Thursday, August 30, 2012

This bird is that bird - Rose breasted grosbeak

August has been fantastic!  Finally we had the rain we had waited for all July.  The grass is green again, and we've had cooler nights and some dry days.  A definite hint of fall in the air this month.  Hate to see summer go.

August also has brought an opportunity to be more confused about the birds!  I think I've mentioned before, I'm trying to learn the comings and goings of the birds in the yard.  One part of understanding who is where, and when, is knowing who and what I'm looking at!

Rose breasted grosbeaks are a good example.  I had been excited earlier in the summer when the first of them appeared after a long wait over the winter and spring.

This is the one I first saw in June.  I know he is a male, and I'm pretty sure an adult.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

I saw several more rose breasted grosbeaks over the next couple weeks, but then in July I didn't see any at all.

So, now in August, I have opportunity to be excited again!  One day a few weeks back, it had rained overnight, and was damp and cool by morning, though quite muggy. A lot of action at the bird feeder, and I noticed right away that there were some birds there I hadn't seen in a while.  One of these was this rose breasted grosbeak, and as you can see, he looks quite different.

rose-breasted grosbeak on birdhouse


So what is the story with these birds?  I know that rose breasted grosbeaks like many other birds experience a molt (old feather loss with new feather growth) in August.  Is this bird I saw in mid August also a male with a post molt plumage?  I think so.

In this next picture of the above bird getting ready to drop down from the bird house, you can see the pink/red color under the wings.  Female rose breasted grosbeaks do not have the red, but the males do.

rose breasted grosbeak under wing

I looked through some of my old pictures from last year to see if I had any other good examples of possible male rose breasted grosbeaks in different life phases/plumages.

From September last year, this one.  I think another male, but this one older?  Note the darker almost black wing color, and the darker face.  The way a bird looks after its first August molt can be quite different than how it looks after August (and other molts) later in life.  This bird below, in other words, is a more mature bird than the one above.

rose breasted grosbeak in fall

I'm sitting here with my guide books trying to decipher the different grosbeak plumages.  It's fun, and I've learned a lot from just looking at this one bird.  The more I learn, the more I appreciate the stories unfolding daily outside my window!

Enjoy the day - Cheerily

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Starlings in August

Summer rolls on.  We're in a comfortable rhythm, enjoying the short lived heat and humidity.  Summer slows me down, happily.  We've spent many an hour sitting outside just enjoying nature, including watching the birds.

starlings in bird bath

I'm finding keeping a type of "bird diary" to be a lot of fun and a great learning tool.  Taking pictures is the biggest way I chronicle what is going on; I also like to take some notes and do some bird counts (more on this another day).  This blog helps me too.  It gives me an opportunity and incentive to review and solidify my notes and observations, and helps me distill what I think important.

starlings splashing in bath

Even though I've only been watching the birds closely for a few years, I am beginning to notice the seasonal events that mark each species' lives.  I guess a lot of this is obvious.  For instance, when I was a girl we talked about the appearance of the "robin red breast" being a harbinger of spring.

starlings in bath look around

The reason I'm bringing all this up, is that I was happy to see a flock of starlings in the yard this past week.  Starlings are fairly common as far as I know but I rarely see them around here.  But in the summer, a few times a summer, we have a flock come through, and this August, like last August, they have paid a special visit to the bird bath.

starlings in bath fly in and out

Many birds will only visit the bath in ones or twos, but these startlings are "all in the pool" together. 

starlings in bath take a rest

I don't know why they do what they do; I do know it's so much fun to watch them.  The mayhem ends as suddenly as it begins, and it ends with an empty bath!

Enjoy the day- Cheerily