Friday, May 25, 2012

A Most Wonderful time of the year!

Hello all! I am supposed to be packing for a weekend camping trip to Lake Cumberland, but I had to get a blog post in! It has been such a busy time!
I spent the first few weeks of May trying to hit as many field trips with the Beckham Bird Club as possible! I wanted to share a few of my pics and some links to my smugmug galleries from these field trips.

I joined BBC for a field trip to Black Acre Nature Preserve in Louisville, KY on April 28, 2012.
It was my first time to visit Black Acre and I really liked it, I will be back! Probably, one of the most interesting things I saw on this trip was a Grasshopper Sparrow spotted by our leader Michael Autin!

Grasshopper Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow

On April 29, 2012 I went on a field trip to Falls of the Ohio (one of my favorite places) led by Rob Lane! 
We saw many birds at Ashland Park, near Falls of the Ohio State Park! It was deemed a mini fallout! Many warblers, Rose Breasted Grosbeaks, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles! It was a great trip!

Baltimore Oriole (male)
Baltimore Oriole

May 5, 2012 I joined BBC again for a field trip to the Anchorage Trail (another of my favorites) led by Pat and Jane Bell!
This one started out slow, but we ended up seeing several Warblers, Gnatcatchers, Orioles and many other things. We even saw a few Baltimore Oriole nests and a Blue-gray gnatcatcher nest! Pretty cool!

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, this guy was surprisingly low in the tree!
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Indigo Bunting, this one seemed to be posing for me!
Indigo Bunting

The last field trip I visited was to Joe Creason Park/ Beargrass Nature Preserve led by Barbara Woerner! 
 Again, a first for me! Great place! We saw several cool things there, including a Bay-breasted Warbler and Olive-sided Flycatcher, both lifers for me!

This is a skink, but I'm not sure what type
Skink (Travis help me out here, I don't know what kind)

Olive-sided Flycatcher spotted by our leader Barbara!
Olive-sided Flycatcher

Bay-breasted Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler

Feel free to check out any of my galleries on Smugmug and leave a comment if you like! I have pics on there from our first day in Smoky Mountains National Park! I still have 3 more days of photos to get posted! It was a great trip, we actually saw some Bears this time! 

I also wanted to update you on the various nest cams I have been checking on! 

The KEEP Osprey nest cam  is streaming live now, and they have three chicks that hatched a little more than a week ago! I just love Ospreys! 
The Louisville Osprey nest did not have chicks as of last week, but I expect to have them pretty soon, as I feel that our Ospreys are about a week behind Lake Barkley's! I don't think I will be able to get down there today, since we are leaving for Lake Cumberland this afternoon! I will check on them Tuesday!

The Eagle chicks on the Decorah, Iowa nest cam are now eight weeks old, and jumping around excercising their wings, termed, wingercizing! It never ceases to amaze me how fast birds grow! They will fledge soon! 

The eagle nest in Louisville has one chick that we know of! It was reported on April 16, 2012 by Tom and Colleen Becker. Luckily, the wind was blowing just enough to allow them a view of the nest through the leaves. Reportedly, there were two eggs in the nest! We will just have to wait to see them after fledging, since the leaves are so thick! 

Here at my house, we have seen our first brood of House Sparrows and Starlings! I know neither are native, but the babies are so cute and fun to watch! I got a birdbath for my birthday and the baby Starlings are loving it!

Hopefully, I will have some good sightings to report from Lake Cumberland! Enjoy your Memorial Weekend! 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

"Blue" Bird

Birds as we all know come in a great variety of colors, which is probably why we are so fascinated by them.  From the browns and grays of sparrows, to the bright yellows and reds of goldfinches and cardinals, to the stunning blue hues of buntings and grosbeaks.  While there are a great many birds that exhibit brown plumage, fewer exhibit yellows and reds, and fewer still exhibit blue feathers.  What makes blue plumage so different that it only occurs in a handful of birds?  Before we get in to what makes them so special we have to understand a little bit more about how other birds derive their color.

Many bird feathers achieve their brown coloration from a pigment known as melanin.  Melanin determines the coloration of one's skin or feathers.  The more melanin present the darker the pigment will be.  In fact albinism is just the absence of melanin.  But what does is mean to birds?  In birds melanin can be more than just for coloration.  It is theorized that melanin can be used by male birds to exert dominance over other males.  The dark coloration of feathers is used as a signal that conveys fitness and superiority over other males, reducing the need for fighting among male species in some birds.  Melanin also provides extra strength for bird feathers.  Feathers that contain melanin are stronger and more resistant to wear and tear.  In fact, many white birds have black on their wingtips to reduce the wear on the most important flight feathers.

Song Sparrow
Song Sparrow

Another form of pigmentation in birds is derived from carotenoids.  Caretonoids are responsible for the yellow and red colors seen in a variety of birds.  Carotenoids are derived from the plants in the bird's diet and are used as a way for female birds to gauge fitness in males.  Females will choose the males that have the brightest coloration because of what it says about the male's genetics and fitness.  Bright male birds are better at foraging, therefore giving them brighter plumage, and making them genetically superior to less colorful males.     

American Goldfinch

House Finch

Which brings us to "blue" birds.  Blue feathers are unlike feathers derived from melanin or carotenoids.  Instead of being produced through biophysical methods like melanin or achieved through diet like carotenoids, blue feathers are what is known as structural colors.  Structural colors are produced by the arrangement of the barbules in the feathers to reflect light of a certain wavelength, in this case blue.  So blue feathers are not made by any pigment, rather they are arranged in such a way to trick our eyes into seeing blue.  If you shine a light on a blue feather from behind, what you will see won't be a blue feather, rather it will be brown.  This is because the light source is not hitting it from above and scattering the light to reflect blue color to your eyes.

Indigo Bunting

Structural color is also seen in the gorget of hummingbird species. The gorget is the bright iridescent throat patch that give many hummingbirds their names, like the Ruby-throated Hummingbird.  These birds use structural colors in much the same way, but are different in one respect.  The "blue" birds have structural feathers that include tiny nanoscopic air pockets that interrupt the light and gives the bird an even blue color.  The gorgets of hummingbirds do not contain such air pockets and that is why their feathers give off a bright iridescent shine.  The gorget feathers are much more closely aligned giving the feathers an almost metallic look.

Rufous Hummingbird (photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Happy May Day!

Today is May 1st. As such, it is a French tradition to give a sprig of Lily of the Valley's to your loved ones. Bonne FĂȘte du Muguet my friends!!

  May Day Lily of the Valley

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