Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Unidentified vocalization

Around mid-week, Wednesday, August 19th, we finally got some rain.  It has been dry for awhile and my grass is brown and crunchy.  

The rain came at night, starting around 1:00 am and continued off and on, sometimes heavily, until morning.

I keep my bedroom window wide open and as the rain began I heard a loud vocalization that seemed mostly bird-like to me.  It awakened me - perhaps not fully - but out of habit I found myself running through familiar bird songs and calls in my head.  I could not match it with any.

I'm a restless sleeper.   Around 3:00 am I was reawakened by the rain coming down harder and I heard the call again. This time I was ready. I got my cell phone and made these two recordings from my 2nd floor bedroom window.  Unfortunately, the loud volume of the calling is diminished by the heavy rain.

I was focused on the vocalizer being a bird.  But yesterday - 8/29/15 - I went through a variety of frog vocalizations with friends.  While we couldn't match it up with any, this exercise made me be able to think more broadly and I've edited this post to consider non-bird vocalizers.

The first video is 10 seconds and the second video is 12 seconds.   Have your volume turned up.  Any help with the identification of this vocalizer would be appreciated.

Snowcap ... back to the beginning of 2015

Every so often someone will ask which bird or birds are my favorite.  I never have an answer for this question when it's asked, but later when I think about it, I feel like my answer is flycatchers and shorebirds.

Nevertheless, on my trip to Costa Rica at the end of January and 1st week in February, I fell for the little Snowcap (Microchera albocoronata).  I really love its latin name.  So accurately descriptive.  

This is one constantly moving bird and good photos with a point and shoot ... well, forget it.  Doesn't matter - these are the best of the many I took.  

18 seconds of a tiny moving machine video below.

I think that seeing a Snowcap ranks as a must see experience.  Okay, okay so that's over the top ... but it's a great bird.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Baby Cedar Waxwings

Last weekend I was at my family's cottage pretending to read when I became distracted by a cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) in flight and chasing a largish insect.  In an impressive effort of determination the bird caught the insect several yards out over the lake.    

But it's mostly their berry-loving that brings them to my backyard.  For the past few days my yard has been visited by a large flock of juvenile cedar waxwings.  This morning a single adult flew in with the juveniles.

They've been attracted to my large pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) bush and, as of last night, had eaten all of the ripe berries.  There are still plenty of unripened berries and this morning the waxwings are back checking for more.  I also have purple berries on my arrowwood viburnum (Viburnum dentatum) bushes.  I have several arrowwood trees that have mostly had disappointing yields of berry production. Nevertheless, this year there are some small purple berries on a few of the bushes.  I also have some plump berries on a couple of black choke cherry bushes that seem to have interested the birds.   

The running water in my pond-less (inaccurate name for such a moving water contraption because there is a small pond where the falling water collects) waterfall has offered a respite for them.  The past couple of days have been sunny and hot.  The water had become low and warm so I topped it off with some fresh, cool water.  I also keep a standard little cement birdbath full of fresh water for the birds that prefer this.

An adult bird has just flown into my flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) tree, which did not flower this year so has no berries (another disappointing tree in my yard).  If wishing to plant a berry producing dogwood, I recommend pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) which produces plump purple berries around mid-July.  I digress.  Cedar waxwings are such beautiful and, I think, overlooked birds.  I love their flocking, flight-style that makes their identification unmistakeable when they are overhead.  Their distinct lisping call note adds icing to the cake.

A northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) visited this morning, landing on a utility wire in terrible light, and seemed interested in dropping down but thought better of it.  I got three horrible photos before it flew off. The shape and structure of the tail is easily seen.

It's now 11:00 am and things have quieted down since I first came out. In addition to the waxwings and flicker, I've seen blue jays, downy woodpecker, white-breasted nuthatch, red-breasted nuthatch, robins, cardinals, goldfinch and ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Earlier, I heard a nearby eastern pewee give an abbreviated call and the distinct rattle of an overhead belted kingfisher.  Not bad for a teeny, tiny urban backyard.  Oh, and I cannot leave out the house sparrows.

Sunday, August 2, 2015


Last week there was an active cardinal nest in the dense center of one of my viburnum dentatum bushes.  I could hear the nestling chipping whenever one of the parent birds was nearby.  After the heavy rain around mid-week the nestling became a fledgling.  I can hear its insistent metallic chinking now from various places nearby and the parents, especially the female, are busy finding food.  The male also spends a lot of time singing from the utility wires.

Yesterday was an active yardbird day with the cardinals plus robins, goldfinches, house wrens and house sparrows.

This mourning dove was a tentative visitor to my waterfall.  It cautiously made its way in for a drink.  

For the past two to three weeks my yard has been a haven for robins.  This summer my pagoda dogwood tree had a nice crop of plump purple berries which the robins love.  The berries are now gone but the robins remain.  Last evening there were at least two fledglings and three adults.

One of the youngsters paused to take a nap on the waterfall rocks.  I was able to get very close to it and the bird seems still quite young though it is a skillful flyer.  Neither of the fledglings is begging which seemed unusual.  I am accustomed to seeing baby robins running after their parents begging for food well beyond their baby stage.  

Even the bathing adult did not immediately wake this youngster.  I got many photos and the fledgling seems entirely done in.

In the video below, the small heaving chest of the sleeping fledging is seen.  I did consider that this young bird may not be healthy, but I have seen nestling robins breathe in the same way.  Perhaps the job of being on its own is proving to be very tiring.

Below, the fledgling awakened from time-to-time to fly away, but came back for at least two snoozes.