Thursday, February 28, 2013

Registration now open for Biggest Week in American Birding

Hey! This is the first time I can use this special "badge"! SO COOL!!!

Note: I am copying here an e-mail I sent to the se-Michigan Birder's list just now. The "Birder's list" has been a continual inspiration and a huge source of information and friendship for me since I discovered it relatively early (Thank God!) in my newly found fascination and passion for learning the birds I see and shoot with my camera. I suspect anyone will find local resources to do the same for y'all! I just wanted to give all my local birding buddies a "heads up"!

And ... if anyone wants to see a fantastic example of a compendium of local birding knowledge in one place, I suggest you check out the amazing site Bruce Bowman put together for us in Michigan!!!


Registration opened today for The Biggest Week in American Birding. Hey! Click on the links at top and on the sides to see the offerings! This is really a BIG week for birders!!!

This is in the northwest Ohio area with Magee Marsh (formerly Crane Creek) and surrounds during migration. It runs from May 3-12. Think Spring! Think warblers!!!

As a relatively newbie birder, and one who hates crowds, Judy and I planned our first year to avoid the Biggest Week. It was fine –we saw lots of birds and I added a number of birds to my life list. The following year, we went before and during the Biggest Week. The difference was huge! Yes, during the week itself, there were lots of birders and the boardwalk was crowded sometimes, but also lots of guides (international birding trip leaders) were on the boardwalk. And there were lots of eyes of folks looking and pointing and saying “it is there”, and many asking “what is it?” And, always there was someone with years/decades of experience to answer the “Whazzat” part!!! And just in general the camaraderie was incredible! What an amazing group birders are! Everyone is accepted, and everyone helps!!!

Judy and I cannot afford to travel widely, but for us in southeast Michigan, it is an easy day trip! (Though you will want to spend more time there …)

Each year we never seemed to have enough time to explore all of the wonderful sites in the area. Besides Magee Marsh, we love the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge and Metzger Marsh and so many more. And be sure to stop at the Black Swamp Bird Observatory (BSBO) enroute to Magee Marsh – they are the sponsors and always something is “happening” there! Oh … so many possibilities!!!

This year I was SO amazingly honored to become part of the 2013 Biggest Week Blogger Team!

I don’t really know why, but I suspect some like my “rambles” and enthusiasm. There are three birders from our se-Michigan Birder’s list on the team! Cool! I DO know that the honor will force me to actually DO something rather than just taking from and not giving back more to the birding community! Stay tuned and let me know …. And, yes, I indeed know I am but a fledgling in the birding community, but with the continuing support I get from y’all, I just might learn to fly!

I also suggest you check out the links to other bloggers. They all have great bird stories to tell. You might just want to tag a few as favorites to follow!

But the MAIN REASON for the post tonight is to let y’all know that registration is now open!!! I saw a note from Kim Kaufman tonight that in the first two hours after registration was open today, over 200 birders registered! What that tells y’all is that if you want to reserve a spot for special field trips and seminars, you gotta act fast! This is an international event – and it is so close to us!

Check it out!!!

(And, no, you do not have to register to enjoy the event … you just gotta go there! And, probably, like us, you will schedule more days each year to see migration at its best!) There are several sites you can follow once the event gets near. I will be posting them on my blog.)

GO BIRD! And – as BSBO says it – “Birds Rule!”

 “Dr. Bob”

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Totally blown away while analyzing GBBC data!!!

OK,  fine...  I guess I should not be so totally blown away. I knew the technology was there, but ...

I just spent the last two hours playing with data from this year's GBBC - an annual great fun thing to do!  I told y'all about it before and encouraged participation. This year GBBC and eBird are "talking to each other" with data. I say "about time" - after all, they are from the same great bird-famous university (Cornell). Data entered into either GBBC or eBird for the GBBC weekend from Feb. 15-18 is tracked in both. No need to enter  the data twice as in past years. Hooray! Cornell has done an admirable job (BTW - I know from my IT experience that this was not a small task indeed!) of making them work together.

For awhile, I just played with bird data. Where were what birds sighted in my local areas during GBBC? That in itself was quite amazing! I could "slice" data by species, or by counties or yards or patches (gotta see eBird about creating yards and patches for your areas...), or see maps of reportings anywhere in the world (!), or ... I guess I could go on...

And, I could see my results compared with others in my state or my county. I guess I do have somewhat a competitive spirit, but really never went out and about much to "compete" for GBBC. Yes, I looked for birds, but I was just doing as I normally do over the weekend.  Mostly my recordings were from my deck (Hey! That is quite sufficient y'all newbies - it really means a lot!), but besides deck records, Judy and I also dropped in at Stoney Creek Metro Park Nature Center to check out their feeders and dropped by "Dutton Fields" to see if my sowing of seeds (OK, this is a family show - I mean sowing seeds literally...) the days before had brought in any winter birds.

With reference to (WRT)  bird sightings, I was very happy to see so many "new birders" (i.e., names I did not recognize from eBird or know from the Michigan birder's list ) posting results along with so many of my birding "heroes" for the two local counties (Oakland and Macomb) in Michigan we frequent. I was a  tad disappointed that I did not see some of my relatives or neighbors posting, but I will keep pestering them. Really the GBBC is a great way to start learning about birds and sharing birding results! Pass it on for next year!

OK, so far (your results can still be posted until the end of February - do it!), my (quasi-competitive) standings for the four days are (as of 2013-02-21):

Michigan: I rank 77, with species recorded 26. Total birds recorded in area: 135. Top birder saw 68 species.

Oakland County:  (where I record deck birds - it also includes a wonderful trip to Dutton Fields where we saw a huge flock of Snow Buntings) my rank 14, species 18. Total birds recorded in area: 67. Top birder saw 43 species. I posted a blog about the Snow Buntings. It was fun that GBBC/eBird asked me to verify the Snow Bunting entry! It is so rare that I ever record something where I am questioned about my entry!!!

BTW, I truly appreciate the unsung local referee eBird heroes who spend so much time verifying possibly discrepant records based on eBird flags so that folks like me do not pollute the data base!!! Yes, Judy and I indeed enjoyed the sight of a huge flock of Snow Buntings ("if you seed it they will come". I "seed(ed) it" and they came!) And, just to clarify, we normally do not feed birds beyond our deck! Not good for birds ... (another story ...). Dutton is the only spot and only time we do it - just to catch a glimse of special winter birds of the fields. WOW! Just like two years ago, a huge flock just dropped out of the sky! Drop in, leave; drop back, and so on - what fun!!!

Macomb County (we made one trip to Stoney Creek): my rank 14, species 14. Total birds recorded in area: 165. Top birder saw 42 species. Y'all know we are fair weather birders, but the short walk in cold temps to the Nature Center picked up some good records. It included the most Juncos we ever saw together at one time and the regularly-now-present Pine Siskins that have so far chosen not to visit our feeders this year.

I cut the data "this way and that". Oh, so amazing! BTW, interestingly, if anyone chooses to really get out and about as well as record feeder birds, I suspect it would be relatively easy to get a species list that will beat my measly number of species per county. Do it next year!

Then, while picking a few species I had recorded, I delved further. For example, Dark-eyed Junco. Where in my local area? I had one. Who else? Zooming in, I found "Dr. Bob's Deck" by clicking on a flag. Switching  to satellite mode, I was able to zoom farther and see my Jimmy (truck) in the driveway of my house! Cool! I also recognized that the photo was taken before last summer before they fixed the driveways in the neighboring court (yuk! - Van Hill needed fix!) and when we had just gotten new concrete driveways in front of our garages and a totally new asphalt resurface to the whole court. WOW!!! Amazing!!! A photo from space with a snapshot of our place at a point in time!  Yes, I have known the power of Google Maps/Google World since the beginning of Google World, but to see it in combination with requesting where a bird was sighted ... priceless (as the ad says ...). And, yes, you probably never will see your house as it looks today, but just to see a satellite pic from space of your place at all is incredible!

I printed off pics of our new driveways and the flag for "Dr. Bob's Deck" - I think from 2012 - to share with neighbors.

I remember it was - maybe 7-10-more years ago? - I printed pics of our condo complex from Google World as gifts for neighbors (before Google Map).  Yes, amazing! And I also remember, printing a pic of my "other mother" (aged mother of my best high school friend who lived down the street. She taught me how to cook.) sitting in her front yard at the same time the Google 360 degree camera car passed by. I could "walk around the block" in 3D on the internet and relive great memories!  What a treasure!!! Ah, technology!

But tonight, I was again totally blown away!!!

I asked GBBC about birds. I got a map. By switching to satellite mode (or similar hybrid mode but with street names) I could zoom in on any location in the world after asking GBBC to show me "X" species for a certain area. For example, I chose Snow Buntings in Oakland County.  It was easy because GBBC only had records for the four days. It would have been a tad more confusing from full eBird for other dates, but would have had similar results. I was shown all of the sightings (personal as well as hotspots) for these days (I think the GBBC difference is really great by including personal spots and allowing click-on details!!!) .

By using the "grabber hand" I could move the map of sightings. Then I could use roller mouse to enlarge (zoom). Soon I had Dutton Fields in view. I could keep "rolling and scrooling" until I reached the max limit of satellite imagery. By then, I could see the actual concrete pipes upon which the Horned Larks and Buntings retreated away from the road two years ago!!! Whew! The area was cleaned up this year, and all trailers and construction remains are gone, and all that is left is a newly graded site that will probably be put up for sale and developed, but what memories! And ... what technology!!! Here is a pic of the exact location where I seed (and see/saw) winter birds at Dutton Fields. Tonight I realized I intitially had "stuck the pin" at the intersection of Dutton and Lapeer Roads two years ago, but with better zooming and resolution tonight, and with knowing that others had chosen "Dutton Fields" as their name for the same spot, I was able to stick it at exactly the spot where I had seeded and observed birds. I also was able to move my personal pin to this spot. I renamed it to "Dutton Fields" becoming more in line with the site by with others (like Mike Mencotti and Ed Lewandowski know it and record birds). Cinchy! All my former data followed as I made the updates! BTW, some of y'all asked about the exact site for Snow Buntings and Lapland Longspurs and I told you in words, but here it is in a satellite pic! So cool!

Amazing!!! I think, if the satellite had taken the shot in winter, I might have been able to see my own car there - and maybe even the birdie flockers themselves!

Not just species lists, but actual sites - with satellite photos!

Blown away again ... and I even knew the technology! What fun!

What a wealth of data now exists that none of us will fully be able to explore! But just ask a question, and see what amazing results happen! And shortly you will be flooded with memories of places and birds you have known.

Warning! You just might start to ramble ...!!!

I thought I would "ramble" tonight and share...

- "Dr. Bob"

Sunday, February 17, 2013

My GBBC stuff plus a huge flock of Dutton Snow Buntings

I love the Great Backyard Bird Count weekend. Audubon recognizes it and it is just great fun every year! Check it out at the GBBC site!

I wrote about it on my last blog. When I left off, I mentioned I was hoping for some photos to enter in the GBBC contest. I did so just now. (No, they have not posted my pics ... yet ... but if they are astute enough, at least one of mine might make it into the finalists ...)

Anyway, y'all (my blog followers and birding friends) get to see the three pics I submitted.

I daily record birdies at my feeders. I was overjoyed a couple of days ago to see that a Northern Flicker - "Yellow-Shafted Flicker"  - dropped in! It was a male. Recently a female also dropped by!!! She has returned for the last two days. Flickers come early. Normally a Flicker drops in about  8:00 am, so if I had been up late watching TV, I might have missed it. This morning, this gal dropped in about 7:45 am. Geez! It was great I had hauled myself out of bed - even interrupting a great dream to do so - knowing that I had but a brief chance to see my feeder birdies before the lull. After the lull, only occasional visitors drop by. I saw/shot  her in the tulip tree in the yard, and just knew she would come in. Setting up coffee can wait! She did! And I shot!

As usual these days, after 8:30 am, the birds disappeared. I am learning that I need to be an "early bird" as well if I want to see the best birds!!! Yes, a few birds did drop by sporadically - including the Flicker again at 9:45 am - but only half the species I saw between 7:45 am and (today) 8:00 am (normally the lull starts at 8:30 am) reappeared. Darn the great recorded (I hate commercials and love the e-box so I can fast forward them...) TV shows that keep me up late!

So ... anyway ... after I made a great breakfast of fried corn meal mush (with blue cheese dressing as a dipper), sauteed asparagus, fried eggs, and raisin toast, and eliminating a few recorded shows from the "box", I took the requisite nap.

Upon awakening, Judy and I were off to "Dutton Fields" (Dutton and Lapeer roads in Oakland County) to see if the seeds I had previously tossed out and about had drawn in any birdies. We saw the same car (dark Toyota with emergent huge black lens) sitting in the spot where I regularly seeded. With binocs, I saw the driver was in full hooded winter garb (necessary at 20 degrees with open window and engine shut off!) and definitely using the car as a blind (as I had suggested on the internet).This was the third time I took Judy to shoot pics that same car was there ("in MY spot"). It is obvious the driver (this time without the previous three passengers) has fully embraced the great new world of "car birding"!!!  Judy was not only disappointed, but a bit peeved! Well, I noted to her that I had recently shared this site "with the world" (birder's list) - as my friend and bird mentor Ed Lewandowski had done with us when he was seeding it the last couple of years - and reminded Judy of the amazing experience we had two years ago. Yes, I now have returned the favor ("pay it forward") and took Ed's place this year to provide opportunities for other birders by continuing his offerings. "If you seed it, they will come"! So true! So wonderful!! I heard from a few Facebook birding friends that they got not only annual county records, but also a couple of "lifers" this year!  I "done good"!

Today turned out quite like two years ago! A flock of over 200 (300???) Snow Buntings was in the area! They mostly dropped in on occasion in front of the dark car offering the photographer what I can only assume what were amazing pics! But twice, they dropped in on my "new spot" (that I seeded today ...a bit south and uphill from the "driveway"). The first drop-in, I got some good pics. The second time - with car facing a different direction- Judy's open window (her side to birds) gave her her best shots of Snow Buntings ever! What fun!!!

Interestingly, when the hugh flock flew, rather than going down into the large empty field as usual, they went "behind the wall" into the stubble field by the mini-mall (behind the block wall). We checked it out a couple of times, and quickly realized the great camo of these birds. White as snow, yet with brown/grey flecking as rubble in a field. Maybe 200+ birds there, but you could barely see them until they moved!!! And yes, when we moved, they flew! The dark car guy should be thanking us for moving them!

Here is my best pic. I  submitted it to the GBBC photo contest. I do not think they had occasion to upload it yet, but if they do, please "like" it on FB! Actually if they upload it at all, I will be extremely happy ...

OK, fine ... anyway, I love it!

Judy and I both had shots of these amazingly beautuiful birds!!! And really, just to experience the sight of hundreds of Snow Buntings coming and going, and coming and going..., and just presenting amazing memories in the sky was sufficient!!!  And, I really do feel good about having done just a small bit of repaying Ed's birding love and memorable moments and continuing his tradition! "Pay it forward", and it comes back to you!

In trying to shoot the amazing sight of flying, flocking Snow Buntings, I caught an interesting lucky shot of what I am calling the "Snow Bunting Police"! Cute!

No Lapland Longspurs today - I was extremely lucky last time - but the overwhelming experience of a HUGE flock of Snow Buntings flying in and out of an area is really almost a once-in-a-lifetime experience!!! This was the second time for us!!! (thanks Ed!)

Yes, Judy and I got many pics at the new "second site" and really feel blessed the  flock dropped in!

Yet ... I would really like to hear from the photographers - the young guy with huge Canon tele in the greenish car (shooting Lapland Longspurs) before , and the seemingly-now-ever-present guy with huge black lens (today shooting the Snow Buntings)  - to see what they shot!!! Please also give back to the Birder's List! Hey! I really do not wonder why you chose this place in the middle of nowhere (Birder's List), but would like some some feedback showing "the List" your pics for the gift you were given! I suspect you have never had such an oppoutunity before!!! Just saying ...

Friday, February 15, 2013

GBBC and eBird - They really got it together!!!

I just entered my data for the first day of the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC).   WOW! Cinchy!!!

I entered thru GBBC (click on ref above - click on "Submit Your Bird Checklist") and it allowed me to log in thru my eBird account.

And - NO - you do not have to have an eBird account! The GBBC was born as - and remains - a way for "regular people" to record bird sightings for four days in February - even if you do not leave home! That is how I started recording birds! FUN!!! (It is just cool that for those of us who do both it is so much easier now).  Click on highlighted ref above - click on "Submit Your Bird Checklist". Then create your account.
You can also learn about eBird - it is a great (free) way to keep track of your birds (life list, yearly and monthly totals by site/county/etc, and you contribute to a national data base of birds:

SO COOL!!! I logged in and GBBC/eBird knew me! I knew I was contributing to GBBC because the GBBC logo was in the upper left corner, but I also was in my own eBird account!!! This has several important implications:

1) eBird already has my favorite locations geographically tagged. Of course, "Dr. Bob's Deck" (no, you will not find it - it is not a national hotspot - but it is my main spot for recording birds over morning coffee) was most important. I record birds here daily. It was great this morning that I had rare, but recently more occasional, visits from a Northern ("Yellow-shafted") Flicker and a Red-breasted Nuthatch! Thanks birdies - I refreshed the suet for you!

But, anyone who did GBBC in past years will remember needing to look up zip codes. Come on! What is the zip for Stoney Creek - Macomb County vs. Stoney Creek-Oakland County!!!  (Yes, I did that the last two years and I came close, but it took forever - and it was still artificial - as well as frustrating!). Or Dutton Fields (again, not national but in my personal eBird place list) where the Horned Larks and occasional Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs frequent? Or the farm lands reported by birders? Or the corner of Bird Freeway at Sandhill Crane flyover?  Right! Zippidy-do-yuck!

2) This upgrade by Cornell University saves me from entering the data twice - once for GBBC and once for eBird. I wrote notes last year (and I really appreciate eBird Tech Talk - these guys are amazing for responding!!!) complaining about this and suggesting that the overall bird composite at Cornell for the days of GBBC would contain duplication data that might be imposssible to ever reconcile. The upgrade is great for me, and great for the data pool! Great job, Cornell!!!

Yes, I altruistically love it that Cornell data will be far better, but I mostly love it personally because in one flying swoop, I entered my bird sightings from today at three locations into two (now one!) recording sites for the national data base (and I am SO happy they are now one...!) at the same time! I killed two "to dos" at one time (really 2 records x 3 places)- and actually faster than I normally do one! WHEE!

Those of you who already have eBird accounts will love this - especially if you are creatures of habit and tend to go to the same places! No more do you have to do look-ups for the zip codes that the old GBBC required! (like how many folks know the zip codes for their local parks???) Go in thru GBBC, and login to eBird, and you do both at the same time!

As a person who daily records my backyard birds, I initially did not like it that the eBird checklist (thru GBBC) with which I was presented had not filtered for my recent records as eBird does (yes, I am a creature of small easy habits) , but when the large list comes up, the cursor is in the "find species" box. Type in the first four letters of the bird's "last name" or "first name" (common names ...), and Boom,  you have a very small number of choices. Click the right one and enter data. Then you are back to "find species". Enter and Boom it again! Cinchy!!!

I am done with entering data for my first day of GBBC. I have no guilt or "to do list" left to go enter in eBird sometime as well. I am really quite proud! What fun!

I am one happy birder! What's not to like?!!!

SO - Y'all go do the GBBC thing! If you are not an eBird person, I can only say GBBC was great fun when I first started birding. And even after I started with eBird, I still put up with the need for entering data at two sites.  Really GBBC is the one event where "regular folks" like us can just enjoy recording our local birds and it will make a difference. I have always enjoyed this weekend since I started birding!!! You do not have to go anywhere - just enjoy and share your birdies!

This year the GBBC also went global, so it will be even more interesting to see results. GEEZ! Can anyone imagine a "snapshot" of all the birds in the world seen over just four days? Yes, I suspect the global bit will expand as people learn about it, but I believe this will be the best national survey ("snapshot") ever!

.. I may add some pics later, but really did not get too much today ... There is also a contest for GBBC pics (see previous reference to GBBC site), and I hope to get lucky on the next three days.

BTW, I would love to hear feedback from first-time GBBC participants! Like I said, it was great fun for me as a beginning birder.

Go Bird!!!
 - "Dr. Bob"

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Just for the "L" of it - Lapland Longspurs at Dutton

The title refers to how lovely wife Judy remembers the name of the birds I saw today. She has accompanied me to Dutton and Lapeer Roads ("Dutton Fields" - albeit only along the acess road) on numerous occasions in the winter to try to see and photograph what I call a Winter Trifecta: Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and possible a Lapland Longspur. These are northern birds of the fields that drop down in winter, and probably will never be seen at our feeders. Jan Olesen (formerly Macomb Audubon - now warm in Florida) first posted a note to birders about Horned Larks there. Subsequently, our good birding friend Ed Lewandowski started seeding the vacant area around Dutton Fields a few years ago and turned us onto possibilities. I think it was two/three years ago we experienced an amazing sight as dozens of Snow Buntings (with the always present Horned Larks) worked over his seeds. Wow! (I did blog about it, so check out my older winter blogs ...)

Yet there were very few Lapland Longspurs ever with them - I seem to remember two at most ... Lifers! Yes, these birds tend to be recorded together, but Longspurs are the rarity. I showed Judy the bird guide pics and told her to watch for them. I well remember Judy trying to learn her birds with mnemonics. Snow Buntings and Horned Larks were no challenge because they sound like "regular speak". But to a non-birder, the term Lapland Longspur sounds much more like "gobble-de-gook" "birder speak" She got it with the "Ls": Lap Land Long ... and, after that much,  it just triggered the Spur part.

I showed Judy my pics when I came home tonight (she had just walked the trails around here and, wanting to rest, did not accompany me), and she immediately came up with the right name for my birds today! Cool!

Remembering our excitement at seeing the birds a few winters ago, I thought this year I would continue Ed's seeding of this vacant area just to see if it might happen again. I am overjoyed that many of my birding friends got their chance to see not only the Horned Larks, but also Snow Buntings. I know for sure that at least one friend - Janet Hug - was able to share them with some others who had not visited before and got her county record of Snow Buntings!

To date this year, I never saw any Lapland Longspurs there. Today was different!

Lapland Longspur at Dutton

Initially I saw perhaps 30 Horned Larks. I think perhaps a dozen near the "driveway" where I had previously seeded, and many more on the  block wall across the street, and even more further up the hill at a different seeded area. I was content. This was far more than usual! I always count on a half-dozen, but this was great! And, after waiting in my "car blind" - the thing with heat that - once parked - does not seem to bother the birds - for about a half hour, I saw Snow Buntings fly over (well, maybe they DO mind car blinds sometimes...), and then I noticed different birds easily within photo range of my "blind": Lapland Longspurs!

While watching the activity, I figured out the birds at the distant "new site" were a mix of Larks and Longspurs. Just about that time, another car slowly passed me and parked  - as I had - going the wrong way along the shoulder before me. I thought a birder, and noticed after he parked, a large white object emerged from the driver's window. On further examination with binocs, I determined there was a beanbag upon which now rested a huge white Canon lens (500 mm or better). He was going to shoot birds at the "new site".

As I left the site for a "comfort station", I did a turn-around in the mini-mall, and stopped briefly (at a good distance - I did not spook his birds ...) for a look at the birds he was shooting. At least 15 Lapland Longspurs with a few Horned Larks! Cool!

I did not recognize the younger man (oh heck, almost everyone is younger), but I sure hope he posts his photos and tells birders where to see the pics! With his huge optics and being only perhaps 15 feet away, the pics should be incredible! Thank you mystery man for not messing with the birds I was shooting! Similarly, I did not mess with yours. It is all fun!!!

Anyway, I do think the next time I visit Dutton, I will toss seeds at the new location. It was not recently graded like my old spot and seemed to draw far more birds than by the driveway. Thanks to whomever seeded it first this year - great job!

FYI - new spot is "uphill" (southeast) from old spot, and not too far after the mini-mall driveway after you turn off Lapeer onto Dutton Rd. access.

Again, thanks Ed for starting this as a winter feeding/birding ground! It is one of the few places where we can "car blind bird" when temps are frigid and collect annual records!

You can probably see Horned Larks at any time and they are really cool photogenic birds! But, just hang out in your "blind" and maybe you will see the Buntings and Longspurs!!! What the "L"! Try it!

- "Dr. Bob"

Monday, February 4, 2013

Yard birds - Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker and Super Bowl carnivorous behavior

On Super Bowl Sunday, I was blessed with the visit of a bird I rarely see at my feeders! A Northern Flicker dropped by for some suet. And then ... another!!! The flicker is a very rare visitor here at the feeders, and I never saw two at the same time!!! Wow! It made my day!

Kindly they visited several times and fed long enough for me to get photos!

My favorite pic is the one that the birds books do not seem to have. It is a pic of the yellow underside of the tail. Normally all I see is a bright flash of yellow as a flicker flies away. It is always breath-taking. I always hoped I could get a shot of the bird flying just to capture it. I guess they are a tad more hungry now and they did not spook as they normally do, so I got a great shot of the underside of the tail! Cool!

It was actually quite a revelation to capture this, because normally by the time I get my binocs on the bird, it is gone. This time I grabbed the camera first! Certainly it is my best ever photo of the species!!!

Yellow-shaft? How about a yellow underside of tail? That is what impressed me.

So continuing to be lucky, another photo told the story. When viewed from the backside - as one might see in the field when the bird is on a tree - you do not see the yellow underside. But, you clearly can see the yellow shafts (the main rib of the feathers) of the wings if the bird will sit long enough. OK. Yellow-shafted.

Notice I said wings, and not tail. Here you clearly see shafts on the wings. I do not see yellow shafts on what I can see of the tail. So now where is all that bright stuff I see when they are flying off? Hidden from this side! Interesting. The birds books talk about yellow underwings as well as the tail - no wonder I have seen a great yellow flash! (... now just to shoot the bird flying ...!) The books also talk about a white rump (on dorsal - i.e., upper side) seen when flying. It is another thing you do not see when the bird is perched. Maybe I will get lucky if they come back? I can only hope. But I did get the yellow shafts! (as well as a pic of the underside of tail not in bird books!!!)

To top off this blog, in looking at my pics tonight, I realized I also caught the female flicker. OK, so the two were a couple? Geez! Just one flicker in a year is great! These are large birds - they are larger than a Blue Jay -  and a commanding presence at the feeders. But, two in one day? First time in a dozen years! WOW! Super Sunday!!!

Here is the lovely lady:

Can you tell the difference?

OK. Go back and compare. The gal is different!

The male has a "moustache"! In the books, Sibley calls it a "black malar", but Kenn Kaufman just lays it out and calls it a "moustache" (not a formal bird part term, but more meaningful ...)! Come on! Am I going to look up malar? Well, sure, but I am weird like that ... but, I will go with moustache!

It was interesting that the female was feeding on a packaged suet cake - and obviously preferring imbedded seeds - while the male preferred the beef suet from Meijer. OK, I have a new hypothesis. Female flickers tend to be vegans, and males are carnivores! Hey, it WAS Superbowl Sunday and I had my pork ribs in the oven ...

(Often I make up my own hypotheses just so I can test them by future observations ... it makes me focus ...)

Now, having set up a hypothesis, I need lots of observations. Geez! I hope they both come back! The male did so twice today - each time taking large beakfuls of beef suet. Maybe the gal did not like the meat taste around the seeds? (Yes, I know it is anthropomorphic WRT humans, but that is how I start. Don't we all? We certainly do not think like birds... at least not as novices...). I know for sure that it is really hard for a pointy-long-beaked bird like this to pick up (meat-free) seeds from the feeders or deck - gotta cock their head weird. Better to peck and grab. Only time will tell ...

I mention the two suet types for another reason.A couple years ago, I stocked up on two dozen suet cakes and kept them out all winter. I had few visitors except occasional flocks of Starlings. Money wasted. Once the Red-winged Blackbirds came to town, I managed to quickly use them up between the RWBB and Starlings. Even House Sparrows rarely visit to pick out a few seeds when nothing is left at the feeders. Last year, I bought some beef suet - far cheaper and lasts longer (!) - about a buck a hunk! - and had regular vistits of Downy Woodpeckers all winter. The Downys are daily visitors this year as well. Interesting! Cakes just do not "sell" at my feeders in winter!

OK, I am done "rambling". I am very satisfied that I spent the time to share my great pics (if I do say so myself ...) and my ramble.

I should note that I am encouraged to try to better maintain my blog in the new year for several reasons.

I see my friend Kim Smith working much harder at her blog that is birding-heavy, but also explores what it means to be a highly sensitive person (as I suspect many birders are ...):

I know I have many "fans" from Hiking Michigan, where Rob Golda regularly posts my rambles. Rob is really famous for his great maps of parks with hiking trails. Check out the amazing links on his site!
Rob just put up bird ID sheets. This is from a person who loves outdoors and is not a birder.

And, to top it off, tonight I just discovered that my friend and mentor Jerry Jourdan included a reference to my blog as a blog he follows and linked to it on his own truly amazing blog! It was the first time I saw a world-famous birder posting a link to my "sometimes" blog of random rambles!!! Thanks, Jerry. This one is for you!
What triggered my look tonight was a reference to an amazing blog where Jerry discusses ages of Long-tailed ducks (LTD). Hey! This should have been a scientific paper! Probably the best shots of LTD ever and even included references! From a personal view as I scrolled down, I caught a ref to my blog. Cool!

Darn! I gotta do better this year maintaining my blog!!!

Thanks for the encouragement, my friends!!! Indeed, your feedback makes a huge difference! Really it makes a geat deal to me - and to all other bloggers! We bloggers all just kind of "throw stuff out there", and we know many people appreciate our stuff, but do you? Please give feedback to the bloggers who present things you enjoy! Yes the internet gives us free access to great things, but consider that some of your favorites can quit any time if we start to feel like it is a waste of time.

Yes, I will try to do better this year. I hope you liked my "Flicker Fest"!!!