Jan 28, 2014

Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest and Canine Cancer Campaign

If you have dogs or just enjoy seeing photos of dogs then you have to check out the Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest.

Hannah and Jackson
My Hannah and Jackson

The contest is part of the Orvis Canine Cancer Campaign with Morris Animal Foundation to raise awareness and money for canine cancer research.

Our current Cover Dog Photo Contest is scheduled to end on March 31, 2014. Those who enter the contest between January 15th and February 15th, 2014 will be entered in a random drawing to win one of these great prizes:
  • Grand Prize: a one-year supply of Blue Buffalo Dog Food, a deluxe Tempur-Pedic® Dog Bed and a $500 Orvis gift card
  • Five Runners-up: Fleecelock Wraparound Beds
  • Ten Honorable Mentions: Personalized Collars

As of March 2013, Orvis and our customers have raised more than $910,000 to help fund canine cancer research. Morris Animal Foundation—the global leader in supporting scientific research that advances veterinary medicine—has used these funds to develop early cancer-detection tests and safer and more effective chemotherapy protocols for dogs. To aid researchers and continue this important work, the MAF developed a tumor tissue bank for common canine cancers. They have helped fund 150 canine cancer studies are 28 colleges and universities. Going forward, the MAF is also committed to funding the Canine Lifetime Health Project and the groundbreaking Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

With your continued support, we can help create a brighter future for dogs everywhere.

You can enter your own furry family members into the contest or stop by to enjoy the photos and you can also donate to the Orvis Canine Cancer Campaign by voting for your favorites.

My Hannah and Jackson are entered here:

'Hannah & Jackson

Jan 17, 2014

Sharing my Christmas Present with my Followers

I must have been a good boy last year because Santa left me a Peterson Guide to Birds of North America 2014 Daily Desktop calendar.  Every day I get to learn about a new bird and refresh myself on some I already know. 

Purchase on Amazon
Along with some very colorful images of the birds there is a description of the bird, details about the bird's size, the habitat it lives in and even the sounds it makes.  There is also a range map image in the lower right corner.

So in keeping with my Backyard Birds theme lately, I will be sharing the daily bird with you and all you have to do is follow along on our PassinthruOutdoors Facebook page or my @PTOutdoors Twitter feed.

If you want to learn more about a specific bird I suggest you stop by the Cornell - All about birds home page and use their Browse for a bird by name and shape ID section.


Jan 7, 2014

Backyard Bird Identification Basics

It was just a normal morning with me eating breakfast and sipping coffee while enjoying the activity at my bird feeders when I noticed a new feathered visitor jump on the suet feeder.  I quickly grabbed my camera and snapped a couple of pictures and then opened up the laptop and went about figuring our what it was. I knew it was a woodpecker and looked similar in size, shape and even some markings to a Downy woodpecker that visits often.  I was able to find what I thought it was by using an online bird guide, but I was still a little unsure.  The next morning it visited again and this time I could hear what resembled like a cat meow.   Using this information I went back to my online bird guide and verified that it was a yellow-bellied Sapsucker.  Of course I still confirmed my sighting on a few Facebook pages.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker January 2014

It can be a real challenge when trying to identify a new visitor to my feeder and I am no expert.  Having a camera handy is very helpful but if you don't have one there are a few things to make note of quickly before your friend disapears.

White-breasted Nuthatch (left) - Red-bellied Woodpecker (middle) - Dark-eyed Junco (right)

Size and Shape

Many of our feathered friends can be very colorful and we can get caught up in those colors during their visit but the most important piece of information in making a good id is it's size and shape.  Also becoming familiar with bird silhouettes will help as well.  Gauging the size can be a challenge with nothing to make a real comparison to, like another bird, but practice this and make sure to pay particular attention to things like the bill, wings and tail, not just their shape but size relationship to the rest of the body.  Using the silhouette of the bird will help you narrow down your search in your field guide.

Color Pattern

It's easy to get caught up with the amazing colors of some birds, but for ID purposes concentrate on the overall colors, light and dark, instead of the exact details of each feather.  Also how bold or faint the color is.  Many birds can have very similar markings , but one bird might have bolder colors then the other.   When observing female birds that are not as colorful as the males, it becomes an even bigger challenge and takes practice.


How a bird acts, sits, moves, flies can be very helpful in narrowing down a list of choices.  You must take your time and watch them.  I learn a lot about bird behavior when I am trying to take their pictures.  It is almost impossible to chase some birds around in your viewfinder as they almost never sit still long enough, but by watching them I learn what each one does before coming to my feeder and this allows me to setup a ambush spot to take their picture even if they only stop on a particular branch for a second or two.  Pay attention to a birds posture when sitting as there will be some keys here to help in your ID.  Also how a bird feeds is another clue. 


Where a bird lives and at what times of the year it is present will really help you narrow down your ID when you have a couple of options.  Knowing what birds might be in your area is a good start.

Field Marks

Field marks are the details such as distinctive stripes, spots, colors and patterns that offer up additional clues.  You will also want to learn a little bit about the anatomy of a bird.  Field markings on the head, around the eye, on the wings, tail or belly are all good places to find clues.

Songs and Calls

I enjoy listening to the birds around my feeder, even during the warmer months when they start just below my bedroom window long before I am ready to get up.   If you can see a bird while it is singing that is great.  Sometimes you will hear them before you see them.  Some sounds can sound like words as well.

Online resources and Field Guides

Below are some links to some online resources, smartphone apps and field guides that can be useful in helping you with your bird ID.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology - By far my favorite birding resource.  Their site is full of information about birds from online bird guide where you can browse the database by name and shape or get great tips on how to attract birds to your backyard.  There is also plenty of links on ways to get involved and links to live bird cams.

eBird  - is a real time online checklist program that allows you to record your sightings, keep track of your checklist and share your sightings with other birders in the community and all this helps contribute to science and conservation.

Peterson Guides - Hard copy field guides as well as apps for your smartphone or tablet and their apps and database are connected with eBird to give you the latest information of sightings for your area.

Now you have some basic information to start your birding activities.  Good luck!

Jan 2, 2014

Backyard Birds Photos December 2013

Found some time to take some photos of my feathered friends that visited my bird feeders in December.  Enjoy them!

Mr. and Mrs Norther Cardinal


Mr and Mrs. Downy Woodpecker

Mr. and Mrs. House Finch

Red-bellied Woodpecker & White-breasted Nuthatch