Project Chekov: Sparrows, Swifts and Swallows

Today is one of those difficult days in the birding realm.  If you have spent any time with this blog you probably know by now that when it comes to Sparrows I generally throw in the towel.  There just isn’t enough differences discernible in the field to really come out confident on what you have in the tin.  There are also difficulties when it comes to the Swallows and Swifts so figured it was time to get them all out of the way.

Let’s start with the Sparrow.  Now, throughout this post please keep in mind that the identification can be freely debated and if you know specifics please share!  With that, this is a small brown and gray bird so we’ll tag it with Sparrow.

Admittedly, this on is a little darker hued that we see and it has some darker tones in the under feathering along the neck.  One cause may due to the fact that this shot (and the one below) were taken in a storm which may have deepened the colors from either the wetness or the clouds.

I do like the picture and why I tell everyone there is no reason to get down if their designated day to hit the field turns out dreary.  Sure, you’ll need to tap that ISO dial up a bit and probably even back off the shutter speed but you have one thing going for you.  The rain tends to slow down the birds and cause them to spend a little more time on their perches (under cover of leaves of course).  For the hyper birds this is a godsend when it comes to getting shots of them.  UPDATE: By the way, while doing  quick search for one of the pictures below I stumbled on the House Sparrow which does match the neck coloring – pretty darn close in my opinion so let’s go with that for now.

Here is another Sparrow likely taken in a similar setting.

If I had to take a guess, the reference books tend to point to a Chipping Sparrow with that rust cap and eye-line.  Small, brown, gray … it’s a Sparrow in my book – any finer classification is just icing on the cake.  Again, I do like how the composition came out on these two shots – the branches seem to push the viewer’s eyes right to the desired focus of attention – granted it is just Sparrow.

Hit the link to read more about this difficult to identify set of birds.

Continue reading Project Chekov: Sparrows, Swifts and Swallows

Project Chekov: Junco

It’s been all about deconstructing Xmas around here as of late.  The 13′ tree went down today along with most of the interior decorations.  Not sure which is more work, running a half marathon or hauling all the boxes up and down the stairs!  The good news for me is today’s post is pretty short.  This is mainly due to only having two pictures to show off from our featured bird of the day.  Usually, I have a number of pictures to wade through to find my favorite poses, check for crispness etc.  Not the case with this set, basically processed the entire set of pictures taken of the Dark-Eyed Junco.

We have a lot of these around the house over the Winter months so likely didn’t give them much attention while out in the field.  There are a number of different variations of this particular bird with many regional differences.  I generally do not tend to further classify these birds beyond the standard Dark-Eyed level.  This is the same approach I take to their family as a whole since they are members of the Sparrow family and those are nearly impossible to identify with any certainty.  They Summer in Canada and Winter all across the US.   The Junco is not new to the blog having been introduced twice in 2010 (link here and here).  However, this post probably has the clearest shots of them.

These birds tend to stay on or near the ground foraging for seed and insects (yes) although not sure how many insects are hanging around here in the Winter months (especially with the abundance of snow that has fallen as of late).  Where I see them the most is directly under our feeders foraging for any fallen sunflower seeds.  I always throw a little on the ground to make it easy for them – can’t remember once ever seeing them actually on the feeders themselves.  Chickadees are on the top of the list for least afraid birds around here.  They will hit the feeders as soon as get them cranked up on the pole.  Juncos are second when it comes to boldness.  Whenever I finish filling the feeders I always take about 4 steps back and see which bird is going to be the brave one of the day.  The Chickadee will try some quick test flights in to see if you react at all and then go directly for seed and then proceed to fly off into the nearby trees to eat – they never eat at the feeder.  Juncos will jump out next but forgo the reaction tests.  Juncos do make for a great seasonal Calendar.  When they arrive it is Winter time and you can tell when the Winter is over when you see the last of them at the feeders.  Guessing they flock back to Canada as soon as it’s warm enough for them – that or they just really hate to be around Hummingbirds (they take off about the same time the Hummers arrive).  Not much else to really say about these birds.  Very identifiable in the field, just keep looking near the forest floor – now getting a picture is a pain since they are always jumping around and when they do stop it’s usually in the middle of shrubs and branches making it impossible to get a clean focus.

Looks like our Polar Vortex has retreated – may have to break out the suntan oil!  See you again soon!

Yep, They Also Have Those in Cheeseland

It’s officially time to close out the first Birds of Wisconsin series. Following previous series endings I thought I would throw up some miscellaneous birds captured over the course of our stay in the Dells area. I tend to highlight the unusual or more flamboyant birds on the blog, but I try not to discriminate against the more common aviary when out on a shoot. Hell, sometimes that is all that comes back in the tin based on what we were able to find out in the wild on any given day. There are definitely times when the more common bird shot ends up being my favorite of the shoot but I know my readers are not generally here to read about birds they can experience in the backyard any day of the week. Regardless, I still like to end with random shots that caught my attention in post processing.

For starters, here is …. a bird

It’s brown dominant with vertical striping with a white breast which basically translates to a near impossible bird to identify with any confidence.  Primarily I liked the composition and of course the glint in the eye.  I could take the normal stab and say it might be from a sparrow family say maybe a Song Sparrow but I usually rely on what I call the eye triangle to really classify a sparrow – it is hard to explain in text, but if you happen to see a picture of a sparrow, look at the side of the eye and you will see a about a 30 degree triangle (per eye side) that is pretty solid in coloring.  This specimen does not really have that which pushed me to the finch options but this one was too large for that class.  Next up was a juvenile Common Redpoll but they tend to have more stripping in the breast area.  20 minutes later of thumbing through the guides brought on the conclusion it was “a bird”  Feel free to take a guess if you would like.

In stark contrast, the following bird is easily identifiable and one we are fortunate to have in abundance where we live.  I have always liked the Cardinal but it does tend to bring a small feeling of remorse thanks to an errant shot with a BB gun when I was growing up.  As you can tell that event has never faded but I’m ahead of the game having saved a number of them since then (example here).

Again, I really liked the composition of this one (and another successful glint capture), but the other aspect you cannot tell from this shot is how far away it was.  We had just returned from to the car after walking a trail when I heard that all too familiar song.  Eventually it was spotted sitting in mass of branches in a far away tree.  I had the Beast out and somehow managed to keep it still enough to get a decent shot.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the set

Continue reading Yep, They Also Have Those in Cheeseland