Thursday, May 24, 2007

Walk with me? And a Birthday...

It’s been a week since I walked the campus. There’s always something new for me to see and admire lately. Robins walk along side of me and I even saw Blue Jays today. They aren’t very common here.


My camera was with me whenever I ran an errand to the next building. I haven’t photographed my Bluebirds lately. Isn’t he just lovely? He’s hanging too close to the building for my comfort, though.


I would have never imagined I’d see a Great Crested Flycatcher on campus! Its song made me stop, look, and listen and my instinctive stalking mode when into action. I was determined to find this bird and it wasn’t difficult at all because of its loud song. A lifer! CHECK.


Here’s another view. Look at its raised crest. It’s obviously unnerved in this photo and very curious of the goofy woman standing under its tree.


Every time I walk the campus, Spring offers more surprises and new growth. Wild flowers intrigue me, especially when they are smothered with insects. I just love the bugs.


These are growing wild? I want to take a spade to work next week and dig them up and bring them home!


Oh, what the heck. He draws attention to himself in color and sound. He’s worth it.


Another sound intrigued me. I’ve seen Male Towhees before but never heard their “Drink Your Tea” symphony. Awesome!

This evening, I heard some commotion behind me in the yard. About six small birds were chasing down a hawk.


Gaining composure: “Holy Moly! What happened?”


“Are they gone?” (Striking the Linda Blair pose)


"I think it's safe to get out of here!"

I spent too much time with my field guide and browsing Cornell to ID this bird. The dogs were jumping all over me and the phone was ringing while I flipped through the pages of my field guide. I finally yelled, “Shaaat aaap! I’m trying to ID a freaking bird here!!!!” I know it’s an accipiter. I only had two minutes to observe it. It’s immature, I think. A Northern Harrier? It’s a wild guess and I know I’m probably way off, as usual. SUSAN?????


I can’t end this post without reflecting on a special person. Billy is Gina’s boyfriend and they’ve been together for a few years. Today is his 26th Birthday.

Billy grew up in Austin, Texas, and other than an older step-sister who he refers to as his sister, he doesn’t have family there. He lost both of his parents during his pre-adolescent years. The circumstances were grim and Billy faced some terribly difficult and challenging times as a young child. He spent several years in foster homes before his step-sister took him in during his senior year of high school. His love of playing football and basketball fueled him to graduate.

After graduation from high school, Billy entered the U.S. Marine Corp. I believe his battery was the first to fire shots in Iraq back in the spring of 2003. He rarely talks about his time in Iraq, but I know he was willing and proud to serve.

He moved to Charlotte along with Gina last summer and he’s prospering. My husband is helping to guide him in the electrical construction industry and Billy is proving to be a highly skilled second-year electrician apprentice. His work ethics are commendable in comparison to many young men his age.

Billy’s an independent individual but I think perhaps this might be the first time in his life that he has real mentors, encouragement, and support from “family”, here in Charlotte. I think he likes it. We are his cheering section.


Happy Birthday, Big Tall Texan!


Julie Zickefoose said...

Cooper's hawk, dahling. That's going to be your most common suburban (bird-eating )hawk in NC. Northern harriers aren't accipiters, are about twice the size of a Cooper's hawk, and they breed only in huge grasslands and marshes much farther north than you live. You might find them sparingly in summer in marshes along the coast, but not on campus.
Your photos are magnificent. Great crested flycatcher!!! I have yet to photograph that. Waaay to go! Wheep! Wheep!

Mary said...

Julie, whaaaat??? That Cooper's (in my back yard) doesn't look like the one I saw a few months ago. I give up on Hawks - I haven't a clue. But I love them for their stately beauty, as long as they don't take my Chickadees or Doves... Thanks for the lesson, Science Chimp ;o)

dmmgmfm said...

What a beautiful post, Mary. Thank you.


The Quacks of Life said...

lovely pics

Julie Zickefoose said...

What's confusing you is that this Cooper's hawk is a full adult, and the brown-backed, stripey-fronted birds you're used to seeing are immatures. You tend to see a lot more immature hawks in winter than full adults. The slate-blue back and red-barred underside shown by this bird is adult plumage, acquired when the bird is two or three years old. The immature has staring yellow eyes, mottled brown back and white, striped underparts; the adult has garnet-red eyes, smooth bluish-gray back and brick-red, barred underparts.

Don't give up on hawks. Just get yourself a Sibley Guide to Birds (the big field guide that covers all of North America), pay attention to the range maps, to make sure that the bird you think you're seeing could actually be in your area, and relax. There IS a finite number of birds you're likely to encounter, and they will become old friends before too long. You've got all kinds of Science Chimps out here. Think of what you've learned about birds just by becoming a photographer and blogger, and stay on that steep learning curve--the rewards are so great. Not many of us ever capture such good images of an adult Cooper's hawk, or a great crested flycatcher, or a brown-headed nuthatch, or a Carolina chickadee.

Jayne said...

What a lovely walk you had Mary. I posted about a Towhee this morning too. :c) Your photos are spectacular, as usual!

Ruth said...

Interesting post, Mary. I find hawks confusing too. If Julie recommends the Sibley guide, I will put it on my Amazon wish list. She is the 2nd person I've heard suggest it.
Happy birthday to young!

Unknown said...

I concur about the Sibley . . . I use my little Sibley Western Field Guide ALL THE TIME. The pictures are SO useful for iding the birds.

I have seen a Northern Harrier, however. When I go out to Elkhorn Slough, there a couple out there. They are pretty amazing birds.

Your pictures are amazing!

thailandchani said...

Beautiful pictures as always.. and Billy sounds like a great guy! Maybe he should be cloned. :)



Mary said...

Thanks again, Julie. I have a Stoke's guide for the eastern region but I could probably use another. I'll put Sibley's on my list. And I will be patient - I learn something new every day.

Hi Laurie, thanks.

Pete, thanks for stopping by.

Jayne, your photos are more than spectacular!

Ruth, I'll try the Sibley, too. Thanks for wishes for Billy.

Liza, so you've seen a Northern Harrier. Lucky you! I thought I saw one, too. LOL!

Chani, Billy is a good guy. Thanks!

BirdingMom said...

I'm with you Mary, hawks, immature hawks they all confuse me. We have a pair of RedTails in our woods, and a "Sharpie" who regularly comes a-hunting at our feeders. For the rest, I call my step-daughter, who is a real expert, and let her do the identification for me while I stick to the song birds.

Elaine Cougler Author said...

Great post, Mary. How do you find all of those wonderful birds walking on campus? The cardinal is my favorite. We have lots of those here and, in snow, they are really spectacular.
Liked your tribute to Billy. Sounds like he has conquered a lot of demons.

Mary said...

Birdingmom, HI! Thanks for visiting! I always rely on others to ID hawks for me. I think I have been correct only two times out of ten. Hmmmpf!

Beader Girl, I find that "listening" is the only way to track a bird unless it flys in front of your face. I really get excited when I hear an unfamiliar song. It takes patience - a virtue I'm working on :o)

Cathy said...

That is such a wonderful story about Billy. It just makes me feel so good to know he's now in your sphere of caring.

The bird pictures are great! The story of Billy stole the show. I'm just smiling and smiling.

sonia a. mascaro said...

A Very Happy Birthday to Billy!
Great post Mary! That is such a lovely story about Billy.

Last but not least,love the birds and flowers's photos! And I am amazed that you know all those birds's names!

Mary C said...

Amazing photos, Mary! Wow! If I could only get pix half that good. Maybe someday. I hope to take a few pix this holiday weekend and post them, but they'll be nothing like yours! :)

Dorothy said...

Well here I go again Mary....wonderful photos!!! The crested flycatcher....way to go!!
And the hawk photo...great too.
You have so many different, beautiful birds in your neck of the woods.
Happy birthday to Billy! He sounds like a winner!!

Alyssa said...

Hi Mary, Sorry I haven't posted in a while - pretty busy. Your pictures and postings are always so interesting for me. They are never boring! I enjoyed our walk together and I think the most favorite bird today is the towhee. They are pretty rare here, and they (the males) are beautiful. I also loved your "from the heart" tribute to your daughter's boyfriend. He sounds quite mature for his age and a thoughtful young man. Getting into the electrician field is a very good idea. I have a nephew who is doing the same thing and a step-son who is making quite a bit of money now that he's done with the apprenticeship. Billy is lucky to have such a caring "family" and you, in turn, are lucky to know him. Wonderful post. Thank you, Alyssa

NatureWoman said...

Happy Birthday Billy!
Mary, I always love your bewd and flower photos and your words!

Q said...

Hi Mary,
Wow! A Great Creasted Flycatcher!
I have never seen one. Your photos are excellent. I could id from you.
I also have never seen nor heard the Towhee. I would love to. On my list of hopefuls. My bird book says they summer in my area so I will keep an eye and ear out. I love going on walk about with you. Always the Blue Birds are beautiful.
Billy is a treasure as are you and your family.
I send blessings to him on his special day and a thank you for being in harms way.
Happy Memorial Day weekend.
May you have rain and a rest.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mary,
Thanks for sharing some more wonderful photos.
Another ID book I would recommend is "Hawks & Owls of the Great Lakes Region & Eastern North America" by Chris Earley. I got mine while working at Wild Birds Unlimited and your local WBU store should be able to order it for you also (or at least have a copy for you to review). Lots of great photographs of adult and juvenile plumage, with distinguishing markings pointed out (also an entire section of them flying as seen from the ground--the way I usually see them).

Anonymous said...

20 some comments in two hours! WOW!! Love all your comments and without a doubt you should get Sibleys guide! Just love all your photos and so glad you take your camera with you on your adventures!

Anonymous said...

Mary, every day I read your blog I am becoming more convinced that you should use your photographic talent to relieve yourself from a job that is not near as rewarding. Perhaps in the beginning it would not be as financially lucrative as the current position but cheese and cracker girl...your pics rock! I would gladly display any one of them framed on my wall!

kate said...

Mary, as usual, your birding pictures are amazing. You have an incredible talent.

You also have a big heart and Billy is fortunate to have your family as his cheering section.

Larry said...

Boy-for someone who doesn't know all their birds, you sure do know how to get great pictures of them!

dguzman said...

Your blog is always so educational! We not only see great birds and flowers, learn about backyard ponds, and read insightful thoughts; we also get instructive comments from the Science Chimp! Sweet!