Best Bird Books & Movies

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I believe that if I were to breakdown the elements of my bird education so far, it might go something like this:  Observation of birds  50%, reading books 20%, Internet resources 10%, information from other birders 10%, videos & movies 10%. Education aside, I love watching birds. For me identification is important, but I just love watching birds.

I go all over now, but the truth be known, I am a devoted and fanatic backyard birder. These days, I am trying to coax my crows to come closer to my deck with peanuts. Meanwhile, I have an adorable Carolina wren that can hammer with delight one-half-peanut into pieces for a treat. He loves ’em and comes right up to me to get his peanut.

I like to read and watch movies, and  I have discovered some really great bird books and movies. I am still expanding my lists, but here are ones that I recommend in the order in which I read or viewed them. My apologies if left out your favorite book or movie that should be listed. If so, please email me your suggestions or just leave a comment here.

These links provided below are almost all Amazon simply because I do most of my shopping  on Amazon. Obviously most all of the items below are available on other sites and in regular stores, too

The Thing with Feathers

The Owl Who Liked Sitting on Caesar

The Feather Quest

Golden Wings

The Mind of a Raven

The Birds of Pandemonium

Red Tails in Love

The Birds of Central Park

What the Robin Knows

The Big Year

Kingbird Highway

Hawks in Flight

Songbird Journeys

Tales of a Low-Rent Birder

The House on Ipswich Marsh

Small-Headed Flycatcher. Seen Yesterday. He Didn’t’ Leave His Name

Pete Dunne’s Essential Field Guide Companion

Before the Echo

The Wind Masters

Bayshore Summer

Birding on Borrowed Time

H is for Hawk

The Bluebird Effect

I am a big fan of Pete Dunne; most of the above books are his. He is a terrific writer, and we go birding together from time to time.

Movies. There is one series that is an absolute must see, The Life of Birds. It is a BBC ten-part series with David Attenborough. It is also on Netflix.

Here are some other of my favorite movies:

Pale Male

The Big Year

Opposable Chums

Nature: Hummingbirds

Birders: The Central Park Effect

A Birder’s Guide to Everything

Flight: The Genius of Birds

Winged Migration

Please send me your recommendations for books and movies!





Mating Squirrels

Squirrel on feeder aa Bermuda Run jamiesbirds

Squirrels are clever rascals! If you have bird feeders, you probably have squirrels, and you have to take measures to keep them out. I have a squirrel baffle, and if I spray it with PAM to make it slippery, he usually can’t get up it. Clearly, I am not always successful. This particular rascal is my dominant male squirrel, Chunk. He spends a lot of time at my feeders, most of the time, under (not on) them. BTW, my NC squirrels are Eastern gray squirrels. You may click on photos to enlarge them.

Squirrels mating 3 Bermuda Run jamiesbirds

Here is Chunk with his female … ’tis the season.

Squirrels mating 1 Bermuda Run jamiesbirds

This pair was busy all afternoon. When they weren’t actually mating, he was chasing her all over the place at top speed. Here is a blog on squirrel mating.

Squirrels mating 4 Bermuda Run jamiesbirds

 She can’t run fast enough

Squirrel on bird bath Bermuda Run jamiesbirds

Cool down

Squirrel under  feeder 100a Bermuda Run jamiesbirds


Best Camera for Birding?

Barred Owl 3-22-15 Tanglewod Park AvanceNC jamiesbirds

Barred Owl

 Red-shouldered Hawk3-22-15 Tanglewod Avance NC jamiesbirds

Red-shouldered Hawk

I have always enjoyed being an amateur photographer. Above are two birds that I recently shot with a small Canon SX-50 camera on a cloudy day and from long range at Tanglewood Park in Forsyth County, NC. This Canon is the camera that I recommend for the average birder. Disclaimer: If you want professional quality bird photography, this post in NOT for you. BTW, you can click on photos to enlarge them in a new window.

The bird below, named Lola, is one of the offspring of Flitter and Maude, the birds who introduced me to bird-watching. Lola is a young, female Northern cardinal.

Lola 90 b jamiesbirds

As a still-novice birder, photo-documentation has been very helpful to me to correctly identify species and to learn more about them, especially new birds. When I am uncertain about a bird, I just send a photo to one my experienced birder friends who promptly and properly identify the bird.  And taking photos is useful just as a way to get a better look. Not long ago, for example, I saw a dimly-lit bird at dusk with a beak that made it look to me like a Kingbird — not at all likely — but when I examined the pictures in Photoshop, it became obvious that the mystery bird was a Robin.

Egret in fligfht a 9-14-14 jamiesbirds

Great Egret in flight in Bermuda Run East (15th hole)

Camera equipment? I have some expensive and some “relatively” inexpensive cameras. The expensive Sony stuff — Sony a99 camera with a 70-300mm zoom lens — can capture images of birds in flight (as above), but the relatively inexpensive camera — sorry, still about $350 on Amazon — has a phenomenal 50X zoom lens.

Canon SX50 long lens jamiesbirds

The Sony is very expensive and clearly has many advantages over the Canon camera, including the ability to alter shutter speed and aperture at the touch of a button, not to mention that it can shoot 11 frames/second. The light meter is built in and it has a lot of other bells and whistles. The Sony is a serious camera for someone who takes their photography somewhat seriously. (I am not sure that that person is me.)

And truthfully, for that money there may be many better cameras out there. I chose that combination of Sony camera/lens, because I felt that I could handle it, size and weight-wise.  However, the 300mm limit of the Sony lens doesn’t approach the 1,200mm zoom of the Canon SX-50.  So, the big Sony camera comes out for special occasions and for specific applications. For my everyday birding, most of the time, I prefer my Canon SX-50.

Using the Canon SX50 camera, you have to have a steady hand and a relatively-still bird. Most of my photos on this blog are taken with it. When shooting, I take as many shots as I can get in before my arms start to shake. This is done on the principle that one out of ten frames will be in good focus. When shooting long-range, I even control my breathing. To get good photos with this camera, it does take practice.

It wasn’t until I had purchased two other more expensive cameras that I appreciated my SX-50. Some of my birder friends are amazed at some of the photos with this little camera, as mine are often better than theirs, taken with much more expensive equipment.

Finally, I also like that the Canon SX-50 is lightweight and easy to handle. It hang it around my neck just below my binoculars. Hands down, I recommend the point-and-shoot Canon SX-50 for birding primarily because of the great zoom lens. It does, however, require a steady hand. If you disagree with my opinion and you have another best-camera-for-the-average-birder, please leave a comment.


Remember, Not All Birds Feed on the Feeder

Pins Siskin1 BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds  Pins Siskin2 BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Pine Siskins in Bermuda Run (NC) Note: You can click on photos to enlarge them.

Pins Siskin party1 at BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Pine Siskin Party (Why I put as much seed on the ground as I put in the feeders.)

Bluebird bath time1 BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds Bluebird bath time2 BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

 Bluebird bath time5 BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

 Bluebird bath time6 BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

   Eastern Bluebird bath time

Downy Woodpecker BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds American Goldfinch BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Downy Woodpecker and American Goldfinch

Northern Cardinal BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds American Robin BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Northern cardinal and American Robin

Goldfinch and JuncoBR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds Dark-Eyed Junco BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

American Goldfinch and Dark-Eyed Juncos

Brown Creeper BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds White-Breasted Nuthatch BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Hard-to-photograph Brown Creeper and White-Breasted Nuthatch

House Finch jamiesbirds WhiteThroated Sparrow BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

House Finch and White-Throated Sparrow

Tufted Titmouse BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds Cedar Waxwing BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Tufted Titmouse and Cedar Waxwing

 Mostly Goldfinches BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

Hold it, [Almost] Goldfinches only!

Neighborhood Red-Tailed Hawk BR NC Feb 2015 jamiesbirds

The neighborhood bully (Immature Red-Tailed Hawk)

Cumberland County Eagle Festival 2-7-15

Bald Eagle on wilg CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

The Cumberland Country Winter Eagle Festival was held this weekend in Mauricetown, NJ (near Cape May). The Glades Wildlife Refuge (shown below) is home to literally dozens of Bald eagles. Over the past two days, I personally saw at least a dozen Bald eagles as well as many Red-tailed hawks, Northern harriers, and Turkey vultures.

Bald Eagle CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

There were beautiful eagles almost everywhere around Cumberland County. Apparently, the habitat is almost ideal for nesting. In the sequence (four photos below), that mating pair put on quite a show. (Note: The male is on the left and the female on the right.)

Bald Eagle Couple NOT now CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

Bald Eagle Couple not talking  kkk  CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds  Bald Eagle Couple same page CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

  Bald Eagle Couple post coital pic CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

Peace restored

Linda and Pete Dunne and Jamie Koufman 2-8-15

The real highlight of this trip for me was meeting Pete and Linda Dunne. Pete’s is the retired director of the Cape May Bird Observatory.  Pete (and Linda) are giants in the birding world, and Pete is a great writer. I think I have most all of his books, three favorites are Golden Wings, Hawks in Flight, and The Feather Quest.

Talon Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

Red-tailed hawk Al CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirdsAldora of Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge 2-7-15 CC Eagle Fest jamiesbirds

This Red-tailed’s name is Aldora (“Winged Gift”); she is an “educational bird,” and she was on display as a terrific hawk ambassador at the show from the Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge.

  Turkey vulture b CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirdsTurkey vulture preening CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

There were Turkey vultures everywhere, too.

Turkey vulture CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirdsTurkey vulture a CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

Turkey Point and Maple Rd jamiesbirds 2-8-15

Turkey Point Cumberland County Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

This is Turkey Point in the Glades Wildlife Refuge.

Pete Dunne  2-7-15 jamiesbirds

Pete Dunne

Glades Wildlife Refuge jamiesbirds 2-8-15

The marshland

Red-tailed hawk Turkey Point CC Eagle Festival 2-7-15 jamiesbirds

Red-tailed hawk

Winter Birds 2015

Starling in Central Park dd 1-9-15 photo by Jamie Koufman

Starling all puffed out for insulation

Cold puffed out sparrow in Central Park 1-9-15 photo by Jamie Koufman

House sparrow all puffed out, too.

Sparrows in Central Park 1-9-15 photo by Jamie Koufman

Sparrows not puffed

Common redpoll c Central Park ramble jamiesbirds 1-25-15

Common Redpoll in the Ramble (Sun., Jan. 25th)

Birders at rhe feeders at the Ramble Central Park jamiesbirds 1-25-15

Birders at the feeders in the Central Park Ramble. Most wanted to see the Common Redpoll — and he was accommodating (below) — though my photos weren’t great.

Golfinches and Common Redpoll Central Park 1-25-15 jamiesbirds


Chipping sparrow Central Park ramble jamiesbirds 1-25-15

Chipping Sparrow in the Ramble (Sun., Jan. 25, 2015)

SCRAM Tufted titmouse turf Central Park ramble jamiesbirds 1-25-15

 Scram! (Titmouse turf war)

Reservoir at Central Park 1-25-15 jamiesbirds

The Central Park Reservoir

Pale Male … He’s Back!

927 5th Ave home of pale male jamiesbirds 1-22-15

Does this Building and the nest (above middle/top window) look familiar? It is 927 Fifth Avenue at 74th Street, New York, home of Pale Male for the past two decades. (Click photos to enlarge and left arrow to return to post.)

Pale Male and Mate 3 jamiesbirds 1-22-15

Pale Male is back with (I believe ) his 8th mate, Octavia. If you are a birder, and you don’t know who Pale Male is, you must have been living under a rock for the last twenty years. Pale Male has a website, and a really wonderful book by Marie Winn entitled Red Tails in Love, and a movie, The Legend of Pale Male, and a Nature show.  (I am still trying to learn the details of his 24 amazing years in New York … your info and comments are welcome!)

Pale Male in flight 1-22-15

While I was watching at about 4.30 p.m. this afternoon, Pale Male took off and flew right over my head, all the while making his I-am-going-to-get-my-dinner-now Red-tail scream. It sent shivers down my spine and gave me goose bumps all over.