Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Gouldian finch aviary

First of all, let me just say that if I'd known that hubby was going to be hanging outside of the aviary with a camera I would have combed my hair before "bird chores".
I've raised many different kinds of finches in the past, but this photo (sorry for the blurriness), shows why gouldian finches are my favorites. Not only are they beautifully colored, they're also curious and friendly. It's no accident that there aren't any society finches in this photo. When I walk into the aviary, the society finches scatter and keep their distance. The gouldians come on over for a little visit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The common loon

Yesterday was our first loon siting (kind of) of the season. First we heard it. Then hubby saw it, pointed, and I turned just in time to see the ever-widening water circles that he left when he dove. We waited. And waited. And when he surfaced far from the place where he dove, hubby again pointed, and again I looked just in time to see the water circles. We waited and waited & never did see where he surfaced. Amazing divers, those birds. But today I saw him (or another one) swimming near our dock.
The photo above is one that I took last spring of a common loon with his beautiful summer plumage. I wasn't close enough to take a photo today, but he looks much different in his "winter coat".

Monday, November 28, 2005

10,000 Robins

OK, 10,000 robins is an overstatement, but 500 robins might not be. And 200 robins defininetly is not an exaggeration of what we saw on Friday. As we watched, flocks of robins flew into our trees in groups of 20 to 50 at a time. They would stay for a few minutes, fly off, then another group would replace them. This amazing scene lasted about 30 minutes and we haven't seen any robins since. In fact, we rarely see robins here. Maybe the occasional one by the roadside, but almost never on our wooded lot.
So, why is my photo of the day Pup2 and not these robins??? Well, it's a bit risky handling a camera when bird watching from a hot tub, so as a second choice I'm posting Pup2 snuggling in her blankies on a chilly day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The juncos are here!

Now that the weather has turned cold here in North Carolina, we have sunk to a new low in "bird watching wimpiness". Most of our watching is done while we're sitting in the hot tub on our deck. When we start to see dark objects dropping from tree limbs almost straight down to the ground, too fast to be a falling leaf, we know that the juncos have arrived. Those cute little guys in their batman capes are some of my favorite winter visitors.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Shades of purple

I've been breeding gouldian finches for about 4 years and until recently I've seen just 2 breast colors - white and purple (dark purple for males & pale purple for females). This photo shows a purple brested female in front, a white breasted male in the middle, and a purple breasted male in the back.

There is a third breast color, lilac, which is paler than the normal purple breast. I'm assuming that the young male in the photo below (and he's definitely a boy - sings all the time!) is a lilac breasted gouldian.

His breast color is even paler than that of his sister, shown in the photo below.

It seems odd that I've never had this mutation show up before. I haven't added any new birds to my aviary in 3 generations (bird generations, that is). Also odd is that the breast color of his mother (photo below) changed dramatically after her molt this fall. Until she molted she had a purple breast, just like her daughter in the above photo. Since her molt, it seems to be a mottled mix of purple breast and white breast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Reflection ...

I don't know if this great blue heron saw any fish in the lake, but he could certainly see himself!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The woodpeckers & the hawk

Strolling with Pup 1 yesterday, I heard two birds calling loudly to each other in the woods. When it comes to recognizing bird calls, I'm admittedly a bit weak and I couldn't identify the birds by their sounds. But I figured if I watched closely I might see something interesting. And I did. It turned out to be a pair of pileated woodpeckers. I just love those birds and we usually only see them a couple of times a year, although we often hear their hammer-like pecking in the distance. I picked up the pup and hurried home for my camera and binoculars. I managed to snap some not-too-great photos before they "flew the coop" with a red-tailed hawk following them. Unlike the woodpeckers, the hawk landed nearby and posed nicely for some photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Taking it easy ...

I have a comforter (really thick, really comfortable, really flowery) that my grandmother gave me when I was in my teens. Without getting too specific, that was about 30 years ago. She also gave similar ones to my sister and my 3 cousins at the same time. When I pulled mine out at a family reunion out a few years ago, they all remembered them, but not surprisingly, theirs had all gone missing somewhere along the line.

This is not a comforter that gets put away in a closet and forgotten. I use it often. Most evenings I pull it out along with about 6 pillows and Pup 1 and I snuggle in front of the television. After hurricane Katrina, I gave a lot of thought about things that I would take with me if I ever had to evacuate, and Grandma's comforter is definitely on my short list.

For the last month I've used it many afternoons for my lazy bird watching. (The birds aren't lazy, I am.) We've had no shortage warm sunny days this fall and many afternoons I've spread the comforter out on our dock and spent some time looking up. When these vultures started circling directly above me,
I decided that I must be lying a little too still.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


Even though our daytime temperatures are still in the 70s, this squirrel seems to be checking out his future winter home.