Sunday, September 17, 2017

Black-bellied's can look golden

especially in early morning light.

I managed to miss both large plovers this spring, and then have had one of each in about a 16 hour period.  The golden-plover at 3 Oaks yesterday was distant and in terrible heat shimmer, but a Black-bellied at Tiscornia this morning was in nicer conditions.

The sun wasn't quite hitting it yet and honestly the fresh young Black-bellied had more yellowish tones than the faded adult Golden did yesterday.
 The heavy bill and relatively bland face pattern eliminate Golden however.

I couldn't quite tell what the prey item is here, I think it may be a bit of roe.

There were a few other shorebirds around this morning.


If you don't want to make a judgement call on bill size or facial pattern you can always wait for the bird to fly; Black-bellied has black axillaries, Golden doesn't.

Eventually the sun crested the dune and the bird was in nice morning sun.

Finally, you know I've been hard up for photos when I'm turning a series of photos of one cormorant into a montaged fake flock...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

a Knot and a Cal Gull

not bad for a quick evening chase.

Both birds have been around in the county.  Tim's had a couple knots at Tiscornia and Kip had one at New Buff earlier this week.  Two different California Gulls were photographed in the last 2 days at New Buffalo and Warren Dunes respectively.

I thought about checking New Buff earlier today but heavy winds made me wonder if there'd be much on the beach so I held off until the evening.  I didn't see the knot on the way out and walked up the beach to scan the Herring Gull flock after passing a monoculture of a Ring-billed flock.

I'd almost given up when a smudgy-headed, dark-eyed, pale-billed bird poked its head out from behind a Herring.  It walked into the open a moment later showing off grayish-yellow legs.


I tried to doubt myself when it stretched its wings; it seemed like it had less black than I expected in the wingtips.

Closer examination of the spreadwing shows that P9 is barely out of the primary bases which probably accounts for this.

I was happy to see that the Knot had re-appeared as I headed back to the car.  This is the 5th year I've had Knot and the 5th year I've had Cal Gull in the county.

Finally a shot of a bird that's a little less uncommon here; one I would expect to probably get as opposed to probably not get, a distant Little Gull that flew by Tiscornia earlier today.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Yellowstone Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye is not a bird that I expected it to take over 10 years to find in Berrien.  In fact, I don't know that I've ever seen one except in Yellowstone.

That vertical forehead and peak of the crown in front of the eye is very different from Common's triangular head.  I've always thought the goldeneye have bigger shape differences than do the scaup.

A Western Grebe appeared in a small pool on our first day.

This young Gray Jay was the first one I've seen with an SLR.

Finishing off a few other folders are a few more small mammals, first Yellow-bellied Marmot

Next a Chipmunk which is either Least or Uinta (I need to track down the mammal book I had as a kid)

And finally the kids' second favorite animal of the trip (behind the pikas), Uinta Ground Squirrel.
I think they named this one Mushroom, though I believe Stumpy was considered as well.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Specialty bird of the Beartooth

The Beartooth Highway connects Yellowstone's NE entrance to the rest of the world.  It would arguably get my vote for the most scenic stretch of road in the continental U.S.  And while that would be enough for most people to go, birders have another reason.  It's one of the better places to find Black Rosy-finch.

Ginger and I struck out on this bird when we drove here in the pre-kid era, but we had success on this day.  The birds were calling like snow buntings and I was looking around for birds in the air when she spotted the birds down-slope.  I had been hoping that a gray juvenile wouldn't be my only view of the species and was in luck, the parent was in attendance.
  You wouldn't think a black and pink bird would blend in that well, at least not until you see their black lichen-encrusted pink granite habitat.

The kids were more impressed by another denizen of the rocks, a pika

There were fewer butterflies here than Mt Washburn but a Milbert's Tortoiseshell wandered past.

The flowers were just crazy in some of the alpine meadows though.




It'd be a fun place to go back to.

Friday, August 25, 2017

the biggest deer and the littlest

Since the fires burned much of the mature spruce forest that the moose browse in the winter there's apparently only about 300 moose left in Yellowstone, similar to the number of grizzly bears.  I'd mostly given up on seeing one but on the last morning Ginger spotted one bedded down by the side of the road.

 She had 2 calves bedded down a few feet away.  I was surprised an animal the size of a moose would have twins but I suppose bears generally do too.
 After about 20 minutes she led them away.

Much smaller than the moose calves were these mule deer fawns, the only mule deer of the trip. They'd bounded across the road about 10 miles earlier.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

a feeding Pelican

Yellowstone is a pretty good place to see White Pelicans.  I'm not sure if they breed in the park or just forage there and then commute out but most trips there I've seen them.

I assumed this was a one-year-old bird based on the dark feathers on the back of the head, but a quick review of Sibley shows all adults have that mid-summer.

When actively feeding it seemed to adopt an (obese ungainly) Green Heron-like crouch as it swam slowly.
 It would lunge forward,
 and bury pretty much its whole face in the water before more slowly extracting its prey

I never got a glimpse of what it was catching, but they went down pretty quickly...

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

the Prairie Goat

Pronghorn are one of my favorite western animals.  Technically goats, rather than antelope, they still remind me of photos of African gazelles.


We watched two of the rams half-heartedly sparring.

There was a small herd of pronghorn that would hang around just outside of Gardiner where we were staying.  These were mostly does and kids.



Nothing says Yellowstone quite like animals going through their baseline behavior in the middle of the road.