Friday, February 18, 2011

Birding with Friends

A few last photos from last weekend's Amish country birding trip.

I had met up with some friends to see the Harris's Sparrow, and I ended up making more friends behind the barn. Number 106 was intent on checking my pockets while I tried to concentrate on some very decent birding. It seemed rude to ignore her...

After all, we were on their turf. A recent post on the Ohio List-serv suggested we all take up "cowing" on the slow birding days. This is certainly a common species of cow, but I am afraid I will have to wait until my "Field Guide to the Cows" arrive, before I can properly ID them.

This Troyer family has been feeding Horned Larks, Snow Buntings, and Lapland Longspurs behind their cattle lot. The flock has been ranging between 200- 600 birds swirling like snowflakes around the corn stubble field. We appreciated the cows letting us in on their show.

We happen to be there when 4 Rusty Blackbirds (front left) decided to join in at the buffet, just in time to make the Rusty Blackbird count on E-Bird.

This field provided excellent studies of Horned Larks, and Snow Buntings in various plumages. The Horned Larks are the yellow-faced birds (front right) with a black mask and collar.
The majority of this flock was made up of Snow Buntings. A careful look at the buntings towards the center of the photo shows that first year birds have a nearly complete cinnamon colored collar, while older birds only show cinnamon on the shoulder. Several of the males in this flock were starting to show breeding plummage (not shown in this photo.) Instead of a molt, the males are actually wearing down their brown colored feather-tips and revealing a stark black and white coloration beneath. By the last weeks of March these males will head north for the Alaskan tundra, setting up breeding territories and singing their sweet melodic song. The females will follow several week later.
As we are all looking forward to signs of spring, we will know it is here when the snow, and the Snow Buntings disappear.

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