Make Your Yard Woodpecker (and bear) Friendly!

In the last hour I have had visits from the following  kinds of woodpeckers in my yard:

  • Downy Woodpeckers
  • Hairy Woodpeckers
  • Pileated Woodpeckers
  • Red-Bellied Woodpeckers
  • Yellow-Shafted Flickers

I normally also have Yellow-Bellied Sapsuckers around, but I believe my local crew has already migrated south. In short, my yard is woodpecker friendly. In addition to the the obvious suet feeders, I never remove dead trees unless they threaten to fall on my home. Dead trees provide nesting locations, and food for all of my woodpecker friends (with the exception of the sapsuckers). In turn these birds with all their newly created holes create lots of habitat for many other animals. Oh yes, my local bear population also appreciates my suet feeders!

Meet Hairy … Star of the new Children’s Book!

But That Is Not Me!

Yes, Hairy the “Hairy Woodpecker” is the star of a new children’s book. In the book, Hairy, visits his forest sky friends … other northern forest birds … and asks what they do! (pdf book excerpt). Over the course of 32 pages, Hairy learns much about his friends.

In the meantime, you may have noticed the new section of this blog (see top menubar) “Birding With Children. I will give away a copy of the book, But That Is Not Me, to the person who submits the best idea for “birding with children” via the comments section of that page (i.e. not this web page).

But That Is Not Me! will be available for purchase at a cost of $12 via this web site and Amazon by October 15th. 

Forest Fire Smoke Sunrise

Good Morning, Duluth!
This was the scene at 6:40 am this morning as I headed out for an early morning bicycle ride … a glowing red orb with the Lester River Bridge in the foreground!
I always have my camera in my bike’s kit bag, and when I turned to go up the shore of Lake Superior at 60th Ave East, this is the scene that greeted me! Thus, I quickly jumped off my bike, waited till traffic had passed and then stood in the middle of London Road to take this photograph! No special filters were used for this photograph. I suspect the “red globe” look is from lingering Canadian forest fire smoke.

Shorebird Identification

Will the real American Golden Plover please stand up?!

Some of us are old enough to remember the TV show, To Tell The Truth! In this show, a panel of celebrities asked three guests questions in an attempt to determine who was the real guest, and who were impostors. Sometimes identifying shorebirds feels a bit like an episode of this game show. Shorebirds have many different plumage patterns, which vary by the season of the year, and whether a bird is a male, female, breeding male, breeding female or an immature bird.

Over the past few days I have seen many American Golden Plovers, and sandpipers on the Duluth waterfront as these birds migrate down from the shores of the Arctic Ocean to “southern” South America in the plover’s case. Mudflats near Lake Superior are favorite resting / feeding spots as these birds recharge for many thousands of miles that have yet to migrate.

Given, assuming some luck on my birding expeditions, I only see these shorebirds a few weeks out of the year during the northern and southern migrations. Given such a short viewing window for birds I only see a few days per year, and given the fact birds like the American Golden Plover have many plumage options, obtaining a proper ID is difficult. Here are some of resources I use to help with my identification process.

First … some photos that I took of the plovers, and then I will work through the identifications resources. However, the first resources that is very useful pdf booklet from the Migratory Shorebird Project.

Here are the photos I used for my initial ID’s

And a few other American Golden Plovers in varying stages of plumage …

My two other resources in addition to the pdf booklet, are the Peterson Bird App, and Cornell’s Merlin Bird ID. I like the Peterson app because its initial bird image screens show you many different birds at once in varying stages of plumage. After some initial work, I then can drill further into the app and review photographs. Some apps only show you a photograph of a breeding male on the initial screen for any bird specie. In this instance, that would be almost useless. Here are two screenshots from Peterson’s:

Assuming one is still having difficulties with obtaining a proper identification, I then move on the Cornell’s Merlin Bird ID. Using one of my own photographs, I am able to submit that image into Merlin which then returns a bird identification. Merlin then returns photos in all the different plumage options of what the app thinks is my bird. Merlin Bird ID scored perfectly. Here are some screenshots from my process of working with Merlin. Remember, I had to dramatically different plumage options of the same specie, the American Golden Plover.

Example 1:

  • Adjusting my photo to the input box
  • Confirming my birding date and location
  • Merlin’s educated guess. It’s correct!


Example 2:

  • Adjusting my photo to the input box
  • Confirming my birding date and location
  • Merlin’s educated guess. It’s correct!

I hope introducing these resources will help you with the difficult process of shorebird identification. Although I actually know the plumage options for American Golden Plovers quite well, I used the same process to confirm a Baird’s Sandpiper two days ago.