Sunday, December 16, 2007

New Snowshoes!

Canada Geese flying overhead

Under blue skies and good viewing this morning, I went to Pheasant Branch Conservancy to look for the Northern Shrike. We were unable to find it, but it was still a perfect day to try out my new snowshoes. I went with a set of Atlas 9 Series (930) for general use / trail walking. They're great for the type of terrain I generally restrict my winter birding hikes to.

Trying out my new snowshoes

There were several flocks of Canada Geese flying from the stream by the marsh to the farm fields to the north. A Rough-legged Hawk was perched atop a tree far in the distance and a Bald Eagle flew in from the northwest and circled the drumlin, coming in close proximity to a soaring Red-tailed Hawk. The prairie was swarming with the ubiquitous American Tree Sparrow; gregarious and full of chatter, almost like they knew the shrike wasn't around to hunt them.

Aiming the spotting scope at a group of tree sparrows, I enjoyed super close-up view as they consumed goldenrod seeds:

If you look closely at this tree sparrow's nape, you can see a few filoplume feathers sticking out. Filoplumes at the base of wing feathers help birds determine position and movement of wing feathers during flight. It's thought that nape filoplumes allow the bird to detect ruffled feathers to assist it with conserving heat. For more about filoplume feathers, see this blog post from Bootstrap Analysis blog.

And speaking of Bootstrap Analysis and Snowy Owls (my previous most), Nuthatch recently posted a poignant reminder on good owling ethics that's worth your time to read.

All images © 2007 Mike McDowell

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