Friday, January 2, 2009

Big January is Upon Us

Gila Woodpecker my 1st bird of 2009

The New Year is upon us and Larry from The Brownstone Birding Blog has thrown the gauntlet down once again. The challenge is on for another Big January where you count how many species of birds you can see in your state for the month of January. It was just last year when I first heard of this challenge and it was from Larry who asked in his last New Year's post, "What was your first bird of the New Year?" I had never thought about it, but last year it was a Costa's Hummingbird. This year the Gila woodpeckers are at the nectar feeders almost as often as the hummer's, so when I opened the shade on New Year's morning, one of these beauties flew off the feeder and over the wall. I wasn't able to get a photo of that one, but just like clockwork, they were back again today and I was able to get this pretty head shot of a female Gila woodpecker clinging to the nectar feeder once again. We have been having gorgeous weather since December 31st, but you wouldn't believe what the weather was like just a few days before when we returned from a Christmas trip to Colorado.

Snow in flowers 12-28-08

We arrived home late and in the dark on December 27th to find snow on the windshield of Gus' truck. The next morning I found snow on the flowers and the patio.

Melting the ice in the birdbath 12-28-08

The birdbath was frozen solid, so I upended it in the sunshine to melt. All my feeders were empty. I couldn't fill them fast enough. I had never seen so many hungry hummingbirds in my life.

Cold and wet Costa's Hummingbird (molting or immature male) 12-28-08

Though the males defended the feeders aggressively, the females just kept coming. I saw one little girl land to feed and a male landed on her back and drilled her head with his beak. She just kept drinking, enduring the pain as long as she could before she finally flew away.

Snow on golden barrel cactus 12-28-08

Gus eats breakfast on the patio New Year's Morning 2009

New Year's morning dawns bright and beautiful. We grab our cereal bowls and coffee and head outdoors to eat. Gus just has to call his folks in Maine and tell them how warm it is outside. I can't repeat their response. So, I started counting birds this very morning. I counted 11 birds in and around my yard on the January 1, 2009. (See results below.)

A sharp-shinned hawk scared all the birds away on Thursday morning. Then this Cooper's Hawk dropped by and chased them all away today.

We took a walk this evening on a stretch of Harrison Road. The sparrows ran, hopped and flew skulking through the cactus and grass, then hopped up on twigs to bathe themselves in golden sunlight.

Cactus wrens with speckled breasts turned first one check and then the other towards the last rays of the sun. How they stand on those thorny cactus spines, I will never know.

Northern Mockingbird 1-2-09 by Kathiesbirds

The farther down the hill I go, the more phainopeplas and mockingbirds I see. Do they like this lower elevation, or is it simply that their food supply is down here? I find the mockingbirds perched on desert hackberry and the phainopela's anywhere that is near the mistletoe paristizing the native trees. As we turn back towards the mountains I see Mt. Fagan blush with the healthy glow of a winter's day in Southeast Arizona.

Mt. Fagan Sunset 1-2-09 by Kathiesbirds

One way that I keep track of my counts is with eBird. Run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is a great way to keep track of your bird counts. Once you register, you can enter your bird counts as Stationary counts, travelling counts, area counts, or casual observations. The website explains it all and it will keep track of your life lists, your year lists and each area that you bird in. I was a bit intimidated to try it, but doing the Big January last year got me started and now I do it all the time. Last January my total was 89 birds. Now I count birds where ever and whenever I can. It's fun for me and I feel like I am helping out science and the birds in my own small way. Larry beat me last year with 93 species. Perhaps I can beat him this year. Mary of Mary's View is in on the fun too. Won't you join us?

Big January Count (so far)
  1. Gila woodpecker (birds seen 1-1-09)
  2. Gilded Flicker
  3. Gambel's Quail
  4. Mourning Dove
  5. Costa's Hummingbird
  6. Sharp-shinned hawk
  7. Say's Phoebe
  8. Curved-billed thrasher
  9. House Finch
  10. Lesser Goldfinch
  11. House Sparrow
  12. Cooper's hawk (Birds seen 1-2-09)
  13. Common raven
  14. Rock Wren
  15. Cactus Wren
  16. Northern Mockingbird
  17. Phainopepla
  18. Canyon Towhee
  19. White-Crowned sparrow
  20. Rufous-winged Sparrow
  21. Black-throated Sparrow
  22. Brewer's sparrow


Anonymous said...

I live in the desert, therefore I really love your "snow in flowers" picture. We hardly get any rain here, let alone snow :)

I tried to capture photographs of the few birds that we have here, but with my point-and-shoot camera, it's not easy.

Thank you for sharing these beautiful pictures :)


Anonymous said...

Great photos of all of your birds. It's always interesting to see ice and snow on flowers and especially cactus. The Hummingbird does look a little cold.

Good Birding...

bobbie said...

Beautiful photos as always, Kathie. It must have been quite a surprise to see snow on those flowers and cactus. Weird weather seems to be becoming the usual.

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

I've thought about eBirds but I can't see that it lets you enter birds from the past. Am I wrong?

Ruth said...

It is surprising to see the snow in your area. I wonder if there are 93 birds species in our part of Canada in the winter. Regardless, I am taking part in the January bird count and have started a list in my sidebar. I was very excited to see a Pileated Woodpecker on January 1st. I shall follow your list with interest.

Ruth's Photo Blog said...

SNOW?I didn't know that it got cold enough for that,bet it didn't last long though.When I read your posts I always feel like I'm walking alongside you and listening to your descriptions of the area and the birds.Beautiful. Blessings,Ruth

Deborah Godin said...

More wonderful shots! Love that Gila - that's a real "Annnh, what's up Doc" pose! And just so you know (mock sacrcasm) I could have had New Years Day breakfast on my patio, too, if I'd wanted. It's just too hard to peel a banana in mittens...

Shelley said...

I just love seeing your part of the world! And the detail of the gila woodpecker w/ it's claw securely on your feeder was great!

Mary C said...

Aren't desert sunsets beautiful? And I love those close-up photos of the birds, Kathie. Did you use a 300mm lens? And I'm assuming some cropping was involved?

Gaelyn said...

I'll bet that was a shock to return home to snow and ice. For the birds too. That's when I really double the seed usage.
Hummingbirds are the most aggressive birds for their size. I guess they have to be in order to survive.
Great post and captures.
Hope your holidays in CO were happy.

Kathryn said...

Enjoyed this post. Great pics. Snow on the desert floor must be a surprise. I told Steve about the pic of Gus eating breakfast on the patio in his shorts on News Years Day. (We were plowing snow.) You can imagine his comment. I look forward to seeing and learning about your January count. Hope you beat Larry this year! Happy New Year!

Mike said...

You're off to a great month, Kathie! Most of those birds are unlikely to turn up in my frigid clime, but I'm counting birds this month too.

Rambling Woods said...

Lovely series..I don't have 83 birds on my life list so I wouldn't get that many ever..LOL...

gina said...

wonderful photos! i had to laugh at the way gus likes rubbing his good fortune in with the maine folks.

TR Ryan said...

Wow..unbelievable! And what a fantastic narrative. Oh but the photos!!! Marvelous, marvelous images. You are such a bird photographer. May I consider this your contribution to IATB 91 posting in three days?

Anonymous said...

Your list of birds are all uncommon for me except the hawks and mourning dove and house sparrow and house finch.

Why don't you get one of those plastic pet's dishes for water that are controlled by a thermostat built in. They are not that expensive and the one I got I have used in freezing weather for many years. The cord is would with a wire to keep wildlife from gnawing on it. I think all pet stores have them. I got my at a farmer's grain elevator.

TR Ryan said...

Kathie - I am submitting this to the host of the next IATB right away. He's a tough ole' geezer but this is such a fantastic, stunning, beautiful, enormously birdy post - how could he refuse? He must accept it. I will beg, plead, offer bribes. The world must be reminded of your stunning writing and photography. Oh, if only I had an in with him. OH WAIT! I do - it's me and guess what this is going up on Thursday!!! at the Faraway, Nearby

Louise said...

That's a lot of birds. Wonderful pictures of the. I've never seen a hummingbird in the winter. I guess I need to come visit (or move).

Kathie Brown said...

Nadia, how nice of you to visit! Your comments are so kind. I know a point and shoot can be a bit more difficult, but with some care you can get some really nice shots. The hardest part is getting close to the birds. If you have a computer program to crop and enlarge your photos it sure helps. I started getting much better pictures once we purchased our Nikon D80 and the 70 to 300mm zoom.

Natural moments, snow on cactus is really surprising. I realized those spines help hold the white stuff away from the tender green flesh. They defend the plant in more ways than one!

Hello Bobbie! See comment above about the snow.

Dear Lynne, eBirds does let you enter bird sighting from the past as long as you have the date and location. I'll try to do a post about this soon, but I am currently trying to enter some of my old sightings, it's just that I am so busy blogging! eBird has also started a new feature that lets one person from a group enter the bird lists for the whole group so each individual does not need to enter their list. I have yet to try this out since I don't know anyone around here who eBirds, but if we all go birding next year on that trip we can have one designated list entry person for each trip if we want to.

Ruth, I don't know if you will find 93 species up north either but Good Luck! Perhaps we should do a big April someday for those of you to the north. It would be more fair. I have the advantage of living in a state with a wide variety of habitats that is a winter destination for many of the northern birds!

Ruth's photo blog, thanks for the blessings. I can use them! As for the snow, we get some every year, especially on the Mountains. The mountains surrounding Tucson are quite high. So high, in fact, that we actually have a ski area up on top of Mt. Lemmon. Mt. lemmon is about 9,000 ft in elevation and boasts the ski area that is farthest south in the USA.

Deborah, you always make me laugh. I's like to see that!

Shellmo, that Gila WP was such a cutie and so close to the house that it was easy to capture its picture!

Mary, yes I did use the 70-300mm lens but the bird was right outside my patio door so very little cropping was needed for this particular photo. However, usually I have to crop and enlarge quite a bit to get the close-ups I want.

Gaelyn, We knew it had snowed on the 26th because someone from here had called and told us. The big surprise was that it was still here when we got home on the evening of the 27th and that is was still on the patio and rooftops the morning of the 28th. It was all melted off by that afternoon however. I can only assume that the 27th was very cold here. I know it was in NM as we were driving home. And we had a wonderful time in CO. I have much to write about but it will have to wait for now. I'm too busy birding!

Katnell, Gus got a big chuckle out of your comment about Steve's remarks. I am trying very hard to beat Larry and I am off to a good start with 3 days of birding in already. Wish you were here to help!

Oh Mike, I'm glad to hear that! We'll have to start a list of Big January counters or something!

Rambling Woods, keep on trying. You never know! I never thought I'd get as far as I have either but its really fun. My Life List has become a memory of the many places I've been to and the amazing birds I've seen.

Gina, yeah, he's perverse that way!

TR, yes you may use this post, but first I suggest you check out tomorrow's post, which you may like even better. Let me know what you think and I will add the IATB link to whichever one you choose.

You know abe, I had purchased a heated waterer right before I moved here from Utah. Thinking I would not need it in AZ, I gave it to my birding buddy, Katnell (above) before I moved. There are ususally only a couple of freezing days here in the winter, so it is not too hard to melt the ice and refill the basin with fresh water. But, thanks for the suggestion.

Lousie, now you are talking!

Larry said...

All I can say is uh oh-I'm in trouble!

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, you betchya! said...

Big January is not on our agenda this year, the weather has kept us in so much.

WOW on the Costa's for your first bird of the year! THAT would be a cool first!

Good birding to you!