Friday, January 18, 2013

Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Good Time to Look for Birds of Prey

     When is the best time and place to look for birds of prey? Usually, the best place to find birds of prey is at a large field. Here you can find most of the birds of prey that live in your area. Generally, the best time to see birds of prey is when a field of some kind has recently been harvested or mowed. This flushes all the insects and mice out of their hiding places and they have a very long distance to travel before they reach the safety of the woods. This gives all the birds ample opportunity to grab as much food as they can. 
     At some fields, you can find them crowded with many birds at one time. For example, this Swallow Tailed Kite was part of a flock of about six other kites. Together, they ravaged the freshly mown field until all food sources were gone. Kites are very efficient in how they hunt. If you can time it right, get to a field right after its has been cut, and look out for the birds of prey. 

Thanks for reading everybody, and happy birding!

    Swallow-Tailed Kite by John Mark Simmons

Monday, May 14, 2012

GA Youth Birding Competition Full Strategy by the Mockingjays

The team that the Two Birders were on this year (the Mockingjays) won first place overall in the GA Youth Birding Competition. We finished the competition with 143 species after the 24 hour period of intense birding. 

When the competition started at 5 P.M. on Friday evening, the Mockingjays were positioned at the State Botanical Gardens of Georgia. Once the clock struck five, the birding began. We got many inland warblers like Prothonotary and Swainsons Warblers, as well as Northern Waterthrush. 

After two and a half hours of birding there, we birded some other local hot spots to patch up our inland birds list before we went to the coast. Seventy species later, we started our overnight drive to the coast. At around 2 A.M. we finally got our missing Nightjar, Whip Poor Will, putting us at an even seventy species for the first day. We came into our campsite at three A.M. and got a little bit of sleep. 

At 5:30 A.M. we all got up and went to St. Simons Island for out first stop, seeing many specialties there such as:

  • Gray Kingbird
  • Whimbrel
  • American White Pelican 
  • Clapper Rail 
  • Common Ground Dove
  • Painted Bunting 

We then started our drive to Altamaha Wildlife Management Area. There we picked up another thirty or so species including our highlight of the stop, Least Bittern.  After braving the mosquitoes at Altamaha, we began the journey all the way back inland to Charlie Elliot Wildlife Center. 

On the way we picked up a couple raptors as well as Eastern Kingbird and Eastern Meadowlark. We arrived at Charlie Elliot an hour before the deadline (as planned) and birded the surrounding areas and got seven more key species. 

At five o'clock, we stopped birding and submitted our checklist to the judges. We are proud to say no species were taken off our list and we got all of the 143 species that we saw or heard. Partly because we had photographic evidence of many of the birds. 

   Great Egret in the morning sun by John Mark Simmons

    Summer Tanager by John Mark Simmons

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Diopters (Very Important Binocular Fixing Tip!)

    Think your binoculars are ruined? Think again, before you throw them away, try this binocular fixing tip. A diopter is what controls the things that you can focus on in your binoculars. If something is still not in focus even though you try and try to get it in focus by turning the ring, your diopter is probably messed up. The diopter can be accessed by twisting the ring on either the left of right binocular near the eye cup. This is where the diopter is located on most binoculars, but not all of them. To set your diopter:  First, find a stationary subject. Second, turn the focus wheel until you get the subject as in focus as you can. Third, twist the diopter wheel until the subject becomes as clear as possible. Once upon a time, by doing this, I saved a pair of binoculars that I thought were ruined. Make sure you try this before throwing the bins into the junk pile. You could save yourself a good chunk of money. Hope this helped and thanks for reading everyone. Happy Birding!

     Red-Winged Blackbird by John Mark Simmons

Friday, April 20, 2012

Bird Memory (Food Stashing)

Do birds have memory? As a matter of fact, they do. Although some birds have better memory than others, they all have it. The Rufous Hummingbird is a very skilled bird memory wise. It can remember exact spots to come back to where it was able to find food the previous year. Which is amazing since it migrates so far only to come back to the exact same spot. Another example of bird memory is the Tufted Titmouse. Sometimes, when you look at the spot where the branch of a tree connects, you can find bird seed shoved into the tiny holes or crevasses. It does this simply as a precaution and for convenience so it will always have some food on hand. One last example is the Clark's Nutcracker. It has a very good memory among birds. The Clark's Nutcracker can stash food in very specific places on any terrain, fly ten miles away, and then come back to the very same spot. This Gray Catbird below is very good at remembering food sources too, as well as general areas to nest. Some people have had the same pair of Catbirds a few years in a row before. Birds aren't as dumb as some people may think. Thanks for reading, and happy birding!

Posted by John Mark Simmons. Photo Copyright John Mark Simmons