Sunday, December 26, 2010

Winter Backyard Birds

Pine Warblers have been among the winter visitors to my backyard feeders.  Many thanks to Tammy Sanders of Charlotte who gently corrected my earlier misidentification of this bird as an American Goldfinch.  Two Chipping Sparrows are in the background.

The Pine Warbler is a new bird to me. According to some reference material, it is in South Carolina year-round but I can't recall seeing it in my backyard until this winter. 

The White-breasted Nuthatch is another new discovery this winter in my backyard. This bird really likes to go upside-down!
I hadn't seen this bird before. At first, I thought it was the Carolina Chickadee. But the Nuthatch is much larger and is striking and stylish in its black and grey coloring.
The Nuthatch just about drove me nuts trying to photograph. They are quite flitty, never staying put but for a few seconds. But I got a few decent photos.
A third newcomer to my yard also took some bird book and online investigation.  Meet the Dark-eyed Junco.  This snowbird, also called the Northern Junco, spends the rest of the year up North, as far away as Canada.
The Junco's white/pink beak caught my attention first, then its clearly separated dark top half of its body and its white bottom half. This bird likes to graze for food on the ground, and didn't fly up to my feeders.
Northern Mockingbirds are common in my area but not in my backyard.  But recently they've been regulars at my feeders.  I've never really seen this bird up close.  Doing so reveals its cool eye pattern, the dark straight line through its eye reminds me of war paint.  This probably works for the aggressive, fiesty Mockingbird when it attacks larger birds, as it's known to do.
At my feeders, the Mockingbird is a perfect "gentleman." It shows no aggression toward the other bird breeds.  Maybe because they are usually much smaller? 
Red-bellied Woodpeckers are year-round in my area.  These colorful birds are not above swooping down to my feeders at least a few times a day.
The smaller Downy Woodpecker has been a mainstay this winter.  I like the claw detail captured in this photo.
The cute Tufted Titmouse is one of the most common birds I see.  But common doesn't mean that I take them for granted! 

The Titmouse and Carolina Chickadee often hang out between feeds in holly shrubs next to my backyard patio.

The Carolina Wren is South Carolina's state bird. Back in June, I did a posting about a crowded Carolina Wren nest in a bird house hanging from my front porch:
Thanks again to Tammy Sanders for identifying the above bird as a Chipping Sparrow.  It's similar somewhat to the Carolina Wren but the black line through its eye is a clear distinction, among others. 
The Chipping Sparrow is a winter visitor to coastal South Carolina.  Its found more inland in the Southeast and Deep South. 
The Carolina Chickadee is a chirpy active bird and a common site around my house.

You may be more familiar with the Black-capped Chickadee.  I know I was and thought that's what I was seeing.  Only later did a discover that our region has its own Carolina Chickadee.

The Black-capped version has narrow white edges on on its wing feathers that the Carolina doesn't have.

I'll be interested to see who else shows up this winter.  The food and water will be out for all comers.
A rare snow in the Charleston area this afternoon.  Bird activity as busy as ever, if not more frenetic. 
A Pine Warbler feeds away amid the snow flurry. 
Pretty cool having some snow today. The birds seemed to like it too!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

American Goldfinch

What a pleasant surprise this winter to start seeing American Goldfinches frequenting my backyard feeders!
I had to do some research to correctly identify.  I learned the Goldfinch is sporting its winter plumage so the bright yellow I associate with this bird isn't apparent-- however yesterday I did see a more yellow one at my feeder.  I'm hoping to capture one of these on camera soon- if they come back.
I'd like to see the male in its breeding plumage which features a black circle at the top of its head.  Check it out on this website:

The American Goldfinch has a striking wing pattern which really stands out when you see it from behind
The straight line created by the wing pattern is an unusual and distinctive look, don't you think?  Almost like a shawl or wrap.
Hey buddy!  Save some for the rest of the birds!
I hope to be adding more American Goldfinch pictures this winter.  I have a thistle bag out which in other photos I've seen them using.  But so far the finches in my yard prefer the regular seed feeders and suet.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Yellow-Rumped Warbler and Killdeer

YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLERI came across two "strangers" during my latest visit to Magnolia Cemetery. I say strangers because I hadn't seen these two species before. I took some pictures of them and later at home was thrilled to discover their identities using a couple of my bird books.
The yellow caught my eye on this small bird that was bursting from branch to branch. I had to laugh when I later discovered its unusual name: Yellow-Rumped Warbler.
I was glad to get a photo that clearly shows the yellow rump of the Yellow-Rumped Warbler!
I'll be looking for this Warbler next time I'm back at the cemetery.  For more info, check out what says about it at:
I came across another striking but unfamiliar bird during this same outing.  It looked like the type of bird that frequents our local beaches but what was it doing so far inland? This time of year (December) you expect to see some visitors due to migratation.  But we've also had some very cold weather in recent weeks, so maybe some local birds are confused and not sure where they should be now.

In the Plover family, the Killdeer is recognizable for the pair of dark bands around its neck area.  Its very large eyes stand out too. 
 The unusual name- Killdeer- comes from the bird's call that sounds like "kill- dee" or "kill-deer"- go to What, play its call, and see if you agree!
Killdeers and Yellow-Rumped Warblers-- glad to make some new birding discoveries.  More to come this winter, hopefully!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


I had an incredible encounter with an Osprey recently! 
I've photographed Osprey before but never from this close. The large fish it is clutching in its right claw seemed to make it less willing to fly off as Osprey usually do when they catch site of humans from much greater distances.
Going eye-to-eye with the regal Osprey like this is a nature/bird photography highlight for me.
Osprey are also known as Fish Hawks.  Another reason this one stayed put with me staring straight up at it from the ground below, I think, is because it was calling out to is partner to come share in the fish feast.
With big, brilliant and bright eyes and a sharp, can opener of a beak the Osprey is well-equipped for successful fishing.
I was glad to get a shot like this that showed the wings in full extension- six feet plus-- as tall as I am!
       This chance encounter was the chance of a lifetime- one I may never get again, so I'm happy to get the images I did.  Live long and prosper Osprey!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hooded Mergansers

December 10, 2010: Posted the above new photo taken today.  There are now a couple dozen Hooded Mergansers at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery.

This small duck has such a striking look.
The Hooded Merganser has returned to the Magnolia Cemetery ponds for the fall and winter. The male sports distinctive white patches bordered by black on his paper-thin head. The female doesn't have the patch but instead more an orange tinge to her head.
Affectionately called "Hoodies," these ducklike birds spend most of the year north in Canada, Alaska and the Great Lakes region.  In November the past two years I've noticed them locally at Charleston's Magnolia Cemetery. 
They are the cutest little things don't you agree?  Cute yes, but not so little.  They are 16-19 inches long so a bit big for your bathtub!  A smaller Hoodie rubber ducky would work though. 
They're called "Hooded" Mergansers because they have a crest at the back of their heads that can be expanded or contracted.  The female (above left) is in hooded mode. 
View from behind a Hoodie. The white on the wings nicely complements the other white markings giving the bird an artsy, almost toylike look.
Hoodies are quite active and social. The males' mating and masculine antics can be very animated.  According to Reader's Digest's "Book of North American Birds":  They swim circles around females and if ignored too much will leap vertically from the water and execute a perfect somersault.  She's got to at least give him style points for effort."  I've yet to personally see such a leap but hope I will sometime!

The Hoodies' eyes seem too tiny for their big heads.  But observant and quick they are.  They notice even my stealthiest efforts to get closer and quickly change directions...away from me.

The Meganser's will likely stay here in the South until March or so before flying back to their Northern ranges.
So we'll enjoy them while they are in our area! 
As it gets cooler here, just where your hoodie and go see these Hoodies. 
For more on this unique and sport bird, go to this site or this one: