My special bird in autumn 2018

Well, having had time to finally process photos as the year end approaches, I’m “on a roll” with posting blogs in contrast to other months in 2018. I have two more to post on mammals this year. This one is to commemorate a real birding treat that came to me during the snowstorm that was featured in my last two blogs.

 

There had been reports on birding sites and listservs that some bird species which usually don’t come too far south during the winter were on the move this year to warmer climes. They included birds that sometimes arrive in North Carolina (NC) in winter, but who don’t always come in large numbers (an “irruption”) such as pine siskins (Spinus pinus, above) and purple finches (Haemorhous purpureus, below).

  

I’ve also been lucky to see red-breasted nuthatches (Sitta canadensis), another irruption species, either in my yard or on nature walks.

 

So why are they coming here in numbers?  It turns out that trees in the northern boreal forests are not producing enough food sources that these birds need to survive winter weather such as conifer seeds and berries (from trees such as hemlock, spruce, firs, alders and larch).

What was really exciting for birders in NC, however, was that some other bird species are also seeking new winter foraging areas. They include redpolls, crossbills and the gorgeous evening grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertinus) who are seen here only rarely.

I had only ever seen a photo of these grosbeaks and thought it would be fun to see one in person. Members of a listserv mentioned that these grosbeaks had been spotted in Virginia, just above the NC border, so we should be prepared to perhaps see them.

On my visits to the Brumley Nature Preserve, I spent time in the spruce areas in the hope of spotting one, but I had no such luck. And then as the snow was falling heavily on the first morning of our snowstorm, I caught sight of a bright yellow and black bird on a feeder as I looked out my window. Lo and behold, when I grabbed my camera I discovered a male evening grosbeak on a feeder!

What was even more exciting was that he was accompanied by two female birds, both of whom were very lovely as well. I took lots of photos.

They finally flew off and I counted myself very lucky indeed. A while later, when the snow had stopped for a while, I was watching the feeders again and the threesome returned to my delight. They fed and then rested on feeder poles.

I tried to go outside quietly so I could photograph them without a window between us but they were quite skittish and left quickly as soon as I appeared. They flew to the tops of nearby tall pines and then disappeared off into the distance. They were not shy when I stood in front of the living room window, however.

The trio reappeared a third time and I stayed behind the window to admire them. It was interesting to see how they could look different, depending on their posture. The bird above looked “tall” as it fed next to the Eastern bluebird. And then the other looked fat and fluffy on the feeder pole – even looking as if it had an outsized head when it leaned forward a bit!

 

They left in the afternoon and did not return, even when it snowed again the next day. A fellow birder who lives northwest of me spotted a male evening grosbeak on one of her feeders that day – the birds were obviously en route to another destination. I hope they found a good food source area for the rest of the winter. And my photos will remind me of their wonderful visit, which made this snowstorm one to remember. 😊

And now for something different…

indonesia-img_0067-maria-de-bruynRecently, I was pondering what I might choose as a subject for a column that I contribute to a bird club newsletter. And then as I was getting New Year’s cards ready to send, a topic emerged. So as I work on some new wildlife photography blogs, here is one with a bit of a different focus, based on the newsletter article I wrote.

Many birders are focused on a few goals when they go out looking for birds – increasing their life-lists, finding a “nemesis bird” that has continued to elude them, celebrating new birds to add to their yard lists, getting a great photographic shot, exploring a new nature area, etc. But there are other ways to celebrate birds as well and one that might help get young people interested in them is to help them begin a bird stamp collection. Or you might find it fun for yourself!

usa-img_0210-maria-de-bruynThe US Postal Service is doing its bit for the stamp collectors with their newest set of stamps issued this month – beautiful songbirds: golden-crowned kinglets, a cedar waxwing, male Northern cardinal and red-breasted nuthatch.

Many other countries also regularly issue stamps honoring popular, unusual and particularly beautiful birds found within their borders. African, Asian and South American countries have particularly disseminated some beauties.

tz-stamp-2-img_0092-maria-de-bruyn  zambia-2-img_0080-maria-de-bruyn   kenya-img_0088-maria-de-bruyn

ethiopia-img_0074-maria-de-bruynIn the 1990s, I received lots of “snail mail” from developing countries since I managed a resource center focused on documentation from those nations. Many organizations and individuals sending me envelopes and parcels did not have postage machines, so they put colorful postage on their mailings and quite a few of those stamps featured birds.

Many of the depictions seem true to life and others are more impressionistic.

 

uganda-img_0072-maria-de-bruyn  switzerland-img_0055-maria-de-bruyn  korea-img_0064-maria-de-bruyn

tz-stamp-img_0092-maria-de-bruyn

 

Not all the stamps have shown birds that would meet everyone’s definition of beautiful but they are interesting.

And raptors appear to be a favored subject.

 

uar-img_0077-maria-de-bruyn   cameroon-img_0059-maria-de-bruyn   tz-stamp-img_0094-maria-de-bruyn-red

Some stamps not only provide common names but scientific names for the pictured birds.

fiji-img_0062-maria-de-bruyn   nepal-img_0063-maria-de-bruyn  sierra-leone-img_0057-maria-de-bruyn

malawi-img_0084-maria-de-bruyn

nl-img_0056-maria-de-bruynAnd some, like this one from The Netherlands, memorialize endangered species.

Nowadays, with the advent of electronic documentation, books, reports and email, Twitter and other social media slowly replacing typed or handwritten letters and cards, many of us receive much less “old-fashioned” mail than in years past. (To my regret, I will add, as I still really appreciate a handwritten letter and tangible card with words of greeting – the extra effort put into selecting a card or stationery, putting it into an envelope, addressing it and making sure it has postage is a reminder of people’s caring.)  Granted the electronic messaging is cheaper and faster and some venues allow you to select a “stamp” to add to an ecard, like care2. But receiving paper mail is still an enjoyable event for me – and our neighborhood has quite a nice mailman, too!

I am pleased to note that my saved stamps include bird species that I’ve had the privilege of seeing in person.

burkina-faso-img_0058-maria-de-bruyn     cuba-img_0050-maria-de-bruyn  kenya-img_0089-maria-de-bruyn

tz-stamp-img_0099-maria-de-bruyn-red   namibia-img_0076-maria-de-bruyn

usa-img_0050-maria-de-bruyn   zimbabwe-img_0077-maria-de-bruyn  usa-img_0051-maria-de-bruyn

If you are interested in this type of hobby and don’t get much paper mail, there are online purveyors of bird stamps where you can purchase items to add to your collection:

http://www.bird-stamps.org/

https://www.postbeeld.com/stamps-shop/bird-postage-stamps

http://www.birdtheme.org/

http://www.avionstamps.com/ambrowCart/shop/show_products.php?search=Birds

ivory-coast-img_0049-maria-de-bruyn

 

And there is a society dedicated to bird stamp collectors.  So, if you’re looking for a new pastime to while away some time when the weather just doesn’t invite you outdoors to see birds in person, there is an avian-focused option! And maybe you can persuade friends and family to send you some snail mail to support your new avocation. 🙂

 

 

 

ecuador-img_0069-maria-de-bruyn    malawi-img_0085-maria-de-bruyn-red

kenya-img_0091-maria-de-bruyn  senegal-img_0060-maria-de-bruyn  zambia-1-img_0080-maria-de-bruyn