Archive for the ‘Birds’ Category

pileated woodpecker Today, 2015’s Global Big Day, everyone on the planet is invited to count the birds they see or hear, note the species and submit observations to www.ebird.org so that a global count can be made.  You need not be an expert bird enthusiast, just someone who loves the birds in your own backyard. hairy woodpecker A big day is akin to a big year, “an informal competition among birders to see who can see or hear the largest number of species of birds within a single calendar year and within a specific geographical area.”  (See Wikipedia for more information).  I first came across the practice in ‘The Big Year‘ with Owen Wilson, Jack Black and Steve Martin as competitive birders in a movie based on a true story. ducks hairy woodpecker smInspired by the movie, this January I decided to start tracking the number of bird species I was able to see or hear in my local area.  Nature obliged.  One little bird told another little bird and amazingly, birds I hadn’t seen in years were suddenly visible again.  Even ones I hadn’t ever seen locally seemed to come out of the woodwork.  I’ve never seen as many bird species in my yard in such a short span of time. Last month I set up a birdwatching station in my preschool room.  Bird feeders were hung on a tree near a window. Pictures identifying local birds were placed next to the window so that children knew exactly what to look for in the wooded area behind our room.  In just a few weeks’ time, children have gone from saying ‘there’s a bird’ to ‘there’s a mourning dove’ and ‘I see two chickadees and a boy woodpecker.’  We’ve thrilled at the sight of brilliant red  cardinals, ‘kissing’ mourning doves, and an enormous pileated woodpecker.

If I keep a green bough in my heart, the singing bird will come. ~  Chinese Proverb

Birds enhance our lives with their beauty and song.  They witness our comings and goings as we move in and out of buildings and are an important part of our cityscapes, landscapes and seascapes.  Share your enthusiasm today by taking an inventory of what you see in your own backyard.  You’ll be glad you did.

spring robin

For more information and to record your observations, see Global Big Day 2015

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2015

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Blue Jays at Work

blue jay on spruce

Hey you!  Yes you!  Don’t pretend you don’t see me.  What’s up with you blue jays this fine spring morning?

blue jay back and tail

Something is definitely distracting the two of you, otherwise you’d surely be complaining about my presence nearby.

blue jay with twig in beak

Aha!  The focus of your attention is becoming clear.  You’re working on a housing project together!

blue jay nest

Lovely.  It’s so nice to have a family of blue jays nesting in the yard.  I hope the neighborhood cats don’t find out!

For more on birds building nests in spring, see:  How Couples Build Nests and Nests Classifieds

For more on Blue Jays, see:  The Bluest Blue and Blue Jay Feathers

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014



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The Male Pheasant

mystery bird in woods

A male ring-necked pheasant runs through the woods as he hears me open the back door, too quick for me to catch more than a glimpse of his gorgeous plumage.  In winter, male pheasants hang out with other males, but in spring, they begin to separate and seek their own territories.  Could this one be considering making his ‘crowing ground’ in my yard?

pheasant feathers and portrait

I wonder if the male relies on his beautiful plumage or his charming personality to attract peahens to his harem. A single male is known to keep as many as a dozen females under his thumb.  A couple of years ago, I saw a male boss several females around the yard, limiting their movements and giving no indication whatsoever of being ‘hen pecked.’

pheasant on snow

A male ring-necked pheasant eating crumbs in the yard earlier this month

In Cow Bay, pheasants are frequently seen crossing roads and hanging out in yards. They seem to thrive here, despite the fact that they’re a non-native oriental species. They enjoy insects, berries and seeds. Their olive green eggs are laid in a nest on the ground and hatch in late spring.

Pheasant tracks on snow

Pheasant tracks on snow


Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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bird eye view

Boreal chickadees are as shy as their black-capped cousins are friendly. They tend to stay in the inner branches of the spruce trees and seldom linger long enough to allow themselves to be photographed. However, last evening a young one crashed into the front window, providing an opportunity for a close encounter of the sweetest kind.

boreal chickadee face

Though it appeared to be gasping for breath when I first picked it off the ground, it eventually recovered enough for me to place it in a safe spot where its parents (but not local cats or birds of prey) could easily find it.

boreal chickadee

The cement top of the septic cover, which is surrounded by rhododendron bushes, proved a perfect place to set it down.  When I checked it later, the little creature was already moving its head around and looking more alert.  Since it had no outward sign of injury, I left it to God’s care.  I figured He’d be up all night anyhow :)

boreal chickadee chick

By early morning it was gone.  The window is still a concern, but I’ve since discovered that keeping the patterned curtains closed will help deter other birds from crashing into the glass.

front window in summer

This morning I saw two adult Boreal chickadees flitting and chirping among the spruce trees.  Could they have been the parents returning to say everything was fine with their little one?

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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ruffed grouse rufous phase

Ruffed grouse are gorgeous ground birds that have eluded me since I was a child. Though I’d frequently hear them in the woods, I seldom caught more than a fleeting glimpse of them. Even the ones that visited my backyard were so skittish and quick to run off, that I had almost given up taking a photograph of one. Until this past week.

rufous ruffed grouse feathers

The one shown here is in its rufous phase.  Its feathers seem to swirl in a beautiful palette of brown and copper tones, highlighted with white. These birds also have a gray phase.

ruffed grouse walking under balsam fir

Unlike ring-necked pheasants, larger ground birds that act like they own the neighborhood in this neck of the woods, ruffed grouse are quiet, unassuming birds with feathered legs.  They keep to the woods where they blend in wonderfully with the ground cover.  Apparently, they prefer woodlands with second growth, which should make my backyard an ideal habitat.  I wonder if there’s a nest nearby…

Canadian ruffed grouse

Spring has finally arrived here on Flandrum Hill, and with all the activity that takes place in nature at this time of year, it’s a great time to get outdoors.  

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013


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Vulgar Birds

sturnus vulgaris in winter

What makes one creature more vulgar than the next?  Some species, such as sturnus vulgaris, aka European starlings, do a good job of living up to the vulgaris part of their Latin name.  They’ve been an invasive species here in North America since 1890 when 100 of them were released in New York City’s Central Park.  And what could  be more vulgar than guests who’ve overstayed their welcome…

starling with open beak

Good grief! You’d think she’d use a bigger mesh. What does she think we are? Chickadees?

… than noisy, complaining, ungrateful ones that can’t seem to get enough of the little you have to offer.

starling clinging to suet

How can I possibly stick to my diet if she keeps serving up suet??

Although vulgarity is often equated with the manners of the masses, it’s certainly not an uncommon trait among the elite, or at least those who think they are…

sturnus vulgaris

Of course we’re being watched. Paparazzi follow me everywhere.  I’m a chick magnet.

There is nothing new under the sun, and with time, all things grow old.

starling on suet

Is it just me, or is dining on a swinging fat ball not as glamorous as it used to be?

Every moment of every day we have the opportunity to change the quality of our days by changing our outlook.  Regardless of which flock we fly with, a spirit of thankfulness and reverence is available to us all and a perfect remedy to our ‘common’ and ‘vulgar’ attitudes.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
~ Sarah Ban Breathnach, originally misattributed to John Milton

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2013

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