Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas Birding

The last couple of years, we seem to have started a tradition of birding during the holidays (no, we don't do the bird counts). Yesterday was really gloomy, so this year it's the "Day-after" Christmas bird trip. (Much better than going to the mall!)

We were excited to see Cara Cara again today (haven't seen any in a while) and in fact, one flew right across the road just as we were returning home. Unfortunately, we weren't quick enough to get pictures. However, there's something to be said for living right at the edge of the coastal prairie -- there are lots of good birding opportunities at this time of year -- and close to home. We saw a huge flock of geese flying, and were hoping to see some eagles -- but no such luck.

We started the trip with the kingfisher that usually hangs out over the part of the ditch that never drains -- right near the rice dryer. He was a bit nervous and flew a few feet away, but I was still able to get a good shot. He even turned to give a good view of his topknot!

One thing we have noticed lately are a lot more Kestrels in our area. We used to only see them when we headed for the coast. This one was right in the sunlight, so she looks a bit washed out.

Of course, you know that I am especially partial to birds of prey. You would think they would be less skittish up on a wire, but they get a bit nervous when a vehicle stops to look. Well, it is hunting season, after all, and there are plenty of geese getting shot at! I'm sure they don't realize they are protected.

Here's a Northern Harrier out in the rice stubble. Note the "owl-like facial disk" to quote Sibley's.

And of course, in our part of the world -- the most common hawk is the Red Tail.

It is amazing the amount of variation in these birds. This one might be Kriders (prairie variation). This poor bird was a bit nervous of us. Every time we'd stop, it would fly off to the next pole. We followed for a bit, but didn't want to harass it too much.

A Late Guest for Christmas Dinner

Last night, we heard squabbling on the porch. We assumed it was this year's brood of junior raccoons and opened the door to watch them scatter (or listen anyway). But to our surprise, it wasn't the 'coons, but a 'possum instead.

It didn't seem to be afraid of us and munched quietly on the left-overs while we both took pictures! One thing that concerned me was the rusty patch on the side of it's head. There was a smaller patch on the other side. I looked up some pictures of possums (Opossum, to be accurate), and none seemed to have that coloring -- so I hope it wasn't injured. I'm sure they tangle regularly enough with the 'coons. On the other hand, we saw a what I'm pretty sure was a coyote run across the driveway the other night, so there's no telling. (My husband thinks it was a fox, but I think it was too big for a fox...)

Anyway. Here's another shot of the 'possum -- note it's splayed "fingers", and you can barely see the opposable thumb on it's back foot!

Goldfinches are back!

... And so am I. It's been a very hectic fall at work. My 6-month project, started in July was suddenly due by mid-September. And then there was the rollout, and next year's schedules. Please forgive me if I didn't feel much like blogging when I came home.

But the holidays give us a chance to rest, so I have a few pics to share.

We've had a few goldfinches here and there for the last couple of weeks, but they showed up in flocks just before Christmas (as usual). I've tried several times to get a good picture -- there have been a couple of challenges. First we've moved the thistle socks rather close to the windows. Well that's not quite accurate -- when we installed the porch, it made them seem closer to "people". And secondly, the weather has been overcast and gray for the last week and more... depressing!

Here's a goldfinch up close -- its the one in the top right of the picture above.

You may be thinking to yourself that these don't look much like Goldfinches -- after all, they're not very "gold". This is their winter plumage -- more a gray-green. To see the male goldfinch in his breeding colors, see the site at Cornell, or alternately at NatureWorks