Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Finch Flurry

 Yesterday the overnight radar looked pretty good for passerines moving and for once the birds on the ground agreed with the radar.  I looped Tiscornia a couple times trying to find Ammodramids without luck.  A female Purple Finch teed up nicely though as I was sorting through a mix of White-throated and Song Sparrows, the first time I've photographed one at Tiscornia.

As I looped a flock of birds suddenly flew over with calls unlike what I'm used to hearing.  My first instantaneous thought was that they were Bohemian Waxwings, but after a second or so the trills became clearer and a large flock of Pine Siskins swirled overhead.

After a couple circuits they started settling in some of the tangles and conifers.  I sorted through them as quickly as I could to get a sense of whether goldfinches (or I suppose redpolls) were mixed in.  They seemed homogeneously siskins.  At least one tolerated a pretty close approach...

Siskin felt like a really tough bird this spring, I was glad to get good looks finally this year.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Berrien Bird errrrr Wild Edible Club

Drew an assignment to lead the BBC outing at Warren Dunes this morning.  It was a very pleasant morning, though we didn't have a ton of birds.  Woodpeckers were well represented though, and I think we saw every possible species outside of Red-headed.
We saw a couple of adult sapsuckers, but this first year bird was in the best light.

Yellow-rumped Warblers were chipping all over the place, though they were mostly pretty high (I took the warbler pics on an afternoon walk I took later)
Yellow-rumps love poison ivy berries.

And speaking of things to eat, multiflora rose is a nasty invasive that's not one of my favorite plants ... but their rose hips were ripe and we sampled a few.
They reminded me of crab apples, but were A LOT less bitter.  They weren't great, but they weren't bad either.
Now paw paws on the other hand, Lynn spotted a few of these wild fruits that were perfectly ripe.
It smelled like a mango to me, but tasted more like banana or vanilla pudding; it was remarkably good.

Another quality spot (also by Lynn), some purple finches, and probably the least common bird we saw (though 4 wood thrushes tupping and squabbling in a tangled tree flagged the rarest in eBird).

One last fall color pic from my afternoon walk

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Virginia Beach Sandwich Terns

 Still with a some back-logged pics from the summer trip to Virginia that I haven't posted.

Sandwich Tern is always a fun bird to see.  I don't think I've ever been at a place where they're the most common tern, and probably haven't seen them more than a handful of times in my life.

Honestly I thought at least a couple of them were Forster's with the naked eye; their flight was much more like a medium sized tern than something in the Caspian/Royal class.

Their feeding was more of a dip than a plunge, somewhat similar to my memory of Gull-billed Tern

Finally a bird that I think is a juvie Sandwich.  Young royals have yellow bills.  The bill looks too heavy for Forster's, and I've never seen a young Forster's start getting orange in the bill until the spring.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Plover comps

 It was a good morning for plovers, with 3 Black-bellied and a young Golden Plover all at Tiscornia.  They spent most of their time on South Pier, but eventually they were flushed by pier walkers enough to come land in nice morning light on the beach.

You can see the long primary projection in these pics.  Pacific Golden-plover apparently has much shorter primary projection, but good luck ruling out an American that's missing a couple feathers...
I like the shadow behind the bird.  The next one is the opposite with a reflection

It flicked its wings after bathing in the surf.  It lacks the black armpits of the Black-belly's (one of the the young Black-bellys flew by too, but I only got dorsal views in focus)

Next pic has a young Black-belly.  Its bill is a lot heavier than the Golden's, it has much less contrast between the cap and the rest of the face, and the underparts are a whole lot less brown.

The adult was a fun study too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Fun juvie shorbs

 Not sure how I've gone 2 weeks without getting some pics up; there've been some decent birds along the pier.  Red Knot, Stilt Sandpiper, Buff-breasted Sand, and Black-bellied Plover have all been around.  While the Buffy and the Stilt Sand were very brief, the knot and the plover have been hanging out.

I finally caught the knot in good light yesterday.

They have a kind of dumpy silhouette, I'm a little surprised they're still in Calidris with all the peeps.

The young Black-bellied Plover has been around for a few days (though there may be a few).  In some lights it looks pretty buffy and I think was ebirded at least once yesterday as a Golden.

Black-bellied has a lot heavier bill (hard to see when it's on the other pier), much less of a pale eyestripe, and black armpits when it flies (impossible to see without seeing it fly).

Semi plovers are less of an ID quandary.
There were 3 on the pier this morning.

Finally a turnstone from last week...

Monday, August 31, 2020

Where the Crawdads Sing

 I recently read Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens.  It has a lot to say about how trust can overcome the seeming juxtaposition between not losing independence but maintaining a relationship.  It's set in 1970's coastal North Carolina, and the author (a zoologist) uses a lot nature in the book's imagery and setting, and does it in a way that generally rings true.  It's one of the better books that I've read and I'd definitely recommend it.  

What's the connection between the book and today's pics?  In the book the main character enjoys feeding her resident herring gulls and a couple times the author describes the young herring gulls pecking the red spot on the gony angle of the adults to induce them to cough up some fish.  This morning at Tiscornia there was an adult with not one but two juvies working away at this process.

It would start with the youngsters sidling up giving begging calls with heads lowered.

They would then basically start fencing, not jabbing at the red spot, but seemed to be trying to rub the underside of the adult's bill with the upperside of their bill.

They could get pretty exuberant at times.

Eventually this would sometimes culminate in the adult yakking up some fish bits...

... and cue the squabbling.

Sometimes instead of dropping the fish bits right there for the young it would fly around with them.  I'm guessing it was trying to encourage the young to chase after it, but interestingly none of the other gulls on the beach messed with trying to take the fish away.

Part of the reason for that is probably that the adult was being pretty aggressive towards any gulls that showed an interest in the proceedings.

This second year bird was drawing its ire a fair bit by wandering over.

It got chased away repeatedly.

After a while the adult starting swimming out in the water, for all the world looking like a mama duck with a brood of ducklings.  I got the sense it could swim faster than the young birds and swam out for a break from them.

It'd always fly back in without going very far though.

Eventually the process was repeated enough to be down to stomach juices.

Mmmm, stomach juices.

On that note, there you have it, 15 pics of Herring Gulls.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

It begins

 I led a BBC field trip today, I think the first time I'd led one here.  It ... was windy!  

But daybreak was beautiful nonetheless

There were a couple of young Semi plovers in the inner harbor, but a kiteboarder sent them to the other side of the harbor.  A juvie Bonaparte's sat down on the beach.  Unfortunately it left before some of the group arrived.

A lot of the birds were quick flybys low over the water and hard to get on in between the waves and the wind.  At one point though similarly aged Ring-billed and Herring Gulls gave some of the group some nice comparison views on the beach.

But for the most part it was Blue-winged Teal (with good numbers of Shovelor and a smattering of GW teal) busting past; the views weren't great.

A good sized flock of (mostly) Common Terns was half a mile out and an even bigger group of Black Terns was even farther, but I'm not sure many of the group were able to get on these.

Best look was probably of a Bald Eagle that made about an hourly check of the gull flock making sure everyone could still fly (a Ring-billed nearly got taken out by the kite boarder's paracord, that could have been some interesting photos if the Eagle turned out to be unafraid of us if the gull had gotten injured).

You can see how the eagle (like a lot of the really big birds) molts flight feathers in skip fashion (called staffelmauser (or something like that), I'm guessing German for skip molt) so it's not too seriously hampered at any one time.

It was a fun morning even if there weren't tons of great looks (though the spiced pecan scones were a big hit!)