Vacation is Necessary

So I haven’t taken a vacation in a while. Like, in a long, long while. I was about to lose a ton of vacation through work because I didn’t take it earlier in the year. Well I am now finally on vacation for more than just a long weekend and it is amazing. In just two days I am feeling a whole lot better, and much much less stressed. As much as I dread the piles of crap that are waiting for me when I get back, I needed this so I’m glad I did it. Plus it gives me a chance to bond with my mom as we embark on the road trip which is fun too.

This trip was of course designed around the idea of going to a birding hotspot, with the goal of adding to my life list. So far we haven’t had a whole lot of luck adding species but I did get to see a beautiful Pileated Woodpecker a lot closer than I had previously which totally made my day. Quite a few white-tailed deer made an appearance a well which was a treat. The deer did not seem to mind humans and were very matter-of-fact as they grazed on the side of the road.

I was not able to get any good bird pictures today, but the scenery was spectacular so here are some of my favorite scenic shots from the day.

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Spring Really is My Fav Time of Year

This morning was absolutely gorgeous – low 60’s with a light breeze to keep off the bugs. I couldn’t resist going out for some birding since the last week has been continuously rainy and unpleasant. There were a few other people around but not so many as to be a distraction or otherwise scare away my quarry. I got to add four more species to my life list which always seems to make a trip worthwhile. 🙂 New species included Yellow Warbler, Pine Warbler, Red-headed Woodpecker and Chipping Sparrow. Here are some of my favorite pictures from the excursion:

Chipping Sparrows

Chipping Sparrows

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Pine Warbler

Pine Warbler

Red-headed Woodpecker

Male Red-headed Woodpecker

Male Goldfinch

Male Goldfinch

Common Loon

Common Loon

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Male Cardinal

Male Cardinal

Female Downy Woodpecker

Female Downy Woodpecker

Dancing on the Thin Branches

I had a very enjoyable solo birding excursion this past weekend. The weather was cool but there is something about it that says to me that spring really is just around the corner (thank goodness!). I’ve about had it with winter even though I’ve had fun identifying bird species that are only here during the colder months. I didn’t see any new species which was a bummer, but I did get some great shots of what seemed to be a not very bright red-tailed hawk. This hawk didn’t seem to understand that the thinner the branches are, the less likely they will support its weight. Repeatedly this hawk would venture onto extreme thin branches in the tree and seem to be baffled as to why it could not maintain its balance. The hawk seemed to be dancing (read flailing) as it attempted to stay steady on its perch. I found this whole thing very amusing and watched this bird for a good ten minutes or so before it flew off after its mate.

Here are some of the shots I got of this branch dance:

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Metropolitan Woodpeckers

This weekend is the Great Backyard Bird Count, which for those of you who don’t know is a yearly event designed to take a real-time snapshot of current bird populations using observations submitted by birders all over the world. Myself and my birding buddy went out today to participate. Holy crap was it cold out today, and windy too. Once we got into a nice wooded area out of the wind we had a bunch of luck, and even saw some new species! Well, new species for my birds life-list anyways. I only really started birding and tracking my birding last May so I have a ways to go and a lot to learn. The whole process is fun though and I enjoy learning about the different bird species and their behaviors. My new species of the day was Pine Siskin; hers was Tufted Titmouse.

Today’s excursion produced a wonderful encounter with a thoroughly metropolitan Down Woodpecker. We were headed back after being out for almost two hours when we saw a Down Woodpecker not six feet from us. He didn’t seem to care at all that we were there. He also didn’t care at all when the cell phone rang. And he still didn’t care when we started laughing and talking about how nonchalant he was being. I was appreciative because, since he was so close to us, I managed to get a couple of nice clear pictures on my camera. You can tell that this Downy is a boy by the little red hat on the back of his head. ^_^

Here are a couple of my favorites from today.

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Bald Eagles Make Me Happy

I’m still thawing out after being outside for almost four hours birding in various locations along the river. The winds were absolutely biting today which made the potentially balmy 39 degrees feel more like 12. In any case though it was an extremely productive birding trip as the Bald Eagles were out in force today. Most of the river had frozen over except in the area near a local damn so we got to see some incredible birds. Birds of prey in general are a highlight of any of my birding trips but getting to see this many Bald Eagles (23!!) really made my day. We saw birds varying from full adults in their glorious white head and butt splendor to extremely mottled juveniles in varying degrees of white, brown and tan. Today’s trip though really hit home how I want to invest in a stronger zoom lens. Getting a zoom lens that goes up to at least 800 will be a huge investment – easily $2k which is out of my reach right now. I got into photography because I wanted to take pictures of animals and birds so eventually I think I will end up with a better lens. Until then though, I will keep taking pictures with what I have. Here are some shots from today’s excursion.

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