Bird Blog

Welcome to my world of backyard birding. Here I post notes on birds that I see in my yard, while driving, or anytime my eyes and ears are open to the world around me.

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Name: Georgia Anne Butler
Location: Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, United States

Check out my book (www.ofthewing.com), an adventure of a young birder and her friends. Ideal for any age.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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At Home in the Swamp: Prothonotary Warbler




NOTICE:
This blog will be moving as of May 1. Any delay in the next posting will be a consequent of this move. Hopefully, no such interruption will occur.

On my recent research trip (for book 2 in my trilogy Of the Wing), I was fortunate to accompany a small group of biologists and naturalists on a recreational two-day canoe trip of Bayou DeView—a location synonymous with the Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Because, here in a bottomland forest swamp of the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge (southeast Arkansas), in recent years the Ivory-billed Woodpecker has been sighted by several people.

But this posting isn’t about the Ivory-billed Woodpecker (which we didn’t see) but instead about a much smaller inhabitant of forested wetlands—the bright yellow Prothonotary Warbler. Its breeding range in North America consists mostly of the southeastern United States, though this bird’s range pushes farther north (see range map provided by Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s web site All About Birds).

I heard the Prothonotary Warbler for the first time last year during a research visit to the White River National Wildlife Refuge. This year I heard and saw this incredibly bright yellow warbler with gray wings, which unlike other warblers (except one) is a cavity nester. The male’s head is golden-orange.

Throughout our canoe trip on the Bayou DeView, we heard the Prothonotary’s song (tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet, tweet or sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet)--described by one online source as “clear, high [and] metallic”--ringing throughout the forest. This bird is an insect eater, gleaning insects from the bark of trees with its thin, pointed bill.

From our trip’s leader, Allan Mueller, I also learned something quite interesting—the Prothonotary likes to nest in cavities in the “knees” of the Bald Cypress (see my April 19, 2009 entry for more about the Bald Cypress). The “knees” of the cypress are woody projections that grow up from the tree’s roots a few feet above ground. It’s believed that the roots “breath” through these knees when the ground is flooded.

Pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say?

Imagine being in a hardwood forest of cypress and tupelo gliding on a lazy bayou through the trees, where cottonmouth snakes bask on logs and birds sweeten the air with song. I was lucky enough to live it and will carry that experience my entire life.

Till next time . . . keep birds in your heart!

Georgia Anne

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Cat and Goose


Sometimes we take for granted birds seen on a regular basis. For instance, if we drive by a pond or lake where Canada Geese frequent we might not give them a second look. But add an unexpected element to the scene and our eyes will once again open. That's what happened earlier today in my back yard.

I saw that a solitary Canada Geese had chosen the pond for a bit of rest and relaxation. I didn't give him (or her) much attention because Canada Geese sometimes descend in groups of two or three to spend a bit of time here. But when I happened outside and saw my cat Gwendolyn studying our visitor, I thought, "Hey, I want to look, too." And so sat a bit to appreciate my company and of course to capture this pretty scene. Hope you enjoy it.

Till next time . . . Keep birds in your heart!

Georgia Anne Butler

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrating Urban Birds in Little Rock



Recently I attended the Arkansas Literary Festival as one of many invited authors. While in Little Rock, I was also privileged to visit a local elementary school, Rockefeller, where I met with fourth and fifth graders to talk about my book (Of the Wing: The Legend Awakes) and to urge them to celebrate urban birds.


For people who want to organize an event for the purpose of celebrating urban birds, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides free kits with posters and information on 16 species of birds common to towns and cities. Of course, there are many more than 16 species of birds making their homes among ours, but a manageable number was chosen for children and adults to begin learning about their feathered neighbors.

I spent a wonderful afternoon at the school with these students sharing my enthusiasm for the birds that each day grace the city sidewalks and streets. For instance, consider the chipper House Sparrow--that brave, bold little bird you so often see dodging cars in the parking lots of fast-food restaurants. Next time you find yourself heading into one of these restaurants, take the time to listen. Do you hear a cheerful cheeping? That would be the pretty House Sparrow. Or you might hear one cheeping down at you from his perch in a drain gutter, like the one I caught in the picture above.

Notice the difference in the coloring of these two males? The bird in the gutter in a non-breeding male, while the fellow on the ground, with his bold black mask, gray cap, and reddish-brown nape is a breeding male. House Sparrows almost seemed to follow me around that day!

Of course I saw many different birds while walking the River Market area of Little Rock, including Northern Mockingbirds, Northern Cardinals, American Robins, House Finches, Starlings, and Mourning Doves ... to name just a few.

Wherever you go, keep your eyes and ears open and suddenly you'll see and hear birds you never did before.

Until next time . . . keep birds in your heart.

Georgia Ann