Magnificent Songsters (and bonus!)

This post is dedicated to Mama and Papa, who taught me to love and protect creatures of all sorts.

One of my favorite haunts lately has been a prairie restoration area. They perform controlled burns there in order to encourage growth of the local species adapted to recover from such events. In the morning and evening, you can find so many birds here, many of them singing.


Indigo Bunting


Great Crested Flycatcher
(you can hear him call out near the end of the Kingbird video)

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The Prairie Restoration Land trail


Eastern Towhee and Yellow-breasted Chat
(you can see the funny way he contorts his body as he squawks up there)


…better photo of the same


Blue Grosbeak
(perhaps the “crown jewel” of the prairie)


And now…for something completely different: anoles in competition!! It’s really interesting to me how they start out looking not too different from the GEICO gecko. But when they get excited they look like little Komodo Dragons, and have an awesome feature called a dewlap, which they inflate in territorial battles or when finding a mate.



This is just the beginning…

This was “King Komodo”…then there appeared a pretender to the throne:

That didn’t last long:

And then there was an ambush:


I have heard an odd peep outside my window sounding somewhere between a squirrel and a frog. By tracing the sound, I eventually saw a green anole crawl out from behind a corner of the window canopy! The first result for a Google search on “green anole sound”–at the time of writing, a 2015 article in the Florida Sentinel–yields some mis-information. It claims they are silent. However, in the following video you can see quite clearly that the Green Anole in his left hand yelps when he tries to stretch its dewlap 😀

Here’s an article from 2013 similarly wondering about the variance and unknowns of anole vocalization:

Enjoy nature while you can!

Yours, Benjamin

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Birds and Moths and Flora

Hello to one and all! There is no particular theme or interesting writing on this post–I don’t have time for it presently! I only wish that you may derive some of the joy that I felt at some of these natural wonders. If you have any questions, feel free to ask them in Comments:

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Brown-headed Nuthatch (but low light makes it “Grey-headed”)

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Brown-headed Nuthatch (my favorite bird!)

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Carolina Wren (ties with Nuthatch as favorite bird)


Downy Woodpecker


Eastern Kingbird (on a far away peninsula)



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Mockingbird (immature)


Mockingbird (adult)

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Red-shouldered Hawk (immature)

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Wood Thrush (caring for a Cowbird young’n)

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Passion Flower (with flash)

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Passion Flower (as seen in dim light without flash)

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Poison Oak (I think it is, anyway)

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Thin-leaved Sunflower

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Wild Strawberry

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Queen Anne’s Lace (with unidentified insect life browsing its offering)

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Io Moth




BONUS! (For those of you who stuck with me this far, hehehe!)

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A Grand Memorial Day Weekend

I went back home for Memorial Day weekend. I spent a few hours birding by myself before rejoining the family for some quiet time together.

I started just immediately outside the house:

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Tree Swallow

I had to obey the unwritten rules of bird photography–only two or three steps forward at a time, no direct eye contact, etc–but this bird was unusually comfortable with my presence.

This one is a true home-wrecker. Scare him away if you see him:

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House Wren

Then, another of the innocents:

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Chipping Sparrow

An Eastern Wood-Pewee decided to allow a thorough photography session as well. He was singing away like crazy and was quite comfy up in his grand perch.

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Eastern Wood-Pewee

And a scene so dear I don’t even care if the photo is bad 🙂

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Eastern Bluebird – mother and young

And here, a few plants that I spotted:

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Wild Strawberry

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Pink Lady Slipper


Then, for the actual Monday holiday, I came back to my home.

I found a Carolina Wren pretending to be a Nuthatch:

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Carolina Wren

I spotted a Bloodroot plant (not flowering yet):



A Summer Tanager ate to its heart content on a limb above me:

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Summer Tanager (female)

An Indigo Bunting sang from a power tower:

And, most spectacularly of all, I got to see a Barred Owl up close and personal in the wild!

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The First Glimpse

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Barred Owl in repose

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Barred Owl glamour shot

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Barred Owl parting shot

And now…

for something completely different!


Fancy Caterpillar



Interesting Tree

Hope you enjoyed this glance of the enchanted life of Benjamin!

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The Hummingbirds

Jewels in the air, fluttering of Olympian wings,
oh tiny bird so fair, removes care of Earthly things.
Some take note of you, and some others not,
each and every sight is a wonder that can’t be bought.

Chirp and chatter, song out of human range,
small sonic booms from a champion flier, beyond gravitational chains.
Energetic but desperate, be smart and eat well,
the grief over your fall would be greater than I can tell.

Needle-beak wielded cleverly in territorial fights,
but you own the responsibilities along with the rights.
Pollinator which does not sting, will you please stay?
Passionate and so hardworking, you sow beauty on your way.

Thank you God for a bird so true
I love you so and need you, too

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Bird-bath bonanza

I am embarking today upon a remarkable introspective journey. We all got problems, right? Well, I am defining for 2018 that my problems will not define me. I am working in a meditation group to grow spiritually, attending a men’s accountability group, and praying for the grace to be of service.

On such an embarking, I can hardly have asked for a better start than the gift of the flurries of birds visiting my bath. It made for a morning meditation of gratitude, and the appearances reminded me that not all pleasures are consumptive enterprises potentially leading to dissipation!

I am grateful to God for the simple, unassuming, freely given gift of the birds.

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Big Bend National Park

Some time in 2016, I started throwing around  a rumor with my coworker that if we ever got done with the largest work project ever, we need to reward ourselves with a big trip. Well that trip came about April 10, 2017!!

BIG project getting done merits a BIG reward…where else but BIG Bend National Park?

Here is a chronological presentation of some of the wonders in flight which we observed:

The first subject: a Great-tailed Grackle at the Midland-Odessa airport!

Ferruginous Hawk hunting on the roadside

White-winged Dove (spotted just as we started up the Summit Trail of the Chisos Mountains portion of the park)

Rufous-crowned Sparrow (a little shy at first)

…but eventually he loosened up in song!

Mexican Jay (proud and loud, lots of them on the Summit Trail)

…another one, hiding (using the “I can’t see you, you can’t see me rule)…

…and another one. He did a bit better hiding, but he’s still in relatively plain sight, don’t you think? 😀

And a Black-crested Titmouse, a bird cute enough to hang as a Christmas tree ornament!

Brotttthhhhhher, where are you??

Western Kingbird (OK, so you can’t see the bird that well, but it is a very grand background)

Varied Bunting (ID-d by, you guessed it, sound)

Pyrrhuloxia (agreed to give us one glamour shot)

…but then it became bashful

Loggerhead Shrike (impales lizards and such on pointed sticks)

Scaled Quail (believe it or not, there is one in this picture)

…and here is the inset of his stylish crested head!

Black-throated Sparrow

Ash-throated Flycatcher (very inquisitive bird; beautiful too)

Say’s Phoebe, helping out with Border Patrol (that’s the building on the right)

…and a meditative end to a spectacular trip…with this lone White-winged Dove outside the hotel window.

And last but certainly not least, here are some of the vistas available to those hiking and driving through the park.

Thanks for reading (gazing, more like it!)


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An amazing day at home

I am generally too clumsy to claim any real bird-stalking prowess. So I am grateful to God for the amazing experiences just outside my window.

Just yesterday, I had the delight of seeing a beautiful, very shy bird in my yard. I have always moved too fast to get a picture and scared it away. This time, I moved very slowly and raised my camera when it was turned away from me. This is the rest of the story:

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I did not realize the tail was reddish like this.

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In side profile, see the characteristic “mustache”

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In North Carolina, the season is also a cue: Hermit Thrush is the lone winter thrush (unless you count in the American Robin–but no ID difficulties there!!).

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And at last, the dapper front spots and streaks

Visits like this are a good reminder for keeping my bird bath clean and watered! 🙂

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An amazing trip – Day 1

Here are some photographs from a May 2016 trip to Delaware (Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge). This trip was during migration.

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See just a field? Zoom in! There is a Horned Lark running about feeding.

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Now I recognize him! See the characteristic black mask and buff chin.

And we are just getting started. This was the evening before the actual day out. It was raining lightly, so I was pleased to see any birds.

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Purple Martins hanging out

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Incoming (from the right)

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And, once they’re done with the roof sauna, they can chill out on the windy highlands of their gourds.

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Common Yellowthroat

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Cedar Waxwing

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Yellow Warbler (there were LOTS)


Flycatcher (don’t know which one)

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Tree Swallow

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Yellow Warbler (singing “sweet-sweet-sweet-litt-le-more-sweet”)

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Peregrine Falcon (with captured shorebird)

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Snowy Egret (reminds me of grumpy old man)

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Black-necked Stilt

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Red-winged Blackbird

I captured the Red-winged Blackbird (and almost all of the marsh-bird photos) from my car. Bombay Hook has thirteen miles of road that winds through the marsh and forest.

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Common Grackle

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Great Black-backed Gull immature (foreground) Bald Eagle consuming tortoise (background)

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Gull and Semipalmated Plover (left background)


Dunlin (these were quite abundant)

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Mixed crowd of Sanderling (little birds) and Dunlin (bigger black-bellied birds)



19_Snowy Egret taking flight.JPG

Snowy Egret taking flight

20_Black-necked Stilt feeding.JPG

Black-necked Stilt foraging

21_Blue Grosbeak from gravel to grass closer.JPG

a Blue Grosbeak that let me follow him a ways

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Swainson’s Thrush? — looks more buff-colored than a Hermit Thrush

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Iceland Gull (exciting!)

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Great Egret (the wise old man)

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Sedge Wren (formerly called the Short-billed Marsh Wren)


Another glossy Common Grackle

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Mallard and Bufflehead (“Dabble” and “Dive”)

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Diving Bufflehead

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Resurfacing Bufflehead

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Great Egret (wise man out for a stroll)

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Short-billed Dowitcher

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Semipalmated Sandpiper

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a more regal shot of the Red-winged Blackbird

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Great Black-backed Gull

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Glossy Ibis

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the Black-necked Stilts taking off (I’ve never seen anybody move so fast on stilts)

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Greater Yellowlegs

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Blue Grosbeak

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Great Blue Heron

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Red-winged Blackbird (female)

And last but not least, the sneaky fox:



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Holiday Bird Sightings


Tufted Titmouse checking out a birdhouse intended for Brown Nuthatches


Eastern Phoebe


The rightful Brown-headed Nuthatch owner (even if his head looks grey here)


Showing his true colors now (*Brown*-headed Nuthatch)


Hermit Thrush (front) and White-Throated Sparrow


Hermit Thrush


White-Throated Sparrow


White-Throated Sparrow among the thirty-year old patio furniture forest


White-throated Sparrow attacking the prey (what a nut!)


Carolina Wren (an NC WREN!)

About this last one, I must say a little more.  Notice the NC specification (not just Carolina, but North Carolina Wren).  When I first got my car, I knew it would fit me perfectly to drive around with the license plate NC WREN.  I am a North Carolina resident, and I love the attitude of these birds.


They are vociferous for the right causes (I’m not sure I’ve ever heard bird books or birders call them a “bully bird”), and they are adaptable to the maximum extent.  So adaptable, in fact, that their flexibility in nesting habits–in our observations including old unused shoes and toolbags–and food supplies made them oust the House Wren as most common of its family.  One bird book captions the entry on this bird with a statement as such:

“Baskets, mailboxes, and even pockets of old overcoats provide nesting sites for Carolina Wrens.”

And though other birds in the family are confined to insect and spider diet, the Carolina Wren also dines on small fruit and seeds (Book of North American Birds, 242).

So I am very pleased when anyone recognizes the character behind the cryptic abbreviation.  I hope to use my voice fearlessly wherever it is necessary, and to adapt to an ever-changing and frightening world.

  1. Book of North American Birds. Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1990. Print.
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Dead or alive? Does it matter for a bird sighting?

Fox Sparrow

The rich chestnut color and enormous size of this sparrow distinguish it from others in the Carolinas.


The question sounds cold, but sticks in my mind, because a Fox Sparrow is an interesting find, not endangered by any means, but not common either.  Certain birders have a sort of pride about stalking and then “pishing” or flushing out the object of their desire, thus validating the life-list item by their mastery of birding techniques.  Obviously this would not qualify by any of those standards.  (“Pishing” is a birder’s imitation of a commonly heard alarm call–think in particular the Tufted Titmouse.)

The most official criterion, though, is simply that one have a photo.  So this one does qualify by that requirement.  Reviewers would remark that the bird is obviously dead, so it would probably be marked as illegitimate.  See E-bird’s Data Quality Control Page for some more information on the evidence citizen science counts and maps expect.

The location is not totally unexpected (NC mountains), but who says that this bird couldn’t have been a late migrant who decided to stop for a bite to eat around our house, then took mortal offense at his challenging reflection?

So I have no firm answers really.  But I am thankful to have witnessed some of God’s beauty manifest in the birds, even in a sad context.

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