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:

Hermit Thrush_1.JPG

I did not realize the tail was reddish like this.

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Hermit Thrush_3.JPG

In side profile, see the characteristic “mustache”

Hermit Thrush_4.JPG

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!!).

Hermit Thrush_5.JPG

Hermit Thrush_6.JPG

Hermit Thrush_7.JPG

And at last, the dapper front spots and streaks

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

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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.

0_Horned Lark_Back.JPG

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

3_Cedar Waxwing.JPG

Cedar Waxwing

4_Yellow Warbler_2.JPG

Yellow Warbler (there were LOTS)


Flycatcher (don’t know which one)

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Tree Swallow

7_Yellow Warbler singing.JPG

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

8_Peregrine Falcon_3.JPG

Peregrine Falcon (with captured shorebird)

10_Snowy Egret.JPG

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

14_Great Black-backed Gull (young) flying toward Eagle feasting on turtle.JPG

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

15_Gull in front of Semipalmated Plover.JPG

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

22_Swainson's Thrush.JPG

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

30_Great Egret tiptoes.JPG

Great Egret (wise man out for a stroll)

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Short-billed Dowitcher

35_Semipalmated Sandpiper.JPG

Semipalmated Sandpiper

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a more regal shot of the Red-winged Blackbird

37_Great Black-backed Gull.JPG

Great Black-backed Gull

38_Glossy Ibis.JPG

Glossy Ibis

40_Black-necked Stilt taking off.JPG

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

41_Greater Yellowlegs.JPG

Greater Yellowlegs

42_Blue Grosbeak chilling out.JPG

Blue Grosbeak

43_Great Blue Heron.JPG

Great Blue Heron

44_Red-winged Blackbird (female).JPG

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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More birds! Including my favorite, the Field Sparrow

I recently ventured out to a prairie region of McDowell Nature Preserve, hoping to find a few spring-enamored feathered characters.  Here is what I found:



Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Wood Ducks (three)

Wood Ducks (three)

female Red-Winged Blackbird

female Red-Winged Blackbird

first Field Sparrow of the season

first Field Sparrow of the season

Here are a few older ones, but worthy of inclusion nonetheless:

Brown Thrasher

Brown Thrasher

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler

Yellow-Rumped Warbler (can you tell I like them, too?)

Rusty Blackbird

Rusty Blackbird

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Brown-headed Nuthatch (treasure hunt!!)

God bless and have a good week.

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Five birds from McDowell Nature Preserve and a business park

I more readily identify the Cardinal with the grosbeak family when (s)he has his(her) crest laid flat like this.

I more readily identify the Cardinal with the grosbeak family when (s)he has his(her) crest laid flat like this.

Power line Doves

I took all five of these photos with a Nikon Coolpix L810 26x optical zoom

Ready Robin Shining Bluebird Singing Mockingbird


Happy birding, everyone!


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The parable of the Widow

Hello readers!

Today I feel remarkably compelled to re-tell a much-told story.  In fact, I have felt so compelled for a few weeks, but up until now, could not remember the motivation.

The story to be told, one often told, is that about the Widow’s Offering, in Luke 21:1-4 in the Holy Bible (New International Version). ¬†“As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. ¬†He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. ¬†‘I tell you the truth,’ he said, ‘this poor widow has put in more than all the others. ¬†All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.’ ”

The motivation, readers, was a National Geographic article about the Kyrgyz people in the forbidding Afghanistan territory called the “Wakhan Corridor”.The reason the Kyrgyz people reminded me of that passage should be clear to those of you who are familiar with the region. ¬†See the article here:¬†

It is a land where mortality rate is stiff and fortune seems rare. ¬†But these people, in a seemingly hopeless land, find reasons to hope and reasons to lead with a commitment rivaled by few, and though not a boisterous people, their famous “yurts” constructed out of dull sticks and felt feature, on the inside, a rich variety of ornate quilts. ¬†A people led by a fellow called the “Khan”, they number barely over one thousand. ¬†Their life is a continuous giving of all they have for each other.

Nature hands us other examples: consider this narrator (William Martha) describing the song of the Ruby-Crowned Kinglet¬†(follow the link to hear). ¬†He describes the “outpouring of song” which is remarkable for such a little bird (3.5 inches-4.5 inches). ¬†Consider also the familiar Cardinal, piping songs that can be heard for at least a quarter mile, though the bird ¬†itself is only seven inches or so long.

Northern Cardinal 10

And at the gym, I found yet another example: a blind woman venturing out several times a week to swim, then waiting for her ride outside in the cold.  Still reaching for full living and connection.  It makes me also remember another kind person, also blind, named Ernie, who spent the ten or so years she knew us doting like the grandmothers we never knew.  She also taught us how to write braille, from which action grew a very rewarding set of correspondences, full of love and encouragement in subjects ranging from relationships to learning guitar.  In myself, I find that my innate human drives compel me to often step out of my bounds, giving all of my social anxieties away (I am autistic).  We are meant to go through life together.  

Please consider stepping out with me this year to give all that you have. ¬†It is something we can do for the Lord Jesus, who gave us all he had, up to and beyond his life. ¬†Stay strong and do your best–Love, Benjamin


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