Clever, Corrugated Starlings

Starling Singing in Seattle

I refuse to persecute starlings for the same reason I shoot with Olympus gear: I like to assess things on a case by case basis. With Olympus, I’m in the photographic minority, adopting the four-thirds format in 2008 to the disappointment of friends who pushed hard for either Canon or Nikon. With starlings, I am […]

The Red-Winged Way

Male Red-winged Blackbird singing

The Red-Wing Blackbird The wild red-wing black- bird croaks frog- like though more shrill as the beads of his head blaze over the swamp and the odors of the swamp vodka to his nostrils ~ William Carlos Williams I notice spring birds before spring buds … and just the other day, the Red-winged Blackbirds were […]

The Thing with Feathers

American Robin Eating Berries in Seattle

“Hope” is the thing with feathers – That perches in the soul – And sings the tune without the words – And never stops — at all – And sweetest — in the Gale — is heard – And sore must be the storm – That could abash the little Bird That kept so many […]

[Northern] Flickering

Northern Flickers Territorial Display

I believe this interaction was a territorial display between two Northern Flickers. Their routine was on a continuous loop for about five minutes, performed on utility cables strung across our view of the city. Aggressive displays such as “bill directing” or “bill poking” are used by flickers. That is, a flicker may point his bill […]

[Bird] Towel Optional

Starlings bathing in a puddle

A European Starling preens in a communal bath on the Seattle waterfront as a juvenile Starling wanders into the splash zone. This bird bath was a series of long, narrow puddles at the edge of a bike path, visited at various times by Starlings, crows, finches and sparrows. Each time a cyclist buzzed by, the […]

Waxwing Solo

Waxwing 385

I marked my winters in California by the return of the Cedar Waxwings. A few years ago this is how I would describe my seasonal transition: It starts with a whistle, but a whistle so faint it’s a whisper across the leaves. And then the sound of raindrops, but it’s not rain. It’s the patter […]

A Makeshift Hummingbird Feeder Heater

Anna's Hummingbird on Feeder

Heating hummingbird feeders was a new thing for me after moving to Seattle. Here, Anna’s Hummingbirds stay through the winter, and although the cold months are relatively temperate, there are enough freezing mornings when nectar turns into slush or ice. My first go-round with enabling the local hummingbirds came our first winter with Mr. Hummingway. […]

Swifty Monroe

Vaux's Swifts at Wagner School in Monroe Washington

It doesn’t just happen in Monroe … but we took a spontaneous trip to Monroe where it does happen. Vaux’s Swifts, up and down their migration corridor, appropriate chimneys for their nightly roosting ritual. In the Bay Area, the Healdsburg swift event was one of those things I’d always meant to attend but never did. […]

Return to the Mother Ship

~mothership385

This was a serendipitous capture … getting the two honey bees in a straight line, and in the same plane of focus. I was photographing a single, pollen-soaked bee when the other entered the frame and queued up behind. Whenever I see bees on a slow approach to sunflowers, I can’t help but think of […]

Arc of the Kingfisher

Kingfisher Composite 300

I have a few terabytes of backlogged photos I’ve never posted — many of which should probably stay archived. But, I thought for sure I’d published this one. When I searched my blog archives, it appears this image never touched the pages of The Quark. This is a banner I created last year of a […]

The Origins of Avian Blue

Western Bluebird

I pulled a few of my Western Bluebird pics from the archives to illustrate the following excerpt. This month’s Smithsonian Magazine has a short piece entitled Why So Blue? by Helen Fields, which explores the natural magic behind bluebird blue: [Ornithologist Richard Prum] discovered that as a blue feather grows, something amazing happens. Inside each […]

These Are Not Leaves

Click for Larger Image - ©ingridtaylar

My loose homage to Rene Magritte. They were so quiet, fluttering in the wind just like the leaves. Not even the softest Starling whistle came from that tree. When you’ve birded or photographed enough, or sometimes even just a bit, it’s wonderful how the slightest anomaly then draws the eye. This was more than slight, […]

Grackles & Apples …

Great-tailed Grackle at Henderson

… and grackles foraging across Nevada, exploiting urban food scraps. One of my favorite things about visiting southern climates is the summer night chatter of grackles … the cavatina that becomes the dissonant ensemble of grackle song when huge groups of the birds roost on urban plazas. These were winter-time grackles — Great-tailed Grackles roaming […]

No Frozen Hummingbirds, Please

Heated Hummingbird Feeder

In the winter of 2011, my hummingbird nectar froze into a giant lifesaver of an ice cube. I’m a Californian which means I’m used to nectar that ferments into birdie moonshine after a few days in the sun. But last year we migrated north to Seattle … at the same time Anna’s Hummingbirds decide not […]

Cleaning House

Starling Removes Waste Droppings from Nest

Much-maligned but still loved by me, a European Starling makes the drop: grubs for breakfast, in the door; baby droppings out the door. The parent carries the nestlings’ waste out through the portal, drops it in the shrubs nearby, then forages again in the grass for the babies’ next meal of insects. Because Starlings, en […]

Watch for Towhees, Flying Low

Spotted Towhee on Fence

Spotted Towhees were the elusive ground foragers I never saw enough of in the Bay Area. I’d catch a glimpse as they scuttled under the scrub. Or, occasionally, snapped a photo of one heralding the morning light in the thickets of Tilden Park. My best Spotted Towhee sighting was the trusting bird who let me […]

A Bird Called Hummingway

Male Anna's Hummingbird

He was christened Mr. Hummingway by a dear friend who likes birds but is ambivalent about interaction with birds. She had formative experiences that made her view birds as flapping missiles who get tangled in your hair, dive bomb you, or suddenly ditch into the open window of your moving car on a freeway. Those […]

A Room With a View

Black-capped chickadee

Ever since I saw my first Screech Owl hunkered down in the saddle of an oak, I’ve given extra scrutiny to tree hollows in the woodlands, looking for a bird face peeking out. Our friend in darn-near-the-middle-of-nowhere California found such a face — in a cavity nest in her backyard — a yard that literally […]

The Swallows [400 Miles North] of Capistrano

Cliff Swallow Petrochelidon pyrrhonota

Quick note: With all of these photos, I kept my distance with an effective 600mm zoom. I’m careful not to disturb birds during nesting season. And, it’s also against the law to disturb wild bird nests or eggs. These are the famous Swallows of San Juan Capistrano. Well, not these birds in particular. This species, […]

The Goldfinch and Thistle (A Pub With No Pints)

Artichoke Thistle Eradication - ©ingridtaylar

The Bay Area has a thistle problem, or so we hear, but goldfinches weren’t complaining on our hike yesterday. Here’s a photo of that Artichoke Thistle (Cynara cardunculus), taken last week in Tilden Park: And a few photos taken in Briones, where ongoing eradication has taken out bunches of the Artichoke Thistle in the grasslands: […]

The Waxwings Are Back

Cedar Waxwing in pyracantha tree

I don’t know exactly how long they’ve been back, the Cedar Waxwings. Serious birders** know from the hour. I only know by the near-silent whistles that suddenly populate our trees. And I know because we got our first injured Cedar Waxwings at the hospital in the past two weeks — immobilized by window strikes. Today, […]