Common vs. Boat-tailed Grackle

Common species are common for a reason. Just as rare species are rare for a specific purpose. Just because species are rare does not mean that they are threatened or endangered. Species will exist for as long as they have an important niche in the ecosystem. And then they will go extinct. Often, people forget the difference between interfering and practicing conservation. There's absolutely no need to hang bird feeders in the forest, for example. That is interfering. But picking up garbage and respecting a bird's nesting area are examples of practicing conservation (and decency in general).

Two things come to mind here. 1) As exciting as birding is, it's important that we not get too close/be too disruptive with our gawking and photography. 2) Also, because there are species all over the world with very specific ranges, it's important that we bring binoculars everywhere we go and bird every minute of our waking hours.

This is a bird you've all seen before. The Common Grackle.

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I don't want to mislead you. I get very excited about each and every common bird. They're vital for the world around us. When people say, "You've seen a House Sparrow before Steph, what's the big deal?" I say, "But I haven't seen this House Sparrow. This particular one."

These glossy iridescent birds were filling their bills with bugs and then transporting them all over the glades. Let me zoom in so you can see just how many bugs.

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Sometimes near identical birds inhabit the same space. One may be very common like our Common Grackle above and the other, less common. Like these Boat-tailed Grackles.

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The main difference here is the tail. Boat-tailed Grackles have longer, more square tails. Their eyes are black instead of yellow and as you can see, the females are more brown.

The difference in range is astronomical. Common Grackles inhabit much of North America; from the Rockies eastward. But Boat-tailed Grackles stick to the Gulf of Mexico and the east coast of the United States.

Just in case you have your camera with you and are photographing birds, it pays to spare a few snaps for a bird that you think is common. Sometimes you get lucky upon returning home and realize you have captured more than one species. A look-alike!

Sandpipers are coming at you on Wednesday so be ready!

Birds of River Ridge Farm, My Home

While River Ridge Farm is, of late, garnering more attention for its miniature donkeys (cue adorable baby born just last month)... 20130519-DSCN0337

...I have found that the diversity of birds that live here share an almost equal intrigue. Colorado is a great spot for birds. Period. It lies on the border of the Pacific and Central flyways and has many great bird life events like mass migrations, leks and a large-scale altitude coverage with many ecozones. And growing up in the Rocky Mountains had its perks, let me tell ya. I could (and still can) look out the window of my home on River Ridge Farm and see ten different passerine birds in the willow tree out back. This is overstimulation for me. Too exciting.

Resuming my coverage of my trip home to Hotchkiss, I thought I would share some pictures with you of birds that frequent the farm where I grew up.

Let's get back to those Black-chinned Hummingbirds. They are stunning, are they not?

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Later in the summer, a handful of other hummingbird species will make this valley their home. I was once swarmed by hundreds of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at Black Mesa Lodge, a beautiful cabin in the mountains where folks throw parties and weddings. One of the clumsy little fellows smashed into a large picture window and I recall my exaltation as I picked him up, stroked his tiny belly and watched the sense come flooding back into him. He sat perched on my index finger for some time until I placed him on the branch of a tree and watched him speed away. The entire bird seemed to weigh less than a robin feather, if you can believe it.

And what's this trying to sneak a sip out of the hummingbird feeder but a Bullock's Oriole. Beautifully colored birds but frankly, lousy singers and petulant souls when their bill fails to fit into the feeder slot for the millionth time.

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In taking a brief recess from the birds, I would like to share two wonderful things with you. First, a picture of my backyard, as it were. That is Mount Lamborn.

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And second, a photo of the quirkiest guy I know. Dundee, our Westie. I could write volumes on the life of Dundee but I would like to dedicate an entire post to that. Here is Dundee's blue steel face:

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I digress. A Yellow Warbler should get us back on track.

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And take a look at the iridescent head and neck feathers on this Common Grackle (I think Great-tailed Grackles have a bit longer tail than this guy but I could be wrong, both species exist in this area of CO).

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Before you think that songbirds are stealing the show, take note of this female Ring-necked Pheasant that frequented our hay-field every morning that I was home.

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I ended up calling this next American Robin, "Fatsy Cline" because he/she is fat and that's what I call everything that is cute and fat.

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And last, the bird I seek out every time I'm in Hotchkiss for even a day, the Western Meadowlark. One of my all-time favorites because I attribute its song to crisp Sunday mornings in the summertime at home.

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Plus, what's not to love about a round yellow chest sporting a thick black necklace...on things that are not human.

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