100 Birds in 2018 – #7 Rough-legged Hawk

I’m finding it harder to get a blog entry done during the week.  I’m hoping to get a few new ones done, or at least started over the weekend, so I can edit and post throughout the week.

Rough-legged Hawk

Enough about excuses…this post is a photo of a Rough-legged Hawk.  I took this on the same day I took the one of the young Bald Eagle I posted a couple of weeks ago. As my son and i were getting close to the highway to head home, I spotted this guy on a telephone pole.  As we got closer, he few of the pole and lit on one of the many windmill towers we have in Western Nebraska.

I have seen a ton of these hawks over the last several months.  At first, I was mis identifying them as immature Red-tailed Hawks, but was corrected by a follower on instagram who set me straight.

According to Audubon Society’s Guide to North American Birds, they migrate south into the northern half of the United States from their breeding grounds in the Arctic every fall.  Additionally, their breeding success is often determined by the population of lemmings.  (I didn’t even know what a lemming was until I looked it up.)

I’m sure we will start seeing less and less of these and other raptors over the next couple of months.  They will be replaced with the meadowlarks and other song birds that do their breeding here in the northern great plains.  I’m looking forward to it, and maybe some warmer weather too!


100 Birds in 2018 – #6 American Tree Sparrow

I was hoping to show off a first for me this morning.  Yesterday, I had a handful of Pine Siskins at my feeders in the back yard.  When I went to get my camera, I realized I’d left it in my truck overnight.  It was about -8 degrees that evening, so when I brought my camera in, it took some time to get it thawed enough to even be able to look through the lens.  Luckily it still works fine!

American Tree Sparrow-1-12

American Tree Sparrow  (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 1000, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)

So, instead of a rarity, I’m going to use one of the most common visitors to my feeders.  The American Tree Sparrow is about as common as they come here in the winter.  All About Birds says that these plump sparrows migrate each winter into the United States and move north to their tundra breeding grounds in the spring.

They are a pretty simple looking bird, but this photo really strikes me.  The contrast in colors, and the energy this small bird seems to show, makes them anything but simple.

(I’ve learned my lesson too…camera comes in every night, just in case those little siskin’s show up again)


100 Birds in 2018 – #5 Bald Eagle

The iconic American Bald Eagle is something everyone can identify.  I chose to use a photo of a juvenile of the species for this post as not everyone realizes that how much they change and how long it takes for them to come to full adulthood with the noble white head and tail.

Bald Eaglejpg

Juvenile Bald Eagle  (1/1250, f/7.1, ISO 200, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)

This one is probably a 2 or 3 year old eagle you can tell by the white feathers throughout the body and the beak not having turned completely yellow.  According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s, site All About Birds, it takes about 5 years for these raptors to reach full maturity.

We always see a quite a few eagles this time of year in Northwest Nebraska.  They are likely migrating south from Canada and most will move back north by late February or early March.  I’ve actually seen more this year than in past years.  Hope to see more in the future!

100 Birds in 2018 – #4 American Kestrel

My next bird for the year is the American Kestrel.  I first photographed one of these tiny raptors last spring on a power line.  I took another photo of one right before last summer’s solar eclipse. This was my first one of this year and probably my best ever.

American Kestrel

American Kestrel  (1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 320, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)

I took this photo at the end of a quick Sunday drive through the county with my son.  We’d seen several eagles and a bunch of hawks.  But this little gal (males have blue on their wings) was hanging out on a tree near the road, just a mile from the house.

American Kestrels are the smallest raptor in North America.  They are really fun to watch hunt insects and small mammals from their perches.  I love the colorful plumage and the acrobatic way they swoop and turn and just make flying look so easy.

(On a side note, I’m finding it tougher to find time to keep up with the posts…I need to step it up!)





100 Birds in 2018 – #3 Townsend’s Solitaire

I decided on a Townsend’s Solitaire for my third bird in 2018.  I first noticed these birds around my place last winter when I had thought that the only birds around were Juncos and Robins.  Then I heard a peaceful soft chirp coming from what looked like a small Robin in the trees.  I finally got a photo of one, went through the ID process and found that though they aren’t “common” in my area, that’s what it was!

Townsends Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire  (1/2000, f/6.3, ISO 250, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)

According to the Merlin Bird ID app, Townsend’s Solitaires love junipers and tend to breed in higher elevations, (though they are present in Northwest Nebraska throughout the year. It gets its name from John Kirk Townsend an early naturalist who traveled across the Rockies collecting specimens and sending them back to John Audubon for further identification and classification.

I took this photo while on a hike with my kids though the Nebraska National Forest’s Pine Ridge area.  It’s not my best image, as it was quite a ways away, but it was my first of one of these in 2018.  Hope to see many more!

100 Birds in 2018 – #2 Cedar Waxwing

For my second post of my 100 birds in 2018, I’m putting up another bird I first photographed this winter.  I took this photo near Hastings, NE while at my monthly National Guard drill at Greenlief Training Site.


Cedar Waxwing  (1/1250, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)

This regal looking bird is a migrant to Nebraska, spending it’s summers in the Northern United States and Canada.   This one was part of a large flock (at least 50) and was hanging out with a bunch of European Starlings in a shelterbelt.  Pretty cool thing to see.

(I actually got a picture of a Cedar Waxwing in one of the cedar trees around my house in December, but this is 2018, and I want to stay consistent with the series.)

100 Birds in 2018 – #1 Eastern Bluebird

At the beginning of the year, I made some goals.  One of which is to improve myself by writing more.  I’ve been journaling quite a bit, but I want to improve my overall writing ability too.  The only way to do that is to write.  I was having trouble coming up with topics consistently, so i decided to try this.

National Geographic and the National Audubon Society have declared this year, the year of the bird.  It’s the 100 year anniversary of the signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  To celebrate, they will be putting the spotlight on birds and their importance to our world.  I’m going to use my blog to document at least 100 birds through photographs I take throughout the year.

The first post I’ll make is on the eastern bluebird.  I thought it fitting to start with this one, as this is the first year I’ve had them (that I’ve noticed anyhow) in my yard.  It’s also interesting that they’ve shown up here in the winter.  Northwest Nebraska is not within their normal range for this time of year.  In fact, according to the Cornel Lab of Ornithology, we are on the very fringe of their breeding range.

Eastern Bluebird

Eastern Bluebird  (1/2500, f/6.3, ISO 500, Canon 7D Mark II, Sigma 150-600 C)

Along with the beautiful plumage, these birds have a pretty cool song.  It’s more of a gurgling sound, but it’s very peaceful and unique.   I took this photo in a shelter-belt near my house.  These birds are probably feeding on the abundant juniper berries here.  I’m pretty excited to see if they stick around for the full year or move on as spring and summer come around.