Monday, March 9, 2015



My friend Freeman has challenged himself to identifying 100 birds this year.  Wanting a little company, he threw this challenge my way, knowing I'd find it hard to resist...I have to say that the first 30 were easy, and I can only imagine it will get increasingly more difficult. Now that I've counted the chickadees, juncos, jays and starlings, how lovely to travel to a new state and see a few species we are unlikely to find here! My friends Jim and Nancy recently spent a weekend with a birding group (as newbies they said it was quite the cultural experience, being with Birders), so they were extremely accomodating and helpful with this quest.  Ringbill Gull? Check. Ringneck? Check. Grackle? Got it.

Most of our bird sightings were at a park we frequented when we lived in Richmond.  These birds had a regular visitor who feeds them by the bucket-full.  We timed our stop just right to watch the frenzy!

Geese and Coots
As far as I can tell, these geese below look like Graylag Geese, but many of our domestic geese are descendants of the european Graylag, so maybe these are just some escapees from a local farm? Apparently they do migrate here occasionally but I can't find anything specifically about them living in Virginia.  However, while looking I did see a disturbing list of species that have a hunting season in the state: tundra swan, coots, teals, merganzers, scoters, pintails, and fulvous whistling ducks, to name but a few.  Why does anyone need to shoot a swan?? We did just finish reading about Louis and his trumpet, so maybe I've lost perspective on the non-talking species of swans, but really. Why???

I haven't checked this out officially, but I'm guessing that our birds have to be found in the wild, so I won't count these beauties that we saw in the Maymont aviary.

Great Horned Owl
Black Vulture
The weather has been bonkers, here and there - many inches of snow and ice, and then today a nearly total melt at 53 degrees, and the birds are so happy.  The morning that we packed up the car to drive home we stepped outside to hear a chorus of fluting.  It took us a minute to locate the source: up in the very top branches of a tree were eight or so blue jays, lit with a pink morning light, taking turns each singing one note.  It was absolutely magical.

this is not a fluting blue jay, but a robin
We also watched The Big Year with Steve Martin and Jack Black and got a glimpse of just how competitive the birding world can be.  The birding champions of the story had year lists of 740 or so birds, just to give you an idea of what we're talking about here.  One hundred seems daunting enough to me.


Billy said...

Hi, I've just discovered your blog and I think I'll stick around :-)
I've got a not yet 5 yrs old I homeschool.

Lovely pictures and what a challenge! I would like to join but no way can I do 100 birds in a year, and since we don't go out to the wild much (I don't drive) it will have to be birds around here, but I'd still like to see how many I can find :-).

slim pickins said...

Welcome! I haven't added many more since this post - think I might have exhausted the local possibilities already. Time to travel?