Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Coffee Break or Go Outside?

This was a very intersting fact that I came across the other day.Many many studies have pointed to the fact that going outside for a walk will help you much better than just drinking coffee for energy. So when you need energy for work or school go outside instead of just have coffee or other drinks. The studies have also shown that going outside helps you get into a beter mood. Even if you unwillingly go outside it still improves your mindset for work. But just staying inside won't help at all even if you like what you are doing inside.
     So now onto the birding point of it. Since being outside helps you so much, birding is some what good for you! Besides the fact that you get exercise and you enjoy doing it. Isn't that awesome? Even though you probably already enjoy birding it helps your mood, clears up your mind, and calms you some what. I have reason to belive that this info is valid. It was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal! And I looked it up on other websites to to make sure it was valid, and it is. This doesn't mean you shouldn't have inside breaks at all but this is suprisingly interesting info. I love it! Hope you enjoyed the info and have a nice day!

Photo by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Monday, August 29, 2011

Gear Review: Sigma 70-300mm F4-5.6

     This is a great choice for an affordable wildlife photography lens. This is the lens that I use for all of my pictures that are on our website. It is a great solution for a non expensive but good quality lens. It has autofocus and manual focus, a macro mode, and it comes with a lens hood. I think Sigma is a fairly trustworthy brand. This lens is very lightweight, and the 70-300mm range gets you very good zoom. All my bird photos are taken with this lens. The Nikon or Canon version is so expensive. The quality is great for the price of $160. But the most important thing is knowing how to use it!
     If you know every component of your gear and how it works, you can get better photos than someone with a much more expensive lens, who does not know how to work it. If you really use your gear to it's limit you will get the most out of it. We hope this encourages you to consider getting this lens. Have a nice day and happy birding!

Photo by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Nuthatch Nesting Box Tip

I have had Brown Headed Nuthatches nesting at my house ever since I loved here. They used to nest in a very short, dead tree that was beside our driveway. There are holes all over it from all the nests they have made in it. But then, it finally came down in a storm. So now I use Nuthatch specified nesting boxes. They have a hole that is just big enough for the nuthatch, bigger birds and squirrels can't get in. This provides the protection and the feeling of protection that these little birds need.They love the boxes! I have two of them set up on the same pole and this season there was a nest in both of them. We had two nuthatch families right beside each other. They were very friendly too, I could walk up to their house and they would come out sit, on top of the box and just chill. I suggest that you use these types of boxes if you want nuthatches in them because they love nesting places where the hole fits just them. In a tree, they would just make their own hole, but with these boxes their work it cut out for them. We even had some researchers come over one time and band a couple of the nuthatches. I got to hold one, they are the cutest bird ever. Hands down no other bird can possibly compete with the Brown Headed Nuthatch for cuteness. The Nuthatches are much happier in these boxes, I think they feel much much safer. Because they moved in the boxes within two weeks of placing them! The Nuthatch is one of my favorite yard birds. I hope you enjoyed the tip everyone, and as always, have a nice day.

Photo by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hummingbird Feeder Tips

For hummingbird feeders you always have the problem of ants. Ants are incredibly annoying when they get in the feeder and all over it and they bite you when you change it. It' just a mess. So here are some tips for anti ant hummer feeders. Number one, just hang it high. Number two, use ant moats. You can get them at several different stores. All it is is a moat that keeps the ants away. Once they get in the water, they just float like a dead duck. ( Forgive the cruel analogy that is related to birds.) Number three, is to use vaseline or other slick substances that the ants slip on. But I wouldn't use it unless you have to because some substances that people use might harm other birds. Hope these tips helped! And as always have a nice day.

I know they are not a hummingbirds but they are birds and that's all that matters right?

Photos by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Birding Tip: Quick ID Help With Sparrows

Here is a short tip for Sparrow identification. When you find a Sparrow, note if the breast has streaking on it or not. If it does have streaking, then it's a dirty breast. If it doesn't have streaks, it is a clean breast. So when you see a clean breast Sparrow but you don't have a positive ID yet you simply call out to your fellow birders "clean breast Sparrow over here!" That's it! by doing that you eliminate the many other possibilities the bird could be.  Now you know not to even look at the dirty breasted Sparrows in the field guide. This White Crowned Sparrow would be considered a clean breast. Hope this helped, and as always, happy birding!

Photo by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Birding Tip: Learning Birds By Hear

When it comes to learning birds by ear, you may think it will take a very long a strenuous process to learn a lot  of birds. This is sometimes true, but there is a trick to learning birds by ear that helps so much. Which is learning a phrase or set of words in the English language that go with that bird. For example: When you hear an Eastern Towhee sing, it usually does it's "Towheee!" song or it's "Drink your teeeaaa!" song. By learning these kind of words to go with the song helps you learn them much faster. Here are more examples. Red Eyed Vireo song: "Here I am! Up in the tree! Look at me! Whatcha doin?" These are all part of the vireo's song which is a variety of mixed chirps that are formed into measures. Another example is the Barred Owl song: "Who cooks for you, who cooks for you alll!" Those are the words that go with the owl's song. Of course you can try to make up better ones but these are just examples. Hope this birding tip helped and happy birding!

Photo by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Monday, August 22, 2011

Gear Review: Vortex Fury

These are a very nice pair of optics from Vortex whom I trust very much. I love Vortex, they make awesome stuff and it's cheaper than most other professional companies. These are also a suitable solution for amateurs that have some birding experience and want to improve it by having some good optics. They are waterproof and fog proof. They have a minimum focus distance of 4.9 feet and are equipped with phase corrected roof prisms. Some other cool features include: XR multi coatings, deluxe 5 element eyepiece, and extra tough armor. The armor that is on the Vortex Fury is specially designed to withstand very rough handling. They use Argon instead of nitrogen purging to prevent any internal fogging of the lenses. At 1.3 pounds the Fury's are incredibly easy to carry around. This pair of optics was also crafted to ensure that more light comes into the eyepiece giving you the clearest image. I hope this review helped in any hard decisions! Have a good day everyone. And as always, have a nice day.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

When Someone Tries To Make Fun of birding, Don't Play Dead.

I'll get straight to the point. There are a lot of people out there that might think birding is studied, or dumb, or a waste of time. Don't let that discourage you! When Steve Martin was interviewed for his role in the Big Year (coming out this fall, can't wait!) he was on the tonight show. And once he told everybody what the movie was about everyone laughs their head off. Their saying stuff like " Competitive birdwatching? What a stupid thing to do!" I mean it was ridiculous. But what are they to have such a low opinion. But if someone really dislikes you just cause you bird you don't have to play dead. You can stand up for what you love. Just like they might stand up for what they love it's the same thing! Cause if you always ignore or (play dead) to their comment they might think your admitting that it's stupid or something. Don't get aggressive unless you really have to but just make a stand. News: First TB video coming out tomorrow! It's about Tufted Titmice and how they use physics to their advantage. Don't forget to vote on the new poll also! Don't be shy to email us about anything! Have a great day everyone.

Photo by John Mark Simmons
Posted by John Mark Simmons

Friday, August 19, 2011


Molt is one of the coolest thing to witness in birds. Their feathers can turn into the most bizarre sight you've ever seen depending on the bird. In this first photo is a juvenile foresters tern that is in the molt process. These two examples are just samples of what bizarre birds you can see out in the field. And it is one of the most exciting things you will see. To see this kind of biology first hand is amazing. In the second photo is a juvie Laughing gull. Now you are probably used to seeing the black headed bird that is so common on the beach. But since it is molting, you can see the difference. Now is the time to see some cool birds in their molting process! Fall migration is one of the best times to go looking for cool molts. Have a good day everyone! And keep birding.

Posted by John Mark Simmons
Photos by John Mark Simmons

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Birds Aren't The Only Wildlife Out There (and) A Short Tip For More Lifers)

Even though birds are our primary target in the production of this blog, I can't help but mention the other wildlife that there is. I love watching other wildlife as well such as, deer,bears,lizards etc.. Taking pictures of them is even funner. ( Next part photo heads only) When you take a picture of something keep in mind the background. The background is almost as important as the subject in a photograph. Depth of field can also make a huge difference. The background in this Lizard shot here is grass. But if that had been in focus as well as the entire Lizard wouldn't it be such a boring photo? For me, yes it wold be boring. Soft background, sharp subject. One of my main rules of photography no matter what I am shooting. I also like composition to be one of my specialties. Every photographer has a different style in their photos. What's yours? Figure it out and you might be encouraged in your photography. ( Ok back to birds) I have a simple tip that might help you with birding this Fall. When you go birding, target a specific category of birds. This week I am targeting warblers, last week I went after shorebirds. Get it? It might improve your chances of getting more lifers. But as always, it's not just about lifers. Every birds deserved just as much attention as the one next to it. Remember that.
Have a nice day everyone.

 Posted by John Mark Simmons
Photos by John Mark Simmons

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fall migration is Just About Here

Now it the time to do some serious birding. I am heading down to Jekyll Island for a GOS meeting and to do some field trips. Now is a great time to do birding on the beach. I have been sent reports from Curlew Sandpipers to Cerulean Warblers. I certainly hope to get that Curlew Sandpiper. If you are uncomfortable about going out ito the field by yourslef or with a couple other people that don't have much expierience in birding, see if you can hook up with a local birdwalk. They are a great way to learn birds under a professional. They will point out bids that you might not get on yor own and identify them for you if need be. I have gone on countless bird walks and they have boosted my expierience level up so much. I hope you do the same. When you go to the beach find a flock of shorebirds to start out with. It's best to find all the birds in the flock and then move on and find the others out on their own solitary hunting mission.Look at every species carefully, you never know where that rare bird could show up. Have a nice day everyone and as always, keep birding.
Least Tern

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gear Review: Vortex Diamondback 8x42

These binoculars are great for amateur and advanced amateur birders. They are very sharp and are easy to work with. They have adjusting eye cups, diopter, smooth focus ring, and they are waterproof. They are 25.2 ounces providing a light and easy to carry pair of optics. Phase correction, multi coated lenses, and tough rubber armor all come together in these binoculars to make the viewer enjoy the experience of using them. They have a close focus of 4.5 feet which is pretty darn good. I suggest for a cheaper alternative you use ebay to purchase these. Just be careful on ebay, make sure the seller has high ratings, and make sure the optics are almost brand new.  They also come with a rather spectacular case. I use these in the field now, and they work flawlessly. Have a nice day and happy birding.

Posted by John Mark Simmons

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Light: What photography is all about

     Light is the most important thing when it comes to photography. Depth of field comes into play here also. When you are taking a picture, make sure your subject is lit well and doesn't have back lighting, photoshop effects on this will make it look fake usually.
     Don't worry too much about technical aspects. Ask yourself, what am I taking a picture of? Do I need to spend so much thought and worry on technical stuff? No, you just need to find an interesting subject, light it, shoot it, and create a spectacular image. Apply this to birds, lizards, lady bugs, anything! Anything you shoot, make it spectacular.
     Find the light, find the composition, find the angle, and put it all together. As for me, composition is what I try to make my speciality. One rule about composition, never put your subject in the dead center of the frame. It is rather boring when that happens, push the subject to the left or the right move it up or down but change it from being right in the center of the frame. Don't use flash unless you have to. Although flash can be used in the daylight to create great fill light. Also, make your depth of field suck the viewer into the photo, make the background as blurred as possible and your subject as sharp as possible. Hope this helps some and happy birding everyone!

Posted by John Mark Simmons
Photos by John Mark Simmons

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Play The Hunch

What do I mean by that? Well, when you go after a bird to photograph it, do you chase it? Constantly walking towards it as it moves away will get you nowhere. Here is the idea, get up early. How early? 5:30 should be fine. Find the food source of the bird you are trying to photograph, wait for it to come to you, create a blind, hide yourself and wait. Playing the hunch that they will come to that source is risky sometimes. But also, this location that you pick, make sure you will have the good light. The morning sun is the best light you can possibly ask for. Position yourself so that the sun is at your back. For example, lets say your after a Sandpiper. Now, go to it's feeding grounds early in the morning, hide yourself, make sure the light will be in your favor. When the time is right and you start clicking, keep clicking until the light is gone, enjoy the opportunity you have created, and get fantastic images. All this applies to just birding as well, Do the same thing if you just want to get a superior look at some cool birds.
American White Pelican by John Mark Simmons
 Posted by John Mark Simmons

Lifers Can be Anywhere

Don't let the thought betray you that the only way to get life birds is to travel far and wide across the country. Unless you have been birding for a long time or have the privilege of being able to travel a lot this is for you. Especially during migration, lifers are everywhere. Close to your home or even at your home which is often a case too. But if your like me and have pretty much birded your property out, go one step further and travel to a local birding hot spot. I did that today and got a lifer, Pectoral Sandpiper to be exact. But the fact is that at this time birds are coming in fast and now is your chance to get some lifers. The location where I got this bird was fifteen minutes from my house. Get on a state wide email list that reports rare birds if you can. GABO is the emailing system I use. It stands for Georgia Birders Online. There is most likely a similar thing in your state or wherever you may be. Get out there, have fun, get birds.
Copyright John Mark Simmons

Posted by
John Mark Simmons

Friday, August 12, 2011

Learn Your Trees

 There are a couple reasons why you need to learn trees. The first and most important reason is that when you find a bird and you are trying to describe where it is, you need to know what kind of tree its in. This applies to the person you are pointing the bird out to also. For example, when you find a bird, and another person asks where it is, you need to know what kind of tree it's in. So yo can describe specifically to the person where the bird is and allow them to see the bird that might be a lifer for them. That person could be you, so you need to know what tree species there are. Another reason is that it shows your more intelligent. It's true! It  shows that you have put the time in to know what the trees are that you are birding around.  A third reason is that it's just fun to know all the trees! Knowing the trees will increase the speed in letting other people find the bird you are trying to point out. It is very simple, but it has big results. News: If you have any suggestions on anything we should do to the site to make it better, please email us at            

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Wind Turbines

Wind turbines are a great solution to get energy. But are they bird safe? Most certainly no, these wind turbines are one of the top killers of birds. The blades can be as long as two semi trucks. Ornithologists have not yet determined exactly how many birds they kill a year. But the numbers are reaching the hundred thousands. Will they ever be bird safe? There is a possibility. Many think that we should go back to using all hydraulic power instead of using so many wind turbines. We can still use some but we must use more
hydraulic power than wind turbines, which isn't happening. Solar panels are another thing we should use in my own
opinion because they are completely still. Unless they do something to birds that I am unaware of I think they should be used more often too.
      Now, there is a new bird killer out there now. The power lines that connect the wind farm to the national grid are causing Whooping Crane fatalities. Whooping Cranes have been colliding with the power lines and being killed. The numbers are up to 46 adults a year. That may not seem like very many but this is an endangered species. Help the effort if you can and keep your fingers crossed that we can get a bird safe solution to wind energy.

This is not my photo. Copyright unknown.

John Mark Simmons

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

BP Oil Spill Aftermath, What Should We Do Next?

These pictures you see here are very frightning indeed. The BP oil spill killed many birds. Now, there are some poeple out there that want to get the oil rigs out of the gulf. But, this is a two edged sword. A good reason is, birds will be much much safer. A bad reason is, the oil we get from the gulf and from the Atlantic Ocean is vital. We would have to depend on oil from other places. Prices would go up and it would be an epic mess. So overall, I would push to not pull the oil tigs from the Atlantic. Sure I am a birder but the cost will be to great for the people of the United States. I do recommend that we not put very many more oil rigs out there, we have enough already. I think this event was fairly avoidable. I do not know the problem exactly except that an emergency shut off valve failed to work after something happened. But all I  think is that BP should beef up their systems to be more efficiant. We depend on oil, it's important, and we lost much of it and birds at the same time. Migrating birds also run into these rigs during their voyage and have problems with them, some of them die from it. But the oil that was spilled created such a disaster for birds I can barley look at the pictures. Diving birds such as Gannets and Pelicans suffered the most. They would dive straight into the oil covering them and killing them within minutes. These are some pictures of this horrible event. 

                                                         Brown Pelican
Unkown Species                      These are not my photographs.             Copyright unknown.
Copyright in bottom left corner of picture.

John Mark Simmons

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Chimney Swift Declining?

Is this little bird going to be endangered? Well that's why I researched it. Apparently the Chimney Swift is declining. I have not verified the cause yet but maybe because of so many of them getting into peoples pipe systems through the chimney and dying. Sadly I found two of them dead in my own water heater pipe. And the screen to put over the Chimney is very expensive. I will have to do something though. My sources are ABA Magazine and the official site. Various other books I have read also point to the decline of the Chimney swift. This bird has always been abundant at my house and I would hate to see it go. But this is happening. Cornell Lab of Ornithology is hiring people to build Chimney Swift nest boxes specifically designed to meet the Swift's needs. Boy scouts have also been helping with this project. I encourage you to cap your pipes in some way to prevent this bird's death. Don't cap off the Chimney itself because that is good for the swift but the pipes inside are not. This is only a problem if you have the pipes connected to the chimney in some way. If you don't your fine. Support the cause if you can.

This is not my photo. Copyright is in bottom right corner.

Post by John Mark Simmons

Georgia Rare Bird Alert

Today one of the TB staff birded at the Bostwick Sod Farm in Bostwick, GA and found two BUFF BREASTED SANDPIPERS. If you can go then go to the area where they cut the sod and haul it off, the North field. If you live in Georgia scoop it over there cause they are rare. They have also been reported at the Marshallville Super Sod farm in Marshallville, GA. It was a lifer for me and my birding Friends and you can still go see them! For those who don't live in Georgia there is regular blog post coming soon. Good luck birders!

John Mark Simmons

Monday, August 8, 2011

Engage in Activities

To keep your birding skills sharp you should find some birding activities to do. Bird walks led by a professional volunteer are very fun. I have gone to a birding and nature festival on Jekyll Island for six years. But I haven't done it in two years because the building we used was torn down. There was a very old shrub that was close to the building where a Loggerheaded Shrike nested every year. Miraculously it still stood after the construction with orange tape around it. I was overjoyed that they saved the shrike tree. But back to the point, activities like these will help inspire you, sharpen your skills, and you can meet other birders! So you should try to find things like birding festivals near you. And by all means, start something yourself! There are always people out there that would be interested. If you have the skills, make a young birder camp and teach them the basics about birding and show them what it takes to get good birds. Get out early in the morning and show the beginners some cool birds.

Western Grebe

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Shorebirds Are Here In Georgia!

 I know it's not Fall yet but the shorebirds are here in Georgia. I've been getting reports of hundreds of sandpipers in various sod farms, lakes, and ponds all over Georgia. If the shorebirds aren't showing up where ever you live, they soon will along with all the other birds. Here are a couple of tips on places to go when the time is right to go birding. Try sod farms, they are big and have a vast open space of land with water here and there along with dirt. The big puddles of water are a good place to start looking for sandpipers. Also go to lakes, sandpipers love to feed on the shores of lakes especially during migration. These tips were presented in mind that you don't have access to the beach. If you do then that's better than anything but you must find an area where there are very little tourists in order to find flocks of shorebirds.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Get a Field Notebook/ Journal

You will enjoy having a field notebook. Even though it will take work to keep it updated with your latest birding adventures and birding data. There are two important things about having a field notebook. One is that you can look back at that notebook and read about what you saw that day and what you did that day that you barely remember. The second reason is that you can record important data in the field that you will need later. For example if you are doing BBA ( Breeding Bird Atlas) then you need to be able to write down the data you collect if you dont have the official sheet with you or you left it back in the car a few miles away. For those who don't know BBA is where you bird specific areas of the map, and find out how many pairs of each species of bird are nesting in that area. If you cannot be sure if they are nesting you can write down stuff like possible breeder. A field notebook should keep you organized, and if you keep it updated it should provide some info that you will want or need later.

John Mark Simmons

Friday, August 5, 2011

Look For Some Action

If there's not much bird action close to where you live, go somewhere else! Get out of county or state, go find the birds, find the action. Don't wait for it to come to you. Fall migration will be a great time for finding action, and when you find the birds, if you have a camera go ahead and take some shots before it goes off but take time to enjoy what you have the privilege of getting to see. Every bird should be enjoyed and payed attention too just like any other. Yes even the Mockingbirds and the House Sparrows. Don't just check something off on a list and move on, if you have the chance look at it through binoculars or a scope more than through your camera's screen or viewfinder. Listen to its sound, enjoy it.

John Mark Simmons

Monday, August 1, 2011

Read Some Books

Time to start reading some more. If you already are an intense reader then direct your readings toward birding books. Read some birding stories for inspiration! I like do do that a lot, it gets me pumped up to do some serious birding. I encourage you to look at field guides a lot too but you still must be out in the field just as much as you look at bird guides. Also learn bird sounds, that is almost just as important as learning what they look like. News: We hoep to be adding on to the site in the next month. So keep coming back and see what we have.