Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Western Wilderness Wonders

This past August, I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Tremonton, Utah. While he attended to business, I visited a couple of birding hotspots in the surrounding areas. My favorite location was Antelope Island State Park in Syracuse, Utah.  A wide variety of beautiful birds and wildlife were seen, as well as stunning scenery. I also drove through Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in Brigham City, Utah. The bird numbers were impressive and the drive quite enjoyable.

After my husband concluded his obligations in Tremonton, we drove north and spent three days exploring two majestic and extraordinary national parks, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We meandered through stunning alpine meadows and breathed in the beauty of dramatic vertical peaks. Large herds of bison, elk and pronghorn were observed grazing in sagebrush dotted valleys. American Eagles and Osprey soared effortlessly aloft. At Yellowstone, we were mesmerized by the spectacular geothermal wonders and the radiant colors of the hot springs. A return trip will definitely be planned, as we wish we could have spent more time exploring these awe-inspiring destinations. All in all, I tallied 37 life birds!

A feisty Rufous Hummingbird perches near the wild bergamot (bee balm) patch - Life bird!

A handsome Peregrine Falcon scans the vast fields for prey

Two American Avocets feed in a shallow salt water pool

Long-legged beauty ~ Black-necked Stilt

A striking Western Grebe floats lazily on calm waters - Life bird!

Two juvenile Western Grebes enjoy the sunny day at Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge

A lone Ring-necked Pheasant steps gingerly across the road while I stop the car for its safe passage - Life bird!

A handsome Townsend's Warbler seeks nourishment in the berry laden-trees - Life bird!

Perched on a rocky peak and chattering away ~ Rock Wren - Life bird!

An adult Western Kingbird feeds its hungry offspring - Life bird!

 A second ravenous juvenile kingbird attempts to run interference

A young Mountain Bluebird perches on a dried branch - Life bird!

The always majestic American Bald Eagle

A relaxed Bison looks rather surprised when a bold Black-billed Magpie lands on its back


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Flying Jewels of Spring

The spring season is one of my favorite times of the year. Along with milder temperatures, the greening of foliage and flowering trees, bird migration occurs. Colorful, active birds make regular stops throughout the Midwest. Some delight us with their beauty throughout the summer months and others stop for only a brief visit as they make their way north. These bright, dazzling birds decorate the blossoming trees for all to appreciate.

Always a glorious sight ~ Scarlet Tanager

A resplendent Blackburnian Warbler explores the oak tree leaves for prey

On the hunt for a buggy snack ~ Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

A brilliant Yellow Warbler pauses for a moment in the marsh

A secretive Kentucky Warbler searches for food amongst the leaf litter

A stunning Chestnut-sided Warbler among the budding pink blossoms

A bright orange beauty ~ Baltimore Oriole

A gorgeous Magnolia Warbler gleans insects from a budding tree

A striking Cedar Waxwing sups on fresh blooms

A black-capped bird in search of a meal ~ Wilson's Warbler

A Brown Thrasher forages near the forest edge

Seeking nourishment along the creek ~ Prothonotary Warbler

Sitting pretty on a branch ~ Ovenbird

A lovely Canada Warbler searches for nutrition amidst pretty pink blooms

Crooning a tune ~ Hooded Warbler

Blue brilliance ~ Eastern Bluebird

A moment of peace for this busy Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Super Sunflower Seeds

Without a doubt, the most popular seed at our bird feeders is black oil sunflower seeds. While I am in the process of refilling the feeders, scratchy-voiced Tufted Titmice, energetic Red-breasted Nuthatches and brilliant red Northern Cardinals seem to magically appear, eager for a snack of this tasty treat.

Black oil sunflower seeds are especially appealing because they are rich in oil and fat content. The meaty morsels offer much needed calories and nutrition for birds during the cold winter months. As well as supplying energy, black oil sunflower seeds have a high ratio of nutmeat to shell and are packed with essential protein. These sought after tidbits have very thin shells that can be easily broken by most seed eating birds.

During the winter season, we offer black-oil sunflower seeds at the feeders on our country property (in northwest Indiana) and at our home in the big city of Chicago. A steady stream of birds delight in the seeds. We see the above mentioned birds daily, as well as Blue Jays, House Finches, Pine Siskins, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Wild Turkeys.

To enhance your backyard bird watching experience during the winter months, be sure to place out a bird feeder filled with black oil sunflower seeds. This practice is twofold, for the benefit of the area birds and for your own viewing pleasure.

Female Northern Cardinal

Blue Jay

Tufted Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch

House Finches

Red-bellied Woodpecker

American Goldfinch

Red-breasted Nuthatch

Northern Cardinal

Dark-eyed Junco

Black-capped Chickadee

Red-headed Woodpecker

Pine Siskin

Dark-eyed Junco and Northern Cardinal

Sunflower seed bandit ~ Red Squirrel

Besides creating and writing posts for my own blog, Nature's Splendor, I am also a monthly contributor to the Birding is Fun! blog. The above post was originally written for the later in January of 2013.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Snowy Owls, Townsend's Solitaire & More

Over the last few months the weather has been rather temperamental, thus decent photo opportunities have been few and far between. I have been lucky to see a few rare birds in our area, though. In November, I was able to photograph a handsome Eared Grebe at Montrose Harbor in Chicago. I also drove to Jon J. Duerr Forest Preserve in South Elgin to catch a glimpse of a pretty Townsend's Solitaire dining on juniper berries. I assume the berries are plentiful, as I heard a report today that the bird continues to remain at the preserve.

The month of December brought Snowy Owls galore! These owls are not often seen in our area. During the last month of 2013, I saw seven of these magnificent creatures. I visited Montrose Pier in Chicago and to my delight, observed four golden-eyed Snowy Owls at once. The other three were spotted separately in Michigan.

At the end of November, Bruce and I vacationed in Longboat Key, Florida . Unfortunately, the weather left much to be desired. Fierce winds, cool temperatures, rain and gray skies made photography difficult, though I was able to add a few life birds to my list including an American Oystercatcher.

Below I feature several of the beautiful birds observed over the last few months.

An American Oystercatcher seeks food along the shoreline

Two handsome Great Blue Herons nestle into the mangrove leaves

A trio of striking White Pelicans swim in Sarasota Bay

A regal Osprey, gar in talons, perches on a dead limb

Searching for prey in Montrose Harbor ~ Eared Grebe

A stunning male Hooded Merganser enjoys a quiet morning at North Pond

Floating peacefully in the Harbor ~ Red-breasted Mergansers

A Townsend's Solitaire sits amid the blue juniper berries

Seeking shelter from wintry weather and pesky crows ~ Snowy Owl

Perched atop the fishook pier at Montrose Beach, a Snowy Owl dozes

A beautiful Snowy Owl peers out from a drainage ditch in Michigan

Hunting in the vast corn field ~ Snowy Owl