Thursday, July 28, 2011

Scope Support (Tripods)

This tip applies to photography and spotting scopes together. To get good crisp and clear images you need good support. For photography it is not needed as much unless you have a 500mm or more lens with a fstop of 2.8 or f4. Now, don't buy the tripod that you see in Walmart. Its cheap and its a piece of junk that will serve you no good. I made that mistake and I am very disappointed in the one I bought. Buy a tripod $100 or more to get good stability. Yes, $100 or more, but you will be happy with your purchase. Using a spotting scope is almost impossible without a tripod. I've handheld them before and its very hard. So, to get good images whether you are using a scope or a big camera lens, get a good tripod. Brands I recommend are Slik, Gitzo, and Manfrotto.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Bird Feeder set up

Here is my bird feeder and it's set up!

My feeder set up:

 Suet feeder for woodpeckers and other clinging birds

 Hummingbird feeder

 Millet feeder, I'm trying to get some Painted Buntings to my feeders and this is a good feeder for doing so

 Finch feeder, I probably have 50 purple finches and house sparrows a day to this feeder
Sam Brunson

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Keep Birding

Bird as much as you can! It will do many things for you if you truly do enjoy it. It will provide you with something fun to do, it will sharpen your skills more than ever, and it will hopefully bring your friends in and interest them in birding. I hope that in that far in the future birding will still be active and people will not hurt the population of any more species of birds like they used too. Of corse there are accidents like the DDT scandal but I think we know enough now to prevent things like that from happening. Ivory Billed Woodpecker has an extremely small chance that it still exists. Passenger Pigeon, extinct, Carolina Parakeet, extinct, and so many more have either become extinct or were on the edge of extinction. Back when the Passenger Pigeon was still alive, people would say there were so many of them they wold darken the sky, and now they're all gone. The California Condor struggled so hard to stay alive, and it has become stable for the time being. Wood Ducks, Ivory Billed's, and many shorebirds were hunted for their feathers which were used in women's hats and coats. I don't think we will have a problem with declining birds in the future. I just hope that enough people stay interested to keep up birding. Don't let your job or school stop you from birding!

John Mark Simmons

Friday, July 22, 2011

Spoon Billed Sandpipers

     Spoon Billed Sandpipers are a critically endangered species that are currently breeding in Russia. There are approximately 200 breeding pairs left. There is an emergency effort going on to try and save these unique birds. If you want to donate to the cause of saving this bird I think you can do so at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's website. Its such an amazing bird! But there is much worry about whether it will survive. There is a some good news though. Earlier this week seventeen baby sandpipers hatched while in captivity. Hopefully since they are under protection from predators they will survive and create more offspring.

Fall Migration

Fall migration is just about here! Now is a good time to start getting your gear ready to go and do some birding. Here is a tip, before you go birding somewhere go to a website or ask someone who knows about good birding locations. Important things to look up include knowing the best time to go and where to go at the specific place. These things will hopefully increase the amount of birds you see and make is easier to find the birds. Get as much birding done before summer is over! Just have fun, bird as much as you can, and build up your lifelist.

John Mark Simmons

Monday, July 18, 2011

Willets at Pensacola Beach

This Willet that you see here is preparing for a storm. You can see that the surroundings are dark from clouds. The willet already has one foot up which is usually what sandpipers do when they rest. The second thing he will do is turn his head backwards with his bill pointing directly behind him. You can see him doing that in the second picture. It was when I saw that that I knew I needed to get out of there cause if they are preparing for a storm, I figured I should to. Willets are a very drab bird and don't have much to them color or pattern wise. But when they fly you can see a white sort of lightning bolt shaped pattern under their wings. Which helps with identification when in flight. I usually see them in groups but on this trip I did see some that were all by themselves feeding on the beach, ignoring the people.

John Mark Simmons

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bird Seed

There are many different kinds of bird seed in the world today. But half of the bird seed manufactured doesn't bring birds to your feeders. Birds don't like to eat every kind of seed there is out there. So here are the ones I recommend. Black oil Sunflower seed is the only kind of seed I buy. The birds love it and so do the squirrels. I have been using Black Oil Sunflower seed for six years and have never had a problem with it. Also I recommend buying suet. I do not know as much about suet as I do about bird seed but I think just about every suet brand is accepted by the birds.

John Mark Simmons

Friday, July 15, 2011

Black Terns at Pensacola

During a quiet week in July of 2011 I spent a week down at Pensacola Beach, FL. Although it was just supposed to be a family vacation I did a lot of birding. The highlight of the trip was definitely my life bird Black Tern. I found the Black Terns at a Least Tern nesting colony which consisted of at least one or two thousand birds. Sandwich Terns would occasionally fly by and I would spot a Horned Grebe every now and then just off shore. Overall it was a great trip. The highlights were Black tern, Snowy Plover, Horned Grebe, and Northern Gannet. You can read all about my experience with the Gannet in a different post. Happy birding everyone!
John Mark Simmons

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Spotting Scopes

When you are out looking for birds you usually have binoculars right? Well sometimes binoculars just don't get your eyes close enough to the bird you are looking at. That's where spotting scopes come in. They are very useful in the field and I would recommend one to anyone. They have the ability to zoom in very close to birds that are a great distance without causing distortion or blur. But I would recommend buying a scope at least $100 or more because cheap spotting scopes = cheap results in the images you see. And trust me you don't want to have a stinky scope when there is a cool bird to be seen. So buy from reputable sellers, and at all costs avoid the GREY MARKET. It is very important not to get in any grey market scandals cause it is not a pretty sight. Because if you do get some great deal on a scope ( or anything of value) they might not include something you were supposed to get. And it basically starts from there and they end up bumping the price back up to where it was.  Scopes will make your birding experience much more fun and easy.

John Mark Simmons

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Up close and personal with a Gannet!

I was walking to the beach today in Pensacola Florida and I saw a huge white bird in the water right off the shore. At first I thought it was an American White Pelican because of its size. But then it turned its head and I almost fell down. Northern Gannets aren't even supposed to be here! Only in winter. It was apparently injured. It waddled on shore in a drunken style. It dragged its wings on shore and got pounded by waves and knocked down as it struggled to stand up and finish its journey to the high sand. Once it made it it started preening. There was one scout there already, whose job was to spot birds like this that were injured. We waited about forty five minutes until the rescue person was on the way. The lady whom I was with went to go pick up the person who was to rescue it, so I assumed responsability for keeping people from getting to close and touching the dazed bird. It was very friendly. In fact it walked up to me like a grackle would. Because it was so friendly It was more tempting to reach out and touch so I had to keep people away. It was so amazing getting to look at this bird that close. I thought I would never see one this close unless I ventured to its nesting grounds on the cliffs of Nova Scotia. I spent an entire hour just watching the bird and I also witnessed its rescue which was cool. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Recommended Brands

Here is a small list of the brands of binoculars and spotting scopes that I have come to trust. Anybody reading this can completely disagree with me if they want but I strongly think these are probably the best brands out there. Bushnell and Eagle Optics being cheaper options. There are other good brands but these are the main ones for me.

(I would put Swarvorski because of their quality but I think they are way too over priced and over rated)
Eagle Optics ( a cheaper option)
Bushnell ( also cheaper)

John Mark Simmons

Great Blue Heron in the backyard

This Great Blue Heron was fishing in the lagoon in my backyard when we saw him.  It was pretty cool seeing such a big bird come to a small lagoon to do his fishing. 

 John Mark Simmons

Saturday, July 9, 2011

What Birds Come to My Feeders

I have many species of birds that come to my feeders at different times of the year. But for the curent season, here is my list of birds that come to my feeders. One more tip about feeder placement. When you place a feder, put it in an open area but make sure there are some bushes and trees nearby. Birds are much more comfortable if they can get almost all the way to the bird feeder in the cover of a bush or tree.

Downy Woodpecker
Red Bellied Woodpecker
House Finch
Purple finch
Chipping Sparrow
Blue Jay
Brown Headed Nuthatch
Pine Sisken
Eastern Towhee
Northern Mockingbird
Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Northern Cardinal
Carolina Chikadee
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Brown Thrasher
American Robin
Tufted Titmouse
American Goldfinch
( I got a lot of warblers in migration)

John Mark Simmons

Friday, July 8, 2011

Tips for getting birds to your feeder!

It's always nice to have a bunch of birds in your backyard peacefully munching on some of your birdseed on your feeders.  However, sometimes it can be tough to get those birds to come!  Here are some tips that will hopefully help you to have daily birds eating at your feeder:

-Check for what birds you have in your area and see what kind of birdseed they come to
-Always keep your feeders stocked up
-Have your feeders in a place where all the birds can get too and find
-If you have doves in your area make sure you keep some seed in the grass for them to eat
-Add a hummingbird feeder to your feeder area to attract some local hummingbirds
-Suet feeders are popular with woodpeckers, and can be easy filled with household scraps such as orange rinds

Hopefully these tips will help you get some birds to your feeders!

Sam Brunson

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Contest Prizes

The winner of our contest will receive the following items: The Thayer's Birding Software Birds of Georgia disc which includes tons of songs pictures quizzes and more, a copy of Digiscoping tips and Tricks by Bill Schmoker which also has photography stuff in it too, an ABA window sticker, an ABA Field Card, a blower brush for cleaning, and a microfiber cloth. These may seem rather random but that's why were giving them away!

John Mark Simmons

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

California Gulls
These photos were taken at a lake that we went to in Colorado which is also where we witnessed the western grebe's mating dance. Too me they dont look much different than some other gulls that I have in georgia but they are very cool to see!

John Mark Simmons

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Colorado Birding Adventure Part 3

     Birding was obviously the most fun thing that I did in Colorado. But the expierience of being in such an awesome place made even more fun! I saw many mammals that I have never seen before too and that was a cool bonus.  On Thursday June 30 when we went looking for the White Tailed Ptarmagin at about 12,400 feet above sea level the bird didn't turn up. Although we did find two Brown Capped Rosy Finches wandering around in the snow, it got a lot worse than just missing the Ptarmagin. We saw the clouds rolling in about twenty minutes before it hit. It wasn't enough warning because we still wanted to look more and we couldn't make it down the mountain in time anyway. The pea size hail hit us hard for a good duration. I don't think anybody could feel their hands and maybe their feet.

     Even though it hurt the hail storm was almost everybody's highpoint of the trip. It was the full Colorado experience! Three other boys and I from camp also saw a bear very near the camp that was swimming in the lake. He got out and walked along the bank very slowly, as if on the way to take a nap. That was also a very exciting expierience for me and the three others too. One of my favorite birds had to be the Williamson's Sapsucker. It was nesting in an Aspen tree just outside the lodge where we ate and had meetings. I got pictures of it which I just love to look at all the time.  

     There were so many many expieriences that I had and too many thoughts going through my head that it is dificult to write about. Cold showers was a downer but I think everyone should get one once in their life. Not just at home but a real camping expierience. Elk screeched at night too, which scared me half to death cause I thought someone was screaming bloody murder or something.  My total life list from that trip alone is now at 70 and going up as I remember more birds that I saw on the trip as I go along. I will most definitly post more info about the trip. 
Have a nice day!

John Mark Simmons 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Like us on Facebook!

We are now live with our Facebook page! Click the badge on the top right part of the blog and it will link you to our Facebook page! On the page, you can find different pictures, contests, and Two-birder updates!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Colorado Birding Adventure Part 2

Common Nighthawk
This bird was almost stepped on by our camp leader because it blended in so well. I'm so glad he spotted it! It didn't budge at all giving an amazing photo opp.
This killdeer was the most defiant bird I have ever seen. It was going to defend it's nest to the death. We had to back off because it was stressing itself too much.
 Cordilleran Flycatcher
 Curve Billed Thrasher
Scaled Quail
These guys could run!

Colorado Birding Adventure

 Western Grebe
We found this grebe at one of the lake stops we made. I witnessed them do their mating dance! Which is when the male grebes get up and literally run on the water. I don't have any pictures because they were so far away but this one ventured very close to us.
Wilsons Warbler

 Western Scrub Jay
This jay practically posed for us very close! Maybe he wanted his picture taken. But this was a very cool opportunity.
 Black Billed Magpie
This magpie was munching on crumbs that happened to fall from tables at Garden of the Gods gift shop area. 
 Lewis's Woodpecker
This was probably one of the coolest birds on the trip. It definitely does not act like a woodpecker. as you can see it is simply perched on a branch. It doesn't fly like a woodpecker nor behave like one. It is very weird but it is definitely a cool bird.
Pinyon Jays
These jays were at a trailer park that we stopped at unexpectedly because we saw these jays from a distance.