Sunday, July 12, 2009

Birds, birds and more birds.

A fellow birder posted a sighting of Grasshopper Sparrows recently, and last week I went out to seek them but was not successful. I contacted him to let him know when I would have the day off, and he kindly offered to go back with me for another look. We had a great day of birding today. Thanks Louie!

We went over to Elmore County and drove dirt roads by the ghost town of Mayfield. We saw quite a few species of birds and I got some nice photos.

Horned Lark.

Swainson's Hawk. This was shooting right into the bright, white background. I wish it was nicer light because these are magnificent birds. See the brown cowl and white face? We watched one attacking a Golden Eagle as a Red-tailed Hawk circled nearby.

Common Nighthawk. I've seen them flying quite often, but this was the first time I ever saw one at rest. They would usually blend in quite well with a horizontal log, but this was right against the blue sky, so was hard to miss.

Here's a Sage Thrasher with the long curved bill.

And, an Eastern Kingbird in black and white, ready for a formal occasion.

Our goal, though, was the Grasshopper Sparrow. And, here it is! This one has the streaky chest of a juvenile. What stands out as different to me is the bill. It is dark on top and light on the bottom, and quite a thick bill. They have a complete, white ring around the eye as well. They were easily frightened, and dove for cover into the grass whenever we approached. They eat grasshoppers, and live in overgrown grassy fields.

After seeing these birds, we took the long way home, so we could look at the mudflat at the edge of Mountain Home Reservoir, to look at migrating shorebirds. I have a tough time identifying them, as many look very similar, but Louie showed me how he can tell the difference between a Semipalmated Sandpiper and a Western Sandpiper.

If I understood correctly, then the Semipalmated Sandpiper is the smaller one at the left, with a slightly shorter bill and dark face. They usually are walking along the mud, while the Western Sandpipers are wading in the water. I think this one is in the water because I'm trying to sneak closer to take a photo.


Anonymous said...

Those are great photos! I'm impressed with the perched (?) nighthawk. You're certainly racking up the birds this year!

Robert Mortensen said...

Nice photos! You guys got to invite me on those kind of adventures. With two jobs and four kids I may not be able to go, but dang I wish I could.

Bill S. said...

Great photos. I too have watched nighthawks flying, but have never seen one perched. Maybe sometime in all my travels.