Friday, October 31, 2008


Thought I'd bring you some scary looking spiders for Halloween!! These first few shots are a marbled orb-weaver. The top shot and following three are of a female orb-weaver. She wraps herself up in a leaf where she hides until she feels a tug on the web at which point she quickly lowers herself down for the kill. Trust me, I saw her in action when I lightly jostled the web with a small stick to try and get her to come out. Wow! I only fooled her once though. The fourth shot is the male orb-weaver and although you can't tell from this shot he is much smaller than the female.

The underside of the female orb-weaver.Male marbled orb-weaverThis is "a snack" the spider wrapped up for later. It was still alive and struggling like heck to free itself.
These spiders were holed up in one one of my hubby's old cars.

Hope you all have a safe and Happy Halloween!!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

OK, These guys are in my Top 10!

Remember I said I can't really decide on my favorite bird? Well, this beautiful bird, the cedar waxwing, is definitely in my Top 10! I've been asked to work out of town a lot lately and always try and make the best of it (looking for photo ops on the drive, etc...). I don't have to go too far, just to facilities 50-75 minutes away and I really don't mind the drive...yet (although it was a little sketchy driving home in the dark in freezing rain tonight). I worked in a small town called Titusville, PA last Thursday and was excited when I got outside to see a large flock of beautiful cedar waxwings feasting on the fall berries of the crabapple trees that line the drive. I ran to my car, grabbed my camera and stood in the drive watching and shooting for an hour! I couldn't believe it when I looked at my watch.

What is that clicking creature with one long eye!?

These guys were voracious! I couldn't believe they could fly after eating all those berries!

But flying they were--back and forth between the crabapple trees and a tall sycamore. Guess where I had parked. My poor Subaru got covered in purple poo!!

I caught this bird laughing at my plight!

I have to work in Titusville again tomorrow. I'll be looking for the waxwings...and watching where I park!

The End!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Carolina Wrens aka Carolyn, are you missing a couple of birds?!

I woke up Wednesday morning to the melodious but not-oft-heard sound of a Carolina Wren! I had seen this little guy on my deck Sunday morning but thought it would've moved on by now because it's getting a bit nippy up here in Erie, PA. I expect that these cuties are much more acclimated to the area my fellow blogger Carolyn at Mountain Musings posts about. I had a rare early day at work and took a seat on the deck hoping to get a few shots of the resident chickadees, titmice and nuthatches. I had almost forgotten about the wren when I heard what most people refer to as the wren's sweet "tea kettle, tea kettle" call, or, as I prefer to call it the "cheeseburger, cheeseburger" call.I know, I know, not very bird like, and, what's with all these food references for birds?! Anyway, I imitated the wren's call and not a minute later didn't the little guy come swooping over my head (like within 2 feet) and land in a tree above my roof! I kept calling and he swooped over me a few more times but I couldn't get a shot. Dang!! I reluctantly gave up and went back to the way more cooperative chickadees. A short time later I was again taunted by the call of the wren from my neighbor's yard. I took a hike over there and started calling. The little wren flitted back and forth through some brush and small pines and to my surprise (and delight) while I was watching this wren another began calling from the other side of the yard!! I was able to approach the other wren using a rock wall as a blind and got some fairly close looks and shots until it flew off. I waited awhile and called again and both wrens came back. I think they were either getting used to me or they knew I wasn't about to give up my pursuit so they backed down and allowed me to take these shots to get me out of their hair, or is that feathers?!Whatever it was, thanks little wrens, you made my day!! And, yes, of course, you too my little chickadee!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Birds are Like Ice Cream!

When I tell people I'm into birding I inevitably get the question (as I'm sure most birders do), "What's your favorite bird?" Well, I can't really answer that question except to say that, to me, birds are a little like ice cream! There are sooo many I can't choose just one, some days I prefer vanilla over chocolate (although VERY rarely), and it just crossed my mind that perhaps I have not even come across my favorite yet--although I'm willing to keep searching until I find it!! The sacrifices we make for the things that we love, amazing! Here is just a little "taste" of the birds in my photography archives (NO, not my freezer!) I hope you enjoy this lo-cal, carb-free, offering of a few of my many favorites.

A tufted-titmouse photographed in my backyard (MBY) last fall.A pair of house wren chicks wondering what that clicking noise is (MBY).A handsome white-breasted nuthatch in a classic pose (MBY).An eastern screech owl, Presque Isle State Park (PISP), early spring 2008.A northern saw-whet owl, PISP, early spring 2008. A barred owl, PISP, mid-winter 2008,
Its always exciting to try new flavors but sometimes you have to go out of town to find them. Here are a few shots taken around Tucson, AZ this past January. My sister was living there but has since moved back to Erie so I'm not sure when I'll make it back there. I highly recommend southern AZ for anyone into birding.
Pied-billed grebe, OK, I could've seen this one here, but this was more fun.
Loggerhead shrike, a handsome gent.

Phainopepla, a stunning bird, also known as the silky flycatcher.
A snowy egret, notice the black legs and bright yellow feet!

Wow! Did that make anyone else hungry?! It's off to the freezer for me:)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Glorious Goldenrod!

After helping out at the banding station this past Saturday I made my usual loop around Presque Isle and ended up along Beach 11. I walked down to the water's edge in search of shore birds and, finding none, headed back towards my car. I had been hearing the "potato chip" flight song of a goldfinch when, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted him diving into the middle of a span of grasses and wildflowers that skirts the shoreline. Camera in hand, I waded into the sea of golden rod and grasses and scared out the poor little goldfinch:( Head hung in shame for scaring the bird, I continued through the patch until my eyes hit upon a particular golden rod plant that was virtually bathed in activity. From a distance I could see there were at least 4 or 5 bumble bees on this one plant. As I got closer I also saw 2-3 different types of wasps and what I thought was a very colorful beetle. I started snapping away with my telephoto lens which does a fairly decent job with macro. After a few minutes with the wind continually forcing me to wait too long (for me) between shots, however, I headed to the car and attached my macro lens. This allowed me to not only get closer, but also to hold the stems of the goldenrod to keep them still. It was just starting to get dark and cooler so the bees and wasps were quite docile. While photographing one of the bumble bees, I spotted an amorous pair of green spotted beetles. I had never seen this species before so was anxious to get some shots to do some research and find out what they were. That's one of the many things I love about nature photography and blogging, the learning process. I'm really not fully satisfied until I've definitively identified what I've photographed. In this case the beetles were spotted cucumber beetles. Aren't they so cute, and acrobatic!? Hard to believe they're so harmful to crops.

This black wasp with a white spot on his face was another new one on me. I turned to my two favorite on-line sites for "bug" identification, Bug Guide.Net and "What's That Bug?" and found that it is a Mason Wasp. This is the little beauty I first thought was a colorful beetle. It turned out to be an ailanthus webworm moth, responsible for the webs you see at the end of many tree branches on PISP.

The Spotted Cucumber Beetles--must be love!

OK, I'll leave you with one of those critters that has escaped my attempts at identification. I think it may be in the bluet family of damsels. Any help out there?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bird Banding at Presque Isle SP IBA

Sadly, my fall birding ID class with Jerry McWilliams is completed. Happily, that afforded me the opportunity to help out Desiree and her assistant, Erica, with bird banding this past Saturday. It was a slow but steady banding day as we netted and processed white-throated sparrows, hermit thrushes, a couple of downy woodpeckers, and a winter wren. Desiree and Erica have been banding birds 6 days a week at the park, weather permitting, alternating between Niagara Boat Launch (T-Th-Sa) and Fry's Landing (M-W-F) starting at daybreak and running through to around 2:00 pm.

Erica extracts a Hermit Thrush from one of the 13 mist nets set up behind Niagara Boat Launch.

Erica places a band on a white-throated sparrow...and then hands it off to Desiree for weighing and measuring.

I was a little rusty when starting out but Desiree is a generous and patient teacher who showed me a little bit more about extracting the birds from the net as well as processing the birds. Sarah, Desiree and Erica have the processing down to, well, a science.

My first extractee this fall, a little downy that was a recapture from September.

Once a bird is captured and the species determined it is banded with an appropriately sized numbered band, aged, sexed, wing measurements are taken and fat status is determined. Then, of course, the bird is set free. Sarah, the lead bander, Desiree and Erica are also collecting ticks from the captured birds. The ticks collected will be used in a research study being conducted by Yale University. The entire process is done as quickly and efficiently as possible as to disturb the birds as little as possible. All of the information gathered is written down in a log book for purposes of later comparison as well as for uploading to a larger data base.

If you've never seen a birds ear before, you can't say that anymore!Erica delicately tweezes a tick from this hermit thrush.Each specimen vial contains ticks from one bird.

Ron Leberman, the Godfather of bird banding at PISP, looks on at the processing.

Ron and his family banded birds for 49 years at PISP. Ron tells wonderful stories about the great numbers of birds that used to frequent the park, including one ten day stretch in which they netted 650 birds!

A frequent visitor and helper at the banding station , Dave, was reluctant to extract a bird from the net, but with Desiree's not-so-subtle persuasion he finally caved and Desiree showed him how it's done!


Banding will continue through the end of October for the fall migration and resume in mid-April 2009 for spring migration. If you live in the area and are interested in observing or volunteering, come on down to the sites. It's definitely a wonderful and rewarding learning experience.