Sunday, March 30, 2014

Bald Eagle Birthday

I have been watching a web cam trained on a Bald Eagle nest in New Jersey every day for almost two months. I let it run all day on my computer desktop at work; the infrequent bursts of activity catch my eye, but it is mostly patient waiting. The nest is in a tree on the old estate at Duke Farms in Hillsborough, New Jersey -- click here to read about the place. 

I found the nest cam through the Hancock Wildlife Association; they have a page of all kinds of wild bird nest web cams. You can take your pick of eagles, osprey, owls, falcons, and more -- click here to check it out. 

I selected the closest eagle web cam to my home so I can visit later when the eagles are fledging and perhaps get a glimpse of them. Click on the Eagle Cam on the Duke Farms link (during daylight). On the bottom of the page you will find a stream of comments and questions from others watching live. I frequently find myself watching with elementary school classes who are learning about science and nature.

We watched the eagle couple persevere as the nest was repeatedly covered with snow in February. They brought new branches to lay over the snow. They built a pile of grass in the center. Eventually the snow was gone, and we watched the female lay the first egg of the year on the cold afternoon of February 17th. It was followed by a second egg on February 20th and a third on the 23rd. Yesterday, March 29th, two of the eggs hatched. Here is a peek of them from a video that was posted to YouTube by a nest watcher -- click here to see the baby eagles. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pigeon Portraits

I am too sick to write today -- sore throat, cough, and chills. Instead I am  drinking juice, taking naps, posting pigeon portraits, and quoting Mike Tyson:

"I don't understand why people would want to get rid of pigeons. 
They don't  bother no one." 

Click to enlarge.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Last Week of Winter

Female (front) and male (rear) northern shoveler ducks, Anas clypeata. They get their common name from the over sized shovel-shaped bills. Click to enlarge. 
Spring arrives this week. Some of the ducks that spend winter in the coastal waters near New York will soon fly off to their summer breeding grounds. The northern shoveler duck is one of my favorites. I photographed these at the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey.

Duck Jokes:

What do you call a duck with a drug problem? -- Quackhead! 

What happens when a duck flies upside down? -- It quacks up!

When do ducks wake up? -- At the quack of dawn!

A man in a theatre notices a duck sitting next to him. He says, "Hey -- what's a duck doing at the movies? The duck replies, "I thought the book was really good." 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Ring-billed Gull Ready for Spring

This ring-billed gull, Larus delawarensis, is in breeding plumage; the bird's head and breast are snowy white. I took the picture on the East River in Brooklyn last week. Can spring be far behind?
This is an adult ring-bill in non-breeding plumage, taken a few months ago in the same place.  Its head and neck are faintly streaked with grayish brown. 
Check out the red eye ring and red at the corner of the mouth on the breeding adult. Click to enlarge. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Tree Sparrow

Don't be fooled by the broadleaf evergreen behind the fence. It was 20 degrees F. outside when I took this picture. The bird is an American tree sparrow, Spizella arborea
One of the first things I did when the polar vortex hit New York City was to stock up on birdseed. I'm not alone in that; sales of food for wild birds spike during cold weather. I've had a wire holder for a suet block for a long time, but haven't used it much. It was so cold that I decided to buy a suet and seed cake to give the birds some high-calorie food to help them keep warm. I found a single suet cake online for about five dollars. Then I found some on for $14.99 a dozen. So now I have a case of peanut-crunch suet cakes.

The very first day I put one out, I was visited by this American tree sparrow. I had never seen one on my porch before! The bird is the size of a house sparrow but has a rusty cap and a rusty line through its eye on an otherwise gray head. It has a smudged spot on its breast. The beak is black on top and yellow below. Despite the common name given to it by European settlers who were reminded of another bird, this one usually forages on the ground. It also nests on or near the ground in the far north, near the tree line.

That was $14.99 well spent!

Click to enlarge.