Saturday, May 26, 2012
Earlier this evening this blog was visited for the 100,000th time as measured by the page view gadget over on the right hand side of this page. I thought we ought to have a little chat to celebrate this milestone. So... here you go.
Friday, May 18, 2012
I found a small group of Stilt Sandpipers in a shallow pond today. In this photo you can see some of the key field marks of a Stilt Sandpiper in breeding plumage: rust-colored cheek patch, white stripe above the eye, and dark barring on the underside. See? Shorebird identification isn't that tough!
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Upland Sandpipers love fence posts. As I drive around in central South Dakota at this time of year, I see Upland Sandpipers on fence posts everywhere I go. Many times I will say that I see one of these birds perched on a fence post. However, I think using the word, perch, is not quite accurate. Sandpipers don't really perch in the way songbirds perch on a strand of wire or a small twig. Upland Sandpipers are really just standing on the post. So, from now on I am going to try to say, "Look! There's an Upland Sandpiper standing on that fence post!" That reminds me of this Bible verse about standing:
"Therefore, put on the full armor of God,
so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground,
and after you have done everything, to stand."
So, go out today and STAND!
Monday, May 14, 2012
|Male Lark Bunting|
So... you're out on the prairie and see a small, black bird with white wings. What is it? Well, my friend, you're looking at a male Lark Bunting. Members of the sparrow family, Lark Buntings are common birds in the grasslands of the Great Plains of North America. I always look forward to their return in the middle of May. They are a joy to see and hear out in the South Dakota countryside.
Saturday, May 12, 2012
|Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus|
The song of the Yellow-headed Blackbird has been described as sounding like, "a rusty door hinge." And that is the kindest way you can describe it. I have also heard it compared to the sound of a chainsaw, though that is a little extreme. Imagine a large, iron gate. Now slowly push that gate open. Can you hear that creaking sound? THAT is the song of the Yellow-headed Blackbird. Though their songs are grating to our ears, there is no denying that these birds are beautiful. Below is a quotation from author, Bernard Meltzer. He may have had Yellow-headed Blackbirds in mind.
Use those talents you have. You will make it. You will give joy to the world. Take this tip from nature: The woods would be a very silent place if no birds sang except those who sang best. -- Bernard Meltzer
|Pair of Canada Geese with seven goslings|
Quite a number of Canada Geese breed and raise young in little marshes on the South Dakota prairies. Yesterday I spotted this goose family in a wetland south of Pierre. These little goslings are still quite small and yellow, so they are just a few days old. I will go back there from time to time and see if I can get some family portraits as the kids grow up.
Friday, May 11, 2012
I saw this American Bittern today in a small wetland south of Pierre. The bird froze in place when I stopped my car next to it and rolled down the window. This behavior, sometimes called, bitterning, is often used by bitterns to avoid detection by potential enemies. It works quite well when the bird is standing in reeds and its coloration allows it to blend in with the vegetation. However, when the bittern is standing out in the open, it looks rather silly standing there like a statue. I watched the bird for about five minutes, and it never moved a muscle. Since I left without causing the bittern any harm, I suppose the bird's bitterning tactic worked.
Thursday, May 10, 2012
|Male Blue-winged Teal showing off its namesake wing|
Blue-winged Teals have lovely blue wings. However, about the only time you ever get to see those blue wings is when the birds are in flight. I have never been able to get a good photo of Blue-winged Teals in flight. Yesterday, though, I found this male standing with its wing feathers spread just enough that a good area of blue was visible. What shade of blue would you call that? Teal, perhaps?
|Blue-winged Teals, male on left and female on right|
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
For the most part, birds are very predictable. There are, of course, birds that surprise us by showing up at times and places they are not expected. However, we usually see birds keeping pretty much to a set schedule. The Bible puts it this way, "Even the stork in the sky knows her appointed seasons, and the dove, the swift and the thrush observe the time of their migration." Jeremiah 8:7. This week is the Swainson's Thrush migration through central South Dakota. I had not seen any of these birds this spring until Sunday when I spotted one in my yard just as we were leaving for church. That afternoon I went for a walk in the woods and saw dozens of Swainson's Thrushes everywhere I looked. Get out and have a look for yourself. You should find good numbers of migrating birds, including a few thrushes in a rush to get to their breeding grounds.
Saturday, May 5, 2012
|Lark Sparrows on the rocks at Oahe Dam in central South Dakota|
Large numbers of Lark Sparrows have arrived in central South Dakota this week. I have seen them in my yard and out on country roads. This afternoon I saw some hopping around on the rocks at Oahe Dam. I think Lark Sparrows are quite attractive with contrasting black, brown, cream and white markings on their faces. Even though some people would say they are "just sparrows," I would even call them pretty. Don't you agree?
Tuesday, May 1, 2012
|Upland Sandpiper, wet from a bath|
Upland Sandpipers have just returned this week after spending the winter in South America. I saw my first Uppies of the year yesterday, and I saw several more this morning. This evening I came upon two Upland Sandpipers taking a bath in a large mud puddle by the side of the road. Upland Sandpipers are not generally associated with water--they are birds of the grasslands--so I was surprised to see them in the water. However, even prairie birds have to take a bath once in a while, especially when they have just flown in from the southern hemisphere! Welcome back, Uppies! Have a nice summer in South Dakota.
|Upland Sandpiper drying off on the shore|
|American Avocets sleeping in the mud|
While driving around yesterday, I came across this pair of American Avocets sleeping in the mud on the edge of a flooded farm field. I was struck by the incongruity of such beauty and elegance in the midst of such ugliness. Then I remembered why avocets and other shorebirds love the mud: It's their grocery store! Later I saw another American Avocet wading in the shallow water and doing a little grocery shopping.
|American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana, looking for something to eat|