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31 July 2008

Outdoor Hour 4: Choose a Focus

Barb suggests that we choose a focus. This was a bit difficult for me, as I struggle with my flower gardens still, and Monkey's too little to express an opinion just yet. Though I'm sure that he'd have one, and he's getting much better at expressing himself! So I struggled with this assignment for a bit. But I finally realized this afternoon that I already have an interest in nature that could easily be called a focus of my nature study: I love to watch and identify birds. So birds it is. Monkey likes birds too: he spends time looking at my bird book on a pretty regular basis. In fact, he spent quite a bit of time in the car this afternoon looking at the bird book: "Tweet! Tweet! Quack! Quack! Quack! Think "Daddy Duck" in 5 little ducks. Monkey's "quack" is quite robust.

I actually took this picture just before we left on the trip to Utah. It's brown-headed cowbirds in our front yard. These are the birds that leave their eggs in other birds' nests. I hadn't seen them around before, and haven't since, but we've been out of town so much the past little bit that it's not really saying much. All About Birds' entry for the brown-headed cowbird has a recording of their call that you can listen to, plus some other interesting information. Did you know that they are the only common brood parasite bird in North America? Below is a detail of the head of the front cowbird in my picture.

When I watch the birds on my feeder, I like to enter the data on eBird.org. Between eBird and All About Birds I've learned lots about birds and birding. Although not enough to keep me from drooling over some birding books at Barnes and Noble recently. This afternoon when I was looking over eBird, I saw this article about how to make your eBird checklists more meaningful. One of my favorite things about eBird is that in addition to keeping track of my birds, there are Scientists Who Get Paid that use the data that Citizen Scientists collect. It pleases me to be part of something bigger than my own backyard. And the things they need to use ordinary people's information aren't difficult at all.

We saw these guys on Antelope Island in the middle of the Great Salt Lake when we were out in Utah. My Mother calls these little cuties "mud swallows" but when I got to looking things up in my birding information, turns out that's a local name. One that makes a lot of sense since the Mamas and Daddies make the nests out of mud attached to the side of buildings and bridges. Looks like the official name for these guys is Barn Swallows. They were fun birds! The little guys made such urgent noises while they were waiting for dinner to be delivered! We stood there and watched them and took tons of pictures (many of which did not turn out) for quite a while before we managed to get inside the visitor's center they had built their nests on. This was a new bird for me: I had never seen them before, although All About Birds says they're pretty common around the whole United States. Must not have been in the right place at the right time before.

I also took some pictures of seagulls on both the Utah trip and our Eastern States trip, but I haven't been able to identify them yet. Turns out that seagulls take up to 4 years to get to their final look, and the field guide I have isn't up to the task; there's a whole book just about gulls. So I'll be checking the library to see what I can find, and see if I can get my gulls identified.

We stopped by my uncle's house in the Salt Lake Valley, and while we were chatting, this beautiful ring-necked pheasant just ambled across the yard. We watched him for a while, and I of course took pictures for later identification.


Anne Chovies said...

You get such marelous pictures of birds. Even with my old SLR camera I've had trouble doing as well as you seem to do. I like these pictures you have here.

Ritsumei said...

Thank you! It took me a long time to get the knack of it. And I couldn't really tell you what the secret is: one day I took a good one, then a little while later I got another one, and pretty soon I was getting some nice ones much more regularly. But I still delete quite a few. Birds are hard. The barn swallows might actually be King Chumley's: he had the camera for a good portion of the time we were taking pictures of those cute little guys. I'm not at all sure who took what from that batch.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

Birds are a great focus. I think that even though you are focusing on birds, you can still pursue anything else that comes along. I have found personally that when I have a focus to think about as I go about my day, more opportunities come into view. They may have been there before but having the focus opens your eyes wider to the opportunity.

Thanks for sharing your birds with everyone.

Barb-Harmony Art Mom


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