the winter of 2009-2010 as the 3rd snowiest winter in the 122 year history of Kansas City observations.

National Weather Service Summary for Kansas City Winter 2009-2010.

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Cooper’s Hawk

A Cooper's Hawk waits on a tree near my bird feeder today. As much as I wanted this hawk to eat, I didn't want him to grab one of the black-capped chickadees or cardinals. They were smart enough to stay away today.

Click on these links to learn more: Wikipedia on the Cooper’s Hawk  and  Cooper’s Hawk  

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California Bird Houses

 

California Bird House Collage

The housing market is good for birds in some special neighborhoods in California.

 I love bird houses.  I don’t know how practical some of these are or whether birds actually live in them, but they certainly are cute.  After seeing these, I’m inspired to build my own.  I’m not very handy with a saw and a hammer, so maybe I’ll grow a bird house gourd. 

The green bird house hangs on the front porch of my friend Jan.    Plenty of birds nest in her yard, building their own homes.  Some of the homes are pretty flimsy, like the piles of sticks put together by the doves, she says.  Parrots roost in her fig trees.

The church birdhouse stands on the grounds of Mission San Juan Capistrano.  The rows of birdhouses sitting on the white patio beams are on a home on Catalina Island.

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Kea Parrot Steals Passport

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

My favorite parrots are in the news again!  A Kea parrot has stolen a passport from a tourist visiting New Zealand. ( See the story below.)  The Keas hang out at a tunnel that everyone must pass through to get to Milford Sound.  Everyone stops there, because it’s a one-lane tunnel.  The keas are probably part of an international passport theft ring.  At the bottom is a link to a post I wrote about keas, which includes some great videos (which I didn’t take).    

 An Associated Press story, May 28, 2009.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Polly wants a passport — and isn’t above stealing one.

A brazen parrot, which spotted a Scottish man’s passport in a colored bag in the luggage compartment under a tour bus, nabbed the document and made off into dense bush with it, the Southland Times newspaper reported Friday.

The bird — a parrot of the Kea variety — made its move while the bus was stopped along the highway to Milford Sound on South Island, and the driver was looking through the compartment. Milford Sound, which runs inland from the Tasman Sea and is surrounded by sheer rock face, is part of Fiordland National Park, a world heritage site and major travel destination.

Police told the newspaper the passport has not been recovered and is unlikely to be located in the vast Fiordland rain forest.

“My passport is somewhere out there in Fiordland. The Kea’s probably using it for fraudulent claims or something,” the passport owner, who did not want to be named, told the newspaper.

A replacement passport from the British High Commission  in Wellington could take six weeks and cost up to $250.

“I’ll never look at a Kea in the same way,” the man was quoted saying.

Kea, the world’s only snow line-dwelling parrot, are widely known as inquisitive birds who appear to take delight in attacking rubber items like windshield wiper blades.

Native to New Zealand, the birds are found only in or near South Island mountains, where they live in high-altitude beech forest and open sub-alpine herb fields that stretch up into the snow line.

Covered mainly in brown and green feathers, they have large flashes of bright orange feathers under their wings.

My post about Kea Parrots.

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The Birds

Two Keas parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand.

Two Kea parrots conspire on the rooftop of The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. The Kea is thought to be one of the smartest birds in the world and is the only alpine parrot.

IMAGINE THIS SCENE:  A man and a woman are watching “Country Calendar” on the television in their house on a lonely sheep station near Lake Wakatipu in New Zealand.  The woman gets up from the couch to get some tea.  She hears a fainting tapping on the front door.

“John,”  she calls out, a little alarmed.  “There’s someone here.” 

She peers through the door’s sidelight window and sees a bloody hand smearing the glass.  “Oh, my God, John.”

"What I'd really like is a roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing."

"This isn't as tasty as that roasted red pepper, pine nut and lamb panini with honey mustard dressing that I stole from those stupid tourists the other day."

John rushes to the front hall.  “What is it?” 

“A man.  He’s hurt.  He needs help.”

John looks through the window.  “Jill don’t open the door.”   He gets a cricket bat from a closet.  He motions to his wife to get back as he opens the door. 

The stranger struggles to stand on the porch.  “They took it,” he snuffles miserably.  He weakly lifts his arm.  His shirt cuff  is shredded. 

“What did they take?”

“My Rolex,” he cries, collapsing on the porch. “My wife.  Oh, my God, my wife.  They took her jewelry. Her gold earrings.  She’ll die without those.  We didn’t have insurance.”

“Who did this?”  John walks out onto the porch to help the man to his feet.

"I know there's some food in there.  You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

"I know there's some food in there. You watch the kitchen door whilst I distract the cook."

“They’re coming. Don’t let them in.”  The stranger puts his hands over his head, whimpering.  “I saved for months for that watch. It was so cooool. Now it’s gone…….It isn’t right.  They don’t even need to tell time.”

An eerie sound pierces the air.   “Keaaah!  Keaaah!”  Seemingly out of nowhere, a flock of green birds swoops in, a flash of red under their wings as they dive toward the open door.

“John, John!”  Jill yells, terrified.  John starts flailing at the birds. 

A few birds swoop toward Jill.  She barely gets the door closed in time.  The birds flap at the window for a few moments, and then they disappear.  John and Jill help the stranger to a chair.  “It’s too late,” the stranger says.  “You can’t escape them. They won’t stop until they get it all.” 

“You’re safe now,” Jill soothes, heading toward the kitchen.  “I’ll get some tea.”

The two men hear a noise, something rustling.  Wings.  Screeching.  They hear Jill scream, “Oh, my God, the kitchen window is open!”

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Preserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A guide talks about Kea parrots at the Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

“Cut,” the director calls out.  The actors are relieved. Those Kea really play their parts well.  (It’s all acting, folks!  Keas do like shiny objects, though.)

The birds retreat to their perches, where they get the star treatment they deserve — plenty of mango, figs and even spoonsful of honey.

Wouldn’t this be a great scene for the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s movie “The Birds” ? A new version of “The Birds” is in the works and scheduled  for release in 2011, maybe in 3-D, with Naomi Watts and George Clooney.  The Kea parrots of New Zealand would be the perfect birds to star with A-listers in the dramatically beautiful country of New Zealand.   Super producer Michael Bay, are you listening! 

A flock of these cheeky, brilliant, mischievous and curious parrots could almost take over the world, if they wanted to.  They work well in teams to solve puzzles.  (See videos below.)  

Keas are clownishly adorable and pose no real threat to humans.  Fortunately, Keas are more likely to run off with your sandwich, snatch a gold earring or rip the rubber edging from your car.  There are so few Keas now — 1,000 to 5,000 — they are in serious danger of disappearing altogether.  They’d have to be replicated by computer generated images to produce enough Kea parrots to create a menancing flock.  There were tens of thousands of them as recently as forty years ago. They were named Kea by the Maori for the “Keaa!” cries they make.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Mt. Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

A sign at The Hermitage Hotel at Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand warns people not to leave their food unattended or a Kea will steal it.

Their numbers have fallen drastically for a number of reasons, including a bounty that was once placed on them because they do take a bite out of livestock now and then.  They also killed by poison set out to kill possums.  Keas, now protected, are an endangered bird on the South Island of New Zealand, the only place in the world where they naturally occur.  They live in the harsh conditions of the New Zealand Alps, eating a wide range of food from fruit and seeds to other birds and carrion.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

Here a Kea flies near Aoraki Mount Cook in New Zealand. Kea parrots are only found in the wild on the south island of New Zealand at higher altitudes.

New Zealand’s spectacular scenery, already featured in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, would be a perfect location for this new version of “The Birds”.  Naomi Watts is rumored to be in “talks” to take the role originally played by Tippi Hedren in the Alfred Hitchcock version of the Daphne Du Maurier short story, originally set in Cornwall. Watts has already starred in King Kong in New Zealand under LOTR director Peter Jackson, so she’s familiar with the terrain. And who wouldn’t want to visit New Zealand again?

 

The third video is one I took at Willowbank Wildlife Reserve in Christchurch, New Zealand.

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