Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Posts about Bird identification

Broad-winged Hawk and frog

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: May 6, 2014 - 11:28 AM

Broad-winged Hawks eat frogs. This one was delivering take-out captured in our pond. The hawks are nesting a couple of yards down the street. The day this photo was taken we watched the hawk visit and pond and its marshy edges three times. We have chorus frogs, Spring Peepers, Wood Frogs, and Leopard Frogs out there. The meal looks like a Wood Frog.

Garganey and Cinnamon Teal

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 27, 2014 - 5:38 PM

The Garganey, a very rare duck visitor from Eurasia, was in place at Crex Meadows Wildllife Area as of Sunday afternoon. Crex is just north of Grantsburg, Wisconsin. The bird is being seen in a pond on the northeast corner of Burnett County Road F and Able Road. This is about a mile north of County Road D, which runs east and west at the northern edge of the city. County F runs due north from downtown Grantsburg. The Cinnamon Teal, regular in Minnesota but not easy to find, was being seen in a field puddle about half a mile east of Stewart, Minnesota. The puddle is along 75th Avenue, which is parallel to Highway 212 on its north side.


Garganey with Blue-winged Teal. 

The Garganey is the lead bird, flying with Blue-Winged Teal.

The Cinnamon Teal is second bird from the right.

Name that song? Princeton has an app for it

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 22, 2014 - 5:50 PM

Have you ever listened to a bird song first sung by the bird in front of you, and then sung by the presumed bird on a recording? Ever done that and wished that the two songs sounded more alike? Wished for help?

Help is on the way, coming via — what else? — a phone app. 

Princeton University Press soon will release two apps, one for eastern birds, the other for western. There will be approximately 60 species on each. (Yes, yes, you want them all; maybe next year.) For now, Princeton says BirdGenie™ will be at least 90 percent accurate in naming thel singer from the chosen five dozen. These will be, for the most part, species we commonly know as backyard birds. 

Most birds are heard before they are seen, and some are only heard. This app should add much pleasure for what we commonly know as backyard birders.

The apps will be available for Apple® or Android® smartphones or tablets. You will record bird songs with the device’s built-in microphone, the app working its Shazam®-like magic to provide you with the closest match or a list of possible matches. 

You can store the recordings in the app. Your can be share them directly from BirdGenie. The app is self-contained, so once downloaded, internet connectivity is not needed for field use.
You can read more about these apps (Backyard Birds East, Backyard Birds West) at the following links:
East: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10411.html
West: http://press.princeton.edu/titles/10412.html

Nearby nesters

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 22, 2014 - 9:51 AM

Here are the pair of Red-tailed Hawks that are nesting near our home. In the first photo the birds are in the upper righrt corner, one of them taking flight. The nest is at upper left. The second photo shows one of the birds eating, at right, while its mate watches, left. The pair of Wood Ducks are nesting in a box at the edge of the pond in our back yard. 

White-winged Scoter being seen near downtown

Posted by: Jim Williams Updated: April 10, 2014 - 4:42 PM

A White-winged Scoter is being seen near the east end of Boom Island, which is at the west end of Nicollet Island near downtown Minneapolis. This species is regular in Minnesota during migration, but most often along the North Shore. It is unusual to have one mid-city, particularly one so loyal to a single location. It has been seen in or near this location for several days. Best viewing is from Boom Island. Enter the park from Sibley Avenue and drive to the far end (Washington Avenue east from downtown, left turn on Plymouth, right turn onto Sibley Street NE). A short walk will take you to the river bank. Check water near the channel between the islands. White-winged Scoters breed from central Canada northwest into the interior of Alaska. They winter along both coasts. The bird has been identified by staff at Audubon Minnesota as a female hatched in the spring of 2013.


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