Since I haven’t been getting home until almost dusk, I haven’t taken any pictures the last couple of days, but I do have some updates. In addition, I thought I would share some websites and applications that I like and use that help me with identifying and understanding birds and butterflies.
First things first. I think we have 3 Monarchs in their “J” shape, which is the stage the move into right before turning into Chrysalises. The other 4 are still eating, but it probably won’t be much longer until they also move on to the Chrysalis stage.
On the Indigo Bunting sightings, we have 2 consistent visitors (both male). They are now feeding at our bird feeders and attempting to share space with all the other bird visitors. I really want to get lots more pictures of them, but I need some better light. Hopefully they will be around until the weekend at the very least.
I have 3 particular websites that I visit every day to every other day when it comes to Monarch Butterflies.
- Journey North’s Monarch Butterfly Migration Tracking Project – I REALLY like this site. They send out weekly updates if you subscribe to their email and it contains all kinds of information on Monarch Butterflies, what current States they are in, as well as other interesting trivia. From reading this site, I find myself learning quite a bit each week. In addition to tracking Monarchs, this site also tracks Hummingbirds, Songbirds, Whales, American Robins and Whooping Cranes. They send out weekly emails on all these topics.
- Monarch Watch.org – The reason I like this site is one these are the ones who started the whole Monarch Migration Tracking Process (this occurs in the Fall when Monarchs are heading back towards their breeding grounds in Mexico). They also have information on Butterfly Gardening, Biology, Conservation, and Research areas.
- Valerie Evanson’s Monarch Mania – I actually met Valerie though my blog,,,well I introduced myself on her blog. Here’s what I think is good about Valerie’s site and why I use it as a resource. First, Valerie is acting like a Citizen Scientist, whereas I spend my of my writing stories about what I see. Valerie seems very meticulous about how she goes about raising Monarch Butterflies, the diseases and predators that Monarchs have to deal with, and scientifically post her actual data. It’s also interesting for me personally because she lives up north and I am down south. If you try and raise Monarchs like I do here in Houston versus where she lives, you’ll not be raising very healthy caterpillars.
So how about the birds? Anything helpful in that arena for a backyard birder?
I’d say a definite YES. I’ll start with links.
- All About Birds From The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - If we want to learn anything about birds, this is the place to go. Want to hear their sounds, the ranges they are found in, how to tell the difference between a male and a female, this is your place.
- Greg Lavaty – I took a class from Greg and you will definitely benefit by getting to know him and viewing his pictures. If you’re interested in just Texas Birds, look at his Texas Birds 2.0 section of his blog. This guy seems like he’s out almost every day taking pictures of birds. He also is very good at identifying birds just by the sounds they make. Trust me, that’s a helpful skill to have when you’re surrounded by a bunch of trees and wondering about those birds sounds you’ve been hearing.
Now for the next part. Books and Applications. I’ll cover the more difficult part first, applications. By applications, I’m referring to iPhone applications, so if you don’t have an iPhone this probably won’t apply.
- iBird Explorer South - it’s 10 bucks, but it’s been really worth it to me. Not only does the application show you pictures of the birds (male and female) but it also contains the sounds that these birds make, their range patterns (you won’t find a Blue Bunting in Houston but you will find an Indigo Bunting). It also gives you all the physical characteristics of the bird. I actually sit out in my backyard trying to guess what birds I’m hearing. I’ll play a few sounds and see if they match, or I’ll look at the colors of the birds and see if that particular bird every appears in my area.
- Audubon Guides Birds Of Texas – This app is also very good. Maybe not as many birds as iBird, but just about as good.
- BirdsEye – Much smaller in concept than the above 2, but this app can help you locate rare birds in your area, and tell you where they were sited.
So there you go. Some helpful websites and applications for birds and butterflies. If you decide to try them out, let me know what you think