Fink Family Farm Bird List

Fink Family Farm Bird List

The only list I faithfully keep is a list of all the birds seen on our farm since we moved here in 1977. I thought it would be fun to ad...

Friday, April 14, 2017

Fink Family Farm Barn Owls 2017

Two years ago our Barn Owl nest had a predation disaster. We lost 6 of the 8 eggs and only 1 of those survived to fledging (flying out of the nest). That one surviving owlet hid at the back of the box cowering until it fledged. Clearly, it had witnessed something terrifying. That was the first time we had predation problems on our owls. We suspect a Barred Owl had invaded as I heard one calling close to the barn that year.

Last year our owls only laid two eggs, far as we could tell. Both fledged. That was way below their usual. I have hand-written records with the data we have kept on the owl nests since we started keeping records in 2004: number of eggs laid (when I know), number hatched, number fledged and dates. They have laid anywhere from 2 to 9 eggs, with 7 the usual number. They have fledged anywhere from 1 to 7 with 4 the usual number. I am trying to get all this data onto a spreadsheet but I am slow.

When the owls begin to come out of their dark nest box and onto the ledge where they can be seen from outside the barn, we invite people to come watch them at dusk as they beg and their parents bring them prey. We do not invite people to come before that because we do not want to stress the owlets and their parents. People are predators as far as Barn Owls are concerned. However, since we feed hay out of the loft morning and night, the owls grow accustomed to us and do not panic when we occasionally climb the ladder to check on them. Once in awhile I shine a flashlight off to the side, so not directly at the owls, and take a photo.  The photos are pretty pathetic because of the conditions.

To set the scene, below are photos of the ladder going up to the loft that one must climb first...


 From the top of the ladder, you can see the back of the loft with the "stairs" on the right that go up past the window to the nest ledge and cardboard nest box on the left. Every two or three years, we burn the box and give the owls a new one. On the right top you can see the vine maple branch that runs from one end of the loft to the other. The adult owls and the fledglings roost on that branch at times. They fly out if we come up while they are on the branch.

Here is a closer view of the stairs and nest box. The tarp below has been over a stack of hay which has now been fed to the goats. Not much hay left in the loft this time of year. Soon a new crop will come in by noisy hay elevators. Sometimes the owls are nesting during haying season but they stay in their nest box and don't fly out when we are putting hay into the loft.  Maybe it seems safer to hide in the box than to fly out the window with all that racket going on.

The next two photos show the ladder going up to the nest ledge. There is a gap of about two feet between top of ladder and nest ledge with nest box. It is designed to be a viewing ladder only and not a place to get to the box. We did not want any critter to be able to get to the box if one happened to get into the loft. When we replace the box, we access it with a ladder from the floor of the loft... or from the stack of hay if it is still there.

I took these photos on 4/14. There are still a few bales of hay to clamber over before reaching the foot of the stairs. There is not much room between the stairs and the ceiling so we have to crawl up carefully to keep from hitting our backs on the ceiling... we didn't want to waste much hay storage space as we need it all when the hay first comes in.

Here is the top of the stairs and the nest ledge with the gaps that the owlets stand in to beg when they are getting close to fledging. Owls make a terrible mess, which is why we tarp our hay.

After all that effort getting up those stairs, here is what you see... This photo was taken on March 21st. The owlets were pretty new here, still in their birthday suits. They are cuter after they grow their yellow down. This is pretty much how they look when first out of the egg... they cannot even hold their heads up properly.

The photo below was taken on April 14. They are growing fast so the parents must be able to find enough food for them in spite of all the rain this year.

The first hatched owl fledges each year about 100 days after hatching. That would make fledging this year begin about May 25. Time will tell how accurate that estimate is. I will update this post at that time. 

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Front Yard Albatross Chick!

Not in my front yard, however. A friend of daughter-in-law Jessica sent her photos today of an albatross chick that hatched in their front yard in Kauai. (I'm guessing Laysan Albatross by the pink bill and smudgy eye.) This is the house where Jessica and family (our son and grandson) stay each August when on vacation in Hawaii. Imagine having an albatross nest in your front yard!

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Bird Tracks and Lincoln's Sparrow

Today after the snow began to melt a bit and the gravel in the driveway poked through, I photographed some bird tracks that I knew what were... because I first watched the birds that made them.

California Quail

Brush Rabbit, California Quail, and unidentified hopping bird, probably towhee as there were several around

Golden-crowned Sparrows

Dark-eyed Junco (if I'm remembering correctly. They were not heavy enough to make tracks in the icy snow but I think I took this photo after one had scratched or hit a soft spot... or something.)

Then I was distracted by a sparrow in a flock of juncos. I tried hard to get a photo of this skulker in the grass...

It flew. I followed. It disappeared. I pished. It immediately popped up on a bare tree and stared at me. Hip hip hooray! A Lincoln's Sparrow! We see them seldom here and I had not managed to get a photo before.

So I took lots of photos.

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Zealand Birds

Johnny spent almost three weeks in New Zealand this November, with our son Steve and family. At my request, Johnny took photos of birds they saw. Grandson Cedrus, 7, identified most of them by looking at a brochure of common birds of New Zealand that I had given to him and his brother. They did not take the brochure with them on their hikes, but Cedrus was able to remember what they had seen and find them in the brochure each evening. Amazing kid. The ones he couldn't find in the brochure, I searched for on a great website: New Zealand Birds Online.

We welcome corrections and confirmations!  *Update: several birders knowledgeable about New Zealand birds have written to confirm all our identifications. Good work, Cedrus!

 From left to right: Pukeko, Rock Dove, Black Swan, Eurasian Blackbird

Pukeko or Purple Swamphen

Rock Dove
Black Swan

Eurasian Blackbird, female

Eurasian Blackbird, male
Eurasian Blackbird

Eurasian Coot

European Greenfinch



House Sparrow

Red-billed Gull

Red-billed Gull...flap under bill is apparently the bird's tongue protruding through a wound, probably from a fish hook according to rangers at the New Zealand Department of Conservation who responded to my query

Southern Black-backed Gull

Pied Shag (cormorant)

New Zealand Fantail

Variable Oystercatcher

White-faced Heron
California Quail

Eastern Rosella

Ring-necked Pheasant

New Zealand Pigeon

Song Thrush



Thursday, October 13, 2016

White-crowned Sparrow?

When I saw this bird on Oct. 10, I had no doubt it was a 1st fall White-crowned Sparrow. But now that I've seen my photos, I'm confused. Do they usually have black tips to the upper bill? And such wide median, almost yellow, head stripe?

update: the word is in and this is a first winter White-crowned Sparrow. Alan Contreras tells me they vary a lot. Judy Meredith says Gold-crowneds have all dark upper mandible. That's how I have always told the young White-crowns from young Gold-crowns but this bird's black tip had me puzzled. Thanks Alan and Judy!And thanks, Dave Irons for explaining the difference between juvenile and first winter White-crowns. Now I'll pay better attention!