Woodpeckers Visiting

photos of male female downy woodpeckers by Arun Shanbhag

Cleaned and fertilized the yard in April; last year I cleaned the yard in June. Within 2 days of putting out the suet feeder we had a birds visiting. Cross-checking with the Audubon field guide, I realized our visitors were Downy Woodpeckers. Every morning as I sip chai, I can see the birds pecking away; then they flit between the oak and walnut trees.

The males have a bright red dash on the nape, have stronger and longer beaks that permit them to pull out ants or wood-boring beetles. The females, sans red, have smaller softer beaks with which they pry the bark and pick up ants or insects. So they go after different food types and don’t compete.

And have you guys watched this live video from the bald eagles’ nest in Decorah? Take a peek as those chicks are growing fast. As one of my friends cautioned, “Arun, my productivity has dropped since you sent me that link.”

Here are some of majestic bald eagles I shot in Alaska. Updates from the Hawk Family outside my office window (from last year).


Here is the female woodpecker doing acrobatics at the suet feeder.
photos of male female downy woodpeckers by Arun Shanbhag
Continue reading “Woodpeckers Visiting”

Nesting Red-tailed Hawk in Boston

June 30th and July 1st, 2010
Of the three chicks, there was the biggest one who started to flex its wings and hop on the railing first. The second one followed within a week. The third was little and 4 weeks late to even flapping its wings. I managed to get them all on the railing on the same day (July 1, 2010). While the older two were practicing pirouettes, the runt was happy to just get on the railing. You can notice even the hair on the head and the maturity of the wings is different in the runt. I tell the chicks apart by the pattern of the spots on their flanks.
Pictures of Boston Red-tailed hawk, Birds of Prey

The Hawk chicks are so much fun to watch. This was just before they started to hunt. In the cowling of the roof, there was a starling nest. The chicks looked in puzzlement as the birds flew in and out of the nest. Then one day I saw this hawk perched itself right next to the opening of the nest (the irregular triangular opening in the cowling). The poor starling waited on top all afternoon. I don’t know how this stand-off ended. Suffice to say, the starlings were not seen in the nest since. Pic from June 30, 2010. Continue reading “Nesting Red-tailed Hawk in Boston”

Oh Alaska: Bald Eagles

When planning our trip to Alaska, there were many things M & I wanted to see and do there, but observing Bald Eagles was not one of them. This was purely out of ignorance; I didn’t know Alaska was THE place to see Bald Eagles.
Continue reading “Oh Alaska: Bald Eagles”

Oh Alaska: Fly with me!


gulls over the kenai peninsula, off Seward, Alaska

We will always be alongside
Sun on our backs, and
all the fresh fish we can catch!


Our Alaska Trip:

  • Alaska: Glaciers (New Year Greeting
  • Oh Alaska
  • Alaska: Birds Galore
  • Alaska: Humpback Whales
  • Alaska: Puffin Madness
  • Alaska: Bald Eagles
  • Alaska: Killer Shrimp
  • Oh Alaska: Puffin Madness

    Never considered myself to be a 'birder'. But after looking at their pics in the guide books, we eagerly sought Puffins during our visit to Alaska. During our cruise of the Kenai Fjords, we saw the endearingly beautiful, plump chicks by the thousands. Have to say, they are the cutest birds ever.

    Puffins like the open ocean and spend most of the time on the water, far away from land. Each spring, they come to the cliffs in the Kenai Peninsula to lay eggs and rear the young chicks. Sometime in the early Fall, they leave en masse for the open Pacific.

    Rather than take flight, this one just tried to swim away from our boat. This is the “tufted puffin” characterized by the blonde tuft sweeping off its crown, much like a tiny pony tail. The orange beak definitely makes them very stylish!
    pics of tufted puffin in the Kenai Peninsula Alaska by Arun Shanbhag Continue reading “Oh Alaska: Puffin Madness”

    Oh Alaska: Humpback Whales

    In Seward, we took a day-long cruise to the Kenai Fjords. The entire coastal region with multiple bays, tidewater glaciers, and innumerable island and cliffs is part of the National Park System. Click here for a large (5MB) map of Kenai Fjord National Park. It was a perfect day to be out on the water: blue skies and in the mid 70's!

    As the captain took us out of the Bay from Seward, the knowledgeable guide pointed out various features in the landscape, the glaciers along the way and the bird species we encountered. He knew exactly where to look for wildlife and guided the boat to nooks and cranies along the bay.

    Along the way, we pass Bear Glacier (see map above) and slowly cruise the multiple islands in the Aialik Peninsula. There we saw a huge flock of seabirds on the water. The rich vegetation here attracts schools of fish, which in turn attract the seabirds. Here we saw various types of seagulls, mallards and the endearing puffins. The beautiful puffins, of course need a separate post to do them justice. The guide continued that if there is school of fish, the whales are not far behind. And as if on cue, a mother and calf humpback whale emerged, and caused the birds to take flight.

    Here the mother whale is ready to dive. While most of the seabirds have taken flight, the puffins can barely fly a few meters and are still in the waters. These appear black with a white head and colored beaks.

    Continue reading “Oh Alaska: Humpback Whales”

    Oh Alaska! Birds Galore

    After a wonderful day in Anchorage, we took the train to the coastal town of Seward. It was a fantastic train ride, billed as the most spectacular in the country. As the train sped across the wilderness, we spotted Dall Sheep perched on high cliffs and zipped past glaciers yielding to the earth. I was never interested in photographing birds, but was awed at the bald eagles surveying the land and artic terns hovering over the waters and scooping in to grab the fish. With my favorite 17-55 mm lens resident on my camera, my pics were less than optimal. But in Seward, I mounted the brand new 55-200 VR lens!

    If you ever visit Alaska, take a few days and relax in Seward. It’s a tiny town located at the top of Resurrection Bay. The bay itself was carved by receding glaciers at the end of the last ice age and thus snow-capped mountains tower both sides of the bay. We walked along the water and spotted the common sea gulls as well as the endangered sea otters. Here are a few pics of Seagulls caught from the shore and other birds we caught on a cruise out in the ocean.

    The common seagull, but what a majestic wingspan.

    Continue reading “Oh Alaska! Birds Galore”

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