Monday, July 5, 2010

i interrupt the sequence of these posts

to bring you this jewel of a story. i hope you enjoy it as much as i did.

and when you're finished with that, you should read his post on the emu he had in his yard.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

nm birds 2 [song sparrow. probably.]

i was being lazy when i petitioned you all to identify the birds in my next few posts. i never even attempted to look them up; i couldn't make an educated guess when glancing briefly at the photos, so i put the burden on you.

and that's shameful, really. i'm not like that. i have an insatiable thirst for knowledge, especially when it comes to nature. i normally can't spend enough time researching birds or turtles or lizards or spiders… the list goes on. so what's happening? am i getting old? losing my passion, my drive? well, after some quick soul searching, i decided to chalk it up to laziness. pure, good ol' fashioned, 100%, grade-a, premium cut laziness.

and for that, i apologize.

so for this next post, i took a stab at identifying this on my own. i don't know my sparrows very well; only enough to know that's what i would start my search with. my first stop for bird id is always, run by the cornell lab of ornithology. in less than a minute, i came up with my assumption: song sparrow. please let me know if i am off.
song sparrow perched
(click the picture for a larger version)

if you look closely at these next two shots, you can see that he has some sort of caterpillar in his beak.
song sparrow with caterpillar
(click the picture for a larger version)
song sparrow with caterpillar
(click the picture for a larger version)

i keep referring to it as "he." i assume this because its behavior suggests that of a male. song sparrows typically forage on the ground or low in bushes, doing their best to keep out of sight. males will flit out onto exposed branches to sing, which is what this one was doing. i heard him before i saw him; in fact, that's how i found him — by following his song.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

nm birds 1 [steller's jay]

i recently went back home to new mexico for a family reunion. naturally, no trip to new mexico would be complete without my camera. in fact, clothes were a secondary consideration; as long as i had my camera with me, everything else would work itself out.

yes, i'm obsessed. i have a hard time leaving the house without my camera just to go check the mail. hey, you never know what you might see on the way to the mailbox…

anyway, this is the first of five posts featuring some birds one might see on a vist to the land of enchantment, which include steller's jay (this post), an unidentified hummingbird, an unidentified perching bird, an unidentified bird going to town on some dandelion seeds, and…well, you get the picture: i'm going to need some of my faithful readers to help me identify these ufos (unidentified feathered objects).

but on to the one bird i had no trouble identifying: steller's jay.

steller's jay posing
(click the picture for a larger version)

these aren't the greatest photos, as composing an ideal shot that morning — one where the jay actually stood still for more than a few seconds, was well-exposed, and where the background and foreground weren't so messy (or if i would have been able to dial in a shallow depth of field) — proved to be very difficult. but despite that, i liked the way the blue patch of sky matched perfectly with the color of the jay's feathers in this next pic.
steller's jay foraging
(click the picture for a larger version)

like a lot of other jays, these guys can be quite noisy when they want to be. adept at mimicry, steller's jays can imitate the sounds of cats, dogs, squirrels, chickens, certain types of machinery, and, of course, other birds. in this particular instance, however, my jay preferred not to break the peaceful morning silence while he hopped around looking for items on the breakfast menu, which can include insects, seeds, nuts, and berries. and like others in the jay family, they also rob other birds' nests for eggs and/or hatchlings.
steller's jay staring
steller's jay foraging
(click the picture for a larger version)

while that's all very impressive, i just like their "mohawk." in fact, that's one of the first dead giveaways that it's a steller's jay. since their coloring and markings can vary by region, this rebellious hairstyle makes identification pretty fool-proof.
curious steller's jay