Female Baltimore Oriole

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07 25 14 Shenandoah River Park III 004

We awoke on our last morning at Shenandoah River State Park to cool temperatures, low humidity and bright blue skies. Walking around the area near our cabin, looking for the Red-Headed Woodpeckers I had seen the previous day, I saw a flash of bright yellow. Following the bird as it perched in an oak tree, I realized that it was a female Oriole. When she turned to expose her breast and belly, I realized the difference between a female Orchard Oriole and a Baltimore Oriole. The female Orchard Oriole is a pale greenish-yellow. This bird flashed a bright orange-yellow breast and belly. And the colors in these photos are not enhanced post-processing, by the way.

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In fact, the website allaboutbirds says that each time a female Baltimore Oriole molts, it becomes brighter and more orangish. Some older females become almost as bright orange as their male counterparts. This girl was feeding on insects on the oak leaves. The eating habits of the Baltimore Oriole depend on the season. While breeding, their primary source of food are insects, rich in protein needed for growth. During the fall and spring, their diet shifts to ripe fruits and nectar that provide the energy necessary for migration.

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Red-Heads

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I was amazed at the number of Red-Headed Woodpeckers at Shenandoah River State Park. The only other place I’ve seen these stunning woodpeckers is at Sky Meadows State Park. The two parks are only about 30 miles apart. In both places, large numbers of Red-Heads are in close proximity. Both groups of Red-Heads are found in stands of mature oak trees, with many dead snags or dead trees. They nest in the dead snags or trees, and the acorns provide food through the winter months. Both are near open fields or meadows where they can be found snagging flying insects in mid-air.

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At Shenandoah River State Park, I saw as many as six birds at a single time, though I could hear many more screeching in the trees overhead. They seemed to be in constant motion, chasing one another from tree to tree. Red-Heads have a much more varied diet than other woodpeckers. They forage for insects underneath the bark of trees, but also snag flying insects mid-air. They eat available fruits, and in the winter they depend upon acorns that they store in holes they’ve bored in the wood of dead trees.

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07 24 14 Shenandoah River Park II 060 #2

Juvenile Red-Headed Woodpecker

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I was amazed at the number of Red-Headed Woodpeckers in the woods around the cabins in which we stayed at Shenandoah River State Park. Their raspy screeches echoed through the forest from sun-up to sundown. I saw as many as six at one time – two juveniles and four adults – but there were many more. It was just almost impossible to take an accurate count, as they chased each other and darted about high in the canopy. But one evening, a juvenile flew to a nearby tree to forage under the tree bark. The juvenile Red-Head doesn’t have a red head, by the way. Tomorrow I’ll post about all the adults that were flying about!

Shenandoah River State Park

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I’m spending the next couple of days at Shenandoah River State Park in Virginia. It’s a beautiful park. There’s over 1600 rolling acres, fronting the Shenandoah River near the entrance to Shenandoah National Park. We’re staying in one of their cabins, a beautiful place, fully furnished, very reasonably priced. It’s far enough in the mountains that there’s no phone connections, but they do have wifi at the visitor’s center. Though the weather and lighting haven’t been great, there are lots of birds about. I even saw a Redheaded Woodpecker earlier today. Here are a few birds I’ve seen so far.

A couple of Red-Eyed Vireos were chasing each other along the river.

A couple of Red-Eyed Vireos were chasing each other along the river.

There are lots of Chipping Sparrows in the grassy areas of the park.

There are lots of Chipping Sparrows in the grassy areas of the park.

A nasty thunderstorm blew through. Afterwards, this Northern Flicker sat stunned high on a branch of a dead tree and tried to pull himself together.

A nasty thunderstorm blew through. Afterwards, this Northern Flicker sat stunned high on a branch of a dead tree and tried to pull himself together.

Two Field Sparrows foraged in the drainage ditch along the campground road after the storm.

Two Field Sparrows foraged in the drainage ditch along the campground road after the storm.

Acadian Flycatcher Nest

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07 19 14 Davidsonville Park 006

Walking between the ponds at Davidsonville Park the other day, I noticed this bird nest slung between two slender branches, twigs really, in a small maple tree overhanging one of the ponds. It almost looked like a tiny hammock swinging in the summer breeze. I couldn’t imagine what kind of bird made such a fragile looking nest. Before long, I glanced at the nest again, and the bird was there. The nest was barely bigger than the bird, who appeared to be warbler-sized.

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I thought through the possibilities for this bird. My first impression was a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, as I often see them darting about in this section of woods. However, a bit of research revealed that the Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher’s nest is made of spider webs and moss seemingly glued to the branch of a tree. Nothing like the little hammock of this bird. I looked through Kinglets and Prothonotary Warblers, also often seen flitting around the ponds. No nests resembling this little nest. Finally, I posted the picture on our local facebook birders’ page. Many thanks to Emily, Joanne and Hugh who all offered their thoughts regarding the identity of the bird. It was Hugh who correctly identified the bird as an Acadian Flycatcher.

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The Acadian Flycatcher is most often identified by it’s song, an explosive ‘peet-sah’ call. This particular bird never sang, so I didn’t have that advantage to help in it’s identification. The Acadian Flycatcher breeds in the eastern half of the United States. They are found in deciduous forests, along streams and in swamps, often hanging their nests over the water. True to form, this bird nest was in a maple tree set in a deciduous woods, overhanging a small pond.

My First Year of Birding and Blogging

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This Marsh Wren was the first photo I posted on the blog.

This Marsh Wren was the first photo I posted on the blog.

A full year has passed since I began this blog. 365 days. 363 posts. 8,572 views. 1,543 comments. The highest number of views in one day: 173. Modest stats, but still amazing to see in print. The statistic that amazes me the most is the data that shows from which countries readers are viewing the blog. It boggles my mind that people from all over the world read this little blog. The countries from which people have viewed this blog during the first year: United States, Canada, Sweden, Brazil, United Kingdom, India, Netherlands, Republic of Korea, Argentina, Romania, Australia, France, Italy, Austria, Germany, Armenia, Japan, Russian Federation, Indonesia, Mexico, Greece, Switzerland, Pakistan, Germany, Turkey, Ecuador, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain, Malaysia, Vietnam, Poland, Thailand, Philipines, El Salvador, Singapore, Ireland, Tunisia, Columbia, South Africa, Peru, Dominican Republic, Bolivia, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Puerto Rico, United Arab Emirates, Chile, Malta, Portugal, Tanzania, Bangladesh, New Zealand, Taiwan, Czech Republic. During the year, I’ve ‘met’ many wonderful people through this blog. It’s a privilege to interact with so many people, from so many walks of life, from so many places. There’s so very much more that unites us as human beings than that which divides us.

For the first anniversary of this blog, I’m going to post my favorite photos of the year. Some are my favorites because I got an incredibly clear shot, some because it’s well composed, some just because I love the bird, and the best include elements from all three characteristics. The photo I put at the beginning of this post, not because it’s technically a good photo. I just love it because of the exuberance of this shy little Marsh Wren as he sings in a driving rain. Anyway, here are some of my favorites:

This Prothonotary Warbler photo just seems well composed to me, plus I just love these beautiful little birds.

This Prothonotary Warbler photo just seems well composed to me, plus I just love these beautiful little birds.

 

This is when I first started adjusting the lens speed and ISO setting. As a result, the Little Blue Heron just seemed to jump from the marsh grass.

This is when I first started adjusting the lens speed and ISO setting. As a result, the Little Blue Heron just seemed to jump from the marsh grass.

 

This Black-Throated Green Warbler just seems to be striking a demure pose.

This Black-Throated Green Warbler just seems to be striking a demure pose.

This Savannah Sparrow photo almost seems like a plate in an old-fashioned bird field guide. I think it's something about the plain background.

This Savannah Sparrow photo almost seems like a plate in an old-fashioned bird field guide. I think it’s something about the plain background.

I just like the composition of this photo.

I just like the composition of this photo.

This White Ibis close-up showed such detail.

This White Ibis close-up showed such detail.

It's not a great photo, but it's such a great bird!

It’s not a great photo, but it’s such a great bird!

This Cooper's Hawk was so hungry. He just wouldn't leave his dinner for anything!

This Cooper’s Hawk was so hungry. He just wouldn’t leave his dinner for anything!

I love the details on this photo of Snow Geese in flight.

I love the details on this photo of Snow Geese in flight.

It was SO cold this day. The Hermit Thrush fluffed his feathers as much as he could to stay warm.

It was SO cold this day. The Hermit Thrush fluffed his feathers as much as he could to stay warm.

I love the way the fence curves around the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

I love the way the fence curves around the Red-Headed Woodpecker.

The Pileated Woodpeckers posed so nicely that day!

The Pileated Woodpeckers posed so nicely that day!

Just love those Prothonotary Warblers.

Just love those Prothonotary Warblers.

And the Yellow Warblers are pretty stunning, too.

And the Yellow Warblers are pretty stunning, too.

I tried to keep this to just ten favorite photos, but just couldn’t do it! I’d be curious to know – which photo is your favorite and why?

 

 

Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge

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Chincoteague and Assateague Islands are barrier islands on the Atlantic Ocean that straddle the Maryland/Virginia border. They are known for their wild ponies. Oral history holds that they are descendants of horses that survived Spanish galleon shipwrecks, though scientists now believe they are descended from horses that were kept on the barrier islands by very early colonists who kept them on the islands to avoid colonial duties and taxes. True to form, the horses were grazing in the swamp grass close to the road, though I was more interested in the Cattle Egret that followed them everywhere.

The wonderful thing about Chincoteague and Assateague is that they were designated as national wildlife refuges, so they are not the typical east coast beaches, littered with condos, high rises, or row upon row of huge beach houses. Here, the wildlife ‘owns’ the beachfront. So it’s a wonderful place to go birding.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 002  At this time of year, herons and egrets are everywhere!

07 18 14 Chincoteague 014  Here, a juvenile Caspian Tern hovers before diving for its prey.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 042  I can usually find Tri-Colored and Little Blue Herons here.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 050  A Barn Swallow sat and posed for several minutes.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 074  Terns and shorebirds forage side-by-side.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 143  A Brown Pelican even stopped by for a visit, the first one I’ve seen this far north (though I know they visit from time to time).

Reflections

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The sun was bright and the water at times was still and at times was rippling in the breeze at Chincoteague on Friday. It gave plenty of opportunity to play with the reflections as the birds foraged in the shallows.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 009  An Snowy Egret gliding over the surface of the water.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 032  Only his yellow foot is reflected clearly in the water.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 071  A Caspian Tern preens himself as he rests, half-hidden in the grass.

07 18 14 Chincoteague 021  In this photo, it is the water’s glare that is reflected in the underside of the heron’s wing.

Snowy Egret

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This Snowy Egret was perched high in the pine trees as he watched ever so patiently for any movement in the water below. Whatever movement there was seemed imperceptible to me, but it was clearly evident to him as suddenly, he swooped to the water below.

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According to the website, allaboutbirds, the breeding plumes of Snowy Egrets in 1886 sold for $32 an ounce, which at the time was twice the price of gold. The plumes were used in the fashion industry to adorn women’s hats. As a result, these beautiful birds were nearly hunted to extinction before early conservationists worked to pass legislation to protect these and other herons and egrets.

Tri-Colored Heron

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This graceful heron was foraging in the shallow waters of Tom’s Cove at Chincoteague, Virginia. The Tri-Colored Heron, formerly known as the Louisiana Heron, is a breeder of sub-tropical swamps. Unlike the Great Blue Heron, who often forages by freezing until it’s prey comes within range, the Tri-Colored Heron runs frantically after it’s prey, looking somewhat like the Keystone Cops in it’s  endeavors.

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