Tag Archives: Blue Jay

What’s black and white and red and blue?

Two birds I saw on a walk.

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A Blue Jay on the lawn.

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Pileated Woodpecker in a tree, with moss and a climbing cactus.

The Cornell Lab Bird Academy: How Birds Make Colorful Feathers

As one might expect from the amazing diversity of colors and patterns exhibited by more than 10,000 bird species found in the world, birds can see color. The colors in the feathers of a bird are formed in two different ways, from either pigments or from light refraction caused by the structure of the feather.

A woodpecker’s brilliant red cap is formed by pigmentation of the feathers, but a blue jay’s feathers look blue because of the structure of the feather and the way it scatters incoming light.

If you find the feather of a Blue Jay or Steller’s Jay you can see for yourself how this works. First, observe the feather in normal lighting conditions and you will see the expected blue color. Next, try back-lighting the feather. When light is transmitted through the feather it will look brown. The blues are lost because the light is no longer being reflected back and the brown shows up because of the melanin in the feathers.

Planting shrubs can be for the birds

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A treetop Osprey, Pandion haliaetus.

Our town of Sewall’s Point is on a narrow peninsula between the St. Lucie River and the Indian River Lagoon and there are lots of these fishhawks living here.

A few more pics from yesterday morning’s bird walk.

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Blue Jay on a wire with a wind-blown punk hairdo.

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Many, many Palm Warblers are here in winter and this is one of them.

Unless you live in Canada, spring, fall, and winter are your best times to see Palm Warblers. They spend the winters in the Caribbean and in a narrow strip along the southeastern United States and occasionally along the West Coast. They’re a fairly common early migrant across much of the East, reaching New England by mid-to-late April. They start slowly heading south in late August.

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  • Though the Palm Warbler’s name might imply it is a tropical bird, it’s actually one of the northernmost breeding of all warblers (only the Blackpoll Warbler breeds farther north). They got their name from J. P. Gmelin who named them based on a specimen collected on Hispaniola, a Caribbean island with a lot of palm trees.

 

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Lots of yellow on this warbler.

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Palm Warblers primarily eat insects including beetles, flies, and caterpillars. During the winter they also eat seeds and berries such as bayberry, sea grape, and hawthorn when available.

Create a bird friendly backyard for migrating or wintering Palm Warblers by planting native plants. Learn more about birdscaping at Habitat Network.

Yesterday we planted more native shrubs in our backyard, a couple of beautyberry and a couple of cardinal firebush. Last year we planted Simpson’s stoppers, wild coffee, silver buttonwood and Bahamas maidenbush along the back fence and three dwarf firebush in one corner of our little backyard.

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Last year’s firebush is about to bloom and feed the butterflies.

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American Beautyberry, just planted. The bird-feeding berries will look like this

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2018 is the Year of the Bird and the recommended action to help birds in March is to add native plants to your backyard. Here’s how to do it where you live: Native Plants Audubon.

Also: A Yard Full of Native Plants Is a Yard Full of Well-Fed Birds

As for feeding the Osprey, whatever keeps the rivers and oceans healthy and full of fish keeps the skies full of fishhawks too. Obviously!

A walk in Atlantic Ridge Preserve

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Sandhill Crane photographed through the windshield as we drove to Atlantic Ridge Preserve State Park in Stuart, FL. There are a lot of these big birds in this riverside neighborhood off Paulson Road. They have a certain nonchalance.

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It’s a big park, 5800 acres in southern Martin County. It’s barebones too. If the phone line is busy to the Jonathan Dickinson State Park ranger station, as it was when we called, then you can’t get the code to the gate at the park entrance and you have to climb over the fence (and throw your dog over too).

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There is a map available in a box at the entrance.

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Our first bird sighting inside the park was this sweet little Eastern Phoebe at a marshy spot in the wet prairie.

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Phoebe fun fact: “In 1804, the Eastern Phoebe became the first banded bird in North America. John James Audubon attached silvered thread to an Eastern Phoebe’s leg to track its return in successive years.”

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Eastern Phoebes sit alertly on low perches, often twitching their tails as they look out for flying insects. When they spot one, they abruptly leave their perch on quick wingbeats, and chase down their prey in a quick sally—often returning to the same or a nearby perch.

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Bird #2 was a Bald Eagle! Slow flapping flight over wetlands.

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Speaking of wetlands, there were ditches on one or both sides of the flat sandy track and our dog stayed well-hydrated.

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Radar soaks his feet.

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Jungly, in that wet-dry Florida way.

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The view.

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Tracking. We saw signs of deer and wild (or feral) pigs but no encounters.

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A couple of miles in, John gets a phone call. Can’t we ever get away from it all??

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Wild thing.

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Sign in the middle of nowhere.

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Vegetation. Kind of monotonous in a beautiful way.

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Saw palmetto everywhere. Which is ironic because we want to plant some on our property and can’t find it available in local nurseries. Someone told us that the state buys a lot of it from the wholesalers because they have to plant a large percentage of native stuff when they landscape roadways etc.

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Pine Warbler in a pine tree.

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This is my first Florida sighting of a Pine Warbler.

I first encountered one in April of 2015 in my New Hampshire backyard, visiting a suet cake I put out: A warbler. And then again in March of 2016 nibbling my homemade suet dough on a porch railing: An Easter visitor.

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Tracks on the trail.

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We heard this hawk calling and calling and when it finally flew off its distant perch I couldn’t believe I got the photo with enough detail to ID it: it’s a Red-shouldered Hawk.

Whether wheeling over a swamp forest or whistling plaintively from a riverine park, a Red-shouldered Hawk is typically a sign of tall woods and water. It’s one of our most distinctively marked common hawks, with barred reddish-peachy underparts and a strongly banded tail. In flight, translucent crescents near the wingtips help to identify the species at a distance. These forest hawks hunt prey ranging from mice to frogs and snakes.

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Also spotted, a solo Blue Jay keeping an eye on us.

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This common, large songbird is familiar to many people, with its perky crest; blue, white, and black plumage; and noisy calls. Blue Jays are known for their intelligence and complex social systems with tight family bonds. Their fondness for acorns is credited with helping spread oak trees after the last glacial period.

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We walked along a large canal at one point, the “Seawind Canal” according to our black and white paper map. (We also used Google maps on my phone to not get lost.)

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A nearby committee of vultures took wing and became a kettle of vultures as we walked by. Lots and lots of them, seeming to really check us out.

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Black Vultures have the white wingtips.

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During the day, Black Vultures soar in flocks, often with Turkey Vultures and hawks. Their flight style is distinctive: strong wingbeats followed by short glides, giving them a batlike appearance.

It was a 4.5 mile walk in total, with some pleasant vistas and a nice collection of birds. We will go back to Atlantic Ridge.

Birds are avian dinosaurs

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Sometimes when I look at Blue Jays I think of velociraptors.

Birds are avian dinosaurs. Does everyone know that yet?

Audubon Magazine: The consensus is in: Birds are living dinosaurs. But how that epic evolutionary leap took place remains one of science’s greatest mysteries

Newsweek: Birds are dinosaurs, but how did they get here?

Nat Geo: Birds evolved from dinosaurs slowly – then took off

What blue jays look like….

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What blue jays think they look like…

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To read:

Unknown

“Dinosaurs didn’t die out when an asteroid hit Earth 66 million years ago. Get ready to unthink what you thought you knew and journey into the deep, dark depths of the Jurassic. The discovery of the first feathered dinosaur in China in 1996 sent shockwaves through the palaeontological world. Were the feathers part of a complex mating ritual, or a stepping stone in the evolution of flight? And just how closely related is T. rex to a chicken? Award-winning journalist John Pickrell reveals how dinosaurs developed flight and became the birds in our backyards.”

The birds of (winter storm) Iola

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And it snowed and it snowed yesterday.

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I cleared railings and feeders every hour or two, fed the birds all day, and took a few pictures through glass too.

Flickr photo album: Winter Storm Iola and feeders

The Snow-Storm
by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky,
Arrives the snow, and, driving o’er the fields,
Seems nowhere to alight: the whited air
Hides hills and woods, the river and the heaven,
And veils the farmhouse at the garden’s end.
The steed and traveler stopped, the courier’s feet
Delayed, all friends shut out, the housemates sit
Around the radiant fireplace, enclosed
In a tumultuous privacy of storm.

Come see the north wind’s masonry
Out of an unseen quarry evermore
Furnished with tile, the fierce artificer
Curves his white bastions with projected roof
Round every windward stake, or tree, or door.
Speeding, the myriad-handed, his wild work
So fanciful, so savage, nought cares he
For number or proportion. Mockingly,
On coop or kennel he hangs Parian wreaths;
A swan-like form invests the hidden thorn;
Fills up the farmer’s lane from wall to wall,
Maugre the farmer’s sighs; and, at the gate,
A tapering turret overtops the work.
And when his hours are numbered, and the world
Is all his own, retiring, as he were not,
Leaves, when the sun appears, astonished Art
To mimic in slow structure, stone by stone,
Built in an age, the mad wind’s night-work,
The frolic architecture of the snow.

Junco