Sunday, December 20, 2015

Eastern Screech-Owl

If a mysterious trill catches your attention in the night, bear in mind the spooky sound may come from an owl no bigger than a pint glass. The Eastern Screech-Owl is a short, stocky bird, with a large head and almost no neck. Pointed ear tufts are often raised, lending its head a distinctive silhouette. Whatever the overall color, they are patterned with complex bands and spots that give the bird excellent camouflage against tree bark. Eyes are yellow.

Red and gray individuals occur across the range of the Eastern Screech-Owl, with about one-third of all individuals being red. The Eastern Screech-Owl is known to eat a variety of songbirds, including the European Starling.

"Both of these Eastern Screech-Owls were located in barns near Burkes Garden, VA."

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Tundra Swan

On wintry days, flocks of North America’s most numerous swans gather on lakes and estuaries or descend out of gray skies. These elegant creatures—slightly smaller than our other native species, the Trumpeter Swan—nest on arctic tundra and visit the U.S. only on migration and in winter. Most have a smudge of yellow at the base of their black bill, but otherwise are pure white.
Lewis and Clark provided the first written description of the Tundra Swan during their expedition to the West, where the birds’ whistle-like calls prompted Meriwether Lewis to dub them “whistling swans.”
Swans have long been associated with ideals of romance. Added to their elegant outlines and all-white plumage is their tendency to form permanent pair bonds.

"Nine Tundra Swans were seen at Falls Mills Lake on December 2, 2015"

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Bird Watching

Bird Watching (aka Birding)

Birding has many aspects and challenges. I began “Bird Watching” when my son saw articles about Christmas Bird Count (CBC) and Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) with He knew my love for nature and that I fed birds each winter. My initial response: “I don’t know about this.”

I gave it a try. I set up an account with eBird and started entering birds. I quickly found out there was not a listing for “red bird, blue bird, yellow like bird, etc.” How many blue-like birds are there anyway? What in the world is a “supercilium”? Again, my response: “I don’t know about this.”

After a few entries on eBird, I received a call. The person on the other end of the line identified himself as a member of a bird club. Without taking a breath, he asked me, “Who are you?”   My reply, “I’m Clancey Deel of Home Electric. How can I help you?” I answered while wondering what a bird club was. He went on trying to explain why he made the phone call and that he wanted to meet with me.  “What electrical problem are you having?” I asked. After a chuckle, he explained he wanted to talk to me about the bird entries I had been making.

Meeting with him, he explained that he had been monitoring my entries and some were exciting and some were not so good with major errors. After an hour of talking about nothing but birds, I promised I would work on my bird watching and “my entries”.

A year passed with several entries and just as many corrections.  Not only did I receive corrections from my bird expert, but from people that I had never seen or heard of. Because I was posting photos with the species, they could see that I “needed help”.  Boy, some of those guys can be tough. “The little yellow feather is out place for the specie you posted. ” What feathers are you talking about?” I knew my photo was not that good. How can you see a YELLOW feather?”  And….. just “Who are you, anyway?”

I was ready to give up on this project. I wanted something that allowed me to relax and enjoy my love of nature. A little later a challenge was given to me to research owls in Burkes Garden. To the relief of my expert, I spent the next year looking and listening for my nocturnal feathered friends. I was hooked. This “birding” thing is fun.

Since Tazewell County does not have an active bird club, I joined Buchanan County Bird Club (BCBC). My new mentors are members of that club.  Members have nearly 50 years of experience, each in the field of bird watching. Roger Mayhorn, Ed Talbott III, Dave Raines and Don Carrier are often called upon to ID birds for me. Daryl Owens, who has less than 10 years of experience in the field but 50+ years of knowledge, is a regular on my “to call” list. When I find a bird I cannot ID, my “yellow” bird photo, along with my thoughts, is sent.

My ability to see and to hear worsens with age and often gets in the way of my birding in the field.  Therefore I rely on my camera and the computer for a bird’s correct identification. I have decided not to allow finding many bird species or getting all the birds ID correctly to keep me from enjoying nature. You see, one can get hung up on getting a “lifer” or getting 500+ species in one’s life time (lifers) and thus miss out on the important things: being with nature (the Lord’s gift), helping with data that checks the health of our ecosystem and helping one’s own health (relaxing, walking trails, etc).

Finally, I am able to answer my own first question, “I DO know about this”.