Saturday, November 15, 2014

fishing for a phalarope

It's been a good fall for Red Phalarope in Berrien.  Prior to this fall the only 2 Red Phalaropes I'd seen here were about 14 miles off the beach.  Tiscornia is the 3rd place they've been in the county this year though. 

Tim found this one this afternoon.  It fed for a bit, disappeared, and then reappeared not long after I got there with the kids in tow.  It was pretty tame.


It fed actively, frequently investigating spawn bags that had fallen off fishing lures.

 Apparently the fishermen put a marshmallow in the spawn bag to get it to float off the bottom.  The  phalarope discovered that the baggie sinks if you shake out the marshmallow.

The pale legs are reminiscent of Wilson's.

The black (instead of gray) tertials (the white-edged black feathers over the primaries) indicate it's a first fall bird.


 Red-necked Phalarope has a considerably thinner bill and is about half the bulk of Red which can be useful if comparison birds are about, or the bird is in a very familiar setting.    Some Reds will have a noticeable pale base to the lower bill, though this one doesn't.  Red-necked should have some back striping/contrast but I don't have any pics of winter Red-necks though to show the difference.  There are a few retained dark juvenile coverts which could lead to some sense of streaking in this bird.



This was the last of the 3 phalaropes for me for Tiscornia, though Wilson's is probably rarer at this location.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Last of the fall color

Haven't gotten out a ton of late, a few random pics from the fall...



The bluebird's in wild grapes, the next yellow-rumped in a vineyard abutting Royalton Twp park...

Earlier in the fall Tim and I were trying to kick up sparrows.  This Cooper's was also interested in a candidate LeConte's, though for entirely different reasons.

It flew down and walked through the grass looking for the sparrow.  None of us found it.
It was close enough you can almost see my reflection in its eye.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Costa's Hummer

After last month's Berylline, the line-up of rare hummingbirds in Michigan continues, this time in the form of a Costa's found a little south of Traverse City.

It would come and go every 10 minutes or so


It tended to keep its fairly short tail closed tightly, I only managed this pic that even shows half of the spread undertail, I never managed a spread uppertail.  The undertail is plain, as it's supposed to be for a young male.  You can see a little bit of the dark patterning coming in along the outer edges.

Gorgets always show up best when the bird is relatively head on...
 Costa's, like Anna's, has iridescent feathers on the forehead as well.

Finally a digiscoped perched shot.  I've finally figured out (after I got home) how to adjust the white balance on the phone, that would have been useful.  I see the latest Sibley has taken out the line drawings of the closed wing, I don't know why that is...

Monday, October 27, 2014

it's too early for Snow

Though despite the beautifully balmy 70's temperatures today, not too early for Snow Buntings.  One individual landed on the pier allowing a much closer approach than the beach flocks will later in the fall.
 

The merlins probably won't mind a change of pace from their steady fare of juncos, though I bet the buntings are harder to catch over the lake.

 
The above two pics are phone-scoped (note the residual junco fuzz on the talons), the next one is with the SLR.  The bird was sated enough with its junco(s) that it didn't mind that I walked a little closer.


Originally there were two birds, the larger female on the left with a male on the right.
He circled around the female and called a couple times, but then headed on.  I didn't age either one though most fall falcons at Tiscornia are first year birds.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

wildlife of Chincoteague

Back in August we went out to Virginia Beach to visit in-laws.  I got pics up of Virginia dragonflies; I never got around to the bird pics.  We took one day and drove up to Assateague NWR which includes some of Chincoteague island and took a boat trip.  Dolphins were the highlight for most of the participants.

It wasn't easy to catch them with their heads above water.  The above pic is the only one I managed.  Almost all of them showed evidence of encounters with propellers in the shallow bay if you looked closely enough.


The first oystercatchers that flew past the boat caught me by surprise, I had to put bins on them to see what they were.  I saw another one later that was a little closer.  Despite heavy cropping it's still my best photo of an oystercatcher.
 It's a bird I'd like to encounter again somewhere.

I was also a little surprised to see 2 Black Scoters out by one of the breaker islands.
 The eBird reviewer was surprised too and hadn't accepted them last I checked.  Royal terns are more expected, they're a lot harder to see in Michigan.
 
We had the good fortune to see a cloverleaf jelly fish from the safety of the boat.

 A Clapper Rail was also quite distant.  This pic is cropped more than I'd like.  I heard one well, but this one I couldn't even say for sure wasn't a Willet until I zoomed in closely on a few of the pics.

No such ID issues for ospreys.

Finally, a few of the famous (and well-managed) pony herd.
Maybe next time I'll finally run into a Seaside Sparrow, there'll probably be less than a 2 month delay in those pics.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Another week, another Harris's Sparrow

It was Rhoda's turn to step onto the Harris's cycle, spotting this bird at the cul-de-sac at Warren Dunes.  It's another first fall bird, possibly a female given that it's less patterned than last week's Harris's.
The first pic was badly over-exposed since I had my camera on Winter-Wren-in-the-Underbrush settings.  It was rescue-able as a record shot with a little more post-processing than I'd like.  By the time I frantically thumb-wheeled down the F-stop it had gotten semi-obstructed by some leaves...


 Here's the Winter Wren from seconds before...

By the time I'd managed to hand-focus on the bird in the thick underbrush it also leaned its head behind some obstructing vegetation.  It's still the closest I've come to a Winter Wren portrait.

White-throated Sparrows were the dominant species though.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Circle of Harris's Sparrow

About 8 years ago Kip and I were birding Warren Dunes and he spotted a Harris's Sparrow on seed that Tim had put out.  About 5 years ago Alison found one on seed I'd put out (I never did see that bird).  Today Rhoda and I were at Galien River County Park where there was a lot of activity in the little island of brush in the parking lot.  This was basically the view of about the 6th bird I saw...

It was more backlit when I first saw it, but the plain olive-brown head is pretty unique.  It disappeared in seconds but after a few minutes came back.


It was hanging out mostly with White-crowned Sparrows, this one from Chickaming.

We spent a good amount of time at that under-birded park, seeing several Goldenrod Warblers, aka Orange-crowned.

They weren't the only warblers around,
Nashvilles and Yellowthroats were about as well, amongst a handful of other species. 

We were actually looking more for Nelson's, but I needed Harris's for self-found so I was pretty excited about this bird.